Welcome back to our Facebook Live chats – our Life Cycle Of A Writer in video mode.
Our second Facebook Live is a 40 minute chat between Laura and Lucie, first broadcast live on Friday 23rd March 2018. Lucie chats about her new book, MUMS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN, her inspiration behind the story and how her university course and novel writing co-exist.
Earlier this year, my lovely publisher Choc Lit announced they were off on tour and would be hosting events at various libraries around the country. On offer was an afternoon of author talks, Q&A sessions, fun quizzes, goody bags, a chance for aspiring authors to pitch their manuscripts to a Choc Lit editor. Oh, and plenty of choccies!
When I heard that one of the events would be in Southampton, not on my doorstep, but a place I can get to by train direct from East Croydon, I was tempted to volunteer to be part of the author panel, but couldn’t see past my morbid fear of public speaking. I slept on it, talked to Mr B and as much as the thought of it gave me palpitations, a lingering ripple of excitement in my tummy told me I should go for it; that it would be good for me.
So I fired off an email to the Choc Lit team and before I could bottle out, booked my train ticket.
No backing out now, Jan, I thought.
I was Southampton-bound.
Alongside me on the panel would be my fellow Romaniac, Laura James, who has written three books for Choc Lit, and Evonne Wareham and Liv Thomas (who writes under the name of Isabella Connor) – both ladies having published two books each. We’d be required to chat about our routes to publication and about our books themselves.
Hideously nervous, I put together some notes, both detailed and bullet-pointed. Laura had given me a great tip to use highlighter pens for buzz words and phrases.
Other advice I received, all of which I was hugely grateful for, was as follows:
Remember to breathe properly. Might sound obvious, but when I was practising my read-through, this was something Mr B picked up on, along with my habit of saying “Erm!” after nearly every sentence.
It’s fine to slow things down if you feel yourself wanting to canter through it. It also gives you a chance to scan your notes if using them for reference as I did.
Keep your focus on your audience soft as you begin, until you settle into your rhythm, rather than trying to gain eye-contact with too many people too quickly.
Be yourself. Smile. If you fluff a line, clam up or laugh inappropriately, it will be forgiven. You’re human. It’s your first time.
All of these tips proved invaluable, as did the public speaking/confidence hypnotherapy recordings my best friend sent me which I found really relaxing. Not for everyone, granted, but they did help me to focus on the ‘can do’ rather than ‘can’t’.
I also drew comfort from my own memories of attending these types of events, sitting in the audience with my pad and pen, taking precious notes and listening to authors talk about their books and feeling so pleased that I’d gone along, as I learned so much. If I could in any way encourage the aspiring authors among our audience and convey to the readers and bloggers among us how very grateful we are for their time and support, it had to be worth all my doubts and fears, didn’t it?
And so off I set, armed with my wad of notes, caught my train to Southampton, which another of my lovely fellow Romaniacs, Sue Fortin, hopped on en-route as she was coming along to the event. We then bumped into Laura at the station and the three of us went for lunch, with both Sue and Laura doing everything they could to ease my last-minute jitters, having both given author talks themselves.
This nice plateful of food helped …
When we arrived at the venue, the rest of the Choc Lit team welcomed us. I donned my T-shirt and after a lovely meet and greet session, we began our talk.
I heard the quiver in my voice as I began, was conscious of flapping my hands about a bit. I remembered everything I’d been told, though, and managed to engage the audience. We had a few laughs and talked about funny research memories and everyone on the panel had a different aspect and angle which gave the talk balance. I can’t deny I let out a long internal “Phew!” when my turn was over, but if I’m honest, I loved it and felt very proud that I’d seen it through.
We then had a fun quiz, lots of interacting and more laughter and the whole event was professionally organised and wonderfully informal. We had some fantastic feedback and even managed to sell a few books. The chocolates kept coming throughout and it was great to meet so many of the people I speak to online.
Thank you to everyone at Choc Lit, readers, bloggers, writers and Southampton Library for helping to make my first author talk such an enjoyable, memorable experience.
Should anyone be interested in future Choc Lit library events, have a peep here Choc Lit on Tour for ticket info and notice of who will be in attendance.
Since losing my mum, 21st March 2012, not a day has passed when I’ve not thought about her. Often it’s wondering what she would have said or thought about a particular incident, a program, a snippet of news, our children’s achievements, problems, disagreements, how she would have handled a sticky situation, what advice she’d have offered, what she’d have found funny …
I’ve written before about navigating March, so today I thought I’d share some of the events that have happened in the last five years – every single one of them came with a ‘I wonder what Mum would have made of this’ moment.
