In a Manhattan Minute

In a Manhattan Minute is out today! October 20th sees the publication of my fifth novel.

A winter story set in the snow and excitement of the big city, In a Manhattan Minute is the perfect romance to curl up with. And for only 1.99 it’s a bargain price for a trip to New York City…


Here’s the blurb…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… but when the temperature dips, can Manhattan work its magic?

Jack exists in a world that has seen its fair share of tragedy, but also success and the wealth that comes with it. One snowy night, he crosses paths with Evie, a homeless girl, and it changes everything.

Three years on, Evie’s life is very different. She’s the assistant to a prestigious wedding gown designer, she’s settled in Manhattan, has her own apartment and friendships she holds dear. But the past is lurking in the background, threatening to spoil everything, and it’s catching up with her.

Kent has kept a family secret for two decades, a secret he never wanted to share with his son, Jack. And even though she doesn’t realise it yet, his life is inextricably tangled with Nicole’s, the woman who was his housekeeper for thirteen years and the woman who helped Evie turn her life around.

It’s Christmas and a time for forgiveness, love and Happy Ever Afters. And when the snow starts to fall, the truth could finally bring everyone the gift of happiness they’re looking for.

Grab a hot chocolate, turn on the twinkly lights and snuggle up with this unputdownable heart-warming novel. 
In a Manhattan Minute 

Helen J Rolfe x


Interview – Debbie Johnston – Brook Cottage Books

Today I’d like to welcome Debbie Johnston from Brook Cottage Books to the blog. Welcome Debbie!

debbie johnston

Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi, firstly thanks for having me! In the bookish world I am known as JB Johnston, but my real name is Debbie Johnston. I work full time for a local health trust and as a book blogger and book tour co-ordinator in my spare time.

When did you start BCB and why?

I started Brook Cottage Books on 1st December 2012. I had a personal blog on which I posted up the odd book review. Once I started writing reviews I began to get lots of requests from authors. It was then that I decided to start a dedicated book blog and the rest is history!

BCB-HeaderWhat’s your favourite part about BCB?

Oh my goodness! I love all of it so much! I love being a part of the book world and meeting lots of lovely authors. I find that authors and book bloggers are amongst some of the nicest people in the world. The kindness, devotion to what they do and the support is wonderful. I love that BCB gives authors the chance to showcase their work. It gives me such a buzz.

What’s your favourite genre to read and review?

Before starting BCB and indeed reviewing in general, I was very closed in terms of only having one genre as a favourite. I would never have considered reading romances or paranormal books and would have stuck strictly to crime / thrillers or horror. But, now I can honestly say that I am more open minded and by being open minded about what I read I enjoy them all and try new things!

How do you choose which books to review?

When I first started reviewing I would have accepted every book that was offered to me which was totally wrong as my tbr list grew to epic proportions and I know there are authors out there who have been waiting a long time for a review. Apologies guys. So now, I let authors know that I cannot say when I will get round to reading their book so in exchange for their book I offer a guest post / interview or promo post on the blog. I want to give something back. Because I run book tours, I have to prioritise books on the tours. I have a reading schedule that I try to keep to and try to include non-tour books and books from my own bookcase.

What do you do if you read a book you’re supposed to review but you really don’t like it?

I usually either try to contact the author to let them know that the book just wasn’t for me and offer a guest post instead. Or, I try to offer constructive criticism in my review. I would never write anything horrible. Reviewers need to remember that a book is an author’s baby. Be gentle!

Is there a particularly memorable guest you’ve had on your blog?

Oh goodness I have had so many wonderful guests on the blog! I love promoting Indie authors especially but I have had a few well-known people interviewed on the blog – Fern Britton, Josephine Cox and Barbara Taylor Bradford

What happens when an author enrols to do a blog tour with BCB?

When an author emails me about a tour they are sent a tour info sheet and a questionnaire to complete. Once I have all the relevant information then the author just has to sit back and let me get on with it. I organise a tour banner, tour page and sign up tour hosts. Then during each day of the tour I share all the host’s posts across social media. An author’s book gets maximum coverage! There is actually a lot of work involved in organising tours.

And finally, what’s next for BCB  Website: 

Brook Cottage Books and the book world has become my life! I would love to give up my day job make book work my full time career. I have so many ideas floating around my head. It would be lovely if someone somewhere noticed my work and offered me a job in the book world! Hopefully Brook Cottage Books will continue to flourish and I have lots of authors who are return customers so I must be doing something right! Brook Cottages will continue to support Indie authors and offer a range of free services as well as paid ones.

Thanks for visiting the blog, Debbie, it was fantastic to hear all about Brook Cottage Books!





Helen J Rolfe 🙂

Saturday Spotlight: Interview with Cherry Adair

Our guest today is Cherry Adair, an award-winning and best-selling romantic fiction writer. Cherry is from South-Africa, but now lives in the Seattle where she has built her dream home and office.

I met Cherry Adair at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Sydney, 2014. She is an inspirational speaker and it is my pleasure to have her appear on the blog today to tell us more about herself and her writing.

Helen R 🙂

Welcome to our blog, Cherry. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an author.

Long before I could read (or physically write, for that matter) I’d get pencil and paper and pretend to write a story. Then I’d ‘read’ the hieroglyphs to my mother. She was a very appreciative audience. I eventually learned how to write – although my handwriting still looks like hieroglyphics – and never looked back.

I sold my first book – The Mercenary to Harlequin Temptation in 1994.  I’d written 17 full manuscripts before I sold, all of which I shredded the day my contract from Harlequin arrived.  It was up for a RITA (It didn’t win but it was an awesome experience nevertheless) and I thought that was the start to a long and illustrious career. Instead it took me another five years to sell book two – a Single Title -Kiss and Tell. I now teach classes on how to write a Career Plan when you don’t have a Career! lol

Over the last decade-ish J I’ve carved a niche for myself with my sexy, sassy, fast-paced, action adventure novels which have appeared on numerous bestsellers lists, won dozens of awards and garnered praise from reviewers and fans alike. When people ask me- “What’s the book (any of my books. Lol) about?” My response is – “Running-chasing-attraction-shooting–wild-money-sex-running-shooting-more-wild-monkey-sex-running-chasing-shooting-happily-ever-after”.

I loathe writing first drafts. To me it’s like wading through wet cement, and it take me forever because there’s always something I’d rather be doing . Which is why I stopped writing the seat of my pants very early in my career and came up with my plotting by color method. Now the map of my story is easy to follow and relatively painless. Once that first draft is done, it’s another story. I can’t be torn away from my computer. I go back and layer and texture, polish, tweak, and fluff!

I’ve just completed book #42.


You write Romantic Suspense…what made you choose this genre?

