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 Gatheringhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCwnvAK4DxA



Tuesday Chit-Chat with Janice Horton

A big welcome all the way from Scotland for the delightful Janice Horton!  Hello, hen, how are you? Pull up a chair, biscuits, tea or coffee a plenty.  I think there’s cake too, I’m sure Celia has made some.

So, Janice, whereabouts in Scotland are you based?

Hello girls! I’m from Dumfriesshire and it’s the part of Scotland that they call the Southern Highlands. I live in a wee cottage high up on the side of a hill. It’s very remote and in the wintertime we can be snowed in for ages. It’s all very conducive to writing romantic novels!

You have a very distinct Scottish feel to your blog and your books, what is it about the country that inspires you?

As a romantic novelist, it’s impossible not to feel inspired by the hills, the heather, the mists and the ancient castles around me. I drew on it all when I wrote Bagpipes & Bullshot and readers said that was one of the things they most enjoyed about my writing. It’s a very beautiful country, but the lifestyle can be very harsh here, which provides lots of material for both conflict and humour in my stories.  So, I continue to give my readers the Scottish settings they enjoy. Bagpipes and Bullshot is set here in Dumfries and Galloway. Reaching for the Stars has an Edinburgh setting and How Do You Voodoo? has a scene in Glasgow’s Necropolis or ‘The City of the Dead’!

If you didn’t live in Scotland, where would you like to live?

Somewhere warm and dry. Sometimes, just sometimes, I’d like to throw on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts or wear a thin silky dress and high heels. At home in Scotland, I mostly wear layers of warm clothes and wellies, even in the summer.

Is there a particular place in the world that you would like to visit and/or include in a novel?

I’m sure there is! But actually, for me it’s the characters that come first. Although my novels are primarily set in Scotland, it entirely depends where the characters come from or where they are going that dictates any other settings. The heroine in Bagpipes & Bullshot, Orley, is from Texas USA and the novel starts there. Luckily, I have been to American many times and know the Gulf Coast area well. However, if I haven’t been to somewhere I’m going to write about, I do feel I’d have to go there for research purposes!

What about reading, not Reading in Berkshire, but reading as in books – what do you like to read and what books or authors have influenced you as a writer?

At the moment I’m reading indie novels on my Kindle – my tbr list is ridiculous but they have all been recommended as ‘must reads’ – and so I must! There are also some fabulous new small publishers springing up who are focussing on high quality fiction in eformat. In paperback, I enjoy novels with great covers and stories that feature fabulous heroes. And as to who has influenced me as a writer – it would have to be those who write gripping stories with equal measure of wit and humour – like the wonderful  Jilly Cooper, for example.

How Do You Voodoo? Great title by the way – can you tell us a bit about it.

Thank you! Interestingly, I had the title at the same moment I had the idea for How Do You Voodoo?  The story was sparked by a real life event. I was on a flight back from the Caribbean which had originated in Port au Prince, Haiti, when two female passengers got into an argument. When one of the women went onto to be quite ill later in the flight, my imagination took over and I started scribbling down a story about a girl with a voodoo curse on her and what happened afterwards.

Story Synopsis:  How Do You Voodoo?

Loveless fashion model Nola Nichols thinks being beautiful is a curse; that is until she is cursed and her looks begin to fade just a week before the most important photo shoot of her career.

Nola rejects all rational explanation on what might be causing her lost looks and decides she has to find a way to get uncursed. This imaginative quest takes her from the Caribbean to Glasgow’s own City of the Dead. Along the way, she finds herself taking part in a rather unconventional funeral, involved in a voodoo ritual, reveals one or two unrests in her own past and falls madly in love with a doctor. Erm, that would be a witch doctor, right…?

It’s a novella as opposed to your usual full length novels, was it difficult it keep the word count down?

This is my first novella and although at 20,000 words it was much quicker to write that my full length novels, I found the writing process very similar in the respect of creating character, plot, story arc, etc.  The only difference is how I tell the story. In my longer novels, I have more characters and more viewpoints and there is at least one subplot. In How Do You Voodoo? the story is told only from Nola’s viewpoint and there is no subplot, only a bit of backstory that I weave in as the story progresses, so that we understand why she behaves as she does and what she really wants in life.

What made you decide to write a novella?

I’m working on another full length novel at the moment but I’m aware that I’m not the fastest novelist in the world and so it’s unlikely to be finished, edited and formatted, until mid-2013. It occurred to me that there are certain times of the year, like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, when it’s an ideal time to bring out a novella to keep your readers interested in your writing between full length novels or perhaps to introduce them to your writing.

Thanks for popping in Janice, it’s been great chatting to you.

Janice Horton lives in Scotland and writes contemporary romance with humour. Her novels ‘Bagpipes & Bullshot’ and ‘Reaching for the Stars’ are both Amazon Kindle bestsellers. Her latest title ‘How Do You Voodoo?’ is a romantic and humorous novella for Halloween and out now!

Find out more about Janice and her novels:

Author Blog: http://www.janicehortonwriter.blogspot.co.uk
Follow her on Twitter: @JaniceHorton
Like her Author Facebook Page
Featured Author & Associate Editor at: Loveahappyending.com

Link to her ebooks on Amazon.co.uk

Link to her ebooks on Amazon.com


NWS Member Talks About Publishing Her Book

As members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, New Writers’ Scheme, we love to hear how other members are getting on with their writing and quest for publication, be this through the traditional route of agent and publisher or under the Indie banner of self-publishing.

