Not NWS but NWF for ‘New Writing Friends’

If you who follow the Write Romantics will know that we are a diverse and international bunch (international because Helen R lives in Australia).  What you may not know is that when we formed the blog the only two of us who had met were Julie and I (and that was only briefly at a RNA lunch in York organised by Lin Treadgold).  However, in the past month I’ve been lucky enough to meet Jo for the first time and meet Julie again. 

Jo lives in Kent and in May I spent a few days in Broadstairs with my family.  Jo and I arranged to meet in a charmingly retro ice cream parlour in the town.  It was raining cats and dogs and I felt a little worried that Jo wouldn’t recognise this rather drowned looking me.  In the photo on the blog I look decidedly less soggy.  But it was fine.  As soon as Jo walked in, similarly drenched (although she was definitely handling it better) I felt like I was meeting an old friend.  We talked for two hours and the time just flew by. 

Two weeks ago I met Julie again and Sharon Booth, another NWS member and fellow blogger. This time it was Bridlington and the sun was almost shining.  Again we instantly found masses to talk about.  In two hours we covered book length, editing, point of view, agents, self-publishing blogging and (after a minor diversion to discuss who might be the new Doctor Who) how much tragedy you can have in a romantic comedy.

For me these meetings are very special.  Over the three years I’ve spent trying to write my book, I’ve had varying amounts of support.  Some members of my family treat my writing as a slightly disreputable hobby that simply isn’t talked about.  And, while my friends and others in my family have been very supportive, none of them write.  When I talk about writing they do tend to glaze over.  I don’t blame them.  It’s my passion but (as I’m sure we all know!) other people’s passions can be a massive bore.  

So for me, meeting Jo, Julie and Sharon has been a joy.  It’s great to talk to other people who understand the highs and lows of trying to be a writer. And afterwards I feel positive, inspired and more determined to succeed.

In two weeks’ time I’m going to the RNA conference. I’m very much looking forward to meeting some more of the Write Romantics, Lorraine, Rachael and (hopefully) Helen P and catching up with Jo again.  While I’m rather terrified at the thought of my two pitch meetings with publishers I’m excited to be meeting up with my new writing friends. 

I joined the NWS for the review of my book.  I didn’t expect to meet such a lot of lovely people through it.   That has been an unexpected bonus and a real pleasure. 

Alex xxx

Check out Sharon’s blog, The Moongazing Hare at

BRAND NEW SLOT!!!! The Wednesday Wondering – Girls Night Out

The Write Romantics have come up with a new regular slot. It’s called “The Wednesday Wondering” and we’ll post it every … you’ve guessed it … Wednesday!

The idea is that one of us (or one of our wonderful followers) poses a question and as many of us as possible answer it in the posting. The question should ideally have some connection to writing, books or romance but I’m sure we’ll squeeze a few random questions in there from time to time. 

We’d absolutely love any of our followers to post a comment with their answer to The Wednesday Wondering and/or pose us a question for future use. We also hope to come up with a graphic for this. I found a fab one online but I’m concerned about copyright issues so apologies for no picture! 

This week’s question was posed by Write Romantic Julie:

If you could go on a girl’s night out with the female lead from any book, who would it be and why?


And here’s our responses, alphabetically by name:


I’d like to go on a night out with Rachel from ‘You Had Me at Hello’ by Mhairi McFarlane (which I’ve recently reviewed on the Recommended Reads Page). Rachel is a good Northern girl from Sheffield. She’s smart and she’s very funny.  As she was engaged to a musician I think she must like music which is great because all of my best nights out have involved seeing a band.  I’m also pretty sure she can hold her drink which will be good as I’m a total lightweight so she can prop me up at the end of the night!



I would choose to go out with Bernadette ‘Benny’ Hogan from Maeve Binchy’s ‘Circle of Friends’. I loved the book and the writer and I think there was probably quite a lot of Maeve herself in the character of Benny.  Benny is someone I can empathise with, her struggles with body image, the loss of her father and having one of the people closest to you betray you, are all experiences I have shared.  Benny is also incredibly warm-hearted and loyal and would be just great to have as a friend, I am sure.  In fact she reminds me of a friend from my earliest school days, but I won’t name names here to protect the innocent!  I would also like to study Benny’s character, as I think Maeve was a fantastic writer.  If a night out with Benny would help me weave even the tiniest trace of Maeve’s magic into my own writing, it would be one of the most well spent evenings out I’ve ever had – much like the RNA conference evenings, I am hoping!



It may be a bit predictable but my answer would be Bridget Jones providing she left the cigarettes at home (sorry – pet peeve) because I like that she’s a bit squidgy round the edges (like me, although I’m a lot squidgy!), not exactly a stunner, a bit neurotic and a damned good laugh. Seems like the sort of woman I wouldn’t feel in awe of or put down by and who can relate to the many male and cooking disasters that have haunted me for years



Miss Marple, because of her razor sharp mind. And we would have a cream tea, and discuss the latest murder in her village. Then maybe I could help her solve it. This obviously would take us into the evening, due to all the suspects.


