The Wednesday Wondering – Let’s Hear it For the Boys!

I’ve only just squeezed this one into Wednesday! Been frantically putting the finishing touches to my Marie Claire/Harper Collins Debut Novel Award competition entry which closes at midnight. I’m a bit eleventh hour on everything today!

Today’s Wednesday Wondering was posted by our Write Romantic in Australia, Helen R. She says she really enjoys including the male point of view in her writing but knows that there are others who don’t. The question is therefore:

How important do you feel it is to include the male point of view in your writing? Do you enjoy writing it? Do you enjoy reading it? What are your reasons why?

As usual, we’d love to hear your comments whether you’re a reader or a writer (or both) but here are what some of the Write Romantics say, starting with the question-poser herself:

HELEN R:

I am starting to enjoy reading the hero’s point of view. For example, Jane Lovering’s “Star Struck” includes the hero’s POV and I think that it adds richness to the story and shows the hero’s struggle in a unique way that we otherwise wouldn’t know about unless he told his story via dialogue. 

I think that whether to include the hero’s point of view would largely depend on the story and its themes.  As for getting into the male frame of mind, I think that’s hard to do but not impossible. I suppose this is where we can use husbands and family members to let us know if it’s realistic. I even thought perhaps about reading more male magazines such as men’s health to help me get into their heads a bit. One thing that I find really helps is to read other writers’ work to see how they’ve tackled the challenge.

I know that some others prefer not to write a male POV so this Wednesday I was really wondering what everybody else thought and why?

 
ALEX:
I decided Beltane, the book I’ve just finished, needed a male view point because it’s partly suspense and there were things about the hero (Finn) that I needed the reader to know which my heroine would only find out as the book went along.  I thought writing male POV would be really difficult but once I got started and really got to know Finn it was just great fun. Whether I’m any good at it though, and whether he’s convincing as a male character is an entirely different question and I’ll leave that to my NWS reader to comment upon.  I’ll let you know when I get my report back!
 
 
DEIRDRE: 
This is an interesting one.  I wouldn’t say that the male POV is necessarily important; it depends entirely on the type of book and, possibly, where you want to market it (see below!) I love writing the male POV, in fact I enjoy it more than the female.  I honestly don’t know why.  It could be because it’s more challenging and fun to become someone completely different.  I like to give my male leads depth and sensitivity and I wouldn’t find those qualities so easy to bring out if I was just describing him from the female lead’s POV.  You have to be in his head to understand truly what’s going on, I think. There’s a practical side to it, too.  Having begun by writing what I wanted to write, I now tend to try and maximise my chances of publication, so the male POV will be in there, just in case…. Choc Lit, anyone?

 

JULIE:

I confess that I’ve never tried to include the male POV but that’s mainly because I’m working on a trilogy where Book 1 is based around one character but introduces us to two female best friends. Book 2 follows one of their stories but also includes POV of the protagonist from Book 1 and Book 3 follows the third friend but with POVs of the other two. If I’d added in male POVs, it would have got way too messy. There were moments where I felt it would be useful to have insight from the male POV but I found ways round it. In fact, not knowing what was going on in the hero’s mind actually worked better because the reader is left wondering about his intentions and I quite like that.

I don’t have any strong opinions about reading books in male POV or not. Years and years ago I read ‘Come Together’ by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees who are a husband and wife writing team who alternated chapters of male and female POV. I seem to remember thinking that was very clever and enjoying it so much that I bought the follow-up ‘Come Again’ that came out a few years later. However, I must have passed on my original and I can’t remember what happened so I’ve not got round to reading the follow-up. Must download the original on my Kindle at some point.

 

OVER TO YOU … please share!
Julie xxx

Monday Interview with Margaret Johnson

Margaret Johnson is an author, stand-up comedian, blogger and mum to bouncy son and dog

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We wondered if you could tell us a bit about the genre you write in, what inspired you to start writing and your previous experiences of writing shorter fiction, articles and non-fiction books?

The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club (which I’m currently writing) are what I describe as Rollercoaster Women’s Fiction – about people who are stuck in their lives and need to do challenging things in order to move on. They have funny moments and sad moments too. They do include romances within them.

I have written in a wide variety of genres, and for different publishers as well as self-publishing. I started writing when I finished at art college, thinking that if I became a best-selling Mills & Boon writer, that would be able to finance my career as an artist. Ha ha! I did have some of these early attempts published – by Women’s Weekly in a paperback series, and Robert Hale and Ulverscroft Large Print. By this time, of course, I’d completely been bitten by the writing bug and all ideas of an art career had fallen by the way side. I was also supplementing my writing career by being a cleaner/typist etc, etc. I’ve always thought of writing as a bit of an addiction – if you get just a little bit of success or encouragement, it feeds your habit for a while!

Please can you tell us a bit about your novel writing journey so far, including how you came to choose the self publishing option and the impact this has had on the way in which you work, as well as any positives and negatives there might be and whether you would recommend it to others?

