In a Manhattan Minute

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In a Manhattan Minute… everything can change.

And there have been a few changes over the last couple of months. My first bit of news is that my new novel, In a Manhattan Minute is available for pre-order from Amazon now!

I loved writing this book because it was a leap in setting for me. When I read I love to travel to different parts of the globe and with this story, as the title suggests, I have been living in the world of New York City. And what a lot of fun it has been!

Here’s the blurb…

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

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

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

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

***

I loved being in New York City so much that I’m busy penning another novel set in the same place and plans are underway to release this towards the end of the year.

In other news, The Friendship Tree has been given a makeover with a brand new cover and is currently on special normal-jpeg-for-website-use-etcoffer at 99p for a limited time.

Wishing all our readers a wonderful September and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Helen J Rolfe x

 

A Bright New Start for Beltane by Alys West

downloadFor as long as I’ve wanted to write I’d hoped to one day sign with a literary agent.  And then I did and it was nothing like I’d imagined.  Possibly as a result of reading too many books set in the 1930s, I had this idea of literary agents as fatherly figures or blue-stockinged, strong minded ladies who maybe smoked too many cigarettes or took too many long lunches but knew the publishing industry inside and out.  I thought they’d pick up my book and guide it, with a firm hand, out into the world.  Perhaps that’d involve wining and dining the right editor, or shaking the right hand at a book fair, but sooner or later I’d have a book deal on the table.

Only it didn’t work out like that.  I got a series of very polite rejections for the most baffling variety of reasons.  One editor loved this about it but not that, the next turned it down because they enjoyed the rest of it, but hated what the first editor had loved.  At the end of that my confidence, which is never high, had taken a total battering and whatever belief I’d had in Beltane had pretty much disappeared.  And my faith in my agent was being shaken at the same time.  They made promises they didn’t fulfill, often didn’t reply to emails until they’d been chased and, hardest to forgive, turned down two offers from publishers in the US without discussing them with me first.

Then last autumn my agent suggested that I publish Beltane through Amazon’s White Glove programme.  White Glove is only available to people who have an agent and, I was told, is like an enhanced form of KDP and would allow access to Kindle Monthly Deals.  Once I got started with it there was little evidence of the additional marketing support that I’d been promised.  It turned out that Amazon had changed their rules, since we’d originally talked about it in the autumn, and books could only be nominated for Kindle Monthly Deals quarterly and I’d have to wait until the end of March to be nominated for spring promotions.  But before that the price had to remain above £1.99 and it wasn’t possible to run any other promotions.  Anyone who has self-published will be aware of how hard it is to generate interest in a debut. Being unable to drop the price below £1.99 it felt next to impossible, no matter how great my reviews were or how much time I spent on Twitter.

It took something else to happen for me to leave but the end result of all of this is that my agent and I have now parted company and I’ve been trying to re-orientate myself in a new world.  I’m now with Fabrian Books. It’s lovely to be part of a small team but retain control of the way my book is sold and marketed.

Beltane new ebook coverNow I’ve arrived here, I’m wondering if it’s where I should have been all along.  I’ve tried to play by the rules, doing things the traditional, approved way and it’s not worked.  Perhaps I’m not cut out for dealing with the world of traditional publishing.  What I’ve seen of it so far has not exactly impressed me. Coming from the certainties of the world of law it’s pretty hard for me to understand that everyone in publishing seems to be desperately searching for the holy grail of the next big thing, but can’t actually tell you what it is they’re looking for.

Watching someone mismanage your book is a very painful process.  I never want to go through that again, so does that mean I’m now indie for life?  I don’t know.  I guess I need to try it and see.  I felt really fed up earlier this week about it not working out with my agent, about the time wasted and the opportunities I could have taken if I’d not been locked into this route that was supposed to be the best one for publication.  Thanks to the support of the other Write Romantics and an exercise at my yoga class about being upside down and looking at things that way (try it sometime, it really helps!) I’ve now been able to see that maybe I needed to try the agent route to find out that it wasn’t right for me.

Because of all of this, I’ve read Beltane again for the first time in about 2 years.  What really hit me this time is that it’s a book about outsiders.  Maybe it’s right that it’s now truly independently published.

Has your route to publication not worked out at all as you’d expected?  If you’re happy to share them, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Beltane is now published by Fabrian Books and is available here and is only 99p until the Summer Solstice on 20th June.

NaNoWrimo Anyone?

I am frantically NaNoWrimo-ing. It’s filling my days, hours and seconds and anyone or anything that comes between my Nano time and me, is given short shrift- including the cat. I am trying (and mostly failing) to keep away from Facebook and twitter and even my Nano buddies are bestowed with one-sentence answers to their comments. I am writing pages of ‘stuff.’ Who knows whether it’s good or rubbish but I will write my novel every day of November until I can’t face the thought of my happy hero and heroine anymore and shut the laptop in their faces, only to have to open it again the next day to suffer their smug happiness and their little legs dancing their ‘I’m in love’ jig. (They don’t know what’s waiting for them around the corner!)

