The First Time I … Pippa Croft/Phillipa Ashley

Phillipa Ashley Pippa Croft



Pippa Croft/Phillipa Ashley

In spring 2013, I was lucky enough to be given a three book contract to write a series of hot romance novels for Penguin Books.

This is the first time I’ve written a series featuring the same characters in each book. Prior to this all my books have been standalone, with completely new characters and settings. Each book in the Oxford Blue series is full-length at approx 90k words and I’ve just started Third Time Lucky – funnily enough the third book in the series.

Sorry that I’ve got to use a blatant plug i.e.the publisher’s blurb to introduce my findings, but this will hopefully put things in context! (Mmm, think the Romaniacs…)

The First Time We Met is the first novel in the sizzling new Oxford Blue romance series from Pippa Croft.

When US Senator’s daughter Lauren Cusack arrives at the enchanting Wyckham College of Oxford University, she hopes to mend her broken heart by throwing herself into her studies.

But then English aristocrat Alexander Hunt walks into her life and everything changes. Handsome, brooding, and with his own dark past to escape, Alexander is exactly what Lauren doesn’t need – but she finds herself helplessly drawn towards him.

Both Alexander and Lauren know that they should stay away from each other . . . but sometimes desire is so powerful that it conquers all else.

Pippa Croft Series (2)


So here’s my report so far, on the challenges and joys of writing a series as opposed to single titles and some questions to think about before you embark on this epic journey.


  • Are your main characters compelling enough and can they develop sufficiently to sustain a series of books? Do the hero, heroine, and secondary characters grow and change with each book and over the series as a whole?
  • How are you going to introduce previous events for readers who pick up the series with Book 2 or 3? How much of their back story should you include while still keeping the new books fresh and exciting for the reader?
  • If it’s a hot and steamy series, how can you keep the love scenes exciting? You need to make sure that each sexy scene is part of the character development and moves the characters on in some way, and isn’t simply there for titillation.
  • You need to keep in mind the story arc of the whole series and of each book.
  • You can’t go back and change the story in earlier books, if you’re writing a series as you go along – which you probably will be.
  • However, you can’t plan too far ahead or you’ll be shoehorning characters into the plot of three books rather than letting them develop naturally. However, you do need a very good idea of their motivations and conflicts and these have to develop and change.


  • Neither you nor your readers have to say goodbye to characters you’ve grown to love – or hate – by the end of the book.
  • You can take your time over each character’s development, get deep under their skins and set them new challenges to overcome.
  • If it’s a hot and steamy series, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for love scenes to show the characters growing and changing. Great fun…
  • You have time to get deep inside your characters’ psyche and develop their voices.
  • Hopefully, your readers will be so engaged with the characters they will be desperate to read each book.

That looks like more challenges than joys; however I absolutely love writing the Oxford Blue series and slightly dread it finishing it at some point.

I’ll let you into a secret: I still don’t know exactly what’s going to happen to Lauren and Alexander, but I can promise you that it will be dramatic, sexy and a big surprise (to me as much as the reader…)

Thank you so much, Phillipa, for this fascinating insight and advice. I’ve not written a series but can see how exciting it must be.  Please do visit again and let us know how things develop.

Laura x

Phillipa Ashley’s here, telling us about what it was that happened one night…

It Happened One Night 3 (1)

Today we introduce Phillipa Ashley’s brand new book, and the Romaniacs are already itching to read more. It’s funny, it’s feisty, and of course it’s naughty in the nicest possible way…



Phillipa Ashley

Published as an e book by Piatkus Entice on June 6th 2013



Sophie McBride has been in love with Adam Templar for as long as she can remember. Talented, brilliant and sexy, he shines like the sun over the tiny Lakeland village where she’s grown up. Now, at eighteen, she has her own big ideas and what’s more, Adam is home from university and has finally noticed her . . . really noticed her. When he asks her to a party, she dares to hope that all her dreams can come true, but what happens that night sets off a chain of events that bring heartbreak for Sophie – and lead to Adam leaving Langmere under the darkest of clouds.

