The Romaniacs Sparkle Spotlight 2016.

The Romaniacs Sparkle Spotlights 2016.

Filmed at the RNA conference, Lancaster University.

We asked three questions:

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

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

National Best Friend Day

So we’re out by a day, but that’s okay because we’re among friends. In celebration of this wonderful day, we’ve put together a gallery of Romaniacal good times.

Catherine, Sue and LauraCelia 3IMG_0662IMG_4779RNA Summer Party Eight of The RomaniacsRomaniac Badges 2014 2IMG_0497BedtimeIMG_1771IMG_1742CheersIMG_1780IMG_1829Working HardSparkle DinnerIMG_1836Award and Prawn CocktailsIMG_8432roms-xmas-14RS PaperbackIMG_2622 Award-winning RomaniacsIMG_6573IMG_4884M6 Services 3Sparkle Banner Lucie and SueIMG_0336Sparkle Spotlight Sue's PhotoIMG_4163IMG_4166IMG_4208IMG_7098IMG_7087IMG_715110999257_10204632754752430_4404561335113159743_n

The story behind this shot? (Fun at 2012 conference)

The story behind this shot? (Fun at 2012 conference)

Sheffield Romaniacs521467_3856191958830_1099260752_33606374_552144139_n

Room mates for the Thursday night The new Eric and Ernie

Room mates for the Thursday night
The new Eric and Ernie


Debbie and Jan

Debbie and Jan


Two Roving Romaniacs

Two Roving Romaniacs



1450873_10201479196315440_2108040772_niPhone Photo 2013-12-02 22-31-203 girls

We won an award!!!

We won an award!!!


Roving Romaniacs Meet Kirstie Allsopp & Go To A Party

Celia, Laura, Vanessa, Kirstie, Catherine & Debbie

Celia, Laura, Vanessa, Kirstie, Catherine & Debbie

Thursday 19th May 2016 was a big day for The Romaniacs, but particularly for Catherine Miller. Catherine’s debut novel, Waiting For You, was nominated for the prestigious Joan Hessayon Award, the winner of which was to be announced that evening in London at the Romantic novelists’ Association’s Summer Party.

The day began with five Romaniacs and Mr Miller departing from various parts of the country, all heading for our favourite London hotel. After a quick catch-up and a change into our multipurpose daywear/eveningwear frocks, we took a taxi to our second port of call that day – Kirstie Allsopp’s house. For afternoon tea. As one does.

Our Catherine is masterful when it comes to winning competitions and tea with Kirstie Allsopp was first prize in a competition run by Home Start, ‘a national family support charity that helps parents to build better lives for their children.’


The second port of call was the RNA’s Summer Party, where we met up with our writing friends and colleagues and celebrated our debut novelists whose books had been through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and achieved publication. Our congratulations to everyone nominated and to the over-all winner, Clare Harvey.

Here are our memories of that busy, fun day.

Laura: What an incredible day. First of all, I’d like to thank Catherine for inviting me to share her prize – meeting Kirstie Allsopp was a wonderful experience. And what a lovely family and house she has. I found Kirstie to be warm, charming, funny and very down-to-earth. The evening was wonderful, too, catching up with writing friends, cheering on our debut novelists and meeting a few of our street team Sparklers. I got to bed at 02:00, but what an amazing day.

Vanessa: It was SUCH a fabulous day. It always is catching up with my lovely fellow Romaniacs, but this time with the added bonus of meeting Kirstie and getting to drink lots of prosecco in her beautiful home – and see her shoes! So many beautiful shoes… The evening was amazing, as always: I always love the RNA parties because they give me the chance to meet up with fellow writers in the most glamorous and friendly of environments. The prosecco headache the next day was totally worth it! Shoes

Debbie: I’ll confess; Kirstie is my ‘girl crush!’ I’ve long admired her so was very excited when Catherine invited me along.FullSizeRender (4) Bubbly, cake and laughter all afternoon – what could be better? Kirstie was so welcoming and every bit as warm and lovely as she appears on TV. The evening was great fun too and super, as always, to catch up with my RNA writer friends. My jaws ached more than usual the following day having spent the whole day and evening grinning from ear to ear, laughing and chatting! IMG_0437



Celia: This was a very special day for us all, and for me it marked the start of a new chapter. Retiring from work will give me time to meet more writing people and catch up with the Romaniacs more often, so the party and the fabulous Kirstie visit  were a great way to celebrate the next stage. My husband worked as a brewers’ scientist for years and the Allsopp family of brewers are a big part of Burton-on-Trent’s heritage so spotting all the memorabilia on her walls was interesting. Seeing our lovely Catherine in the JH line up was even more heart-warming – as the oldest Romaniac, that was definitely a  proud mummy moment, and her wonderful Dan put up with a hoard of over-excited women very bravely all day too and was chief photographer to boot!

