Let’s Get Emotional with ‘Doubting Abbey’ author Samantha Tonge

A very warm welcome to Samantha Tonge on the Tuesday Chit-Chat slot.  First of all big Romaniac congratulations on the publication of her debut novel ‘Doubting Abbey’.  Today Samantha is getting all emotional – but in a good way.


Let’s Get Emotional

Part of the reason I’m so thrilled that my debut novel, Doubting Abbey, is finally ‘out there’ in the big wide world, is that I have several unpublished novels under my bed. It’s been a hard slog, getting published – although a rollercoaster ride along the way, filled with disappointment, yes, but many highs, like the excitement of a new project; my first positive rejection letter; getting the full manuscript requested; finally bagging myself an agent.

In retrospect I can see what was wrong with the very first novels I wrote and one aspect only really became clear in the last year or two, thanks to an editor I worked closely with in the short story world. She said I needed to put even more emotion into my work. It makes sense to me now. Readers love a story if they care about the characters – to care they must feel what those fictional people are going through. Otherwise they might get to the end and ask “what was the point”?

So now when I write, I try harder than ever to put myself into the characters’ place and convey their emotions according to my own feelings. Nerves? Yes, a twisted stomach or sweaty palms. Fear? A dry mouth and racing heartbeat. Love? Flushed cheeks and a warmth spreading through my chest. Someone recently recommended a book to me called the Emotional Thesaurus and it is brilliant at listing such reactions.

Also, as the writer, you need to think of emotional actions, not just physical change. In Doubting Abbey, arrogant hunk Lord Edward is secretly a tortured soul. Hence the occasion when he’ll sit with his head hung in his hands. Pizza waitress, Gemma, who must pretend to be his posh cousin, Abbey, hates all the lies – which could be conveyed by a lack of eye contact and a wavering voice.

The emotional stakes can also be raised by particular storylines – in Doubting Abbey friends from the past are brought together. Reunions are emotional gold, making the reader care not only about the people in your novel, but also the plot and what happens – and not necessarily to flesh and blood. Lord Edward’s family must win reality show Million Dollar Mansion to save their beloved but run-down Applebridge Hall – a building I hope finds a place in readers’ hearts. With its cracked tiles and faded wallpaper, on the surface it’s just bricks and mortar – yet the family portraits from bygone centuries soon tell the tale of a place once filled with vibrant parties, kind-hearted residents, passionate love and unbridled laughter.

So next time you read a book, think about what moves you and makes you care. Have you laughed? Did your eyes well up? Did you fall just a little bit in love with the hero…?


Swapping downstairs for upstairs… How hard can it be!?
Look up the phrase ordinary girl and you’ll see a picture of me, Gemma Goodwin – I only look half-decent after applying the entire contents of my make-up bag, and my dating track-record includes a man who treated me to dinner…at a kebab shop. No joke!
The only extraordinary thing about me is that I look EXACTLY like my BFF, Abbey Croxley. Oh, and that for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve agreed to swap identities and pretend be her to star in the TV show about her aristocratic family’s country estate, Million Dollar Mansion.
So now it’s not just my tan I’m faking – it’s Kate Middleton style demure hemlines and lady-like manners too. And amongst the hundreds of fusty etiquette rules I’m trying to cram into my head, there are two I really must remember; 1) No-one can ever find out that I’m justGemma, who’d be more at home in the servants quarters. And 2) There can be absolutely no flirting with Abbey’s dishy but buttoned-up cousin, Lord Edward.
Aaargh, this is going to be harder than I thought…





Doubting Abbey Blog

TUESDAY CHIT CHAT with SUE FORTIN: An Author with HarperImpulse

Sue Fortin profile

Laura: How do, Mme Fortin. So. You’ve been busy then?

Sue : Busy? So it would seem. 🙂

Massive congratulations. This is fantastic news because it means chocolate cake will be abundant at Romaniac HQ ALL WEEK!

You must be so delighted.

Sue : Thank you! I am absolutely thrilled – I can’t wait to eat all that chocolate. Oh, and there’s the ‘small’ matter of the book as well – I am, of course, absolutely thrilled about that too!

Laura: How was yesterday, when you were ‘announced’?

Sue : It started off feeling ever so slightly surreal, then when it was actually announced, it was very exciting and then when I had to sit in the waiting room at the dentist, it was back down to earth with a bump. Didn’t my dentist know I was an author and had lots of authorly things to do?! (I think I may have just made a word up there.)

Laura: United States of Love will be your first book released by HarperImpulse. What can you tell our readers about the story?

Sue : The blurb probably sums it up better than I can …

Since splitting from her husband, single mum Anna Barnes is enjoying her new found freedom and independence.

However, she didn’t bank on working for Tex Garcia – or the sparks that fly between them. The gorgeous American chef is getting the locals hot under the collar and not just because of his culinary prowess!

One problem: Tex can’t commit and women pass through his life like dishes going out to service! Will it be the same with Anna? One thing’s for sure, this All American man is determined to break her self-imposed rule of never mixing business with pleasure – and add some spice into the mix…


Laura: What else do you have lined up?

Sue : At the moment my current WIP has the working title of ‘Closing In’. It’s a mix of romance and crime. I’ve been calling it a ‘Cri-mance’. Did you see what I did there? Clever, huh?

Sue, we are so happy for you – each and every Romaniac is bursting with pride. (Whoever burst last, please clear up your mess.)

