Excitement at Romaniac HQ

It’s an exciting day here at Romaniac HQ as we all participate in some group happy dancing to celebrate the e-publication of Laura’s second novel

Follow me, follow you.

Don’t you just love this cover?

Set along the beautiful Dorset coast, Laura’s home county, it’s a fantastic read and we wish Laura every success Follow me, follow you deserves.

Dorset coast



You save me and I’ll save you…

Seth on Chesil Beach

Victoria Noble has pulled the plug on romance. As director of the number one social networking site, EweSpeak, and single mother to four-year-old Seth, she wrestles with the work-life balance.

Enter Chris Frampton, Hollywood action hero and Victoria’s first love. His return from LA has sparked a powder keg of media attention, and with secrets threatening to fuel the fire, he’s desperate to escape.

But finding a way forward is never simple. Although his connection with Victoria is as strong as when he was nineteen, has he been adrift too long to know how to move on?

With the risk of them breaking, will either #follow their heart?

Sales link Amazon.co.uk here

Author Bio:


Laura is married and has two children. She lives in Dorset, but spent her formative years in Watford, a brief train ride away from the bright lights of London. Here she indulged her love of live music, and, following a spectacular Stevie Nicks gig, decided to take up singing, a passion that scored her second place in a national competition.


Laura is a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, a member of her local writing group, Off The Cuff, and an editor of the popular Romaniacs blog.

Laura was runner-up twice in the Choc Lit Short Story competitions. Her story Bitter Sweet appears in the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Anthology. Truth or Dare?, Laura’s debut novel, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction Best Romantic eBook 2013 and the 2014 Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Award. Follow me, follow you is Laura’s first Choc Lit novel published in paperback.

  1. lauraejames.co.uk
  2. twitter.com/Laura_E_James
  3. facebook.com/LauraE.JamesWriter

And if you’ve made it all the way down here – thank you! You’ve reached the link for book trailer.

Follow Me Follow You.


Truth or Dare? by Laura E James. Published! Play the game, if you dare!

There is much excitement at Romaniac HQ today; party hats are on, balloons blown up and plenty of cake and fizz to hand. We are so proud of our Laura – her gritty contemporary novel TRUTH OR DARE?, published by Choc Lit UK, is now available! A split era story where love is a dangerous game and, sometimes, the wrong thing is done for the right reason.


To celebrate this, we’d love you to join in with a game of Truth or Dare?.  Here’s how to play:-

Choose one of the questions below to answer truthfully. Leave your answer either in our comments section or on Twitter using the hashtag #ToD.

If, however, you feel you cannot answer truthfully, then take the dare! Simply click on the curtain to reveal your dare. Again, leave ‘evidence’ of your dare either in our comments section or on Twitter with the hashtag #ToD.

We will be joining in too and can’t wait to see your answers.

Question 1

What is the worst excuse you have given for cancelling a date? 



Dare 1

Question 2

If you had the chance to make one of The Romaniacs your slave for the day, who would it be and why?



Dare 2

Question 3

What is the longest period of time you have gone for without either washing, brushing your teeth or not wearing any deodorant?



Dare 3

Question 4 :

If you could go on a romantic dinner date with one of your colleagues, who would it be?



Dare 4

Question 5:

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you, ever?



Dare 5

HUGE congratulations, Laura.

Truth or Dare? is an absolutely fantastic read. Wishing you every success you deserve.

Choc Lit
Laura E James
Author of Truth or Dare?


Truth or Dare?

Love’s a dangerous game … 

Kate Blair’s sick of unrequited love. She’s quietly waited for Mickey for the past six years and finding a compass-carved heart, with their initials scratched through the middle, only strengthens her resolve: no more Mickey and no more playing it safe.

It’s time to take a chance on real love and Declan O’Brien’s the perfect risk. He’s handsome, kind, and crazy about her so it’s not long before all thoughts of Mickey come few and far between.

But old habits die-hard. Kate may have started to forget … but has Mickey?


Thank you to everyone who joined in with the fun. So you can still see the dares and responses, we’ve copied them all below : –



8 thoughts on “Dare 1”

Aggh – I chickened out on all the above, and now I have to riverdance in my kitchen! But my kitchen has big glass doors and outside that are three (hunky) builders putting up a conservatory for me. Please, I don’t have to do this in front of them… do I?! Later, she promises, when they’ve gone! Laura – I wish you loads of success and I’m really looking forward to reading Truth or Dare (much more than I am doing a river dance!).

  • The Romaniacs

24/10/2013 at 11:38 am Reply(Edit)

Thank you, Kate – you’ve made me lol in my kitchen, where there are no hunky builders, just a doorstop. I’m looking forward to seeing your dance  Laura xx

I’ve taken the dare! I blame The Romaniacs! #ToD @TheRomaniacs @sherylbrowne #lahe http://youtu.be/mLn6j8yq2VU PS. My postman thinks I am officially mad! GOOD LUCK, LAURA!!  xx

  • The Romaniacs

24/10/2013 at 11:41 am Reply(Edit)

I want you at every party I ever hold, Sheryl! Laura xx

I did the dare. Well I had to really, I’ve never cancelled a date (call me needy) and anyway the dog enjoyed it (the riverdance – not the date, what sort of woman do you think I am??) tsk

  • The Romaniacs

24/10/2013 at 11:44 am Reply(Edit)

Thank you, Cathy. Nothing like an early morning workout. Was it anything like an early morning workout? Just asking Laura

Still in bed at the moment and my teenage daughter would be too embarrassed to see me doing that so have to bottle out I’m afraid!

  • The Romaniacs

26/10/2013 at 4:48 pm Reply(Edit)

I bet you’d pull it off though, Cara  Thank you for popping in. Laura xx

Dare 2


2 thoughts on “Dare 2”

Why are there no pictures? Hmmm, maybe I’ll post mine tomorrow….