I think most readers – male as well as female- are the main protagonists in the books they read. We like to put ourselves into the skin of these characters so that we’re smart, sassy, and quick with the smart come-backs and one liners. We want to be the one having awesome wild monkey sex. Action-adventure romances are exciting and larger than life. I love putting my characters into situations fraught with danger, and let them wriggle out of it just in time to have awesome sex. LOL (I always know where they can take a shower beforehand – no matter where they are!) I enjoy writing exotic locales, and unusual places, so that they, too, become characters. I write what I love to read, with characters I’d enjoy knowing in real life.

I write T-FLAC, my counterterrorist organization because the safety of the world is a relevant topic in today’s climate. I’m fascinated by military personnel and what it requires for these true-life heroes to go out every day to make the world a safer place for the rest of us.

Do you have a personal favorite out of all the books / series you’ve written?

That’s like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite. Lol I don’t have a favorite book, but I do have favorite scenes from each of my books, and favorite characters. But if I had to pick my favorite book, it would be the one where I just typed The End.

Does your own life weave its way into your stories?

I have had some hair-raising experiences in my life so far, so some of them end up in my books, But I don’t like getting my hair wet, or wearing bad shoes, or not wearing make-up or hiking through a tropical rain forest. I don’t want people shooting at me (although I do have a bullet wound in my knee from a robbery gone bad. No, I wasn’t the robber!) I don’t do scaling mountains, or treasure hunting. I have traveled to many of the exotic locals in my books, but not all of them. I don’t like creepy-crawlies or not being anywhere near a shower or a flushing toilet! (And observant readers will  notice that my heroines don’t like the same things! )  But I LOVE reading and writing character who not only do all those things, they thrive doing them.

From research and first drafts, to edits and polishes, what’s your favourite part of the writing process and what’s your least favourite?

Least favorite is the first draft. I plot the book well, and I try to get that first draft written as quickly as possible. (that is to say, a little faster than a full stop! Lol)  I go at a snail’s pace, and it’s agonizing. Once the first draft is done, however, I love to layer and texture, adding all the things that make the character’s three dimensional, I love going in an refining the dialogue, adding descriptions, layering in more sexual tension, adding all the little bits of business that make my books my books.

What do you think the appeal is of books written in a series?

Readers connect with the world the author has built. Even if the same characters don’t move through all the books in a series, the reader knows that Universe.

I was lucky enough to meet you at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Sydney 2014. Do you enjoy speaking at events and motivating other writers / aspiring writers?

I LOVED that conference, and everyone I met there!! So, so much fun. I wish I could attend every year. I must start begging for an invitation again soon!

I love, love love teaching everything I’ve learned about writing over the years to other authors. It give me such a kick to see the OMG! look in someone’s eyes a second before their head goes down, and their fingers fly as they write or type at lightning speed. I know that whatever I just said resonated, and she’s no longer even in the same room, but off applying it to her own story, oblivious to everyone around her. I know what that feels like, and I want the writers/students in my classes, to have that ah-ha moment every time a teach the craft of writing.

Tell us about your online motivational group on Facebook: BICC.

I have a passion for mentoring other writers, particularly fledgling writers at every stage from rank beginners, to author’s with several books under their belts. So many people say they want to write a book, but they never sit their butts in the chair and actually write. Or they write the same three chapters over and over again, tweaking and polishing and changing a word here and there (sure, lady – that’s the EASY part! Lol) . Many of them enter every contest, get fabulous feedback on the same three chapters, year after year, after year…. but never finish the book. I gently, with great love, and very little sympathy (sure it’s hard, cupcake. But if you want it badly enough you’ll stop talking about it, and buckle down and put in the work.)  I motivate them to sit their as- butts in the chair and write, and finish the book! Lol I have an active  motivational group on Facebook called Butt In Chair Challenge for anyone who needs a weekly nudge.

They have to report in once a week with their anticipated word or page count, then come back the following week to let me know if they met their goal.  (threats and bribes are involved!) Sometimes all I need to do is show them a picture of a great high heel – I can motivate with graphics.)

I’ve kicked a LOT of butts over the years, and have dozens and dozens of published books filling the shelves in my office from people I’ve mentored. Proving that sitting one’s butt down and finishing the damn book pays off!

I don’t delude myself, I know I have very little, if anything, to do with their success. I think of myself as the magic feather Dumbo was given to help him to fly. J Everyone needs to be seen. We all want to be acknowledged. No one sits behind us as we type, saying “WOW! That sentence is amazing!” I don’t read my mentees (is that a word??! Lol) work. But I am always right there beside them mentally, encouraging them to keep going, urging them to finish this book, and start the next, propping them up when they get that rejection letter, encouraging them to keep submitting, keep writing, keep learning. I want to see them publish. I want their success. There’s plenty of room for all of us. I can’t wait to buy their book the second they tell me it’s available. Their success gives me enormous satisfaction and joy.

I bought your Writer’s Bible after you recommended it at the conference and I’ve found it irreplaceable when planning my next novel…what made you put the Writer’s Bible together?

I had no intention of sharing that with anyone! I have a 3-ring binder for each of my books. In them I have all my research, and my character profiles etc. It’s massive – usually a 6-10″ binder. Over the years I formed what I called my Bible for each book. In it I fill in the same questionnaire, asked the same questions, in the same order, and note details about each character with images to go along with their descriptions. This is my Master Document, and one I fill in for every single book. Sometimes it’s a pain in the butt to take the time to do this, but for me, it pays off a hundred fold. (this is another of my left brain- analytical- tools for myself, a right brain writer) My Writers’ Bible is my lifeline to everything about my characters, plus some things I keep tend to forgetting to do, or ask myself in every book! If I know something, and forget to do it, I need something to jog my memory.

Every time I do a writers workshop I would show people the Bible for  whichever book I was working on as an example of whatever the subject is for that particular class.

Everyone wanted it.

Oddly I was reluctant to share this with everyone. After all I’d taken 25 years to put this together, adding things over the years, refining it etc. For myself. Then I realized how selfish that was. If I say so myself 🙂 this is a fabulous tool, a great resource for fellow authors. I knew how well it worked for me (I can’t write a book without it) so it’s now for sale. This is not a book book. (although if someone must, it can be bought as such.) This is a template. Download it, save it as a template, then open and save into your current WIP before starting the new book.

Your books often feature a very sexy hero on the front cover…do you ever get to go on photo shoots and choose the best ‘fit’ for your book?

Occasionally I’ve attended one of the photo shoots. But more often than not the publisher and I discuss what I’d like to see on the cover, and they send me a contact sheet to choose the image I like best.