What would your answer be? Please let us know xx

Monday Interview – Donna Douglas

Donna Douglas is the author of the bestselling Nightingales novels, set in an East End hospital in the 1930s. The first, The Nightingale Girls, was published in August 2012, and The Nightingale Sisters was published in April 2013. She was born and brought up in London, and started her career writing photo love stories for teenage magazines! She now lives in York with her husband.

donna 1

We know that, like us, you were once a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you have been a member, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?

I first joined the RNA back in 1997, purely because of the New Writers Scheme. Before that I’d been floundering about, trying to write a novel for nearly 20 years (I’m a great starter, but not so keen on finishing anything!). I heard about the NWS and thought it would be good discipline to have that deadline of having to send in a full MS every year. Also, no one had ever really read my work before, so I had no idea if it was any good. I wanted an honest critique from someone who wasn’t afraid of hurting my feelings!

Please can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication and how ‘The Call’ came about?

I really had two publishing journeys, and I guess there’s a lesson in that. After joining the NWS, I was fortunate enough to get a second reading in the first year. That reader sent my novel to Orion, who bought it in a two book deal. I won what’s now called the Joan Hessayon Award for my first novel, Waiting In The Wings, under my real name, Donna Hay.

But the story didn’t end there. As any writer will tell you, staying published can be as tricky as getting published in the first place. After eight contemporary novels, I was a bit disenchanted and stopped writing for a couple of years. I just didn’t have it in me to write another romantic comedy. But I found I really missed telling stories. Shortly afterwards, I signed up with a new agent who suggested I should try a different genre. That made sense, because I’d always loved reading historical novels. I started researching the lives of nurses in the 1930s, and unearthed the most incredible fund of fascinating stories. I’d only been researching for a few days before I had my three main characters in my head, crying out for me to tell their story. And so The Nightingale Girls were born!


What’s next for you, Donna?

Well, I’ve just finished writing the third book in the Nightingales series. It’s called The Nightingale Nurses and it comes out in November. It’s a real emotional rollercoaster of a book, with lots of happiness and heartbreak. My daughter read it, and ended up crying on the bus! After that, there are two more Nightingales books, both due out next year.


Have you got any advice for others who might be hoping to emulate your success in securing a publisher and/or an agent?

Don’t give up. Being published is about talent, but it’s also about persistence and a lot of luck, too. I can’t believe how often something good has come about because I’ve been in the right place at the right time. But to be in the right place you need to put yourself out there. That’s where the RNA can really help. And don’t take rejection personally, either. It’s that one piece of work they’re saying no to, not you as a person or as a writer. The next piece might be just what they’re looking for. If someone offers you criticism, take it on board and learn from it.

What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your long-term career?

I would love to write more Nightingales novels, because I love the characters and I couldn’t imagine not having them in my life. Even if I didn’t have a contract, I’d probably go on writing Nightingales stories for fun! I also have a secret ambition to write a crime novel. I think it would be interesting to try, anyway.

What was the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?

If I had to pick one, it would be the inside track it gives you on the publishing business. I learned lots from just talking to published writers and picking up their words of wisdom. That pool of expertise is immense!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?

Let me see…I would say never stop learning. No matter how good you think you are, you can always become a better writer. I still read how-to books and go to workshops and do everything I can to improve my skills. And revise, revise, revise. I write at least three drafts of every book, and often more. You can always make it better!

You can find out more about Donna and her writing on her website –
You can also follow her on Twitter – @donnahay1
Her books are available in supermarkets and bookshops, or from Amazon –

Ticking the boxes: a venture into self-publishing

Self-publishing wasn’t for me – or so I thought until there I was with what I arrogantly considered a passable novel on my hands that was obviously going nowhere.

‘Flying Leap’ had been through the NWS twice, once as a partial, and got good reports both times.  I couldn’t stop grinning as I read the final one.  This is it, I thought, I’m on the way.  Then came the rub: ‘…do remember the competition is fierce and having talent is sadly not enough to ensure success; a big dose of luck plays a huge part in such a competitive field,’ my reader warned.  Undeterred, I submitted, and submitted, and submitted, until after forty or so attempts I decided enough was enough, as, no doubt, did the lucky agents on the receiving end.

So now what?  I made a mental list of my writing ambitions:

  1. Write – and finish – a whole novel.  Box ticked.
  2. Give pleasure to others with my writing.  Unticked – the RNA reader doesn’t count as she may be lying to be kind.
  3. Make some money from my writing.  Unticked – the book tokens I won in a comp don’t count either.
  4. See someone reading my book on a bus or train.  (Is it just me?!) Unticked.

It took only a small leap from there to have me scouring the websites for a suitable cover for my soon-to-be published ebook.  After several days at this (yes, days!)  I chose a colourful, eye-catching image of a falling leaf but along with the image I had also bought myself a problem: a falling leaf didn’t really fit with my title, ‘Flying Leap’, so – and I don’t necessarily recommend what I did next – I took a long look at my novel, made a few minor tweaks and gave it a new title, ‘Falling to Earth’.  As I say, it probably isn’t the best plan to let the cover play such a leading role but it worked for me.  After all, this was an experiment so it didn’t matter that much.

Pinning down the genre caused a bit of angst because I genuinely didn’t know what I had written.   I examined all the evidence and realised, with some surprise, that it was a rom-com and duly wrote the blurb to go with it.  So now I had the whole package ready to go. I won’t go into detail here but suffice to say that Amazon’s instructions on how to publish your book through Kindle Direct are really clear and frighteningly quickly my book was out there for the world to take pot shots at.  One thing I would say, though.  Send your book to your Kindle and read it there before you publish because that’s the only way to test how it will look and there will be typos and funny spacing, no matter how many times you’ve checked it.