  • The Romaniacs

24/10/2013 at 12:18 pm Reply(Edit)

I’ve seen pictures, Beverley – they may appear here later… Laura x:-)

Dare 3









Dare 4









Dare 5









One thought on “Dare 5”

I took Dare 5. Rather than divulge my most embarrassing experience, I ate curry powder. Go to https://twitter.com/Laura_E_James to see


Crimefest – A guest report from Evonne Wareham

100_0671As I write romantic suspense – a genre that can have as a high a body count as a kiss-count – I sometimes get to play on the shady side of the street. Which is how I came to spend a recent weekend in the company of assorted serial killers, drug dealers, spymasters, global conspirators and all round bad lots, and the lovely people who create them. Yes, this was Crimefest, the Bristol crime writing convention that brings together criminal elements from all walks of life  – and the sleuths who pursue them – from the cosy amateur, solving puzzles over tea and scones, to the adventurer on the trail of an ancient artifact with mystic powers, by way of the jaded cop with the bottle of whisky stashed in his desk drawer. It takes all sorts to make a crime wave.

When you attend an event like Crimefest you realize just how many varieties of fictional crime there are – and locations. Scandinavian and American authors are always in demand, but delegates set their mayhem in Africa, Alaska, Italy, the Greek Islands, Iceland, … the Isle of Wight. The on-site bookshop was bursting with titles from all round the globe, with the chance of having them signed by the author in attendance. And it’s not just exotic places, but also a variety of time periods – Roman Britain, the eighteenth century, the roaring twenties …

Panels looked at everything from the North/South divide, to mixing crime and comedy. There were discussions on writing about the cold war and authors who have become overlooked or forgotten, often unjustly. Fans of Dame Agatha squared up to those of Sir Arthur  …

And all that was quite apart from the enthusiastic after-hours discussion that went on in the hotel bar.

The convention mixes writers and readers and everyone seemed to be in agreement that the panels this year were better than ever. I certainly enjoyed the ones I attended – even the one I was on. This year’s big coup was the appearance of Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue of TV Sherlock fame – currently filming the third series, working round the availability of two stars who have suddenly become big cinema box office and determinedly ducking all requests to explain exactly how Sherlock is coming back from the dead.  It was a fun session, packed with enthusiastic fans – but I have to say that the personal convention high spot for me was the appearance of author Robert Goddard. He’s a great story teller. I’ve been a fan of his complex plotting for years. Fingers crossed that some of that complexity stuff may have rubbed off. I hope so, as there’s nothing I like better than a plot like a corkscrew.

It was a criminally enjoyable weekend.

RT BookLovers Convention 2013 – Guest Post from Evonne Wareham

Those key cardsYou know you’ve arrived at a very special kind of convention when the key card for your hotel room features a book cover with a bare-chested man. And the RT Booklovers convention is very special to the (mostly) American readers who travel from all over the States to get their big romance fix – meeting authors and cover models, attending panels and parties, buying books and getting them signed at two monster signing sessions …

The convention is an annual event, hosted by RT Book Reviews magazine at a Choc-Lit bannerdifferent American location each year. This year it was Kansas City and it was the 30th anniversary convention. It was rumoured that more than two thousand readers and authors, mainly female, descended on the unsuspecting city for the hectic long weekend. And I was one of them, part of a group from Choc-Lit, intent on taking British-style romance to new audiences. It was exhausting and enormous fun. Those ladies know how to party and were focused on doing just that, from the morning mixers and breakfast events to the evening balls and parties. In between there were talks by authors – singly and in groups, quizzes, scavenger hunts, craft sessions and the chance for aspiring authors to meet agents and publishing houses, to pitch their manuscripts. The term ‘elevator pitch’ took on a whole new dimension while being practiced on the way down from the 29th floor. You could pick out the glow from the hopefuls who had just been asked to submit their manuscript from about ten paces.

Choc-Lit authors hosted a craft session on creating heroes, a chocolate tasting session, a Jane Austen celebration from CL’s Austen expert, Juliet Archer (which featured a guest appearance by Mr Darcy) and, captained by author Lynne Connelly, devised a fiendish quiz to test the participants’ knowledge of the British Isles. And yes, I was the one with the question that involved a sheep. I was specializing in Wales, after all. And wore the national dress, to prove it. I also forgot to give someone my camera to get a shot of me in it.

The BallThe hotel was fabulous, the free books on offer were amazing, the swag – gifts from authors and publishers of everything from bookmarks to letter openers – completely fascinating. You have no idea how many gew-gaws and gadgets can be printed with an author’s name. Actually I do, now. I brought home as many as I could carry. Some of the themed parties featured costumes – saloon girls to vampires – and the anniversary ball called for formal dress. The Choc-lit group rose to the occasion with sparkle and tiaras. I didn’t risk a tiara – I was afraid I’d end up wearing it as a necklace – or skewering someone’s eye, but I did have a snazzy pair of cream coloured elbow length gloves, which were admired by a gentleman I met in the lift on the way to the ball. His wife was very tolerant about it.

Signing Books

I had a really great time. It’s impossible to give more than the tiniest glimpse of the scale of the event here. The high-spot was probably being part of the huge book signing on Saturday morning, but the thing that made the most impact was the welcome and interest shown by American romance fans. The British (and Welsh) accents had something to do with it, but everywhere there were people keen to talk about books, writing and every kind of romance genre. Next year’s convention is in New Orleans and events are already being planned. And I’m already saving my pennies.

Evonne x

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 Sarah Tranter

Yay! Look who has just walked in and plonked herself down on the sofa … it’s the lovely Sarah Tranter [hugs and smiles all round]. And yes, the place is looking a bit bare, we’ve just taken our decorations down but unfortunately, still finding pine needles everywhere.

sarah tranter

How was your Christmas and new year, Sarah? I expect you were very busy with your family. Oh, look, there are some mince pies left over, do you want one with your tea?

Oooo ― And they’ve icing on the top ― yes please! [sits down and promptly stands back up again, nearly spilling her tea. Putting mug down, she brushes away problematic pine needle from her behind. Settling back down again] Christmas was lovely, thanks. Full on, but lovely. Not much different to yours by the sounds of things. Well done for surviving it, too. You know, it’s so wonderful to see you all again.  And Happy 2013!

So, your debut novel No Such Thing As … Immortality is officially released in paperback this week – huge congratulations, you must be thrilled.  The ebook edition has been out for a few weeks now, how has that been received?