I am fortunate enough to be published by 2 academic publishers in their series of fiction for people learning to speak English – Cambridge University Press and Cengage Learning. This happy arrangement came about as the result of a chance meeting with an author who already did this kind of writing. I sent CUP a proposal and a first chapter for a reader called All I Want – a romance inspired by Bridget Jones’ Diary. That was in 2000, and the rest, as they say, is history. All I Want is still in print and selling, and I’ve written lots of other titles – more romances as well as 2 fantasy books, a thriller, a book of short horror stories, a fact book about New Zealand and a couple of human interest stories.

This is obviously brilliant – and means I don’t have to have another job, so I have the freedom to write. However, despite this success, now that I’m writing what I really, really want to write – ie women’s fiction, I find I’m starting all over again. I didn’t need or have an agent for the books I’ve already had published, but It’s impossible to get anyone to take notice of you without one in mainstream markets, as I’m sure you all know. I sent The Goddess Workshop to the Hilary Johnson Author’s Advisory Service and had very positive and useful feedback, so I knew it wasn’t just me who liked the book! Agents either sent a standard rejection, or, the kinder ones, said that Women’s Fiction isn’t selling well at the moment. It seemed to me as if nobody wanted to take any risks because of the state of the market. When I continued to get nowhere, I decided I didn’t want the MS to go into a drawer, which was when I self-published it. It has been amazing to feel in control of my career and to be able to see results quickly! Some of my language readers have taken years to come out after I’ve written them. I don’t know about sales yet, as it’s all too recent. It is difficult to juggle writing time and marketing time, but I’m getting there. And I do enjoy being creative about how I let people know about me and my books!

I have had some prior experience of publishing, as you can tell, so as regards whether I’d recommend the self-publishing route to anyone else, I’d say yes, but try other routes first, and if you do self-publish, get help. It was well worth paying to have a professional critique of The Goddess Workshop. I think it made all the difference. And I have a friend who’s an excellent proofreader, which believe me, was essential!

What’s next for you, Margaret, with your first novel, your current WIP and future projects?

I’m currently working on a novel called The Dare Club, about a group of 3 women and 1 man who meet on a divorced and separated course. They decide to challenge each other to do daring things as part of their recovery process. I’m enjoying writing this hugely, and have done scary and exciting research for it including completing the Tree Top Challenge at Go Ape and doing a Stand-up comedy course and a 3 minute stand-up performance!

When I’ve finished this, I intend to revisit a couple of romance novels I started and then put aside. I will try submitting these to publishers, but if I’m not successful with them through this route, I’ll definitely self-publish them.

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

I would still like to get an agent!!! And I would like to be published by a mainstream, non-academic publisher.

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

My advice is to keep at it, don’t take feedback or criticism personally, find your own voice by writing, writing, writing. Say ‘yes’ to every writing opportunity that comes your way, even if it’s not what you expected to be doing – work out afterwards how you’re going to do it!

Follow Margaret on Twitter at @Margaretkaj
You can find out more about The Goddess Workshop by following this link http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Goddess-Workshop-Margaret-Johnson/dp/1483985946

Lights! Camera! Action! Where will you stage your novel?

So, you have your characters and you have your story, well, more or less… Now you must set the scene.  Will the best part of the action take place in your home town, or some other place you know well, or will it be somewhere that’s entirely your own invention?

 The beauty of using a real place, especially one on your doorstep, is that you can save a few brain cells as you don’t have to imagine the setting as well as everything else.  It’s all there, in your mind’s eye.  It can even be in your actual eye if you get out there and follow your character, literally, down your chosen street.  That’s quite a nice little kick-start, I find, if you’ve got a bit stuck.

 On the other hand, there are hours of endless fun to be had in creating a whole new city or village or vast swathe of remote moorland.  Being the queen, or king, of your own fictional domain has the bonus that nobody can question it because if you use a real place, somebody, somewhere, will be only too pleased to point out helpfully where you’ve gone wrong!

 Perhaps, though, there is no such thing as an entirely fictional place, unless, possibly, you write fantasy.  I’ve looked at my own settings and they are a mixture of the real and invented.

 When I used Brighton, my home town, I kept it recognisable in terms of flavour and identity but changed the names of streets.  For example, Brighton is full of Regency houses and crescents but there is no ‘Regency Crescent’.  Well there is now because I sent my character off to live there, in a house that’s a mixture of several real houses.  A little row of cottages I know found itself transported to my fictional village, along with the high street from somewhere else.  The town in my current novel is turning out to be an amalgam of Salisbury and Maidstone and Sandwich and Arundel…

Well, it’s all great fun, isn’t it?  One of the perks of this writing game.  I’ll leave you with a couple of questions if I may:

 Do you prefer to read books with real-life settings?  If so, why?

 What is it about a real-life place that might inspire you to use it as a setting?

 

 Deirdre

 

The Monday Interview with Elle Turner

Elle has been a member of the NWS since 2011. She lives in Scotland with her husband and twin sons, who are her best reason to get up in the morning. She loves scones, Coronation Street, all songs by Sara Bareilles and will happily admit to having little or no sense of direction.

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Hi Elle, welcome to the Write Romantics Blog and thanks so much for taking the time to be an interviewee.

Hello! It’s lovely to meet fellow members of the NWS and read about your writing experiences so far. I’m very excited to be an interviewee on The Write Romantics blog!