Vanessa: You are such a talented writer and I know United States of Love is going to be a massive success – I’m so proud and thrilled for you, Sue and I can’t wait to read it! xxx

Lucie: Massive congratulations to you, Sue. I am so so proud of you. It is a fantastic book and I wish you all the success in the world – you deserve it! Lots of love and hugs xxxx

Catherine: Sue’s writing is as bubbly & bright as she is! Wonderful news and very well deserved. I’m looking forward to this and Sue’s future books. xxx

Jan: A gem of a read by a gem of a writer! Thrilled to bits for you, Sue. As is our trusty HQ honk-o-meter. Massive Congratulations! xxx

Celia: Oh, wot they sed, in spades. So excited, proud and happy about this news – well deserved; a Romaniac star in the making, and a lady who knows how to live life to the full too. Holding up my glass to you, Sue (and hoping that yours will be held up even higher today). Much love xxx

Laura: Excellent work, Mme Fortin. 🙂 xxx

Sue : Merci beacoup, mes amis. Thank you so much for all your support my lovely friends and, yeah, clear that mess up – you’re worse than the children! xx

United States of Love is available to pre-order from Amazon here.

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Amanda Egan

Today for a Tuesday Chit-Chat we have author, Amanda Egan, with us.  Amanda’s debut novel ‘Diary of a Mummy Misfit’ was  hugely popular and she has since gone on to write several more very successful novels.


Hello Amanda, great you could come over to Romaniac HQ for a chat. How are you? Enjoying the summer or are you busy writing at the moment?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHi there and thanks for having me. Summer? What’s that then? I think we had a week of it back in April and that will be it for the year – we mustn’t be too greedy here in London though!

When I’m not squashing my nose against the window looking for sun, I’m writing, promoting and making ‘plot face’ (the look my husband says I get when I’ve disappeared into another world of possible characters and storylines).

You’ve had great success with your ‘Mummy Misfit’ books and your later books, ‘Completing the Puzzle’ and ‘Stilettos and Stubble’ – what do you think it is about your writing that hooks the readers?

I’m not really sure so I can only go by what my readers tell me. They seem to love the humour and the relatable characters I create. I’ve also been told that my books make people laugh and cry – these are the sort of books I love to read myself so that makes me one happy writer.

Did you have a clear idea of book covers or did you have someone design them for you?

All my images come from iStock photos and then I bully husband and teen son into designing the rest – title, font, back-cover etc. It’s such an exciting time when I see what my latest ‘baby’ will look like and it all begins to feel very real. I’ve been known to spend days looking for the right cover image but it’s the shop window to my words so I think it’s time well spent.

Amanda Egan books

You have a high profile on Twitter – what are your thoughts on social media as a tool for authors?

When my husband first set up my Twitter account, two years ago, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I honestly didn’t see the point. As far as I could see, I was talking to nobody – which, of course in the early stages, you are. It didn’t take me long to get hooked though and I couldn’t believe how much Tweeting affected my book sales. It was also lovely to make friends with strangers who seemed to be loving my work. As an Indie writer, without social media, I honestly have no idea how I would be selling my books.

As a successful self-published author, would you consider submitting to an agent or publishing house in the future?

No, I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt and written the book(s). If I was approached with the right offer, I’d bite their hand off but I wouldn’t submit to anyone again as I came so close to a deal from two major publishing houses in the early days and I couldn’t bear that disappointment again.

What advice would you give to anyone considering self-publishing?

Do it! But be prepared for a lot of hard work because it’s not just a question of writing a book and uploading it to Amazon – YOU have to sell that book in any way you can and it takes a while to build momentum. It’s SO worth it though.

Random Quick Fire

Left or right handed?
Right handed.
Blue Peter or Magpie?
A little bit of both but not a great fan of either.
Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet?
Cheating but the same answer as above.
Indian or Chinese food?
I love both! Depends what I’m in the mood for. Sorry!
Saturday night in or out?
Most definitely out (or in with friends!)
What animal would you liken yourself to?
A mouse! I’m scared of everything, love cheese and I’m not a very good swimmer.
If you could be anyone, in any book, who would you be?
Delysia Lafosse in ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’. Pure 1930’s ditzy glamour – heaven!

Thanks for coming in Amanda, it’s been fun talking to you. Wishing you every success with your new book .

Thanks so much for having me – it’s been great. ‘Lottie’s Luck’ is out at Amazon for Kindle and in paperback at Lulu on June 19th.

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Paul Pilkington

Another man in the house – this is becoming something of a habit 🙂 Today we have with us Paul Pilkington, author of the Emma Holden suspense novels.


Hello, Paul. You found Romaniac HQ okay then? Come on in and take a seat.

Yes, found it pretty easily thanks. And without need for Sat Nav. Thanks for inviting me over for a chat. I can see you’ve got a cup of tea waiting, so that’s great!

Tea and one of Celia’s famous cakes. Now you’re settled, can you tell us about your writing background, please?

I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction, and English literature was one of my favourite subjects at school. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I started really considering writing longer pieces of work, just for the fun of it. It took me a couple of years with those thoughts in my head to actually begin writing consistently. At first, I started out writing comedy, and really enjoyed that – I had some success in terms of competitions and even a comedy sketch on TV. But eventually I turned my hand to mystery suspense, as it was the genre I’d become a big fan of as a reader – particularly the Harlan Coben standalone novels and ones similar in style. I love the challenge of creating suspense and also aim for my books to be hard to put down. My novels are never gory, nasty, or particularly gritty (I don’t read those kind of books, and certainly wouldn’t want to write them!). I prefer to focus on relationships, emotion, and sometimes romance too. All wrapped up in the mystery of course, with a bit of darkness and danger thrown in!

Can you tell us a bit about your Emma Holden series of books? They’ve been very successful, you must be really pleased.

