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:


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?

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!
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?



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


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

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?




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.


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, Twitter (that’s two underscores) and Facebook 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)

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.
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?
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.
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:
And I’ll leave you with some photos of Julie, Jo, Lorraine and I on our way to the gala dinner.

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.


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!



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.







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.


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:

Twitter: @henrigyland