Roving Romaniac – Lucie’s loose in London!

s-l1000                         always-with-love                            we-were-on-a-break

Last month when my friend, Leanne, tweeted me  saying ‘this looks good, we can go after uni!’, it was the start of a very exciting conversation. She is fantastic and is sometimes an extra pair of eyes on Twitter for things exactly like this event. Because I spend a lot of my time either writing books, writing university papers or reading textbooks, my time on social media comes about in fits and starts, so I sometimes miss these great announcements of events and by the time I see them, they are sold out! This is where it is handy, as a lover of books and writing, to have a friend like Leanne to scout these events and tweet me about them! She did the same about the Paige Toon event I went to last month which I shall blog about next week as I totally forgot to at the time! (I blame university/book brain!)


Arriving at the News Building, ready to join the queue!

So fast forward to yesterday, the day had finally come. We were off to London to the offices of Fabulous Magazine for their author event. Not one, not two, but THREE fantastic authors were there to chat to everyone and sign books. A-MAZ-ING, right?


Lindsey Kelk

So, we had the very lovely and VERY funny Lindsey Kelk, author of the ‘I heart’ series alongside other novels. Her latest book, ‘We Were on a Break’ is OUT NOW and promises to be another incredibly funny and witty read.


Next we have the amazing Giovanna Fletcher, super talented author of books such as ‘Billy and Me’, ‘Dream a Little Dream’ and her most recent novel, ‘Always with Love’ is a great read. Mum to Buzz and Buddy and wife to Tom, Giovanna amazes me with how she manages to fit everything in and still manage to meet fans and


Giovanna Fletcher

enjoy an evening out.


And last, but by no means least, the incredibly talented and super friendly Mhairi Mcfarlane. Mhairi is one of the nicest people I have met; easy to chat with, identifiable and  a total word wizard! Mhairi’s latest book ‘Who’s that Girl’ is OUT NOW. I am about a


Mhairi Mcfarlane

third of the way through it and LOVING IT!


So, what do you get if you add three FABULOUS writers and a FABULOUS magazine – you got it, a FABULOUS evening! A free glass of wine – tick – a free book – BIG tick and a stunning view – phenomenal tick! The ladies chatted about their books, how they write, what they write, why they write. The topic went from cats with urine infections (don’t ask) to Tom Mcfly killing off Giovanna’s characters and using the lives of friends to help create the most craziest stories. There was laughter, lots of it, and great questions from audience members. The interview was filmed for a short while on Facebook Live which added a great dimension to the evening and the room in which the event took place was kitted out amazingly with lights, music from a DJ and a wonderful buzz of excitement that flew around and into every nook and cranny of the space. 14708104_517561595109091_4382367823175074922_n

I had the chance to meet all three wonderful ladies and have my books signed. We did have to queue for quite sometime (they are popular women) but when each and every person arrived at the front desk, it didn’t feel rushed or awkward and each person was given adequate time to chat and enjoy the company of their idols. I had some lovely conversations with each of the ladies, I almost wish I could have pulled up a pew and indulged in conversation all evening.

But unfortunately, as all good things, the evening had to come to an end. My friend and I left – with another friend of mine from back in high school who I recently have started to bump into at these book events (Hi Hannah!) – and we strolled back to London Liverpool Street station ready to embark on our journey back home.

But not before a quick snap on London Bridge to add to our souvenirs from another very enjoyable event.


Selfie on London Bridge!


Bumping into school friend, Hannah







Thanks to Fabulous Magazine for hosting a great event.


Thanks to Lindsey, Giovanna and Mhairi for providing many laughs and incredible books.


And thanks to my friend, Leanne, for finding the event, accompanying me and providing yet more laughs on the journey home at the expense of her jacket!



The Romaniacs Sparkle Spotlight 2016.

The Romaniacs Sparkle Spotlights 2016.

Filmed at the RNA conference, Lancaster University.

We asked three questions:

  1. What are you working on?
  2. What inspired your story/you to become a writer?
  3. What is your top writing tip?

Thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s Sparkle Spotlights – your advice is invaluable.

Life Cycle of a Writer ~ Jan Brigden ~ Interviewing your Characters

In the early stages of drafting As Weekends Go, I gobbled up every nugget of writerly advice going – I still do – you never stop learning and any guidance is invaluable.