I’m really pleased about how things have gone. The One You Love, the first novel of the series, has been very well received, and has been downloaded around two million times since July 2011. It’s been in the top 10 in the UK Kindle free download chart since then, as well as being in the top 100 of the US Kindle chart for the same length of time. It’s also doing really well on Apple’s various iBookstores around the world, and was recently highlighted as a “Breakout Book” by Apple. It’s fair to say that it took me by surprise, and I still can’t quite get my head around it. The novella sequel has done really well, and the third and final instalment, The One You Trust, will be out in summer 2013. I’ve worked with the characters for quite a while now, and really do care for them. It will be good to complete my “grand plan” but it will also be sad to finish with them. I’m sure Emma in particular will be glad that I’ll be leaving her alone to get on with her life.

How in-depth is your planning when plotting a new novel?

It depends. I did a lot less plotting for The One You Love than I did for Someone to Save You (where I plotted out each chapter from the beginning). To be honest, if I plot too much, it spoils it for me. I feel like things have already happened and that I’m just some reporter writing up yesterday’s news. Whereas if I know just a few key points (start, middle, end, and then a few other key scenes), then it’s much more exciting for me as a writer, as things happen that you never considered before, and could probably not artificially create before putting pen to paper (well, finger to keyboard). That’s what I love so much about writing – that magical moment when you are typing away, and creating things that just pop into your head from it seems like nowhere. 

The covers look great and give a real brand to your books. Did you design your own covers and can you tell us the process?

I did design my own covers initially, which were okay but obviously pretty amateurish. Then last year I had my covers professionally designed by a lovely lady called Jeanine Henning. I’m so happy with them, and they really communicate the books and my brand much better than I could have done. I’d definitely recommend having covers done by a professional.

What are your views on social media and raising your platform as a writer?

I do use social media. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook author page, and a website. However I must say that I’ve never been terribly pro-active on these. Partly it’s because I always feel embarrassed doing self-publicity (like a lot of authors, I’m not particularly self-confident about what I do), but also I’m not convinced it works. Especially when there are so many other people out there doing the same thing. I’m not saying it can’t work, but I do think the effort required is probably pretty huge, and means you may well have no time for actually writing! I do love connecting with readers through Facebook and Twitter though, and they are great ways to build an audience once they have already read your work.

How do you fit your writing around your ‘day job’?

It’s difficult! Things change, and where I once had a neat period of time in the day to indulge myself with my writing, I now have a very different routine, where writing has to battle for space with lots of other priorities. When writing The One You Fear, I took time off on leave to get it finished, and I expect to do that again. Writing has always been a hobby for me, and it still is really. Like any hobby, you have to make the effort to fit it in around everything else. I find that once I get into a particular project, I do then find it easier to make time, as the momentum pushes you along and motivates you to carve out space to continue. It’s the getting started that’s the hardest part, especially if you’ve taken a few months off from writing.

As a successful self-published author, would you consider submitting to an agent or publishing house in the future?

TOYLI wouldn’t rule anything out. I didn’t self-publish to try and get a deal with a traditional publisher, so it wasn’t a means to an end. I also haven’t submitted to any agents or publishing houses since my success. However, I have been approached by both agents and publishers, and always make a point of listening to what they have to say. At the moment I’m more than happy with what I’m doing, but who knows. My personal view is that we’re going to see more massive changes in publishing over the next few years, and big name authors may well begin to explore self-publishing. As for myself, I’ll just keep writing and will see what happens. If it all ended tomorrow, I’ve had two amazing years, so I certainly couldn’t complain.

What’s the best piece of advice you could offer someone considering self-publishing?

I would say make sure before you publish that you get your manuscript professionally copy-edited. Or at least, you do your very best to ensure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. My biggest mistake was not doing this initially, and it caused a lot of problems. All my novels are now professionally copy-edited. You have to treat readers with respect, and ensuring an error free work is a big part of that.

Random Quick Fire

Right or left handed? Right

Wine, Beer or lager? Beer

Chinese or Indian food? Indian

Football or Cricket? Rugby league actually! But football out of those two.

Town or country? Country

To love or to be loved? I think you need both really.

MI5 or MI6? MI5

Maverick or conformist? Conformist.

Thanks so much for coming in Paul, it’s been great to meet you. Wishing you every success for your novels.

No problem, happy to drop by, and thanks for the cuppa!

Tuesday Chit Chat with Serena Clarke

We’re delighted to have the lovely Serena Clarke on the blog with us today, celebrating the publication of her debut novel All Over The Place.

Serena Clarke colourSerena grew up in a family of itchy-footed readers and dreamers – not concentrating, reading the atlas and Narnia books, and planning to escape somewhere magical as soon as she could. When she was 16, she went from New Zealand to live in Sweden for a year. It was the beginning of many travels and adventures – and quite a few disasters! She didn’t know it at the time, but eventually she’d be grateful for all the downs as well as the ups. As writers say in the face of adversity: “I can use that.” She’s now living back in New Zealand, where she writes stories reflecting her determined belief in magic, possibility and second chances – and happy endings!

Hi Serena, welcome to the Romaniac blog – take a seat, put your feet up and help yourself to cake 🙂

Ooh thank you! I’m always making banana cake, so it’s lovely to have someone give me cake instead! Thanks for having me today. *gets comfy*

Shall we start with you telling us about your journey to publication?

I’ve been a bookish, dreamy kind of person all my life. I always thought it would be amazing to write a book – but that seemed the kind of thing other people did, not ordinary old me. Then I started looking at all those books in the library, thinking, well, someone has written all of those. Maybe I could have a go. I was coming to an age when ‘one day’ starts to feel a bit more pressing! And after writing, and rewriting, and rewriting again, All Over the Place – actually a very English book – was accepted by a digital-first publisher in the USA.

