Introducing Miranda Dickinson’s Future Stars… Part One!


Miranda Dickinson is already a star – writer of four bestselling novels, this year she’s launching a mentoring scheme, an online writing course and a short story competition (the New Rose Prize) … oh, and she’s also writing book 5. There was much excitement in Romaniac HQ when Miranda launched the Future Stars initiative – an amazing opportunity for aspiring authors to be mentored by Miranda for a whole year!

You can find out more about all of these on Miranda’s blog and website: 


I know I wasn’t the only person eager to find out more about the chosen Future Stars, and how their year with Miranda was going, so I was delighted when Miranda agreed to bring her stars for a visit to the Romaniac blog (although it got VERY crowded and they completely cleared us out of cakes), so without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Miranda Dickinson and her Future Stars…

Vanessa x

Thank you Romaniacs for hosting my magnificent seven! I’m delighted to introduce you to my Future Stars:

Neal Doran

Emily Glenister

Dominique Hall

Millie McGarrick

Emma Warburton

together with Kate Rhead and Ritzi Cortez

Q1: How did you feel when you discovered you were one of the Future stars?

 Neal: The news came at the end of what had been a pretty lousy week, and I’d been so busy with my proper job I hadn’t had a chance to do any writing in ages. It was such a boost. I was with my two boys at an indoor play centre when the announcement was made. They had to restrain me from overdoing it on the bouncy castle…

Emily:  I remember exactly where I was (not surprising given it was about three months ago). My boyfriend Harry and I had just woken up and I knew that this was the Saturday we would find out who had made it on to the Future Stars list. I’d prepared myself the night before that there was a high possibility it wasn’t going to be me so as not to be disappointed. On that Saturday morning, I picked up my phone saying to Harry, “I know I haven’t got it, but that’s ok because at least I’ve had the chance to be part of it,” etc. There was nothing at that point mentioned in Twitter so I checked my email, where there was an email waiting from Miranda sent in the wee hours of the morning saying I had won a place! I remember screaming, rugby tackling Harry to the ground and crying (all very dramatic, I know!). 2012 was definitely not “my year”, so to have something finally go my way so early on in 2013 was such a wonderful feeling and a huge weight off my shoulders. My tummy was in excited knots for the whole day as I bounced around Covent Garden and Soho drinking my body weight in celebratory champagne cocktails (any excuse)!

Dominique: I’m not even sure there’s a word to best describe my feelings. Especially since I didn’t even consider my winning a place to be a possibility when I entered. I think I may still be in some state of shock, it takes me a long time to process major life events. Maybe I could follow Peter Andre’s example and makeup a ridiculous word by cutting and pasting two together. “Overatic” (overwhelmed and ecstatic?) No, that’s terrible. I now feel the need to apologise for my appalling use of the English language!

Millie: Surprised, because I figured that there would be lots of entrants and the chance of me being accepted was really slim. I also felt proud though because I knew that I had to be doing something right to get this amazing opportunity.

Emma: It took a week for it to really sink in. It gave me a massive confidence boost that maybe one day my writing will be good enough to be on the shelves of a bookshop. In fact I imagine the feeling was probably the same as being offered a publishing deal!


Q2: What made you decide to enter the competition?

 Neal: Everything Future Stars offers seemed to be what I needed when I saw it – help with writing and advice on managing all the social media stuff that’s so important to writers these days. And Miranda seems so enthusiastic and positive, it sounded fun! Add to that she’s had, what, 78 best sellers in the past three years? The woman knows her stuff.

Emily: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember so anything on the internet which has the words “writing” and “competition” always catches my eye! Though admittedly, I’ve never entered one before and I think this has something to do with never quite following through with one story before – so many ideas come in to my head and I find myself moving on to another one before completing the other! What made me enter Future Stars with this particular story was that it was the first story I had stuck to without getting – for want of a better word – bored with it. I went through the whole storyline in my head and knew exactly what I wanted to happen. That’s never happened before so I thought it must be a pretty special one and I ought to do something with it!

Dominique: It was one of those ‘what have you got to lose?’ moments.

I heard about the contest a few days after it was first announced and downloaded the application form straight away. I then stared at said application form for a few days wondering how to answer the questions, until I finally decided to just be true to myself with my answers. I didn’t have anything to lose after all. I didn’t even tell anyone that I was entering, but that also had something to do with the fact that nobody knew how passionate I am about writing. Although I’ve been scribbling short stories since high school, before this contest I had never confessed to another soul how much writing means to me. Acknowledging this out loud was the very first thing Future Stars did for me.

 Millie: I had nothing to lose, so I thought “Why not?” Also, my mum played a big part in convincing me to send in the application. I knew it would be amazing if I got accepted despite the slim chance but I decided to take my own advice and go for it: because if you don’t even try you will never get anywhere.

 Emma: Being mentored by Miranda. My writing still needs a lot of work, so to have the chance to pick the brain of a published author I have read and admired is completely invaluable to me. Especially when you hit that dreaded wall in the middle of writing a novel and need that little shove to keep at it so that you get your first draft down.


Q3: What do you hope this year working with Miranda will bring?

 Neal: In my Future Stars application I made all sorts of bold claims about using the year to finish my second novel, and either getting an agent for my first or going down the road of self-publishing. The scary thing now is that I’ve got to do it. And with seven of us in Future Stars, I think it’s going to be pretty cool being part of a gang, albeit a gang that chats about overcoming plot obstacles rather than one that shares shivs and gets into turf wars. At first, at least…

 Emily: I hope I actually finish my story! My main objective for this year and the Future Stars experience is to have a finished manuscript in my hand by the end of it. Even if nothing comes of it by way of being published, I will have finished a story right to the end for the first time and that will be really special for me. Also, I would like to build my confidence and persevere even when I’m not sure about something rather than just chucking it in at the first writer’s block hurdle – something that happens all too often!

Dominique: I know that I need to have more self-belief in my work and I’ve already started working on that. In my application form I said I needed help with structure, as it’s one of my weak areas. I’m an OCD planner so I have overall plot notes, character notes, individual chapter notes. I even have a map and fictional royal line drawn up for the main story I’m working on. I need to learn to maintain a solid structure throughout the plot. I also have a tendency to waffle (which I’m doing right now, I know) and include stuff that doesn’t need to be in the chapter. Miranda has also given me loads of helpful information about the industry too, which is brilliant because the whole professional writing world is really daunting and it helps to know I have a successful ‘insider’ to help with my queries.

Overall, I believe working with the ever positive Miranda will give me the drive I need to actually finish a manuscript and know that I put everything I had into it.

Millie: I hope to discover more about me and my writing, in terms of my strengths and bits I can improve on. I’m only young so I’m hoping that I can learn a lot from Miranda’s experience of publishing and writing.

Emma: I’m a serial starter. Or at least that’s what my husband keeps calling me, because I start something, get distracted easily (especially when a shiny new idea strolls into my head and I’m struggling on the current project my mind is on) and then take months to go back to finish it. So I’m hoping that working with Miranda will help me to focus (and that she’ll harass me) when I’m tempted to be distracted.

 Come back tomorrow to find out what the Future Stars are writing at the moment and what their writing dreams are… See you there!

Tuesday Chit Chat – Katherine Garbera

Katherine_Garbera                               One More Kiss UK cvr

So, Katherine, we find you here in the Romaniac lair at last, and looking terribly glamorous as usual. Welcome! Did you by any chance bring cake? Only I’ve been a bit busy and the cake tin seems to be empty…you’re shaking your head sadly, guess that one’s  a no then.  Never mind, settle yourself down and relax. The garden’s looking lovely, we might even be able to open a window today and enjoy the sunshine. The girls have asked me to give you a gentle grilling – here are our questions:

What was the first complete book that you wrote, and at what point in your life did this happen?