Beer plaque

3 stooges

Life Cycle of a Writer: Debbie

It’s been a while since I last blogged. (Ooer, that sounds a bit like a confession.) Unlike most of my fellow Romaniacs, I’ve had little to shout about. In fact, NOTHING to shout about.


A bad case of the January blues ran into February, then March and before I knew it Easter had been and gone and I was no further on with progressing, ‘Living in the Past,’ the novel I (finally) finished last summer. Why?

Well, once again I have any number of reasons, although a critical NWS review comes high up the list. After I’d digested the five page report which, in a nutshell suggested I might be better off to put what I’d learned so far down to experience and move on to the next novel, I lost all motivation to respond to the 5.30am alarm clock set on dark, damp mornings to get up and write. The pain of my arthritis and news that I need to have two lots of major surgery to replace my existing prosthetic jaw joints consumed me. Morphine patches meant I spent up to four hours asleep in the daytime. Deranged blood results, yet more building work, the garden, domestic chores, not enough hours in the day; these things individually may not seem much but all together they threatened to overwhelm me. 3

For months, I returned to deriding myself. ‘You’ll never be a writer … You’ll never get that book published … What if the reader is right and the agent who was waiting to see it (three years ago!) also thinks it’s a pile of poo? And what if, after reading it, they won’t entertain the idea of ever receiving anything from me again?’

‘Man up, mom!’ said my eldest son. ‘So the reader didn’t like it? It’s one person’s opinion. Not everyone will like it. But the question is; do you like it? You’ve been working on it long enough. Or if not, do as they say and stop talking about it!’

He was right. It has taken four years to write this novel so far and all I’ve ever really done is talk about it, except when the opening chapter got runner up in the inaugural Festival of Romance in 2011. However every time I’ve almost condemned it to the waste paper bin ‘something’ has stopped me. I still believe. I still believe it has legs.

So, I HAVE A PLAN and writing it down here will make me do it. I’ve made a start, re-read the whole thing and also re-read (several times) the NWS critique. Interestingly, because I’ve let the MS rest a while, I’ve returned to it with fresh eyes and concede the reader raised several points that are fair comment. I don’t feel anywhere near so gloomy about it. Using two different coloured highlighter pens I’ve gone through and highlighted, a) the areas I need to change and, b) all other points I’m still unsure about which I must ponder on. With any luck if I work through systematically, I’ll find the holes, make my heroine more appealing, nail the research, expand the characters, dig deeper for more conflict etc because one thing’s for sure; I’ll never be a writer or get a book published if I give in.

You know, this writing malarkey really is a battle of wills. Is it a pile of poo? It may be. It may not. The only way for me to find out is to try. I haven’t spent four years on this to give up now. Don’t get me wrong; if the agent agrees I may need to re-think the plan but until then I have to give it my best shot.

You heard it here first; by the time I next post, it will be done. Polished. Finished. No more twiddling. And by then I’ll have contacted the agent to see if they are still interested!


Wish me luck. I’ll be in the summerhouse.

Until another day

Debbie xx

Guest Post ~ Welcome, Gabrielle Mullarkey

Gabrielle Mullarkey is a novelist, short story writer and journalist, who has worked on women’s magazines for over 20 years. Since gaining her MSc in creative writing for therapeutic purposes in 2014, she works with writing groups for mental health charity Mind, and writes with and for patients at local hospices.


gabs1 (1)

A Tale of Two Sisters, her second novel, takes the reader to the heart of a simmering sibling rivalry that explodes into all-out war!

Having pondered sisterhood while writing the book, she has more question than answers on the bond that can seem like a bind…

Can your sister be your best friend, too?

The art of being a good sister is, to coin a friend’s term, ‘a slippery rabbit’. Anyone who’s tried to cuddle a bunny will know just how mercurial and evasive the fluffy critter is. But even if you do consider yourself close to your sister, is she also your best friend? And if so, is that friendship fostered by shared interests – or is sibling rivalry intensified when sisters follow the same career path or share a passion? Serena and Venus Williams seem to get on OK, despite an intense professional rivalry – but actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, A-lister sisters from Hollywood’s golden age, reputedly fell out over who won the race for an Oscar (Joan beat big sis Olivia in the Best Actress category at the 1942 awards, Olivia bagging the statuette five years later). Joan is even supposed to have said, ‘I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it.’

joan & olivia

Blimey, when you get competitive with your sister about who’ll die first, that takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level!