Can you give us some detail about All Over The Place?

All Over the Place coverIt’s a story of finding the place you’re meant to be, and the person you’re meant to be there with. It has a chick lit feel – and a happy ending, of course! Here’s the blurb:

Livi Callaway has fled back to London after a reality TV disaster in New Zealand. Safely anonymous in the big city, she’s determined to stay under the radar from now on. But her attempts to build a new life are complicated by unexpected visitors from her old one, and new dangers and temptations lie in wait.

Late one night, she meets a mysteriously sexy American on the Underground – and the events that follow take her from Pooh Bear to the golden lights of Paris, via a trail of rock stars dead and alive. A family in disarray, a determined Swede, a crazed Australian and a childhood friend (who might yet be more than that) have her all over the place as she tries to discover the American’s secret – while keeping her own.

With help – and occasional hindrance – from her friends, what she eventually finds is something unexpected…sometimes, running away can lead you to exactly what you didn’t know you needed.

Sharing other people’s praise of your book feels a bit like boasting about your children on Facebook – not really the done thing. But one lovely person said it was “a thoroughly engaging, globe-hopping confection of a novel…an enchanting journey of both distance and heart.” Which I thought was very nice indeed. But I didn’t tell you that.

How did you celebrate publication day?

Well, because of the time difference, I was tucked up asleep for half of publication day! I stayed up to watch the book go on sale on Amazon, then I had to go to bed! But the next day I had a lot of fun catching up with everything that had happened overnight. And that night we took the kids out for giant New York style pizzas. We’re a family of bookworms, so they thought it was pretty cool.

How important do you think the RNA NWS was in helping you achieve your publication dream?

Oh, it was crucial. When I first started writing in earnest I didn’t show anyone, or even tell more than a couple of people. So I really wasn’t sure if I was going about it the right way at all! My NWS report was really encouraging, and it had incredibly helpful suggestions for how to improve the book. If I ever find out who my reader was, I want to give her a big hug! (In a very non-stalkerish way, of course!)

What means home to you? Is it a place, a person or a case of ‘Wherever I lay my hat’?

That’s a central question in All Over the Place, so I’ve thought a lot about it. We live out in the world so much more now, with the internet, and live TV from everywhere, and people live-tweeting everything. In the book, Livi strikes out into the world after a disaster, and everything’s up for grabs – she could actually go anywhere, just like I could once upon a time. But of course, it’s people who make a place special. Now I’m the grown-up person responsible for making a home for other people. (Although I still don’t feel like a grown-up!) Anyone who has children would probably say home is where they are – I feel that way now.

You’ve lived in a lot of cities and a lot of countries ­ which is your favourite? What are some of the snapshot moments, the memories that will stay with you forever?

Hm, snapshots… Hiking in summer snow in Swedish Lapland – despite the million-gazillion mosquitos! Riding a camel up the sand dunes as the sun rose in the Moroccan Sahara. Peering through the fence outside the White House, trying to imagine what momentous decisions were being made inside. Meeting my rock star crush before a gig at an underground club in London. Pretty much everything about Paris! And favourites…apart from beautiful New Zealand, I’d say Sweden, because it really is my second home, with my second mum and dad. I can’t wait to see them when I come over again.

You’re back in London for the RNA summer party for the first time in a long time ­ what are the first places you’ll be visiting?

Serena Trafalgar SquareTrafalgar Square! That’s my happy place, and in All Over the Place it’s the centre of Livi’s London. I’m looking forward to spending a day wandering around the National Gallery. There’s a painting there of Saint Cecilia that features in the book, so I’m excited to see it for real. Also, I have a great friend who lives in London, and we have a special ‘tourist’ walk, winding our way from Oxford Circus down to Trafalgar Square and ending at Big Ben. I’m kind of a soppy traveller – I can’t help getting teary at significant places – but luckily he puts up with me! (Blame the artistic temperament!)

What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Joan Hessayon award? Has it been a dream of yours?

The whole thing has been a dream, yes! There are so many amazing books in the running, I don’t expect to win. But can you imagine – getting on the plane to return to London, with my book published and the prospect of being in a room with so many wonderful authors and publishing people? What’s more, I touch down on my birthday. Best. present. ever.

What about your next book? Is it another international book? Or set closer to home?

Yes, it’s another international kind of book, with the same sort of chick lit vibe. It’s set between England and California, and follows the ups and downs of twin sisters after they discover the secret their mother kept. Think matchmaking, flash mobs, people power in a hyper-connected world, true love, and the trials and joys of sisterhood. (That’s something I feel qualified to write about, coming from a family of 4 girls and one boy!)

The one after that will probably be in set in New Zealand – but I can never resist an international cast of characters! And they’ll probably need a trip to Australia, now that I think about it… *eyes passport*

Where do you write? Do you prefer a room with a view?

I write at the dining room table, on the sofa, or on my bed, depending on what’s happening in the house! I’m addicted to the ‘My Writing Room’ feature on Novelicious.com, where writers share pictures of their office. I dream of having a little space of my own. Yes please to the view. There is quite a nice view from my bed!

Quick Fire Questions:

Home or away?

Away for adventure, home to snuggle.

Snow bunny or sun worshipper?

At the moment we’re in the middle of a drought, so I’m a bit over the sun. But I’m not a snow bunny either, unless you count tobogganing!

Right place or right time?

Don’t wait for either – just go ahead and do it!

Thanks so much for having me to visit with you today, and plying me with cake! What a treat.

Thank you, Serena – it’s been lovely chatting with you!

