It takes a whole team to indie publish a book!

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Even when you indie publish, it’s not something you do entirely alone.

My fifth novel, In a Manhattan Minute, was published on Thursday 20th October. I have been indie publishing my novels for a while now, but contrary to what many people think, it’s not just me sitting in a room until the final novel is finished and then pressing a button. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of sitting at a desk and getting those words written, but once the first draft is finished and I’ve been through the book at least another three, four or sometimes five times to edit it myself, it’s time to involve a few other people.

Usually, by the time I’ve gone through my novel that many times I can’t even look at it and I need to take a step back. Most writers will tell you this works very well and I usually take a step back after my first edit. But then the real letting go comes when I send it for the substantive round of edits.

Substantive edits are thorough. They look at how the story works as a whole, taking into account the plot, pacing and structure. It’s scary to get the substantive report back because it’s usually several pages long, in addition to comments throughout the manuscript. To manage the substantive edits, I take a deep breath, then separate the report into manageable chunks.  I also cross out sections once I’ve been through the entire manuscript to ensure they’ve been dealt with, and it’s quite satisfying!

Once the substantive stage is finished, the manuscript is returned to the editor and it’s time for the copyedits. I find this stage much less scary. Copyedits are a lot more specific. So, for example, does your character sit down for breakfast and then on the next page clear the table after finishing their lunch? Or do they have blonde hair at the start but then all of a sudden their hair is described as ebony?

Following the copyedits and my subsequent changes, it’s time to use the services of a proofreader. I like to use someone different to who I used for the editing, because it’s a fresh set of eyes on your manuscript. This is the least painful stage because by now the big issues have been ironed out and the story is almost ready. The proofreader will particularly focus on grammar and spelling but they will also spot any inconsistencies you may have missed. When the book is 70k plus, mistakes are easy to overlook.

When the proofed manuscript is returned, I make changes and then go through yet again to check. Next, I pass my manuscript to my husband. I either print a paperback proof or put the book onto my kindle for this. He’s a great final proofreader because he’s not afraid to tell me if there are any mistakes! And again, it’s a fresh pair of eyes. Once he’s checked and I’ve made any necessary changes, I go through yet again and then it’s time to load the manuscript up onto KDP.

During the editing and proofreading stages, I usually get in touch with my cover designer and we discuss my requirements for the book. I may find examples of styles I like, or I may want the cover to tie in with a particular theme. Once we’ve discussed the brief, my cover designer will send me about half a dozen visuals. Usually there’s something there that I either really like, or that we can tweak. It may be a case of taking a font from one, an image from another and putting those onto something new. It takes a few goes back and forth but I end up with a cover I love.

When it’s time to publish, I use Amazon’s KDP. It’s pretty straightforward, especially once you’ve published a few books. You can also read through on the screen again which I usually do, and it’s particularly good to check the layout. I make sure chapter headings are centred, there are no mysterious blank pages, and the cover is as it should be.

I usually multitask too. So right now I’m working on promoting In a Manhattan Minute, I have another Christmas book with my editor for the substantive stage, I’m writing book seven, and I’m thinking about what I’ll do for book eight. It’s hard work but I absolutely love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

It’s so important, if you’re self publishing, to take the time to get each stage of the process right. It does cost, but it’s an investment and good edits, proofreading and book covers will last a lifetime. By investing in each stage it will also help you to produce a book that is just as professional as those titles produced by a big publisher. And it will give you the best chance of success and great sales.

I hope you enjoyed the blog post…if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, I have an exclusive giveaway coming in mid-November!

Helen J Rolfe x

 

 

 

Location, location, location – it’s all about heavenly Hampstead for Carol Cooper

MSP_8587-Edit-2 cropWe are delighted to welcome back Carol Cooper, a long-time friend of the blog, to tell us all about how she decided on the setting for her second book. Carol is a doctor, journalist, and novelist. She writes for The Sun newspaper and teaches medical students at Imperial College.

After a string of trade-published non-fiction books and an award-winning medical text, she chose self-publishing for her fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda. Her latest novel, Hampstead Fever, is out in June. Her novels are all about Londoners looking for love, and they’re laced with inside medical knowledge.

Like her fictional characters, Carol lives in leafy Hampstead, North London. Unlike them, she got married again in 2013. She loves a happy ending.

Over to Carol…

Why did I set Hampstead Fever in Hampstead?

Some fiction writers like to invent entire locations, but it’s not for me. I prefer to deploy my imagination on characters and plot rather than geography. It seems an unnecessary headache to make up a whole town. Besides, there’s always the risk that the street map in the author’s head is physically impossible.

Real places already have meaning for readers. Think of Liz Fenwick’s Cornish romances, or Glynis Smy’s choice of EastHampstead Fever FINAL EBOOK COVER London as the setting for Ripper, My Love.

In case you didn’t know, Hampstead is one of the most charming parts of London, and, logically, I also chose it for the title of my novel Hampstead Fever. The area is beautiful, trendy, and has a rich cultural heritage, although, on a Monday morning when Camden Council arrives to empty the bins in my street, you’d be forgiven for missing all of that. On bin day, a queue of irate drivers builds up, many of them turning the air blue because they can’t drop off their little darlings at school without walking a few extra yards.

The area is full of character, but it’s not edgy. Neither are my characters in Hampstead Fever. If you want edgy, you’d be better off reading Irvine Welsh or Chuck Palahniuk.

The people in my books have relatable problems, and Hampstead means different things to each one of them. For Harriet, the area is aspirational. She is a freelance journalist who finds it increasingly hard to pay her bills. Commissioning editors for the magazines she writes for don’t want well thought out features. They prefer pieces like “What’s My Bottom Line?” (the topic is literally pants). Harriet does her best but is overawed by all the successful authors and journalists in London NW3.

At 40, Laure is a first-time mum who panics every time her toddler develops a new symptom. Her partner works long hours and there’s no extended family, so Laure’s parenting guidance comes from books and the uber-competitive mothers at toddler group. Alas, Laure is so wound up in her child that she has little time to spare for her partner.

I think many readers will identify with single mum Karen. Her style is the opposite of helicoptering. I call it submarine parenting. She has four children ranging in age from six to 12 and is facing an early menopause, so energy is at a premium. No wonder Karen lacks the enthusiasm for a suitable relationship.

There are plenty of men in Hampstead Fever too, like Geoff who’s a doctor, and Sanjay who works as a fundraiser. Laure’s partner Dan is now an up-and-coming chef at a new restaurant in the heart of Hampstead Village. It’s the perfect place for a trendy bistro, but Dan complains he’s not paid enough, so, rather than use one of the existing restaurants as a setting, it seemed fairer to make up a new one. But I sited it in Flask Walk, a very real street.

A plus is that I live in Hampstead. Researching a location involves little more than a brisk walk, unlike, say, a writer in the UK who chose Venice as her setting.

I wanted my new author photo to fit in with the locale, but as I discovered you can’t always take one when and where you want. Hampstead Heath proved a little windy and wet on the day, which wouldn’t have been right for a book set in mid-summer.

My photographer got me to pose in the street near the Freud Museum. While the connotations may be a little heavy for my brand of contemporary fiction, the building is attractive. Alas, I hadn’t bargained on the crowds of people arriving to pay homage to the father of psycho-analysis. The Freud Museum doesn’t open till noon, so they were outside, waiting to be shown in to worship at the great man’s couch (yes, it’s still there in his study). One of the prospective visitors had even brought a suitcase, so there he was, on the pavement with his baggage. Now that would have been a great picture.

Hampstead Fever was released on June 30 and available on ebook platforms and in bookshops.

Measuring success as an author

IMG_0544How do you do it? The concept of what success means is constantly shifting, not just for writers as a collective, but for each of us as individuals. Even when we achieve what we thought we wanted to achieve, there’s no guarantee it will actually make us *feel* successful. There are always others who seem to be doing better or perhaps doing things differently to us, who will make us question whether we’ve made the right decisions or whether we should be on a different path altogether.