Tentatively I gave the good news to rellies, friends and everyone I vaguely knew but disappointingly few of them owned a Kindle.  I joined Twitter and begged a couple of well-known tweeters to retweet me, which they kindly did.  I’ve never joined Facebook because of the time factor and I don’t like the whole ethos of it anyway, but to be honest I don’t believe social media makes a jot of difference to book sales.  I could be wrong, of course…

Anyway, to cut to the chase, Amazon did a sterling job in promoting my book all by itself.  In the first two months I sold only 20.  Then I put it up for free for five days (a Kindle Direct facility) which might sound counter-productive but wasn’t because I gathered an astonishing 11,600 free downloads.  The effect of this was to send my book soaring close to the top in the ‘free Kindle’ chart and because it hung about in the chart for a while after the free promo ended (don’t ask me how, it just does) its ‘visibility’ was increased and the following month I raked in 1,500 actual sales, which again led to the book hitting the Amazon charts, this time in the ‘paid’ list.  At one dizzy point I was only five places behind Fifty Shades!  Sales continued at this rate for quite a few months and I can’t tell you how exciting it was to log on each day and check the figures.  I’m not telling you all this to blow my own trumpet, mind.  I just want to say how it worked for me, and it could work for you too.

I returned to my checklist and merrily ticked all four boxes.  I’d made a tidy sum from the sales, not a fortune but far more than I’d dared hope, and people had enjoyed my writing, at least according to the better reviews.  (Let’s ignore the others, shall we?  Some of them are quite funny though).  As for the bus and train thing, one reviewer said she read my book on the bus on her way to work and although obviously I didn’t see her (wouldn’t have anyway, since it was on a Kindle), she said it and that was enough for me.

A year on and ‘Falling to Earth’ has, well, fallen to earth, not with an almighty thump but more of a gentle drifting.  Cutting the price from £1.49 to 77p caused a little spike in sales – people do love a bargain – but it’s tailing off again now and that’s fine because it’s what you’d expect.

And what about the book itself?  Well, no, I wouldn’t write it again, not like that.  I’m still proud of it but it’s not my best work and if ever I succeed in getting something published ‘properly’ I would probably take it down.  But it’s been great fun, I’ve ticked those boxes, and yes, if I come to the end of the road with my latest and find no traditional publisher for it, I will do it again because there’s nothing to lose, is there?




All writers know the importance of accurate research

All writers know the importance of accurate research and it is even more vital if you are, for example, setting your novel on a Pirate ship or hanging in space heading for Planet Zob. Rarely can you find out such information from your fellow writers or friends (you really hang out with the cool gang, if you can.)

Luckily the Internet has arrived in time for us budding writers to save wasting our lives poring over documents like they did in The Olden Days or waiting for a book ordered from the library to arrive, by which time we’ve probably forgotten why we wanted it.

The Internet is a magical tool that has transformed the way we research at the flick of a wrist. Who knew that Eng Bunker, one of the first surviving Siamese twins, died from shock at seeing his co-joined twin dead beside him?  I didn’t, but I do now. Can I do anything with this information? Hmm, possibly store it for future reference, but probably not. Still, I enjoyed reading the article.

What about the household phrase ‘Jumbo sized’ derived from a circus elephant named ‘Jumbo.’ Incidentally Jumbo the Elephant was killed by a train, his torso was stuffed and he continued with the circus tour in absentia as it were? Don’t really know where I could go with that one, but I do know that another fifteen minutes of my writing time has passed me by, when all I really wanted to know was what the inside of a fairground caravan looked like.

I suppose research was ever thus, but the trouble with the Internet is

it’s sooo distracting. And I’m not talking about that summer dress you’re bidding on (don’t bother, it won’t fit you and you’ll end up putting it back on eBay) or the pinging of another email arriving that you just can’t resist peeking at, even though it’s likely to be an offer from a Nigerian Gent to part with all of your money in return for -well, nothing!

The world we live in is so interesting, and now it’s all on Google. You could spend he rest of your life just ‘Wikipedia-ing’ things, but it won’t get your book written.

So, turn off the Internet as you sit down to write and make a note of information you need to look up later. You can then do it on your mobile device, (of course you have one, you’re a writer) while stirring the gravy for dinner as you watch the tenth re-run of Come Dine with Me – the sort of multi-tasking anyone can do.

But always double-check your research, as the truth I out there, but the bit you read might not be it.  (What, you really believed all that stuff about Jumbo the Elephant?)

PS: Google also says there is no proof that little green men exist, so ‘Hah’ to that. I’ve been to planet Zob and seen ‘em with my own eyes. Truth, honest!


Monday Interview – Zanna Mackenzie

Zanna Mackenzie lives in the UK with her husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!

Formerly a travel agent and therapist (she has qualifications in clinical aromatherapy, crystal healing, naturopathic nutrition and herbalism) she loves walking the dogs and gardening – that’s when she’s not writing or reading!