When writers start out they often have a makeshift workspace/study. I was no exception…my last writing area was in our walk-in-wardrobe! We’d love to hear about the amazing house you’ve built in Seattle and the study that you work in each day.

cherry3My office is right near the front door with a view of my front garden. I like to look at a blank wall when I write. No distractions. My walls are lined with bookshelves. I have thousands of my keepers filling the ceiling to floor, wall to wall shelves. I have a fireplace, and two comfortable easy chairs (one for each dog so they can keep watch outside in case a squirrel shows up.) My desk is L-shaped and I have my framed covers on the wall in front of me. Usually I don’t see anything around me while I write. It all disappears in a blur. lol




And finally, can you share anything with us about your work in progress?

cherry6I’m putting the finishing touches on PLOTTING BY COLOR (May 2015)A left brain tool for right brain writers. I’ve incorporated my love of color ( I used to be an Interior Designer) with what I’ve learned about plotting. This book will work well for plotters and those writers who like to write by the seat of their pants. It’s a map, a guide, to doing the left brain, analytical work up front so that when you’re ready to write the book you don’t have to stop to figure out your plot. It’s a way to keep each thread intact, from beginning to end, and not miss any pertinent information. It’s all there, and you can just be creative. I’m very proud of this book, and think it’ll help many, many writers to write faster, more tightly, and keep track of all the details.

My next releases will be GIDEON in March (a follow up to HUSH – See? He didn’t die! Lol) BLUSH, a Single title out in April, and PLOTTING BY COLOR in May. At the end of the year I’ll have three new Cutter Cay books out. cherry4

For more info on my books people can visit my website And for fun and daily shenanigans, come and play with me on and/or Twitter
This was fun! Thanks for having me. 🙂




Thank you for visiting our blog, Cherry! I hope to bump into you at another conference some day…

Dealing with Rejection by Alys

I got two rejections last week.  One of the upsides of having an agent is that those emails don’t come directly to me anymore.  But one of the downsides is that my agent seems to store them up and I tend to hear about two at a time which is a real double whammy.  I also get more feedback these days as the editors give at least a line or two about the book, giving a couple of positives before they get to the reason why they turned it down.

Doubt Kills More Dreams

I thought the feedback would be a good thing, give me an idea of what I need to work on in my writing.  But they’re so contradictory that I don’t know what to take from them.  One of this week’s rejections said they didn’t like Maeve, the antagonist, whereas an editor who turned me down before Christmas said Maeve was a great character.  It’s making me realise how hugely subjective the whole thing is.  What one editor loves, another says doesn’t work for them.  And what should I take from the comment that ‘they didn’t sufficiently connect with the heroine’?  Is that in my writing or is it just a personal reaction? I can think of dozens of books where I didn’t love the heroine but I still enjoyed the book.  Do editors need to feel a deep personal connection with all the characters to take a book on?

I’m getting better with rejections though.  These two made me mutter and moan for about half an hour whereas when I first started submitting rejections could knock me back for days.  Of course, it helps if there’s a few positives in there as well.  One of these said that Beltane was ‘crisply written’ which took some of the sting out of it.

I asked the other Write Romantics if they’d had any really positive rejections.  Jessica got a reply from an agent that said:

‘There’s an awful lot I like about it.  However I am afraid in the current tough market I do have to be completely bowled over by something to take it on….I’m sorry that it’s been a near miss for me.”


Jo received this lovely rejection from a publisher:

‘As we are finding the market so competitive at the moment, we will unfortunately have to pass on the book, but personally I think you have great potential and would encourage you to keep going as you have qualities we have previously seen in other newbie authors who have made it big.’ 

Both Jessica and Jo said that these emails kept them going through the dark days of other less tactful rejections.

And we’ve had some of those.  Helen R received:

‘Sorry but this market has collapsed and I don’t think we could find a publisher for this.’

Fortunately she can laugh about it now (particularly as Crooked Cat are publishing her novel next month) but it must have hurt at the time.  My worst one was from a very well-known agent who gave me the standard two line rejection and then tried to sell me her book on understanding the publishing industry.

photo (5)

I know rejections are part of the process and if I talk to non-writers about it they always quote J K Rowling.  Everyone forgets how many times she was rejected (apparently it was twelve which doesn’t seem that many to me anymore!) but it’s become urban myth that she was knocked back a lot.  Margaret Mitchell got 38 rejections before she found a publisher for Gone with the Wind and Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit and look how well that worked out!  Louise M Alcott was told not to give up teaching and it took Agatha Christie 5 years to land a publishing deal.

So if you’re feeling down about a rejections try to remember that you’re in really great company.  Pretty much every writer I can think of, other than PD James and Georgette Heyer, have been turned down.  Which just goes to show that editors are as prone to mistakes as the rest of us.  Except perhaps the editor who told Dan Brown’s agent ‘it’s so badly written’; he might just have had a point!

If you’ve had any particularly unhelpful or really positive rejections then we’d love to hear about them.  You can leave us a comment by clicking where it says ‘Leave a comment’ or ‘comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

Fab Friday announcement – Meet the tenth Write Romantic

When the Write Romantics formed in early 2013, there were just two of us. As unpublished writers, we realised quite quickly that we may struggle to post regularly so we placed a thread on the RNA’s online support group to see if anyone would like to join us. Within a couple of weeks, two had become ten! A few months later, we dropped down to nine when one of the group found she really didn’t have the time to contribute due to personal circumstances.

The nine of us have had an amazing eighteen months. We’ve gone from one publishing deal to five deals and an agent (see Monday’s post for more details), we’ve developed an incredible support network, and we’ve nearly all met either before or during this year’s conference. This is quite an achievement for nine women who had never met before but share the same passion and dreams.

As time has passed, we’ve realised that the nine Write Romantics aren’t really nine. There’s been a tenth writer who has shared the highs and lows of our journeys and shared her own experiences with us. Two of us have had the pleasure of meeting her on several occasions, she’s been amazing in promoting our work and our news, and she comments on all our blog posts, frequently giving her own Wednesday Wondering response. To all intents and purposes, she’s been a Write Romantic in everything but name. Which was just ridiculous. So we decided to rectify that.
The Write Romantics are therefore delighted to announce that we’re back to The Power of Ten. We’re absolutely thrilled to welcome fellow-RNA member, talented writer, and all-round lovely person, Sharon Booth, to our group. Time for me to stop wittering and to hand over to Sharon who’ll tell you a bit more about herself and her writing journey so far.

Jessica on behalf of The Write Romantics


The new Write Romantic - Sharon Booth

The new Write Romantic – Sharon Booth

Thanks, Jessica.

Well, what can I say to that? If you’re surprised by this announcement you’re not the only one. It never occurred to me that I could become a Write Romantic. I mean, they were already formed when I heard about them – and perfectly formed at that, in my opinion. I had no idea what was in store when I picked up my phone one day to find a message that they were waiting to talk to me – urgently. Thinking it may be about the forthcoming anthology (plug, plug) I went online to see what was so urgent, and there they were, issuing me with this amazing invitation. Do you want to be a Write Romantic? Er, let me think about that…

Of course I flipping well do!