I don’t think there can be many writers who haven’t heard of NaNoWrimo, but if you’ve been hiding in a cave with your hands over your eyes in case of Sabre tiger attack, I’ll give a summarised explanation of it. Just read it quickly, okay. I’m NaNo –ing; I don’t have all day.

Basically NaNoWrimo is an Internet based incentive to kick-start a novel by writing 50,000 words in the month of November. www.nanowrimo.org crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76

The last time I did NaNo was three years ago and at 36,000 words, I stopped- just like that. I just couldn’t face one single sentence more.  I hit a wall and whimpered at the thought of putting even one finger on the keyboard. And I didn’t dare to look at the crap I’d written for about a year. That novel is now complete and polished and is patiently waiting in line with an American publisher, for an ‘in house editor’ to contact me (I’m not sure what that means, but it got me all excited at the time.)

I’m now writing a series of three airline based books and have all three in various states of readiness. One, (shortlisted for the Mills and Boon Flirty Fiction First Chapter) is pretty much finished but just needs sexing up a bit (I don’t mean that literally.) One is 40,000 words incomplete and based on the very first book I wrote six years ago, about an air stewardess and a wannabe rock star, and the third one is so unready that it’s no more than a twinkle in my eye- that’s the one I’m writing for Nano.

It’s set in Botswana (I’ve never been there) Moscow (nope- never been there, either, but I know someone who has!) and the UK (phew!) and I’m already half in love with the hero who is an undercover CIA agent. Yes, of course he falls in love with the air stewardess- she’s beautiful and kind, even though on first impressions she looks like a po-faced snob and is a little TSTL (too stupid to live, to the uninitiated) ‘cos she inadvertently gets involved with gun running, but her heart’s in the right place- bless her.

Can’t chat any longer as I have a deadline of fifty thousand words to write and I’m typing faster than the speed of my fictional airline’s G5. Now that’s an aircraft worth writing about!

Jackie x

G5

A Kentish Accent – aka the Mega Monday Announcement

© Mamz

© Mamz

I’ve never thought of myself as having an accent. Maybe no-one does but, coming from Kent, I certainly don’t have the instantly recognisable nuances in dialect that some of my fellow WRs who hail from Yorkshire do. Similarly, if you hear a Geordie speak, someone from the Valleys or a soft Irish brogue you can immediately hazard a guess as to where the speaker’s roots are. I love accents, although my attempts at impersonating them are worse than the  accent of the policeman in ‘Allo, ‘Allo – Good Moaning! If you come from Kent, depending on how posh you are, your accent is probably going to be almost indistinguishable from your Essex, Sussex, Surrey or London neighbours.

© Michel Paller

© Michel Paller

Nonetheless Kent does have its own distinctions – from our vineyards to our oyster beds, to the best weather that the UK has to offer – it’s a county that’s just as unique as any other. We also like to claim Charles Dickens as our own. Although he was born in Portsea Island (Hampshire) he moved to Kent at the age of four, and towns from Rochester to Broadstairs proudly display plaques which state that “Chas was ‘ere”. Well not quite but, like I say, us Kentish maids and maids of Kent (it matters which side of the River Medway you were born on, by the way), can be mistaken for cockneys in the right light.

© Julie Heslington

© Julie Heslington

But what have a long dead, but brilliant, writer and my lack of a discernible accent got to do with my big announcement? Well Dickens, and Broadstairs itself, were the inspirations for my Christmas novella last year. I self published ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’, to help raise my writing profile above the white noise, prior to release of my first novel with So Vain Books. The novella is set in a fictional town, St Nicholas Bay, loosely based on Broadstairs, where rumour has it that Dickens penned A Christmas Carol. I’ve had a fantastic experience with So Vain Books, but I knew my next novel wouldn’t fit their glam brief, and so I started to think about which publishers I might try for the next step in my writing career. Since I still had the rights to the novella, there was nothing stopping me from submitting that, as well as the next novel I’d finished in draft and, being too impatient to try for an agent, there was one publisher I really hoped would accept my submission…

I’m delighted to say I’ve now got my longed for accent, a four book deal with Accent Press that is. I’ll be releasing four related stories (two novels and two novellas), all set in St Nicholas Bay – a place I can’t wait to revisit – and all with the theme of motherhood that comes about in an unexpected way. The first book will be released in the summer of 2016 and then at six-monthly intervals. I signed the contract on Friday morning and that’s got to be a good enough end to anyone’s week, hasn’t it?

© Alamar

© Alamar

Only it didn’t quite stop there. Just before three o’clock on Friday, I got a completely unexpected email. I’d entered a writing contest from my holiday balcony back in July, whilst the rest of the family slept in late every morning, but I didn’t think I stood a chance and, since the shortlist was originally due to be announced in August, I pushed my disappointment at not hearing anything to one side; especially since the offer from Accent had arrived in between. I never win anything, so what did I expect? My usual prize winning standard is an out-of-date tin of Smart Price carrots in a Harvest Festival raffle and I kid you not!