The first was meeting Jodi Picoult. It was a week on from losing Mum, but I wanted to go. My mum had introduced me to Jodi Picoult’s books and I was a huge fan. I have met her three times in the last five years, each occasion an inspiration.
Shortly after, I found out I was the runner up in Choc Lit’s short story competition. My mum knew I’d entered, she’d even read and critiqued my story, Bitter Sweet, and if I recall rightly, we’d heard it had been shortlisted. It would have been wonderful to have told her about the second place, but I remember how pleased she was with the shortlisting.
Telling Tales was the runner-up in the next Choc Lit short story competition, and I received a tweet of congratulations from the lovely Erica James. Honestly, I don’t know which I was more excited about. I do recall I was with Catherine Miller at the time, though. I think we may have been heading to the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Do you remember, Catherine?
As well as meeting Jodi Picoult, I’ve also met Jill Mansell, Sheila O’Flanagan and Erica James. All are warm, intelligent and entertaining women. All were authors my mother read and enjoyed and whose books she introduced me to, and all are firm favourites of mine, and massive inspirations.
I have made many great friends within the writing community, the first few of whom my mum was aware – names with which she would have become familiar had she still been with us. She knew how much writing fulfilled me and how I felt I’d finally found my place in life.
I’ve written three novels. I used to say to Mum I would one day ‘write that novel’. She used to tell me to hurry up and get on with it, which still makes me smile. It’s good advice. I feel extremely privileged and very lucky that she read Truth Or Dare?. It wasn’t the first draft, but neither was it polished. It came with colourful language and hot scenes as appropriate, but I didn’t worry too much about those aspects – my mum read widely and didn’t embarrass easily. Her thoughts on the novel were honest, fair and she gave lots of encouragement, but without gushing. Had she not liked the story or the characters, or considered their actions fake or daft, she’d have said. I was writing Follow Me Follow You when we lost her, but I’d told her the plot and how I was exploring attachment disorder and PTSD. She knew all about Chris Frampton. This became my first paperback. Mum would have loved that.
What Doesn’t Kill You was released as a paperback in January of this year, and I attended my second book signing at Waterstones, Dorchester. What would Mum have made of that?
As a family, we’ve caught and run with a number of health curve balls, one being of the major variety, which I’m pleased to report appears to be under control. I’ve had joints replaced and joints removed; on top of my long term rheumatoid arthritis and colitis, I picked up a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which I’m still learning to manage, and there has been a knee dislocation, (not mine) torn knee ligaments, (separate incident, different family member) and perforated eardrums (not mine and nothing to do with my singing). I’m convinced the hospital will start charging the James family rent.
Four years ago, we shared a healing three weeks away in Orlando. It was our first family holiday and it was exactly what we needed. Going to Disneyworld was a dream come true. Later the same year, I took a trip to Italy, on the Arte Umbria writing course and came home feeling nurtured and rested, with a way forward as to how to finish writing Follow Me Follow You, which had stalled in March 2012. I sat on the beautiful terrace at Arte Umbria and thought how much my mum would have loved to have been there. We’d talked of going to Italy together.
She’d have smiled at my news I’d shaken Paloma Faith’s hand, and that I’d seen Kate Bush sing live in London, and she’d have given me excellent advice regarding … well, all sorts of stuff, including a reminder that some things are best kept private. And she’d have made sure I keep on keeping on.
So, five years on, with the love and support of family and friends, that’s what I’m doing.
It’s head down and on with the work-in-progress. Life.
What a busy, fun and exciting week this is. Yesterday, we Romaniacs celebrated our 5th birthday and cheered Sue’s fantastic thriller, Sister Sister, as it hit the top 5 on Kindle, today is Valentine’s Day, and Saturday, I’ll be at Waterstones Dorchester signing copies of What Doesn’t Kill You.
I was at Waterstones Dorchester on Valentine’s Day two years ago, signing copies of my second novel, Follow Me Follow You. It was such a lovely day. The table was perfectly decorated with red love hearts, books were wrapped in paper and bows, enticing customers to go on a blind date with their next read, and I spent the time chatting with people about books and authors.
I’m really looking forward to Saturday’s event. To have a paperback is special, even more so with What Doesn’t Kill You, as the front cover sports an author quote from my good friend and fellow Romaniac, Sue Fortin. Neither of us could predict that happening when we first met five years ago. There is also a depiction of a well-loved landmark on the front – Portland Bill lighthouse.There will be copies of the book available for purchase on Saturday, and I will have one of my trusty Pentel pens in hand, but which colour should I use?
Do I go with blues and greens to complement the cover? Or should I stick with traditional black ink? I might just have to take my pencil case and decide on the day. What would you do?
