Through the Instagram App and What Sharon Found There

Through the Instagram App and What Sharon Found There

Recently, I joined a marketing group on Facebook, formed to help writers and small business owners (the businesses are small, not the owners—although, they may be small, too, who knows?) improve their public profile.

It’s a tough world out there, you know. I may be famous in my own back yard—as in, a new book brings a flurry of excitement from my mother, my mother’s neighbour, my sister and my aunt—but if I’m to make any impact on the world, or even my little corner of it, I have to get my name, and my work, “out there”, wherever the heck “there” may be.

We’ve been discussing social media. Are you on Twitter? Tick. Facebook? Tick. Do you have a Facebook author page? Tick. A blog? Tick. Pinterest? Tick. Instagram? Er, what, now?  “Ah, Instagram. The new, trendy app that simply anyone who is anyone is using.”  “Okay, well I’m not sixteen and I have no idea about Instagram. Help, please?”

In the event, it turned out that most of the other people in the group had no idea about Instagram either, so I decided to march forth and try out this brave new world for myself.

Does anyone have a clue?

Does anyone have a clue?

First step—as always—was to Google it for information. First question. What is Instagram? Google was most helpful. “You’re kidding, right? I mean, how old are you? A hundred and six?” (I jest, of course. Google would never be so flippant, or so rude.) Having determined that Instagram was an app that basically lets you share photos online (you know, kind of like Pinterest, or Facebook, or Twitter…), I decided that I HAD to be part of this amazing feat of technology.

First lesson. You can’t join Instagram online. You have to download an app to your phone. Having just figured out how to turn my brand new Windows phone on, I was in the marvellous position of being able to do just that. So I duly downloaded the app. Now what?

Second lesson. You have to have a username and password. Okay, fine. I’ll just use my name. Except, my name wasn’t available. My own name! Harsh. Okay, let’s go for my own name and date of birth. Not available. Well, that was just rude. How could my own name and date of birth not be available? Who pinched them? I tried various combinations of words and numbers and not one of them was available. In desperation, I used my nickname and birthday. Aha! Allowed. So I was finally signed up for Instagram.

Third lesson. Your username is available for everyone to see. Oh drat. I don’t want to be known as that. I thought it was private. Okay, how do I change my username? Back to my beloved Google, which scratched its head, rolled its eyes, tutted in despair and said, “You do know what edit profile means?” Oh. I hadn’t noticed that. So back I went and clicked on “edit profile”. Delete username. Add new username. Done. Well, that was easy. Just add a short bio now…

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Not the actual book I didn’t win because I DIDN’T win it.

Fourth lesson. Your bio has to be very, very short. Shorter than a tweet. After rambling on, explaining how I once played the queen in a school play, and how I never got over not having my name picked out of a hat to win a signed copy of a Bobby Brewster book after the author visited our primary school, in spite of the fact that I was the only child in the class who actually read for pleasure, I was informed, quite sternly, that my bio was far too long and I’d better cut it. I deleted a sentence, then a paragraph, then a chapter. Eventually, I was down to the permitted length. Success. My bio was complete. My profile was done. Except…

Fifth lesson. For some reason I cannot fathom, Instagram had taken my Facebook profile picture and used it as my Instagram profile picture. Since the picture wasn’t even of me, this didn’t seem at all useful. Back I went to Facebook and searched, in increasing desperation, for a photograph of me that looked reasonably human and didn’t feature me posing with Benedict Cumberbatch. What do you mean, camera trickery? It was all perfectly genuine, I’ll have you know. Anyway, I finally found one where, not only am I alone, not only am I not staring in horror with my hand half over my face, pleading with someone not to take my picture, but I am actually smiling. Crikey! So I changed that to my profile picture. (When I got home from work that night, the picture had loads of likes

100% genuine *cough*

100% genuine *cough*

and nice comments. I think my Facebook friends were stunned that I’d actually posted a photo of myself. I’m not the most photogenic of people, let’s face it.) So there I was, fully signed up and all profiled up for Instagram. Except…

Sixth lesson. I had no idea what I was supposed to actually do on there. I posted on my Facebook writer’s page, announcing that I had joined, and asking, quite genuinely, “What do I do now?” Back came several replies. “We have no idea, but when you find out can you let us know, please?” I really do have to get some younger, trendier friends. So, I decided to trawl through other people’s Instagram accounts and get some idea of what I was supposed to be posting. Hmm.

Seventh lesson. There is one huge snag with Instagram. You’re supposed to do things, see things, go places that are interesting. Since I’m usually either at home, writing, or at work, er, working, this doesn’t really apply to me. I tried my Write Romantic pal, Rachael Thomas, for help first. Her account featured lots of beautiful pictures of the countryside. Well, you see, Rachael isn’t just a fantastically talented romance writer. Oh, no. She’s also a dairy farmer. So when she skips merrily out of her house in the morning, she can raise her camera phone and sing happy little Disney songs and balance little blue birds on her hand as she takes gorgeous pictures of the Welsh countryside, pretty animals and—you know—stuff like that.  I, on the other hand, live in a city. I don’t much fancy taking pictures of the dustcart blocking our way out of the road yet again, or the latest takeaway that’s opened nearby because, after all, we’ve only got thirty takeaways in our area already, or the roadworks at the end of the street that have been there for weeks, even though whoever put them there seems to have forgotten all about them. So what to do?

Here's one I made earlier- honest!

Here’s one I made earlier- honest!

Eighth lesson. Everyone has photographs of cake. I mean, everyone! People bake and then they take pictures of their culinary creations so the rest of us can a) feel suddenly in desperate need of cake and b) hang our heads in shame because we haven’t baked since nineteen ninety-eight. (That may actually be true, in my case.) Even Rachael had posted a photograph of a cake she’d made! How does she find time for that, for heaven’s sake? I turned to my other Write Romantic chum, Helen Phifer. Helen is really busy, just like Rachael. But Helen writes ghostly crime stories. She collects photos of haunted houses and—you know—creepy stuff. I can rely on Helen. Oh, Helen! Cupcakes! Seriously? But yes, there they were. Cupcakes. Okay, they were in among some creepy stuff (and some lovely stuff, too!) but they were there. I had to take photos of cake. It was obviously the way to go. A quick scout around our kitchen revealed two stale Jacob’s cream crackers and a broken custard cream. I suppose I could have photographed them as some sort of artistic statement. But no…Things were getting critical.

Ninth lesson. Instagram makes you desperate to photograph anything. I mean, anything. I spent the entire day wandering around looking at “things” and wondering if they would make a good subject for a picture on Instagram. I even trawled through old Facebook photos, trying to convince myself that I could post some of them and pretend they were new. Then I realised that I didn’t like any of them anyway, so that was pointless. I decided I would have to buy cake and start—you know—actually going out. Desperate times.