Ten years later, no one is more shocked than Sophie to find him back in the village. Now an up-and-coming film director, he’s returned to make a drama about a notorious local poet and brought his glamorous cast, crew – and girlfriend – with him. As the on-screen drama plays out, can Sophie and Adam lay the past to rest or will history repeat itself?



21 year old Adam Templar has finally made 18 year old Sophie McBride’s young life complete and asked her to spend the night with him at his younger sister’s birthday party – where he’s supposed to be in charge…

Adam emerged from the en suite, hurriedly buttoning up his Levis, “I have to go downstairs and make sure no one’s been killed in the past half-hour,” he said, shrugging on his T-shirt. “You stay here.”

“What, in bed?” asked Sophie, knowing exactly what he meant but wanting to hear him say it because it turned her on.

 “Yes, in bed. Where else? You don’t think I’m wasting the fruits of the Bell’s condom machine, do you?” He sat down on the bed next to her, tilting her chin up in the cradle of his fingers. “This is going to sound crazy but I want you to know something. I didn’t just get you up here for a shag. I mean, of course I got you up here for a shag but I also want you know that this has meant more to me than a one-night stand.” He smiled and she held her breath. “Or even a two-shag stand. The truth is I’d like to see you again over what’s left of the summer.”

And then what? She wanted him to carry on. What would happen after the summer? She wanted so much more than a one-night stand too, no matter how much she’d convinced herself that having sex with him would be enough. Over the past few hours, hopes and expectations had somehow stolen into the room, no matter how hard she’d tried to keep them out.

“I’d like to see you too,” she said, marveling at how calm she sounded, while wanting to explode with happiness.

“Good. That’s great but . . . the thing is that, in a few months, we’ll both have to go away and it’s going to be bloody miserable and I don’t know how to fix that.”

She waited for him to carry on, hoping that he’d suddenly come up with some way to “fix it” and say they could carry on seeing each other once they were at university. She hoped he would say that he would drive up to her uni from Oxford every Friday or that she could come down on the train to his college. That he’d like her to meet his friends and wander the ivy-clad quads with his arm around her and that afterwards they could make love in his rooms all night, but he stayed silent and pushed back her wayward hair from her face in a way that Sophie should have found tender but instead found disappointing. She realised that he probably wasn’t going to offer to do any of those things – not tonight anyway but maybe, she thought, he might at the end of summer when they knew each other better.

“Then don’t worry. Let’s empty the machine at the pub and have a good time,” Sophie said brightly, hoping it was what he wanted to hear.

As if to remind them both, there were loud shrieks from outside in the garden.

 “You’re right of course. We should just enjoy now, but we both know it’s not going to be that simple.”

He smiled. She wasn’t sure if he was relieved or not, but he seemed happier.

The music ramped up a notch and the floor of the room felt as if it was throbbing. The shrieks and screeches grew in volume. It sounded as if the whole of Langmere was out in the garden, which was probably almost true.

“Adam!” A girl’s voice screamed through the door.

‘For God’s sake. What now?’

There was hammering on the door. “Adam! Open the door!”

“Wait a minute!”

The door flew open and Tarnyah dashed into the room. Sophie dived under the sheets as Adam swore loudly. “Get out!”

Before Sophie had time to expect the girl to giggle or point or shriek in embarrassment at finding her and Adam half naked, Tarnyah started shouting. “They’re in the lake. They’re in the lake. Come quick.”


Amazon UK:

Amazon US:





Good luck, Phillipa! 🙂

Phillipa Ashley’s Heroes.

To celebrate the launch of her new book, Miranda’s Mount, Phillipa Ashley shares her secrets on how to make our heroes work for us.

How to have several men on the go at once

I love being a romance writer. You can be happily married for 25 years yet still have several other men on the go at the same time.

