Publication Day – The Friendship Tree by Helen J Rolfe

 

Helensparklers

I signed my contract with Crooked Cat Publishing in October last year and the lead up to publication day for The Friendship Tree has been hard work, but really exciting.

bookcaketopperChoosing the cover for my debut novel was one of the most exciting parts of the process because it all began to feel so real. I loved discussing images with my publisher and working out what was the best fit for The Friendship Tree, and I was delighted with the finished design.

The book came out for pre-order on Amazon a couple of weeks ago and it was fantastic to see The Friendship Tree ‘out there’, but nothing compared to the actual publication day itself. I slept until 5:30am when I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer, and then switched on my Kindle to find my own book waiting there for me. It was the best feeling in the world.

 

cupcake2I was a bit unsure of what to expect with an online Facebook launch party, but I had a fabulous day with so many lovely messages from friends, family and strangers who not only said well done, but also told me that they were enjoying my book.

Publication day was a whirlwind of excitement with cupcakes, champagne and congratulations, and I enjoyed appearing on a number of blogs to talk about The Friendship Tree.

Cheers to a brilliant year of writing for all The Write Romantics!

Helen J Rolfe x

 

 

Book Group: Shallow Waters by Rebecca Bradley

Shallow Waters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewing books had never been my forte, so this will only be a short review. I love to read and it’s the one thing I miss since becoming a published writer. I have such tight deadlines now that it leaves me very little time to read like I used to do every single day of the week.

However this month I had to find the time to read a book for this blog and I’m so glad that I did.

I chose to read Shallow Waters by Rebecca Bradley

It is a crime book of the highest degree and I would compare it along the lines of some of my favourite crime writers who have been writing for years.

The story follows DI Hannah Robbins and her team in the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, I was drawn into the story from page one and it just kept pulling me in. It is very well written, the story flows seamlessly and it was very, very believable.

This is the blurb from Amazon: When the naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway, post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.

Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team in the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock, they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.

But it doesn’t stop there.

When catching a killer isn’t enough, just how far are the team willing to push themselves to save the next girl?

It was hard hitting, page turning, thought provoking and heartbreaking. A fantastic read.

Next month is the turn of the very lovely Helen Rolfe who will be reviewing The Miniaturist by Jessie Barton.

Helen Phifer

 

A cast of characters you’ll never forget: guest blog with Carol Cooper

Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)A woman accused of killing her father. A young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother. A bereaved biographer who travels to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist. A gifted musician forced by injury to stop playing the piano. A single mother of four who dares to date again. A prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter, and the wife of a drug lord who attempts to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son.

All these unlikely heroines – and more – appear in a new ebook anthology from seven indie authors called OUTSIDE THE BOX: WOMEN WRITING WOMEN.

Carol“Women characters in novels are often too good to be true. Too smart, too beautiful, too kind – or, even worse, all of these things at once. Or else they’re hapless, which is equally unrealistic,” says Carol Cooper. She’s an author, doctor and journalist; her fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda, a gripping story about a group of people searching for love, is one of the seven full-length novels in this box set. “I wanted my characters to be feisty but imperfect. To me, that’s far more compelling.”

Orna Ross (founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors, and named by The Bookseller as one of the 100 mostOrna influential people in publishing) is the author of Blue Mercy, a tale of betrayal, revenge, and suspense. Her principal character Mercy stands accused of killing her tyrannical father, and now she wants her daughter to know what really happened that fateful night.

Orna says, “The mother-daughter relationship is one of the most fascinating, complex, and under-explored relationships in fiction. It was my hope, in writing the story of Mercy and her daughter Star, that it might help us all to look more closely at our own mothers and daughters.”

JaneThe mother-daughter relationship also features in Jane Davis’s An Unchoreographed Life. Prima ballerina Alison Babbage finds herself pregnant, and turns to prostitution to support her young daughter. Jane won the Daily Mail First Novel Award for Half-Truths and White Lies, and has gone on to self-publish four more acclaimed novels.

Jane says, “I wanted to address a major issue: the lengths that a mother will go to in order to provide for her daughter. I was gripped by a 2008 court case, when, in an interesting twist, it was ruled that a prostitute had been living off the immoral earnings of one of her clients. The case also challenged perceptions of who was likely to be a prostitute. She might well be the ordinary middle-aged woman with the husband and two teenage children who lives next door.”

In Crazy for Trying, the heroine Tulsa is a bookish misfit, says author Joni Rodgers. “Much as I was in my early 20s,” shejoni adds. “I also drew on my experience as the lone female disc jockey at a rock station in western Montana.” Joni is a New York Times bestselling author who’s also an accomplished ghost-writer.

The box set OUTSIDE THE BOX: Women Writing Women is the brainchild of Australian author, artist, and musician Jessica Bell. She’s also the editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the author of books on the craft of writing (the most recent is Polish Your Fiction). In her novel White Lady, Sonia, unfaithful wife of a Melbourne drug Jessicalord, yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and maths teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats. Easier said than done.

The spotlight here is on unlikely heroines. As Jessica says, “Though the seven novels included may fit through the Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction slot, they are all remarkably and uniquely different in style, which I believe to be a very strong attraction. There are readers out there who don’t like to read the same kind of genre, or about the same kind of characters over and over. This box set is for them.”

Roz Morris is a ghost-writer and teacher of creative writing master classes. “But I was busting to write as myself, with my own Rozcharacters, my own style and my own vision,” she says. Her novel My Memories of a Future Life is the haunting story of how one lost soul searches for where she now belongs. “My principal character Carol fits well with this collection of unconventional female protagonists. On one level, Carol is hardly an everywoman because her life has been unusual – she is a concert pianist. But the impulse that started her on that path, and ultimately undoes her, is certainly universal – she wants a place to belong and to feel loved.”