Tessa to the rescue

Tessa to the rescue

Tenth lesson. When in doubt, remember man’s best friend. Okay, so I don’t bake, and I didn’t have cake in the house, and I don’t go anywhere. But what I do have, which seems to be very acceptable, is a pet. My lovely German Shepherd, Tessa (who features in my Kearton Bay books, albeit aged by some years and with a personality that’s the opposite of the real version, but is still lovely—not that I’m plugging my books, you understand. Ahem) was most obliging. As I scoured the house, looking for something that I could take a picture of, she gave a sudden sneeze, drawing my attention to her. She was lying by the sofa and as I leaned forward to get a better look at her, she gave me a worried look as if to say, “Why are you pointing that phone at me? Get away from me, you mad creature!” Too late, Tessa! A click and I had it! Feverishly, I looked at my photograph. Ah, my beautiful dog. You are the perfect subject for my first Instagram photograph!

Eleventh lesson. Uploading, or downloading, or whatever it is you do with the wretched things, isn’t as easy as you’d think. For a start, I couldn’t figure out how to crop the picture, and Instagram likes your photos to be square. Back I went to Google. “Oh, God. It’s you again. What now?” it sighed. Still, it was very obliging, and I managed to find an app that ensured all my photos were suitable for Instagram, and I didn’t have to worry about cropping or any of that technical stuff. Problem solved. So my picture of Tessa was duly up/downloaded. Then I up/downloaded pictures of my People’s Friend pocket novel. Then pictures of my two books. Then a picture of Winter Tales (which is back on sale, by the way). Then a picture of my notebooks to show that I was about to start plotting and drafting a new book, because, after all, I’m a writer, and that was the point of joining Instagram in the first place – to remind people that I write books and they’re worth reading, even if I do say so myself (and my mum’s neighbour agrees with me, so there). The point was not to prove that I bake cakes or go places or socialise or anything like that. Right?

Hmm. I still have to work out how, why, or if I should share my Instagram photos to Facebook. I also have to fathom the mysterious world of the hashtag, so my adventures in Instagramland are not over yet. I have a feeling that I’m going to be looking at life through a lens from now on. Everything is a photo opportunity.

Look out, world. Sharon’s got a camera – and she’s not afraid to use it. In fact, she’s quite desperate…

Sharon xxx

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Gondolas, cover bans and affirmation – It’s all in Siobhan Daiko’s writing life

Siobhan Daiko AuthorToday we are thrilled to welcome back friend of the WRs, Siobhan Daiko, to the blog. Siobhan was born in and raised in Hong Kong. Before becoming a writer, Siobhan had a range of jobs from post office mistress to high school teacher. Siobhan now lives with her husband and two cats in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, where she spends her time writing, researching historical characters, and enjoying the dolce vita. We had loads of questions to ask Siobhan when she came back to visit us and, as always, she has a lot going on!

What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve had about any of your novels so far?

An Amazon USA review of The Orchid Tree which said my characters were now a part of their life. That absolutely made my day.
You have had considerable success as a self-published author, but would you ever consider an offer from a traditional publisher or an agent to sell other rights, for example?

I would love for an agent to sell the film rights of The Orchid Tree to a Hong Kong movie mogul. That would be awesome!

You write across a number of sub-genres of romance. Do you ever find that a challenge and do you have a favourite sub-genre?

I’m writing a contemporary erotic romance at the moment, and I do find it a challenge as I’ve been writing romantic historical fiction up until now. It’s a good challenge, though. Just hope I can pull it off!

What has surprised you most about publishing your novels and has it lived up to the dream?All books banner

I’m surprised how much I love connecting with readers. And also how much I enjoy all that’s involved with publishing – from working with my editor, John Hudspith to choosing a cover design and even promotion. I dreamt of finding readers for my work and for them to enjoy what I write so, yes, publishing has fully lived up to the dream.

Your full length novels have love stories at their heart. How would you define love?

I absolutely agree with the definition in 1 Corinthians 13.”Love never fails.” I’ve used this quote in my latest erotic novella, The Submission of Theodora, which is based on the romance between Justinian (c. 482 – 14 November 565) and Theodora (c. 500 – 28 June 548), probably one of the greatest love stories of all time.

We love the range of covers you have for your novels and novellas. Do you start with a title or decide it later on? And how much input do you have to the beautiful cover designs you use?

I’m useless at titles. I must have changed the title for The Orchid Tree about ten times before publication. And I changed In My Lady’s Shadow to Lady of Asolo after I published it. Veronica became Veronica COURTESAN at the last minute, and I’m still not 100% happy with that title. I’ve been working with a fantastic cover designer, JD Smith, who has always been happy to follow the brief I’ve given her. She used photos of oil paintings done by my father Douglas Bland Artist for The Orchid Tree and Lady of Asolo, incorporating royalty-free images. I came a cropper with Veronica, when Amazon Kindle vetoed the cover I used for the paperback, a painting of an authentic Venetian courtesan by Titian, because of her bare breasts. A banner covering them just didn’t look right, so we used royalty-free images instead. Regarding The Submission of Theodora, I must have driven my designer mad as it took umpteen proofs before I was happy.

The Submission of Theodora Cover Paperback Proof 2 (1)-page-001Can you tell us a bit about the plot for The Submission of Theodora please?

Rather than do that, I’ll copy and paste a review I received on Amazon, which totally “gets” what I’m trying to convey in the story:

Smoking hot and passionate story of a love deeper than most of us will ever experience!

By Sheila73 on October 27, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition

This story is about a couple who really did exist in history, but the author made up her own story of their intimate relationship. Theodora is a strong young woman, despite her past of being forced to perform demeaning tasks to survive. Many women would’ve broken under some of the abuse she endured, but instead Theodora was always finding the good in everyone and worrying about what she could do to help her people. The Christian Church had been split into two opposing factions and times were difficult between the two. When she had the opportunity to help bring unity by advising the emperor’s most likely next successor, Justinian, she was delighted to be given the chance to do something worthy of her knowledge and talents. What neither Justinian nor Theodora expected was the intense physical attraction between them, which blossomed into a deep and unconditional love. Justinian’s dark dominant needs and desires aren’t something she initially feels comfortable with. She’s experienced too much unpleasantness from so-called dominant men in her past. But Justinian gains her trust and the relationship that develops between them is beautiful and pure. They really do complete each other, as cliché as that sounds. She not only entrusts Justinian with her complete sexual submission but also stands by his side as a strong partner in his politics. Theodora goes from being among the lowest rungs of society to being an Empress, which was very rare in that time. Justinian respected her opinions and they worked together to reduce conflict between the opposing factions of the Church and also included the common people in celebrations, making everyone feel more included. This was the perfect love story, one I could read again and again.”