Thank you [ridiculous grin on her face]. I still can’t quite believe it. But yes ― I am over the moon ― as you girls can no doubt tell. You’ve been with me every step of the way on this one. Thank you so much for that! Oh dear. Refuse to get emotional here. Oh. Sod it. I need to give you more hugs here!

Oooh, a group hug, no tears please. Damn it – too late. Anyone seen the tissues? Please don’t say they were packed away with the decorations. Panic over, I’ve found them. All okay now? Right, Sarah, you were saying …

Umm. The reception? I can’t believe it, to be honest.. It’s been phenomenal. So much better than I could have ever imagined. Before it went live, I was haunted by a very vivid nightmare in which I dreamt my first review was a one star. When that first review was a five, I can’t begin to tell you how I felt. It was an incredible moment. One of so many that have comprised so much of this process. But that one was really special. No doubt there will be less favourable reviews ahead ― but to date, it’s been fantastic. I’ve even received messages from people reading it ― telling me how much they are enjoying it. Nothing can prepare you for that.

That’s great news. You’ve certainly got some smashing reviews – well done! What influenced you to write No Such Thing As Immortality from purely a male point of view?

NSTAThat is such an interesting question. When I started, I had nothing planned. No plot, no characters, nothing. I just knew I wanted to start it with a car accident. And I wanted to make it an impossible car accident. Whilst I was playing around with the scene ― in third person ― Nate formed. In fact he leapt out of the page at me and I started seeing the scene through his eyes. I wasn’t convinced writing it through him would be possible. I’m not a man. But there again, neither am I a vampire. I decided to rewrite from his perspective, simply as an experiment at that stage. But that was it. As soon as I started, he began talking to me, and there was no going back. It became his story.

The emotional connection he shares with Rowan, ensured that there was a way for the reader to have some insight into the heroine’s feelings, too. My biggest concern about writing it from his POV, was that that would be lacking. The connection not only provides that insight, but, because everything is from Nate’s perspective, also provides a lot of opportunity for misunderstandings between the pair. Nate is really bad at interpreting her. The female reader invariably ‘gets’ it, before Nate does.

I love reading/writing the male POV and growing up with older brothers, I always try and put myself in their shoes. What techniques do you employ to get into the hero’s head?

It’s such fun doing the male POV, isn’t it? I feel cheated if I read a book that doesn’t include it. These mince pies are sooo good. Can I grab another, please? Pretty please? Thank you! Re techniques … I knew the questions from you lot would be tricky, LOL! It’s great though ― you are really getting me thinking here. Umm. It’s immersion I’m afraid. Complete and utter immersion and getting into the zone. I wish I had a technique that would fast-track that process for me ― a piece of music, an image ―or wearing a cravat and a pair of the kids’ plastic fangs J Unfortunately, it’s immersing myself in the story. It’s his story, his words, so once I have reconnected to it, I’m both in his head, and he’s in mine. It is a killer though when you finally get into the zone and have to abandon it to do the school run and then hope you can re-connect six or seven hours later when the kids are in bed.

Did you set out to write a trilogy?

No, not at all. I set out to write. To see if I could do it. First a scene. That was my challenge. But when Nate started doing his thing, it became a book. Well more than a book ― hence the trilogy.

Why vampires and faeries (and why is there an ‘e’ in faeries?)

Re the ‘e’ in faeries ― I think the word looks prettier, don’t you think? J It’s actually because that spelling makes it less like your traditional children’s story book fairies. There is nothing traditional about the faeries in No Such Thing.

Why vampires and faeries? It wasn’t a conscious decision. I am a fan of paranormal though and with my wanting the car accident to be impossible, it opened the door to the supernatural. Nate emerged as a vampire very very early on. He was appearing Darcy-esque albeit in a contemporary setting, he had history that seemed to be from another period in time ― and a vampire managing to crash a car, despite their phenomenal reflexes ― provided me with the impossible car accident.

Re the faeries. That was later on. Just as Nate remains in the dark re the faeries until later on, so did I. I knew they were something. But didn’t know what until all the pieces started coming together. The bend in the road, the May 1st date, the pendant, Aunty Hetty’s characteristics etc.  And I kind of liked the vampires not believing in faeries too. Their non-belief helps remove some of the disbelief from the reader ― I hope. Does any of that make any sense? Not at all sure I am making myself clear ― sorry, girls! Sugar rush from the iced mince pies. I resisted buying any of these this Christmas so am proving to be a total pig now.

What sort of books have the power to send shivers down your spine?

Those I connect with. Those that touch on my fears. Those that scare me witless. Not that I can remember the last book I read, that gave me the shivers. How sad is that? It probably has something to do with my choosing to read lighter books at the moment. I like escapism, but, perhaps because I have to immerse myself so much in No Such Thing, I don’t want to be pulled in to something too much.

How do you juggle family life and writing?

Not very well, I’m afraid. I am hoping my juggling will improve with time  ― particularly now that Christmas is out of the way. At the moment I am dropping balls left right and centre and don’t feel I’m doing anything as well as I want to. It’s hard ― as so many of you know. My writing has to come second to my boys. But that still doesn’t mean I manage to keep on top of the washing, the food shop etc. It’s the short amount of time I have to write during daylight hours, I find the hardest. Both boys are now at school, which is great. But by the time I’ve got back from the school run, answered emails, done social media stuff etc, I’m lucky to have 2-3 hours before I need to head off to collect them again ― barely enough time to reconnect. And then from that point there is no writing until at least 9pm. And then I’m knackered LOL.

I’m luckier than a lot though. So many writers have day jobs, too. I’ve not a clue how they manage it. They are evidently so much more organised than me. I have huge admiration for those expert jugglers.

Are there any other genres you would like to explore with your writing?

Oh yes! Thank you so much for asking this question. I’d love to write a Regency. I love that Georgian/Regency period of history. It’s not a coincidence that Nate is from that time. I have another MS before Choc Lit at the moment (nothing to do with vampires and faeries) ― but it makes reference to that time too. I’d also like a shot at a comedy romance. I’ve got the idea for one and am reckoning it would be such fun to write.

Ooh, a Regency and a RomCom – liking the sound of them! Is there one book you’ve read and wished you had written? If so, what was it about that book?