Hi, Romaniacs – I wrote my first manuscript after the birth of my daughter when I was 24. I loved the experience of it so much that I couldn’t wait to write another one. I’m afraid I didn’t know much about plotting so it was mainly a story that contained the things I liked to read—a strong alpha hero, a heroine with a fabulous sense of fashion, lots of steamy sex and a bad guy who was always menacing them.

Was the road to publishing difficult for you?
I don’t think so. I just always knew I’d be published some day and when I got a rejection letter I’d l think well they just don’t get me.  My second manuscript almost got purchased so I knew I was on the right track. Then when I started writing my third manuscript I decided that if I was going to be any good at writing I needed to master romance or suspense before I tried to merge the two. I made the third manuscript a straight romance. It featured a single mom, a sexy construction worker who moved in next door and her adorable son. I still love that story! It won the Georgia Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence and became my first sale. I was aged 26. 

Do you have an agent?
Yes. And I like her a lot. I’ve had three agents over the course of my career.

Where were you born and brought up?
I was born in Haileah, Florida (that’s in the South just north of Miami) but was raised in Central Florida a little bit west of Disney world. My parents are very down-to-earth people who liked living life their own way so we always lived in the country. I grew up with the Green Swamp in my backyard and orange groves all around me.

We didn’t have any neighbors so my sisters and I were each others companions and my mom used to lock us outside in the summer and make us play.

I think those days really fired up my imagination and probably laid the groundwork for me to become a writer.

Does the place that you live influence your plots and characters?
Sort of. I think the places I’ve lived (Florida, Chicago, IL; Dallas, Tx, and Southern California) have all influenced me but really it’s the people I’ve met that have the most impact on me.

Where is your ideal writing spot?
Ideally at my desk, but when I find that distractions like the internet get too much, I move to a recliner I have in the corner of my office or the coffee shop. I don’t play games or waste time if I perceive someone else can see me.

What home comforts do you need to help you to write?
I need something to drink either hot tea (I’m American so usually drink Raspberry Zinger) or coffee and lots of it.

What inspired you to start writing?
My daughter inspired me to start writing. I’d always dabbled in it but when she was born I was working as a secretary and not really loving it. And I wanted her to see me doing something I loved instead of hating going to work every day. So I started writing with the intent to publish.

How do you begin to create your characters?
Usually I have an idea of a character in my head that’s pretty strong so I know where they are coming from. Then I just answer a few basic questions that lay the groundwork for my story. They are What does he/she want? (This is the Goal) Why do they want it? (Motivation) Why can’t they have it? (Conflict) Once I have these three things for the heroine then I do the same thing for the hero and I make sure that they want opposing things because people who are at odds on the page make it more exciting. And it become natural conflict instead of forced.

Who is your favourite literary hero?
I’m not sure if you mean author or fictional character so I’ll give you both. My author heroes are Margaret Atwood, Jayne Ann Krentz and Baroness Orczy. My favorite fictional characters are Claudia Kincaid from E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat Pray Love which is her memoir.

Do your family read your books?
Yes they do. My mom skips “those” parts, my grandmother before she passed away used to tell me to write more sex, and my daughter says she just doesn’t think of me writing them. 

Which celebrity would you like to send one of your books to, and which book would you choose?
I think I’d send it Sandra Bullock because she takes on projects and is passionate about them. I’d send her Bare Facts which is the first in a series I wrote that was a sort of homage to Charlie’s Angels.

How many works do you have in progress at once?
I only work on one book at a time but I am contracted for more than one book that I’ve written proposals for. So right now I’ve got five books in the hopper but am only working on one of them.

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what sort of book would you write?
I’m writing books I love right now. So more of the same. 

Do you have writing buddies?
Yes, I do and I miss them terribly because we live so far apart now. I’m a member of a very cool group called the Evelettes (Eve Gaddy, Lenora Worth, Julia Justiss and Denise Daniels) and then I have my Puffs—self-named after the PowerPuff Girls Bubbles aka Nancy Robards Thompson, Blossom aka Mimi Wells and me Buttercup!

Do you have any say in the cover designs for your books?
I fill in a very lengthy art fact sheet but usually that’s it. For my single title books I had more input and often got pictures from the photo shoots.

Now for some quick fire questions:

Sunbathing or swimming?
Swimming, I was a competitive swimmer for a long time.

Hugs or kisses?
Both but kisses win out.

Roaring log fire or funky high tech gas version?
Roaring fire.
Chocolate cake or crisps?
Cake I suppose but I can’t resist a bag of Ruffles.

Veggie burger or steak?

Spring, summer, autumn or winter?
Summer and the beach, baby!

Films or TV serials?

Holiday venues – chill-out or active?
I like both.

Best ever holiday?
Venice with my husband and kids last summer.

Favourite ever dress?
Red cocktail dress that dipped to a low V in the back. I think it was a Laura Ashley dress I bought it on sale in New Orleans and wore the heck out of it. 

Thanks for giving us an insight into your life, Katherine– come back soon. I’ll make sure there’s cake next time…

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog.

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Pauline Barclay

Hi Pauline, thanks so much for visiting us here at Romaniac HQ. First things first: Tea or coffee? And we have some freshly baked yummy chocolate brownies, if you can force yourself… 😉

Hello Jan, thank you for having me here at your fabulous offices, so trendy! As for tea or coffee, any chance I could have green tea please? And I’ve skipped breakfast so I could overindulge in your scrummy chocolate brownies… mmm… they look too good to eat, but I’ll risk it!

Pauline 3

Green tea, it is! And maybe a “small” glass of fizz later (just to celebrate your latest novel, of course…)

So exciting that you’ve recently published Storm Clouds Gathering. Can you give us a little teaser about the storyline?  

Now I am going to warn you, there is nothing worse than asking me about my new book, but please tell me to shut up if I go on too much …  Like most of the books I’ve written, it is filled with emotion that gets right to the heart. In my latest book, the storm clouds are gathering, silently and slowly, too far away to worry about. Or so it seems. But ignoring what is brewing will have dire consequences for the people caught up in the maelstrom. Shirley Burton is too busy cheating on her husband, having a laugh and looking for fun to alleviate the boredom of her childless marriage. Kathleen Mitchell is too wrapped up in running around after her beautiful family to worry about her health. Anne Simpson has two things on her mind: her forthcoming marriage to Paul Betham, who seems to want to control her, and her career, which she does not want to give up. The question is, can Shirley really expect to deceive her husband and get away with it? Can Kathleen hold it all together, and is Anne able to have the best of everything? As I said, I love to write with deep emotion and Storm Clouds Gathering is a story of human emotion, passion and heart-rending grief. Set against the backdrop of the mid-sixties, these three families will be tested to the limit, as betrayal, loss and love threaten to change their lives forever.

How long did it take you to write this book?  Was there lots of research involved? 

It took the usual time for me, around 10 months. What caused me a problem to publish a book in 2012 was that, I began to write another book and after 25,000 words, found I couldn’t go any further at that time, so I began Storm Clouds Gathering and then the words just flowed. Regarding research, I spoke to family members and I also drew on my own experience from that period of time. On top of this, I found a truly wonderful man via the internet who had helped me with answers about working in the woollen mills in the 1960s.

The cover is beautifully eye-catching.  Do you choose your own designs, Pauline?