What’s the most romantic place you’ve ever been to or thing you’ve ever done?

A gondola ride through the Venetian canals at midnight. Venice is magical under the moon, and sitting next to my husband, to whom I’ve been married nearly 37 years, I was taken back to the early days of our relationship. A real tingle moment.

Who was your first hero and how do you think he’s influenced your writing, if at all?

Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre. I totally fell in love with him when I was in my early teens. He’s a heart-stopping, emotion-wrenching, all consuming hero, especially as he isn’t instantly lovable. I wish I could write a hero like him.

Do you think it’s true that you should ‘write what you know’ and, if so, to what extent have your experiences influencedTheo teaser 3 your writing?

My first two novels were definitely influenced by my own experiences. The Orchid Tree is based on my family history in Hong Kong during and shortly after World War II. Lady of Asolo is influenced by the area where I live in Italy. I think that, now I’ve grown more confident with my writing, I’m able to write convincingly about experiences I haven’t had. At least I hope so!

What are you working on at the moment?

A contemporary erotic ménage romance, set in Rome. That’s all you’re getting for now!

Do you ever think about writing in a completely different genre, if so, what would you choose?

I would love to write a thriller one day. Mainly because I enjoy reading them. But I would be hard-pressed to come up with a good plot.

Thank you so much, Write Romantics, for interviewing me on your blog. I really enjoyed answering your questions. Here are my social media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SCDaikoAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/siobhandaiko

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7091256.Siobhan_Daiko

Amazon: http://viewauthor.at/Siobhan_Daiko

Blog: https://siobhandaiko.wordpress.com/

Books website: http://fragrantpublishing.com/

 

Steve Dunn… a life of fantasy, mystery and close encounters of the zombie kind

Beacon Church Elder PortraitsOur guest on the blog today is Steve Dunn, author of three novels and the forthcoming ‘true’ story behind the Goldilocks fairy-tale, which will be available to download via Amazon soon. Steve is married to Jennie and they have a ten-year old daughter. He has worked for the ambulance service for over twenty years, and has been part-time paramedic and part-time church pastor for the past four, but from this November will be leading the church in a fulltime role. He is also a film lover and fig-roll connoisseur.

Welcome to the Blog, Steve, we’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far?

I’ve always enjoyed stories of all kinds (be they novels, comics or films) from a young age and so writing my own came naturally very quickly. I’m fascinated by the thought of other worlds or versions of our own, and the opportunity to live others’ lives within them, and so to create them myself is a wonderful thing. One English teacher in particular, Mr.Swan, encouraged me in creative writing more than most, and since then I’ve never been able to resist. I began writing a short story here and there, then came a novella, and subsequently a first novel I wrote in the 1990s which will remain forever hidden from public perusal but at least I’d written one! Once I’d finished a complete manuscript I’d somehow proved to myself it was possible whilst juggling family and jobs, and so other ideas bloomed into full-sized projects which I developed over the years.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer and what do your family and friends think about you having published three novels?

The fact that my brain won’t turn off – it’s both a blessing and a curse! Be it people-watching (“What’s his job? Her secret? Where did they grow up? Why do they look like that?”), appreciating life’s synchronicities and even enjoying “what-ifs”, which are the things that inevitably spin off into project ideas for me. My wife loves where my brain goes at times, and we have a lot of laughter and banter in the house, but it does also mean she’d like my attention a little more when I’m currently consumed by 999AD or Homefront Britain, for example… My family are immensely proud and I’m so grateful for their and my friends’ support.

You write across a range of genres, but do you have a favourite – either to write or to read?

As far as genres are concerned, I’m usually drawn most to the likes of fantasy or mysteries more than others, but then I’ll enjoy anything as long as it’s well written. Rather than specific chunks of the market, I’m more drawn to anything that’s different – I love characters and settings with quirks, the weird and the wonderful, the heightened atmospheres and realities than can elevate you to somewhere so decisively different to your own world. So I love to read from Bram Stoker to David Mitchell, from Iain Banks to Yann Martel – it’s when there’s something that sets them apart from others, be it a unique voice or vision, that my interest piques. And I trust that overflows into my own work.

What inspires you most in your writing and what gave you the idea for Viking Resurrection? VR

As I’ve mentioned, it tends to be a “what-if” that spirals into something eventually resembling a novel. The idea snowballs and evolves, and eventually becomes nothing like the original thought in the first place! Viking Resurrection was inspired a long time back from when Pirates Of The Caribbean first came out, for example. I wondered about a young girl who discovered she was heir to a line of pirate royals, and as the idea blossomed, I transferred it to Anglo-Saxon times and young Amy became someone who no longer discovered a long-lost inheritance, but instead something far grander and purer – the opportunity to change the world for the better and still remain somebody just like the rest of us.

We happen to know that you’re a huge film buff! Do you think this influences your writing style and would you ever try your hand at screenwriting?

I guess my writing is often fairly grand in terms of visuals and I enjoy using words to paint pictures. That must surely be influenced by the films I watch, and the crossover between words and images is a wondrous thing. Viking Resurrection is a fairly obvious one in terms of epic action and mystical beasts, but when it comes to School Of Thought some of the scenarios are somewhat left-field and abstract, while Raine Fall is very much a noir tale and so bears many tropes like a shadowy underworld, a femme fatale, sexual tension and romance. That one’s a juicy tale for both the boys and the girls! I have a couple of ideas for screenplays, and may even develop Viking Resurrection as such, so watch this space…

What are the best and worst things about being selfr-published? Would you ever consider a traditional publishing deal?

For both School Of Thought and Raine Fall I tried many, many different agents and each time received the letter explaining they didn’t even have the time to look at my submission, quoting the vast statistics of how many they receive each year versus how many they can take on. It’s hugely disappointing but then you realise quite what you’re up against in terms of “white noise”. So I published both of those on Kindle and then later on Kobo, mostly because I felt I had something others would enjoy, and it would be a shame if the books just sat in a dusty hard drive. I only expected to sell half a dozen to friends. Next thing I know, I’d sold triple figures across both titles over a few months, one week outselling Michael Crichton and James Herbert, and four-figure sums downloaded on promotional weekends. Still nothing to live off, but quite special for a guy whose only fan until then was his wife. If it had stayed that way, she’s my ideal reader so that’s brilliant, but this is now icing on the cake. So for Viking Resurrection, I naturally went straight for it and am now planning promotional events to help boost it once some more initial reviews have appeared on Amazon to validate people spending their well-earned money on it a little more. I’d still consider a traditional deal, who knows what the future may hold…

How do you handle the marketing, cover design, editing, typesetting and proof-reading aspects of being SP’ed and would you advise other aspiring authors to pay for professional services in relation to this?