I’d already created detailed profiles for each of my main characters, some secondary characters too, i.e. ages, physical descriptions, family backgrounds, schooling, jobs, habits, likes/dislikes, friendships, relationships, star signs. A further suggested exercise that proved brilliant for me was “literally” interviewing them. Instead of writing a structured Q&A for each, I let them chat away on the page (so to speak) to see how they viewed themselves, to hear their voices and obtain an insight into specific personality traits, hopes, values, etc.

Here’s a brief glimpse at two of the main cast members – random facts in no particular order –  to further illustrate what I mean :

Hello, could you please tell me a little bit about yourself...

“Hi, I’m Rebecca Stafford, married to Greg for four years, no children as yet, but having now moved into our new home, we plan to start a family, which I’m so excited about. I just hope Greg’s workload reduces. He’s been so stressed lately – a bit snappy too, (between you and me) – and could really do with relaxing a bit more. I do worry about him.

I’d say I’m a good listener, diplomatically honest, as I hate to hurt people’s feelings. I’m quite a home bod, and I love the company of my friends and family, especially my best friend Abi who I’ve known for years. I dress in what suits me. I’m not a dedicated follower of fashion as they say, but I do take pride in my appearance.”

Next please ... (1)

“Hello, I’m Alex Heath. Describe myself physically? Well, I’m very fit  – in the sporty sense (I wasn’t being vain!) as my profession demands it. I’ve always been active, trained hard and appreciated all the challenges and rewards it brings. I’m not really into the celebrity thing and shy away from publicity even though I know it’s all part of the job. I think it’s important to stay grounded, have good friends and family around me and never forget what a privilege it is to be doing what I love.

I’m a good judge of character. Some people say I can be stubborn, (my mum, usually!) which maybe I am, but it helps me to focus on what’s important. Nobody likes being taken for a fool, do they? Do I like being rich? Well, it certainly has its advantages. I’d be a liar if I said otherwise, but I’m level-headed with money; prefer spending it on other people than myself.”


Now I know these exercises won’t necessarily be for everyone. Admittedly, a lot of the pre-interview detailed character profile information I didn’t actually use in the book, i.e. Rebecca’s favourite film or her opinion of her first boss, but it did give me an insight into how she might react in certain scenes, or to the various people she met, whatever the situation. Same with Alex. So too, with my other main characters.

I did the same thing for my second book which I’m currently writing. If you think interviewing your characters is something that might help you develop your own stories, then give it a try. I can definitely recommend it.




Love Jan x

An interview with Sam Eades – Senior Commissioning editor at Orion

I’m very happy to welcome Sam Eades, senior commissioning editor and associate publicist at Orion, to the blog today, answering some questions and offering some great advice!

Hi Sam, and welcome. Can I start by asking you to give us an insight into your day to day role?
I am a senior commissioning editor and associate publicist at Orion. I’ve been here seven months now, following stints at Transworld, Headline and Macmillan in the publicity department. I have an unusual role in that I both commission fiction AND publicise it! And no, I don’t publicise my own books, I think I’d annoy myself too much. No day is the same but some of the day to day tasks I might do include on the pr side: circulating coverage to agent, author and sales team; pitching for media; accompanying an author to interviews and events; pitching a book at an internal meeting; organising an author tour and on a really good day lunch with a journalist.

And on the editorial side: taking new business to the acquisition meeting; following up on submissions from agents; preparing an offer and a pitch letter for someone I want to take on; checking over a contract; briefing covers; checking metadata to make sure books feature in the right categories on Amazon; responding to an agent query about an existing author; looking at trends and anticipating trends in the fiction market for future commissions and on a really good day lunch with an agent!

As a child, was there a book or a series you returned to over and over? What was it that drew you in?
I’m embarrassed to say I owned every Goosebumps novel ever published. Ahem. I was a big Agatha Christie fan, I read lots of classics, Enid Blyton, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Anne Fine before moving on to all the books on my parent’s shelf, Virginia Andrews, Jilly Cooper, James Herbert!

At what point did you know books were, or had to, feature heavily in your life?
My mum took me to the library once a week, and a voracious love of reading began. The first Brownie badge I got was a Book Lover badge which may have been a clue as to where I would end up.  I didn’t realise publishing was an actual industry where people had jobs until a work experience placement at Little Brown.

What advice do you give to those wishing to pursue a career in publishing?
Apply to internships at big publishing houses, small publishing houses, literary agents, scouts and freelance pr agencies. The more placements you apply for, the more experience you will get and the more likely you are to be in the right place at the right time when a vacancy comes up. Don’t limit yourself to editorial; there are a number of creative and exciting departments and individuals, who are responsible for bringing a book to market. Read Make Your Mark by Aliza Licht, it will teach you how to make the most of an internship and be remembered without being pushy. Once you land a placement, have a look at the publisher’s catalogue and familiarise yourself with their list. A heads up that entry level jobs involve admin and support work.