 

So what’s writing success? Perhaps it’s…

  • Getting a publisher?
  • Getting an agent?
  • Owning your writing journey as an indie author?
  • Seeing your novel in a book shop?
  • Appearing in an Amazon top one hundred chart?
  • Receiving lots of 5 star reviews from people you’ve never met?
  • Making a decent amount of money from writing?
  • Getting an email from a reader to tell you how much they loved your book?
  • Making your mum, dad, children or next door neighbour proud?
  • Creating a social media presence with followers in their thousands?

Maybe it’s lots of these things or something else entirely. In the last couple of years, between us, the WRs have achieved more of these measures of success than I think we ever really thought possible. But, lately, I’ve been questioning what it is that would make me feel I’ve been successful as a writer and I happened upon a quote that really resonated with me:

‘Success should be measured by how much joy it gives you.’

For my writing life, this is so true. Whilst I’ve ticked a lot of things off the list above, there are several still to achieve.Chart position AATS However, I’ve discovered if I approach writing chasing too many of those measures of success, I can rob myself of that joy. I started writing just because I loved it and that’s how I want to measure my success. If my writing gives me joy, then I can’t really ask for more. The rest is all just garnish.

As for my social media presence, that’s probably strongest here, on this blog, with the rest of the WRs. There might be lots of blog awards we could have won with a different approach and there are writing collectives with a higher profile than ours. However, if success really is measured by the amount of joy something brings you, then being part of this blog and, more importantly, this group has also been a resounding success for me.

I’d love to know how other writers measure their success and, whatever form that takes for you, I wish you lots of it.

Jo

Aspiring writers step away from the scorpions! The WRs are here to tell you why…

Hello and happy bank holiday weekend!

If you’re a regular follower of our blog, you’ll know that a Saturday normally means The Saturday Spotlight in which we interview writers at all stages in their career – aspiring to chart-topping, indie or traditional – as well as the occasional interview with an editor, publisher or agent. Today, though, we’re doing something a little bit different. We want a little exploration of the past, present, and future of the Write Romantics…

conf 2014 10In the beginning, there were just a pair of Write Romantics. Jo and I ‘met’ when I was in my first year of the RNA’s NWS and Jo was in her second year. I’d finally got around to joining Romna, the RNA’s online community, where newbies are invited to introduce themselves so I tapped in a “hi, this is me” kind of email. Jo immediately contacted me as we shared a writing genre and other interests. A friendship was instantly formed and we exchanged incredibly long and detailed emails over the next few months. In early 2013, the idea developed to set up a blog. We found our name, we found a format, and away we went. But it soon became apparent that finding enough writing-related things to say to regularly contribute to a blog when there were just two of us, neither of whom were ready to seek a publishing deal, was going to be a massive problem. But a problem shared is a problem halved. Or tenth-ed in our case because we put an offer out on Romna to extend the group and were quite overwhelmed to find eight other writers who wanted to join us. Phew. Because it could have been a bit embarrassing if we’d had no response!

Conf 2014 3We don’t mind admitting that we hadn’t a clue what we were doing! None of us were expert bloggers. In fact, we weren’t bloggers at all! I’d set up a blog a couple of months previously following my journey to get fit and lose half my body weight through a beach-based bootcamp (which I still run although I’m slightly ashamed to say that I’m still, 2.5 years on, trying to lose half my body weight – oops!) so I had a little bit of experience of regularly posting, and Rachael had some experience of being part of a writing group who blogged, but that was it. So we had to pretty much start from scratch.

It’s been great working together as a team to develop the format for the blog into the regular bi-weekly slots we have now. We all contribute posts and we all bring interview guests to the party. Two years ago, after about 4-5 months of blogging together, we asked the WRs if they’d like to re-affirm their commitment. Were they happy with what we were doing? Was it what they expected? Did they have the enthusiasm and willingness to really move the blog forward and start posting more regularly? At that point, one of the WRs decided to dip out because her commitments outside writing meant she was going to struggle to contribute and, for a year, we were nine. Then last September, we asked Sharon to join us. I’d met Sharon the year before, as had WR Alys, and she’d become a great supporter of the group. She already felt like one of us so it was a natural step to officially invite her into the fold, restoring the power of 10.

Although we live all over the country – Cumbria, North & East Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Wales, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Somerset, Kent (hope I haven’t missed anywhere!) – and have never all been in the same place at the same time, we’ve become really close through the power of social media. We’ve celebrated the highs, sympathised during the lows, built each other up during down moments, and learned from the various paths the group’s writing journeys have gone down. It’s often said that writing can be a lonely business but the WRs are never really alone and we’d massively recommend all writers find themselves a support network, whether that’s a writing partner or a large group like ours. We’re all convinced that some of the amazing things that have happened to the group over the last couple of years have been thanks in part to the support and encouragement of the group. So what are those amazing things? I’ll hand over to Jo to let you know more …

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\'id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\’id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

‘What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…’ or so Dinah Washington’s song goes. It might have taken more like twenty four months since deciding we wanted to stay Write Romantics, as Jessica says above, for our fortunes to really change, but the sentiment’s exactly the same. Even on our down days, when we do consider giving up to take up scorpion petting instead, as one of the Facebook jokes about writing goes, it’s been a pretty incredible two years.

If you’d told us back then what we might have achieved by now, we’d probably have given you a bitter little laugh – how little you knew. Most of us were wearing the battle scars of rejection already and some had been pursuing the publishing dream for ten years or more. Did we give up? No, but boy did we talk about giving up! That’s the beauty of the group though, just when you are about to put a down payment on a pair of breeding scorpions, someone is there to talk you off that particular ledge.

I’m about to give you a round-up of what those two years has seen for us. Not because the WRs like to big themselves up, as my kids would say; in fact, the other eight don’t even know Jessica and I are doing this and they’ll probably cringe when we sing their praises. The reason we are writing this blog is the opposite. It’s because we remember exactly what it’s like to be an aspiring writer – not one who used to write for Tatler or produce radio plays for the BBC and has the sort of connections you don’t get when the height of your networking involves spotting Bob Geldof buying carrots in your local branch of Tesco – but ordinary people who just love to write.

Is it really possible to get published if that’s your starting point or will it only ever be your mum who downloads a self-published tome from Amazon, as you languish at chart position number three million and thirty two? We want to tell you, if you are an NWS member reading this, or an aspiring writer of any sort, that it’s not only possible but there are lots of ways to get your work out there and, whether indie, traditionally published or some hybrid of the two, there are also lots of ways to measure success. Not everyone is lucky enough to be part of a group like this, who will tell you to step away from the scorpions, but we hope reading a round-up of our journeys so far will reassure you that if you keep going, it can happen for you too.

So what is it we’ve done? Well, being of a certain age – I think Helen R was just clinging to her thirties when we first joined together, but we are now all in our forties or beyond – I think IMG_0076most of us dreamed of having a paperback with our name on and maybe even seeing that on the shelves of WHSmiths or Waterstones. Okay, so we know that all the statistics reveal that books in the commercial genres we write in sell better as ebooks than in print, but we’ve had this dream since before Kindle was even a twinkle in Amazon’s eye. So are we living the dream? Well, of the ten of us, eight of us now have paperbacks out there or are in the process of going in to print and four of us have had books in WHsmiths and/or Waterstones and supermarkets, with Jessica’s about to appear in some of the Yorkshire Waterstones really soon and Sharon’s pocket novel hitting the shelves in October. Nothing beats seeing your book on the shelf, despite how times have moved on… although being caught taking a selfie with it is a bit embarrassing, hence me using my son as bait in Smiths! Our books are also starting to hit the shelves of libraries too, with Jessica leading that particular charge.