It’s been lovely for me getting to know these ladies over the last fifteen months. I met Alys through Romna, the online chapter of the RNA, when she introduced herself and mentioned she was writing a novel set in Glastonbury. That caught my attention! I replied, and within weeks we’d arranged to meet up, along with Alys’s friend Jessica. That’s when I learned about the Write Romantics and it occurred to me what a good idea it was to form such a group. Writing can be a very lonely business and there’s much to be said for being part of a community of like-minded people, sharing the ups and downs of this strange creative life, having someone to talk to, ask advice of, share information with, rejoice at good news and commiserate when the news isn’t that great.

I really got to like the whole group. Because of Jessica and Alys I met the other members online and followed this blog and delighted in their virtual company. So yes, when they asked me to join them I was stunned but absolutely delighted.

They’ve all made me very welcome and I’m looking forward to sharing the next part of my writing journey with them, as well as with you. It promises to be a very exciting few months and, seeing the fantastic news that’s winged its way to several of the Write Romantics lately, I’m really hoping some of their good fortune rubs off on me! 🙂

Maybe I’ll never be a perfect ten – no “maybe” about it to be honest – but I feel I’m part of the perfect ten now. I’m a very happy lady!

Sharon xx

Anyone for tea?

Anyone for tea?

Today I’d like to welcome Josephine Moon to the blog. She is the author of ‘The Tea Chest’, published by Allen & Unwin, and she’s a self-confessed tea lover!

Josephine, tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to be a novelist?

I was born in Brisbane and now live on the Sunshine Coast with my husband, toddler and an unreasonably large collection of animals. I write fiction and non-fiction, with a different publisher for each. I love good food, aromatic wonders, nature and animals, and am a self-diagnosed spa junkie. My aim in life is to do all my work from the spa.

I took the long route to novel writing, and wrote ten manuscripts in twelve years on the way. I studied journalism at Uni, taught English and Film and TV in schools, worked as a technical writer and then five years as a professional editor, all the while writing and hoping to one day be published. Finally, in 2012, I got a literary agent and three book contracts soon after.

The title of your debut novel, “The Tea Chest” makes me want to open up the book and delve inside…what’s the book about and how did you come up with the idea?

I am a mad tea woman. I just love tea, teapots, tea rituals, high teas, doilies, silver spoons and teeny tiny cakes. One day, I was wandering through a T2 tea shop (around 2007), inhaling aromas and shaking bowls of tea, and I thought, ‘What an awesome job! Who gets to design all these teas?’ And with that, the character of Kate Fullerton, lead tea designer at The Tea Chest, arrived.

In the book, Kate Fullerton has just inherited fifty per cent of the company from her mentor and must decide what she will risk, both for herself and her young family, in order to take a chance to follow her dreams. Along the way, she’s joined by Elizabeth and Leila, two women at crossroads in their own lives, who join Kate’s venture to help realise The Tea Chest’s success. Set across Brisbane and London, with a backdrop of delectable teas and tastes, lavender fields and vintage clothes, The Tea Chest is a gourmet delight you won’t want to finish.

What are your plans for your next book?

My next book is currently sitting with my publisher and I’m anxiously awaiting her feedback! It is due to be published next year. It’s called The Chocolate Apothecary, and is set across Tasmania and France, is a family drama with a strong, classical romance structure, and continues my fascination with artisan food, lavender fields, sensory delights and chocolate, which wasn’t so good for my waistline and I’m now carrying the kilos of two years of hard research.

Which writers have had the greatest influence on you both as a reader and as a writer?

James Herriot, Monica McInerney, Liane Moriarty, Nick Earls, Kimberley Freeman (Kim Wilkins).

As a reader, what do you expect from a novel that you pick up?

I want to escape to another place, meet new characters that I love, and be taken on a journey. I avoid anything that is stressful, dark, involves violence or misery — I think there’s too much of that around us in real life and I’m not interested in spending my leisure time living it through books. So I want something nurturing and entertaining.

What are your most favourite and least favourite parts of the writing process?

Good question! I truly think I have the best job in the world and I would be doing it (and indeed I did do it for twelve years prior to a publishing deal) even if I wasn’t being paid. So I’m blessed to be excited to ‘go to work’ each day and I feel stressed when life gets in the way and I can’t work. I never feel happier than when I’ve had a great writing day.

There are of course moments of pain, too. I explain it like that moment when you’re running, or swimming or on the exercise bike etc. and you hit that pain barrier where you think, oh man, I’m not enjoying this and I want to stop now. But if you keep going, you reach another level and if you’re really lucky you’ll hit that zone where you’re just flying and scoring goals and nothing can stop you. I used to get that playing netball and it was a magic place. Some people call it a ‘runner’s high’. I now call it a ‘writer’s high’ 🙂 I’ve learned that when I hit that moment of pain in writing, when I really want to stop there, that’s the moment to just wait it out.  And so often (so often!), I’ll get a second wind and some really great words.

So, in summary, that moment of pain where I feel like I’m pathetic and this is hopeless and I’m never going to be able to finish this scene let alone this book… that’s unpleasant. But getting into ‘the zone’… that’s magic!

What did you learn from writing “The Tea Chest”?

Before writing The Tea Chest, I’d written ten manuscripts across a huge range of genres and styles. It took me a long time to really find my voice and know what I wanted to put out into the world. So the biggest thing I learned from The Tea Chest was to write the book I wanted to read.

Do you see social media as key to reaching your readers?

These days, I think you have to embrace social media as a keystone in relationship building and connection with everyone from all walks of life. For me, social media is a double-edged sword. It can be wonderful for that instant communication and feedback, entertainment and promotion and socialising… but it also takes up a LOT of time and, more concerning for me, headspace. I recently discovered ‘Freedom’ a computer program that blocks the internet for you. Whenever I find myself ‘looping’ on social media (you know, you check stuff, post something, move on, but then someone comments and you feel you have to reply, then you have to check if they replied and on and on) I switch on Freedom, go through a few moments of panic that I might actually NEED the internet for the next two-and-a-half hours (!!) and then get over it and write some great words.

Have you had reader feedback about “The Tea Chest”? Are there any responses that you have particularly treasured?

I have had so many lovely readers contact me to tell me how much they love The Tea Chest. And I really treasure each one. I mean, at the end of the day, you write so someone will read it, don’t you? So that kind of validation is really meaningful to me. I do remember one woman wrote to me and said she hadn’t read anything since leaving high school and The Tea Chest was the first book she’d bought since then and I’d turned her back into being a reader. I mean, wow.

Do you find some scenes harder to write than others? Are there any types of scene that you do your utmost to avoid writing?