I don’t think there is. I can read a book, appreciate the skill and the plot and the characters, but I never wish I’d written it. If I had written it, it wouldn’t be the same book. Each one of us could be given a plot outline, character breakdowns etc ― and we’d all come up with something very different. I’m betting, even if we tackled Harry Potter! The sort of books I adore, are those where the author has managed a perfect blend – and in so doing allows for some magic to kick in. I’m not talking much sense again, am I? Don’t answer that ― your blank looks say enough! Pride and Prejudice, for example, has for me, that perfect blend. The story, the characters, the humour ― but it is what it is, because of Jane Austen’s voice. It was that whole blend, told through her voice, that created the magic for me. Okay. I’m going to stop now. Simple answer ― No, LOL.

Do you have any phobias and have they been written into your novel?

Eeek. Yes, I have phobias. Although I’ve kept the worst firmly out of the novel. I want to enjoy writing, LOL.

I can’t stand being underground. I can almost feel the weight of all the earth and rock above pressing down on me. I think it’s the idea that if it all caved in, I wouldn’t be able to get to the surface again to reach air. I need access to lots and lots of air. I have to always have some kind of fresh air coming into the house, even mid-winter ― and loathe staying in those hotels where you can’t open the windows. I feel trapped and get really panicky. It’s a similar thing with being underwater. I once, very stupidly, took a scuba diving course. I didn’t even get past the swimming pool stage. I remember sitting on the floor of the swimming pool and going into full blown panic because of the water above me that I’d have to go through before I could get to the surface and inhale real air. I just imagined myself not being able to reach it. It was ridiculous. I had breathing apparatus on and all I had to do was breathe through my mouthpiece but I just couldn’t handle it. I was very relieved I gave up that course though. I very smugly watched my husband as he undertook the next stage. He waded through mud to reach the water at the bottom of an old quarry ― complete with rusty old car wreck. It was the most foul brown water imaginable. And it stank. You should have seen what came out of his ear the following day when it unblocked itself. Sorry! Too much info. I clearly say too much around you girls.

Yes, sorry, it’s the truth serum we soaked the mince pie filling in.

One phobia that actually did get into the novel ― is Rowan’s fear of horses. They scare me stupid. Their size ― and their teeth. Just like Rowan, LOL. I’m looking forward to exploring that one further.

What celebrity would you most like to share a 100 mile taxi ride with?

George Clooney.  I admire him a great deal. Stop wagging your eyebrows girls. It’s not just the lust factor. Okay. There IS the lust factor. But he is actively involved in some great things, and I can’t help but think he is a very very nice man. Stop laughing. I’ll have you know ― his birthday is the same day as my husband’s. But exactly a decade earlier. How spooky is that? But you see, it gives me complete legitimacy in my admiring the man. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I can’t help but imagine what may have been if I’d been born a decade earlier LOL. Next life perhaps!

Can we come in the taxi with you then? Oh, wait. That would have to be one big taxi – let’s make it a stretch limo instead. What do you mean, no? [blows raspberry]

What is your view on a ‘Onesie’?

LOL. I cannot believe you asked me this question. [You should know us better than that] The big ‘Onesie’ debate. I have a friend who has one and she loves it. I understand how comfy and relaxing they are meant to be. Me? Not a chance I could relax in one. Not only would I end up looking like a Teletubbie ― I’d be thinking of nappies the whole time. Can’t help it. They just remind me of my boys when they were in their baby grows. I suppose you become completely asexual in them though. Great birth-control device. 

What is your favourite colour pen?

Black. Strange, because if I’m honest, my initial reaction was red. But then I think of a job I used to be in and my reports being marked up with a red pen. Hated it! Actually, I am amending black. To that very dark blue ink you get with fountain pens. I love that colour! Is it indigo? Hope you know the one I mean.

Don’t worry, we know what you mean!

Quick Fire

Champagne or strawberry shake?

Champagne. And I know whose question that one is LOL. Definitely champagne, even if it is a McDonalds more-like-melted-icecream shake.

Woods or forest?

Woods. Forests are too big and dark and easy to get lost in.

Cliff Richard or Johnny Rotten?

LOL. Now I’ve got Mistletoe and Wine playing in my head. Arggghh. Johnny Rotten!

Panto or ice show?


‘Oh yes it is’ or ‘oh no it isn’t’?

Ooooo. Tricky. ‘Oh yes it is.’

Are you left or right handed?


Ripped jeans or smart suit?

Depends who is in them. You still want an answer? Ach. Ripped jeans.

Salty or sweet popcorn?


Real or fake? (Christmas trees, although feel free to apply it to whatever takes your fancy)

Real all the way. And you can apply that to absolutely anything. I think. Eeek. That may have been rash. But yep. Will settle with that … for now. Ooo. Not tan. Must be fake tan. But properly applied.

Thank you so much girls! I’ve had so much fun. I feel like I’ve finally made it now that I’m here. I truly mean it. It’s a huge privilege. Thank you so much for inviting me. Now … Have those last bits earned me another mince pie? 

It’s been so much fun having you here, Sarah. And, yes, help yourself to another mince pie. What do you mean, you already have? Hang on. Don’t move … that’s better. There was a pine needle stuck in the icing 🙂

Links for Sarah Tranter

Blog : http://ramblingindulgences.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/sarah.tranter.73

Twitter : @sarah_tranter

Publishers : ChocLit Publishing

You can buy NO SUCH THING AS IMMORTALITY on Amazon in paperback and digital format

Tuesday Chit Chat with Henri Gyland

henri G Hi Henri, so lovely to have you here at Romaniac HQ. We hope you are well? The place is actually looking rather tidy right now, but that was because it was my turn on the rota and I do have some ‘Monica’ tendencies about my person.

So, you are welcome to indulge in the cake that Celia made for you but please, any crumbs must be tidied up at once. Not that there will be crumbs, it is Celia’s baking after all, there’s never any crumbs…

A huge congratulation’s is in order. Up Close, your début novel with Choc Lit publishing, is due for paperback release on the 7th December. What an amazing achievement, you must be so proud – I know we all are!

Where did the idea for Up Close come from and what inspired you to choose Norfolk for its setting?