KathleenThis reader’s smorgasbord also includes Kathleen Jones’s novel The Centauress. A Royal Literary Fund fellow, and best-selling author, Kathleen contributes a story about a bereaved writer Alex, a young woman from a conventional background, who has come to Croatia to write the biography of a celebrity sculptor. Alex brings her own problems with her, and also encounters the puzzle of the eccentric artist’s ambiguous gender and a disputed inheritance. “As we were compiling books with unusual female protagonists,” says Kathleen, “The Centauress was the obvious choice.”

Outside the Box: Women Writing Women brings these uncommon heroines together in a limited edition box-set from February 20. It’s already had interest from the BBC, The Bookseller and the national press, and now it’s available for £7.99 for just 90 days across a range of ebook platforms. More info on www.womenwritewomen.com

Here are some short excerpts to give you a taste of the novels in Outside the Box:

From Blue Mercy:

We stay out until the bats start to appear and then we leave the lake and turn back the way we came down. I pick another flower, an orchid for my daughter’s hair, and we walk, with me just a shade ahead of you, through the slow-gathering darkness, back to the house where my father no longer lives.

From Crazy for Trying:

Trekking into Helena, Tulsa was somehow surprised by the full-size laundromats, buildings and Burger King. She’d half expected log cabins and free-ranging cattle and was a little disappointed to realize that, for all its legends of copper kings and Chinese muleteers, this town was still, on a mechanical level, the same as any town, including the one she’d just run away from.

From My Memories of a Future Life:

I wasn’t born gifted. It’s how I’ve cheated with the unsatisfactory clay I’m made from. When love went wrong, I turned to the intimate communion with ivory, iron, ebony and wire. Take the piano out of my life and what is left?

From The Centauress:

In every tragedy there is the accidental moment – choosing a particular seat on a train, turning down the wrong road, deciding to take a lift from the 89th floor – the arbitrary, pivotal moment that means destruction or survival.

From An Unchoreographed Life:

None of her mother’s friends ever stayed for tea or sleepovers, thank goodness – not like Emily’s mummy’s horrible bristly boyfriend, who transformed breakfast into a circus of broken eggshell and tossed pancakes, leaving washing-up piled high in the sink after he had basked in applause.

From One Night at the Jacaranda:

Superglue was a wonderful invention. They should have made some that worked on relationships.

From White Lady:

The warm soothing blood oozes from my skin and releases the pressure in my head as if I’ve injected myself with a sedative.

I drop the knife to the floor. It clangs on the tiles. I spread blood all over my arm and admire the patterns it makes on my skin.

Ibrahim. I miss you.

Outside the Box: Women Writing Women is a limited edition box-set available for £7.99/$9.99 across a range of ebook platforms. Details on www.womenwritewomen.com.

 

 

Why I Like Writing Strong Female Characters – Saturday Spotlight with Talli Roland

When we invite guests to join us on the Saturday Spotlight, we usually ask them whether they’d like to be interviewed or simply have write what they want. Most opt for an interview and we try to ask different questions but we’re always secretly excited when someone says they’ll go for free-text.

Talli Roland - WebToday, I’m delighted to welcome Talli Roland to the blog. Talli was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. By age 13, she’d finished her first novel and received very encouraging rejections from publishers. Talli put writing on hold to focus on athletics, achieving provincial records and becoming a Canadian university champion in the 4 × 400 meter relay. After getting her BA, she turned to writing again, earning a Masters in Journalism. A few years later, she left Canada behind and settled in London, where she now lives with her husband and their young son. Talli writes bittersweet and witty contemporary women’s fiction.

Her debut novel, The Hating Game, was short-listed for Best Romantic Read at the UK’s Festival of Romance, and her second, Watching Willow Watts, was selected as an Amazon Customer Favourite.

Over to Talli…

The Pollyanna Plan - Talli RolandI enjoy sweetness and light as much as the next gal, but sometimes  it can get a tiny bit irritating to watch female characters spin in hopeless circles as they eat their way through cupcakes and trot off to buy high heels. Where are the successful, professional women who stand up for themselves and don’t fall to bits when faced with hunky men? Where are the protagonists who aren’t afraid to speak their mind, who drink whisky not spritzers, and who chow down on crisps not chocolate?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of romance and love. But I want to see a couple come together as equals, after the woman sorts out problems herself – not because the hero has swooped in, snapped his fingers and made everything fine. I want the woman to be a person in her own right; I’ve never understood the attraction of the sentiment ‘you complete me’. In our modern times, women do it all. Why shouldn’t our protagonists represent that? After all, isn’t true romance two people who don’t need each other, but who choose to share their lives because they want to?

I am sometimes surprised when reviewers deem my main characters unlikeable. Yes, my female protagonists are certainly miles from perfection, but they make firm decisions, act on them, and will do whatever it takes to get what they want. In a man, this ambition would be an admirable thing. But in a woman . . . not so much. They’re often judged as cold, unfeeling and selfish.

The No-Kids Club - Talli Roland - CoverIn the novel I’m writing now, a mother tries to reconcile her family responsibilities with the chance to pursue her dream career. It’s a dilemma I’m sure many women face: how do you juggle your own fulfillment with the needs of others – with children who hold a huge claim on your heart, too? Can women do it all? And does anyone ask that question of the husbands?

It’s been a wonderful challenge to write this character, and I’ve enjoyed watching her determination grow as she struggles to pursue her passion. She doesn’t always make the right choices, but at least she’s doing something – and by the end of the book, she’s learned more about herself along the way. She’s not willing to let her dream go easily, and I admire her for that.