Marketing is very much a gradual build of my platform via social media and making contacts. It seems for self-publishing (if not all publishing for Raine Fallmost of us) it’s about playing the long game – like a long-distance runner. One step at a time, but don’t stop. The more titles I can get out there – whilst continuing to be tough on myself for quality – then I trust the more it might all snowball.

With regards to covers, I do it all myself. I don’t have much in the line of spare capital so rely on my art college days to develop the images in-house. The cover for Raine Fall is actually personal family memorabilia – all those photos and papers you see are my grandparents’ from WW2, which not only authenticates the image but is also somewhat of a personal homage, with the book itself being dedicated to my Grandpa. As for editing etc, again I do it myself at the moment until royalties (hopefully) release spare funds for such services in future. I’ve always been a bit of a grammar pedant, and rely on certain folk who will read my books prior to publishing with an objective eye. It’s always nice to get positive feedback, but I’d much rather hear where a book can improve than just have my ears tickled. So certainly, professional services will be investigated in the future as things progress. I’d certainly recommend professional help with regard to proofreading if you don’t have a keen enough eye for it, and of course for the cover designs if it’s something you’re not strong at. When it comes to chart listings and website surfing, people do still judge a book by its cover in that immediate fraction of a second…

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

I think David Mitchell is a master of language. Cloud Atlas took my breath away. Each of those stories not only has a different thread, but is also distinguishable by individual use of prose too. Brilliant stuff. As for my all-time favourite, I keep returning over the years to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s such a wonderful blend of mystery, romance, horror, narrative devices, and the characters alone are a delight.

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

I’m currently writing a short story/novella (the next few weeks will decide!) called “Gold a’Locks And The Three Weres” – detailing the ‘true’ events that inspired Goldilocks – ready for release at Christmas. After that it’s straight into another short called “Suffragette Sensei”, which will be the first in a series. She’s going to be a fun heroine to keep returning to. Following those, there are two novels brewing: “night/SHIFT”, based on my twenty years as a paramedic but with added zombies (although I have met one or two*), and then an untitled sci-fi which I’m very much looking forward to writing in a couple of years. I’m just keen to continue building a fan-base outside of my own personal circles, which is already happening now, and seeing where it takes me. If I sold no books at all, I’d still be writing. I love words! (*No, really. Ask me if we ever meet.)

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

My favourite is probably Amelia from Raine Fall. She strides into Timothy Raine’s life and blows him away. She’s magnetic, carries the qualities we see in sirens of yesteryear, even resembling one or two, and Timothy can’t get her out of his head. Where their story together leads is for you to find out, but I’m looking forward to meeting her again in a sequel one day. I’m quite entranced by her myself. Don’t tell my wife. If your daughter told you she wanted to be a writer, what would you say? I’d be delighted. She already has a propensity for coming up with wonderful ”what-ifs” (I wonder why that is?!) and I love those conversations. She’s got great insight for subtext in stories, both written and filmed, and has already penned some little tales that demonstrate her own voice. We’ll see!

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

The best I’ve come across recently is from Chuck Palahniuk on avoiding ‘thought’ words (“He felt/believed/knew…”): instead, aim to provide the evidence for your readers to feel or think the same. I’ll let him explain at length – it’s widely available on the wonderful interweb – and it’s helped my writing no end. Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a fantastic resource too. Besides that, I’d simply add, “KEEP WRITING”. There’s too many people who talk about writing, what their ideas are and even what their book’s called, and not actually doing it! Write, write, write… In that process, you learn and you grow.

Is there anything else you want to tell us or any other advice you can share? Read lots, and read widely!

Watch what other published authors do and learn from them. And train yourself for the long distance run. Most “overnight sensations”, in writing and music alike, have actually been plugging away at it for years. In the meantime, enjoy the journey.

Thanks for joining us on the blog, Steve, and giving us such an interesting insight into your writing world. I’ll definitely be asking you about those Zombie encounters next time we meet!

Find out more about Steve and his books at the links below:

All Steve’s books are available on Amazon and Kobo.

facebook.com/SteveDunnAuthor

twitter.com/SteveDunnAuthor

Write Romantics Bookclub – The School Gate Survival Guide

IMG_2074Bringing humour and emotional buy-in to a story in equal measure takes a real gift, which Kerry Fisher has in bucket loads. We’ve been featuring her debut novel ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’on our Goodreads Book Club for the last month and have discussed everything from fellow parents who are at least 50% Botox, to going back to feeling like the new kid in the playground all over again.

The novel itself tells the story of Maia Etxeleku, a character whose down to earth intelligence and humour shines out from the first page. Maia works hard, in a cleaning job, to keep her family afloat, whilst her partner, Colin, could earn a part in Shameless and does very little at all – apart from blaming Maia for their problems.

Life starts to change in a way that Maia could never imagine when her favourite client, a professor, dies and leaves her a legacy that leads all the way to the school gates. Despite her surprise at the inheritance, and the stipulation that the money can only be spent on private education for her children, Maia carries out the old lady’s wishes.

School_Gate final jpegMaia soon discovers that appearances at the school gate, as everywhere in life, can be deceptive. Meanwhile, life at home becomes increasingly tense as she battles to fit in to a world where money spent on education is just the tip of the iceberg. Throw into the mix Zachary Peters, a teacher at the school who is everything that Colin isn’t, a very unhappy teenager and secrets that have been buried for a generation, and you have all the ingredients for a cracking good read.

Don’t just take my word for it though, here is what some of the contributors to our Goodreads thread had to say:

‘Loved this book…so much fun to read and very true to life!’

‘There is a real warmth in this book and lots of humour! Anyone considering reading it should go for it.’

‘Finished reading this brilliant book last night. The characters were amazing and I so wanted everything to come right in the end. You’ll have to read it to see if it does!!!’

If this has convinced you to read Kerry’s book, you can access it here. Kerry will also be a featured author in The Write Romantics’ anthology ‘Winter Tales’, due for release on 8th November.

Our next featured novel on the blog and for the Goodreads book club will be chosen by Lynne, who will be leading the discussions over there, as well as posting a review on the blog at the end of November.

Happy reading

Jo

Kerry Fisher on coming out from under the stairs!

IMG_2074Hi Kerry, welcome back to the Write Romantics blog and thank you for agreeing to be our guest this week, for a second time. Last time you stopped by to see us, you’d just self-published The Class Ceiling and we know a lot has happened since then… We’d love to start by asking you a little bit about what’s happened since your last visit.

What’s the best thing about being a traditionally published writer and have there been any unexpected elements?