I’m not sure how I’d feel if either of my sisters wanted to be writers. As they’re both teachers, they may be keeping a competitive eye on each other’s league tables, but I’m happy to let them get on with it, never having felt the urge to scale the north face of OFSTED paperwork. And growing up, I didn’t turn to either of them for advice on school, boys, accessories or anything else – I had my best friend for that.

In fact, one of my BFF’s key roles was to let me moan about my sisters, since we all went to the same school – and this is probably why Nikki in a A Tale of Two Sisters gets some of the best lines in the book as the ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ best bud to Katie, disgruntled sister-at-large. Keeping it real, Nikki listens, commiserates and – while she doesn’t hesitate to point out Katie’s contributory culpability for her all-out war with sister Flick – makes helpful suggestions on resolving the schism, such as offering to go halves on a hitman to take out Flick. To Katie, this confirms the blind loyalty you expect (possibly demand) of a best friend precisely because siblings withhold it.

I don’t know about your family, but in my mine, you could only rally followers to your righteous cause (convincing Mum or Dad the other sister did it and ran away) by excelling at the sort of ‘what’s it worth to side with you?’ horse trading that characterises every episode of House of Cards. In fact, if Kevin Spacey ever gets tired of delivering thousand yard stares and gnomic utterances straight to camera, some of my siblings would welcome an audition…

I’m pretty good at that game myself. But what about my own BFF credentials? Well, I may flatter myself, but I was pretty good at that game as well, because my BFF at school had more brother than sister trouble – and I’ve got four of those blighters!

A Tale of Two Sisters by Gabrielle Mullarkey cover


Find A Tale of Two Sisters at:

Connect with Gabrielle on Twitter ~ @authorgabrielle


Giselle Green – Dear Dad

img_3901Today, we are honoured to have wonderful writer, and dear friend, Giselle Green on our blog. I caught up with her recently to have a chat about her new novel – here’s what she had to say:

Good morning Giselle, thank you so much for coming onto our blog to share the news of your fantastic new novel, Dear Dad.

  • I was very lucky to have been one of the people you selected to read Dear Dad a while ago, but for those yet to read it, can you tell us a little about it?


Thank you for reading it, Lucie! And thank you for inviting me back onto the Romaniacs blog – it’s my pleasure to be here.

What it’s about …

A young war reporter suffering from PTSD who’s lost everything that’s dear to him is faced with a difficult dilemma when multiple letters start arriving mysteriously at his flat. Mistakenly addressed to ‘Dear Dad,’ they’re from a young, bullied kid called Adam who’s desperate for someone to help him out of his misery. Only Nate’s not his dad – and he can’t be anyone’s advocate. He can’t even bring himself to leave his flat. Acquiescing to Adam’s plea, he agrees to visit the boy’s school pretending to be ‘Dad’ just so he can explain to Adam’s teacher what’s going on. As Nate and Adam’s pretty young teacher Jenna fall for each other, Nate soon discovers that some lies, once told, are not so easy to recover from…

  • Where did the idea come from? Do you choose themes to craft your books from or do you let inspiration lead?


It’s true I’ve had large themes very much in the forefront of my mind in the past (e.g. Hope, faith and Charity, Justice). For this book, the theme was there all along but it was only after I finished it that I finally recognised what it was – kindness.

On a more mundane level, I wanted to talk about ‘Dads’ – I’ve spoken about the role of Mums so often in the past. I wanted to talk about people who take on the fatherly role even when they weren’t the biological dad.

I also wanted to say something about the social isolation so many people seem to suffer from. Even though we’re living on a planet that’s more densely populated than it’s ever been, loneliness and a sense of isolation are endemic. Those are things that can affect anyone – even previously popular, outgoing, successful people like Nate. He falls from a great height. When we first meet him, he’s got this sense of shame, of having somehow ‘failed’, but it’s only when he reaches out in compassion to someone who’s even worse off than he is, that he can start to find healing.

  • Dear Dad deals with some very real and very heartfelt issues, was it difficult to write?