Give me a woman with grit and resolve over a flaky swooning female any day.

You can find out more about Talli and her work through the following links:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Thanks for joining us today, Talli, and for a post that certainly made me smile. And also breathe a sigh of relief that my protagonist is a strong female character as described! Now I think I’ll just go and get myself a whisky, chow down on some crisps and … who am I kidding? Whiskey at this time of day? A cup of tea perhaps. Crisps sound pretty good though 😉

Jessica xx

Chasing My Tail by Jessica Redland

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nAs regular visitors to our blog will know, we post every Wednesday and Saturday with the occasional Monday post like Christina Hollis’s this week. And sometimes we completely rebel and throw in another random day. Because we like to mix it up like that.

As a group of ten, we all take turns to contribute to this blog. We all bring guests to the Saturday Spotlight and there’s a rolling ‘rota’ for the book group and for Wednesday posts. This week, Saturday’s guest has been organised by me and I’ve just received her article and pictures. I thought I might as well get ahead of myself and schedule them ready for Saturday.

While I waited for wordpress to load up, I glanced at the calendar on the wall by my Mac just to double check that I wasn’t a week ahead of myself. I have one of these family-planner things with six columns. There are only three of us in our family (other than the cat but he really doesn’t need his own column) but I need the other three columns to organise the other key aspects of my life – Brownies, Writing (mine) and Write Romantics. I am the ‘Keeper of the Calendar’ and keep on top of what’s happening when and by whom. I love this role and the other WRs jokingly refer to me as Brown Owl for keeping them on track with what’s coming up on the blog and when we have free slots. Organisation has always been one of my strengths.

Until recently.

P1040080You see, when I glanced at the calendar and assured myself that my guest was indeed this coming Saturday’s guest, I spotted my name in the Write Romantics column. Why was my name there? It honestly took me a good minute or so before I registered that my name was there because today is a Wednesday and today’s slot is mine! Oops. Between organising everyone else, posting the Wednesday Wondering (which I always pull together) last Wednesday, and keeping on top of my guest slot this Saturday, I clean forgot that I had a post to write. A post that I should really have posted this morning. Is it still morning somewhere in the world? Maybe. But that’s really not an excuse.

My excuse is, quite simply, that I’m chasing my tail at the moment and I have absolutely no idea whether I’m coming or going. Like several of the other Write Romantics, I have a day job. I work full-time hours as a Learning & Development Advisor at a factory, although I’m very privileged to have had a flexible working application accepted so I work my hours across four long days and have one day a week off to write. My job is pretty busy and sees me travelling to our Grantham site quite often, attending careers events at local schools, or running all-day training workshops. The days I’m back at my desk can be a frantic email-catching-up frenzy and prep for the next outing. This week has been one of those weeks with two days in Grantham then a day in the office today.

bootcamps-headerOutside of work and writing, I’m a Brown Owl running a pack of 25 Brownies and have done so for nearly five years. If I’m honest, I don’t have the time to do this (as it’s so much more than just the weekly meeting) but I love it and wouldn’t want to let it go. I’m also a bootcamper. On a Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, I get up at 5.20am and head down to the seafront for a 6am hour-long bootcamp. I’m overweight so this is a big thing for me. To try and motivate myself to control my diet, I maintain a blog about this which I update after every single session. I really enjoy doing this and it helps me. But it’s time-consuming. I have an 8-year-old daughter, a cat, and a husband. And somewhere in amongst all of this, I write. But there’s so much on my writing plate at the moment. I submitted the final line edits on my debut novel ‘Searching for Steven’ last night (published by So Vain Books on 3rd June), I’m a quarter of the way through a final edit of my second book, I’m working my way through a second draft of book 3, I’m writing a short story to give away free as a teaser to book 1 and I’m blogging on this site and my own. I attended a scriptwriting workshop on Saturday just to throw something else in the mix and I’m meant to be doing a distance learning professional proofreading course but I’ve had to completely let that slip as I simply haven’t found the time to do it. I will emphasise that most of this work is self-imposed. My publishers haven’t put any pressure on me at all to get books 2 and 3 completed but I want them done as, after twelve years of living with this trilogy, I’m so ready for new material.

My sacrifice up until now has always been that I don’t watch (much) TV. I have programmes I love like Strictly, Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge but I watch very little else (although I’m currently following Broadchurch). I gave up on the soaps years ago when I realised I couldn’t watch them and find time to write. It was quite liberating. If you don’t watch much TV, you don’t see adverts for programmes coming up, so you’re not enticed into watching something you’ve seen trailered. But now it feels like even giving up TV isn’t enough and I’m not sure where to go from here. My desk is a permanent mess although, surprisingly, I can find things. In fact, the whole house is a permanent mess with piles of stuff ‘to be organised’ or ‘to be relocated’ everywhere. This was all fine until I started dropping the ball. I double-booked a couple of guest slots and I missed my own slot today. This isn’t like me and I hate messing up in this way.

So what’s the answer? Well, my starting point is that I’ve booked a day’s holiday for tomorrow. My flex day is usually a Monday so I’m off next Monday but I worked on Monday this week so I have this week’s flex day on Friday. Which means I have five days until I’m back to work to get control of my life again. My daughter is staying with my mum for a few days which means complete peace and quiet tomorrow. On Friday, I’ll be collecting her but will certainly get at least a morning to organise myself and write. And she’s back at school on Monday so I have a full day then, although Brownies is back after the half-term break and I’ve just realised I have the newsletter to compile. Argh. Had forgotten about that too!