What book have you read most recently that you just can’t get out of your head?
Most recently, I really enjoyed Amy Cuddy’s PRESENCE *power poses at desk*. Over Christmas I read a ton of classics I’ve always wanted to read including Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE and COLD COMFORT FARM. I also was very lucky to get a proof of Curtis Sittenfeld’s ELIGIBLE and I loved every single word of it. I’m remembering that book now with a huge smile on my face.

What submissions would you love to see arrive in your in-box? / What’s your current wish list?
Where to begin! I would love to find a British suburban Ripley, a bit like Phil Hogan’s A PLEASURE AND A CALLING. Having read so many psychological thrillers, I’m leaning towards something warmer, a vintage set or vintage feel cosy crime series would really hit the spot. I think JoJo Moyes is a genius, and would love to find women’s fiction that packs an emotional punch like ME BEFORE YOU. I really enjoyed books like THE SHINING GIRLS and FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, so a high concept crime/sf thriller. Basically I like twisty, high concept novels, a good weepy or to channel my inner Poirot. And despite reading psychological thriller after psychological thriller I still can’t get enough of them! Finding the new Ruth Rendell would be nice. I like multiple voices, deftly balanced past and present narratives, mysterious prologues where we don’t discover who is narrating until the end… etc etc!

Did you ever want to be on the other side and write a book?

What is your favourite / least favourite part of your job?
Hanging out with your favourite authors and reading is the best bit. Eating sausage rolls at train stations in the middle of nowhere is the worst bit.

Is your taste in books the same as your taste in films or do you find they differ?
I love twisty American thrillers like INCEPTION and SHUTTER ISLAND, so there is some crossover there. I’m a real Netflix addict and enjoy PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, REIGN, THE GOOD WIFE etc. I’d love it if fiction could be as addictive!

Do you have any advice / top tips for writers?
These four books have been helpful to me on the editorial side. 1. INTO THE WOODS by John Yorke. It will help with plotting and examines the plot structures of famous books, films and tv series. 2. WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass. There are some great sections on landscape, character development, coming up with a theme and creating tension. 3. ON WRITING by Stephen King. Will fill you with pride at being a writer. 4. SAVE THE CAT. A book on scriptwriter than can be applicable to books (and recommended by @Mushenska no less). It will help you come up with your pitch, which will be invaluable when contacting agents.


For anyone dreaming of being published by Orion, do you have any advice?
Do you
accept unagented submissions? 
Have a look in the acknowledgements for your favourite books and books you feel are similar to your WIP and see who the author’s agent is. Get a copy of the WRITERS AND ARTISTS YEARBOOK, find those agents and check out their guidelines and look at their websites too. Here are some great articles on how to submit and land an agent:
If you can’t get an agent, don’t think all is lost. We have periods of open submissions at Orion with Gollancz and have a creative writing competition with Good Housekeeping. Authors we have published include Eva Holland and Diana Bretherick.

Thanks Sam for taking the time to come and chat with us!

Motivation Monday

Welcome to our second Motivation Monday! This week, it’s Vanessa and Catherine sharing their ‘to do’ list for the week. We would love it if you could join in too, it doesn’t have to be anything huge, just something you want to get done that week. All you have to do is leave a comment below.

Motivation Monday


  1. Edit first 100 pages of the work-in-progress – I’ve just finished a fairly major re-write, so now need to embark on a major edit!
  2. Work out exactly how the ending of the same wip is going to be structured… because I have several characters to get to a certain point, I keep re-writing the ending over and over, changing it each time. This week will be the week I pick an ending and stick to it!!
  3. Find five new writing competitions to enter in January/February – I’m looking for new flash fiction competitions.
  4. Come up with some ideas for new flash fiction to enter in those competitions!


  1. Try to survive my first ever zumba class.
  2. Get to the half way point of Novel Two.
  3. Do more organising for book tour/promotional day/launch day for Waiting for You.
  4. Sit still for one hour and read.
  5. Try a new recipe.

I’ll let you know how I got on on Friday!

Dear Auntie Romaniac – Flashbacks, yes or no?

Dear Auntie Romaniac


I don’t know whether to use flashbacks in my novel or not. My main character has a lot of back story which is relevant to the story I’m telling now.