I’m finding it very relaxing to be able to say ‘I’m published by HarperCollins’ and for everyone to nod because they recognise the name. When I was self-published, I always felt that I needed to explain my reasons for that. However, self-publishing was such a valuable experience so I’m really glad that has been part of my route to publication – I use everything I learned from that to make the most of my traditional publishing opportunity now. The most positive unexpected element is how supportive and generous-spirited the online community – Twitter and Facebook – has been. Disappointingly though, I thought I’d be absolutely sure of my place in the writing world and breeze along thinking, ‘I have a book deal therefore I am a capable author’ but I still sit at the laptop wondering how the hell I ever wrote a novel before, with self-doubt ready to screech in and fill any available space. I think that’s my personality though (damn it!).

What did you do to mark your publication days and do you still get a thrill every time you spot your book in a store or supermarket?Tesco

Even though the big focus for publicity was the paperback launch of The School Gate Survival Guide, the ebook coming out back in July felt like a huge milestone, so I made a little video of how it felt to be published.

I do still get a thrill when I see the book in a supermarket. I asked a woman to take a picture of me in Tesco on paperback publication day and blushed so horrendously when she asked if I was the author that the poor woman was practically backing away from the heat.

The School Gate Survival Guide is, amongst other things, a fascinating insight into the impact that school life can have on the parents, as well as the children. What are your top tips for surviving playground politics and have you ever experienced anything like that in real life?

Oddly enough, my own school gate experiences have been largely positive and I’ve made some very close friends at my children’s schools. We all know a parent who’s taken ‘giving their child every advantage in life’ to the extreme but fundamentally, I think most parents only want the best for their children, it’s just that some are quite pushy about it! My top tip for surviving playground politics is not to get dragged into them in the first place: be friendly, smile and give genuine compliments about other people’s children when the opportunity arises.

What are you working on now and what would you say your biggest writing ambitions is?

I’m just on the downhill slope to the end of the first draft of my third novel, which is about how small secrets get bigger and more toxic as they pass down the generations. My biggest writing ambition is to take time to enjoy the moment, the small successes along the way, rather than immediately finding a new goal to strive for. I do have an ambition to write a sit-com – the cheek and backchat from my teens are too priceless not to earn their keep somehow!

How do you keep creating new and entirely different characters as you write more books and do you ever worry about similarities, such as recurring themes, between your novels?

I don’t find it too hard to write entirely different characters. I ask myself with each one what it is that the character wants most in the world and the answer to that defines everything they do. So, in The School Gate Survival Guide, Maia wants her children to have a better life than hers. In my next book, The Divorce Domino, the middle-aged protagonist, Octavia, wants to feel young and as though life is full of possibilities again. That’s the easier bit. I do worry about similarities as my novels are about real people with real problems – and usually, people tend to have the same sorts of problems – marital, financial and child-related!

WaterstonesHave you had any strange encounters or messages from readers and, if so, how have you dealt with them?

I get lots of lovely messages from readers and I can’t begin to explain how uplifting they are, especially when I first self-published and people I didn’t know bothered to find me on Facebook to tell me how much they’d enjoyed my novel. So far, I haven’t had any really weird encounters although a man came to my book signing recently and asked me to sign his autograph book as well as the novel in case I became really famous…hope he makes thousands out of my signature!

 

Who is your favourite character from any of the books that you have written so far and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

My favourite character is Clover from The School Gate Survival Guide – she’s warm, generous-spirited and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She’s the person I’d like to be if I wasn’t afraid of embarrassing my children. I got the idea for her at a party years ago. The six-year-old birthday girl was giving the entertainer a heart attack by ripping the paper off all her presents willy-nilly. The entertainer ran to her mother to say that no one was writing down what she’d received from whom (at a time when the norm was to spend a miserable Sunday pinning a six-year-old to a chair to write fifteen laborious thankyou letters). The mother replied, ‘Oh I couldn’t give a *bleep*, I never bother with thank you letters’. It was so un-PC I had to admire her!

Where did you get the idea for The Divorce Domino and what do you think of the advice that you should “write about what you know”?

Unfortunately, I got the idea for The Divorce Domino from witnessing the impact on friendship groups when one couple gets divorced. I realised that for a period of time, the trauma is so great for the person getting divorced that the usual to and fro of friendship trivia gets suspended – it seems entirely inappropriate to talk about the fact that you can’t get your child to practise the piano/you can’t find a reliable electrician when your poor friend is worrying about whether or not she’ll have to sell the house. Later on, when everything settles down, the person in the stable marriage can often feel left out of their friend’s new life because they are dating again, socialising more, making new single friends and having exciting child-free weekends.

I do tend to write what I know because all my books are driven by my fascination with relationships so I get my ideas from daily life. Exotic locations sometimes feature in my books because I used to be a travel journalist. The Divorce Domino is partly set in Corsica and my next one has some scenes in Florence as I lived in both of those places. I suppose my advice is, if you’re not going to write about what you know, then be prepared to spend a lot more time checking your facts – there will always be someone out there who knows and is prepared to put you right publicly.

What piece of advice would you give yourself about writing if you could go back to your pre-publication days?

Take a creative writing course as soon as possible. Don’t spend your twenties and most of your thirties procrastinating by telling yourself that you’ve got no literary connections and ordinary people from Peterborough don’t get published. Build a network of writers and authors you like, so that you have someone to bounce ideas around with. Find people to talk to who don’t nose-dive into their scrambled eggs as soon as you get to the second sentence about your plot problem. Don’t tell everyone you’re writing a novel so you don’t have to keep saying, ‘No, not published yet. No, not the next JK Rowling yet.’ And probably the most important piece of advice – you’re going to have to believe in yourself for a long time before someone else does.

Would you recommend self-publishing as a starting point for authors wanting to get their foot in the door and do you think self-School_Gate final jpegpublishing authors should invest in professional proof-reading and editing services?

For me, it was a tremendously uplifting and motivating experience because it proved there was a demand for a book that had been widely rejected by agents. However, I was utterly naïve about how much effort I would need to make with marketing my novel. I quickly realised that 400 Facebook friends equals about three and a half sales. If you can’t or don’t want to dedicate the time to marketing both online and in the ‘real world’ (i.e. speaking to writing/reading groups, going to networking events, meeting with local ‘target’ groups – in my case, mums with children) then it’s going to be exceptionally difficult to get your book to stand out. I read as much as I could on the subject and launched myself into marketing wholeheartedly, but it does take up valuable writing time.

I cannot stress enough the importance of investing in professional proofreading and editing – plus a professionally designed cover. If you don’t take yourself seriously, why should anyone else?

Who are your biggest influences in writing?