Yes! I’ve definitely found racy scenes difficult to write in the past, but just in the past two years I think I’ve worked out what my style is and how I should approach them and so they intimidate me less now. A huge re-write happened in The Tea Chest in the first couple of drafts and during the structural edit I took out a lot of racy scenes. They just weren’t me and weren’t working. Liane Moriarty writes brilliant sex scenes, I think, and I’ve learned a lot from her writing.

The other thing I try to avoid are emotionally painful scenes (such as when someone has died). But that’s because I don’t want to feel all that pain. I do get back to them eventually; it just takes me a while to face them.

And finally…Do you have any strange writing habits? (That you’re willing to share of course!)

I don’t think so (other needing my ‘writing pants’ to work in… which are generally pyjama bottoms). But I do seem to need chocolate to edit. I don’t know what that’s about but it just seems to be as necessary as the red pen.

Thank you so much for having me along. I’ve really enjoyed these questions! Jo x

Thank you Josephine for talking about yourself and your book. I’m just over halfway through ‘The Tea Chest’ at the moment and it’s a great read…I don’t like tea but you never know, you may have converted me!

Helen R 🙂

It’s The Wednesday Wondering innit, know what I mean, lol?!

It’s Wednesday which means time for another Wondering. Last week our question about whether man really landed on the moon and whether we’re alone generated some great interest and some new bloggers placing comments so thank you so much to those who joined in the discussion 🙂

This week is another two-parter but on a theme closer to writing; the use of language. I asked The Write Romantics:


(1) What word or phrase do you absolutely hate people using and why?
(2) What’s your favourite saying or proverb and why? Do you use it often?


248059_10151669447464073_1097183203_n-1Helen R says …

The phrase I hate is definitely “everything happens for a reason”. I’m sure I’ve said it myself so many times and sometimes it feels right and fitting, but sometimes disasters happen, or people we love get sick, and that makes me hate that phrase because there is no rhyme or reason.

As for my favourite, John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. I love this phrase and it’s so appropriate. We make plans but things do happen to throw us off course.


Jay says …

I can’t stand LOL. How often, I wonder, are people actually laughing out loud when they write that? If they are, then they must spend half their lives in hysterics or maybe I’m just miserable! The worst thing is that my nine year old actually says LOL now sometimes, instead of laughing. I can imagine him going to see a stand up comedian when he grows up and the crowd all sitting there going “Lol, lol, lol!”

I love this proverb from Mother Teresa ‘There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread’. I can’t say it’s a mantra I repeat out loud on a regular basis, but it is something I am trying to live by. People need love and to feel valued as much as they need to have their really basic requirements fulfilled and, conversely, having everything materially is nothing without love. Maybe that’s why I write romance, I am a sucker for a love story and I want everyone to have one.


Deirdre says …

My most hated word – I can hardly bear to write it here – is ‘gobsmacked’. I think it’s the ugliest and most disgusting word and it makes me cringe every time I hear it. The most surprising people throw it into conversation, too, people who wouldn’t dream of saying ‘gob’ instead of mouth, as if they don’t make the connection and stop to think what it means. What worries me is that we’re passing it on to the next generation, to be spouted with even more abandon. There, rant over!

I’m not sure I have a favourite saying, although ‘waste not, want not’ has done its turn, especially at meal times when the children were young. When I worked at the university I could be heard muttering ‘waste not, want not’ as I went round the bins in the offices, fishing out all the perfectly good folders and half-used pads of paper that had been thrown out and putting it all back in the stationery cupboard. People weren’t always happy to be asked to use all this recycled stuff instead of new, which was strange, really, as we were the School of the Environment!


923265_10151669447739073_1096220985_nHelen P says …

I don’t know if I have a phrase that I really hate people saying, I’m a pretty tolerant person when it comes to anything like that.

My favourite saying is ‘She dreamt she could and she did.’ I love it and find it very inspiring. I’m going to treat myself to a print of those words to frame and put on the wall next to my writing desk.


Alys says …

I hate management speak which is kind of unfortunate because people use it around me all the time.  Phrases like ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘360 review’ or ‘we need to get all our ducks in a row’. My former boss used to say things like ‘we need to take a helicopter down view of this’ which basically meant he wasn’t going to do anything at all about it.  If anyone watched WC1 on BBC2 recently (which was the follow up to Twentytwelve) they’ll know exactly what I mean.  As to my favourite saying, I’m not sure I really have one.  I do know someone who muddles up famous sayings and says things like ‘you can’t teach your granny to suck plums’ or ‘got a hornet in your bonnet’.  Conversations with him are never dull!


Rachael says …

The saying that grates on me is ‘you know what I mean’ and the worst thing is that I use it myself, but not quite to extent that some do. I hate to hear myself say it, you know what I mean?

I do like proverbs, from a stich in time to mighty oaks grow from little acorns and I find I use them a lot in speech. One of my favourite ones, is good things come to those who wait. I do though, have to resist putting them in my writing!


Lynne says …

I’m a bit of a rebel here, I don’t particularly dislike any phrase or saying, nor any grammatical mistake. Unfashionable as it is, I reckon anything goes, life’s too short to get upset about small things.


Jaxx says …

I have some weird dislikes in sayings because I have no reason for disliking them. I don’t like, ‘Tuck in’ when someone is inviting you to eat. I got really fed up with the saying ‘To die for” mostly because a woman who really irritated me said it over and over. ‘Twenty four/ seven,’ used to kind of irritate me but I don’t know why. I am aware that I’m probably alienating half the world here and I’m sure I use sayings over and over which are irritating but there you go, it’s what makes us all individuals.

I get annoyed when people are so black and white in what they think they would do if such and such happened to them.  I don’t think anyone can really know how they would react to a particular situation until they have actually experienced it, so my favourite proverb is, ‘Don’t judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes.’  The other one I love and I’ve mentioned it before is, ‘It ain’t all over until the fat lady sings.’ I’m not even sure I really know what it means but the imagery makes me smile.


And as for me …

I am so not “down with the kids” because I hate the word “innit”. I also can’t bear management-speak like Alys says, “you know what I mean” like Rachael says and, thanks to Jay, I’ve developed a bit of a dislike for “lol”! I don’t know if it’s management-speak or just a turn of phrase that I’m hearing more and more often at work but I’m finding I have an increasingly strong resentment to the phrase, “in terms of”. If you’ve not come across this one before, I’m thinking people who say, “In terms of holidays, where do you like to go?” Why not just ask, “Where do you like to go on holiday?” Much simpler and less capacity for making people squirm!