Helen P, Rachael, Jessica and Sharon all have multi-book deals with the same publisher and I’m awaiting finalisation of my contract before revealing some news of my own on that front.  We’ve also seen the launch of The Write Romantic Press for our anthology and a number of us have dipped our toes into the world of indie publishing, with Lynne riding consistently high in the charts with her first indie published title. Fabrian Books, which started off as a small indie publisher, is now handing over the ownership to its authors, giving them the benefits of having more of a say in their publishing journeys and hoping to follow in the footsteps of other publishing cooperatives like The Notting Hill press, with two of the Write Romantics breaking new ground in this exciting venture of what’s termed publishing’s ‘third way’.

We’ve had almost twenty five books published (or about to be) between the ten of us, through publishers including Carina, Crooked Cat, DC Thomson, Fabrian Books, Mills and Boon and So Vain Books, with more news pending and work under consideration by a number of places that are the stuff of dreams, including the BBC no less!

Chart position wise, Deirdre, Helen R, Jessica, Sharon, Lynne and myself have all appeared in the top hundred or higher of our genre charts at one stage or another, with a number in the top ten. Helen P and Rachael have hit even dizzier heights than that though, with Helen P regularly knocking her own hero, Stephen King, off the top spot and Rachael hitting number two across the hugely competitive Mills and Boons chart, although the rest of us know that the number one spot is hers for the taking.

author 2Alys secured something else we’ve all dreamt of at one stage on another, with agent representation, and her debut novel will be out in time for Christmas. Jackie made the top ten shortlist of a hotly fought Mills and Boons contest and is about to make a round of submissions which we are sure will see all ten WRs published by 2016.

So for all you NWS members who’ve recently submitted your manuscripts – or, if you are like I used to be, who’ve just run down to the post office to send it last minute, days before the deadline, with your hair stuck to your forehead and a hopeful surge in your heart as you send it off – or if you’re an aspiring writer of any sort, it can happen. There’s a hackneyed phrase that says the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer, is that the former never gave up. It’s the sort of advice that used to make me want to French-kiss a scorpion after yet another rejection, but believe me it’s true. So step away from the poisonous arthropod and keep going, it really is worth it in the end.

Jo and Jessica xx

Saturday Spotlight: Adrienne Vaughan

It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome Adrienne Vaughan to the blog today. Author of the romantic suspense ‘Heartfelt’ series, editor of Romance Matters and aspiring Bond Girl, Adrienne is also one of New Romantics Press, an  inspirational group of self published authors  who have recently taken part in an author showcase at Waterstone’s Kensington branch.  With her being such an amazing lady the Write Romantics had lots and lots of questions for Adrienne… 

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We know you’re a journalist and editor of Romance Matters as well as a writer. How hard is it to find time to write? 

I was given a turquoise Petite Typewriter when I was seven and my fate was sealed. I used to sit at the kitchen table and cut out articles and pictures, then paste them onto pages, making my own magazines. My mother would often sit down with a nice cup of tea and Woman’s Own, only to find I’d snipped out half the magazine when she wasn’t looking! I run a busy PR practice, and Romance Matters is just one of the magazines I work on, the others are more corporate, featuring architecture, construction and property. My creative writing is what I do when I’m not at my ‘official desk’. I write long hand – so my first typescript is an edit – usually very early in the morning,  or when I’m on holiday, in an aeroplane, on a train, anywhere really. I think you have to make time to write, I know I do.

How has being a member of the New Romantics benefitted you? 

Being a founder member of the New Romantics Press was, and still is, totally inspirational. Four very different writers, with distinct styles and voices, yet  I now have three buddies I just can’t imagine being without. We support each other, nag each other, admire each other and love each other. I say unreservedly, I would not be a published writer without  Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns and Mags Cullingford. They’ve helped my dream come true. End of.

June, Adrienne and Lizzie at the Waterstones Author Showcase (Unfortunately Mags Cullingford was recovering from knee surgery and couldn't join them)

June, Adrienne and Lizzie at the Waterstones Author Showcase (Unfortunately Mags Cullingford was recovering from knee surgery and couldn’t join them)

How big a help has social media and the New Romantics blog been in promoting your books?

Social media – particularly for an independent – is the main route to our audience, our readers. Without it I wouldn’t have readers who have both enjoyed my books and written some great reviews too. My first novel, The Hollow Heart has been downloaded by over 30,000 people, how else would I have reached even 300 without social media, Amazon and the internet.

We know you’re lucky enough to own a horse (Sharon Booth will be so jealous!) When did you get it? Does riding influence your writing at all?

My beautiful horse was extremely elderly and went to heaven at the end of last year. It was his time and it was a happy ending but I do miss him. One of the most fascinating things about riding, is that you have to communicate with another animal in a way it will understand and you must always remember, the animal you have given your complete trust has a brain of its own too. When it goes right, like a fabulous hack out, or winning a competition, it’s the most amazing feeling. My latest novel, Secrets of the Heart, features riding within the story and of course, the book is dedicated to my horse, Marco, as well as my late grandfathers …all wonderful gentlemen.

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 What’s next now the ‘Heart’ series of books are finished?

Tough question. I currently have two on the go. The Scandal of the Seahorse Hotel and A Most Deadly Affair – both romantic suspense and both totally different, although ‘Deadly’ will involve a lot more research, so I think that will take a back seat to ‘Scandal’ until that’s finished.

  •  Why do your books have an Irish setting?

Although born in England, I was brought up in Dublin and my family are all Irish. I have lived in the UK for over thirty years now, although I flit between the two countries very regularly.

My first novel – still (unsurprisingly) unpublished – was written thirty years ago, inspired by Maeve Binchy’s, Light A Penny Candle, so maybe writing about Ireland keeps me connected. I do have to check with family and friends I don’t fall into what they call ‘Plastic Irish’ – if my ‘voice’ wasn’t authentic, they’d soon tell me about it!

Did you have anyone in mind when you created the sexy Hollywood actor Ryan?

Yes.

(And that was all she’ll say on that one, I’m afraid!)

How did you become editor of Romance Matters (the magazine of the Romantic Novelist’s Association) and what does that involve?

I’d just joined the NWS – a total godsend to me – and there was a notice in the magazine to say the lovely Myra Kersner was standing down after eight years, could anyone help. My hand shot up! The job involves all the wonderful things about being an editor, commissioning articles, planning features, interviewing really important people and making lots of new friends. What’s not to like?

What are your writing plans for the next year?

Hmm, good question. I’m hoping 2015 is the year I start on that long road to becoming recognised as a writer. With three books under my belt, two of which have been shortlisted for an award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction, I’m currently seeking an agent, so we’ll see where that leads. Plus the New Romantics Press has plans for a very special short story anthology later this year, and I also have a small collection of short stories I’m hoping to publish too. I’m hoping I can become a true hybrid, published both traditionally and independently. Although, at the heart of things, it doesn’t really matter, I’ll always write, it’s what I do.

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We see that you had ambitions to be a Bond Girl. Have you based any of your heroes on James Bond?

Had? What do you mean HAD ??? Look, if Dame Judy Dench can do it, there’s hope! The character Ryan plays in his movies, Thomas Bentley is based on a sort of James Bond, but for me, Ryan is a true ‘James Bond’. Daring, single-minded, handsome and very hot – yet totally loyal to both Marianne and Joey – even when things get a bit rocky, he sticks to his guns and gets his girl in the end. Well, thanks for having me and a very happy and fruitful new year to you and all the Write Romantics …keep at it and never, never, never give up. Now, must dash …booked my first skiing lesson …well, you never know, do you?

 

You can check out Adrienne’s website at here, buy the Heartfelt series here and follow her on Twitter at @adrienneauthor. You can find the New Romantics Press here. If you’d like to read Write Romantic Sharon’s review of The Hollow Heart then click here

Huge thanks to Adrienne for joining us today. If you’d like to leave a comment or ask Adrienne a question then please click where it says ‘leave a comment’ or ‘comments’ in tiny little writing at the bottom of this post.  Have a great weekend! Alys x

 

Lizzie Lamb on teamwork, the glass ceiling, and that Waterstones event!