Zanna has written two novels, The Love Programme (Astraea Press) and How Do You Spell Love? (Crooked Cat Publishing) and both were published in early 2013.

  • We know that, like us, you were once a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you have been a member, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?

When I wrote my first novel I found out about a government-supported regional writing and arts network who offered free manuscript appraisals from local published authors to people who lived in East Midlands and I sent my work to them. The feedback was hugely useful and the person who reviewed my work suggested I should join the NWS and submit my novel through the scheme. Places in the NWS are limited and each year you have to renew in January, fortunately this was in December so the timing was just right for me to get my application form in! I was in the NWS for three years and 2 of the 3 books I put through the NWS for appraisal have since gone on to publication. I write romance/chicklit. What inspired me to write? Well, I’ve always wanted to. As a child I made up stories and created my own books from folded paper stapled together. At school I wanted to be a journalist but ended up working in the travel industry. I started writing articles – travel, health and lifestyle stuff – and got them accepted in various publications. Then I felt like trying my hand at fiction and got a short story published in a national magazine and so I began to plot out my first novel and the writing grew from there.

  • Please can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication and how ‘The Call’ came about?

I’ve been writing for years, fiction and non-fiction, and had actually given up as I was disillusioned and thought I was wasting my time. Last year my husband encouraged me to try again and send some completed manuscripts out to publishers for consideration – something I’d never done before. I edited the two books, made them as good as I felt I could and sent them off, expecting nothing. Within six weeks both books had been accepted by publishers – I was stunned, amazed – and I sobbed with happiness! The Love Programme was published by Astraea Press in February 2013 (it was a much edited version of the second novel I put through the NWS) and How Do You Spell Love? was published by Crooked Cat in March 2013 ( a much edited version of the third novel I put through the NWS)


  • What’s next for you, Zanna?

I’m planning on doing major edits and a revamp on my first novel in the hope of getting it published. I’m editing my fourth novel and will be sending that for consideration to a publisher soon. I have 40,000 words of my fifth novel written so once I’ve edited book 4 and book 1I’ll go back to finishing writing book 5. I also have plot outlines in place for books 6 and 7. A novella prequel to The Love Programme will be putting in an appearance soon too.

  • Have you got any advice for others who might be hoping to emulate your success in securing a publisher or perhaps an agent?

Don’t give up! If writing is really what you want to do, feel compelled to do, then persevere. Join writing groups on line and in person, make time to write, take it seriously and just keep believing in yourself and your books.

TheLoveProgramme 200 x 300 (2)

  • What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your long-term career?

I want to just write, write and then write some more! I love the whole writing process, from letting your imagination run riot creating characters and plots, to editing and eventually seeing the book finished. I feel tremendously privileged to have had 2 books published and to be given this opportunity to try to carve out a long term career as an author.

  • What was the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?

The feedback from published authors in the same genre – it was invaluable.

  • Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?

As soon as my books were published and I became eligible I joined the Romantic Novelists Association (who run the NWS) as a full member – they’re a wonderfully supportive organisation.

Thank you Zanna, for taking part in our Monday interview and we wish you all the best for continued success.

Follow Links:

Find out more about Zanna at:

Twitter: @ZannaMacKenzie

Facebook: mackenzie

Goodreads –

Amazon Author Page –

I Can’t Get You Out of My Head!

La, la, la, la, la, la, la la, …. No, not the Kylie song. What I’m talking about is character invasion.

Many years ago, I started subscribing to Writing Magazine. I lapped it all up but what particularly interested me were the interviews with writers, particularly when they revealed the inspiration behind their plot and/or their characters. One thing I just couldn’t get my head around, though, was when writers described their characters talking to them, taking the plot in a direction they’d never planned and/or new or minor characters suddenly bigging up their parts. “Crazy people,” I’d mutter under my breath.

Then something strange happened … I became one of those “crazy people”.

If you’ve read my story on this blog, you’ll know I’ve been working on my novel for about a decade and, whilst the premise and the protagonist have always remained the same, the story has gone through many incarnations. In one of these incarnations, I had a character called Simon. The idea was that my protagonist, Sarah, would get together with Simon but he’d turn out to be still smitten with his ex. The reader would discover that he’d been attracted to Sarah because she looked like his ex. Simon was meant to be quite a nice bloke; just on the rebound and it would all work out fine because he wasn’t the one for Sarah anyway. Only Simon didn’t like his “nice bloke” image. He wanted to be mean. Really mean. The story took an unexpected turn with poor Sarah discovering his obsession with his ex by staying at his house one night and entering the spare bedroom instead of the bathroom only to find a wall plastered with photos of the ex (imagine a stalker’s wall in a thriller or crime drama). Other possessions of the ex – perfume, toothbrush, nightshirt, teddy – were all carefully arranged like a shrine. After fleeing the house, Simon bombarded her with phone messages and texts before turning up at her place of work with a knife and sinister intentions.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Where on earth did that personality and plot line come from?! Yes, with a rub of his hands and an evil glint in his eye, Simon had completely taken over. It was as though he had a life of his own and wanted a completely different persona and direction to what I had planned. For that, I had to punish him. He got written out of the story. A stalker with a knife wasn’t quite the angle I was going for in a lighthearted romantic comedy!