As for a favourite saying, sorry Helen R, but I like “everything happens for a reason” but I agree there are appropriate and highly inappropriate applications of it. I don’t think anyone would be justified in ever using that phrase in relation to tragedies like the recent shooting-down of Flight MH17. However, I find it useful when thinking about restructures at work, relationship break-downs, not getting a job you want and, a close one to us writers, getting a rejection from an agent or a publisher. Whenever something upsetting like this has happened to me, I’ve usually found a reason for it, even if that reason has been many years down the line. I could have learned something or my journey could have gone down a different (better) path.

And, just because this is my Wondering, I’m going to be greedy and throw another one in. It’s a phrase a good friend of mine (hi Jackie) uses: Sit by the river long enough and you’ll see the body of your enemy floating by. Perhaps it doesn’t conjure up the lovely image of a happy fat lady singing but it does fit with one of my favourite ideas; karma!

Next week we’re doing some sweet-talking. And when I say sweet, I mean pudding or dessert or  whatever you like to call it. My mouth’s watering already!

What words/phrases/sayings/proverbs do you love or hate? We’d love to hear from you.

Jessica (formerly The Write Romantic known as Julie!) xx

The Wednesday Wondering – Moon Landings and Being Alone

This Saturday (July 20th) will see the 45th anniversary since man landed on the moon. I was born in 1972 so this is something that I personally didn’t experience but I completely appreciate the huge impact this historic event had.

But did it really happen?


Ooh, controversial! My dad is quite fascinated by science and space and recalls watching the event unfold on a black and white TV like so many other people around the world and he’d have never, ever questioned that it happened. Then he saw a documentary about it and it made him seriously question something he’d accepted for most of his life.

According to Stanley Kubrik’s widow, the late great film director himself directed the moonlandings from a studio in Borehamwood, London! Conspiracy theories site both rationale for the landings (winning the Space Race in the Cold War, distraction from the Vietnam War and funding issues) and reasons to doubt it (far too many to list here) and, to be honest, these have been demonstrated extremely compellingly in various documentaries on the subject. If you’re unfamiliar with these conspiracy theories, Google it! There’s a mass of information there.

Do I believe man landed on the moon? Honestly? I’m not sure. I’d like to think they did but the conspiracy theory information and this documentary I watched were so unbelievably convincing. I guess that’s the point, though.

This week I’ve asked a two-part question. The first part is:

Did man really land on the moon or was it a huge hoax in the studio?

My second part of the question sticks with the space theme and is:

Are we alone? Have you ever had a close encounter or know anyone who has? Do you think there are other beings out there? Are they amongst us today?

When I was younger, I went to Girl Guides. My mum would drop me off and pick me up. One day she was late and I started to worry as she was never late (these were the days way before mobiles, of course). She finally pulled up all flustered and the reason for being late was that she’d just been coming out of the house to get in the car when something caught her eye; a UFO hovering over the field opposite our house. It then shot off at speed. My mum doesn’t believe in stuff like that. Well, she didn’t until that day.

I personally believe that, in a universe of our size (much of which is still unexplored), we cannot possibly be alone. I don’t think there are little green men out there but I do think there are other beings; perhaps like us, perhaps different. I believe they’ve been to earth. They may even be among us still. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert on this and haven’t researched it all but there’s a logical side of me that says that some of the things that have happened in the past e.g. the building of the pyramids to name an obvious one, have had intervention from more advanced beings. I think time travel has happened and is possibly still happening. But then my head hurts when I think of what this means so I’ll stop thinking and hand over to the other Write Romantics:


P1050370Alys says …

I like to think the moon landings actually happened. I’ve heard Buzz Aldrin talk about it in interviews and he sounds absolutely genuine. But I’ve not seen the documentary so I’ve not got that to compare it to. If it was a huge hoax then they’ve done a great job with Buzz because he sounds completely convincing. As to whether I believe in aliens, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t rule it out. The universe is larger than I can possibly imagine so I guess it’s not impossible that other life forms evolved on other planets. I have met someone who believed passionately in aliens but I have to say I didn’t find his theories particularly convincing.


Deirdre says …

I remember it well and it was such an exciting time. We marvelled at it and at the same time we were perhaps a little frightened by it, as we were by the earlier missions that were part of the ‘space race’ between the USA and Russia to land a man on the moon, one of which was the fated Apollo 1 expedition in which three astronauts died.

I don’t recall exactly which expedition it was but some time before the moon landing, I remember my mother waking me up in the early hours to tell me that a particular astronaut had returned safely to earth. I hadn’t known she was that interested but she seemed so moved by it and I realised then what an impact space exploration could have on ordinary people.

The moon landing was phenomenal and no, I never doubted it happened for a minute, and I wasn’t aware that anyone else did either. In the aftermath the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on everyone’s lips. At the time I used to go to a Friday night disco at the polytechnic and the film of the moon landing was played on a big screen throughout the evening.

Is there anybody out there? I don’t think so. I believe Earth is unique in that respect, but I also believe that there’s a lot more to life and the universe than ordinary humans will ever know, and that’s probably how it should be.


P1050377Helen P says …

I’d like to think that there was a man on the moon and that back then they did something amazing. Altogether there have been twelve men who have supposedly walked on the moon but none since 1972, which with all the advances in technology makes me ask why haven’t they sent a team up lately?

I haven’t had any close encounters of the third kind but I know a couple of people who swear that they have. I’m not sure about this, I don’t think we’re alone and my favourite all time film is Aliens so if there is something out there I just hope they don’t have acid for blood and a penchant for killing everything in sight.


Helen R says …

I think that man did land on the moon, yes … but then again, I believed my husband was attacked by a shark when he showed me the scar on  his arm (caused by a machine, not some ocean adventure!)

As for aliens, I am a down to earth person and don’t tend to question what’s going on around us, just accept it as it is. I think that classes me as a realist, but I’m sure lots of people think differently 🙂


P1050374Jay says …

Yes, I think man did land on the moon and what’s more I have always been jealous that this was the event that marked the year of my sister’s birth, whilst I got decimalisation… She got the looks too, some things in life just aren’t fair!

I think there must be life out there, although I haven’t had any personal experience of anything alien-related. I’m not sure I believe in little green men who pop down and abduct us for experimentation, but when I think about the universe and the fact that no-one knows where it ends, it hurts my head. So we can’t be the only ones, can we?


Lynne says …

Close encounters are a bit of a thing with me; see my Hallowe’en post last year. I could talk for England on ghosts but that’s not quite what’s meant here. I watched the moon walkers land on the moon so yes, I believe it. I don’t know that there are alien species walking amongst us but I’m pretty sure there are ghosts so I guess expect the unexpected!


P1050375Rachael says …

I have never questioned if man did land on the moon, but you’ve set doubts in my mind now. It does seem so improbable, so completely impossible. As for are we alone, I’m going to sit on the fence here, having never had any kind of close encounter. I don’t especially want one either!