We know that, like us, you are 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?

Sure! OK, well, I was about eight when I first decided I wanted to write a book (I see from Alex’s page that she was eight too. Maybe it’s a watershed age!) I wrote chapter headings very much based on a book by Elsie J. Oxenham that my mum had given me, but that was as far as I went.

I’ve always had the feeling that I wanted to write, but I never really believed it was something I could do, nor did I know how to approach it. I thought there was something magical writers had that I didn’t and it wasn’t until I enrolled on a Writers Bureau course when my twins were about to start pre-school that it dawned on me – writing might also be about learning, hard work and practice, just like everything else. The course appealed to me because it covered many forms of non-fiction too, as well as novels, short stories, writing for radio and writing for the stage. I didn’t know what I wanted to (or could) write and the assignments gave me a chance to try a bit of everything. That’s when I knew for sure that this time it was something I was going to pursue further.

I heard about the NWS through twitter and joined in 2011. I write contemporary romance/women’s fiction – I think there might be some different views on the boundary between the two? Applying to join the NWS was one of the best writing moves I’ve ever made.

The Write Romantics see the road to publication, by whatever route, as a journey. Please can you tell us a bit about your journey so far, your self-publishing experiences and what is next for you?

My journey so far has involved trying different things to work out exactly what I want to write. It’s been a lot of fun because I’ve found something that I enjoy and really want to do for the rest of my life, so I’m very lucky.

At the moment I’m working on the first draft of my third book. I’m only about a quarter of the way in – fortunately it’s not the book I’m sending to the NWS this year, because I don’t think it will be in any fit state by August!

Have you got any advice for other aspiring writers?

Hmm…I’m not sure I should be giving out advice, but the main advice I have read or heard from others that has resonated with me is:

● Just get started, even when you don’t feel like it
● Stop second guessing yourself
● Write the story you want to write, otherwise it will show
● Try to learn as much as you can, all the time

There’s so much wonderful information available for writers and I’ve found the following books to be useful:

Plot & Structure – James Scott Bell
From Language to Creative writing: An introduction – Philip Seargeant and Bill Greenwell
Write to be published – Nicola Morgan
And, of course, On Writing – Stephen King

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

At the moment I’m looking for an agent – that’s my main goal. I’m submitting my second book and writing my third as my priorities (Book one is “resting” just now 😉 ), but I also write short stories and keep mulling over the idea of self-publishing a small collection to get the experience. That’s very much a secondary/long term goal though.

Whatever the outcome of any of that, I’m just going to keep writing.

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

Getting a comprehensive, professional critique at such a reasonable price, I reckon, although it has also been wonderful to make connections with others on the scheme. I haven’t met anyone in person yet, but I’ve found so much support online, mainly through twitter and blogs.

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

The world will not implode if you stop panicking and press “send”
I could do with taking this advice myself.

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!

Thank you so much for having me! Let’s keep in touch! You can find me in all the usual places on my blog, http://elleturnerwriter.wordpress.com Twitter https://twitter.com/elleturner__ (that’s two underscores) and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/elle.turner.1023 if you would like to chat.

Very, very best wishes to the Write Romantics and all the NWSers.

Six get Steamy in Sheffield (or The Write Romantics do the RNA Conference)