Find Serena here – she’d love to hear from you!




All Over the Place is available from all major e-book retailers, including:





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 Ian Wilfred

Lots of excitement at Romaniac HQ today, we’ve done our best cleaning and tidying and even baked a cake. (Thanks Celia) What’s the occasion we have a man on our sofa, Ian Wilfred, writer of women’s fiction.


Hi Ian come on in, we’re on our best behaviour – honest!

I hope not there’s nothing more that I like then a good gossip and thank you  for inviting me,  it’s very exciting being here I was expecting biscuits but I feel honoured as you have made a cake, is it one of Celia’s?

Oh definitely one of Celia’s – she has a bit of a reputation – for cake that is.

Now, we got to know each other on Twitter recently and your tweets are always upbeat and chatty but often early in the morning – how do you manage to be so cheerful at 6am?

Oh, I really want this to be a fun and upbeat interview, but the reason I’m on Twitter early and also the reason I wrote my book is a little sad. Four years ago I moved my dad from Devon to live with me and my partner Ron in the Midlands, over the four years his health has not been good.

He is now 87 and in bed 24/7 and can’t do anything for himself, so just over twelve months ago I had to give up my job to be his full time carer. I can be up in the night anything between two and twelve times with him, once I’m awake that’s it so by six in the morning when we talk on twitter I’m buzzing.  Don’t get me wrong family life is very good and I have wonderful support from friends, family and the NHS, and in the four years I have written two books.

I’m glad you’ve got plenty of support and it must be nice for your dad to be with you.

I was intrigued to find out you wrote women’s fiction, what brought you to this genre?

Well I wrote my book ‘Putting Right the Past’ and at the end that’s the genre it fell into. I really don’t know what other genre I could write in, perhaps one day I will give it a go. But somehow if there’s not a bit of glamour, love and gossip, I don’t think it will interest me.  

Can you tell us about your novel?

book_coverMy main character is Carole Harding she is in her 50s, her husband cheated on her and she got divorced, then she inherited 2 million pounds from her uncle.

Carole moved to a very nice apartment in Tenerife, no one knows about her inheritance, but it seems all her neighbours have problems and secretes. Carole finds herself helping to change their lives…

Nadean is the actress who hit the headlines and had to go into hiding, Victoria is a top model but why did her family turn against her? Hamilton spent his life traveling the world, earning so much money, but was so lonely; Riley gave up everything for love… Then there is Peter and Paul, who only seem to be happy when having a crisis and Jeremy … who has secretes not just from his wife Felicity, but also from the law.

As Carole gets involved with the lives of her neighbours, she blossoms into the woman she’d always longed to be…. When she meets Robson, can this be the biggest transformation of her life?

Do you feel any pressure writing as a man in a heavily populated woman genre?

No, not at all, I just love writing and feel very lucky to be in the position of having a book published. OK I would love my book more they anything to be liked by the readers, but at 52 (39 in my head) I have had enough knocks in my life to realise it’s not the end of the world if it’s not a success. 

Do you have a favourite author?

Now this is the bit you are going to think I’m a little bit strange, the thing is I have what I call my SUNDAY BEST books,  let me explain. You ladies are far too young to remember, (that’s very kind of you to say, but sadly not true! Sorry, carry on …)  but in the old days when I was young we had clothes that were only for Sundays and special occasions, never worn during the week, always saved for best.

Well I have some authors that I save their books for special occasions like a holiday, the list of authors gets younger every year, at the moment there are about twenty of them.

It started many years ago with four authors, Marion Keys, Joanne Harris, Andriana Trigiani and Carole Drinkwater. Lots have been added since; one author which was added last year is Emylia Hall and her wonderful book ‘The Book of Summers’, such a beautifully written book, tissues are required when reading it. I don’t know what it is with this book but it’s had a big effect on me, I recommend it to everyone and give it as a present to friends.

Sorry to go on ladies but I could go on and on about my SUNDAY BEST authors.

Don’t be sorry, we love a good old chat 🙂

Do you have a writing routine?

Oh, I really wish I did, shall I tell you my dream writing day?

It would start at 5.30am with coffee and twitter, lots of coffee. Then ay 7.30am I would go off and write like mad until 12.30 when I would have my lunch sat in front of Loose Woman (my guilty pleasure) in the afternoon I would read what I had written, make changes also spend the time on emails etc. Then at 5.30 I would stop and pour a large glass of red wine.

That is my dream day; i will say it has only ever happened a few times.

Can you tell us three favourite things you like about writing?

This is a hard one, but I do love the feeling when you know exactly what you want to write in a chapter and it’s like being in a race, trying to get it on the lap top so quick.

Also a couple of months ago I finished the first draft of my second book, the working title is London/New York and I got to the last chapter, I knew for months  how it would end , but then I changed the ending completely within an hour , that was a lovely feeling, and a big surprise to me.

Which means we do have to ask what three things you dislike

This is very easy, I hate it when all of a sudden you realise the 10 thousand or so words you have written don’t work.  Since writing Putting Right the Past I have started four books that have gone nowhere, perhaps one day I will revisit them and try to do something with the story. But the thing is if a writer can’t get excited about what there writing, how is a reader going to.

One of the other things I dislike is writing about a character that has to be in the story but they are just boring, it always seems to take for ever.

If you could read three chapters of your novel at any venue, what would your choices be and why?

No I could never read my novel out loud to anyone, believe it or not I can’t be in the same room as someone if they are reading anything I wrote. But I would love to be in some of the venues I read about in other peoples novels. Can you imagine going back in time and being in a Lesley Pearce or a Victoria Hislop, oh you have really got me thinking now. But sorry that’s not really answered your question has it.