Storm Clouds image

I work very closely with Cathy Helms from Avalon Graphics and I give Cathy ideas of what I am looking for. I also trawl through the photo directories online looking for pictures that will give me what I have in my head. Cathy then turns my thoughts into beautiful covers.

You live in super, sunny Lanzarote and we’ve loved hearing about your weekly book signings and readings. How did that all come about and how do you find the marketing side of writing, in general? Any little tips you can share with us?

Oh my, I’m no expert at giving tips for marketing, I just do what I hope is good for me to sell my books. Living here on our fabby little pebble in the ocean, I’ve got to know one or two holiday complex owners. This led to me going to chat with the tourists staying in these super places about my books. I take along with me professionally printed leaflets, bookmarks to hand out and, of course, my books to sign and sell. I love meeting the people and getting their feedback on my books. And to my utter surprise, they enjoy meeting an author!


What first sparked ‘the writer’ in you?

I’ve always been a writer. As a little girl I wrote poems and, once, a song. It was sung at one of our school assemblies when I was in junior school. Sadly the teacher named the song writer as Pauline… but it was the other Pauline in my class. At eleven years old, I was mortified they’d got the name wrong. I was also a writer for many years at work. I was a communications manager in the international oil industry, which I loved every minute of.  These days, I enjoy writing fiction, though one could argue, I’ve always written fiction!

Tell us about your involvement in, and the subsequent success of, Indie Author site Famous Five Plus?

Oh you mean my little baby! I started FFP back at the end of October 2011. The idea was to offer Indie authors a platform to showcase and share their experiences and at the same time, support others in the knowledge they would be supported in return. That concept has not changed.  FFP continues to grow and whilst it takes up far too much of my time, I believe it is worth it. There are some wonderful authors in FFP who just need to have enough exposure to really make it big.

What do you like to read when you’re relaxing, poolside?

I love reading, but relaxing, what is that? Laugh! I love murder mystery and thrillers, but in between being frightened to death with a likely stalker of someone intent on murder, I read a lot of indie author books too. I have a Kindle these days, as living on my pebble it is so much easier to download a great read instantly and there are some fab books out there.

If you could pass on just one piece of writerly advice, what would it be?

Just do it. Write and enjoy every minute. Get those words and ideas down, but when it is finished and you want to publish, please always talk to an editor – a publishing editor. Not only will he or she make your book shine like a diamond, but you will learn so much more too.

And in true Romaniac fashion, some quick-fire, fun questions for you:

Dream Dance Partner?

Pasha Kovalev from Strictly.

Rolls Royce or Ferrari?


Champagne or Cocktails?

What a question, champagne… love it!

Murder Mystery Weekend or Paintballing?

Murder mystery – no contest!

Favourite place in the UK?

Now that is tough as I’ve lived in several different places and I’ve loved them all, so sorry can’t choose an answer to this one.

Sarong or Shorts?

As I spend every day in shorts, it has to be shorts, but not the baggy sort.

Paella or Tapas?

Mmm… another toughy.  I love both. Sorry, can’t choose on this one.

Three words that best describe Pauline Barclay?

Energetic, optimistic and smiley.

It’s been fabulous chatting with you, Pauline. Best of Romaniac luck with Storm Clouds Gathering.

Whoa! Thanks for having me and letting me eat most of the scrummy chocolate brownies. Along with the champagne, they were simply delicious. A huge thanks also for allowing me to ramble and for making me feel so welcome. It’s been wonderful. Have a fab day and please leave the plate and glasses. I’ll wash up, it’s the least I can do!

Follow Pauline on Twitter: @paulinembarclay

See the trailer for Storm Clouds Gathering



Tuesday Chit-Chat – Donna Douglas

DonnaDouglasNightingaleSistersHugh Dickens Photography


Good morning, Donna – it’s good to see you here at Romaniac HQ. Make yourself at home – just brush the Hob Nob crumbs off the sofa and put your feet up. Scone? They’re cherry ones today. I think I might have accidentally finished off the clotted cream though…


Now, let’s find out what makes you tick. Your website’s great, I know a lot about you already but we’d better fill everyone else in too. 


When did you start writing and what inspired you at the very beginning?


I’ve always loved telling stories, even as a child. Unlike a lot of writers, I didn’t grow up surrounded by books. But I loved Jackanory on TV, and on a Saturday morning I used to get loads of girls’ comics like Bunty and Jinty, and devour all the stories. You can learn a lot about conflict and cliffhangers from reading those weekly serials! Funnily enough, after I left school I got a job writing photo love stories for a teenage magazine. I started writing my first novel when I was 20, and was finally published two days before my 40th birthday. I’ve sped up a bit since then…

Reading this, I think we’re both from the same era! I loved Bunty, and Jackanory too. But what era would you have chosen to be born into, if not this one?


I don’t know about having to live my whole life in a particular era, but there are loads I’d like to visit. I’m a massive Tudor buff, so I would love to go back to the court of Henry VIII and find out what it was really like. And of course, I would love to visit a hospital in 1930s and pick up some ideas for my Nightingales books. Although I’m not sure about being a patient, since they didn’t stand much chance in those days!

Do you see yourself as mainly character or plot driven?


Characters are most important for me. It’s the characters and their conflicts that drive the plot. People are interested in people. If you don’t care about a character and they’re not real for you, then it doesn’t matter how much life or death drama you put them through, it’s not going to work.

Do your characters ever do things you’d rather they didn’t, or that you hadn’t anticipated?


All the time! It can be quite spooky sometimes. Your character does or says something and you think, ‘Now why did they do that?’ And then later in the story you realise that they’ve actually laid the foundation for an intriguing new subplot or twist that hadn’t occurred to you. Of course, it can also be massively inconvenient when you really need them to act a certain way for the sake of your ingenious plot and they just won’t play ball! In which case it’s probably best to listen to them, I find.

Looking back at that answer, I now realise I have the voices of various people in my head, who I truly believe are real and have minds of their own. If I wasn’t a writer that would be quite worrying, wouldn’t it?

Which three books would you take to a desert island and what treats would be in your picnic hamper?


Is it wrong that I can think of the food more easily than I can think of the books? Treat wise, there would have to be salt and vinegar Kettle Chips, Galaxy chocolate and Fruitellas. Also, we have a bakers in York called Thomas’, which does the best Chelsea buns in the whole world. Seriously, if you’re ever in York I urge you to get one. You will not be disappointed.

Right, now on to books. I guess I would have to take a survival manual, because being a city girl I am completely lost in the wild. And by wild, I mean anywhere that doesn’t have an M&S within walking distance.  I might also take one of my 1930s nursing manuals, because they show how to perform life-saving treatments with very little resources. For enjoyment, I would have to take Riders by Jilly Cooper. It’s my all time comfort read.

Just booking train ticket to York. With you on the Jilly Cooper choice too. Still on the subject of reading matter, which book, famous or otherwise, have you always wished you’d written yourself?


Something that has stood the test of time, with a story that still resonates, such as Jane Eyre. To be able to impact on people emotionally is a great gift for a writer – I love it when people tell me I made them cry! From a royalties point of view, I wouldn’t have minded coming up with Harry Potter, though…

Which has been your most romantic character so far, which the most heroic and which the most unsettling/sinister?