I have to confess that Simon didn’t actually “talk” to me. Not sure I’m quite into “hearing voices” territory … yet! But I did now understand what those writers meant about their characters taking over because it had just happened to me.

I once read a writer interview that fascinated me but I’m afraid I can’t remember who it was on (sorry – I know that’s useless). All I can say is it was a he and he writes thrillers. He described a novel he was once writing which involved a jaded detective driving up to a house in the middle of nowhere. It seemed deserted. He parked his car. As he got out, he noticed there was a little girl sat on a nearby wall who asked him a question. He hadn’t planned for there to be a little girl but there she was. And suddenly he realised she was far more interesting than the jaded detective. So he scrapped the book. All was not lost, though; the girl became a key character in his next novel. This really struck a chord with me.

Characters are what make a book. You need to care about the protagonist(s) to want to follow them on their journey and keep page after page turning. If your secondary characters or even very minor ones are more interesting than your main ones, perhaps theirs are the stories to tell instead, especially if you simply can’t get them out of your head. Maybe it’s time to get them onto paper instead. Simon, I haven’t forgotten you. Your day in print will come. Just not in Sarah’s story. Or the other two in the trilogy. But don’t give up hope, you crazy person you!

Oh no! I started this post by saying that characters talking to a writer may seem a little crazy and have ended it talking to my characters. Is that a white van that’s pulled up outside with men in white coats getting out?

Have your characters ever talked to you? Has a new character suddenly appeared out of nowhere and taken over? I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading

Julie xx

We’ve been nominated for a Leibster blog award!

My thanks to Henriette Gyland for awarding us a Liebster (German for ‘Favourite’) Blog Award.


The rules of the Liebster Award are:

Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you. Done (see above)

Answer the 11 questions from the nominator Done (see below)

List 11 random facts about yourself Done

Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs (or less) who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. Done

Pass on the 11 questions to your nominees (or create new ones) Done (see below)

Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog Done

SO…. our answers to Henriette’s questions are:

1 What’s your favourite novel and what do you love about it?

Write Romantics Alex –
My favourite novel is Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers. I’m a big fan of golden age detective fiction and this is about as good as it gets. But that’s not the reason I love it. I love it because of the romance between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane which finally (this is the third of the books that they’re both in) gets ends in a happily ever after.

2 Do you have any pet peeves in fiction?

Write Romantics Deirdre –
My pet peeve is any book in which it says “She drank the hot tea gratefully” (and believe me there are many!)

3 What are you most proud of?

We are most proud of the books we have managed to write ‘the end’ on, even if they never get to see the light of day, and of our children and families of course!

4 Your favourite and least favourite people in history? (As few or as many as you like!)

Well we all love Enid Blyton, as she got most of us into reading and then writing. Write Romantic Rachael loves Elizabeth I, for being such a strong female ruler.
There are of course lots of terrible historical figures and, unsurprisingly, Hitler springs to mind. Although, being avid readers and writers, of course we are not keen on anyone who has encouraged the mass burning of books over the years!

5 The country, city or other place you’d most like to visit?

Write Romantic’s Jackie –
Lapland, I always wanted to see Santa, but fear I might be too old now.

6 Which five people would you like to meet (dead, alive, or fictional)?

Write Romantics, Jo –
Cheating a bit I know, but my Dad, as it has been twelve years since he died and I’d love to speak to him again.
Princess Di, to find out if there’s any truth in the conspiracy theories
William Shakespeare, to unravel another mystery about whether he really wrote all those plays or if some were actually (shock, horror) written not just by someone else, but a woman no less.
Marilyn Monroe – starting to think I’ve got a thing about conspiracy theories…
Enid Blyton, so I could host afternoon tea for the rest of the Write Romantics, most of whom number her biggest fans and I’m sure we’d have a blast with lashings and lashings of ginger beer!

7 What makes you laugh the most?

Write Romantic Julie – Probably a combination of silly jokes (e.g. What do you call an aardvark that runs away from a fight? A vark) and toilet humour. Yes, I know, I’m such a child!

8 If you could know the future, what would you wish for?

Write Romantic Lorraine – I would change war into peace. I have friends who were in Rwanda during the war. It was horrific.

9 If you won the lottery and could donate money to charity, which charity would you choose – and why?

Write Romantics Lynne –
I’d love to give loads to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings because I love old buildings and they get a hard time as new built houses are exempt from VAT but old buildings being renovated are not. They are so beautiful and I love the feeling of age and use over the centuries. People also don’t understand them always, like the builder who said to plaster over my beautiful old uneven lime plastered wall with modern gypsum plaster to make it straight. It’s like comparing a handmade chocolate with a mass produced one, it just ain’t the same thing!

10 Do you suffer from any little phobias or superstitions?

Write Romantics Rachael –
If I see one magpie I always look for a second and I don’t walk under ladders, which is probably a sensible thing!

11 What’s your favourite guilty pleasure?

Spending far too much time on the internet and doing other things to excuse the writing procrastination and far too much time fantasising about being best selling novelists – but it is bliss to dream and helps get us through the hard times!