Some of the issues in Dear Dad are a little heart-wrenching – the issue of child carers who go unnoticed in the system, for one. Not because there aren’t the mechanisms in government to help them, but because half the time they simply aren’t picked up. It’s a catch-22 situation for some children – they have no advocate, and because they have no advocate, they don’t get ‘seen’.

Any situation where children are the victims is always hard for me – my heart bleeds for them. But because I used a lighter tone for this book, it wasn’t as hard to write as it might have been. And Adam’s ever-optimistic character that shone through all his troubles so stoically made it easier, too

  • How did you get into the mind-set of a 9 year old? Did you have help from any children?


That’s a great question Lucie – I really have no idea where Adam’s mindset came from. It was just … there, automatically. Of all the characters in the book, this vulnerable, savvy 9-year-old arrived the most fully-formed and I loved him from the word go. He was so easy to write that when I finished, I didn’t want to leave him behind. I have had six boys myself, as you know, so maybe I unconsciously drew on some of them, when it came to what it ‘felt’ like to be him. I also had some friends with children of about the right age read through to make sure the ‘Adam’ scenes were true to the age group – you are one of the people I must thank for your input in that department!

You are very welcome!🙂

  • Without giving anything away, was there any part of the book in particular that you found difficult/fun to write?


I had so much fun writing the Nate-Adam scenes! They were my favourite ones to write. In those scenes, despite the pathos, I was able to bring a little humour and lightness into my story – something I have been wanting to do for a while.

The scenes which show Nate’s agoraphobic tendencies were tougher. There was the question of actually ‘getting into his head-space’ while I wrote his point of view. For about a week I will confess I felt a bit breathless and reluctant leaving the house – which I put down to being in Nate’s mindset at the outset when he’s really stuck. It wasn’t very comfortable.

  • How long did it take you to write Dear Dad, from concept to finished novel? Do your writing journeys differ from book to book?


I had the concept two years ago. I just wasn’t ready to write it then. My initial attempts to get into it threw me back on the realisation that I still had a lot of decisions to make. For instance – was it a father-son story, or a love story, at its heart? I really only got going with it properly this year, so I would say it took a year to write, but maybe six-eight months to get my internal bearings with it.

Yes, every book takes me a different route. I never really feel I know what I’m doing till about half-way to three quarters of the way in, then it all gathers pace. I like to challenge myself with each new book. This book leads with the male perspective – another difficult decision (the first incarnation of this story started with the heroine), but given the subject matter I simply couldn’t do otherwise. I also have three main characters instead of the usual two. While the plot is deceptively simple, writing three people who are closely involved each with the other was a new challenge. My earlier books had a lot more back-story whereas in this one I’ve cut it down to a minimum. The story flows faster and in a more straightforward trajectory as a result. So, there are a lot of departure in this novel, new directions, but I also wanted to maintain what I feel is my stock-in-trade; tempting readers to challenge their perceptions and feelings about certain topics – about what’s right and what’s wrong. I like it when readers feel they’ve been given food for thought

 For anyone who is yet to read your books, how would you describe your writing style? Do you think this has differed at all from your first releases?

  • While my writing style is evolving (see last answer), my voice remains essentially mine with every new book. That means that – although I may reach out to pastures new stylistically – the ‘person’ and the sentiments behind all my stories remains recognisable from one novel to the next. An author can play around with style and genre but they can’t alter who they essentially are. That said, I write first person present tense, and up to now it’s always been from two different characters’ points of view. It can be a pretty intense and ‘close-up’ way of getting into the character’s heads. The reader gets to know them pretty well. However, I made a deliberate choice to use less introspection in this novel, and concentrate more on what the characters were saying and doing.

DEAR DAD has a different timbre to my previous novels, it’s true. It’s lighter and – while it does deal with some dark subjects – they’re not dwelt upon. That was part of the charm of writing about a child. There is something so compelling and magical about the way that children think.

  • Have you began to think about the next project to work on or do you give yourself a well-earned break in between each piece of fiction?

I do like to give myself a break. It’s easy to let yourself become exhausted, otherwise. I’m on the look-out for people and places, tales of people’s lives, and pieces of music that move me and so on, though.

  • What is your favourite way to celebrate finishing a book?


I like to give a launch party. Proper party-style, with flowers and fizz and balloons and friends. I haven’t done one in a while, so when the paperback of DEAR DAD comes out in the summer (around June) I plan to do one this year.

Sounds like fun!

For those of you wanting to know more and/or purchase Dear Dad, here it is!