I look forward to seeing you all on Saturday. Dorchester is a fascinating Roman town, and it has literary links, too – Hardy referred to Dorchester as Casterbridge – so please do come and spend the day, and pop into the wonderfully supportive Waterstones.
The tour bus has been party central, and we’ve run out of cake and coffee, so with snow on the horizon and a rather large dent in our supplies, we’ve headed back to Romaniac HQ for today’s gig. Celia assures me there are plenty of scones in the cupboard for a Dorset cream tea.
I thought I’d take you to the place where WDKY begins – Portland Bill, a peninsular in West Dorset. The hero, Griff Hendry, is evaluating his life, wondering where it all went wrong, but rather than tell you, I’ll show you …
During the course of the tour, I’m giving away two signed copies of What Doesn’t Kill You – one today and the second on the final leg, Tuesday 17th, when I’m with my good friend and fellow Romaniac, Sue Fortin.
To be in with a chance of winning today’s copy, please comment below or tweet me @Laura_E_James, with the words, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You giveaway’ and add the hashtag #whatwouldyoudo. This competition ends midnight, UK time, Monday 16th January 2017, with the random draw to take place the following day. Good luck!
With the bus restocked, cleaned and refuelled, I’ll be leaving Romaniac HQ at first light tomorrow and heading for the next stop of the tour – Abbey MacMunn‘s site – when I’ll be revealing the secrets behind the WDKY book trailer. On Monday I’ll be setting the stage up at Linda’s Book Bag. Please do join me.
A little over a year ago, my third novel, What Doesn’t Kill You, was released as an ebook. Much to my delight, relief and wonder, it’s received a plethora of four and five star reviews, which still take my breath away. I’d like to say right here, thank you to everyone who bought, borrowed, read and reviewed WDKY. Taking the time to read and review a book is always appreciated and to find the story, characters and setting have stayed with the reader is an amazing feeling. So, again. Thank you.
WDKY is the first title under the Dark Choc Lit imprint – compelling, emotional and hard-hitting novels. It took a year to write. There were times when I thought I wasn’t brave enough to tackle the issues within, and there were times of tears – not of frustration, but of emotion – as I lived the scenes with the characters. The research was eye-opening, and often heartbreaking, but it always left me thinking long after I switched off the PC or finished a conversation.
It’s a book I hold close to my heart, so it is with great pleasure that I share my news with you.
To celebrate the launch of the paperback, I’m taking the Romaniac Mini out of the garage and going on tour, visiting these lovely people: Anne Williams (Being Anne), Sincerely BookAngels, Jo Lambert, The Writing Garnet, Linda’s Book Bag, Abbey MacMunn, and a few of my fellow Romaniacs. Dates from the 9th January onwards. Details to follow. I do hope you can join me. I can’t promise any stage diving or crowd surfing, but there may be a giveaway or two …
Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas, and I shall see you in 2017.
The Good Fight, as it was known, (ironic, now I think of it), never got beyond 20,000 words. The entire story was mapped out in my head, but for a variety of reasons, the last 80,000 words never made it onto the page. Ill health caused a delay, with debilitating headaches stopping me from sitting at the computer, but even on good days, I struggled to get the words onto paper. I loved the setting, the characters and the overall idea, but it just wasn’t working. Even now, I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong with it. All I know is it doesn’t have the spark, the electricity it needs to keep the reader gripped.
Many times I considered setting it aside and starting something new, but I was concerned I was being wooed by the sparkly new ideas, and if I let that happen once, there was a chance I’d never finish another novel.
Thank goodness for my wonderful Romaniac friends. They guided, advised, consoled, energised and supported me. And in the last few months, The Romaniacs have enjoyed some amazing successes – a number 1 in the UK Kindle chart, agent representation, paperback releases, competition wins, superb reviews – and each one has spurred me on.
They inspired me into action.
So, after a year of slogging away on book 4, I’ve decided The Good Fight has fought its final battle and I’m allowing myself to be wined and dined by the new, sparkly ideas.
I’m in that exciting phase of discovering new characters, researching new issues, and opening a new Word document. I have a title, which Catherine, Sue and I work-shopped last week – a fabulous session over tapas and cocktails, or in my case, soda and lime – and I know how I want the story to evolve. I can feel it. I realise that is an element missing from The Good Fight. I cannot feel it. It hasn’t hit me in the stomach or made its presence felt. The new story arrived as a mass of feelings and emotions which I could not ignore, which is how I know it is right for me to move on.
The Good Fight may come into its own one day, but for now I’m going with my gut instinct.
This coming weekend, 8th – 10th July is the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Conference.