Over to you. We’d love to hear your thoughts and, even better, any alien encounters you may have had! …

All About America – Wednesday Wondering

The Wednesday Wondering baton has passed back to me and I have to say I’m very excited to be the Question Master again! It’s been really lovely taking a step back and seeing what my fellow-Write Romantics have come up with but it’s also lovely to be coming up with a new set of questions myself, especially after a break of several months.

statue of liberty3On Saturday, Rhoda Baxter joined us and launched a week of US-themed posts. Lynne Connolly also shared her knowledge and experience about the US market on Monday and we’ll be hearing more from Lynne tomorrow. As you’d expect, the Wednesday Wondering also has an American-theme.

I thought I’d start this post with a little bit of trivia and the first thing that popped into my head was, “I wonder how many towns or cities in America are named after towns in the UK?” This seemed a very apt pondering because USA week is timed in celebration of 4th of July and 4th of July is the celebration of independence from the UK. Which means that there are a lot of English settlers in America who will have taken English town names with them. I Googled it (of course) and the best source seemed to be Wiki. I know Wiki isn’t always 100% accurate and the site itself claims to be incomplete but it was certainly a good starting point. The site listed each state then the number of UK-town-namesakes in that State. Hmm. Count entries against all 52 states? Maybe. After all, Alabama only has 4 and California has 7 listed. Then I scrolled down a bit further and found Massachusetts with approx. 110. I couldn’t bring myself to undertake that count. If anyone is really desperate to know, here’s the link and good luck to you! Please let us know how you get on 🙂

Back to the Wondering. I asked a very simple question this week:

What do you love about the USA?


Jaxx says …

I guess us Brits are ruled by the weather and it makes us inclined to be gloomy and pessimistic and I love the way the Americans will put a positive spin on anything, even against the glaring evidence suggesting the opposite:

“The world’s gonna end in five!”

“Yay, that means I won’t have to spend the last of my wages on filling the Chevvy with gas.”

I suppose if we lived in wall-to-wall sunshine we might all be the same.


Helen R says …

I must admit that I haven’t been to many places in the USA. I’ve been to Florida – which was wonderful – in my early twenties, not a care in the world, and to top it off we got to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis take off in May of 1997. We visited the Kennedy Space Centre the week before so we saw the shuttle on its launch pad, and we had VIP passes to watch the launch at 4am one morning in May. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. So I guess what I love about America is how big, how vast, how amazing so many things are over there. They certainly don’t do things by halves!


Picture 201Jay says …

What do I love about the USA – everything! I have been six times and I could happily go a hundred more and never get bored of the place.  In fact, when I am a best-selling millionaire (probably in Vietnamese Dong, which are approximately 33,000 to the £pound), I will go every year.  I love the fact that they have everything from the super tacky adult’s playground that is Vegas, where you can travel the world in themed hotels on the strip, to the most fantastic national parks and natural wonders, like the Grand Canyon. Being greedy, I think the food is fab too and my current favourite book/film is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’.  I dream of writing something that fabulous.  What I most admire though is American comedy.  Right now, there are probably less decent British comedy shows than you can count on one hand.  America is busting with them, though, and my favourite at the moment is Modern Family. I want my family to grow up like that and, of course, I want to look like Sofia Vergara. Sadly, I have about as much chance of that as writing like John Green, but a girl can dream!


Rachael says …

I love how the Americans celebrate. Be it Independence Day or Thanksgiving, they really know how to do it. Family are the focal point of such celebrations. Of course this is what the films make me think and I especially like the Christmas ones. Maybe one day I’ll experience first-hand, one of America’s celebration days.


Grand canyonDeirdre says …

There are so many possibilities here, I shall keep this short and sweet and mention just three things I love that have come our way from the US. Firstly, Amazon. Where else can you buy books in seconds, manage your Kindle library, publish your own books, build a career as writer, set up a wish list and buy all kinds of useful things into the bargain? Amazon doesn’t always get a good press, I know, but I can’t imagine being without it. Secondly, Yankee candles, for the beautiful scents and lovely colours. Thirdly, Krispy Kreme donuts!


Alys says …

My favourite US author is Jennifer Crusie who writes the funniest romantic comedies with a dash of suspense.  The first book of hers I read was ‘Welcome to Temptation’ which kept me entertained during a ten hour flight to Vancouver. Even when there was terrible turbulence when the plane stopped in Calgary, I had my eyes fixed on this book and I was (by my standards) not all that fazed.  When I got home I read her other books. ‘Fast Women’ and ‘Crazy for You’ are my other two favourites.  So what makes them so good?  Well, the plots are a fabulous mix of romance and suspense. There’s enough edge to the suspense to make you believe there’s some real danger. The heroines are feisty and smart. And Jennifer’s writing is downright funny. I love her books so much that I won’t lend them to people in case they don’t give them back.  That’s probably the highest praise I can give an author!

As to other things that I love from the US at the moment that list includes ‘The Good Wife’ and ‘Castle’ on TV, the folk singer Aoife O’Donovan and my Timberland sandals.


Chinese theatreHelen P says …

What I love about the USA, wow there’s too much to write about but I’ll give it a go. I love New York and one day I will go there, I just have no idea when but it’s on my bucket list. I’ve only ever been to Hawaii, years ago but it was beautiful. I love the crime novels set in America there is something so glamorous about being an FBI agent. Stephen King’s stories, Lucky Charms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hollywood, Bare Foot White Zinfandel, I love that there are such great opportunities over there for everyone, Oprah Winfrey – I would really like to meet Oprah one day. Did I mention Kevin Bacon? Love that man at the moment, he can do no wrong. I want to go to the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, I want to see Central Park and Macy’s. I want to live the American Dream if only for a week.


Lynne says …

I love maple syrup!!! I love it in cakes made with spelt flour, on pancakes, ice-cream, anything really. It tastes great and reminds me of romantic pictures of New England with log cabins, patchwork and cosy open fires. One day I’d love to go there and see if it’s really as I imagine or have I got it wrong completely.


Island of AdventureAnd, finally, my response …

I can do this in one word. Disney. But of course, I’m far too much of a jabber-pot to leave it just at that! I love Disney films, Disney princesses and Disneyland. For a long time, The Little Mermaid and Beauty & The Beast were my favourites (I was brought up on the classics but I prefer the later ones for the songs!) but then I saw Tangled and was astounded. And then I saw Frozen! Wow! Do I want to be Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, Anna or Elsa? It’s a tough one! I’d always dreamed of going to Disneyland and, when I was about 28, I took redundancy from work and spent some of my pay-off on a December trip to Florida. Everything about it was amazing except the company but we all learn from our mistakes! I loved the parades and there was something quite magical about wearing shorts and a vest while Mickey and Pooh Bear wore scarves and hats to get into the winter-theme. We visited the Disney-built town of Celebration where it snowed in the high street and everything was just movie-magic-perfect. For a few brief moments, I really felt like I was living the dream … then I looked at my boyfriend and knew I wasn’t, hee hee hee!