Eleven Random Facts about The Write Romantics

Alex is allergic to chocolate.
Deirdre’s days of the week each have a colour because she has synaesthesia.
Jackie once sat on Tom Cruise’s bed (on a private aircraft) Sadly he was no longer in it- but it was still warm!
Julie used to own a teddy bear shop called Bear’s Pad
Jo can touch her nose with her tongue and get her right foot behind her head, both at the same time if she really tries!
Most of us have never met each other in real life.
Lorraine once had a tortoise called Nobby. His name was supposed to be Noddy, but Lorraine couldn’t pronounce her Ds…
Rachael milks cows!
Helen P’s debut novel has just been renamed by her publishers, Carina Press, and been given the wonderfully evocative title of the Ghost House
Helen R lives on the other side of the world from the rest of the Write Romantics, in Australia
Lynne used to be a social worker.

Eleven questions for the Bloggers we have chosen to pass the Liebster Award to:

1. If you could be an animal for a day, what animal would you be and why?
2. If you could invent something, what would it be?
3. What advice would you give to novice bloggers?
4. What motivates you to write your blog?
5. What book would you take to a desert island?
6. Which fictional character would you most like to be?
7. If you could have a super hero power, what would it be and why?
8. How would you define your life in ten words?
9. What makes you cry?
10. Who or what is your biggest influence/inspiration?
11. What would you put into a time capsule for future generations?

And our chosen blogs to pass the award on to are:

Monday Interview – Lin Treadgold

Lin Treadgold is the author of ‘Goodbye Henrietta Street’ set in Whitby in Yorkshire and on the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall. Lin has a husband and two grown-up children and has lived in The Netherlands since 2002, having previously travelled the world by sea with the Merchant Navy. Lin is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Lin 2

We know that, like us, you were formerly a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you were a member for, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?

I was inspired to write through early retirement. When I began writing ‘Goodbye Henrietta Street’ the work had a different title and I’d never heard of the RNA or the New Writers’ Scheme. I was a complete newbie to writing although I’d studied a creative writing course in the 1980’s and allowed it to drift for ten years. I began writing again in 2004 and couldn’t stop! Three months, every day, for about four hours a day, I was unable to put it down; something was driving me on or driving me crazy! I wasn’t sure which. I suppose it was all the stress of leaving England to live in Holland and finding a new direction. I gave up my profession as a driver trainer and company proprietor to be with my husband for his job. The Dutch laws wouldn’t allow me to carry on teaching; I would have had to spend a lot of money taking my exams all over again in Holland, which to me, for many reasons, didn’t make sense.

I didn’t set out for my book to be a romance novel, it kind of happened that way, in fact, I didn’t know my genre at that time—I wrote it straight from my head to the computer. I think my training as a driving instructor gave me the skills to write in a logical sequence. Then someone suggested I should join the RNA. I checked the web site and thought it sounded like a good idea. I had a reasonable level of romantic element in the story, some adventure, tragedy, conflict, desire, and resolve, all key elements if you want to engage your readers. It seemed the RNA was able to help me push my dreams to a higher level and allow me to have a rod to measure my abilities as a writer. So I joined, received lots of help from the NWS, and five years later I have a published novel due out on 1st July. An incredible journey I suppose. A success for the RNA as well as for me.

Please can you tell us a bit about your journey so far, including how ‘The Call’ for Goodbye Henrietta Street with Safkhet publishing came about?

Reality is good. If you can be as realistic as possible in your writing then go for it. My recent reviewers tell me they love the realistic dialogue and well researched scenes in Goodbye, Henrietta Street.

I find new writers tend to concentrate on ‘the rules of writing’. My own golden rule in contemporary romance is to keep it natural, tell it how it is. Don’t use words that don’t really fit into the story or try being flowery in your prose only because that’s how novels are supposed to be written. Your own unique voice should be in there. It all helps if you can be a silent character in the book as you write it; stand on the street, watch the cars, see the main character about to step into danger and go— save her! Write the words as it happens. Don’t be pretentious in your writing; enjoy the moment. I think this is the essence of being you and allowing your voice to shine through. You can hide yourself within the storylines, watch and observe your characters’ movements, tell the story, and show the thoughts and feelings, be natural. It’s amazingly satisfying. One last word of advice – place a DO NOT DISTURB notice on the office door! The family will get used to it in time. It allows you to be in that special frame of mind. Get the hankies ready and feel the anger and pain of your characters. If you can taste the salt spray on your lips as you ride the waves on the boat that sails into the sunset, then you hope the readers will feel the same way.

When I completed the book, about six years later, I began to submit my work. The agents were often slow to respond and the publishers as well; it was very frustrating and at this point I felt quite alone. I used the W & A Yearbook to seek out publishers, and the internet to find those who were accepting the latest submissions. I read their guidelines very carefully, providing them with exactly what they asked for. I think, in total, I wrote about twenty five e-mails over about six months and to my surprise in the last month, I was accepted by three publishers, two of which I turned down, not suitable for my needs. Safkhet Publishing wanted to see more. I asked the questions; each answer ticked all the right boxes. The contract seemed normal and uncomplicated and I wanted a paperback version as well as digital; they said they could that for me.