It’s a weekend of workshops, panels, interviews and one-to-ones with industry professionals.
Lots of socialising, catching up with writerly friends from all over the country, sometimes from other continents.
If Jack was attending, he’d need not worry about being a dull boy.
This will be my fifth conference, my first being held in Penrith, not far from the Scottish border. On that occasion, Celia and I took the opportunity to visit Gretna Green. At the conference, I had one-to-ones with an editor from Samhain and an editor from Mira, both requesting to see the full manuscript of Follow Me, now titled, Follow Me Follow You. I recall returning home on the Monday and talking to Gajitman about the amazing experience that was the 2012 RNA Conference, and casually mentioning two editors had requested the full manuscript, which wasn’t complete as it was the year I lost my lovely mum and I was struggling to concentrate on work. I explained this to the editors, who were very kind and understanding. It was later that week, on the Thursday, when I was sitting at my desk in the kitchen and Gajitman was over by the kettle, making hot drinks, when it hit me: This is serious. Two publishers want to see my work.
I had been taking writing seriously for a number of years, but the 2012 Conference, which included a fabulous talk given by Miranda Dickinson, who said if you write, you are a writer, gave me the confidence to say exactly that: ‘I am a writer.’
Before I’d completed Follow Me, I submitted Truth or Dare? to Choc Lit, which became my debut novel, published in October 2013, with Follow Me Follow You making its way into paperback in 2014.
I’m attending Conference this year with three books under my belt, the third, What Doesn’t Kill You, racking up the most reviews so far. I also have a number of short stories appearing in anthologies for the RNA and Choc Lit.
I can’t believe how much has happened since Penrith, and not only for me, but for all The Romaniacs. Between us we’ve had five debuts (and subsequent books) published, a healthy number of competition shortlists and wins, lovely reviews, for which we are always grateful, and agent success. And last year, we won the RNA Industry Media Stars Award, which actually left us speechless. We hope you enjoyed the quiet while it lasted.
This year at Conference, we are hosting a panel entitled, Pals, Pens and Pompoms. Or: How to feel empowered and finding people to cheer you along the way. It promises to be lively, fun, informative, and as ever, open and honest. It’s an event to which we are very much looking forward, and we shall report back once we are refreshed and clear from the Prosecco haze which often accompanies such wonderful gatherings.
Right, I’m off to check my list: Pals: Check. Pens. Check, check. Pompoms: Check, check, check. 😀
Roving Romaniacs, Sue and Laura, headed out to Wimborne Literary Festival last week to attend a talk given by Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke. Here’s a few words and pictures.
Sue : Despite the awful rain, it didn’t take me too long to get down to Wimborne and after an Anneka Rice moment, managed to find the library. Both Lisa and Lucy were lovely to listen to, very natural and engaging. It was interesting hearing how different their approaches to writing were and how they carried out research.
I’m a big fan of Lucy Clarke’s books and having already stocked up on her books, took one with me for her to sign. I haven’t read any of Lisa’s at this point, but her latest novel ‘The Girls’ had been on my wish list for some time. I was delighted to be able to purchased a copy and get that signed too.
After the talk, Laura and I dodged more rain and headed for The Kings Head for lunch. I encountered more rain driving home, but it didn’t matter as I had a really good day out.
Laura: Wasn’t it a great day? Wimborne is a forty-five minute drive for me, which I consider local, so I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to meet and listen to Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke, both very lovely people. I met up in the first instance with another writing friend, Kathy Morgan, we found a quaint café in which we sheltered from the rain and chatted horses, cats and books. We then went onto to the library, where we met with Sue.
This was the first author talk I’ve attended where the two authors interview each other, and I loved it – what a great idea. It’s a format I would consider using the next time The Romaniacs go on tour. It worked so well; it was relaxed, humorous, interesting and warm, and Lisa and Lucy shared information about their books, writing processes and how they initially got into writing.
I had a lightbulb moment, courtesy of Lisa Jewell, who explained she takes herself away from distractions and writes a thousand words a day, no matter how long those words take to write. Due to recent health problems, I’ve returned to writing longhand, and I sit in my conservatory, away from technology, and it’s then when I am most productive. It dawned on me it’s probably because I am more than a click away from social media or Words For Friends. It’s not that I didn’t realise technology, housework or making coffee are distractions, but I think I was in denial and hearing an established, successful and very down to earth author telling it as it is, helped the message get through.
And I will sit in my conservatory until I write a thousand words, or in the case of the next fortnight, with a deadline looming, two thousand words.
Lunch with Sue was excellent. It’s amazing how many topics of conversation we can get through in an hour.