We’d love to hear from you. What do you love about America? The movies, books, people, values? What are the places you’ve visited or would love to visit?

Julie xx

One night can change your life… The Saturday Spotlight with Carol Cooper

Our guest for this week’s Saturday spotlight is the lovely and talented Carol Cooper. Carol is a doctor, teacher, writer, broadcaster and mother, whose debut novel, One Night at the Jacaranda, has received a wealth of rave reviews on Amazon. Carol is also a successful writer of non-fiction books, mainly on child health and parenting, and is The Sun newspaper’s doctor, so gets to have her say on a wide range of health issues – from the serious, to the scrapes that ‘tired and emotional’ celebrities sometimes find themselves in!


We’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and what it was that made you want to move away from non-fiction to write your first novel?

While I enjoy writing non-fiction, creating fiction exercises my imagination more. And I’ve always wanted to write a novel. There’ve been false starts, like a rites-of-passage novel set in Cambridge and a story about a female surgeon. Unfortunately she spent far too much time horizontal so she never made it to the top (just like the manuscript, still languishing in a drawer). Finally I ended up writing the kind of novel that I’d most like to read myself for pleasure.

With your profile and the potential for you to secure an agent or traditional publishing deal, why did you decide to choose self-publishing?

Well, I do have an agent who handles my non-fiction, but One Night at the Jacaranda wasn’t her usual thing. In the end I decided to self-publish because I like the degree of control you can have as a self-published author, over the contents, the cover, the price, and timing of publication.

How do you approach marketing for your novel, without a traditional publisher behind you for support?

I try to spread the word amongst people who might like the book.   So I concentrate on getting reviews from book bloggers, book reading sites, and newspapers, and I’ve also been interviewed on several radio stations. Without a publisher it is harder to get noticed, but luckily I have a lot of great Amazon reviews, which means the book gets taken seriously.

Do you see yourself working with a traditional publisher in future?

Yes, definitely, at least for non-fiction. In fact there’s already another textbook in the pipeline. I’m really a hybrid author, someone who’s both self-published and traditionally published. Best of both worlds, you could say. It’s hard to beat the expertise of a trad publisher when it comes to illustrating and designing non-fiction books, and of course distributing the final product.

Do you have any writing habits e.g. writing in the same place, using a certain pen, times of day etc?

I like writing on my sofa, with pencil and paper, and the words seem to flow best when I have my feet up and the cat sits on me, even if she does sometime grab the end of the pencil (if you’ve read my novel, you know I love cats). But ultimately I can write almost anywhere. That’s the beauty of being an author, the fact that it’s so portable. When my twins were tiny, I’d ‘park and write’. If I had an article to finish, I’d put them in their car-seats and drive around till they nodded off. Then I’d stop the car and write until they woke up. My carbon footprint must have been appalling, but I learnt to produce copy quickly.

What are you working on now and what are your writing aspirations?

My aspirations are ….more novels! I’m working on a sequel to One Night at the Jacaranda.   A prequel is also crying out for attention. It’ll go back about 15 years, to the time Geoff, the doctor in the novel, was still a student.   There’s also going to be a novel based in Alexandria, Egypt. It’s where I grew up, and that world is still very vivid in my mind. Think I’d better carve out a bit more writing time.

One Night at the Jacaranda

Do you see your future novels having a medical theme or are there other genres that you are planning to try?

All my novels will have at least one doctor in them, as I do like to have a bit of a medical thread running through the story. After all, it’s best to write what you know. I don’t think you’ll be seeing any thrillers or steampunk with my name on the cover.

What gave you the idea for One Night at the Jacaranda?

A few years ago I was on a plane to New York, on my way to my father’s funeral.  While sitting with a much-needed gin and tonic, an idea for a plot just popped into my head. I began scribbling on the paper napkin. The jottings on the napkin developed into the story of One Night at the Jacaranda, that of a motley group of people trying to find someone special. The novel has nothing to do with my father, except for the fact that he’d always wanted to be a writer.  He spent all his life working at a boring but necessary job in life insurance and never managed to write fiction, so I guess this book is because of him. Some of the scenes in my novel would have made him choke on his dentures, but I think he’d have been proud of me all the same.

Who is your favourite character from the book and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

That’s a tough one because I like almost all of them, but I have a really soft spot for Harriet. She gives up the thing she values most for love, and it turns out not to have been true love. All my characters are completely fictitious, so Harriet isn’t based on anyone in particular, but I think her situation resonates with a lot of women.  Many of us have been down the same road, though most people haven’t sacrificed as much as Harriet.

Some writers use pictures they find to inform the physical descriptions of their characters and we wondered if you did this or, if not, how you form a mental picture of your characters’ physical qualities?

No, I never do that, probably because the picture I have of my characters isn’t based much on their appearance. Compared with most commercial women’s fiction, One Night at the Jacaranda has very little detail of the characters’ physical qualities. Yes, Dan is bald, Simon has a comb-over, and Karen’s body is a bit saggy (who’d have thought, after four kids, eh?).   But, beyond a few spare brush-strokes, I prefer to leave it to the reader’s imagination. It will also make it much easier to cast if ever Hollywood comes calling!                                          

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

The best thing is that it’s creative. I love the challenge of getting a message across, of playing with very ordinary words and hopefully getting them to say extraordinary things. With any luck, that message will be fresh, yet will still strike a chord with readers.

The worst thing is the isolation. You work alone, and it’s almost entirely inside your head, which can exclude others, even your dearest and nearest. You live indoors, which isn’t healthy, and when you try to socialise all you ever talk about is your book. It must be very boring for other people, not to mention borderline obsessive. No wonder most writers only have other writers as friends.

What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer or even to yourself, if you could go back to before you had written the novel?

My advice would be to keep writing and keep reading. Every writer needs to find their own voice. Would-be writers often go through an intense magpie stage, where they jot down quotes and passages from other writers, hoping to ape them, or, worse, paste these phrases into their own work. Yes, we can all learn from great writers that have gone before, so reading is key, but it’s vital to develop an original style that sounds natural. Editors and book-buyers don’t want something that’s just a pale imitation of someone else’s work.

Thanks Carol for coming by today and giving us such an interesting and insightful interview.

You can read just how much The Write Romantics loved One Night at the Jacaranda on our recommended reads and reviews page. The link to some more great five-star reviews and your opportunity to buy the book can be found here:

This weekend, from 5am Saturday 26th April until 1 am on Monday 28th April, One Night at the Jacaranda is available for the fantastic promotional price of 99p. Grab yourself a great read, for less than the price of a Sunday paper!

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