The idea was born out of several different strands – visiting the North Norfolk coast, reading about soldiers returning from the Gulf, and imagining Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ophelia in a slightly different set-up.

How long, from concept to final edit, did it take you to write it?

I wrote the first draft quite a few years ago, and it then “did the rounds” with agents and editors, but with no takers. So I put it to one side because I didn’t know what else to do with it, and wrote other books in the meantime. When I later heard of Choc Lit, I thought, “Aha!” because it sounded like my novel might be suitable for them. I dug it out again, sent it off, and got the verdict that, yes, they liked it, but there were various elements I needed to work on in order for it to fit in with their remit. I did what they asked, sent it again, with my fingers (and everything else) crossed, and in 2011 they accepted me. I realise this is a very long answer to a short question, but what I’m trying to say is that, with perhaps 4 rewrites over the years, in total it probably took me 3½ years to write it. So a lengthy process.

You were the 2011 winner of the Festival of Romance New Talent Award, with the opening chapter of Up Close, I believe? What effect did that have on your career?

I was already in communication with Choc Lit at the time, but perhaps winning the New Talent Award tipped the scales towards an acceptance…? What I can say, with absolute certainty, is that it gave my confidence a massive boost. There’s nothing quite like winning a prize which comes with the seal of approval from the industry.

The cover for Up Close, as with all Choc Lit novels, is amazing. Did you have a lot of input into it? Can you explain the contents of the cover to us up-close-main-cover1and its relevance with the story?

We’re very lucky at Choc Lit that the cover artists read the books and listen to input from the authors. The cover for Up Close started out as four very different concepts, and I commented on each of them, explaining why one particular concept worked better for me than another, and also gave my input to colours, fonts, etc., until we found something everyone were happy with. The picture on the cover is of a sea defence, a so-called groyne, which disappears into the mist, and the lone seagull represents how desolate and wild the North Norfolk coast can be in winter. The main character Lia is lonely and isolated, and I feel that this is reflected beautifully in the artwork.

The Elephant Girl is your next book out with Choc Lit, can you tell us a little about it?

the elephant girl HGMy next book is the story of a woman who, as a young child, witnesses the murder of her mother. 20 years later she begins to question what she actually saw and whether she might have been an unreliable witness…. Oh, and there’s lovely hero in it too!

How have you found juggling writing a new book and promoting your current one? Is it much harder/easier than you imagined?

Much harder than I imagined! At the moment I’m juggling two jobs besides writing, as well as promoting my book, and my To-Do list is as long as my arm. Not kidding.

What’s the biggest challenge you have come across when writing?

Being told that something isn’t “quite right” and needs changing, but without any clear indication on how to tackle it. That’s really difficult, but I guess it comes with the territory.

On your website you explain how you wrote your first book aged ten. Do you still have it? Will you ever do anything with it?

Er, no, except perhaps pass it around among my friends so we can all have a jolly good laugh!

Do you like to listen to music as you write? Who are your favourite artists to listen to?

Actually, I tend not to listen to music when I work. I know some writers do and swear it makes them more productive. They even have CD compilations for tender scenes or fight scenes, or what-not, and I’m in total awe. I’m a fairly organised person, but there’s no way I could ever be that organised.

Quick Fire round:

If you could choose anywhere in the world to live, where would it be? By the sea.

What would you put in room 101? Spiders.

Red Wine or White Wine? White when I party, but red is great with food (except fish).

Chocolate or Sweets? I love licorice. The stronger, the better.

Birthday or Christmas? Birthdays are less stressful.

Strictly or X Factor? Neither, but give me programmes like “Who Do You Think You Are?” or “Time Team”, and I’m hooked.

Shoes or Handbags? Am I allowed both? Pretty, please! Oh, all right… shoes, then.

Early Bird or Night Owl? Somewhere in between.

Left hand or Right hand? I’m right-handed.

Thank you so much for dropping in, Henri, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you.

The pleasure is all mine. I love what you’ve done with the place, it’s so neat and tidy!

Aw, thanks! My inner ‘Monica’ is glowing with pride!

Now, all that is left to do is for everyone to raise a glass of bubbly – help yourself there’s plenty – and join me in congratulating Henri on the release of her début novel, Up Close.

Well done, Henri 🙂

As I said before, but hey, lets say it again, Henri’s debut novel Up Close is released in paperback on 7th December – Just click on the book cover and it’ll take you to Amazon!  She has a very interesting website at www.henriettegyland.wordpress.com and is also on Twitter, here

Lucie x

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Berni Stevens

Today we have the very talented author and graphic designer Berni Stevens with us to chat more about her writing and fab book covers she designs.

Hi Berni

It’s great to have you here, thanks for taking time out of your busy day as graphic designer and author, and no doubt a whole lot else!

Hallo, it’s lovely to be here  – and yes don’t forget the four Zumba classes I do every week J

You are, of course, a published author with Wild Rose Press, can you first of all, tell us a bit about your writing career to date.

I’ve always loved writing, and as a child I used to write and ‘illustrate’ very bad pony stories, which became ghost stories as I got older. I won a National story competition at fifteen, but art was always my first love, which is why I opted for Art College.

My first published short story as an adult, was a vampire story – no surprise there – called The Reluctant Vampire, and published by The Dracula Society in 2003. That short story eventually grew into Fledgling.

I went on to have three more short stories published: Eternal Night, which was included in an anthology called Bloody Vampires published by Glasshouse Books, (2010),  then two short stories for teens, Balour’s Seal, published in an anthology called Dragontales, (2009), and Lure of the Murich, published in an anthology called Mertales, (2010) both published by Wyvern Publications. Then last year I tried my hand at editing a vampire anthology for Wyvern, called Fangtales – and that was very difficult! Even though we had said, ‘Please no Twilight copies, traditional vamps only’ – the first story I read was set in a high school and had a family of vampires called the Cullens! But I’m thrilled with the end result. I think the stories are wonderful.

So my writing career is very new – and short – to date, which, for me, makes it all the more exciting.