And just so you are in keeping with recent guests, I have to ask …. What are your thoughts on a Onesie?

I don’t really have any thoughts on it, there not for me is it wrong to say I think they are for young people. I know in my head I’m only 39 and have been for the last fifteen years and always will be, but the thought of getting in and out of one does seem a lot of trouble.

Quick Fire

Fountain pen or biro——– biro

Lager, beer or wine——- red wine every time

Silence or music whilst writing——- silence

Early bird or night owl———-early bird

Valentine’s Day or birthday—–birthday

Car or motorbike —–car

Football or cricket—– neither not sporty but I do love Strictly Come Dancing

Okay then … Pasha Kovalev or Artem Chigvintev  (SCD dancers) —Pasha every time

Thanks so much for popping by Ian; it’s been great fun having you here. Best of Romaniac luck, with your book.

And thank you very much for having me; I have really enjoyed myself, I’m sorry if I have gone on a bit,  oh and by the way would it be ok if I take the rest of Celia’s cake with me. Also could I place an order for one every week x

Well, go on then – but don’t tell everyone I let you have the cake, they will say it’s favouritism. I’ll pass the request onto Celia, you never know your luck 🙂

Going Gaga for Nell Dixon’s new book!

I am very pleased to welcome on the blog today, the very lovely Nell Dixon. After spotting a post on Facebook from Nell, asking for reviewers to read her latest novel, Radio Gaga, I messaged her straight away. I loved the sound of the book from the blurb and was eager to read it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It is a fantastic read – funny, emotional, great storyline and vivid characters. You can read my full review on Amazon, here.

And here is the blurb that grabbed my attention:

Over the airwaves everyone can hear you scream!

Radio researcher and part-time presenter Chloe Lark is certain her big showbiz break is just around the corner. Live it Up radio may not be the big time, but surely – one day soon – fame will come her way. And, if she could convince the hunky guy next door to give her a chance, her love life might improve too.

Ex-soldier Ben isn’t sure if his new ‘Z’ list celebrity neighbour is crazy or on medication. Either way he’s looking for a quiet life out of the spotlight. The last thing he needs is an accident prone media hungry blonde complete with mystery stalker. Problem is – Chloe doesn’t seem to have received that particular memo…

Seeing as I enjoyed it so much, it would’ve been a crime to not have Nell on the blog telling us about the book, amongst other things. We were delighted when Nell accepted. Here’s what she had to say…

Welcome to Romaniac HQ, Nell, how are you today?

I’m good, thank you so much for inviting me!

You are more than welcome. Celia has been baking again so please help yourself to some cake and tell us a little about your latest novel, Radio Gaga.

Yum, cake! I’m supposed to be eating healthily but I’m sure one bite won’t hurt. Radio Gaga is Chloe’s story – she’s a radio researcher and part time presenter who longs to be good at something. The only thing she feels she is good at is being famous so that’s what she wants to be. Except, of course, life never quite works out as she planned it.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Did you have to abseil and handle snakes as research?

I skipped the abseiling as I am petrified of heights. I once got stuck on an army assault course rope bridge thing and had to be rescued by two soldiers. I have handled snakes though and I did consult zoo keepers about snakes and their habits.

Stuck on an assault course, oh no! At least there were hunky soldiers available to rescue you, though 🙂

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you begin your writing journey?

I’ve always been a writer. I joined my first writers’ group when I was twelve and finished my first book when I was seventeen. That one will never see the light of day! Which is a good thing. I had a break when my girls were little but came back to it again after a pretty serious health scare about ten years ago.

Sorry to hear that, Nell, but great that you started writing again. How many different genres do you write?

I write chick lit, contemporary romance and romantic suspense/mystery. I also have some children’s stories which may come out later this year under another name.

Sounds exciting! Is writing your full time occupation? What is your writing routine?

I work part time for a disability charity managing a therapeutic community agriculture project which takes up a lot of my time. Writing has to fit around my family and my day job. I usually write evenings and weekends and fit in promo and the business side of writing as and when I get the chance.

When did your love of architecture begin?

I adore buildings, they fascinate me and always have done. They tell a story of the people and lives that are lived there. Cathedral and church architecture is especially interesting but I also love well designed modern buildings which fit their surroundings, like Cardiff’s Millennium Centre.

What is your favourite time in history?

I love regency. I like the realism of the Georgians. They were planners and thinkers but were also realists. This is reflected in their buildings and the plans of their gardens.

We know this is a hard question, like asking a mother which is her favourite child, but do you have a favourite book? Or a top three?

Oh, that’s mean! (We know! Cue evil laugh mwahaha!) I may need more cake! I always think my most recent book is my best, so Radio Gaga I think is my best to date but I have special fondness for Marrying Max and Animal Instincts. I think my voice and humour shows most in those as, like Radio Gaga, I wrote them to please myself. 

Quick Fire Round:

·         E-Book or paperback? E-book – I love my kindle.

·         Tea or coffee? Coffee, tea makes me ill.

·         Facebook or Twitter? Facebook – Twitter is like going to a party where you don’t know anyone.

·         Up or down? Up – down is depressing.

·         Shoes or boots? Shoes – my calves don’t fit boots very well. (puts down cake) (I know that feeling, I’m an ankle boot girl for that exact reason *picks up the cake that Nell put down*)

·         Pen and paper or straight to computer? Computer – my handwriting is getting worse.

·         Left or right-handed? Right

·         Relaxing on the beach or forest excursion? Beach. Spiders can drop on you in a forest.

·         And lastly, what is your guilty pleasure? I adore Made in Chelsea, Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.