In terms of writing, I’ve been so lucky to meet some fabulous authors who’ve been generous with their time and help. I met my writing buddy, Jenny Ashcroft, at the York Festival of Writing a few years ago and I utterly trust her judgment. When I’m throwing myself on the sofa in despair, I send her my manky old pages of jumbled up first draft drivel and she helps me make sense of them. Another author, Adrienne Dines, whom I met at Winchester Writers’ Conference, is brilliant at taking my lazy, hazy ideas of a storyline and shaking them about until there’s some grain of coherence in the plot. Networking and conferences are never wasted! My agent, Clare Wallace, is also a great sense check – I feel utterly comfortable about asking her advice about anything.

It sounds horribly arrogant to say I’m not influenced by other writers – of course, I read widely and it would be astonishing if some techniques and ideas didn’t soak in – but I don’t deliberately set out to write like another author, or at least, not consciously. I did sit down and dissect Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret to see how she intertwined all the different strands of the story because I thought she handled a large cast of characters with complete aplomb. And I admire Caitlin Moran’s unique expressions – she makes me laugh out loud. I’d love to be more outrageous but I’m still a bit constrained by what people think. (Cringes and hides under kitchen table at the thought that my ageing relatives will be reading about actual, rather than hinted at, sex in the next novel).

What do your children and family think of your writing success?

WP_20141002_11_49_02_ProMy son has just about stopped telling his teachers I’m ‘an unsuccessful author’ when they ask if I work. I think my daughter is quite proud – she gave me a lovely postcard for my birthday that said ‘I can. I will. Watch me.’ I was delighted that she’d seen my perseverance pay off…I hope it will make her feel she can do anything, even when people are doubting her. My mother chases after women with children (target audience!) at car boot sales to give them a promotional bookmark and my husband is a shameless salesman. Taking my dad to see the books coming off the presses was probably one of the most joyful days of my life. That was a true WOW moment.

Anything else you’d like to share with us or advice you can give would be gratefully received!

I’d like to reiterate the advice my husband gave me: you can’t sell a book hiding in the cupboard under the stairs. Write the best book you can, then understand as much as you can about the industry, be generous-spirited – share information and introduce people, network like mad, be brave and pursue every avenue.

Good luck and thanks for having me.

Find out more about Kerry Fisher

Kerry’s fabulous ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’ is The Write Romantics’ Book-Club book of the month on Goodreads this month. You can join in the reviews and discussions here.

The ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’ is available to buy here.

Kerry’s website is: http://www.kerryfisherauthor.com/

Follower Kerry on Twitter: @KerryFSwayne

Like Kerry on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kerryfisherauthor?fref=ts

Indie Emily directs a writing destiny

Emily5We are delighted to be joined on the blog today by Emily Harvale, a successful indie author and self-confessed chocaholic – definitely a girl after our own hearts! Emily grew up in Hastings, East Sussex, and now shares a home with her adorable cat, Phoebe, who gets in the way of Emily’s writing whenever she can. When she’s not writing, Emily has lots of other hobbies; many of which, like watching a good movie, are enhanced by a glass of wine. She absolutely adores Christmas, something which you might not be surprised to hear when you review her back catalogue.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today, Emily. As you know, a number of the Write Romantics are thinking of going solo. So, we’ll start with the obvious question, what made you decide to self-publish and what do you think the benefits are?

A few things influenced my decision. I have ongoing health issues, requiring a number of operations over the last couple of years, so I didn’t want to contact an agent/publisher and have to tell them I’d be in and out of hospital for the foreseeable future! I received a wonderful report from the RNA’s new writers’ scheme and I wanted to know if other people also thought I was, “a talented writer who would go far”. What better way is there to find out than to ask the general public? I heard about indie publishing via Talli Roland. (I am an indie – for independent – publisher now, thanks to Amazon’s recent change). I’m a businesswoman and, after weighing up the pros and cons and realising there were no cons, I decided that indie publishing was the perfect route for me, so I added the extra chapter as suggested by the RNA reader, and went for it. I believe in jumping in with both feet and life is too short to wait for others to make my dreams, reality.

EmilyThere are so many benefits, in my opinion, that it would take all day to tell you, but the main ones for me are: speed of publication and being able to set my own schedule; choosing my own covers/cover artist; freedom to publish as many books as I want, when I want; not having to write in a specific genre; finding and working with professional editors etc. with whom I have built a good relationship … and money! Substantially more money than if I had waited, or taken another route.

Are there any downsides or things that surprised you about indie publishing?

I was surprised by how simple it is – and how easy it is to make mistakes! Things are constantly changing and it’s important to keep up to date. It’s also important to check one’s own books once they’re live. I recently had a formatting problem that only appeared on certain devices (iPad/Kindle Fire) but on the previewer, it looked perfect on all devices. That was a surprise. Things are not always as they seem. Other than that, I honestly can’t think of any downsides; only upsides. People say indie publishers have to do more marketing but I haven’t found that. I do far, far less than many ‘traditionally published’ authors I know of. I’m a huge fan of indie publishing. HUGE!

Do you buy-in any services to deal with things like proof-reading, formatting and book cover design?

I pay for a professional editor, a cover designer, and now a formatter (I believe in learning from my mistakes). I also pay for a very talented webmaster who has been with me from the beginning and who does lots of clever stuff for me, and not just on my website.

Emily2What approach do you take to marketing, how much of your time does it take up and what is your number one tip for increasing sales?

Er … I do very little marketing. I do some posts on Facebook and Twitter and, of course, send out my newsletter when a new book comes out or when I have my new cover or any other news. When my books achieve a high position in the humour or romantic comedy charts, (A Slippery Slope reached no. 1 in humour and no. 8 in rom com and they’ve all been in the top 5 of humour and top 10 of romantic comedy) I post about that, but that’s it really. I should plan a marketing strategy but it’s something I just haven’t got around to yet. My first book only sold around 500 copies until I did a 2 day free promotion on Amazon in December 2012, resulting in more than 12,000 free downloads. Since then, sales have been exceedingly good and I haven’t had/needed any reduced price promos (my books sell for £1.99; short stories .78p). Amazon did pick one of my books for their Summer Promotion last year, which was a lovely surprise, and I’m sure that helped boost sales even more. I gave away my short stories to my fans for free, as a ‘Thank You’ in December 2013 because I’ve been very lucky and they’ve been wonderfully loyal. I think it’s important to thank one’s fans. I’m fairly certain I could increase sales further if I made some effort at marketing. It’s on my list but it’s not a high priority as doing nothing much seems to be working extremely well – for me – and I’m not sure I’d be any good at marketing anyway! Perhaps less really is more.

Do you or would you ever consider writing in another genre and, if so, would you use a pseudonym?

