LIfe Cycle of a Writer – Celia J Anderson – Cover Reveal!



Whoop! It’s pre-order time for Moondancing – the prequel to Little Boxes –  and it’s only 99c until publication day on January 12th.

Little Boxes by Celia J Anderson - 200

This is a very proud moment for me, at a time when writing has had to take a definite back seat due to the day job. I love our school and my brilliant work-mates in equal measures, but we’ve been having a very tough time lately, and it’s been getting harder and harder to find  time to be able to settle down to anything but depressing Ofsted follow-ups and policies and action plans.

Anyway, before you fall asleep in your tea, let me just say that Moondancing was the very first book I managed to finish. It began as a sample chapter; an assignment for a pre-teaching English Literacy course, and over the years…a lot of years…was one of those ongoing projects that were just for fun and nobody thought would ever be finished. But, eventually, THE END was written and Moondancing (then veering crazily between being called Something For Molly and Start Again) set off on its first journey – to a mystery reader for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme.

Frankly, the reader was underwhelmed. Moondancing was a hot potch of writing styles, multiple viewpoints and quoted song lyrics – it had travelled with me through being widowed, my children growing up and leaving the nest, a new career, marrying again, meeting my wonderful Romaniac friends and lots of other inspiring writers…it was a patchwork quilt of love, loss, black humour, wine and cake. In other words, it was awful. So I carried on and wrote some more books – but faster.


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Finally, after the publication of Sweet Proposal, Little Boxes and Living the Dream, I dug Moondancing out again and gave it a complete facelift. It was then edited by the fabulous Mandy James and sent off to my publishers, Tirgearr, where it had another spring-clean by the equally talented Christine McPherson.

Moondancing is a very different book now. It’s still full of unexpressed longing, frustration, love and grief, but it has a purpose, and it leads directly into Little Boxes. It’s a case of ‘What Molly Did First’ rather than ‘What Katy Did Next’. Here’s the blurb:

Together since their teens, Molly and Jake have four children, a house in a sleepy village, and jobs that bore them to distraction. Their marriage is an accident waiting to happen. When Nick arrives in Mayfield, young, disturbed and in desperate need of mother-love, Molly doesn’t realise that he will be the catalyst that blows everything apart. Add a headmaster whose wife doesn’t understand him, and Molly’s unpredictable, frustrated best friend to the mix, and the blue touch paper has been well and truly lit.

I hope you enjoy reading Moondancing as much as I enjoyed writing it, but also hope it doesn’t take as long…

Celia x



Something For The Weekend: Writing Events We’ve Attended.

Tomorrow is the award ceremony for the Exeter Story prize, and our Ce is on the shortlist with her story Naked in the Rain. In celebration of this, we’ve put together photos from some of our favourite writing events from the last few years.

Good luck, Celia :-) xx



Sophie Duffy, Cathie Hartigan & Margaret James, the creators of the Exeter Story Prize. This was the launch of the project nearly 3 years ago

Sophie Duffy, Cathie Hartigan & Margaret James, the creators of the Exeter Story Prize. This was the launch of the project 27th June 2013

2011; Laura and the lovely Carole Matthews. The inaugural Festival of Romance weekend.

2011: Laura and the lovely Carole Matthews. The inaugural Festival of Romance weekend.

The RNA Summer Party 2012, pre-party drinks. Missing Jan, though.

The RNA Summer Party 2012, pre-party drinks. Missing Jan, though.


Sheila O'Flanagan, Veronica Henry, Laura and Jill Mansell July 2014

Sheila O’Flanagan, Veronica Henry, Laura, and Jill Mansell July 2014

Hehe. Laura meets Jodi Picoult for the second time. June 2015

Hehe. Laura meets Jodi Picoult for the second time. June 2015

The RNA Conference 2015

The RNA Conference 2015

Friday morning

Festival of Romance, Watford 2011


Quiz Team, Festival of Romance, Watford, 2011


RNA Winter party 2011


Festival of Romance Bedford 2013


Lisa Jewell’s author talk & book signing event Hampstead 2010


RNA Summer Party 2013


New Romantics Press Author Event – Kensington November 2014

Arte Umbria Writing Week July 2013. Laura, Sue Moorcroft and Celia.

Arte Umbria Writing Week July 2013. Laura, Sue Moorcroft and Celia.


The Totleigh 13! Not everyone who goes on an Arvon course get to spend the week with Donovan but Debbie did!


Another inspirational Arvon course again for Debbie with tutors Kate Long and Simon Thirsk. This time it was at the former home of poet and children’s writer, Ted Hughes – Lumb Bank in Heptonstall.