Nick Riley in The Nightingale Girls is my perfect romantic hero. He’s a real bad boy with a vulnerable heart. From the response I’ve had from readers, they all seem to like him too! Everyone wants him to get together with my heroine Dora, but they may have to wait awhile before they get their happy ending (if they get it…). Dora is pretty heroic – she’s a tough East End girl who’s overcome all kinds of obstacles to follow her dream of being a nurse. Nursing wasn’t an option for working class girls at the time, and she has to fight to prove herself every day. She’s the one I most identify with, because when I was young everyone said working class girls like me couldn’t be writers, either. I’m not sure about unsettling or sinister characters. I’ve written plenty of nasty people, like Helen’s overbearing mother Constance Tremayne or vindictive Sister Wren. She manages to do a fair amount of damage in The Nightingale Sisters, especially to the new Night Sister. But I always try to give them a human side too, or at least a reason why they behave the way they do, otherwise you end up with a cartoon villain.

A predictable question, but we’re very nosy here. Where do you write and what’s your ideal writing routine?


I have an office, which is basically the back of the garage. I used to write in the spare bedroom, but I spent far too much time nosing out of the window at all the goings-on in our street. Now my office has a tiny, high strip of frosted window overlooking a brick wall so I can’t focus on anything but work! I like to start writing early in the morning – I get most of my best work done before lunch. In the afternoon, I get sidetracked into domestic stuff, answering emails or hanging about on Twitter, so I hardly get anything done.

I know the feeling! Here’s another of our favourite questions. Do you have an agent, and if so, was he/she hard to come by?


My agent is the lovely Caroline Sheldon. We got together about four years ago. I’d already had a few novels published under the name Donna Hay, but then my agent retired and I became a bit jaded and realised I wasn’t enjoying writing contemporary stuff any more. I gave up writing completely for a couple of years but then I missed it so I called up Caroline because lots of people had told me how nice she was. And they were right! It turned out to be serendipitous for both of us, because a few days after our meeting she met an editor who was looking for someone to write a series of novels set in a hospital in 1930s – and Caroline thought I might be up for the challenge.

I love a happy ending. Now, what would be your dream job, apart from writing all day with an endless supply of money thrown in?


I’ve always fancied being a beauty therapist, because it must be nice to spend your day making people look and feel better. Everyone enjoys a bit of pampering, and working in a spa seems like a fairly stress-free environment.

Quick fire questions –


Gin or champagne?

Gin, definitely. In fact, the answer is almost always gin.

TV or theatre?

Much as I would like to sound highbrow, it has to be TV.

Austen or Bronte?

Bronte. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jane Austen. But the Brontes have always fascinated me.

Bubble bath or power shower?

Bubble bath, when I get the chance. But sadly it’s mostly showers.

Book or Kindle?

Kindle on holiday, but you can’t beat a book the rest of the time.

Chocolate cake or exotic fresh fruit salad?

If you’d said any other kind of cake I would have gone for that. But I’m not a big fan of chocolate cake. Chocolate, yes. Cake, yes. But not together. Oh no. I quite like the sound of those cherry scones you mentioned earlier, actually…

Late nights or early mornings?

Early mornings. But I remember a time when they were one and the same thing. I’d stay up all night then rock up to work in a party dress. These were the days. Couldn’t do it now, though.

And finally, what comes next for you?

My new book, The Nightingale Sisters, is out any day now. It follows on from The Nightingale Girls, but it’s a stand alone story, so you don’t have to have read the first to enjoy the second. I’m just finishing off the third book in the Nightingales series, which is due out in October. After that, I have another two Nightingale books to write. Although there might well be more…

Thank you so much for letting us see a snapshot of your writing life – I’ve packed you some fruit cake for on the way home. See you again, I hope, and good luck with your next project.

Thanks for having me, I’ve had a lovely time. Although if I’d have known there was cake involved I would have bought you a Chelsea bun from Thomas’…

The Nightingale Sisters is published by Arrow Books. It’s available from Amazon  –


Find out more about Donna by visiting her website –

You can also follow her on Twitter – @donnahay1 – or read her blog –  

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Christine Stovell

Today, we welcome women’s fiction author, Christine Stovell…

Hi Chris, so lovely to see you here at Romaniac HQ. First things first – Tea or Coffee? Ooh, and we’ve re-stocked the cupboards with lots of yummy cakes and biscuits (should the need grab us…)

Helloooo Jan!  Thank you so much for having me here.  What a lovely smell of baking!  I’ll have coffee please and, oh, is that coffee and walnut cake?  There’s nothing like kick-starting the day with plenty of caffeine… and sugar… and, er, fat, is there?

Chris Stovell

A little birdie tells us you’re busy working on novel number three for Choc Lit. Can you give us a teaser?

Well, since it’s you… I try not to talk too much about the early stages of the WIP, as that’s when all those ideas swirling around in the dark looking so mysterious and enticing can look a bit naff if I shine too much light on them!  Hopefully I’m past that stage, so … Clearing the Decks will feature a return to my fictitious seaside town, Little Spitmarsh, the location for my first novel, Turning the Tide.  It’s not a sequel, although we’ll catch up with one or two of the characters who live there as well as meeting new ones.  I’m really enjoying writing this one, because I’m very fond of Little Spitmarsh.  Also, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with my current heroine and hero; she’s funny and self-deprecating and he’s just a lovely guy.  Pity I give them such a tough time then!  

It’s no secret how much you love living and writing in Wales; indeed, Coralie Casey, heroine in your second novel , Move Over Darling, escapes there, so how would you pitch the Welsh charm to a (shamefully) yet-to-visit city girl like me?

Chris Stovell cover MOD

Where do I start?  Beautiful, undiscovered beaches (and I happen to live a short walk from one of them).  Breathtaking scenery.  Warm-hearted, witty people.  Rugby.  The Millennium Stadium.  The Millennium Centre.  Swansea Market.  Richard Burton reading Under Milk Wood.  The poet, Owen Sheers… I could keep going, I love living here, just don’t mention the weather!

Welsh Beach


When you begin a novel, do you draft out each chapter beforehand or do your characters have free rein to take you wherever their stories lead them?

I start with a title which reflects my feeling of what the novel’s about, then I set up a spreadsheet with a chapter list, some preliminary ideas about each character’s story arc and some rough notes for essential scenes… then I start writing and it all goes out the window! As you suggest, it’s when characters really come to life that the magic happens.  Suddenly they’re telling their stories, which is the most brilliant, rewarding feeling.

You also write short stories. Do you find it easy/hard to switch between the two and how exciting was it to write ‘Touch Wood’ which was included in Choc Lit’s anthology – Love Match Selection?

Ah, do you know, I loved writing Touch Wood’.  I keep notebooks and cuttings of anything that catches my eye. Amongst them was an article about a craftswoman working with green oak and a fabulously moody photo of a trip hop musician – when I put those two together the story just happened.

A writing journey of 90,000 words, for me, is like running a half marathon so a short, satisfying 3k run every now and then just rings the changes and keeps me on course.  I enjoy both.

Touch Wood

What first gave you the writing bug?

Winning a prize of chocolate in a writing competition at primary school is the short answer.  But growing up in a house full of books and having an inspirational English teacher helped too.

Do you have a set routine or any literary rituals?

Literary rituals?  How about tickets for the complete Lions Tour 2013?  I’m sure that would give me plenty to write about, Mr Gatland, if you’re reading this. Failing that, ‘Bum on Seat’ is the only ritual I know that works!

Any other creative (or otherwise) passions or hobbies, Chris?

I love running, especially living here on this beautiful coastline, and it really helps me work out those pesky knots in my plot, I’m a passionate rugby fan and I adore very depressing music.  I love a good old blast of Nick Cave and one of my happiest moments was being just inches away from Radiohead at a recording of the Jonathan Ross show after they played their set twice.

Which three words would you say best describe you, and why?

Nasty, brutish and short.  Especially when I’m trying to write.

And finally… No visit to Romaniac HQ would be complete without a few quick-fire questions, (plus another cuppa and wedge of cake, of course…) so here goes:

Favourite Welsh Celeb?