Please click on the book for more details:


Thank you so much, Giselle. On behalf of the Romaniacs and me, we would like to wish you every success with Dear Dad – I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

Giselle has the following online platforms:

Website –

Facebook Page-

Twitter –

No More Waiting! Catherine’s Debut is Here!


WFY Cover

Laura: The first time I met Catherine, she was waiting for me at an M3 service station. It was 06:00, it was dark and we were both heading to Watford for the inaugural Festival of Romance. It was October 2011.

We had no idea if the other person was a mad axe murderer, what we really looked like, or whether we’d get along. All we knew was our Twitter handles and the fact we were both in the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.

By the time the car door had shut and we’d pulled away, leaving a rather concerned Mr Miller wondering with whom his wife had driven away, Catherine and I were friends. We did not stop chatting on that journey, or any journey we’ve taken together since. I can’t see us bucking that trend any time soon.

We became writing buddies, fellow Romaniacs, and family friends, and I am absolutely delighted to be able to say, Catherine, congratulations on the release of your wonderful debut, Waiting For You. You have written a gorgeous story that’s full of heart. Happy publication day, my lovely, energetic, make-me-laugh-out-loud, talented friend.


Catherine & Laura

Sue: Happy Publication Day, Catherine! Waiting for You is officially out there – how fab is that? Since we first met, back in 2011, I have been in awe of your motivation and drive but that’ s not just with the writing, you do an equally awesome job with your twin girls too and I still have no idea how you combine the two roles. Anyway, my lovely friend, who makes me laugh every time we meet, who straight talks and keeps a cool head, here’s to Waiting For You. Sue xxx

Sue & Catherine, Festival of Romance, 2011

Catherine & Sue, Festival of Romance, 2011

Celia: Catherine’s effervescent energy keeps us all going – goodness only knows where she gets it from, but even when she’s been entertaining her lovely,  lively twin girls for hours on end, she can still manage to knock out a fabulous new book. We are now going to watch her fly – go, Catherine!

Celia, Debbie, Lorraine and Catherine

Celia, Debbie, Honorary Romaniac Lorraine, & Catherine

Catherine and Baby Amber

Lucie: I am so proud of you, Catherine, and everything you’ve achieved xxx

Lorraine The Honourary Romaniac

Laura, Vanessa, Debbie, Catherine, Honorary Romaniac Lorraine, Celia, Lucie & Sue

Catherine & Katie Fforde, with the Katie Fforde Bursary Trophy

Catherine & Katie Fforde, with the Katie Fforde Bursary Trophy

Vanessa: I’m so proud of our Catherine –  She’s such a talented writer and worked so hard for this day (even with the distractions of her lovely twins!) and deserves all the success in the world with her wonderful book, Waiting For You.

Vanessa and Catherine

Catherine & Vanessa

Debbie: Oh, Catherine, how proud I am to join in the celebrations of your special day! ‘Wonder Woman’ is the first name to spring to mind. I’m in awe of how you manage to juggle being a wife, splendiferous mummy to toddler twin girls and have achieved what you have writing-wise. You are the personification of the saying, ‘Make every second count!’ I don’t know how you’ve done it in between the sleepless nights, teething, weaning and daytime naps but I salute your energy, resilience and sheer dogged determination to never give in. I often refer to the Romaniacs as a tin of ‘Quality Street’ (each one different and every one someone’s favourite!) Catherine is, ‘the purple one’ – one of my writing besties with the nut (nutty??) middle, wrapped in smooth caramel and coated in chocolate. Purple conveys bold and brave, the nut middle says it all as let’s be honest; you are the nuttiest of the group, albeit you’re sweet with it. It’s as if having the twins has unleashed your potential. You’ve had so many successes; the Katie Fforde bursary was the pinnacle. I tip my hat to you and wish you every continued success because you have so earned this moment. Enjoy my friend. xxxCatherine Quality Street

Debbie and Catherine

Debbie & Catherine

Jan: I’m so pleased for Catherine, as is our faithful Romaniac Honkmeter, which is well oiled and firmly in ‘TOOT TOOT’ mode in celebration of her debut which I cannot wait to read. Congratulations my lovely talented friend. May you have much success and sales galore. Enjoy this special day to the max. You’ve worked so hard and fully deserve all the sparkle coming your way! Xx

Media Stars!

Sue, Catherine, Jan, Laura, Debbie & Vanessa

Many congratulations, Catherine,

and much success,

Love from

The Romaniacs xxxxxxx

Down on the Farm

Catherine Miller and the Girls