Today on the blog we’re talking to the fabulous Lizzie Lamb. Lizzie is a truly inspirational character – a fantastic writer and a whizz at social networking and marketing, as well as being a genuinely lovely lady. As part of the New Romantics Press (formerly the New Romantics 4), Lizzie has recently flown the flag for indie writers everywhere by hosting an author event at Waterstones, Kensington, no less! We were thrilled when she agreed to appear on our blog and had a lot of questions we wanted to put to her. So without further ado, over to Lizzie.blog3

1. Tell us more about the New Romantics Press. How did you meet? What made you form an “indie powerhouse” together?

Originally, three of us: Mags Cullingford, June Kearns and I were members of Leicester Writers’ Club and the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Adrienne Vaughan joined the RNA, came along to one of the chapter meetings which June and I organised at Grange Farm in Oadby. The rest – as they say, is history. As members of the NWS we were constantly polishing and re-polishing the first three chapters of our novels and synopsis with a view to sending them out to agents. Amanda Grange (RNA chapter member and author of over 25 novels) advised us to grasp the nettle and self-publish through Amazon. This we did. I think we work well as a team because we bring different strengths and skills to the group; we are also good friends which helps – but we don’t live in each other’s pockets which probably helps, too.

2. Did you seek a more traditional publishing deal or has it been indie all the way for you?

In the 1980’s I was looking for an agent and did in fact have one – Dot Lumley. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give my writing the time it deserved. I was Deputy Head teacher of a large primary school and that took up all my time. So, we parted company (amicably) and I settled down to furthering my teaching career for the next 16 years. Now, I enjoy being an indie author and I don’t know if I would be willing to give that up unless I could find an agent/publisher who could offer me a really good deal. Maybe after I’ve finished and published number three in 2015 I might think again about it.

blog43. We’re thrilled to hear about your Waterstones news. Tell us more!

Adrienne and I attended a book launch at Waterstones, Kensington, in the summer and boldly asked if we could host an author event there. The lovely manager said: YES. I think it was probably the appeal of four indie authors appearing together and offering four different sub-genres of romance which landed us the gig. I write rom coms, Adrienne romantic adventure, June historical and Mags women’s fiction. But, who knows? I think he just liked the cut of our collective jib, okayed it with head office and on we went. We’d already had a mini-launch in Waterstones, Mkt Harborough, in February 2014 and were on ‘the system’, which helped. We believe that they are no longer adding new indie authors to their data base – but I stand to be corrected on that one.

4. What have you been able to do/experience differently as an indie writer that you may not have done/experienced through a traditional publishing deal?

We can choose our own covers, set our own price (and raise and lower it) as we wish and as our book sales fluctuate. I have been able to order paperback copies through Create Space as I see fit, whereas some of the agents I’ve spoken to have said the POD would be up to my publisher to decide. I don’t simply want my novels to be available for e-readers, having paperbacks is important to me as I sell them at talks etc which I give to writing groups. And, with Create Space you can order one book or one hundred – it’s that flexible.
We can also say, no – we don’t want to give our books away for free, thank you, as a promotional tool. Or to settle for 35% royalties (or less) when we can get 70% off Amazon. We can also write the book we want with the characters we believe in; I’m not sure how easy it would be handing over my novel and being told to edit it to suit the market/ an agent/editor without any guarantees that the changes would make a better book, or sell more copies. I respond to what my readers tell me that they like about my novels. I also know, to the day, how many books I’ve sold, what I’ve earned and where the sales need boosting – thanks to Amazon’s daily sales figures. I don’t think I’d like to have to wait for quarterly sales figures from my publisher. I can also make the most of Kindle Countdown, Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited because I’ve stayed exclusively with Amazon. Lots of writers would disagree, but KDP Select works for me. Now – if I could just get a WHITE GLOVE DEAL, I’d be in clover.

5. Conversely, is there anything you haven’t been able to do/experience as an indie writer compared to traditional publishing?

There is a definite ‘glass ceiling’ which is hard to break through. For example, getting my novel into bookshops and libraries (those that are left!), although Waterstones, Kensington, has agreed to take three of each of my novels to see how things go – and have kindly agreed to put my books out on their Romance Table. It would be nice to be reviewed in some of the women’s magazines and to be offered a Kindle Daily Deal with the weight of Amazon behind me. But those things seem to be offered almost exclusively via one’s publisher. I would also like to graduate from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and become a full member, albeit it a self-published one. But I don’t know how much longer I’m prepared to wait for that to happen. I heavily promote my novels across all media sites and I gather that traditionally published authors are expected to do that in any case. Oh, and, an advance would be nice – thank you very much.
Establishing myself as an indie author has been quite expensive. Some of this cost could have been borne by my publishers – proof reading, formatting for kindle, buying images and producing a front cover and so on. All of the above are allowable expenses against earnings, of course, but you need a pot of money to get you started.

6. As a collective of ten, The Write Romantics find the support we can give each other absolutely invaluable. What value have you found in being part of a group of writers?

Help is just a phone call away. Literally. Adrienne and I talk most nights after she’s finished work, June and I meet regularly for coffee, chat daily over the phone and read our work out to each other and Mags is always on hand to give another perspective to my ideas for taking the group forward. Being a ‘collective’ also means we can ‘divi’ up the jobs, blog posts, promo and so on and spread the workload around a bit. When I lose belief in what I’m doing, I know I can call on ‘the team’ to give me the support I need to keep going. We also have four of us finding out new things about the self-publishing industry and sharing them with each other. Having a ‘tweet team’ helps enormously, too. Going it alone is do-able, but so much more hard work than being part of a team.

7. What does a “typical” day look like for you? (E.g. do you always write in a morning, say, or only check social media at certain times of the day?)

I am one of those annoying people – a LARK. I’m usually at my pc straight after breakfast when I check all the social sites I belong to and comment. Then, after my husband (aka Bongo Man) tells me how many sales I’ve clocked up overnight, I tailor my tweets, blog posts accordingly. I write throughout the day in ‘snatches’, to give my eyes a break from the screen. I very rarely write in the evenings, preferring to watch movies and to recharge my batteries. We have recently bought a second hand caravan and hope to do it up a bit over the winter and then take off into sunset next spring. I always take my trusty pc with me wherever I go as I find if I don’t write for a week, getting back into the novel is hard for me. When in the caravan I generally check emails in the morning and respond, have the day exploring the location where we’ve camped, and then write in the afternoons while Bongo Man and the parrot (yes, he comes with us) chill out at the other end of the caravan. Does the snoring annoy me? Oh yes!

8. Is there a pivotal moment when you can say that you truly felt you were a writer?

I was having coffee with June and Amanda Grange in a local café when Bongo Man joined us with the proof copy of Tall, Dark and Kilted, which had just arrived. My hands were shaking as I couldn’t believe that my book was finally in my sticky little hands. Magic. When I wrote and published my first blog post, joined the Society of Authors and people started asking me for writing advice were pivotal moments, too. I would have to say that our Author Event in Waterstones in November was the icing on the cake for all of us.blog1

9. What’s been your greatest reader interaction moment and why?

It has to be the email I received from a reader in ISTANBUL. She’d read Tall, Dark and Kilted and had cried so much at the end that her husband thought she’d received bad news over the phone. I hope to publish the email in full one day on my blog. I think the other ‘moment’ is when the most unlikely people tell me they’ve downloaded, read and loved my book. By unlikely I mean people who I would never have dreamed would read romance, let alone my novels. I am also quite overwhelmed by the love and support I receive from the ladies I’ve befriended on Facebook. They buy my novels, leave me reviews on Amazon and spread the word amongst their friends. The best kind of social networking IMHO.