*Through mouth crammed with cake*, the entire Welsh Rugby Team!

Guilty Pleasure?

Damn… it’s er, coffee and cake at *whispering* Dunelm Mill, Swansea.  It’s just it’s a convenient place to stop before shopping in Swansea and it always sets my happiness levels soaring nicely!

Sunlounger or Ski Slopes?

Sunlounger and a good book. Bliss.

Three novels you’d magic out of thin air to re-read if you were marooned on a desert island for a week?

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Sally Beauman’s Landscape of Love, Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven – three novels I never tire of re-reading.

Singer you’d most like to serenade you?

Kelly Jones; small but perfectly formed. Plus lots of Stereophonic tracks were playing in my head when I wrote Move Over Darling’.

Ant or Dec?

Wrong on so many levels.

Paris or Rome?

I would love a Roman holiday!

Fave Chocolate bar?

A Crunchie – nice but not too naughty.

Chris, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting to you. Best of luck with  your next novel: ‘Clearing the Decks’. 

Aw, Jan, it’s great to chat to you again, thanks to you and to all the fab Romaniacs for having me here – sorry about the crumbs. Let me give you a hand with the washing up.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @chrisstovell

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Paul Pilkington

Another man in the house – this is becoming something of a habit 🙂 Today we have with us Paul Pilkington, author of the Emma Holden suspense novels.


Hello, Paul. You found Romaniac HQ okay then? Come on in and take a seat.

Yes, found it pretty easily thanks. And without need for Sat Nav. Thanks for inviting me over for a chat. I can see you’ve got a cup of tea waiting, so that’s great!

Tea and one of Celia’s famous cakes. Now you’re settled, can you tell us about your writing background, please?

I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction, and English literature was one of my favourite subjects at school. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I started really considering writing longer pieces of work, just for the fun of it. It took me a couple of years with those thoughts in my head to actually begin writing consistently. At first, I started out writing comedy, and really enjoyed that – I had some success in terms of competitions and even a comedy sketch on TV. But eventually I turned my hand to mystery suspense, as it was the genre I’d become a big fan of as a reader – particularly the Harlan Coben standalone novels and ones similar in style. I love the challenge of creating suspense and also aim for my books to be hard to put down. My novels are never gory, nasty, or particularly gritty (I don’t read those kind of books, and certainly wouldn’t want to write them!). I prefer to focus on relationships, emotion, and sometimes romance too. All wrapped up in the mystery of course, with a bit of darkness and danger thrown in!

Can you tell us a bit about your Emma Holden series of books? They’ve been very successful, you must be really pleased.

I’m really pleased about how things have gone. The One You Love, the first novel of the series, has been very well received, and has been downloaded around two million times since July 2011. It’s been in the top 10 in the UK Kindle free download chart since then, as well as being in the top 100 of the US Kindle chart for the same length of time. It’s also doing really well on Apple’s various iBookstores around the world, and was recently highlighted as a “Breakout Book” by Apple. It’s fair to say that it took me by surprise, and I still can’t quite get my head around it. The novella sequel has done really well, and the third and final instalment, The One You Trust, will be out in summer 2013. I’ve worked with the characters for quite a while now, and really do care for them. It will be good to complete my “grand plan” but it will also be sad to finish with them. I’m sure Emma in particular will be glad that I’ll be leaving her alone to get on with her life.

How in-depth is your planning when plotting a new novel?

It depends. I did a lot less plotting for The One You Love than I did for Someone to Save You (where I plotted out each chapter from the beginning). To be honest, if I plot too much, it spoils it for me. I feel like things have already happened and that I’m just some reporter writing up yesterday’s news. Whereas if I know just a few key points (start, middle, end, and then a few other key scenes), then it’s much more exciting for me as a writer, as things happen that you never considered before, and could probably not artificially create before putting pen to paper (well, finger to keyboard). That’s what I love so much about writing – that magical moment when you are typing away, and creating things that just pop into your head from it seems like nowhere. 

The covers look great and give a real brand to your books. Did you design your own covers and can you tell us the process?

I did design my own covers initially, which were okay but obviously pretty amateurish. Then last year I had my covers professionally designed by a lovely lady called Jeanine Henning. I’m so happy with them, and they really communicate the books and my brand much better than I could have done. I’d definitely recommend having covers done by a professional.

What are your views on social media and raising your platform as a writer?

I do use social media. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook author page, and a website. However I must say that I’ve never been terribly pro-active on these. Partly it’s because I always feel embarrassed doing self-publicity (like a lot of authors, I’m not particularly self-confident about what I do), but also I’m not convinced it works. Especially when there are so many other people out there doing the same thing. I’m not saying it can’t work, but I do think the effort required is probably pretty huge, and means you may well have no time for actually writing! I do love connecting with readers through Facebook and Twitter though, and they are great ways to build an audience once they have already read your work.

How do you fit your writing around your ‘day job’?

It’s difficult! Things change, and where I once had a neat period of time in the day to indulge myself with my writing, I now have a very different routine, where writing has to battle for space with lots of other priorities. When writing The One You Fear, I took time off on leave to get it finished, and I expect to do that again. Writing has always been a hobby for me, and it still is really. Like any hobby, you have to make the effort to fit it in around everything else. I find that once I get into a particular project, I do then find it easier to make time, as the momentum pushes you along and motivates you to carve out space to continue. It’s the getting started that’s the hardest part, especially if you’ve taken a few months off from writing.

As a successful self-published author, would you consider submitting to an agent or publishing house in the future?

TOYLI wouldn’t rule anything out. I didn’t self-publish to try and get a deal with a traditional publisher, so it wasn’t a means to an end. I also haven’t submitted to any agents or publishing houses since my success. However, I have been approached by both agents and publishers, and always make a point of listening to what they have to say. At the moment I’m more than happy with what I’m doing, but who knows. My personal view is that we’re going to see more massive changes in publishing over the next few years, and big name authors may well begin to explore self-publishing. As for myself, I’ll just keep writing and will see what happens. If it all ended tomorrow, I’ve had two amazing years, so I certainly couldn’t complain.

What’s the best piece of advice you could offer someone considering self-publishing?

I would say make sure before you publish that you get your manuscript professionally copy-edited. Or at least, you do your very best to ensure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. My biggest mistake was not doing this initially, and it caused a lot of problems. All my novels are now professionally copy-edited. You have to treat readers with respect, and ensuring an error free work is a big part of that.

Random Quick Fire

Right or left handed? Right

Wine, Beer or lager? Beer

Chinese or Indian food? Indian

Football or Cricket? Rugby league actually! But football out of those two.

Town or country? Country

To love or to be loved? I think you need both really.

MI5 or MI6? MI5

Maverick or conformist? Conformist.

Thanks so much for coming in Paul, it’s been great to meet you. Wishing you every success for your novels.

No problem, happy to drop by, and thanks for the cuppa!

Tuesday Chit Chat with Serena Clarke

We’re delighted to have the lovely Serena Clarke on the blog with us today, celebrating the publication of her debut novel All Over The Place.

Serena Clarke colourSerena grew up in a family of itchy-footed readers and dreamers – not concentrating, reading the atlas and Narnia books, and planning to escape somewhere magical as soon as she could. When she was 16, she went from New Zealand to live in Sweden for a year. It was the beginning of many travels and adventures – and quite a few disasters! She didn’t know it at the time, but eventually she’d be grateful for all the downs as well as the ups. As writers say in the face of adversity: “I can use that.” She’s now living back in New Zealand, where she writes stories reflecting her determined belief in magic, possibility and second chances – and happy endings!