Thank you so much for coming in and talking to us today, Nell, it’s been an absolute pleasure!

Thank you for having me 🙂


Radio Gaga is out on Friday 1st March and you can get your copy, here. And check out Nell’s website, here.

Lucie x

Tuesday Chit Chat with Hazel Osmond


Welcome, Hazel, to the Romaniacs sofa. What can I get you? We have some heart-shaped chocolates from Valentine’s Day. Rose creme?

Oh, don’t mind if I do. Can I interest you in some liquorice in return? No, thought not. It’s an acquired taste and somewhere along the line I acquired it. Along with a love of aniseed balls which sounds faintly sniggery, but there we are.

I find aniseed balls a little hard, personally. They make my teeth rattle.

Recently, you went to a Paloma Faith gig. What is it you like about Paloma?

Sensational voice, great clothes, fab sense of humour, very down to earth, believes in connecting with her audience. But above all, she understands about putting on a show. I love people who really go for it – can’t stand it when performers give off that ‘I’m just here adding to my pension pot’ vibe. Paloma is ‘on’ from the moment she’s on.

Paloma has a fantastic stage presence, which leads us to acting. Do you like to be on stage, or backstage? Why?

I do take my turn helping backstage because there are always more people in our drama group who want to act than there are parts – so you have to let everyone have a go. But I always want to be on the stage. There are very few things that compare with that instant feedback you get when you’re acting. Oh, all right then, I’ll admit it, I’m a terrible show off and thrive on the love you get from a good audience.

How did your day at Denton Burn Library go? Please tell me about it.

Oh it was brilliant. Newcastle City Council is proposing massive cuts to arts funding which will mean a range of libraries being closed. Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera books, had the initial idea for writers and performers to hold events in the threatened libraries to raise awareness of what might happen. My friend Mari Hannah who also writes murder novels, got a group of us together in Denton Burn. We had singers and poets and writers and a good crowd of people in the audience. Kind of ironic that murder writers are taking the lead against the killing off of libraries.

How did you get into copywriting and please explain what that involves?

As a copywriter, you’re responsible for coming up with the written content of advertising – whether that’s words for an advert or a brochure or a script. In reality, you probably also play a part in coming up with the basic concept – it’s usual for a copywriter to be teamed with a designer so you kick ideas around together. And drink beer. After which all your ideas seem splendid.

How did I get into it? Well, I wanted to do it after university but lacked the confidence to sell myself to an agency. It was only after six years as a civil servant when I thought ‘stuff this, I’ve only got one life’ that I started applying to agencies and got lucky.

In what ways can this help and/or hinder short-story writing and novel writing?

It’s a good training ground. It really teaches you to be succinct because you have to get your main message across in a limited space. It also gives you an appreciation of the market you’re writing for. Where it doesn’t always help is that you’re hardwired to come up with something memorable, maybe even gimmicky. That’s not good when you’re trying to be true to the emotion of a story, particularly in a romance.

What drew you into the world of fanfic?

(Hazel puts her hands over her face and blushes). Lust. I saw Richard Armitage in North & South on the BBC and then as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood. I had a google of him (as you do) and stumbled on the C19 website. That’s where I discovered fan fiction. After reading some of it I was inspired to write my own story. It came out as a romance and it felt as if I’d found my writing voice.

Are you a prolific writer?

If I’m in the right mood, yes. I will have a book and several short stories on the go at once. On the other hand, if I’m not in the right mood, I spend an awful lot of time staring into space or scowling at the computer screen. It’s like that rhyme – ‘when she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was rotten.

Ah – the girl with a curl…

At what time of the day do you prefer to write?

When my children were little, the only uninterrupted time in which I could write was when they were asleep. So I wrote late in the evening and on into the night. Now I can write more or less when I like, but I still think I do my best work in a house filled with sleeping people!

Hazel Osmond Whos_Afraid_of_MMPsmallLet’s move on to your books. Who is afraid of Mr Wolfe, and why?

Oh, good question. Well, Ellie should be afraid of her new boss, Jack Wolfe, who is slowly laying waste to a swathe of the female population of London. But Ellie believes her level headedness and her humour make her immune to his charms.   Wrong. She falls for him and then finds out that there’s a very big secret about Jack that makes him even more likely to cause her heartache.

The book was my take on all the elements that made up the romances I loved to read when I was a teenager – Alpha male, scruffy girl who has to up her game, gay best friend, etc. but I wanted to shake them up and give them a twist. It was short listed for Romantic Comedy of the Year by the RNA in 2012 and I was heartily chuffed about that.

What was the inspiration behind The First Time I Saw Your Face?

Years ago I read about a journalist who had managed to work undercover at BuckinghamPalace for months without being discovered. He got away with it because he looked the part. It set me thinking about how much we judge by appearances. In the book, I play around with that idea – Mack is pretending to be someone he isn’t and gets accepted by people at face value, whereas Jennifer has to cope with being judged negatively purely because of the way she now looks. And Northumberland inspired me – so the book is also a great big, gorgeous love story to the county. I’m hoping to start a tourist boom.

Why do you like humour in your books?

A person who cannot laugh at their own failings and the joys and absurdities of life is my idea of hell. I think taking yourself too seriously is a major character flaw!!

Humour in your writing can sharpen all the other emotions – it’s that bitter-sweet thing. I also feel that if you use it properly, it can widen out the story so that it’s not just about this man and this woman, but about how life plays around with all of us. I always feel more sympathetic towards characters who are having a crappy time and can raise even the tiniest laugh as opposed to those who sob in a corner.

What’s next for you?