Hubby is out tonight so I’m taking advantage of an empty house and hoping to just get myself organised. If I can do the bitty stuff tonight (the internet banking, writing the Brownie newsletter, tidying my desk), then hopefully I can take a full day tomorrow to finish my edit of book 2 and put a big tick in that box. I can brew my short story a bit more over the weekend and then write that on Monday. Then all I have left is book 3. Piece of cake! What on earth was I worrying about. Chasing my tail? No. Not me. I’m in control. Always.

Now where’s that to do list I wrote about three weeks ago and what have I forgotten to do off it?

Jessica xx

PS Would love to hear from you on ways of balancing a huge workload, particularly if you work and write. How do you do it? Please click on the comments tag at the end of the words below this post.

Monday Special: How To Put The Fun Back Into Writing (and life, while you’re at it) by Christina Hollis

It’s a great pleasure to welcome Christina Hollis to the blog today.  She has some great suggestions to keep your writing fresh and inspiration flowing.   There’s also a signed copy of Christina’s new book, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, to win!  All you need to do is leave a comment on this post.  

39PORTRAIT.2011

Writers usually have to squeeze their imaginative sessions into odd spaces between a full time job, home life and family. Writing is often a business, but it’s got to be enjoyable, too. If it isn’t, it’ll show in your work and that won’t do your readers, you, or your career, any good at all.

Take a fresh look at everything you do, and it’ll improve both your writing, and your non-writing life.

A change is as good as… several thousand words.

I write every single day, including holidays. I’d urge everyone to do the same, but there’s no point in writing just for the sake of it.  Make sure you’ve got something to say. Don’t slog away at a project simply because you think you must.  Take a break from your current work in progress. Start a journal, or write a non-fiction article about something unconnected with your work in fiction. If you’ve been writing long form, think about writing a short story for a change.

Don’t beat yourself up…

It’s never a crime to take a day off, or fail to hit your word count. In writing, the only thing that matters is your reader. You can’t expect to do your best for them if you’re overstretched and stressed. If your reader-in-waiting happens to be the editor at your publisher, then keep them informed. This should include asking for an extension to your deadline in plenty of time, if you need it. Twenty-four hours to rest and regroup will do you the world of good. You’ll bounce back to achieve a lot more the following day than if you kept battering away in the hope of an elusive  breakthrough.

Chill out…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATake a walk outside, so fresh air can stimulate your thoughts. If you commute to work by public transport, use your travelling time to let your mind freewheel. Don’t try it while you’re driving! Keep a notebook handy, to write down any flashes of inspiration. Always do this the minute it strikes you. We always think we’ll remember to do it when we get to the office or arrive home, but how often does real life drive out the dream before we’ve got it down on paper, or up on screen? Learn to soothe your mind through meditation. Our lives are so busy and stressful, taking a few moments each day to collect our thoughts is an important aid to mental health.

Then warm up…

Start work on a scene full of drama, romance, sex, intrigue, or whatever gets your motor running as a writer. Plunge straight into something exciting. It doesn’t matter if you’re temporarily writing out of sequence. You can always shuffle text around during the editing stage. Getting some words onto a page is the important part. Once you’ve got your teeth into something (or someone!), you’ll find it difficult to stop.

HisMajestysSecretPassion_w9345_750What’s your favourite tip for keeping your writing fresh and enjoyable? There’s a signed copy of His Majesty’s Secret Passion on offer for a comment picked at random on 22nd February, 2015.

Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women–when she isn’t cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at http://www.christinahollis.com. Her current release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, is published by Wild Rose Press, and available from them at http://bit.ly/1C0CxOU or in the UK, from Amazon at http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv.

To leave a comment please click where it says ‘Comments’ in teeny, tiny type at the bottom of this post.

Behind the scenes… with Sophie Childs

Me croppedHappy Valentine’s Day! Our guest on the blog today is Sophie Childs, who shares a publisher with both Write Romantic Julie and Jo.  Sophie is a home educating mother of five. She spent five years living in New Zealand, but home kept calling to her, so she now lives in the lush Welsh Valleys, along with her husband, children and their copious amounts of animals. She’s the author of Behind the Scenes, which is due for release on 26 February 2015 from So Vain Books and would love to hear from anyone who reads it to know what you think.

Welcome to the blog, Sophie, we’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and how your publication deal came about?

It sounds like a total cliché, but I’ve always been a writer. I used to make books when I was a child, sewing together the pages then creating elaborate covers before filling in the pages. I wrote my first full length novel when I was 18 during the summer holiday before starting university, just to see if I could sustain a story for 50,000 words. I could, but not well enough to attract the attention of a publisher or agent.

Fast forward many years of office work followed by marriage and full time motherhood, and I set up my own publishing company because I knew too many talented people who deserved to be in print but weren’t. Eventually I sold the company as a going concern to focus on my own writing and started working as a freelancer, which brings us to today.

So Vain knew me through my freelancing work and they approached me to see if I had a novel I wanted to pitch to them. Luckily for me, I did, so I finally got the coveted book deal I’d always wanted.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer and how did writing a novel under your own name differ from the ghost writing you’ve done in the past?

I don’t know that there are any downsides to being a writer, although my family would probably tell you that I’m a workaholic! Writing’s both my job and my hobby, so it makes me happy to be able to do what I love and get paid for it.

The biggest difference between ghost writing and my own work is that with ghost writing I’m writing for a client, so I need to produce something that fits their vision, whether it’s what I would personally usually write or not. I always go out of my way to exceed their expectations, but you are restricted by the brief and their target market. If I’m writing for myself, I have the freedom to do whatever I like, so if I don’t like a concept, or I realise that it’s a bad premise, I can ditch it and move on to something new.

We know you love to write horror and that ‘Behind the Scenes’ is more of a romantic comedy, but do you Behind the Sceneshave a favourite genre – either to write or to read?