Your debut novel ‘Fledgling’ is about Vampires and I see that you are on the Committee of the Dracula Society.  I take it you have a bit of a thing about vampires – please tell more…

I first read Bram  Stoker’s Dracula when I was fourteen, and found myself totally captivated by the Gothic creepiness of it. After that, I read everything I could find  which had a vampire in. From Sheridan Le Fanu to Anne Rice and, more recently, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Laurell K. Hamilton, and even (under protest!) Stephenie Meyer!

I’m not really sure how the interest built up, but I think perhaps it’s the ultimate ‘bad boy’ attraction, added to the thought of eternal life, incredible strength and sexual magnetism! What’s not to like?!

Sadly, I have yet to see a good adaptation of Dracula either on stage or film, which does Stoker’s  novel justice. (And I’ve seen a few!) The best so far for me, is the BBC’s 1978 version with Louis Jourdan as the Count. The worst in my humble opinion is Coppola’s frightful adaptation. Sadie Frost’s depiction of Lucy made me want to stake her myself! 

The Dracula Society is a literary society for fans of Gothic novels, films, and plays.

Before anyone asks, no, we don’t dress up in cloaks and fangs – perish the thought. We have London-based talks, screenings and meetings, and an annual Dinner around the time of Bram Stoker’s birthday (8th November.) Eerily close to my own birthday. Funny that!

Our members include academics such as, Sir Christopher Frayling, Leslie Klinger, and Dr Elizabeth Miller, plus Dacre Stoker, Bram’s great grand nephew. I always thought I knew a lot about vampires until I met these people!

The Society go on many trips both here and abroad, all of them Gothic-related. Next year is the Society’s 40th Birthday (and no – I haven’t been a member from the start!!) There will be a weekend celebration in – where else – but Whitby!

You can check us out on www.thedraculasociety.org.uk, Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/TheDraculaSociety or follow us on Twitter @DracSoc.

So, when can we expect to see some more of your work published?  No pressure, of course!

Renegades, the sequel to Fledgling is finished – at least the first draft is finished, but it needs some tweaks. It continues Will and Ellie’s story, and includes lots more bad guys (and women), evil child vampires intertwined with, of course, an enduring love story. The body count is higher than in Fledgling, and it’s a bit darker too. I’m not sure yet when it will be published, because it does need more work, but I’m hoping it will be available maybe in a year or eighteen months’ time.

The third book in the London Vampire Chronicles, is called Alpha, and features one of the secondary characters from the first two books: Stevie, the werewolf manager of Will’s nightclub. Will and Ellie do feature in this book, but the main character is Stevie and the beautiful rock singer, Kat, with whom he falls in love. The story is told both from Kat’s and Stevie’s POVs. I’m only ten chapters in with Alpha, although it is all plotted out, but I’ve been a bit too busy to write recently.


So, putting your other hat on, of graphic designer, is this something you’ve done for a long time?

Yes, a very long time – over twenty-five years actually! My first job was with a small publisher called W. H. Allen, whose offices were in Mayfair. (They were subsequently bought out by Virgin Books and are now part of Random House.) They published mass-market fiction,  a lot of autobiographies and a huge selection of  Dr Who books, so you can imagine the press office got a lot of  strange phone calls. And I did manage to get inside a dalek at one sales conference!

I went from there to Fontana, which was part of the William Collins group – now Harper Collins of course. My job there was to design the point-of-sale material for the books, which included a lot of children’s titles. I remember once trying to hail a cab with a giant cut-out lion under my arm (for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.)

My next stop was Penguin, and from there I moved to Macdonald (publishers – not the burger place) who were bought out by Little, Brown (US) when Maxwell fell off his boat. I stayed with Little, Brown for twelve years, at first designing POS and covers and then changing to solely design covers. I left in 2003 to become freelance. There is only so far you can go in-house, and generally the people at the top don’t change for decades, so most designers opt for the freelance route after a while. 

Do you specialise in one particular area of graphic design or are your clients wide and varied?

Since becoming freelance, most of my work has been in publishing, although I have done the occasional CD cover and brochure when asked. But my area of expertise is

publishing, and predominantly cover design. I still do brochures and ads for the books when needed. I rarely design the insides of books, although one of my first freelance commissions from Simon and Schuster, was to design the inside pages for The Quotable Slayer  – wonder how I got that job huh? It was a job made in heaven and I loved every minute.

My clients range from well-established institutions like Harlequin, Mills and Boon and relatively new publishers like Choc Lit, to first time authors who are self-publishing, which means the design briefs are always pretty varied.

Do you read the books before designing the covers? Or do you just work from a description or tight design brief?

With the larger houses, there’s never the time to read the books, the deadlines are always tight, and usually they want to see visuals within ten days or two weeks. When working in-house, we always seemed to have plenty of time, but freelancers never do. So generally I am supplied with a synopsis and a design brief. Sometimes the brief is so tight, there’s no room for manoeuvre either, which can make it difficult to be very creative. (I blame large cover meetings with too many people who can’t agree!)

Smaller houses tend to publish less titles, so they have more flexibility time-wise. If I can read the book first, I always prefer to. It makes so much difference to coming up with ideas, especially within the thriller genre for some reason.

How many design options do you come up with?

Again, this depends on the publisher. One large house (who shall remain nameless within this interview) had me chopping and changing visuals for one title, until I’d done twenty visuals – before they went back to the first design I’d supplied! Again, proof that too many people get involved in the cover meetings. For me, these jobs are never cost effective, and the amount of work isn’t compensated within my fee, because I am still paid per cover, and not for the time spent.

But usually I will supply three or four ideas for a title. Of course if W H Smith don’t like any of them, then I have to start again.


Did you have any input on the design for your own book?

Oh don’t get me started on the Fledgling cover J . Fledgling had been on the Authonomy website for eighteen months before TWRP contracted it. So I had designed a low res cover, which I’d got used to, and quite liked. A couple of years ago I designed a lot of covers for Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon and had become jaded with seeing large male faces dominating paranormal covers, so I really didn’t want a man on the cover. Also a lot of the US paranormal covers have these bare-chested Chippendale types pouting out from the covers, and they couldn’t be further away from my elegant aristocratic, British Will.