Following Tamsyn Murray’s ‘Live, Breathe, Love Writing’ workshop in Cheshunt earlier this year, Debbie has since typed ‘THE END’ on the WIP she struggled with for four years!

Romaniac Sparkle Weekend December 2014

Romaniac Sparkle Weekend December 2014

Life Cycle of A Writer: Bananarama, Broken Bones and Back To School

I have an ear- worm, and the best way I know to rid oneself of an ear-worm is to share, so here it is: Bananarama’s Cruel Summer.

The six-week school holiday mostly passed by in a blur of grey skies, grizzly, drizzly and occasionally torrential rain, and dim light.

My children didn’t seem to mind. The damp days were an excellent reason to stay home and play computer games, draw, and read, and, bless them, they didn’t object to me spending some of that time in the edits cave with What Doesn’t Kill You.

Not upgrading until the edits are complete ...

Not upgrading until the edits are complete …

With the years whizzing by, I’m keen to spend as much down-time with my children as possible – their adulthood is lurking around the next corner – so I kept my daylight editing hours to the minimum. I saw 3:00 am a number of times, and worked right through until 5:30 am on the last night/day to ensure I returned my work on time. This is no reflection on my editor – she is lovely and actively encouraged me to spend time with my children over the holidays, but once I get stuck into edits, it’s better if I keep going, so I can keep a mental track of the changes. Last year I explained the process to my youngest in this way: Imagine you are calculating a sum with lots of different actions – brackets, additions, subtractions, equations – working out each sum as you go along, trying to hold all that information in your head so you can give a final answer – that is what editing is like for me, except with words, plot and structure.

Beach Shack

There were a few sunny days when we managed to nip out for a spot of fresh air and exercise. We live five minutes away from the beach, and although we’d hoped to make more use of it this year, it was not to be. Thankfully, I took lots of photos of our trips out – days that earned the hashtag #summerholidaysinoneday. (I now have another ear-worm going on – Crowded House – Four Seasons In One Day, which, by the way, we experienced in one morning.)

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I purposely did no other writing during the holidays as I find it difficult to swap from edits and characters in one novel to the characters and plot of the work-in-progress, so book 4, as yet untitled, remained untouched. I’m panicking a little, as I’m only 15,000 words in, and I have six months to complete and revise. So far, a year is the shortest time I’ve taken to write a novel …


The plan was to return to book 4 once the children were back at school, but those plans have been put on hold a little longer, as my daughter fractured a bone and tore a ligament in her knee in a Tae Kwondo accident, three days into the new term. We have come through the first week, so it’s onwards and upwards now.

Such is the life cycle of a writer …

Take care,

Laura x


Vanessa Savage – Inspired by…

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in a small Gloucestershire village – back then, there were only four channels on the telly and as a teenager there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. My nearest library was ten miles away, my nearest bookshop twenty.

I was never one of the hanging-round-on street-corner kids, I preferred to stay in and read. As a teenager, I remember endless rainy Saturday afternoons when there was nothing but horse racing and darts on TV and my mum and dad’s bookshelves became my escape. Lack of access to bookshops meant I had to make do with what I could find and expand my reading genres – once I’d worked my way through the teenage reads in the school library, I read anything and everything we had at home. On my mum’s shelf, there was Mills & Boon and Catherine Cookson, Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran. On my dad’s, it was Alistair MacLean, Stephen King and James Herbert. I read my dad’s non-fiction books about nature and war, I read cookbooks, I read the bible. I read every copy of 2000AD stashed in my brother’s room and I even read the Watchtower magazines the Jehovah’s Witnesses stuffed through the letterbox.


I learned a lot from all of them, but most of all I learned not to be a reading snob: I appreciated a good thriller or a sweet romance as much as any of the classics we read at school.

Some of those books still sit on my shelves – all my old Enid Blyton and Noel Streatfield books, the Narnia books, What Katy Did and Little Women. But also my dad’s Stephen Kings and Alistair MacLeans, my mum’s Catherine Cooksons and Jackie Collins.

Now I’m all grown up and writing my own stories – whether it’s short stories, flash fiction or novels, I’ve written thrillers and romance, comedy, fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I like to think the access my parents gave me to all those wonderful fictional worlds has helped shape me as a writer and I want to thank them for that – I only wish they were still alive to see where their love of books has taken their daughter.


At the moment, my eldest daughter is only interested in books with horses in them and my youngest books about fairies, but I’m hoping they’ll find their own inspiration in my bookshelves as they get older – shelves that offer romance and crime and horror and fantasy, a fictional look into the past and the future, classic books and future literary classics.