That’s like asking me to choose my favourite child! I do love reading and writing horror. I enjoy taking outlandish ideas and really twisting them to see just how strange things can get, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had in creating characters that are more true to life and watching them deal with the stress and strain of everyday living. The one common theme with all my work, though, is that there’s a distinct quirkiness to it, which comes out in characters like Bethan.

What inspires you most in your writing and what gave you the idea for ‘Behind the Scenes’?

I take inspiration from all around me. Sometimes someone will just say something and I’ll use it as the opening line of a story or something happens and I know that if I just tweak a few of the details, it would be perfect in a book. There’s a lot in ‘Behind the Scenes’ that’s based on my own personal experiences. There isn’t anybody directly copied from real life, but elements of lots of people I’ve met over the years have found their way into the story.

As far as where I got the idea from, I was writing articles for a movie website and read about how Keanu Reeves is known for travelling around on the subway in New York. It got me thinking about what would happen if I’d met a Hollywood A-lister on the train. The closest I ever got to one was when Ewan McGregor came to an open mic night I used to host, but sadly, I didn’t even spot him in the audience (which is probably a good thing, because, unlike Bethan, I probably would have dissolved into a gibbering wreck!). However, I did get talking to Darren Boyd, who was also there and is one of my favourite actors, and that encounter formed the basis of ‘Behind the Scenes.’

What are the best and worst things about being traditionally published? Would you ever consider self-publishing?

I must admit that I can’t think of any bad thing to say about being traditionally published. My publisher and agent have been absolute dreams to work with. We have a fantastic working relationship and it’s thanks to them that the book turned out the way it did. They’ve been really supportive of my work, so it was really easy to sign a second contract with them for another book.

However, I’d never say never to self-publishing. I set up my own publishing company a few years ago and ran it for five years before selling it, so I understand the hard work that goes into getting a book on the market. If I had a manuscript I felt really passionate about but didn’t think I’d have any success with getting it picked up, there’s a good chance I’d put it out myself.

How have you approached the marketing of your novel?

I’ve had a lot of support from my publishers in helping to get the word out. Obviously, I’ve been tweeting up a storm and the book’s listed on my website, www.sophiechilds.com, and I’ve also got a number of guest blog posts coming out over the next few weeks to help spread the word. There’s even going to be a book launch event, but the details haven’t yet been made public, so I can’t talk too much about it.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Who is your writing hero/heroine and do you have an all-time favourite novel?

My favourite book of all time is “Tigana” by Guy Gavriel Kay. It’s a truly beautiful book and if I had half the talent he does, I’d be happy. He manages to make all his characters so well rounded, even the most minor, and he pulls you through every emotion imaginable. I can’t recommend it enough.

As far as chicklit authors are concerned, I’d have to say that I have huge amounts of respect for Marian Keyes. She manages to deal with some really deep issues in her book, yet keeps her tone light and readable. Mike Gayle’s another favourite, too – I’ve never read a book of his I didn’t like.

What are you working on at the moment and what are your writing aspirations for the next few years?

I’m working on my next project with So Vain, which is due out in February 2016. This one’s based around an internet dating site and it has some larger than life characters in it that I’m really loving writing about.

My ambition is to take over the world! In all seriousness, though, I would like to get a few more books out over the next couple of years, hopefully some horror as well, although that will be under one of my other pen names. I’d like to build on my freelance career as well. I write part time around my children and I’d like to see how far I can push that side of things.

Who is your favourite character from ‘Behind the Scenes’ and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

Obviously, I adore Bethan. She’s the kind of girl you can’t help but like because she’s such a sweetheart and tries so hard to make everyone around her happy. But I also have a soft spot for Livvy, Bethan’s predecessor in the office. She doesn’t actually appear in the novel, but some of the stories Bethan hears about her are outrageous and I’m working on a short story based around her, just so that my readers can get to know a little more about what makes her tick.

If one of your children told you (s)he wanted to be a writer, what would you say?

Two of my daughters already have expressed an interest, which I think is great. Writing’s such a versatile career and you can do it from anywhere in the world, so it would give them a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted.

There’s two things I think they need to know. One is that if you want to be a writer, you have to write. It sounds obvious, but you only get better by doing, so you need to keep creating stories until you find your voice and then create some more. The stories I wrote as a child were horrendously derivative, but they taught me a lot about structure and gradually I’ve managed to hone my style over the years until I have a distinct style of my own.

The other is that if you want to make a living as a writer, you need to change your preconception of what writing actually means. I write both fiction and non-fiction for my clients and the non-fiction pays significantly more money. If you want to pay the bills, a few business clients who come to you for regular work is a really good way of funding yourself while you write on something of your own that you truly love.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a writer and would you add anything further for author 2aspiring writers reading this interview?

When I was at college, I went on a writing course run by Joseph Heller. He could barely understand my generic London accent and I struggled to cope with his thick Bronx dialect, but somehow we met in the middle. He told me that it was important to stay true, not just to yourself, but to your story. Your story has a point and a message – it’s up to you to make it sing.

Is there anything else you want to tell us or any other advice you can share?

Just that I’m really excited about the release of my book at the end of this month – it’s been a long time coming, and I’m so glad it’s finally happening. I’d also say to any other wannabe writers out there, don’t give up. It might take you years to get you where you want to be, but if you keep working hard and don’t lose focus, you’ll get there in the end.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog, Sophie, and we can’t wait to read ‘Behind The Scenes’.

You can tweet Sophie @sophiewritealot or visit her website http://www.sophiechilds.com

You can order an ebook or paperback of ‘Behind The Scenes’ via Amazon or the So Vain website.