10. What challenges have you faced as an English woman writing about Scotland and Scottish characters?

I’ve been giving this one some thought. I was born in Scotland and lived there until I was eleven. My family are Scots and I’ve been surrounded by ‘Scottishness’ all my life. If you are English and want to write about Scotland the best thing is to GO THERE. Although, conversely, Diane Gabadon who writes the Outlander series and D.K. Broster who wrote the Jacobite trilogy The Flight of the Heron etc had never visited Scotland before they wrote their novels. Immerse yourself in Scottish history, movies and read Scottish themed novels by other authors to get a feel of what feels real for you. Scout charity bookshops and purchase large picture books of Scotland and thumb through those for inspiration. Use Google Earth to inform what you write about the landscape and the weather. Be aware of the difference between those Scots who live in the Central Belt and those who live in the Highlands and Islands, their accents are different as is their outlook on life and how they speak. I like to include some Scottish Gaelic phrase in my writing and am lucky enough to have a native Gaelic speaker who helps me with this. Always double check your research if you’re weaving Scottish history into your novel. I’ll give you an example of this: I read a Scottish themed novel recently where the author referred to the hero’s sporran as his codpiece (!) and her copy editor/ publishers hadn’t picked up on it. Hoots Mon!

11. What does the future hold for you and for the New Romantics Press?
My ambition is to write six novels. Three set in Scotland and three set in Norfolk. Then I will market them as box sets. Once I have three novels under my belt with attendant sales figures, I might think of approaching some of the larger literary agencies to see what they can offer me, and take it from there. As for the NRP – originally, we all published our novels at the same time and held joint book launches, but we all work at different paces and that is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. We will continue to support each other and to promote ourselves as the New Romantics Press because we think that more accurately reflects who we are and where we are headed. Whatever happens, we will always be there for each other and our friendship and support for each other will continue.

Lots of writerly support!

Lots of writerly support!

12. What advice would you give to any writers out there considering an indie route?

Think carefully before you set out on this journey. If, as a writer, all you want is a copy of your novel to pass round your friends and relatives, that’s achievable with a little help and lots of hard work. HOWEVER, if you want to make a career of it – be prepared for a hard slog: promoting your current novel(s) and writing THE NEXT ONE. I try to aim for a novel a year, allowing for health and family commitments. In many ways, I’ve been lucky – I had all my social networking ducks in a row before I published so I was able to promote myself and the other New Romantics – if you are doing that from a standing start it can be quite overwhelming. Meet with other writers, learn from them but, ultimately, know who you are and what you want to write. Glue your derriere to the chair and get on with it.

 

 

 

Thank you so much for talking to us today, Lizzie! The Write Romantics are great admirers of The New Romantics Press and we wish all four of you continued success.

 

 

Boot Camp Bride – Romance and Intrigue on the Norfolk marshes – November 2013
http://t.co/0WkwlH8bgg
UK: http://tinyurl.com/bootcampbride
USA: http://tinyurl.com/nnmzjha
Tall, Dark and Kilted – Notting Hill Meets Monarch of the Glen – 2012
http://t.co/xj2T54mE6j
UK- http://tinyurl.com/o9js6pl
USA – http://tinyurl.com/o4vor4z
https://www.amazon.com/author/lizzielamb
http://tinyurl.com/TallDark-Kilted
Hocus Pocus 14 short story anthology
http://tinyurl.com/Hocus-Pocus14
Lizzie’s Links
Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/mpcv6bn
http://www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter
http://www.facebook.com/newromantics4
lizzielambwriter@gmail.com
website: http://www.lizzielamb.co.uk
blog: http://www.newromantics4.com
Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/
Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/cbla48d
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lizzielamb/
twitter: @lizzie_lamb twitter: @newromantics4

Saturday Spotlight: Alison Morton on Romans, self-publishing and the butterfly effect

We’re excited to welcome Alison Morton to the blog today.  She is the author of the Roma Nova series of alternative history thrillers.  As the first alt history writer we’ve had on the blog we thought we’d start by asking about that.  Over to Alison…

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What is ‘alternate history’ and why did you want to write it?

It’s where the historic timeline has split at a ‘point of divergence’ in the past and the new timeline follows a different path from the one we know. Classic ones are what if the Germans had won the Second World War, or the Spanish Armada had succeeded in 1588? I sometimes wonder how English history would have developed if Elizabeth I had married and had children…

Sometimes, the change in history could have been caused by something quite small, but which eventually had a huge impact – the ‘butterfly effect’. In my Roma Nova books 400 Romans trekked north in AD 395 to found a new colony; their descendants survived into the 21st century and their existence has changed the rest of the world.

And why I wrote my thrillers in such a setting? I didn’t know you could change or ‘alternate’ the historical narrative until I read Robert Harris’ Fatherland. Perhaps my idea of a women-led modern Roman society could turn into a real story…

What gave you the original idea for the Roma Nova series? 

I was 11 years old and on holiday in north-east Spain. Fascinated by the mosaics in Ampurias, I asked my father, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe early feminism peeping out or maybe just a precocious kid asking a smart-arse question. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

That idea bubbled away in my head until the novel writing trigger was pushed in 2009.

AMM Ampurias 1_sm

Have you always had a great interest in Roman history? 

Yes! I think I clambered over every Roman ruin in Europe with my parents, but I loved it. So much that was left was elegant and solid; their history so concrete and purposeful.

As I grew older and studied the Romans more formally, I appreciated what a complex, clever and determined society they had made. ‘Rome’ in the West lasted for 1229 years – that’s the equivalent of from AD 785 to today. It passed from mud hut tribal subsistence farming to the heights of the Pax Romana with its rule of law, art and literature, trade, engineering, and ability to learn; Romans set the template for the western nations that emerged over the following centuries.

I don’t want to sound too much like the John Cleese video, but you get the idea I’m impressed! However, we should remember not everybody lived well, especially at the lower end of the social spectrum, but the majority of people had a standard of living that wasn’t achieved again until the nineteenth century.

How much research do you do for each book?
In my stories, the standard timeline had diverged 1600 years previously in AD 395. This gave me a known baseline of the end of the fourth century so I researched the social, economic and political conditions of that time. By then, much had changed, even the everyday stuff like coinage; solidi had replaced sestertii and denarii, for instance. Regional government was localising with ‘barbarian’ warlords acting less like client kings of Rome and more like autonomous leaders. The late fourth century was much less secure and prosperous than in the golden years of Vespasian’s or Trajan’s rule.

I had to consider what would seem important to the Roma Nova colonists in those transitional times: security, food, and hope, ultimately survival. Their core Roman values would have bolstered them and formed a social glue while they struggled for existence. Thus, I had to be sure what those values were and what Roman history was to that point.

And finally, a good general knowledge of/addiction to European history came in very handy!

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Why did you decide to self-publish?

I was getting full reads and ‘good’ rejections; “fresh, intelligent writing”, tight dialogue”, “good action sequences”, from agents and small publishers. I even had a full read from a US agent! Most concerns were about how to market “such innovative, high concept stories”.

My first book, INCEPTIO, had been through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme as well as other professional assessments. I was burning to get my stories in front of readers – they are the ultimate arbiters, so I investigated self-publishing.  I wanted my books to be have the higher possible production values and I opted for assisted publishing with SilverWood Books.

The main disadvantages of self-publishing are the terrible twins of visibility and discoverablilty, ultimately, of not being in the bookshops. The other one is bearing the cost of marketing. But the benefits are freedom, including the freedom to make horrible mistakes, but also to make decisions about your book at all stages, and the flexibility to choose timing to suit you and the proportion of your input into production.

What advice would you give any writer who is considering self-publishing?

Sleep a lot now because you won’t have any time once you start! Serious self-publishing is for the self-driven, but there is a lot of support out there whether you’re doing it completely DIY or using a publishing services provider. Two places to research options would be The Alliance of Independent Authors and The Independent Publishing Magazine.

Essentials include a properly designed cover, a thorough edit from an experienced and recommended editor and a well-formatted book. Readers hate trashy looking books and cannot abide bad formatting. Worst of all they are critical of overblown, ungrammatical prose, and rightly so.