Lin Ts book 2

The first rung of the ladder of author success is an important one, but it’s vital that you ask questions. Don’t be afraid to turn down a contract if it doesn’t seem to fit your expectations or you find yourself sucking in your breath with the complicated legal jargon when you read it! Get some help and advice before signing. Be brave.The next part of your journey perhaps involves more ‘out of your comfort zone’ tasks and what you don’t need is a publisher who will put all the work on to you because you signed a contract and didn’t realise what you were getting into. Don’t be afraid to ask all the right questions first! Safkhet do a lot for me and although I arrange my own book signings (which makes sense) they promote behind the scenes, blog tours, advertising, promotional materials etc and daily support as well as the editorial service and proofreading. The whole thing for me is about teamwork. With Safkhet I get all of those things. There will be bumps and scrapes on the way, because it’s all new, but expect it, and now I am at the stage where my book will be out soon and the really satisfying work begins.

What’s next for you, Lin, both with the forthcoming launch of your first novel and future project?

My book launch is on The Isles of Scilly in July with a live party at the local pub on St Mary’s. Bone Idol are singing sea shanties and the event is in collaboration with the local Wildlife Trust. Here is the link to my book tour. I spent years dreaming of this day! Time and time again I’ve proven that you can be anything you want to be if you, wish it, dream it, and then do it!

Goodbye, Henrietta Street is a poignant romance set in 1986 with a wildlife theme. I had to do a lot of careful research to ensure that I didn’t offend any local people. There are only two thousand inhabitants on the islands, I felt it was safer to go back in time rather than present my readers with a cliché novel in the present era. So far I have been met with much enthusiasm because the book will make a small contribution toward the islands’ economy. I hope people will want to go there through reading the romantic story of Sven and Pippa and make people more aware of how fragile life can be in such a small community.

My next project is written in the era of 1976. It was inspired by a true story. When Jessica Stamp leaves home for a new job in the south of England, she finds herself residing on a commune where the people are living a lie and the area is hardly the place to find romance. Does the owner of the house really practice witchcraft? Will Jess manage to find love? What is Jonni the herdsman’s secret? I have a working title of The Wiccan of Dalewood, but all that could change by the time the book is complete. I have at least another six months of writing to do; it’s going well so far and most days I manage to complete more edits and improve the story line. I’m a ‘write it now and fix it later’ kind of person.

What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your long-term career?

As long as my health holds up I will keep writing books. I hope, like my favourite author, Annie Murray, that I will keep writing as long as I enjoy doing so. I was inspired by Mary Wesley’s The Chamomile Lawn. She began writing in her early seventies and had seven books published before she died. One of them was made into a TV series. I’m starting ten years earlier than she did, so there’s time for many more books. I have two more in progress at the moment. If you can be one jump ahead it helps.

What has been the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?

It’s all about meeting like-minded people, networking, workshops, and going to conferences. The RNA has huge respect from most publishers and agents. I feel that being a member is like wearing your coat and scarf on a freezing cold day, you can’t do without them. They are a cosy organisation and most members are like family. I love the way they provide you with the support needed to understand the business of being an author. What I liked most with the NWS, are the professionally written reports, honest and very clear. Most of my reports over a four-year period were very helpful and positive; I couldn’t have got this far without them. Not all will be favourable, of course, and the last one I had, I didn’t feel that my reader was all that keen on the book. You can’t please everyone. As a new writer you have to realise that not every book will be provided with a wine and roses report. Be prepared to make changes and it doesn’t mean to say your book is to be thrown away. Carry on; in most cases it’s all subjective viewpoint, but take note and fix what you feel could be improved. I did that, listened, re-edited and after a while I realised they were right. I learned a lot from the authors who had a vast wealth of experience.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?

Other than the usual ‘keep writing and don’t give up’ my personal advice would be that once you are ready to submit your work, you should learn as much as you can about the role of publishers and agents. Once you get a ‘’YES’ reply, you must know what will come next and how to deal with it and, of course, learn more about social networking. In today’s world you have to keep up with book promotion. If you attend the York Festival of Writing this September, there are loads of workshops to help you. All these events are so important in case your life changes overnight. Don’t sit at home thinking someone is going to do all this for you – you have to be prepared as a new author, to work hard to keep your book up there with the rest of them. With a small publisher, I like the idea of starting small and working up, because it provides me with the chance to learn at a pace I can handle. I wish all new writers success, keep asking questions, and get help along the way. Don’t hold back. I am very keen to help new writers and through my teaching and mentoring skills, I am always glad to support the newbies. Sometimes they just need some tender loving care, nothing more. As a driver and driving instructor, I was never allowed to forget that I was once a learner!

Thanks again for taking the time to share your story so far with us. The Write Romantics wish you every success for the future and we will be keeping a look out on the best seller lists for you!

News Flash from Julie: I’ve had my NWS Report back. Eeekkk!!!

I’m a very excited Write Romantic today because I picked up my NWS reader’s report last night. Late last night (I’d been out for a meal then caught up on BGT, never thinking to check my emails first). My heart started racing as soon as I spotted it in my inbox and my hands were actually shaking as I clicked on my mouse to open it.

My worst-case scenarios was that my reader hated it and pulled it to bits. My best-case one was that they absolutely loved it and had shown it to their agent who had lined me up a 10-book publishing deal and sold the film rights. Hee hee! In reality, I knew the latter wasn’t going to happen and really hoped that the first wasn’t going to. I’d have been surprised if it had because I had a pretty positive response with my first submission of the same book in 2012. I had, however, heard of cases of re-submissions (and 2nd reads before they ceased this year) where the readers contradicted each other so that was another scenario I worried about.