Wednesday Wondering – You’re My Inspiration

On this day, 11th February, twenty-five years ago, Nelson Mandela was released after twenty-seven years of imprisonment. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was a source of inspiration to millions around the world. So the theme for today’s Wednesday Wondering is around inspiration. I asked The Write Romantics:

Who or what inspires you?

I told them that it was up to them how they interpreted this question. Inspiration could come from a person, a place, an event or something else. It could be something/someone who inspires them to write through to how they live your life or want to live their life.

I love it when I ask a question that can be open for interpretation because the responses are so varied. Today’s question didn’t let me down.

Jessica xx

Deirdre says …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was walking around a National Trust estate the summer before last and a friend I was with asked me if I could imagine writing a story set there.  I could see what he meant – the ancient trees, the secret valleys filled with exotic plants – but I had to tell him, no, I wasn’t inspired.  I could see he was surprised, disappointed even, but on that particular day at that particular time I’d have found more inspiration in a grimy back street suggesting dubious goings-on after dark.  And I don’t write thrillers.

So, what I think is that inspiration, whether for something creative like writing or simply how to live your life, depends on mood and circumstance; a fluid thing, not easy to pin down or explain.  Which is probably why I took so long to come up with an answer to this question…

There are things, and people, who are more likely to inspire me than others.  For instance, I don’t look at super-achievers and think ‘I could do that’.  I mean the kind of person who home-schools three children, runs a successful business, jogs three times round the park before breakfast and writes best-sellers under cover of darkness, and all without breaking a nail.  That kind of thing leaves me cold.  But when I hear somebody talking, a woman around my age, say, and discover she has same problems, insecurities and crazy thoughts as I do, that will throw a switch inside me and I know I’m doing fine just as I am.  I suppose that’s validation rather inspiration but the two go hand in hand.  If you accept who you are now I think you’re more likely to be receptive to new ideas and have the vision to carry them forward.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s the complicated answer, so now I’ll try to give the simple one.  I have a lovely friend who is very successful at writing stories for women’s magazines.  In fact she’s just sold her hundredth story!  I’m not saying I could reach that dizzy height but she’s definitely inspired me to have a go.  Brilliant writing of any kind will always inspire me, particularly with the novels.  My art teacher inspires me to keep on trying with the drawing and painting.  It’s her job, I know, but not all teachers have the knack.  Friends who have faced great challenges with strength and bravery are always inspiring.

On a lower level, watching property and gardening programmes makes me want to improve my own little patch, and magazines have great ideas that I can’t wait to follow – if only I had the time and the energy.  On the other hand I might just persuade somebody else to do it for me.

Helen R says …

My love of reading is what initially inspired me to become a writer. It took many years of loving books to be brave enough to tackle writing my own, and there were failed attempts as I continued to learn and wrote something that was together enough to submit to agents and publishers.

My other inspiration has always been my family and friends, including The Write Romantics. From the encouragement to get started and put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, to the much needed persuasion not to give up, I think that the people in my life have inspired me to follow this career path, which, let’s face it, can be pretty lonely sometimes.

Rachael says …

Anthology coverInspiration is everywhere for everything, if you just look for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a story idea or the motivation to do something. People, places, or events – past or present, are inspirational.

On a small scale, I find inspiration for my writing all over the place, watching TV, listening to the lyrics of a song, an overheard snippet of conversation. It’s all there for the taking if you open your mind to it.

But there is much bigger inspiration around us. It’s there in people who have risen to the challenge of life and achieved their ambitions, sometimes never letting go of their hopes and dreams for many years. These are the people I look to for inspiration, which in turn gives me motivation. People like the local unsung heroes of our communities, people who have faced illness and bravely shared their story, often raising huge sums of money for charity.

A perfect example of this is Stephen Sutton who inspired The Write Romantics to produce our first anthology, raising funds for charity. Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart is available in paperback and eBook formats via Amazon.

Jo says …

PaulaThe most inspirational person I know in real life is a friend of mine, called Paula. She has a wicked sense of humour, has the sharpest put-downs of anyone I’ve ever met and could probably drink the England rugby union squad under the table.  Our birthdays are one day – and, as she wouldn’t fail to let you know, four years – apart, so maybe that’s why we’re on the same wave length in so many ways.

When we worked together, they called us Trinny and Susannah and we weren’t afraid to tell the world how we saw things.  We were younger then, of course, with that feeling of indestructibility that comes with youth… and, of course, Paula’s muscular dystrophy was less evident than it is now.  She’s always been as tenacious as hell, refusing to have any special allowance made for her condition and working her proverbial off to climb the career ladder, attain a degree whilst working full time and achieve awards for her outstanding commitment to teaching.

Paula and Jo NYE2014Paula has never allowed her condition to define her and whilst many, with far less to contend with, proclaim themselves too ill to work, she’s been out there grabbing life by both hands. After a horrific fall and a six month stint in hospital, she’s finally decided it’s time to ease off the full-time workload, but she’s still willing to volunteer to support her fellow teachers and is thinking about setting up an advice service for others who find themselves in a similar position to hers. Paula also indirectly introduced me to my husband – although that’s another story altogether – hence my son having Paul as his middle name – she beta reads for me, being the first person to ever set eyes upon ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ and was the main inspiration for my Winter Tales’ story.

She never whinges about the hand that life has dealt her – and she’s had more than just being born with MD to contend with – she gets on with things, living independently and wringing as much out of life as it’s possible to do.  I wish I had an ounce of her courage and that I could truly appreciate what I’ve got when I look at what she has to deal with on a day-to-day basis.  I know I don’t, but, still, she’s the definition of inspirational.  We usually like to insult each other – it’s a sign of affection, don’t you know – but, let me say, here and now, Paula, you’re a star and an inspiration and I’m lucky to call you a friend. I know all this will make her uncomfortable, so, as Andrew Lincoln put it in Love Actually, and before Paula has to reach for the sick bucket or a bitingly sarcastic response, “Enough now, enough”.