Do you think I should tell this in flashbacks or should I use a different technique, such as, diary entries or dual time line?  Or is there a better way to deal with a heavy back story?


Catherine: I think flashbacks are okay to use as long as they don’t jar the storyline, serve a purpose, and keep the reader interested. I’ve just finished Julie Cohen’s Where Love Lies and there is some flashback in there, but it’s serves the plot well and is done smoothly. It’s important to the story as it explores memory and perception amongst other things. I think the rules that I’d have would be not too much, not too soon and not if it doesn’t have a purpose.

 Laura: I agree with Catherine. Not too much and not too soon, unless the character is experiencing physical flashbacks. The past can be revealed through dialogue, which is a form of showing, or through the characters internal voice. I do recall being taught to make the lead into and out of the flashbacks clear to the reader. Having said all that, I like both your ideas, Sue, and can see them working.

Lucie: I will echo what the girls are saying, especially not overusing it. I use a flashback in Fractured Love, but only the once. I think if you use it too much, it will most definitely jar the flow of the story and not achieve the intended purpose. I think there are some stories that need it and some that don’t. You need to look at the story both with it and without and explore whether it is the best means of communication for that part. I do love a good flashback, though, it can add depth and mystery to a story if done properly. Good luck, Sue!🙂

Dear Auntie Romaniac… Plotting panic

Dear Auntie Romaniac …


I’m just beginning to think about a new book idea. I’ve bought a new notebook and a new pen and I have some vague thoughts in my head. Now, what I usually do is have a beginning and an end in mind, a setting and an idea of my main characters and armed with that, I begin writing and the story forms as I write and as I really get to know the characters. The problem is, I then end up with lots of scenes and chapters that are really just character studies, or nice descriptive bits, which don’t advance the story and my second/third drafts involve major re-writing. I have tried advance planning and plotting and character questionnaires but I struggle until I get into the minds of my characters by writing them. How can I plot and structure my book when I don’t really know the characters yet?


Sue: I always plot heavily before I write, but I have found if I can get to know my character really well beforehand, this makes life easier. You could ask your character a number of questions, or give them some moral dilemmas – these don’t necessarily have to be part of the story, but they will help you know your character thoroughly before you start writing. Maybe, write the first draft focussing on the plot and then go back and weave character traits, thoughts, feelings and reactions in afterwards. 

Catherine: I think I’m still learning on this, like you, Vanessa. I use a bullet point story line method. I start out by planning what is going to happen in the novel and I scribbled it all out in a notebook. Each bullet point is about a paragraph of information and that eventually becomes a chapter. I haven’t stuck to it rigidly, but it has given me a framework to go by, so each chapter I know what the purpose of those events are and where it will eventually lead. In my second draft I will add more detail and check the timeline, something I could have done prior if I’d been more organised, and that’s something I will try to do with the next one.

Laura: It’s a great question, Vanessa. I tried detailed planning for the first time for book I’ve recently finished, using the three act structure, brilliantly explained by author, Fiona Harper, at a Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Here is a great series Fiona wrote for the Pink Heart Society in 2012 about that. I usually start with an idea, then bring in the characters, and sketch out a rough picture in my head of what I’d like to happen. Often parts of the plot don’t come to me until I’m inside the story. Even having planned book 3, I struggled with refining the end. How was it resolved? I talked through it with Catherine – she was my captive audience in my car for five hours – Some might say that’s extreme advice, but I’m only suggesting talking it out as the method, not the kidnapping. It really helps me to talk through the story with trusted friends. However, I do like to get to know my characters well before I start writing. I use enneagrams to determine their personality traits. This was one of the many tips I picked up from the fab Julie Cohen a few years ago. This gives me an instant insight into what motivates my characters, and a foundation on which to build.

Jan: I’m a serious plotter. To touch on what Sue has suggested above, I create and then interview each main character, posing various questions and scenarios. This gives me a great sense of who they really are, how they think, their gut feelings, motivations, private versus public reactions. I then roughly draft out what will happen in each chapter, as in ‘harmony versus tension’ scenes, points of conflict, timelines, etc, making sure I have a good idea of balance and story pace. It probably sounds a bit regimental, Vanessa, but even though I’m methodical in my approach, I do keep an open mind when I’m writing, to allow for any unexpected diversions. That’s the fun and beauty of telling the actual story – you’re never 100% certain where it may lead you. I wish I could come up with a magic solution, but I suppose it really is a case of trying every option, every which way, until it gels for you.