Book 3, ‘Playing Grace’, is out this summer – it’s set in London again, and shows what happens when a seemingly uptight and very controlled woman gets thrown together with an off-the-wall young American guy. I’m also writing Book 4 at the moment, which will be a return to a Northumberland setting. Working title is ‘The Mysterious Miss Mayhew’ but I’m rubbish at titles so it’ll be something different when it comes out.

Chocolates or Flowers? 

Can I have chocolate flowers? No, okay then … flowers. Love white ones particularly.

Theatre or cinema?

Theatre. Do like cinema, but sometimes it doesn’t seem as honest as theatre – too glossy, more about the stars than the story.

Nightclubs or concerts?

Laughing like a drain at the thought of me in a nightclub. Wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Concerts are my thing. I try to go to a lot more now the kids are older. I’ve even been to a couple with them which works as long as we split up on the way in and I don’t do any dancing.Hazel Osmond First Time

Valentine’s Day or Anniversary?

Anniversary. I had a Saturday job in a flower shop and am emotionally scarred by the memory of having to sell price-hiked red roses to lovesick men on Valentine’s Day. I like celebrating Anniversaries – it’s a bit like getting a long service medal.

Haha! Which leads nicely to the next question…

Slapstick or subtle comedy.

Oh dear. Hate slapstick. Would rather eat my own hair than sit through that. Mind you that would be quite funny in itself.

You can find out more about me and my writing – and read some of my short stories too – on hazelosmond.co.uk

Both books are available in paperback and ebook format, here and here

You can find Hazel on Amazon, here.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Hazel. Let us know if Northumberland gets busy xx

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Jan Jones

Hello Jan, lovely to have you here at Romaniac HQ, please do take a seat – it’s clean, I promise!


Thanks, that’s splendid. Oh, and a big pot of tea, how wonderful.

So, Jan, where are you writing-wise at the moment?

*takes deep breath* Currently… my third Woman’s Weekly serial (about ‘a house on a cliff in the mist’) starts in the 12th February issue, my third ‘Penny Plain Mysteries’ serial will be in People’s Friend in June. I’ve just had a stand-alone long mystery story accepted by People’s Friend, I’m writing a fourth serial for Woman’s Weekly at the moment and in my spare time (slight choking sound) I’m working on my fourth Regency romance. And there are always short stories along the way.


Writing across such a broad spectrum, do you favour one genre or story length over another?

I have a terribly low boredom threshold, so I like the variety thrown up by the change of genre – although even my mysteries have more than a touch of romance to them – and length. It keeps me on my toes and stops me getting stale. I also like the sheer challenge of writing serials, of crafting the essence of the story into a very few words. That said, I do love writing novels, because they give me the head space to develop my characters properly. It’s lovely being able to relax into the longer length and stretch my narrative muscles properly. Unfortunately, they don’t pay as much in the short term as the serials, so the novels are having to queue up on the back burner for the moment.


How do you research your historical novels and is there an era you would like to live in?

I’d have liked to live during the Regency because it was a time of change. The arts and sciences were flowering, society was expanding. The clothes were fabulous for those of us with a bust to make the most of and hips to conceal. As for research, I read books of that time, newspapers, letters and periodicals. I also visit the locations and bump into people because I’m walking around looking upwards at the buildings all the time. Imagination is all very well, but it doesn’t take the place of being there, shutting your eyes and breathing in history.


What brought you to writing in the first place and is there an end goal?

Oh, goodness. I’ve always been a storyteller. From before I could write, even. I always used to say that my ambition was for some unknown person to browse along a library shelf, notice my name on the spine of a book and think, “Oh, Jan Jones. I like her.” And borrow the book without even looking to see what it was about, because they trusted me to have written them a good story. I guess that’s still it, really.

Well, I have news for you, Jan. Some of us do that already! 🙂

With regards to the RNA and organising their events and the annual Conference, how did you become involved in this?

I’d been in the NWS for a while before I ran away to my first conference. I was thrilled to find myself in company with so many people who understood. Writers who were just like me. That was York 2000 – and I loved it so much that as soon as I was able to, I wanted to put something back. I believe if you are good at something, then you should use that gift. I’m good at organising and I couldn’t think of a more life-affirming thing than the conference to help with. I’ve made some of my best friends through the RNA, and will be forever grateful.

With such a lot to organise, do you find this takes a lot out of your writing time or are you one of those super organised people?

Ah. I am organised (on good days), but yes, it takes a fair amount of time. On the other hand, organising a conf is the best procrastination ever, and by the time I’ve done a full couple of days on the business side, I’m bursting to get back to writing.

Us Romaniacs are very grateful for your organisational skills. Getting us under one roof at the last conference was down to you. Thank you!

What is the most random item that has been left behind at one of the RNA events?

Oh my goodness, I’m just trying to think. Someone left a pair of gala dinner shoes behind once. Fancy that, abandoning a posh pair of shoes at an RNA Conference…

Do you have a favourite RNA ‘moment’? I’m sure there’s plenty, but one that you could share with us (we won’t tell anyone, honest!)

Well… promise you won’t tell?



Really and truly.

Okay then. Apart from watching in amazement as Liz Bailey got everyone to climb into bin bags during a drama session, and laughing until I cried at Jenny Haddon (with prompts from Annie Ashurst) reciting ‘Albert and the Lion’, my favourite conf memory is of giving an impromptu performance of ‘Hey, Big Spender’ with Katie Fforde in our Chichester conference kitchen after the bar refused to open for us on the Sunday night. We were jolly good too. I would send you the photo but one must protect the innocent. You understand. We will negotiate this off-line 😉

Thanks so much for dropping by Jan, it’s been lovely chatting to you. See you at conference this year!