TWRP always send out a cover briefing form to the author which we, in turn, fill in with our preferences for colour, design etc. As you can imagine, I wrote a fairly detailed cover brief, where I implored them not to put a man on the cover. They put a man on the cover! Thankfully not bare-chested, but absolutely nothing like the character I’d described. They also added a gigantic raven (why?) and (in my opinion) horrible plonky typography on the back cover, which really made my teeth hurt. But to be fair, designing for a designer is possibly the worst commission ever.

Which do you prefer designing or writing?

That’s a difficult question. I love both, and I feel really privileged to do both.

Sometimes I can be designing a cover when a writing idea pops up in my head, or a conversation I think might work, then I have to write it down before I forget. Alternatively I might think of a design when I’m writing, so I’ll stop writing and design instead. But generally, I try to design all day, and then start writing after 6pm.

Thanks so much for dropping by Berni, it’s been lovely having you here.  Good luck with the writing and designing.

Thank you for inviting me, it’s been a pleasure! 

Follow Berni on Twitter @circleoflebanon

And Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/berni.stevens.5?ref=tn_tnmn






Tuesday Chit Chat with Christina Courtenay

Yay! A big hello to Christina Courtenay

With the recent launch of Christina’s new time slip novel, The Silent Touch of Shadows, we are delighted that she has taken time out to visit The Romaniac blog.  The Silent Touch of Shadows is on the reading list of several of  us and I know one or two have already read it.  I LOVE the cover, it’s one of those that you want to stroke.

We put some questions to Christina recently and she has given some great answers.

Can you tell us about the journey this book has gone through to get published? – Yes, if you’ve got a while?  It’s gone through quite a long journey actually and umpteen rewrites (I’ve lost count myself), but it was one of those stories I desperately wanted to tell, so it was definitely worth the work and the wait!  I started writing it about fifteen years ago and when I joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme in (I think?) 2000, it was the first story I sent them.  I received a ten page critique, which had me in tears (it was my first one and I was naïve enough to think the story was perfect as it was <LOL>) – but once I calmed down and read the comments properly, I could see where I’d been going wrong.  I rewrote it and tried to sell it for many years, but was told no one wanted time slip stories.  After countless rejections and a couple of near misses by agents and editors, I put it aside.  Then last year, after Choc Lit had accepted my third historical, I asked the editor if she’d consider looking at a time slip and she said to send it in. Their tasting panel enjoyed it and now here it is – out in the world at last!  (Sorry, I did say it was a long story!)

Is the house based on a real one? – Yes, it’s based on a place where I used to spend a lot of time, and there really was a ghost there.  The house was lovely, dating from the 15th century with some later additions, but seriously spooky – all dark beams and shadowy corners!

Have you had any paranormal experiences yourself? – No, thankfully not!  I used to hide under my duvet with ear plugs in my ears so I wouldn’t see or hear anything, I’m such a chicken!  There was definitely an eerie atmosphere in that house though and the owners saw the ghost several times – a handsome, blond man with a beard and wearing chain mail.  (It doesn’t sound too bad, does it?  But handsome or not, I’d still have been scared.)

How easy do you find it to think up titles for your books? – It varies enormously.  With some books, the titles just seem to come automatically from the story or something special in it, but others you have to think for ages before you find something suitable. I often use poetry to help me out – other people’s I should say, since I can’t write it myself.  Some poems have lovely phrases in them that are great as book titles.  That’s how I found The Silent Touch of Shadows, which is my favourite title out of the ones I’ve had so far.  When I write trilogies, however, I like the titles to be connected somehow, hence Trade Winds and Highland Storms for example.

How often do book titles get changed? – So far, only one of mine has been changed – Trade Winds (I had originally called it The Tiger Gate).  But titles are very important, and publishers have a lot more experience of what sells, so I try not to be precious about mine.  After all, the whole point is to sell well, so if you have a title that everyone else hates, that sort of defeats the object.

What are your three favourite book titles? – Shadow of the Moon (M.M. Kaye), Midnight is a Lonely Place (Barbara Erskine) anAcross the Nightingale Floor (Lian Hearn)

Thanks so much for answering our questions, Christina.

To find out more about Christina here are her links

Website : http://christinacourtenay.com/

Blog : http://christinacourtenay.com/?page_id=278

Books : http://christinacourtenay.com/?page_id=242

Publishers : ChocLit http://www.choclitpublishing.co.uk/

The Penny Bangle Interviews – Lucie interviews Margaret

When should you trust your heart?

It’s 1942 when Cassie Taylor reluctantly leaves Birmingham to become a land girl on a farm in Dorset. There she meets Robert and Stephen Denham, twins recovering from injuries sustained at Dunkirk. Cassie is instantly drawn to Stephen, but is wary of the more complex Robert – who doesn’t seem to like Cassie one little bit.

At first, Robert wants to sack the inexperienced city girl. But Cassie soon learns, and Robert comes to admire her courage, finding himself deeply attracted to Cassie. Just as their romance blossoms, he’s called back into active service. Anxious to have adventures herself, Cassie joins the ATS. In Egypt, she meets up with Robert, and they become engaged.

However, war separates them again as Robert is sent to Italy and Cassie back to the UK. Robert is reported missing, presumed dead. Stephen wants to take Robert’s place in Cassie’s heart. But will Cassie stay true to the memory of her first love, and will Robert come home again?


I was very excited to be asked by ChocLit to take part in The Penny Bangle Interviews, where over the course of three separate days, Margaret’s hero and heroine, Robert and Cassie, along with herself are to be interviewed. You can read Robert’s interview over here and Cassie’s, here. I am very honored to have the lovely Margaret with me on The Romaniacs blog today for her interview. She will be over on the ChocLit Author Blog on Monday 7th May – Publication Day!

1/ The Penny Bangle is a reworking of a previous novel. How did it feel rewriting it? Was it a complete rewrite or just a tweak? 

It was a complete rewrite, taking into account the comments from the panel of readers who assess all the novels which are submitted to Choc Lit. The story is basically the same – it’s about a working class girl from a big city who is sent to work on a farm during WW2 and at first finds it very difficult to fit in – but there are 20,000 more words in this version, and lots of new scenes which hopefully make the story more rounded and interesting.

 2/ Did you feel that Robert was more of a complete character now that his voice is heard with his own POV?