Usually, you’ll have finished one affair and be about to tell the world about it, while keeping another one in progress. If you have US editions or re-releases, you may also be opening up old flirtations with previous loves.

I’m talking about writing heroes, of course, but such an embarrassment of riches does pose a dilemma. How do you keep your heroes distinct and avoid them all blurring into one?

The hero’s character is usually almost fully formed in my mind from page one, and it’s the heroine who I work hard to develop through the course of book.

However, in my new release, Miranda’s Mount, both the hero and heroine came to me from the start. I hadn’t written a word for months and was aimlessly drifting off on a long car journey when the idea came at me out of nowhere. I woke up and declared to my husband and daughter:

“I know the book I want to write next. I know the setting, I know the hero and the heroine and why they are in the situation they are and why they can’t get together.”

I went home, started writing and didn’t stop… how I wish every book was like that!

Everyone is different and one writer’s meat really is another one’s poison, but here are my tips for creating and developing distinctive heroes.

  • Ask why at every stage of your narrative. The hero’s motivation is the clue to the whole story so make his intentions credible and strong even when he’s doing and saying totally the wrong thing (and he will be!) Think of his back story as the invisible 90% of the iceberg; the reader needs to have a strong sense that here is a complex, living and breathing man under the surface exterior. It’s that complexity which will make him distinct from every other hero on the planet, and from all the other men you’ve written.
  • Fall in love with him but not so much that you lose complete sense of his effect on readers. If he’s behaving like a bastard and you’re still going weak at the knees, that’s because you know his motivations and how the story’s going to end. But your reader doesn’t so make sure you haven’t made him such a git that they won’t forgive him. I read a contemporary romance recently that was beautifully written but the hero crossed a big red line and there was no going back for me. After that I actually wanted the heroine not to get together with him!
  • Get inside his head – you need to convey the passionate, deep emotions that men don’t often like showing.
  • This is just me but if possible, make him able to laugh at himself: po-faced heroes, who thunder about, even if they’re billionaires or rulers of a country, just make me want to laugh for all the wrong reasons!  Your guy doesn’t have to crack jokes all the time but I think it’s all the more powerful when an ironic hero is finally forced to be serious and show his true emotions.
  • Torture him – not in a 50 shades way but make him really suffer. Bring him to his knees.
  • Make him your hero – I have to confess I like Alpha heroes but if you want an unusual hero with quirky looks, an off the wall job and outrageous dress sense, go for it, if *you* love him, hopefully the reader will too.  

Thank you, Romaniacs for having me on the blog – I’d love to hear how you develop your heroes.

Phillipa – thank you so much for this wonderful advice and we look forward to seeing you soon.


Miranda’s Mount is published as an E-book on October 4th by Piatkus Entice and is a sexy, funny contemporary romance set in Cornwall.

When Miranda finds herself fighting for her home, her job and her heart, sleeping with the enemy may not be the best tactic…

With no family of her own, Miranda Marshall has developed a healthy respect – some would say obsession – with other people’s histories. As property manager of a spectacular island castle in Cornwall, she’s made St Merryn’s Mount one of the UK’s most popular heritage attractions. While she may have the castle running like clockwork, Miranda hasn’t bargained on its sexy owner returning to claim his birthright. Dark, handsome and with a rakish reputation, Jago St Merryn not only looks like a pirate but is intent on flogging the Mount to a soulless leisure corporation. Miranda faces the battle of her life as she tries to persuade him to face up to his past and continue the St Merryn dynasty. But Jago has his own reasons for jumping ship and when he throws down the gauntlet to Miranda, she’s forced to delve into painful memories she’d much rather keep hidden…

Twitter @phillipaashley

Tuesday Chit Chat with Phillipa Ashley

A Quick Q & A Session with Phillipa Ashley.

Hi Phillipa. The Romaniacs have a few questions for you.