I hope that some rainy afternoon when there’s nothing on TV will open up a whole new world for them like it did for me.

Vanessa x

Part Two: In The Romaniac Sparkle Spotlight Is …

In our second programme of the day, we share our sparkling interviews with Creative Writing Matters, Cathie Hartigan, our very own agented, lovely Lucie Wheeler, and, bringing up the rear, and on the other side of the camera, Romaniac, Laura E James.

Details of websites can be found on the videos.

Part Three and Four tomorrow.

Gilli Allan: Life Is Not A Fairy Tale

Life is not a fairy tale…..

Gilli Allan Author Photo

Gilli Allan

When I was a child I was entranced by the idea of magic.  I believed in fairies (and Father Christmas) for far longer than is reasonable or rational.   I talked to the fairies in the garden and they answered me.  I admit I never actually saw one, but I suspected – because pansies have faces – that they lived in the pansies. So I talked to the pansies and they’d nod or shake their heads.  Proof.  And as I got older, even though I kind of knew it was all nonsense, I stubbornly clung to the faith, more because I wanted it to be true than really believing in it.

And, of course, my favourite reading was fairy stories.  I can still recall the smell and feel of those books.  I had a volume of Hans Anderson’s fairy stories – a Collins classic, with the dark green plasticised cover. And I had a volume of the collected stories of the Brothers Grimm.  This was a heavy, old hardback, with thick, deckle edged pages the colour of weak tea, and I suspect the famously ‘grim’ stories had been heavily expurgated, to make them more suitable for young minds. I don’t recall ever being frightened or disturbed, but I do recall being disappointed about the way many of these classic tales (Anderson’s and Grimm’s) concluded.

I was always making up stories, peopled typically with knights and ladies, princes and princesses, and fairies of course.  But I didn’t write anything down until I was nearing the end of primary school, and even then it was my big sister who gave me the idea. She was writing a Regency romance, and it suddenly struck me that writing it yourself was the perfect way to make a story turn out the way it should.  This is how I caught the writing bug.

Throughout my teenage years I wrote ‘books’.  I never finished anything.  But what interests me now, looking back, is why I was I writing the kind of story I was writing. I read Georgette Heyer, Daphne DuMaurier, even Jane Austen. Young Adult didn’t exist as a genre in those days and – other than adult fiction, which I moved onto fairly swiftly – historical romance was all that seemed to exist for teenage girls.  But unlike my sister, I wasn’t interested in writing in that style. I was far more strongly drawn to write darker tales, set in the present, of self-destructive bad boys, rescued and redeemed by the love of a girl who sees the good in him. I suppose I was influenced by pop music, films, TV and teen comics (although these were disapproved of in our house and I rarely read them).

In some ways, I think I still write in the same vein.  I am no longer romantically drawn to the haggard hero, at deaths door, either through his consumption of drugs or drink, or as a result of a horrific motorbike accident due to speeding. (This was never due to weakness or degeneracy, by the way. He would have been lured into these self-destructive behaviours to “forget” some tragedy in his life.)  But even though I’ve left these poor emaciated and emotionally damaged wraiths behind, I still prefer to write contemporary stories about people with faults and failings and emotional baggage. I write stories with an edge about real contemporary life.

I used to describe my books as gritty, but came to realise this conveys the wrong impression.  I’m not Martina Cole.  Despite my teenage tastes, I don’t write about ‘Crims’ and ‘Toms’ and seedy lowlife. I’ve never lived in that world and I don’t know it.  I don’t even watch East Enders.  But I don’t shy away from issues. I prefer to write as truthfully as I can about real people in a world I recognise, dealing with the stuff we all may have to deal with. A world where people don’t always make the right decisions – where actions have consequences – where we muddle along and sometimes, all we can hope for is the best. What I write is ‘romance for grownups’. This is not to say there are no happy endings.  There may not be a transformation scene, where the beautiful, but innocent and humble heroine is given the sparkly crinoline and marries her handsome, rich and perfect prince. But in my books there is hope, and a light at the end of the tunnel. There may not be a promise of happy ever after – who can guarantee that in real life – but, by the book’s conclusion, my heroine is always a good deal happier than she was!



Gilli Allan FOF CoverEleanor – known as Nell – thinks of herself as a wimp.  Even though her life has not been easy, she clings to the safety of the familiar. Married young and dependent on her teacher husband’s wage, Nell has stayed at home, in Battersea, with her children and her increasingly invalid mother.  Following the death of her mother the family’s fortunes suddenly change.  Trevor, is wildly enthusiastic about their ‘move up in the world’; he plans to give up teaching and move house away from London.  Nell, however, is gripped by a nebulous fear of some unknown disaster waiting to trip them all up, but her husband, steamrollers her objections.