As much as, or really more so than, traditionally published authors, self-published authors need to build a strong online presence. Even if you commission print books for local hand-selling or marketing purposes, the majority of your sales will be ebooks online. So start your blog now, open up a Facebook author page and get tweeting. I started my blog (www.alison-morton.com) on World Book Day three years before my first book, INCEPTIO, came out. When I launched INCEPTIO, I had a crowd of ready-made supporters to help me. But you may find you’re spending 50% of your time on promotion.

How do you go about promoting your novels?

Social media, talks, library and bookshop events, local fairs, fetes, etc. and writing articles. And, of course, appearing on blogs like The Write Romantics!

What’s been your most exciting moment as a writer? 

Can I have three? I really can’t choose!
– The arrival of the box of my first book, INCEPTIO.

Box_of_INCEPTIO

–  Simon Scarrow agreeing to endorse PERFIDITAS, my second book

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–  Broadcaster Sue Cook interviewing me at the launch of my third book, SUCCESSIO.

Sue Cook_Alison Morton

You can check out the video of the interview here

What are your future plans?

Well, I’m finishing the first draft of book 4 in the Roma Nova series, set in the 1960s and 1970s. Romance does not run smoothly for our new heroine…

Then there are two more planned in my head.

Thank you so much for having me on Write Romantics – do feel free to ask me anything you like about Roma Nova, research or self-publishing here or via my site www.alison-morton.com

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history and lives in France with her husband.

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, which was also shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and PERFIDITAS, the second in series, have been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion®, an award for independent fiction that rejects 90% of its applicants. INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS were shortlisted for Writing Magazine’s 2014 Self-Publishing Book of the Year Award. Alison’s third book, SUCCESSIO, which came out in June 2014, was selected as the Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014 and has also been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion.

Connect with Alison on her blog http://alison-morton.com/blog/

Facebook author page  https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor

Twitter @alison-morton

You can buy the Roma Nova series as follows:

INCEPTIO_front cover_300dpi_520x802

INCEPTIO: http://alison-morton.com/inceptio/where-to-buy-inceptio/

Perfiditas - Front Cover_520x800

PERFIDITAS: http://alison-morton.com/perfiditas/where-to-buy-perfiditas/

SUCCESSIO cover300dpi_520x800

SUCCESSIO: http://alison-morton.com/successio/where-to-buy-successio/

Saturday Spotlight: Interview with Hazel Gaynor

We are delighted to welcome Hazel Gaynor, author of The Girl Who Came Home, to the blog today.  We’ve chosen Hazel’s wonderful book as the first read for the Write Romantics Book Group (you can read more about that here) and we’re very excited to have Hazel chat to us about what inspired her to write the book and her amazing journey from self-published author to the New York Times bestseller lists. Over to Hazel to tell us more…

Hazel Gaynor author photo

  • The Titanic is often associated with the glitz and glamour of the Edwardian period.  What inspired you to tell the story of the Irish steerage passengers?

I’ve always been fascinated by Titanic (I was a teenager when the wreck was discovered) and when I decided to write a novel set around the ship and the tragic events of that April night, I knew I wanted to explore the experience of a third class passenger, rather than that of the wealthy millionaires we know so much about. Living in Ireland, I was also keen to find out more about the Irish passengers who boarded Titanic at her last port of call, in Queenstown, County Cork. History has, in some ways, neglected those of the lower social classes because they were ordinary people. We know plenty about the likes of the Astors and the Strauss’s, but little about the passengers who travelled on third class tickets, many of whom were leaving their homes in England and Ireland in the hope of finding a better life in America. I felt that it was these, ordinary people, who had the most extraordinary stories to tell. I also wanted to explore the aftermath of the disaster and how such an event can have lasting repercussions on a survivor’s life. In the survivor records of Irish passengers, the name Annie Kate Kelly kept coming up. It was that which led me to the story of the Addergoole Fourteen and the inspiration for the novel.

  • The film ‘Titanic’ is a fabulous love story. Was it nerve-wracking telling a completely different story in your book after the film has been so enduring?

I was obviously very conscious of the movie when I started writing the novel, and of course, comparisons will always be made to some degree (although lots of readers have said how much they would love THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME to be made into a movie – which is lovely to hear!). Writing about such a well-known event was certainly a daunting prospect as a debut novelist! That said, I was very clear about the Titanic story I wanted to tell and with my story being based around steerage passengers, and also focusing on the aftermath, and on the impact on family and friends awaiting news of the disaster, I didn’t feel in any way inhibited by the movie’s plot or premise – or its huge success. I didn’t watch the movie while I was writing the novel though – just to make sure I wasn’t mimicking Mr Cameron’s view of the event!

  •  What difference has it made having a publisher rather than continuing with self publishing?

Although I had a very positive experience of self-publishing, I always, always wanted a traditional deal and to work with a publisher. Working with the team at William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins in the U.S.) has been such an amazing experience – and everything I had hoped it would be. The job of a writer is a very lonely one, and with self-publishing there really is a lot of ‘self’ involved. To have the backing, support, enthusiasm, professionalism and belief of a team of experts behind you really is incredible, and has made a huge difference to my confidence as a writer. I have learnt so much from my editor and from the marketing and publicity team, and obviously as one of the big publishers, they have been able to get my book into the hands of so many more readers than I could ever have hoped for. I’m very excited to meet the team, and my agent, on my trip to New York this November.

  •   What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you since (a) the indie version came out and (b) the published version came out?

I was very fortunate in that THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME was very positively received from the very early days as a self-published Kindle ebook. The morning when I received a Facebook message from an agent in New York saying that she’d read the book on her Kindle and would love to talk to me about representation has to be the highlight of my ‘indie’ publishing life, because it was so out of the blue and came at a time when I’d had a second novel rejected and had just lost my agent. And of course, that initial contact led to my deal with William Morrow. Since the published version of the book came out, the most exciting moment has to be when I received an email from my editor telling me that the book had made the New York Times best seller listings. That was a moment to savour, and even better that it came on the second day of our family holiday!!

The Girl Who Came Home

  • What advice would you give to anyone considering going down the indie publishing route? 

Don’t approach it lightly. It can offer a great opportunity to get your work out there, but you have to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work. Make sure the work is your absolute best and that it is edited professionally and has a professional cover designed. I cannot emphasise those points enough. Talk to other indie published authors so you know what to expect and be very clear with yourself about your goals and expectations. I honestly did not expect to get a publishing deal from self-publishing. For me, self-publishing THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME was a way of letting go of that book so I could get on with the next one.

  • There must be a huge amount of historical records and documents about the Titanic. How did you go about researching the historical details about the Titanic, the experience of the survivors and the village in Ireland. 

Titanic is an event that fascinates people and because of that, there are a lot of official and unofficial experts out there! For months, I read everything I could about Titanic and her passengers. I read survivor accounts and newspaper reports from the time. I read other Titanic books, such as Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember and I got lost in Titanic websites like http://www.encyclopaedia-titanica.org. While some historical fiction writers struggle to find material about their subject, my problem was that there was so much and I knew I had to get the balance right between fact and fiction.

When I was writing the novel, I was very conscious of the reality of my story. How would the descendants of those who had inspired my book react to my retelling? How could I tell their story in a way that was respectful, yet also engaging to the reader? I wanted to do justice to the memory of the Addergoole Fourteen, and all of Titanic’s passengers, but I also wanted to tell my story in my own words. Of course, when you’ve spent so long researching a subject you are fascinated by, it is very tempting to throw in every tiny fact and detail. My challenge was to know what to leave out, as well as to know what to put in. I could geek out for hours about Titanic but my job in writing this novel was to tell an engaging story and let the characters – not the history – take priority. The painstakingly researched historical facts should, ideally, just become a part of that story; noticeable and enjoyable, but not distracting.

  • Do you intend to continue to write historical fiction? 