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This year’s conference was held at the University of Sheffield. What do you associate with Sheffield? Steel? The Full Monty? Probably not Mediterranean temperatures but that’s what we got. Which would have been lovely if the air-con in the conference centre hadn’t packed up the day before we arrived. So it was pretty steamy and not just in the session about sexing up sagas!
Rachael, Helen P and Lorraine have all attended the conference at least once before whereas Julie, Jo and I were newbies. Unfortunately Lynne, Deirdre, Jackie and Helen R couldn’t make it this year.
I’ve asked the others to let us have their highlights from the conference and what they brought home from it. I banned them from saying that their highlight was meeting the other Write Romantics as I thought we could end up sounding like a broken record. However, as I’m writing this post I’m allowed as many highlights as I want so here they are:
Goody Bags: I’d heard some chat about goody bags on Twitter before I set off. People had said don’t bring a book because you’ll be given some. I hadn’t expected to be given NINE! (Okay, two of them I’d only read if all other books on earth had turned to dust and not realising that I could swap them I ended up carting them home only to give them to my Mum for a charity book sale). The bag also contained a lot of chocolate, numerous flyers and courtesy of Jane Lovering, some bubble bath. Julie was far more organised than me and took a picture of the contents of her goody bag.1001874_10151820110669073_1015527228_n
Sessions: Julie Cohen’s session on Using Theme was the stand out for me. I’d always thought only literary novels had a theme. I was absurdly delighted and felt like a proper writer when I discovered that not only did my novel have a theme but it’s a pretty meaty one. Julie Cohen is an excellent tutor and I’m sure I’ll use the exercises that she showed us in my writing in the future. For my next book I’m going to actually plan the theme. And who knows, maybe that’ll make writing it a little less chaotic!
I also enjoyed the session by Anna Boatman from Piatkus Entice but I’ll let Jo tell you more about that.
Pitch meetings: All of us (with the exception of Helen P who is already on the road to publication) had editor appointments over the weekend and there were definitely a few nerves on Saturday morning. My appointments went pretty well. One of the editors asked to see the full manuscript. The other suggested a number of changes to my first chapter, all of which make perfect sense, and said she’d be willing to have another look at it after I’d made those changes. She also said that I’m a good writer. To be honest, I could have hugged her at the point but that would have been weird. But as self-belief is not high on my list of personality traits those few words meant an awful lot.
Meeting the other Write Romantics: It was a joy to see Julie and Jo again and to meet Lorraine, Rachael and Helen P. We had so much to talk about that really a weekend wasn’t long enough!
I had a good time at the conference but I’d be surprised if I decided to go to another one. That’s simply because the conference made me realise that I don’t see myself as a writer of romance. Yes, there’s some romance in the book I’ve just finished and I plan to put some in the books that I want to write in the future but it’s only a small part of what I’m trying to do. I briefly spoke to Liesel Schwarz (author of A Conspiracy of Alchemists and winner of this years’ Joan Hessayon Prize) and she suggested that I join the British Fantasy Society as well. Thanks for the advice, Liesel – I’m going to give that a go.
I’ll hand over now to my fellow Write Romantics to share their conference experiences.
Jo:
I had three and a half highlights from the conference. The first two arose in what were, for me, the two most useful sessions I attended. Julie Cohen’s session on deepening themes made me realise that I need to do more of this in my first novel and, following a useful pitching session, I can see a way forward for that now. My other favourite session was with Anna Boatman from Piatkus, of all the editors she impressed me by far and away the most. Anna had lots of useful information and advice for aspiring writers, but the real highlight of the session was her specifically mentioning the book Alex had pitched to her the day before. It gave me a real buzz, as I am sure it means that one of the Write Romantics is going to make it big soon and I can say I knew her when! The third highlight came as a result of the entire conference and a bit of reflection after the event. The whole experience was a reality check and an opportunity to consolidate why and what I really want to write, which I don’t think I would have come to realise without attending. And the final half a highlight? Since we’re not allowed to mention meeting the other Write Romantics… can I just say “drinking wine and eating Pringles with them in the kitchen” instead?
Rachael:
What are my conference highlights? Well that’s a hard one. The whole weekend was a whirl of fantastic people and inspiring talks, everything from characters to procrastination. There seemed to be quite a few talks on dealing with time management and the dreaded self-doubt. Most of which I attended.
But the highlight I think was seeing just how much the publishing world has changed, just since I went to my first conference six years ago. There are brilliant opportunities out there, whatever kind of romantic fiction you write. The eBook has certainly revolutionised the world of publishing.
Editor appointments are another highlight. They are a precious chance to pitch your latest story to an editor, which is invaluable and worth attending the conference for that alone.
Julie:
My editor meetings. I was lucky enough to secure meetings with MIRA and Harper Impulse and found these most enlightening. First learning – editors are human! They’re actually friendly approachable people and not these scary beings who’ll stamp “reject” on my forehead in indelible ink. Second learning – I can write! I was told by both that I have a great concept and a very strong and lovely voice which was a huge boost. An even bigger boost was that they both would like to see my full MS. But the greatest learning for me was a light bulb moment triggered by a question that Charlotte from Harper Impulse asked. We were discussing my protagonist and her motivation for finding love and she asked me something to which the answer was, “no”. But then I thought, “What if the answer was yes? What if that did actually happen?” And suddenly I’d found the missing piece of the puzzle; the part of chapter 1 that I’d always felt was missing. So now I have a new chapter 1 and I absolutely love it (she says very modestly).
Julie’s also written about her conference experiences for the RNA Blog which you can read here: http://romanticnovelistsassociationblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/newbie-review-of-rna-conference-by.html
And I’ll leave you with some photos of Julie, Jo, Lorraine and I on our way to the gala dinner.
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The Wednesday Wondering – Who’d Win in a Fight; Book or Film?!

Apologies for a very late Wondering …. just got in from running Race for Life this evening and this is the first chance to post.

Another week, another Wednesday Wondering and this time I’ve posed the question again, turning to another of my loves; films.

The Wondering is:

Many amazing books become films (ch-ching!) Can you name one book that you preferred to the big screen adaptation and/or one film that you thought was better than the book? And, of course, please tell us why.

I’d also love to hear whether you are someone who likes to read the book before the film or after the film. I know some people have very strong opinions on this.

So, what did the Write Romantics come up with? I’ve given the responses on previous Wonderings in alphabetical, reverse alphabetical and random order so here’s alphabetical by surnames.

JO:

Looking back on my previous responses for the Wednesday Wondering, most of them spookily linked to this theme. I spoke about Harry Potter in one of the posts and my eleven year old daughter is adamant that the films are better than the books, as they contain almost non-stop action. The books have too much description for her liking but, since she thinks I know nothing anyway, there is little point me trying to explain the difference between visual and written media on this point! I also wrote about the Green Mile, but I can’t pick a favourite between Stephen King’s book and the film.