Q: Which three main qualities do you think a writer needs to succeed?

Persistence, a willingness to learn (and not necessarily from writing courses or workshops – ducks down behind the sofa) and  unshakeable belief that there’s something unique about your writing.

Q: If you could choose any setting/place (money no object and all stationery/equipment provided) in which to write your next novel, where would you jet/walk/ride/ off to?

I’d write the novel in my office and save the jetting for inspiration and recreation. I also very much want to go to Vancouver Island to see a grizzly bear.

Q: If you could be any of your heroines, which one and why?

Oh, that’s a hard one. I’d like to be all of them but on a dream day, I’d be Emma from Decent Exposure in the morning so I could go walking with Will, Lucy from Just Say Yes in the afternoon so I could go sailing with Josh. In the evening, I’d be Miranda from Miranda’s Mount and watch the sun set from the battlements of my castle with a certain Lord St Merryn.

Q: Do you have any phobias and if so have you ever worked them into your novels?

I hate heights and my palms sweat just seeing people on TV on cliff edges and I can’t stand my daughter or husband standing near the edges of buildings etc. I tried abseiling as research for Decent Exposure, and whinged for half an hour at the top before I stepped off the edge –- it’s really easy once you’ve stepped off but I wouldn’t do it again.

Q: What is the strangest research question you have asked on Facebook or Twitter?

I can’t remember, I’ve made so many weird requests…

Q: Did you get the response you were expecting?

Um. Probably not but I’ve been very entertained!

Q: Would you consider writing in any other genre, if so, which?

I have an urge to write something very wicked but have been advised not to. Shame.

Q: If you could be presented with a literary award by any celebrity, who would you choose and why?

I have actually asked the RNA if Richard Armitage, Dan Stevens or Michael Fassbender could present the RONAs – but getting those guys to do it would be the easy part. The hard part would be getting shortlisted and winning the award!

Q: As a member of the RNA, are you a NWS reader?

I did one script a few years ago: it took me weeks and I had the most awful sense of treading on someone’s dreams. I’ve always felt I didn’t know enough myself to tell other people what to do and this business is so subjective, you have to be careful who you listen to. But I’ve got a bit more experience now so feel more confident about giving talks and I’d love to be of some use. In fact, I’d be interested to know what the Romaniacs find most helpful from author talks and workshops – and what they’d like to hear from me, if anything!

Q: What makes you laugh?

Almost everything. Would I Lie to You? Withnail & I, 10 Things I Hate About You and any modern stand-up comedy that’s not cruel/offensive in a Frankie Boyle way. I love Doc Martin and Miranda (named the new heroine partly after her) and Nell Dixon’s one-liners and Christina Jones’ novels. The opening to Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island once had me stretched out on a sofa, crying with laughter for several minutes and I also wept at a recent Dara O Briain gig.

Q: Paramedics or Mountain Rescue?

Mountain Rescue of course.

Q: VW Camper van or 5 star hotel?

Um.. er… the hotel but only if it has a view of the sea and could move.

Q: Surfing or dancing?

Surfing. I can’t dance. But then again, I can’t surf yet either!

Q: Cake or chocolate?

Cake by a whisper.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our quickie questions. Please now tell us about your new books.

Thank you for having me – setting up a NWS group was a brilliant idea, if you don’t mind me saying so.

I’ve recently signed a deal with the new Piatkus Entice imprint and my contemporary romance, Miranda’s Mount, is out in October but first I have two books out at the start of June.

Available worldwide is a new print edition of my hot and steamy Samhain romance, Fever Cure – this is an emotional and intense love story which you can also get as an e-book.

In the US, Sourcebooks are releasing Just Say Yes which is a contemporary rom com that also takes a dig at reality show culture. Book Depository also has the gorgeousUS edition with free delivery anywhere in the world, if readers don’t have it yet.

You can find out more at or follow me on Twitter @PhillipaAshley or Like my Facebook page.