Hi Serena, welcome to the Romaniac blog – take a seat, put your feet up and help yourself to cake 🙂

Ooh thank you! I’m always making banana cake, so it’s lovely to have someone give me cake instead! Thanks for having me today. *gets comfy*

Shall we start with you telling us about your journey to publication?

I’ve been a bookish, dreamy kind of person all my life. I always thought it would be amazing to write a book – but that seemed the kind of thing other people did, not ordinary old me. Then I started looking at all those books in the library, thinking, well, someone has written all of those. Maybe I could have a go. I was coming to an age when ‘one day’ starts to feel a bit more pressing! And after writing, and rewriting, and rewriting again, All Over the Place – actually a very English book – was accepted by a digital-first publisher in the USA.

Can you give us some detail about All Over The Place?

All Over the Place coverIt’s a story of finding the place you’re meant to be, and the person you’re meant to be there with. It has a chick lit feel – and a happy ending, of course! Here’s the blurb:

Livi Callaway has fled back to London after a reality TV disaster in New Zealand. Safely anonymous in the big city, she’s determined to stay under the radar from now on. But her attempts to build a new life are complicated by unexpected visitors from her old one, and new dangers and temptations lie in wait.

Late one night, she meets a mysteriously sexy American on the Underground – and the events that follow take her from Pooh Bear to the golden lights of Paris, via a trail of rock stars dead and alive. A family in disarray, a determined Swede, a crazed Australian and a childhood friend (who might yet be more than that) have her all over the place as she tries to discover the American’s secret – while keeping her own.

With help – and occasional hindrance – from her friends, what she eventually finds is something unexpected…sometimes, running away can lead you to exactly what you didn’t know you needed.

Sharing other people’s praise of your book feels a bit like boasting about your children on Facebook – not really the done thing. But one lovely person said it was “a thoroughly engaging, globe-hopping confection of a novel…an enchanting journey of both distance and heart.” Which I thought was very nice indeed. But I didn’t tell you that.

How did you celebrate publication day?

Well, because of the time difference, I was tucked up asleep for half of publication day! I stayed up to watch the book go on sale on Amazon, then I had to go to bed! But the next day I had a lot of fun catching up with everything that had happened overnight. And that night we took the kids out for giant New York style pizzas. We’re a family of bookworms, so they thought it was pretty cool.

How important do you think the RNA NWS was in helping you achieve your publication dream?

Oh, it was crucial. When I first started writing in earnest I didn’t show anyone, or even tell more than a couple of people. So I really wasn’t sure if I was going about it the right way at all! My NWS report was really encouraging, and it had incredibly helpful suggestions for how to improve the book. If I ever find out who my reader was, I want to give her a big hug! (In a very non-stalkerish way, of course!)

What means home to you? Is it a place, a person or a case of ‘Wherever I lay my hat’?

That’s a central question in All Over the Place, so I’ve thought a lot about it. We live out in the world so much more now, with the internet, and live TV from everywhere, and people live-tweeting everything. In the book, Livi strikes out into the world after a disaster, and everything’s up for grabs – she could actually go anywhere, just like I could once upon a time. But of course, it’s people who make a place special. Now I’m the grown-up person responsible for making a home for other people. (Although I still don’t feel like a grown-up!) Anyone who has children would probably say home is where they are – I feel that way now.

You’ve lived in a lot of cities and a lot of countries ­ which is your favourite? What are some of the snapshot moments, the memories that will stay with you forever?

Hm, snapshots… Hiking in summer snow in Swedish Lapland – despite the million-gazillion mosquitos! Riding a camel up the sand dunes as the sun rose in the Moroccan Sahara. Peering through the fence outside the White House, trying to imagine what momentous decisions were being made inside. Meeting my rock star crush before a gig at an underground club in London. Pretty much everything about Paris! And favourites…apart from beautiful New Zealand, I’d say Sweden, because it really is my second home, with my second mum and dad. I can’t wait to see them when I come over again.

You’re back in London for the RNA summer party for the first time in a long time ­ what are the first places you’ll be visiting?

Serena Trafalgar SquareTrafalgar Square! That’s my happy place, and in All Over the Place it’s the centre of Livi’s London. I’m looking forward to spending a day wandering around the National Gallery. There’s a painting there of Saint Cecilia that features in the book, so I’m excited to see it for real. Also, I have a great friend who lives in London, and we have a special ‘tourist’ walk, winding our way from Oxford Circus down to Trafalgar Square and ending at Big Ben. I’m kind of a soppy traveller – I can’t help getting teary at significant places – but luckily he puts up with me! (Blame the artistic temperament!)

What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Joan Hessayon award? Has it been a dream of yours?

The whole thing has been a dream, yes! There are so many amazing books in the running, I don’t expect to win. But can you imagine – getting on the plane to return to London, with my book published and the prospect of being in a room with so many wonderful authors and publishing people? What’s more, I touch down on my birthday. Best. present. ever.

What about your next book? Is it another international book? Or set closer to home?

Yes, it’s another international kind of book, with the same sort of chick lit vibe. It’s set between England and California, and follows the ups and downs of twin sisters after they discover the secret their mother kept. Think matchmaking, flash mobs, people power in a hyper-connected world, true love, and the trials and joys of sisterhood. (That’s something I feel qualified to write about, coming from a family of 4 girls and one boy!)

The one after that will probably be in set in New Zealand – but I can never resist an international cast of characters! And they’ll probably need a trip to Australia, now that I think about it… *eyes passport*

Where do you write? Do you prefer a room with a view?

I write at the dining room table, on the sofa, or on my bed, depending on what’s happening in the house! I’m addicted to the ‘My Writing Room’ feature on, where writers share pictures of their office. I dream of having a little space of my own. Yes please to the view. There is quite a nice view from my bed!

Quick Fire Questions:

Home or away?

Away for adventure, home to snuggle.

Snow bunny or sun worshipper?

At the moment we’re in the middle of a drought, so I’m a bit over the sun. But I’m not a snow bunny either, unless you count tobogganing!

Right place or right time?

Don’t wait for either – just go ahead and do it!

Thanks so much for having me to visit with you today, and plying me with cake! What a treat.

Thank you, Serena – it’s been lovely chatting with you!

Find Serena here – she’d love to hear from you!

All Over the Place is available from all major e-book retailers, including:

Author Mandy James is our Tuesday Chit-Chat Guest today

Hi Mandy, come on in. I’m glad you’re here as after The Romaniacs’ kitchen party at the RNA Conference last year, I wasn’t sure you’d want to spend time with us again. It’s perfectly safe, the others are all out and I’m the quiet one 🙂

I am glad to be here, Sue. Thank goodness the others are out as I was severely traumatised from being at that kitchen party. As you know I am very quiet, reserved, tea total and react badly to lots of singing, shouting and the swigging wine.

mandy james

How are you? All ready for your book launch? The cover looks great, you must be really chuffed with it.

I am great thanks and so chuffed with the cover! Berni Stevens designs all Choc Lit’s covers and is a bloomin’ genius. I am convinced that the look of the cover will draw the eye. It’s so striking isn’t it? And yes, so looking forward to the launch! It is out on kindle now and the 7th of April in paperback. Also if anyone is in Cabot Circus on Wednesday the 10th of April between 6.30-8pm, they are very welcome to pop into Foyles bookstore where I will be having my launch/signing. There will be chocolates, nibbles and drinks too 🙂

Can you tell us a bit about A Stitch in Time, please?