TV adaptations are easier, I think. I loved Jilly Cooper’s novel, Riders, as a teenager, but the actor cast as Rupert Campbell-Black in the mini-series was so wrong – at least I think so! On the other hand, although I loved reading Pride and Prejudice, seeing Colin Firth in tight breeches as Mr Darcy meant the TV adaptation pipped the book to the post I’m afraid. This started a long love affair for me with Colin (in my dreams), which strangely takes us back to films… And, much as I adored Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diaries, the films with Colin (and Hugh thrown in for good measure) are so perfectly cast and edged past the novels and into my heart!

 

JULIE:

Why do I set such tricky Wonderings? Hmmm. I’ll start with the last bit first. I know some people have massively strong opinions on book then film or film then book but I’m not one of them. I would probably lean a little towards film first simply because it usually (but definitely not always) helps me with the visualisation of characters and scenery.

The worst film adaptation I’ve ever seen is one I haven’t actually watched all the way through – Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. It’s shockingly bad and they massively change the ending. I got quite angry about that one. Also Cecelia Ahern’s PS I Love You. I think Hilary Swank is a great actress but she really didn’t fit the bill of Holly for me. Gerald Butler is welcome eye candy. But … sorry … I didn’t like what they did to the story. I saw absolutely no reason to take it away from Ireland where it’s set and fiddle with the story in that way. The book was so much better.

As for film being better than the book, I am inclined to agree with Jo about Bridget Jones even though I adored the book. The cast were just perfect. Another one was Sleeping with The Enemy. The book was good but I saw the film first and it absolutely terrified me. Perhaps I may have preferred the book if I’d read that first, though.

 

DEIRDRE:

I’m not a regular cinema-goer but when I do go it’s often because I’ve read the book, so for me it tends to be book first then film, although I don’t have strong views either way. I don’t think I can honestly say that I’ve ever found the film ‘better’ than the book because it’s a totally different experience but there are times when I’ve got something extra from the film that I didn’t get from the book.

One example is Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I love his writing – the man’s a genius to my mind – and I read his books with a permanent ‘wow!’ going on my head, but the plot of Atonement is somewhat convoluted and seeing it on screen helped me make sense of some of the bits that I had perhaps misunderstood in the book. That I might need this kind of help is of course one of my failings, not his!

Another is Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller. She tells the story well and I really enjoyed the book but it’s quite short and I found myself wanting more. The film made the whole thing that much ‘bigger’ somehow. In the book I didn’t find much sympathy for Barbara Covett, the narrator, but seeing her portrayed on screen by Judy Dench with her wonderfully expressive face made it easier to ‘see’ the person she really was.

 

HELEN P:

Hmm that is a tough one. I would say that Twilight wasn’t better than the book but it’s the best film adaptation of a book that I’ve seen because it kept to the original story. I loved the film The Woman in Black and thought it was much scarier than the book by Susan Hill.

 

HELEN R:

That’s a real toughie! I think the only films I prefer to the books have to be the Harry Potter films. Whilst I think that J.K Rowling’s writing is simply amazing, it really isn’t my sort of thing…but, I don’t mind sitting through a condensed version on the big screen (when hubby has had enough of my rom coms!)

I always prefer the books to the films: Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook”, Cecilia Ahern’s “P.S I love you”, Jennifer Weiner’s “In Her Shoes” to name just a few. I would always choose to read the book first because I wouldn’t want the film version to “spoil” it for me, but perhaps this is why I always end up liking the book best? Films are always so much shorter than the book so I tend to feel that they’re lacking in the richness of the words that I enjoyed.

 

ALEX:

I loved the film ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ which is a romantic comedy about an uptight fish scientist (played by Ewan McGregor) who falls in love with his colleague (Emily Blunt) when he’s working on a project to introduce salmon fishing into the Yemen. He starts the film thinking the project is crackers and that she’s an idiot for suggesting it but through working together they become friends and then fall for each other. It’s warm, charming and uplifting. I found the book a huge disappointment. It’s more of a scathing satire on government, PR and idealism with a tragic ending.

I don’t have strong views on reading books before seeing the film. But watching the film first has definitely helped me to get through some of the classics. There’s no way I’d have made it to the end of Jude the Obscure (which must be the most depressing book in English Literature) without imagining Christopher Eccleston as Jude.

 

OVER TO YOU …

Tell us what your answer would be. Or tell us if you agree/disagree with what any of The Write Romantics have said. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and for joining in.

 

Julie

xx

 

 

 

The Monday Interview with Henriette Gyland

Henriette Gyland grew up in Denmark but moved to England after she graduated from university, and now lives in West London with her family. She wrote her first book aged ten, a tale of two orphan sisters running away to Egypt, fortunately to be adopted by a perfect family they meet on the Orient Express. When she’s not writing, she works as a translator and linguist. Her first book, “Up Close”, was published by Choc Lit in December 2012, and her latest book “The Elephant Girl”, is out now.

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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 my son was about two, I had a few loose story ideas, and joined a writers’ circle. One of the women in my group pointed out that I was technically writing romantic fiction, and when I looked more closely at my work, I could see she was right. So I decided to look into it and bought a How To book by Marina Oliver, a long-standing member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. At the back of the book she mentioned the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, and I joined up.