Today, we have NWS member Lauren Milner-Howells with us, or fluffypen as she is known on Twitter, to talk about how she came to publish her novel Permanently Temping.

Hi Lauren, thanks so much for coming on the blog, it’s great to have another member of the NWS here with us. Can you start by telling us how being a member has impacted on your writing?

I think being a member of the RNA NWS has been really beneficial for me as it has made me feel a part of something. Writing can be quite a lonely business at times and if you’re feeling like you’re useless and need some encouragement it’s always nice to be part of a group you can turn to for advice.
We couldn’t agree more, that’s one of the things we all love about being involved with the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
So, your novel, Permanently Temping, where did you get the idea from?
After graduating from university I spent alot of time temping in various companies in London and found it very funny how each place had its own strange quirks. Obviously the stories I tell are fictional but I think everyone can relate to the craziness that goes on in offices! Every day I would come home with different tales and one day my husband said – “You know, this would make a really funny book!”. And so here we are!
What a clever husband!  Did it take you long to write? It must have been hard to fit in with your day job.
I was working at the same time as writing so it took me about two and a half years overall. Although I think at least one year of that was spent rewriting and editing once I’d ‘finished’. It was so important to me that the quality of the book (both grammar and spelling) would be of a high standard and there wouldn’t be any (hopefully!) silly mistakes.
I’m sure you’ve done a great job.   Now, you’ve self-published your book, what made you decide to go down this route, rather than seek an agent and/or traditional publisher?
When I first started writing my book a couple of years ago, self publishing was nowhere near as big as it is now so I didn’t even really consider it as an option. I bought the writers and artist’s yearbook and sat writing lists of agents I’d send the book to. After sending the first few chapters to a few agents, I got some positive responses written as notes on the bottom of the template letter they send out – basically they loved my writing and found the scenes very funny but they said they thought there wasn’t much of a market for chick-lit anymore. That’s when I decided that I was wasting my time going down the traditional route and decided to go it alone!
Well, it seems it was the right decision, you’ve already received a 5 star review on Amazon.  We love the cover – did you design this yourself?
No, unfortunately I am not that talented in graphic design! I was very lucky as my sister is very experienced and talented at this so she did it for me (in return for dinner and a lot of cocktails!).
What has been the most useful thing you’ve learnt in getting your novel to the stage it is now?
I think the most useful thing I’ve learnt is self discipline – how to make myself sit down and write. What works best for me is to have a word count that I have to achieve each day, not a specific time I have to write for. Then if I finish in two hours I can have the rest of the day doing something else! If I had to sit there for a specific time I know I wouldn’t start writing until the last ten minutes – I definitely work better under pressure. Another thing I’ve learnt (especially with regards to self publishing) is that you need to know how to use Microsoft Word properly, for example paragraph formatting and page breaks. It will save you a lot of time in the long run if you take the time to learn before you start writing. I would recommend taking a look at the Smashwords guidelines as this runs you through what a good word doc should look like and how to format correctly.

That’s really great advice and you’ve kindly supplied a checklist for anyone thinking of self-publishing – thank you.

 Self publishing checklist:

1) Set Microsoft Word paragraph formatting correctly (see below for more info in interview). This can be done at the end if you have already started but it’s definitely easier to get this sorted before you start.
2) Write the book
3) Edit the book
4) Edit the book again
5) and again
6) and again (you get the idea)
7) Make sure your book is ready to go and there are no more alterations (I would recommend printing it and reading through it at least once as you will spot more errors this way! Another tip is to change the page margins and make your book look totally different on screen- you will be surprised what a difference this makes when spotting errors)
8) Think about your cover design, colours etc. (hopefully you already have a title – if not, think of one now)
9) Write your blurb (see amazon books of similar genre for word count etc.)
10) If you have no/little experience in cover design I would definitely recommend getting a professional to do it
11) You are now ready to go! You can upload a Word doc to Amazon via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) but there are sometimes strange quirks in this so you may want to pay someone to do this part. There is free software which converts word docs to epubs etc. called Calibre and you can view your epub on free software called Adobe – Digital Editions. You don’t need an ISBN to sell on Amazon – Amazon will give you their own version, an ASIN.
12) Upload your book to Smashwords to cover all other e-readers – make sure to follow the Smashwords guidelines (avaliable to download for free) or you may not be put on the premium listing that means your book can go out to retailers such as Kobo. Also, your book needs an ISBN to be sold via Kobo and ibooks – Smashwords will give you a free one if you let them list themselves as publisher. Smashwords say this does not effect any of your rights. NB I don’t believe you can sell via Kindle through Smashwords yet – but why would you want to when you can do through KDP (see point 11) and not pay a comission to Smashwords? However, don’t use the ISBN Smashwords gave you for free on Amazon (again, see point 11). There are lots of complicated tax rules involved in selling through Smashwords, which would be a whole post in itself! So try to read through and make sense of them or you could end up paying more tax than you need to.
13) Phew. After all that you’ll probably be exhausted – I certainly was! Now you need to market, market, market. My top tip is to try and get book review bloggers of your genre to review your book – to make yourself stand out and look professional make sure to send them a document with your cover, blurb, previous reviews etc.
14) Keep marketing – forever. Don’t just think it’s for the first few weeks/months. You need to keep at this for a long while to make your book successful.
15) Have a large glass of wine and/or a box of chocolates.
16) Start all over again at step 1….!

You can follow Laurent on Twitter and at her blog Fluffypen

Permanently Temping is available on Amazon Kindle