Alys says …

DSC01339My key inspiration seems to come from places. Beltane was inspired by Glastonbury and my current work in progress, Lughnasa, is inspired by Orkney. I seem to need a strong sense of place in my writing and I find that visiting the location sparks ideas for the plot.  I had so many ideas from visiting Orkney that I couldn’t fit them all into the one book.  So maybe that will keep me going back there and writing about it again.

Sharon says …

When I was in my forties, I decided to do an Open University degree. This took me six years, and it was a long and difficult process. There were many times, when life was particularly tricky, that I felt like quitting, convinced I would fail.

In my spare time (ha!) I was researching my family tree. I’d sent for the marriage certificate of my great-great-grandparents. As I perused the details on the document, one thing leapt out at me immediately. The two witnesses to the marriage, and my great-great-grandfather, George, had all made their mark with a cross. Emma had written her own name.

When I was a little girl, my grandad had given me the memorial plaque awarded in memory of his father, who had been killed in the First World War. I’ve kept it with me ever since. I call it “The Big Penny”, because that’s what it resembles. Emma was that fallen soldier’s mother, which I hadn’t realised before starting my research.

Over thirty years ago, a clairvoyant told me that I had a guardian angel, an ancestor of mine, who watched over me and protected me, and that her name began with the letter E. After discovering my great-grandad’s mum was Emma, and finding that amazing signature on the marriage certificate, I’m absolutely convinced that she meant Emma. The thought of that young woman signing the register fills me with pride to this day. It was the hope that she’d be proud of me that inspired me to finish my degree, and spurred me on to finish my novel, in spite of my self-doubt. Emma is my angel and my inspiration, and I have a lot to thank her for.

And finally …

_MG_0003As for me, my response is similar to Rachael’s. My inspiration comes from all around me. I’m lucky enough to live on the beautiful North Yorkshire Coast. Three mornings a week, I rise at 5.20am and venture down to the seafront to take part in a bootcamp. I completed my very first bootcamp in February 2013, continued for about a year, then took eight months off before getting back into it but with a different company. Sadly, eight months was enough time to put all the weight back on that I’d lost and completely lose my fitness levels again so I had to start from scratch. It’s hard work, particularly when you’re in your forties and very overweight, but the setting is so inspiring. The mornings are starting to get a little lighter and we’ll soon hit the point where the sun rises while we’re working out. Who can fail to be inspired as the sun rises over the sea, casting its first rays on Scarborough Castle. Absolutely stunning.

bootcamps-headerI started to blog about my bootcamp experiences from Day 1 and the really strange thing for me is that friends, family and even strangers have cited me as their inspiration. I personally don’t think I’m very inspiring at all, especially as I’ve been doing this for two years and still have nearly all the weight to lose that I wanted to lose back at the start. But I still do it and I’ve massively increased my fitness. I guess it’s my determination to crack this thing – even if it takes a heck of a long time – that people find inspiring. And it’s those people who do crack it that I find inspiring. My second cousin, Lisa, decided enough was enough the same year I started Bootcamp and joined Slimming World. She lost about seven stone in that year. I lost three and put it back on again. I’m so inspired by her determination so I keep chipping away at it.

For my writing, settings inspire me, like Alys. So do songs. I will often hear a line in a song and think that it’s a great title for a book and, suddenly, I have an idea for a premise for a book.

What do you think? What inspires you? We’d love to hear from you. Please click on the comments tag at the end of all the words below.

Thank you

Jessica xx

Monday Special: Interview with Bella Osborne

As the Write Romantics met through the RNA’s New Writers Scheme we’re always delighted to hear about other writers graduating from the scheme and getting their first novel published.  Today we’re really pleased to welcome Bella Osborne, who like all of us, set off in the NWS.  Her debut novel, ‘It Started at Sunset Cottage’ will be published by Harper Impluse on 12th February.  I’ll hand over to Bella to tell us more about her writing and how she’s feeling in the run up to ‘publication day’.  

Bella Osborne

Many thanks for inviting me onto the Write Romantics Blog!

What made you decide that 2013 was the year things were going to change?

A life coach was getting great results with some of my team and I asked her for some tips so that I could continue what she had started. She ran a session with me, and although at the time there was nothing I wanted to change about my life, she hit on the fact that I used to write but had done little since becoming a mum. Basically she then harassed me, I mean coached me, into making time for my writing and taking other positive actions like signing up for a local writing class, investigating writing associations (I joined the RNA NWS) and taking a sabbatical from work to finish my first novel.

How did you meet your agent?

I was considering approaching agents when I was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction’s New Talent Award so I thought that was a good opportunity to add that to submissions and send them off. A few asked for my full manuscript and Kate Nash rang me as soon as she’d read it and we went from there.

Did you have to wait long for the ‘call’ from Harper Impulse and how did you feel when it came?

I had met Charlotte Ledger, Harper Impulse Editor, at the RNA Conference and she had been really positive about what she had read. I still didn’t expect it to go any further so it was a bolt from the blue when I got a phone call a few months later offering me a two-book contract. I think the honest answer to how did I feel was stunned and then ridiculously overexcited.

How have you found the publishing process so far? 

Charlotte has been great at guiding me through the process and has involved me every step of the way. I feel like I’ve learned loads over the past few months and can honestly say I’ve enjoyed it. My original title did change but the new one was one that we conjured up together.

What are you most looking forward to/nervous about regarding its release?

It still feels quite weird that the book I wrote is going to be published, it’s a very good weird but still weird all the same. I just hope that whoever spends their hard earned cash on it enjoys it.