A Stitch in Time is essentially about Sarah Yates, a time-travelling history teacher. (Yes, really!) It has more than a touch of romantic comedy, but serious issues are touched on also. Sarah is disillusioned with her job and recently divorced. Her husband left her for her best friend and as a consequence she is very wary of committing to anyone else as she was broken apart by their betrayal. However, when mysterious and very lovely John Needler arrives on the scene and asks her to travel through time to save the lives of others, she is more than a little attracted to him. Sarah finds new purpose in trying to help people in the past find their happy endings. The big question is – will she ever be able to find hers?

a stitch in time

It’s a great concept, is it something you had been toying with for a while as it is quite different to your previously published novel, Righteous Exposure.

Yes it is very different, and no, I hadn’t thought of it before the day I decided on a title! I always start with a title – can’t write without one. As far as I remember I was thinking of catchy phrases or sayings that would grab a person’s attention while browsing book shelves. Then once I had plumped for A Stitch in Time, the story just came into my head. I had completed the first draft in 6 weeks -the fastest book I have ever written.

Righteous Exposure is about a kidnapping and quite dark in places. At the time it wasn’t published and I could see that romantic comedies were always at the top of best seller lists. So, I decided to have a bash at one.


Was there lots of plotting involved on your behalf or did you just let the idea evolve as you wrote it?

I didn’t plan, I never do. I just have the bare bones of an idea and the characters and jot them down in a few paragraphs. Then I refer to them as I am writing. So yes, my ideas evolve as I go along. My characters have a mind of their own and don’t listen to a word I say anyway. They just do their own thing and can be quite rude when I try to force them to do something.

As a qualified teacher, what was your subject and how has your subject area impacted on your writing, if at all?

My subject was history and sociology too, but I only taught that at A’ level. History was obviously very useful when writing about the past and Sarah’s jaunts back in time. I really enjoyed teaching the American West and used that knowledge to inform Sarah’s mission to Kansas in 1874. And when she goes back to 1940, I borrowed my parent’s experiences and memories of the Sheffield Blitz alongside my research. There is a bit in the book where Violet says that she needs to change her vest because if she is to be killed, she wants to die clean. My Nan actually said that!

John is your hero in A Stitch in Time, who is your hero in real life and are there any similarities?

That is a tricky one. I have lots of heroes but not particularly gorgeous ones like, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and a guy called Korczac Ziolkowski who started the carving of Crazy Horse Mountain in South Dakota. All really strong, inspirational men who never gave up on their dreams. But if I had to pick a dishy one it would have to be someone like Johnny Depp or Aidan Turner. My John is somewhere between the two. J

And just some random questions we like to throw in now and again …

What is the food you couldn’t possibly live without?

Curry. No question, I am addicted.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could have one book, which would it be?

Only one! That’s impossible. Okay a random one…er…Watchers by Dean Koontz.

What has been your proudest moment?

Apart from personal family things, it has to be signing my publishing contract with Choc Lit. I couldn’t keep the huge smile off my face. In the end I had to have it surgically removed after a few weeks because my face began to crack in half.

What’s best about being a ChocLit author?

Choc Lit are a great team and really respected within the genre, not least because of the many awards won and the unique tasting panel. Also I love being part of a fantastic ‘family’ of authors, who really are some of the most supportive people I have ever met. Some girls I have yet still to meet, but I feel I know them already as we chat online.

Which Dr Who has been your favourite?

The first one I remember was Patrick Troughton and for a while couldn’t get used to anyone else. I did like Christopher Eccleston too, even though he was only Dr for a short time. But I think my favourite has to be Tom Baker because he was so off the wall and flamboyant.

Thanks for dropping by Mandy, it’s been nice to chat in a bit of peace and quiet without the others bursting into song, along with Sue Moorcroft – maybe she was the bad influence?

Thanks so much for having me, Sue. It has been lovely hasn’t it? And Sue Moorcroft is a terrible influence along with Laura James. They are just SO rowdy and raucous – scared the hell out of a little mouse like me I can tell you…


crooked cat

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Ian Wilfred

Lots of excitement at Romaniac HQ today, we’ve done our best cleaning and tidying and even baked a cake. (Thanks Celia) What’s the occasion we have a man on our sofa, Ian Wilfred, writer of women’s fiction.


Hi Ian come on in, we’re on our best behaviour – honest!

I hope not there’s nothing more that I like then a good gossip and thank you  for inviting me,  it’s very exciting being here I was expecting biscuits but I feel honoured as you have made a cake, is it one of Celia’s?

Oh definitely one of Celia’s – she has a bit of a reputation – for cake that is.

Now, we got to know each other on Twitter recently and your tweets are always upbeat and chatty but often early in the morning – how do you manage to be so cheerful at 6am?

Oh, I really want this to be a fun and upbeat interview, but the reason I’m on Twitter early and also the reason I wrote my book is a little sad. Four years ago I moved my dad from Devon to live with me and my partner Ron in the Midlands, over the four years his health has not been good.

He is now 87 and in bed 24/7 and can’t do anything for himself, so just over twelve months ago I had to give up my job to be his full time carer. I can be up in the night anything between two and twelve times with him, once I’m awake that’s it so by six in the morning when we talk on twitter I’m buzzing.  Don’t get me wrong family life is very good and I have wonderful support from friends, family and the NHS, and in the four years I have written two books.

I’m glad you’ve got plenty of support and it must be nice for your dad to be with you.

I was intrigued to find out you wrote women’s fiction, what brought you to this genre?

Well I wrote my book ‘Putting Right the Past’ and at the end that’s the genre it fell into. I really don’t know what other genre I could write in, perhaps one day I will give it a go. But somehow if there’s not a bit of glamour, love and gossip, I don’t think it will interest me.  

Can you tell us about your novel?

book_coverMy main character is Carole Harding she is in her 50s, her husband cheated on her and she got divorced, then she inherited 2 million pounds from her uncle.

Carole moved to a very nice apartment in Tenerife, no one knows about her inheritance, but it seems all her neighbours have problems and secretes. Carole finds herself helping to change their lives…

Nadean is the actress who hit the headlines and had to go into hiding, Victoria is a top model but why did her family turn against her? Hamilton spent his life traveling the world, earning so much money, but was so lonely; Riley gave up everything for love… Then there is Peter and Paul, who only seem to be happy when having a crisis and Jeremy … who has secretes not just from his wife Felicity, but also from the law.

As Carole gets involved with the lives of her neighbours, she blossoms into the woman she’d always longed to be…. When she meets Robson, can this be the biggest transformation of her life?

Do you feel any pressure writing as a man in a heavily populated woman genre?

No, not at all, I just love writing and feel very lucky to be in the position of having a book published. OK I would love my book more they anything to be liked by the readers, but at 52 (39 in my head) I have had enough knocks in my life to realise it’s not the end of the world if it’s not a success. 

Do you have a favourite author?

Now this is the bit you are going to think I’m a little bit strange, the thing is I have what I call my SUNDAY BEST books,  let me explain. You ladies are far too young to remember, (that’s very kind of you to say, but sadly not true! Sorry, carry on …)  but in the old days when I was young we had clothes that were only for Sundays and special occasions, never worn during the week, always saved for best.

Well I have some authors that I save their books for special occasions like a holiday, the list of authors gets younger every year, at the moment there are about twenty of them.

It started many years ago with four authors, Marion Keys, Joanne Harris, Andriana Trigiani and Carole Drinkwater. Lots have been added since; one author which was added last year is Emylia Hall and her wonderful book ‘The Book of Summers’, such a beautifully written book, tissues are required when reading it. I don’t know what it is with this book but it’s had a big effect on me, I recommend it to everyone and give it as a present to friends.