NWS organiser Melanie’s covering email hinted I wasn’t about to read a horror story: “Hope you find it encouraging – she seems to have enjoyed it a lot” Eeeekkk!!!!!!

My report started with a really encouraging comment – “it was a good read and I had fun reading.” Last year’s report also said, “I really enjoyed reading your novel and its lively, engaging prose.” Good start!

My reader tells me she’s marked my MS with various initial thoughts but also “lots of smiley faces where it made me laugh”. I suspect I’ll get this in the post by the middle of the week and look forward to reading this. I’m very happy for my reader to scribble all over my MS as feedback on very specific scenes/dialogue etc is invaluable. As a romantic comedy writer, knowing that I’ve made someone laugh is amazing news. She picks up on this later in her feedback again saying my tone is humorous and “in places the dialogue is hilarious and made me giggle aloud.” Wow! How flattering is that?

There are three main areas for improvement:

1. LENGTH/START POINT – When I submitted my 2012 MS, I knew it was too big at 126,617 words but I just couldn’t see where to edit it down and hoped the review would help to direct me. Sure enough the feedback was that it was too long and my reader felt I could remove the first 70 or so pages and start the story later, bringing the previous bits in as back story. I did a poll of my beta readers and they were all adamant that I shouldn’t do this as they felt it all helped build my protagonist’s character. I did cut a couple of chapters in this first 70 pages. I’d asked my fellow Write Romantic Jo to give it a read and let me know if there were any scenes or even chapters which slowed things down. Her advice was invaluable and I culled a couple of chapters. Despite this, my 2013 submission ended up being 126,673 words! I cut but I then developed other parts of the story.

My 2013 reader has made the same point over length and has suggested that the story should start about 40 or so pages in. Funnily enough, this takes it to the exact same start point that my 2012 reader suggested. I was adamant before this year’s submission that I wasn’t going to do this later start, partly because I absolutely love the first couple of chapters. Two readers have now said exactly the same thing. Clearly there’s something in this. No writing is wasted writing. I keep all my previous versions and I keep significant removed parts (chapters or several scenes) as separate documents. I can use all of this good writing again; perhaps in someone else’s story. I feel ready for the cull now. I didn’t before. What’s particularly helpful is that my reader has suggested a couple of story threads that I could cut and she is absolutely right. They aren’t essential to the plot and I can easily link chapters without those themes

2. CHARACTER ARC – My 2012 reader felt my protagonist, Sarah, had no character arc. Her motivations for what she did were questionable and she clearly didn’t learn from any of her experiences. I’d been surprised when I read this but realised quite quickly that she was absolutely right. I’ve worked hard on the character arc for this year’s submission and it has paid off – sort of. My 2013 reader has stated exactly what the arc is (which I won’t explain as I don’t want to give spoilers) so it’s clearly there. However, she says it isn’t smooth because Sarah dots about and changes her mind. She’s illustrated this with specific examples and I can see immediately what she means. And she’s right

3. THE MIDDLE – My 2012 reader said “the plot felt a touch episodic in places, moving from situation to situation”. This point related particularly to the character arc (i.e. what Sarah learned from each situation) but it also made me think about some of the experiences Sarah had and whether they slowed the pace down. Without giving away too much on the relevance to the story line, this middle section is a series of dates that go wrong. I removed the largest chapter to cut back on this but I’ve obviously not gone far enough as my 2013 reader says “the pace is a bit slow. Things drag and meander into tangents in the middle … [that don’t] really serve the story.” I think this is another case where I now feel ready. I didn’t want to remove any of the dates. They’re funny. But I see how they’re slowing the story. Time for another cull and I know exactly where I can do this.

As I write this, I’m realising this all sounds quite negative but it isn’t. Here’s some of the wonderful quotes I have:

“Characterisation – you do this very well. The characters were believable and the dialogue flows very naturally. They are all interesting people.”

“XXX [spoiler-avoidance] is lovely. What a great hero.”

“The secondary characters were great. I loved Clare.” I love Clare too. I can’t wait to write her story but Elise’s is next in the trilogy so I’ll have to wait a bit longer.

“Setting – you describe things in just the right amount of detail, so that there’s enough to give an idea of the place, but not so much that it’s noticeable. I was very impressed.”

“Dialogue – excellent. You have a good ear for dialogue. I particularly like the way that you could tell instantly that Clare was Irish, just from the way she speaks.” This one in particular thrilled me as my writing friend has been scathing all along about how badly I capture the Irish accent; something I very strongly disagree with. Ha!

“Your style and voice are good. You manage the bits that require the most skill (characterisation and dialogue) quite naturally. Those are the skills that are hardest to learn, so well done!”

So it seems that I need to look at my structure a bit more, smooth out that character arc and cull about 40,000 words. No worries. I’ll have that done by next weekend!!! 😉

Joking aside, I feel very encouraged. I can tell my submission has definitely moved on from 2012’s and isn’t far off being ready to send out to agents/publishers. My reader even suggests it would fit well with Avon. How exciting! But it’s her parting words that have provided me with the biggest boost yet … “It’s a good story with some great characters. You’ve got a nice style and I’m sure you’ll be published soon. Good luck!”


My editing pens are at the ready …