I’ve written a ghost story (novella) but as it’s a romance too I’ll probably publish it under Emily Harvale. I’ve written a romantic suspense but it needs some work and I’ll decide whether to use a different name for that when I’m finally happy with it. I’m also writing a ‘cosy crime’ but that may turn into a romantic suspense. Yet another plus about indie publishing: I can decide what my books are, aren’t, or may be. I love writing my light-hearted, humorous romances though (yes that’s what I call them) and a lot of people seem to enjoy reading them, so I’m concentrating on those for now.

Would you ever consider representation by an agent or a contract with a traditional publisher?Emily3

When I’ve had my ‘final’ operation this summer, I may think about seeing if I can find an agent, mainly because I’m interested in subsidiary rights. I don’t believe in saying ‘never’ because things changed, but I would only consider a contract with a traditional publisher if the advance and terms were of considerable benefit to me. I’m certainly not seeking a publisher at the moment. My books are selling well and I’m making a really good living on my own by just publishing on Amazon. A large publishing house could increase my readership but I honestly don’t think a small one could. I have friends with smaller publishers and they don’t sell as many books, or receive as much in Royalties, as I do. I don’t see the point in losing money. To be honest, I think I can increase my readership myself, over time. I’ve already had a couple of orders via Waterstones. It may take me longer but I’ll get there.

Do you ever encounter any snobbery from traditionalists about choosing the indie publishing route and, if so, how do you deal with it?

Sometimes, unfortunately, from other writers, but I usually ignore it – or offer to discuss it over a bottle of champagne! Generally I’ve got no time for people who look down their noses at others. Readers couldn’t care less, on the whole, because they just want good stories. The Society of Authors see it as, “a perfectly valid form of publishing,” so that’s good enough for me. Actually, becoming a Full Member of the SoA was one of the highlights of indie publishing. I’d always wanted to be a member of the SoA and I sing their praises from the rooftops. The emails and posts on Facebook and Twitter, I get from readers, never, ever mention it – and as they are the ones buying my books, they’re the ones whose opinions I value. The world is changing; some people may not like it but they’re going to have to accept it or remain in the past. That’s their choice.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process from the initial idea to the release of the novel and roughly how long that process takes you as an indie author?

I’m not a planner so when I have an idea I just sit and write – virtually non-stop. I can write the first ‘fun’ draft (I don’t believe in using the negative term, ‘sh…. first draft’ because writing is fun) in a couple of weeks. I then leave it and work on something else – or tackle the jungle which clearly doesn’t want to be a garden – for a week or so. I then read and rewrite as necessary and as many times as I think it needs it. My short stories are each around 10,000 words and they took just two weeks to write and rewrite. My editor had them for about a week and after the edits were done, I published them. Four weeks from the ideas to publication. My novels (around 75,000+ words) can take anything from three months upwards but if I’m not happy with a book, I won’t let it go until I am. Another bonus of indie publishing: I can set my own schedule and don’t need to ‘rush’ to meet a deadline.

Do you think it’s worth publishing in paperback, as well as digitally and how do the sales compare?

I publish a paperback via Createspace but to be honest, I never check the sales figures. I do get regular monthly payments from them so they are clearly selling some copies. Very few compared to the digital sales though – probably between 1% and 10%.

You’ve written seven novels now, do you find it easy to create new characters and storylines or do you ever worry about unconsciously repeating themes?

The characters just turn up at my desk and tell me their stories. I do worry that they may start to get repetitive and I try to make sure they don’t. I think my readers will tell me if the stories are getting boring but I also think that certain similarities are inevitable. Girl meets boy, girl gets boy – nothing new there. I hope that the path to getting him, and the people involved, are different every time. I did want to massacre everyone at a wedding, once – just to stir things up with a surprise ending – but I decided not to.

Emily4Do you read all of your reviews and, if so, have you had any that you have found it difficult to deal with or that have bowled you over?

I usually read my first few reviews, or if someone has told me via email or on Facebook or Twitter that they’ve left a review, I read that. Most of them have been good but my first one star review filled me with self-doubt. It was followed by some five star ones and that helped. I never read reviews when I buy a book because I trust my own judgement and I always read the ‘Look Inside’ sample, so I realised that it didn’t matter if people didn’t like mine (unless every single person hated it, of course!) and I stopped worrying about reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but that is all it is – an opinion. I hate anchovies, and I’m sure many other people do too, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with anchovies, they’re just not to my taste. It’s the same with books. Some of the reviews I’ve had are wonderful – and all my reviews are genuine, I don’t ask family or friends to post good reviews. That’s futile and a little immoral in my opinion. It’s often the emails, Facebook posts/messages and Twitter comments that really get to me – and yes, some of them have moved me to tears … in a good way. To be told that someone was going through hell but that my books made them feel hopeful and happy is actually mind-blowing! Or that chemo was bearable because of my books! Or that an unhappy divorce didn’t seem so bad now! It makes me feel very proud but oddly, very humble. It also makes me want to write even better books.

If you could go back and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Stop wasting time; go for it – but use professionals from day one.

What are the best and worst things about writing for a living?

Best: Freedom to do what I want, when I want and to have the money to do it.

Worst: Ditto. If I want to tackle the jungle, or have a long lunch with friends, I can, and do, even when I should be working/writing.

Emily1What are your writing plans and hopes for the future?

That’s the most difficult one to answer because I don’t really plan these days. I suppose I’m planning to put all my books with retailers other than Amazon later this year. I plan to put together some sort of marketing strategy. (Yeah, right!) I plan to continue writing as many books as I can/want to. I hope the future is as good and as bright as the present and that my readership continues to grow. Oh … and I hope I win the jackpot with my premium bonds – but that’s not really writing related; although if I did I’d buy a ski chalet and run writing/skiing retreats, so it sort of is.

Seriously though, I hope more people achieve their dreams by indie publishing and not giving a fig for what some people think.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I really enjoyed answering your questions. I know some of you are thinking of indie publishing and I sincerely hope that your experience is as wonderful as mine has been. Indie publishers are a friendly and helpful bunch. I don’t regret it for one second and I’m sure you won’t either. One of my favourite sayings is:

“The future is a blank page. You can write your own, or you can wait until someone writes it for you.”

I prefer to write my own.

Good luck and best wishes to you all.

Emily

It was brilliant to have you on the blog Emily and we hope you’ll come back and see us again soon!