 Yes! I absolutely love writing in this genre and can’t see myself leaving it for quite some time. My second novel, A MEMORY OF VIOLETS, is about two sets of sisters and is set around a charity for orphaned flower sellers in Victorian London. The story spans several decades across the late 1800s and early 1900s. I love the Victorian and Edwardian eras and the streets of Victorian London were a wonderfully haunting place to explore in my imagination. Again, the novel was inspired by true events and I am very excited about the book’s publication in early 2015. I’m also excited to be in the early stages of ‘book three’ which is also historical fiction.

  • We see that you’ve interviewed several well-known writers in the course of your career and we wondered if there was a particular writer who inspires your work?

I’d have to say Philippa Gregory. It was amazing to meet her in person in 2012 because I’ve loved her novels. She’s such a fascinating woman and I think she really blazed a trail in making historical fiction popular through her Tudor Court novels. She brings history to life so vividly on the page and although I’m not writing as far back in history as she does, nor and I writing about royalty, I take a lot of inspiration from her approach to writing history in the novel form. She also tells a great story!

  • Do you have any advice for anyone considering writing historical fiction for the first time?

Ultimately, you need to be very excited about and intrigued by the era, event and/or person you are writing about, because you will inhabit that world for a very long time during the process of research, writing, editing and promoting your novel. I wrote THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME in 2011 and am as excited to talk about it today as I was back then. Research is obviously a critical element of writing historical fiction and a non-writing period to immerse yourself in the era is really important. Other than that, you need to sit down and start writing! Also, remember that you are ultimately writing a novel that will be commercially appealing to publishers and full of engaging characters to captivate the reader. Don’t lose sight of the story among all the fascinating history.

For more information about my books, visit my website http://www.hazelgaynor.com/ or Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hazelgaynorbooks I am also on Twitter @HazelGaynor on Goodreads and have a Pinterest page at http://www.pinterest.com/hazelgaynor/

A huge thank you to Hazel for joining us today.  If Hazel’s interview has made you want to read ‘The Girl Who Came Home’ then we’d love it if you’d tell us what you think either on this page or over on the Goodreads group which you can find here.

P.S. We’ve realised since we changed the format of the blog that it’s not entirely easy to see where to leave a comment.  We figured this out when we couldn’t find the right place!  At the end of the list of tags at the bottom of the page there’s the words ‘leave a comment’ and if you click on that it’ll take you through.  Just because it’s a little hard to find please don’t think that means we don’t want to hear from you because we do!

 

The Write Romantics and the sweet smell of… togetherness

Okay, so maybe the cowsheds at the Harper Adams agricultural campus didn’t exactly smell sweet at this year’s RNA conference, near Telford, but one thing that was sweet  conf 2014 10was the chance to meet all of the Write Romantics. Some of us were lucky enough to catch up with the whole group for the first time ever, at various points, although other commitments meant that all nine were never quite in the same place at the same time. Whether we’ll get the chance to put that right, anytime soon, depends largely on our Australian contingent. Although we’re sure Helen R won’t mind the other eight of us turning up for a holiday in Oz at some point… In the meantime, we thought we’d share our other conference highlights with you, including some dubious poetry porn and a photo of Alys getting far too excited at the thought of owning her own tractor! conf 2014 14Helen R Just being a part of a “workplace” was the high for me. Writing can be a lonely profession and it improved for me when I joined The Write Romantics, and actually being around so many writers at the weekend left me buzzing. conf 2014 15I met so many approachable, friendly writers, in particular Lizzie Lamb who chatted to us outside the coffee shop; Hazel Gaynor whose novel “The Girl Who Came Home” I can’t put down right now; Talli Roland who kept me amused at the gala dinner; and Amy Gaffney who couldn’t believe I had never heard of Michael Fassbender! But most of all I came away from the conference feeling even more motivated. Now I just need to get back to Sydney, move house and get back to my desk 🙂 conf dee 2Deirdre As a conference first-timer I was made to feel welcome from the moment I picked up my special pink-jewelled name-badge and lovely goodie bag.  I was lucky enough to have friends at the conference, including the Write Romantics, of course, but the whole atmosphere was one of inclusivity with plenty of opportunity to chat and make new friends, too.  I attended on the Saturday only as a day visitor but didn’t feel I’d missed out as the schedule was impressively full, and I take my hat off to the organisers for that. conf deeIndie-publishing and marketing were definitely the hot topics and featured in one guise or another several times over the day.  I’ve self-published in the past and may do so again so it was good to see this important shift in the industry being addressed at the conference and so much practical information coming our way. My favourite session was Sally Quilford’s which was all about writing romantic intrigue.  Sally’s inspiring and amusing talk was the perfect ending to the day and I came away already planning to go to next year’s conference. Julie conf 2014 132013 had been my first conference experience and I’ll admit I found the whole thing pretty daunting. I think most unpublished writers will find the idea of going to an event where they don’t really know anyone and are surrounded by people who’ve already achieved the dream to be a pretty scary thing. This year, I felt much more relaxed because I knew I’d be amongst friends. The Write Romantics have been blogging together since April 2013 but I’d only physically met four of the group. This year we were all going to be there. Not quite all at the same time but, nonetheless, I had the privilege to meet the remaining four across the course of the weekend. It’s been amazing meeting everyone in the flesh. I just wish I hadn’t been so wiped out after a pretty challenging six months at work so I didn’t quite have the energy to stay up and chat till the early hours. conf 2014 8Conference-wise, the stand-out sessions for me were a couple that were relevant to those going indie, in particular hearing about how much happier and satisfied those who’ve gone down that route appear to be. It was also encouraging to hear the story of Hazel Gaynor who was picked up by an agent then a publisher after going indie with her debut novel ‘The Girl Who Came Home’. Indie definitely does seem to be the new slush pile. Jackie conf 2014 12It was fabulous to meet the writeromantics at the conference and I enjoyed some but not all of the talks. Sometimes there was a good message to impart but the delivery wasn’t quite right and others had me hanging off every word.  Jean Fullerton and Janet Gover are excellent at giving talks and Hazel Gaynor’s talk about the Titanic was very interesting. It was great to catch up with old acquaintances and I have made some new Twitter friends (if only I knew what to do with them!) The general feeling about the publishing conf 2014 16industry was much more upbeat than the last conference I went to, mostly I suspect, thanks to Amazon and the ease of self-publishing. It is very heartening to know that someone apart from your sister and best friend will be able to read your novel and we don’t have to wait to get a publishing deal. Probably the most promising bit of the conference for me, was meeting Tessa Shapcott who is a freelance editor of many years standing. She is going to knock my latest offering into shape and after that I can finally put it out there – somewhere, who knows where, yet! Helen P Conf HelenI had a fantastic weekend catching up with The Write Romantics at Harper Adams University, which is a beautiful campus, and skiving off sessions to hold our very own out in the sunshine! It was great to spend time with my editors from the fabulous Carina UK off campus, in a pub. Amazing, too, to see the lovely ODwyer (Author), although not for as long as I would have liked, as well as all the other fabulous writers I know. Alys Conf 2014 6Obviously the best thing about the conference was spending time with all of the other Write Romantics. I’d not met Helen R, Jackie and Deirdre before and it was like meeting people I’d known for years rather than someone new.  I also enjoyed catching up with friends I’d met last year like Alison May and meeting some lovely new people like Alison Morton, Ian Skillicorn and Lizzie Lamb. For me the stand out session was Nikki Logan’s talk on the Chemistry of Reading.  It made an awful lot of sense to me and made me realise that there are good biological reasons why I get so attached to certain books or characters.  I can now blame the Oxytocin in my brain for making me believe that Borchester is a real county somewhere between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and that if you know where to look in London you will find Diagon Alley. Nikki’s talk made me see how as a writer I can use those reactions to really engage readers. I’m going to check out some of the novels that she recommended and get a copy of her book so I can learn more about the techniques you can use to do this. IMG_0369Getting all of the Write Romantics together was always going to result in a lot of laughing and the attempts to write sex scenes with Jo’s magnetic nature poetry probably created the most hilarity.  There’s clearly a good reason why none of us write erotica!  Most of our attempts are too X rated for a Saturday Spotlight (we may need a new post-watershed slot for them) but this one isn’t too inappropriate. Rachael conf 2014 11Naturally the best moment from the conference was being able to catch up in person with fellow Write Romantics. I didn’t make the Friday lunch, which most of the group enjoyed, due to being lost in transit. Myself and my friend managed to get completely lost, as whilst driving we were happily talking about writing and suddenly realised we were not where we wanted to be. All the talks at the conference were interesting, but I my favourites were Nikki Logan, Janet Gover and Clare Mackintosh and catching up with friends as well as making new ones was another highlight. I also enjoyed the fact that Harper Adams is an agriculture campus and slipped away from writing – only briefly, to get my farm fix each day. It was the cows and calves I was interested in, not the pig unit. This emitted the kind of smell even I wasn’t used to! Lynne Conf 2014 3‘I, or I should say we, had a really unusual ‘mini’ conference when my little puppy Rosie and I travelled to Newport to meet some of the group for lunch on the first day. At that point I had only met Deidre and her husband when they stayed near Oxford, and Alex when she visited me on her travels to Glastonbury, the rest of the group were new to me. But first I met Jo, then Jackie and Deidre and later Julie and Alex again. I can honestly say it was one of the nicest lunchtime meetings I’ve ever had, I couldn’t have asked to meet a nicer group of people and its so nice to be able to ‘talk shop’ with others that understand. So it might have taken me two hours driving each way for a two-hour lunch, but it was well worth it. And Rosie had a wonderful time too! As for me? photo (1)My highlight has already been spoken about. It was really all about seeing the WRs. Meeting Lizzie Lamb for an impromptu chat outside the coffee shop, whilst some of the WRs were playing hooky from a session, was also a bit of a light-bulb moment conference-wise, though. Lizzie was incredibly generous in sharing her hints and tips for going indie, and marketing more generally, and she said something like ‘this business isn’t for shrinking violets’. Apologies if I haven’t got that quite right, Lizzie, but you get the gist!  Networking isn’t my favourite thing in the world, so does that mean this game isn’t for me? I guess only time will tell, but I do think it means that the conference probably isn’t. Across the two years I have attended there have conf 2014 4been some good sessions, but the stand out one for me was one led by Julie Cohen last year and I felt like a different writer with new insight after just an hour. So I think next year’s conference fee has already been ear-marked to attend one of Julie’s training courses instead. It will still give me the opportunity to meet other writers and promote myself from shrinking violet to something else – perhaps a tree hugger… I’ve already made a start. If not, then I guess I can always take up crochet! We’d love to hear about the experience of others who attended the conference. What were the highs and inspirational moments for your? And, perhaps even more importantly, have you got that smell out of your nostrils yet? Jay xx