My genre is romantic suspense, sometimes also called psychological thriller, and I tend to deal with quite dark themes – e.g. in “The Elephant Girl” the heroine suffers from epilepsy – but I do try to give my characters a happy ending. They’ve overcome their difficulties, internal as well as external, so they deserve it!

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

My journey is probably the same as anyone else who’s ever been a member of the NWS. Basically it goes along the following lines: write a novel, send it to the NWS, get an honest but fair critique, despair, rewrite, send out to agents/editors, get rejected, despair some more. Then do the whole thing all over again. Yet along the way the NWS reports became tougher and the rejections nicer, which in the midst of my despair told me I was getting closer. This culminated in being awarded the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2008, and winning the New Talent Award from the inaugural Festival of Romance in 2011. I also received a Commended from the Yeovil Literary Prize that same year. Two months later I signed with Choc Lit.

The Elephant Girl

What’s next for you, Henriette?

At the moment I’m experimenting a bit, both with format as well as genre. My sweet romance novella, “Blueprint for Love”, came out as an e-book in June, and my next full length novel will be a swashbuckling historical romance set in the Georgian period. This is my favourite historical period because I just love the dresses!

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

Keep writing, and keep submitting your work. Take on board the professional advice you’re given. You may not always agree with it at the time, but when you look back over it, you’ll often realise that the person critiquing your novel was absolutely right. A bit of distance usually helps. Also, look at your rejections objectively (not easy, I know) and see what you can learn from them. Try to resist self-publication if you can – it’s true that some people have done so successfully, but this is a lot easier once you’ve built up a name for yourself with a traditional publisher. Regard your writing career as progressive.

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

Easy enough question to answer: to be able to give up the day job and earn a living as a full-time writer!

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

I treasure everything I’ve learned, and strange as it may sound, I’ve learned more about the craft of writing from what I did wrong than what I got right. The very frank, but constructive NWS critiques and the many rejections over the years have, with a bit of distance, taught me something. Every time I jumped up and down in frustration that I wasn’t going to get published, like, today, I learned the most important thing, that as valuable as feedback and suggestions are, if they spark off different ideas and different ways of solving writing issues, you’ve found something unique: your own voice. That’s worth its weight in gold.

Then there’s all the friendships I’ve made, both among published as well as unpublished members of the RNA. Only a fellow writer understands what you’re going through when you’ve received a rejection or a bad review, or what it feels like when your editor is putting you through your paces. They speak the same language as you.

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

I think it’s important to remember that getting a novel published isn’t the end of the journey, but a continuation of it.

Find out more about Henriette at:

Website: http://henriettegyland.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/henriette.gyland
Twitter: @henrigyland

The Wednesday Wondering – Who Won’t be Top of Your Xmas Card List?

Welcome to another edition of The Wednesday Wondering and today’s fabulous question has been posed by Write Romantic Alex. In our first Wondering, we asked which heroine you’d love to go on a girly night with and now the tables are turned to the people you probably wouldn’t be rushing to have drinks with…

Which fictional character do you most dislike and why?

I think this is a brilliant question (thanks Alex) but also a really hard one. As the collator of responses, I kept getting answers through and thinking, “Yes, of course, I hate that character; great response. But I really need to think of one myself!” Anyway, I have finally come up with one and here are the responses of the Write Romantics in reverse alphabetical order today.

Please do join in and let us know what you think. Next week’s question has already been posed but we continue to invite other suggestions so shout up if there’s anything you’d like us to ask (and don’t forget to give your answer too!)

 

Julie

I struggled with this because most of the really memorable evil/nasty/vicious characters that instantly spring to mind are from films. I know the books came first but I find it hard to separate them from the amazing portrayal in the film (see Jo’s, Alex’s and Helen’s answers or think Imelda Staunton’s brilliant Professor Delores Jane Umbridge in Harry Potter). Or I think of a character (again from film or TV) and realise I haven’t actually read the book (e.g. in the case of Alex’s response!) I’m therefore  going to go for something really random and say Lady Macbeth. Not because she’s a villain but simply because she raises very bad memories for me personally. In the play (which we studied for GCSE English Literature), she has a lot of very long monologues and they take some getting your mouth around. I’m slightly short-tongued and our teacher picked me to read out Lady Macbeth to the class. I tripped and slobbered my way through it. At the end, the teacher said to the class, ‘So, what have we learned about Lady Macbeth today?’ One bright spark piped up, ‘That she has a lisp!’ Twenty five years on, I still remember it clearly, it still hurts and I’ll never forgive Lady Macbeth for putting me through it!!!

 

Jo

Percy Wetmore, from Stephen King’s ‘The Green Mile’. If you have seen the film you will know what an odious character the young prison officer is, but this comes across even more skilfully in the book. Oh to have a modicum of King’s talent!

 

Helen P

The fictional character I most dislike would have to be Pennywise the clown from Stephen King’s ‘It’. I have never really like clowns since I watched Poltergeist as a kid, then when I read about that clown who could transform into your worst nightmare to kill you it totally freaked me out.