Sorry to go on ladies but I could go on and on about my SUNDAY BEST authors.

Don’t be sorry, we love a good old chat 🙂

Do you have a writing routine?

Oh, I really wish I did, shall I tell you my dream writing day?

It would start at 5.30am with coffee and twitter, lots of coffee. Then ay 7.30am I would go off and write like mad until 12.30 when I would have my lunch sat in front of Loose Woman (my guilty pleasure) in the afternoon I would read what I had written, make changes also spend the time on emails etc. Then at 5.30 I would stop and pour a large glass of red wine.

That is my dream day; i will say it has only ever happened a few times.

Can you tell us three favourite things you like about writing?

This is a hard one, but I do love the feeling when you know exactly what you want to write in a chapter and it’s like being in a race, trying to get it on the lap top so quick.

Also a couple of months ago I finished the first draft of my second book, the working title is London/New York and I got to the last chapter, I knew for months  how it would end , but then I changed the ending completely within an hour , that was a lovely feeling, and a big surprise to me.

Which means we do have to ask what three things you dislike

This is very easy, I hate it when all of a sudden you realise the 10 thousand or so words you have written don’t work.  Since writing Putting Right the Past I have started four books that have gone nowhere, perhaps one day I will revisit them and try to do something with the story. But the thing is if a writer can’t get excited about what there writing, how is a reader going to.

One of the other things I dislike is writing about a character that has to be in the story but they are just boring, it always seems to take for ever.

If you could read three chapters of your novel at any venue, what would your choices be and why?

No I could never read my novel out loud to anyone, believe it or not I can’t be in the same room as someone if they are reading anything I wrote. But I would love to be in some of the venues I read about in other peoples novels. Can you imagine going back in time and being in a Lesley Pearce or a Victoria Hislop, oh you have really got me thinking now. But sorry that’s not really answered your question has it.

And just so you are in keeping with recent guests, I have to ask …. What are your thoughts on a Onesie?

I don’t really have any thoughts on it, there not for me is it wrong to say I think they are for young people. I know in my head I’m only 39 and have been for the last fifteen years and always will be, but the thought of getting in and out of one does seem a lot of trouble.

Quick Fire

Fountain pen or biro——– biro

Lager, beer or wine——- red wine every time

Silence or music whilst writing——- silence

Early bird or night owl———-early bird

Valentine’s Day or birthday—–birthday

Car or motorbike —–car

Football or cricket—– neither not sporty but I do love Strictly Come Dancing

Okay then … Pasha Kovalev or Artem Chigvintev  (SCD dancers) —Pasha every time

Thanks so much for popping by Ian; it’s been great fun having you here. Best of Romaniac luck, with your book.

And thank you very much for having me; I have really enjoyed myself, I’m sorry if I have gone on a bit,  oh and by the way would it be ok if I take the rest of Celia’s cake with me. Also could I place an order for one every week x

Well, go on then – but don’t tell everyone I let you have the cake, they will say it’s favouritism. I’ll pass the request onto Celia, you never know your luck 🙂

Going Gaga for Nell Dixon’s new book!

I am very pleased to welcome on the blog today, the very lovely Nell Dixon. After spotting a post on Facebook from Nell, asking for reviewers to read her latest novel, Radio Gaga, I messaged her straight away. I loved the sound of the book from the blurb and was eager to read it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It is a fantastic read – funny, emotional, great storyline and vivid characters. You can read my full review on Amazon, here.

And here is the blurb that grabbed my attention:

Over the airwaves everyone can hear you scream!

Radio researcher and part-time presenter Chloe Lark is certain her big showbiz break is just around the corner. Live it Up radio may not be the big time, but surely – one day soon – fame will come her way. And, if she could convince the hunky guy next door to give her a chance, her love life might improve too.

Ex-soldier Ben isn’t sure if his new ‘Z’ list celebrity neighbour is crazy or on medication. Either way he’s looking for a quiet life out of the spotlight. The last thing he needs is an accident prone media hungry blonde complete with mystery stalker. Problem is – Chloe doesn’t seem to have received that particular memo…

Seeing as I enjoyed it so much, it would’ve been a crime to not have Nell on the blog telling us about the book, amongst other things. We were delighted when Nell accepted. Here’s what she had to say…

Welcome to Romaniac HQ, Nell, how are you today?

I’m good, thank you so much for inviting me!

You are more than welcome. Celia has been baking again so please help yourself to some cake and tell us a little about your latest novel, Radio Gaga.

Yum, cake! I’m supposed to be eating healthily but I’m sure one bite won’t hurt. Radio Gaga is Chloe’s story – she’s a radio researcher and part time presenter who longs to be good at something. The only thing she feels she is good at is being famous so that’s what she wants to be. Except, of course, life never quite works out as she planned it.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Did you have to abseil and handle snakes as research?

I skipped the abseiling as I am petrified of heights. I once got stuck on an army assault course rope bridge thing and had to be rescued by two soldiers. I have handled snakes though and I did consult zoo keepers about snakes and their habits.

Stuck on an assault course, oh no! At least there were hunky soldiers available to rescue you, though 🙂

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you begin your writing journey?

I’ve always been a writer. I joined my first writers’ group when I was twelve and finished my first book when I was seventeen. That one will never see the light of day! Which is a good thing. I had a break when my girls were little but came back to it again after a pretty serious health scare about ten years ago.

Sorry to hear that, Nell, but great that you started writing again. How many different genres do you write?

I write chick lit, contemporary romance and romantic suspense/mystery. I also have some children’s stories which may come out later this year under another name.

Sounds exciting! Is writing your full time occupation? What is your writing routine?

I work part time for a disability charity managing a therapeutic community agriculture project which takes up a lot of my time. Writing has to fit around my family and my day job. I usually write evenings and weekends and fit in promo and the business side of writing as and when I get the chance.

When did your love of architecture begin?

I adore buildings, they fascinate me and always have done. They tell a story of the people and lives that are lived there. Cathedral and church architecture is especially interesting but I also love well designed modern buildings which fit their surroundings, like Cardiff’s Millennium Centre.

What is your favourite time in history?

I love regency. I like the realism of the Georgians. They were planners and thinkers but were also realists. This is reflected in their buildings and the plans of their gardens.

We know this is a hard question, like asking a mother which is her favourite child, but do you have a favourite book? Or a top three?

Oh, that’s mean! (We know! Cue evil laugh mwahaha!) I may need more cake! I always think my most recent book is my best, so Radio Gaga I think is my best to date but I have special fondness for Marrying Max and Animal Instincts. I think my voice and humour shows most in those as, like Radio Gaga, I wrote them to please myself. 

Quick Fire Round:

·         E-Book or paperback? E-book – I love my kindle.

·         Tea or coffee? Coffee, tea makes me ill.

·         Facebook or Twitter? Facebook – Twitter is like going to a party where you don’t know anyone.

·         Up or down? Up – down is depressing.

·         Shoes or boots? Shoes – my calves don’t fit boots very well. (puts down cake) (I know that feeling, I’m an ankle boot girl for that exact reason *picks up the cake that Nell put down*)

·         Pen and paper or straight to computer? Computer – my handwriting is getting worse.

·         Left or right-handed? Right

·         Relaxing on the beach or forest excursion? Beach. Spiders can drop on you in a forest.

·         And lastly, what is your guilty pleasure? I adore Made in Chelsea, Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.


Thank you so much for coming in and talking to us today, Nell, it’s been an absolute pleasure!

Thank you for having me 🙂


Radio Gaga is out on Friday 1st March and you can get your copy, here. And check out Nell’s website, here.

Lucie x