Find out more about Emily and her books at the links below:

Amazon Author Central pages, (.UK and .COM) listing all her books and author bio.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Emily-Harvale/e/B007BKQ1SW

http://www.amazon.com/author/emilyharvale

My website: http://www.emilyharvale.com

Isabelle Goddard explains why she’s no longer afraid of (not being) Virginia Woolf

Our guest on the blog today is Isabelle Goddard, who writes for both HMB and the Wild Rose Press. Isabelle was born into an army family and most of her childhood was spent moving from place to place, school to school, including periods of living abroad in Egypt and Germany. Isabelle has had a varied career path, swiftly deciding that the role of secretary was not for her and moving on to work as a member of the cabin crew for an airline, which led to some encounters with interesting people and some great experiences – riding in the foothills of the Andes, walking by the shores of Lake Victoria, flying pilgrims from Kandahar to Mecca.

D1445 H small

The arrival of marriage and children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England where she’s lived ever since. Isabelle returned to study, eventually gaining a PhD, and for many years taught English at a number of universities – loving every minute of it. Having always felt an affinity with the 19th century and growing up reading Georgette Heyer, when Isabelle finally plucked up the courage to begin writing herself, her novels had to be Regency romances.

Isabelle was delighted when her first book was accepted by Harlequin, Mills and Boon just before Christmas 2009 and even more delighted to publish five more Regency romances over the next few years. Recently she has moved away from pure romance and begun writing more mainstream women’s fiction under the new name of Merryn Allingham. Isabelle is currently two-thirds of the way through a trilogy set in India during the 1930s and 1940s and though these novels still include some romance, they also offer elements of mystery and suspense.

Welcome to the blog Isabelle and thanks for agreeing to an interview. We’d like to begin by asking what is was that made you start writing, how many books have you written and if you see yourself ever stopping?

While I was working full time, I ‘tinkered’ with writing. Short stories mainly, simply because they were short and I could fit them into a busy schedule. It was only when my workload decreased and I gradually slid into retirement, that I had the time to tackle something more substantial. I’ve written nine novels in the last five or six years. Six have been published, one is in the process of being published, and the other two are part of a trilogy I’m currently working on. At the moment I love writing so much that I can’t imagine ever wanting to stop.

Do you write full time or have another job?

Apart from teaching the occasional creative writing course or workshop, I don’t have a job. For many years I worked as a university lecturer teaching English Literature, so it’s wonderful to focus on creating rather than analysing.

What genre of romance would you say you write in and have you thought about trying any other genres, either of romance or something else?

I’ve been writing historical romance for the last few years, but am gradually moving towards romantic suspense/mystery romance – still historical – but more mainstream women’s fiction.

How did you get your first break into publishing, how long did it take and what did ‘getting the call’ feel like?

I sold the first novel I wrote to Harlequin, Mills and Boon but it took an age before I actually ‘got the call’ – something like two years between original submission and acceptance! When HMB finally rang, I remember I was sitting on the sofa feeling doleful with a bout of December flu. But despite the coughs and splutters, it felt pretty special hearing an editor say I was being offered a two book contract.

What has been your greatest writing challenge and how have you overcome it, if you have?

The main challenge has come from the job I did. I spent years teaching some of the greatest prose ever written and that’s pretty daunting when you’re considering putting pen to paper yourself. I had this mocking voice in my head which kept telling me not to bother. It took time to banish it. In the end, I managed to accept that I was never going to be Virginia Woolf! Instead I could be me and that could be fun. It was tremendously liberating when I broke through that barrier and allowed the words to come. Some of them were pure rubbish, of course, but in the middle there was the occasional nugget of gold which made me want to go on trying.

What would you consider your greatest writing accomplishment to be?

This question got me scratching my head, mainly because ‘great accomplishment’ doesn’t seem to fit where I am at the moment. With every book I write, I try to do better but I’m a long way off from feeling satisfied.

How do you plan your stories and develop your characters and do you ever worry about repeating patterns or themes in your writing?

The genesis of each novel is different. The trilogy I’m currently writing, for instance, sprang from my own family. My mother sailed to Bombay in 1937 to marry my father, not having seen him for six years. It’s a story that has always amazed me, plus the fact that I love India and all things Indian. So I used it as a jumping off point for my heroine, Daisy’s, story, which unfortunately doesn’t work out quite as well as my mother’s did!

I know my main characters before I begin to write. I sketch out as many details about them as I can and I know where I want them to start and where I want them to end. But what happens to them in the middle seems to grow as I get to know them better, and the secondary characters emerge in response to the story that is developing. As for patterns in writing, I think every author tends to repeat some of the same ideas and themes. When you write, whatever your story, you’re expressing part of yourself so it’s bound to happen. But setting novels in different historical periods – I’ve done Regency, Victorian and now the 1930s/1940s – has given me the chance to deal with different cultures and different societal expectations, and hopefully that’s prevented too much repetition.

Do you alter your writing in any way to appeal to international readers and do you have to change your writing style to meet the differing needs of your two publishers?

No, I don’t deliberately alter my style for different publishers or different audiences. HMB always use English spelling and punctuation and they also keep intact the particularly British aspects of the ms. I think they feel the English setting and language is what attracts readers in the first place.

The US publisher, Wild Rose Press, required North American spelling and punctuation and that meant a little more work on my part. It’s a strange fact that though US spelling simplifies, their punctuation is more complicated. It’s the punctuation I was taught at school but which in the UK is now seen as unnecessary. I had sometimes to modify phrases the American editor queried, phrases that might not be easily understood by an American readership, but at other times she was happy with my request that the phrase stayed. Working with an editor is always about compromise and it can be a great learning experience – on both sides!

Have you ever considered self-publishing?

I did try and self publish once, a novel which is now being published by Digital First. My efforts weren’t a great success! Apart from the fact that I’m technologically challenged, I hadn’t a clue about marketing and how much ‘push’ self published books need to get off the ground.

What do you think helps most in getting your books noticed in a crowded market place and how involved are you in the marketing process?

I’m still struggling with this one! I’m sure that luck comes into being noticed but equally sure that it’s also down to astute marketing and making the right contacts. I’ve gradually been dragged more into the marketing side – I have a website, a blog, a facebook author page and a twitter address. But I’m pretty hopeless at keeping any/all of them going and like many writers, I’m not a ‘Buy my Book’ type of person. I just enjoy writing.

What are your plans, hopes, dreams and aspirations for the next stage in your writing career?

I’ve enjoyed writing category historical romance enormously and I’ve learnt lot in doing so, but I’m ready now to broaden the scope of my writing. I’m hoping to move into mainstream women’s fiction but since most of the major publishing houses don’t take unsolicited manuscripts, it means finding an agent. I’m not holding my breath but occasionally miracles do happen!

You can find the links to Isabelle’s books on Amazon at: http://tiny.cc/cnz8bx

Find out more about Isabelle on her website and blog at: http://www.isabellegoddard.com/

Or follow Isabelle on Twitter @isabellegoddard