 

Alex

Mrs Elton from ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen. She’s the original ‘smug married’. A woman who’s always boasting about how much better her life is than yours. She’s patronising, a social climber and particularly mean to Emma because Mr Elton once fancied himself in love with her. I know this may seem like a strange choice when fiction has so many really evil characters but, with any luck, we won’t meet anyone like that in real life. I think most of us will know a Mrs Elton.

 

So, who sets your teeth on edge or raises your hackles and why? Can’t wait to hear from you.

Julie

xx

Monday Interview with Allie Spencer

Allie Spencer is author of laugh out loud romantic comedies.  She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and a keen supporter of the New Writers Scheme, being one of its readers and a former member.  Here Allie tells all about the journey that led her to graduate from NWS newbie to one of the wonderful writers who share their knowledge with the aspiring authors on the scheme.

Allie[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 were a member, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?

I think I’ve always written in one form or another – although the desire to ‘be’ a writer was sometimes been mixed-up with other things (acting was a popular choice for a while when I was a child!) but I only started writing novels when I went on maternity leave. I’d had an idea for a book batting about in my head for a while and I thought ‘Now is the time to do it – when will I ever have the time and opportunity again?’. So I booted up the laptop and got going. That book – a country house rom com – has never been published, but I had enough positive feedback from it to make me start my next. That second novel, Tug of Love, not only got published but won the Joan Hessayon Prize for the NWS and was shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan Award too, something I would never have dreamed possible when I got that first rejection.

All in all, I did three years in the NWS – the middle year of which I entered ‘Tug’ into the scheme. I love witty, intelligent books that cheer me up and make me laugh and my favourite authors are all comedic writers – Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde, David Lodge and the great PG Wodehouse. When I started writing novels, the women’s fiction market was dominated by clever, funny women like Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella and it was their style I hoped to emulate. When I grow up, I still want to be Marian!

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

The journey to publication was perhaps not as long as some, but still filled with quite enough rejection and heartbreak for my liking! I sent the first three chapters of my country house rom com to Arrow, who were then accepting unsolicited submissions. Amazingly they wanted to see the rest…which I hadn’t actually written (a-hem). It took me about 5 months to finish and edit the rest of the book but, sadly, it was rejected. I then girded my loins and sent it everywhere I could think of, joining the NWS along the way, but it was promptly rejected by all the agents I sent it to and failed to progress in the NWS – although I did have a lovely, encouraging report which gave me some hope!  The summer after that, I met my agent at an RNA party and sent her ‘Tug’ which by then I’d written, polished and submitted as that year’s offering to the NWS. My agent loved it and took me on – but it was another few months before she could find a publisher who would take ‘Tug’. Each time it was rejected was another blow to my confidence: was I kidding myself about this writing lark? Was I actually good enough to make it into print? I was so worried she was not going to be able to place it that I think, when it was finally accepted by Little Black Dress, my overwhelming feeling was one of relief rather than celebration!

Save the date cover

 

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

It is a difficult market at the moment. Anything that could be labelled ‘chick lit’ is not currently in favour with the big publishing houses and overseas sales for the genre are thin on the ground too. A lot of former ‘chick lit’ authors – unless they are well-established names – are having to re-brand themselves as sales fall. My advice therefore is, firstly, write the sort of book you would like to read yourself. It’s a long process on to Amazon and you have to love your novel! Next, polish, polish, polish until you need sunglasses to look at your ms – editors and agents will be expecting you to submit your best possible work, so make sure that is what they get. Make certain your work looks good too – do take the time to comb through and weed out all the typos and spelling errors; make sure the pages are all there and in the right order and, if you are submitting in hard copy, don’t send in a dog-eared ms that has obviously already been rejected by everyone and their cat. Do network – the RNA parties are fabulous for this. Where else will you have all the agents and editors you could ever wish for in one room, all waiting for your pitch? Finally, stay strong. It can be a long process, even when you have been taken on by an agent. Love what you do and try hard to believe in yourself.

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

I think there were two: the first was getting the report. What you should receive from your NWS reader is a helpful, supportive report that enables you to go back to your ms and improve it. As a reader now, I do my best to give as much encouragement as I can without raising false hopes. I know how hard it is to get that report back, though: with my first one, even though it was very positive, I cried when I knew my book wasn’t going for a second read. To get the most from your report NWS members should try and submit their best polished and completed work (although we understand it is not always possible to submit a full ms). The less we readers need to talk about typos, missing chapters and the like, the more time we have to help you improve the big, tricky things like character development and story arcs. The second (huge!) benefit of the NWS is simply getting you inside the RNA – writing is a lonely business, and you can often feel isolated. The RNA is a wonderful, friendly organisation where you will be amongst friends and where everyone genuinely wants you to succeed as a writer. Seriously, that sort of support is worth more than diamonds!

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

Keep writing. If it’s what you love doing, don’t let anyone or anything stop you. Success comes in different packages – for some it will be a major international book deal; for others, it will be self-publishing on Kindle – but in my opinion, both are huge achievements. Think of all the people you know who say they ‘really want to write a book’ but have done nothing about it – you have. Hold your head up and feel proud!