Wednesday Wondering – Meet our main characters!

Today on the blog, we have been Wednesday Wondering about some of the characters in our forthcoming anthology. Prompted by the lovely Liv Thomas, who passed us the ‘Meet My Main Character’ baton, four of the Write Romantics are going to tell you a bit about the characters just waiting to slip between the covers of our winter collection, which will be raising funds for the Cystic Fibrosis and Teenage Cancer Trusts. You can meet Liv’s main character in the fabulous novel she co-wrote, as Isabella Connor, Beneath an Irish Sky, available from Amazon at this link or read more about Luke on Liv’s own blog posting, here.

First up is…

Alex’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

Harriet Hardy who is the main character in ‘A Pistol for Propriety’.

2013-08-18 14.35.25When and where is the story set?

The story is set in 1898 in Whitby in North Yorkshire. However the story is steampunk so it’s not quite the same Whitby. It was enormous fun figuring out where dirigibles (or airships) could land and how steam powered cars might work.  There’s still a steam bus running in Whitby during the tourist season and that sparked some ideas.

What should the readers know about Harriet?

The wonderful thing about steampunk is that you can have really strong heroines who wear fabulous clothes and hats. I spent far too much time looking at pictures of 1890s hats. They were as wide as tea trays.  Heaven knows how anyone actually walked about in them!

What is the conflict in Harriet’s life?

At the beginning of the story, Harriet has done something which can best be described as imprudent. (The other thing I loved about steampunk is that you can use words like ‘imprudent’ and they sound absolutely right.  As a big fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, I absolutely adored writing the dialogue).  I don’t want to say too much about what this imprudent action was but let’s just say that there’s a clue in the title of the story!

What are Harriet’s goals?

Harriet’s life hasn’t always been easy and it’s made her into a very capable woman.  She’s someone who thinks that marriage isn’t for her because of the choices that she’s made.  However, as this is a romance, someone turns up who challenges that assumption!

 Next we have…

Rachael’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

My character is Sally Phillips and her story in the anthology is ‘Meet Me at Midnight’.

When and where is the story set?

It’s a contemporary story, set in Wales during the last few days of the year.

What should the readers know about Sally?

Sally is a writer, who has left London not only to try and escape her failed relationship, but to try and beat writer’s block.

What is the conflict in Sally’s life?

Her inability to write due to leaving Jake, her partner, but as soon as she arrives in Wales the words begin to flow, until she meets a handsome farmer one morning.

What are Sally’s goals?

To be successful in her work and happy in her life, something she’d always envisaged taking place in London, but events over the New Year change all that.

Our penultimate introduction is…

Julie’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

The story I haven’t quite finished for our anthology is called ‘Not Just Another Winter’s Tale’ and features twenty-nine-year-old Emily Chambers

winter4When and where is the story set?

It’s set in the present day in the winter (hey, it is a Christmas/winter anthology) in the Derbyshire countryside although part of the story is set in the US of A

What should the readers know about Emily?

She can’t bear her new work colleague, Troy Zimmerman, after meeting him when working in the States over the summer. Unfortunately, she’s stranded at a conference centre and her only way home is to spend three hours in a car with him. Hideous thought

What is the conflict in Emily’s life?

Troy! Simple as that. Oh, and the fact that it’s started snowing. Very heavily. Which probably means the journey will be longer than three hours. Eek!

What are Emily’s goals?

To get home safely as quickly as possible with minimal communication with Troy. Only we know that’s not going to be possible, is it?

Lastly, me… the ‘artist’ (and I use the term loosely) formerly known as Jo, but now Write Romantic, Jay.  Hopefully more of that in a Mega Monday announcement coming your way soon…

Jay’s Anthology Character

What is the name of your character and the title of the story?

Jamie Chandler takes the lead in my anthology story, which is entitled ‘In All The Wrong Places’.

When and where is the story set?

The story is set in the current era and tracks the course of one December, which proves long enough to alter Jamie’s life forever.IMG_0671  Jamie lives in a sleepy Kent village, where finding love is difficult at the best of times.

What should the readers know about Jamie?

He’s gorgeous, funny, kind and the sort of Colin Firth-esque beta hero that every nice girl should fall for… Oh, and his legs don’t always work.

What is the conflict in Jamie’s life?

He’s convinced that no-one can love him after his diagnosis with MS but, as the title suggests, he’s been looking for love in all the wrong places.

What are Jamie’s goals?

He’s desperate not to spend another Christmas alone.  What he really wants is to settle down with someone and have the life he dreamt of before his diagnosis, but first he has to learn that love doesn’t always wear a name-tag.

Enter our competition

I hope you have enjoyed meeting our characters and don’t forget your chance to win a £20 Amazon voucher by entering our ‘Name That Anthology’ competition. All you have to do is to send in your entry to thewriteromantics@hotmail.co.uk to be in with a chance. Entries close on 31st August. You can also register for updates at the same email address, so that you will know as soon as the anthology is available to order. We have a wealth of other writers contributing to the anthology, many of whom are bestsellers, and you can find out more about them here.

Next week, two of the Write Romantics, Rachael Thomas and Helen Phifer, will be taking the baton on their own blogs to talk about the characters in their novels and, if you are really lucky, Rachael might even share her fabulous cover reveal with you!

You can read Rachael’s blog here.

Helen’s blog can be accessed at this link.