Did you get professional help with you website (we think it looks very professional) and would you advise others to do the same, if so?

Thank you, that is a lovely compliment as I did it myself. It was originally completely free until I bought the URL but otherwise it’s the same as the free version I set up. I would recommend Weebly.com as it’s very easy to use and the results are pretty good!

Do you find writing for children more or less challenging than writing for adults?

I had no intention of writing for children, all the previous work I had started at home had been for adults. However, when I joined a local writing class and was set various different exercises and encouraged to explore genres some characters for a children’s story appeared. They then kept cropping up from time to time until my tutor, children’s author Gill Vickery, encouraged (that’s another word for harassed) me into writing the full story. I really enjoyed doing it and her support in tailoring my language to a different audience has been truly valuable.

What role do you anticipate having in the marketing of the book?

A few people have asked me about marketing and I went into a wild panic as basically I thought I had no plans at all. But as it turns out I have a good number of followers on Twitter who I’m hoping will spread the word and I’m now part of a wonderful network of writers who are also offering their support. And of course I have my family and friends who are waxing lyrical to anyone who will listen. It’s probably not the best marketing plan I could have come up with but I’d much rather people read it because it’s recommended to them or because they like the sound of it rather than because they’ve been bombarded.

It Started At Sunset Cottage

Have you already written the second in your two book deal and how involved is your publisher/agent in directing the focus of that?

Yes, I completed the second one in September 2014 and it is with my Editor. I gave her an overview of the story and she was happy to let me run with it. That said I don’t think she’s read it yet so we’ll see what comes out of the editing process!

How would you like to see you career develop and are you likely to go back to any of those unfinished novels you mention on your website?

I’ll keep writing whatever happens, it’s just something I’m compelled to do and that I completely love. It would be great if people buy them and enjoy them. I have learned a huge amount in the last two years about the craft of writing and when I look back at my earlier work I cringe a little. That said I have taken the seed of an idea from one of those stories to make the basis of my third book, which is an office-based romance.

Thanks again for having me on your blog, it’s been fun!

You can pre-order ‘It Started at Sunset Cottage’ here

Check out Bella’s website here and follow her on Twitter at @osborne_bella

A Little Bit Of Writers Heaven

This week I’d like to welcome Deborah Dooley to our blog. Deb’s a long standing and very prolific journalist, specialising in health and women’s issues. I had the good fortune to meet Deb years ago when I lived near her in Devon and she was very helpful in getting me set up as a writer, and I also enjoyed some of her legendary hospitality and home cooking. Some time ago she turned her beautiful and very welcoming home into what I suspect is a little bit of heaven on earth for writers and she tells us about it below.

‘First of all, thank you to Lynne for inviting me onto the blogIMG_0326[1]. It’s not easy, this writing lark. Talent is useful, but the ability to become a proficient writer can be learned. Determination, however, along with tenacity, a willingness to put the hours in – and remain ever open to learning, are essential qualities. Support and encouragement can also provide a massive leg up for a writer of any kind, at any stage of their career. And it was this last which provided us with inspiration, when we were looking for a way in which to boost our income.

Following the departure of our children from the nest, we had four spare bedrooms.  After working from home as a freelance journalist for twenty years, I knew that a combination of tranquillity and low level buzz provide perfect writing conditions. Both are evident in the small and picturesque village in Sheepwash in Devon, in which we live. So what, I pondered, if we kitted out our spare rooms with desks and kettles and invited writers – of all kinds – to come and write?

It took less time than the pondering to embark upon said kitting out and show the walls of our thatched and cob house a fresh lick of white paint. Some white bed linen and white towels and robes completed a look and feel that’s comfortable but spartan enough not to interfere with the creative process – and a month later, Retreats for You was in business. Six years on, we have welcomed every possible kind of writer. Poets, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, writers for children, academics – published and unpublished – all have arrived, quickly settled in and achieved a huge amount during their stay with us.

IMG_0325[1] I think reasons for this are that we provide full board and unlimited tea coffee etc. (and homemade snacks), which enables guests to concentrate fully on the job in hand. Nobody is allowed to cook, clear away or do chores of any kind. Bob and I enjoy having people in the house and we have, I think, created an informal and relaxed atmosphere. We all eat together, but if someone is tired or busy writing, we are happy to bring a tray to their room. Guests are free to write in their rooms or anywhere else in the house (by the fire is nice – and can fuel the muse) and may help themselves to banana bread, flapjacks etc, from the kitchen, between meals. Wine time is at 6pm. This is a popular time of day, as you might imagine and can provide a kind of beacon at the end of the working day. (Wine is included in the price and not rationed.) And finally, there is a work ethos in the house during the day. I am in my study a lot of the time, doing my own work and Bob, who is a joiner/carpenter is in his workshop. The house is often so quiet that you can hear the tapping of a keyboard, which is often enough to encourage even the IMG_0297[1]most reluctant writer to get on and write.

Urban fantasy writer Alys West stayed earlier this year and has this to say, “it speaks for itself that of the people I met when I was there, three of them had been at least once before and two of those had stayed many times and were planning to come back as soon as they could.”

Running Retreats for You is exciting, fun, occasionally challenging – and immensely rewarding. I’ve learned a lot from writers who visit and I like to think that I’ve passed on some of my own expertise to novice writers. It’s a huge privilege to help facilitate the work of so many different and varied writers. The job satisfaction involved is immense, because I know (they tell us constantly) that we are making a difference to them and their writing.
And that’s a wonderful feeling.’ It does look very special doesn’t it? I love the bookshelves below, housing books by guests. Thank you for showing us your beautiful house Deb, I’m sure you’ll see more of us in the future. www.retreatsforyou.co.ukIMG_0324[1]