 I enjoyed writing more of the story from Robert’s point of view because it gave me a chance to get to know him better and to empathise with him. When I wrote the original version of novel I saw him mainly from Cassie’s point of view, and he’s now more sympathetic. He’s still aggressive and confident, and he’s still determined to be in charge, but he reveals the softer, more vulnerable side of his character, too.

 3/ The Penny Bangle is the last in the trilogy, following The Silver Locket and The Golden Chain. What are you working on next?

 I’ve started a new family saga, this time set in Devon. It’s about a girl from South Wales who has to leave Cardiff because her father has upset a local villain there. Angharad (Annie) Cooper and her little family learn to adapt to Devon ways, but the bad guys are determined to catch up with them.

Daniel, the already damaged hero, isn’t best pleased to have this new complication – a destitute Welsh family – in his difficult life. There’s the little matter of Annie’s Welsh boyfriend having his own reasons to track down Annie and her family, too.

 4/ Did you know from the offset that there would always be three separate, but still interlinked, stories to tell?

 I wrote The Silver Locket, which was originally called The Morning Promise, as a stand-alone novel, but I also seeded it with future conflicts, such as the paternity of the child Daisy and the repercussions of Rose’s marriage to Alex.

 5/ Some people who write trilogies and series, say that the later books came to them first. Were your books written in the order they were released; The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain and then The Penny Bangle?

They were written in chronological order. I didn’t know what would happen in the next book until I had finished the one I was working on at the time. I knew I wanted Rose to get her house back – she loses both her home and her inheritance in The Silver Locket – but until I was half way through The Penny Bangle I didn’t know how this would happen.

 6/ What research went into writing these books? Do you enjoy the researching stages of writing?

I love research and I tend to do far more than is strictly necessary. Google is totally addictive, as are the many non-fiction accounts of real people’s lives which I can’t resist buying. My mother is my principal source of what happened to ordinary people during WW2. Mum is very happy to tell me what went on away from the heroics and aggression of the actual battle situations. Mum is the same age as Cassie, the heroine of The Penny Bangle, and Cassie does some (although by no means all) of the things my own mother did.

 7/ Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when the inspiration hits? Are there specific things you do to keep the creative side flowing?

 If I waited for inspiration to strike, I’d probably wait forever! I find writing a first draft of anything very hard work, and there are plenty of times when I sit there glued to my office chair, determined not to leave my desk until I have at least 500 good words written that day, even if I know I’ll have to delete most of them the next day.

If things are getting sticky at any point, I sometimes race ahead of myself and plan a scene I’ve been looking forward to writing. Or I go out for a walk and tell myself I can’t go home until I’ve sorted out a specific plot point. Or I ring up a friend who is also a writer and I have a therapeutic grumble. I have two or three very good writing friends who are always available for mutual moaning! Or I write something else entirely – a magazine article, an author profile or a short story. Or I catch up with my accounts, which is so boring I am soon climbing the walls, and am dying to get back to my novel.

 8/ A number of students that you have tutored have gone on to become published novelists – you must be very proud. What is the best thing about being a tutor?

It’s definitely seeing students who are bright and committed and have wonderful imaginations learning the technical stuff, and then applying what they’ve learned inventively and appropriately.

It’s all very well to go with the flow and to write from the heart, which of course all writers should. If we don’t write from the heart, we might as well not bother to write at all. But, if a writer doesn’t learn the technical stuff, and doesn’t know how to put a story together, he or she will end up with a pile of bricks, not a house.

 9/ Writing, reading, tutoring, teaching, judging…you do so many different things. Do you have a favourite?

 When it’s going well, I love writing fiction. But I’m also glad I have other writing-related things in my life, because everything I do seems to feed into everything else. My students make me think about my own writing. My magazine work gives me the chance to talk to dozens of other writers who are happy to share hints and tips with my readers – and with me!

A few days ago, I was talking to a student who is writing about a totally off-the-wall character, a romantic hero who really isn’t right for her supposedly romantic novel. In fact, I doubt if even his own mother could love him! She sent me an email saying she was completely stuck, and what could I suggest? She said she didn’t want to write about a stereotypical hero, so her hero was not going to be tall and dark and handsome and clever and brave. She was going to make him short and bald and physically challenged, he was not going to be particularly smart, he was going to have human faults and frailties, and nothing I could say would change her mind.

So I had to think hard about that one, and eventually I realised that working with stereotypes can actually be useful. They’re a starting point. You take your stereotype, and then you work on him so that he develops some idiosyncrasies of his own. So then, you reader is beguiled and delighted by a new hero, but this reader also recognises him because he does and is what a romantic (or whatever) hero should do and be.

10/ Who is your ideal hero?

 Let’s think about heroic qualities first. My ideal hero has to be clever (not necessarily in an academic sense), courageous (there are many kinds of courage) and physically attractive (even if it’s not in a conventional way. Okay, he is getting old, his face has been bashed around a bit, and his clothes look as if they came out of a skip. But, if he has charm and he can make the heroine love him, I’ll love him, too).

My current ideal hero is Will Traynor in Jojo Moyes’s bestselling Me Before You. Will’s certainly not a stereotypical hero. He’s quadriplegic, for a start, and he’s very bitter and angry about the cards he’s been dealt by fate. While I was reading the early chapters of this novel, I could feel his aggression literally burning off the page. But Will is also clever, funny, kind, generous, thoughtful, imaginative, hilariously sarcastic, good-looking (okay, I’m shallow) and – above all – incredibly brave. He’ll stay with me for a long time because he changed my life. I finished reading the book more than a month ago, but I still dream about him (and the equally charismatic heroine of this novel, Louisa Clark) almost every night. I don’t want to let them go.


The Penny Bangle is the last book in the trilogy. Click on the books below to purchase The Silver Locket and The Golden Chain and to pre-order The Penny Bangle.



Those lovely people over at ChocLit are giving away a large Victorian chocolate penny coin for one lucky winner. All you have to do is simply comment on this interview. All those who comment will be automatically entered into the hat (very technical) to be in with a chance to win that chocolate penny. Did I mention it was large? And chocolate? And all you have to do is comment?

Well, what are you waiting for? 🙂