Now in her early thirties, and living in an unfamiliar landscape away from old friends, Nell feels cast adrift.  She is increasingly aware that Trevor is no longer the man she married, and their young teenage twins, Jonathan and Juliet, are grumpy and difficult. The women she meets, Felicity and Katherine, seem shallow and promiscuous. The new house is unwelcoming and needs modernisation; she’s thrust into a continuing chaos of rubble and renovation.  Patrick, one of the men working for the building firm, is infamous as a local Lothario, but he doesn’t make a pass at her. At first she’s grateful – she’s not that kind of woman – but her feelings towards him grow increasingly confused and ambivalent.

When Nell takes a bar job at the local sports club, she is exposed to an overheated atmosphere of flirtation and gossip. Influenced by her new friends and the world in which she now moves, she begins to blossom and to take pleasure in the possibilities which seem to be opening up for her. She meets and forms a deeper friendship with the quirky, new-age Elizabeth, a very different character to her other friends.  As Nell begins to enjoy herself and to become enthusiastic about her life, it seems her husband is on a downward trajectory, on the opposite end of a cosmic seesaw.  When she is pursued by a beautiful and enigmatic young man, called Angel, she is tempted into behaviour she would never previously have imagined herself capable. The earthquake, felt as a tremor of apprehension at the start of the story, rumbles through her life and the lives of those around her.  When the dust settles nothing is as she previously understood it.

FLY OR FALL follows the dismantling of all of Nell’s certainties, her preconceptions and her moral code. Unwelcome truths about her friends, her husband, her teenage children and even herself are revealed.  Relationships are not what they seem. The hostility between brothers is exposed and finally explained. And the love that blossoms unexpectedly from the wreckage of her life is doomed, as she acknowledges the hair’s breadth between wishful thinking, self-deception and lies.

By the conclusion of FLY OR FALL everything has altered for Nell, the woman who doesn’t like change. But she has rebuilt herself as a different person, a braver person, and she has embarked with optimism on a totally transformed life, a life that offers the chance of love.


Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.

She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.

Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village.  Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher – Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal. The first was TORN, published in 2014, and LIFE CLASS is coming out later this year.



To connect to me:  (@gilliallan)


TORN: (universal or


Dear Auntie Romaniac… My Hero Needs Help!

Dear Auntie Romaniac,


I’d love some advice on how to make my hero irresistible. What traits make you as a writer and a reader fall in love with heroes and how do you translate that on the page?


Lucie: Hi Laura, this is a fab question. For me, both as a writer and a reader, I need my hero to be real. I don’t want him to be this perfect example of what men should be – because that isn’t real, it isn’t identifiable. He needs to have flaws. Not massive, oh my God I can’t believe you would do that flaws, but everyday flaws that us humans have. He needs to have a journey that will make him, in my eyes, be irresistible. There’s nothing more attractive than a man who works hard and makes the most of his life. Life is hard, obstacles are put in our way to test us, so show me that in a hero and show me that he will work hard to overcome these, and I will love him!  I don’t want a ‘perfect’ man – what is that, anyway? Yes, good looks, humour and the like are great qualities to have, but you must get the personality and rawness of his character there, too. As for translating it on the page, I would just say write it real. Don’t sugar coat things or skip over it, tell it how it is and indulge in him. We all love a bit of indulgence :-)

Jan: I like my hero to be caring, respectful, strong enough to take decisive action when needed yet not too proud to reveal his innermost concerns, even if only to me. Someone with a great sense of humour who can take a joke at his own expense too. Protective, loyal, well-mannered, hardworking, self-assured enough to stand by his beliefs. Someone who would ‘have my back’ in public even if in private he was miffed with me!  I suppose as far as translating these things onto the page goes, I would take each character trait and create a scenario  that showed both sides of it. With ‘caring’ for instance, I’d have him show that side of himself to the heroine or to sub-characters but, equally, show it in the way people speak of him to others; their love or regard for him as a person. Of course, as Lucie says above, a good-looking hero always ups the temperature, but it’s the inner qualities, I believe, that make him more credible and irresistible. Sigh …

Sue: Yes, to all of the above. I like my heroes to be real in the sense that they are not perfect. There needs to be something in his character that challenges the heroine, a side that will appeal to readers, so that the reader is rooting for him too, despite any flaws he may have. I think the trick is to remember that the hero has two love interests in the novel; that of the heroine and that of the reader.