You can buy ‘Save the Date’ at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Save-Date-Allie-Spencer/dp/0099579979/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368621749&sr=8-1&keywords=save+the+date

And find out more about Allie at http://www.alliespencer.com/

Tell us what you hate, what you really, really hate …

 

 

 

 

I have a confession to make. I wrote this last night with a plan to post it first thing this morning. And I completely forgot. So here’s the slightly late Saturday Slot. I thought I’d start by posting a lovely picture of some Pimms. The Pimms I’m currently consuming. Why? Do I need a reason? (either to post it or consume it?!) I just thought it was an apt pic cos it’s a gorgeous sunny day, it’s Wimbledon season and it looks (and tastes) divine. Yum yum!

Image

 

But onto the actual posting …

A week gone Wednesday, something odd happened. Something very odd indeed. I became embroiled in a debate on Facebook over something I had absolutely no idea, until that point, that I cared about. Yet I discovered that, not only did I care about it but I was completely and utterly passionate about it. And a little Google searching revealed that I’m not the only one.

The even stranger thing is that it was a debate that came completely out of the blue.

That evening, I’d posted some pictures on Facebook of my little girl at her school sports day. One of these was of a bouncy hopper race which led to a bit of an online “discussion” between my friend Jackie (based down south), my friend Catryn (based in The Midlands) and me (oop north). Catryn’s a former work colleague and we both met Jackie 15 years ago when we learned to dive in Turkey … but that’s another story and no relevance to the debate.

After various comments about how much fun the bouncy hopper looked and how we’d love to have a go, Jackie randomly posted the fatal words, “Oh Julie, I need to ask you something. What are your views on the number of spaces following a full-stop before the start of the next sentence?”

*pauses for sharp intake of breath while recalling the debate that ensued*

Now, as writers I’m sure we all know that the correct answer is a resounding ONE!!!!! But my friends were of the opinion it was TWO.

Let’s examine the evidence as to why I am completely and utterly correct 😉

Exhibit 1 – My education and typewriters v PCs. I was the very first intake that sat GCSEs and I came from a big school so we had quite a good range of subjects on offer. I decided to take some GCSEs that I thought may be useful in later life including typewriting and commerce. The decision to take typewriting was the best I’ve ever made because, whilst the lessons themselves were terrifying (I was the only one from any of the top sets who’d taken the subject and was therefore bullied mercilessly throughout each lesson and feared for my life if the teacher ever left the room), I learned how to properly touch type and it’s been an amazing skill to have. I learned to type on a proper old manual typewriter and we studied the RSA rules which, I admit, were all about TWO SPACES after a full stop. However, there’s a reason for this. Here’s the boring bit so feel free to skip over this … it’s because all characters on a typewriter are formed by pressing down on a key which releases a standard-sized block. Spaces between certain letters within a word would appear larger or smaller depending on the letter e.g. an ‘i’ wouldn’t take up as much space as a ‘w’ etc. so natural gaps appeared within words. In order to properly distinguish between these gaps, gaps between words and ends of sentences, two spaces were inserted after a full stop. However, PCs work on a process called kerning where the computer knows that it needs to spread words out more evenly and that an ‘i’ doesn’t take up the same space as a ‘w’. It therefore doesn’t need more than one space after a full stop because it’s very clear where a sentence has ended due to the words being more snug than on a typewriter.

Exhibit 2 – It’s the rules! My husband is a professional typesetter so knows the rules. And he says it’s ONE so ner! 😉

Exhibit 3 – Because others say so. There’s an absolutely enormous quantity of articles online explaining this and discussing the debate. So I very childishly tracked them down and posted them on my FB feed as evidence until Jackie agreed to disagree whilst sulking that I was wrong and Catryn had to walk away because she was getting annoyed. (All done in good humour, of course, and we still love each other lots!)

I’d planned an evening of editing. I got no work on my novel done that evening. Hubby thought it was very wrong that a cute picture of our little girl ended up as a huge debate about spaces after full stops. But he did support my debate!

A week and a half on, I’m now calm about it and the subject has not been raised again. Although remain a little surprised – and perhaps mildly alarmed – that it got me quite so riled in the first place. Especially as I’m actually a very placid person with (normally) very few strong opinions.

But this got me thinking … Are there any other “rules” out there that other people feel really strongly about whether this be a layout issue or something grammatical? Or perhaps it’s dos and don’ts of how to write?

Perhaps you can’t bear it when the protagonist in a book has their thoughts conveyed in italics (in which case you’ll hate mine because I use that). Maybe you want to throw a book out the window when your heroine’s appearance is described when she brushes her hair in a mirror? Or possibly you cringe when you read something in present tense rather than past? I have to put my hands up and say that present tense is one I’m funny about. I’m not the greatest fan of reading books in the present tense and tend to avoid them but I think I’ve just discovered why … it’s not that I dislike present tense; it’s just that some people are brilliant at writing in it and others are, well, not quite so talented. Sophie Kinsella is one who springs to mind and she’s one of my all-time favourite writers. Her books are very much about the here and now with lots of dialogue and inner monologue and present tense just works. But I’ve recently read a book where it was mainly story telling with limited dialogue which felt a bit clunky in present tense.

Ah, that’s better. Got those things off my chest.

So, go on then, tell us what you hate, what you really, really hate …

Julie
xxx