I looked at the email, though, and wondered why an editor from one of the ‘big four’ publishing houses, who I’d pitched my first book to at an RNA conference two years earlier, was emailing me. Maybe she wanted to be interviewed on the blog and, thinking what a great idea that would be, I eagerly opened her email. Except she wasn’t writing to ask for a guest spot, she was writing to tell me that I’d made the top ten shortlist of that writing competition, which I’d entered under a new pen name.  Unfortunately, I can’t say anymore than that yet, as the shortlist was due to appear on social media today but, at the time of publishing this post, Couple enjoying Sunsetit hasn’t yet been released.  What I would say is that if you’ve entered competitions before and started to wonder if it’s worthwhile, then keep going.  The old adage is certainly true for me – the more I practice, the luckier I seem to get!

So how does a girl from Kent celebrate such good news? Well I’d like to say that I enjoyed Whitstable oysters and a good vintage from the Chapel Down Winery in Tenterden, but in truth it was a pizza with the kids, and a bottle of champagne, that had been languishing in the back of the cupboard since New Year, with my husband. Not Kentish maybe, and definitely not posh, but it’ll do for me!

Jo xx

Crooked cats, rescued dogs, love shacks and the chapters of life… They’re all in Tina K Burton’s writing life!

Tina BurtonOur guest on the blog today is the lovely Tina K Burton. Tina writes short stories, articles, novels, and even the occasional haiku. Both her novels, Chapters of Life, and The Love Shack, are signed with Crooked Cat Publishing. She’s working on her third novel, a story about a girl who dies suddenly, and finds herself back in the thirties. When she’s not writing, Tina spends her time crafting, relaxing with friends, and taking her rescued greyhound for walks across the beautiful moorland in Devon, where she lives with her husband.

We got loads of questions we want to ask Tina, so we can’t wait to get started…



What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve had about Chapters of Life?

One reviewer who loved the book, described me as an English Maeve Binchy. I was so flattered by that.

How important was it for you to sign with a publisher as opposed to going down the route of being self-published?

I had initially self published it on Amazon and Smashwords, but because so many people liked it, I thought it deserved to be with a publisher. I do think there’s more kudos to having a publisher, and other people seem to take you a bit more seriously too.

How did it feel the first time you saw Chapter of Life available for sale?

It was the best feeling in the world. I don’t think I’ll ever get blasé about having a book published though. For me, it’s such an achievement.

What has surprised you most about being published and has it lived up to the dream?

Yes, it’s a wonderful feeling. The only thing that would top it, would be walking into a bookshop and seeing my novels. I’m surprised at how many people have read and liked the book. I thought it was a good story, but we all think that about our books. It’s fab when other people think so too J

Your second novel is called the The Love Shack. How would you define love? sfondo arcobaleno vintage

Hmm. The feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, and your heart, when you think about or look at the person you love. Wanting to be with that person as much as possible, not being able to imagine life without them.

We love the name of your new novel, how did you come up with it?

I had the idea for a fun novel set around a dating agency, and was trying to think of names for it. That evening, I was running on my treadmill, while listening to my ipod, and the B52s song came on. I knew I’d found my title.

Can you tell us a bit about the plot for The Love Shack?

The main character, Daisy Dorson, stomps into The Love Shack, to complain about how useless their matchers are, and ends up getting a lot more than she bargained for. There’s plenty of fun, quirky characters, and of course lots of romance too.

What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not particularly romantic myself. I don’t like all that lovey dovey hearts and flowers stuff, but, I used to write little notes to my husband and tuck them into his lunchbox, so he’d find them when he opened his sandwiches at work. Nothing slushy, just things like, ‘Have a good day at work, see you later.’ I guess you could call that romantic.

author 2Who was your first hero and how do you think he’s influenced your writing, if at all?

I was in love with Donny Osmond when I was about twelve, ha ha. Apart from that, I’ve never had a hero really. I’m not that sort of person.

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

Yes I do. I like to read about ordinary people, and that’s what I write. I’ve worked as a youth counsellor, in a homeless centre, and in the funeral profession, and I think this has helped me to write characters with real emotions and feelings. It’s no good trying to write crime, if you’ve never read it or experienced it. Having said that, we can easily learn how to write a different genre by reading as much of it as we can and seeing how writers for that particular genre do it.

What are you working on at the moment?

A time-slip story about a girl, Emily, who dies suddenly, and finds herself back in the thirties. It’s a huge shock, but she’s looked after by her great aunt Clarissa, who explains she’s experienced Sudden Death Transition. You’ll have to wait to find out what that is. On the whole it’s a fun read, but it does have an underlying sadness to it.

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

Well, I’ve written a couple of children’s stories, but haven’t plucked up the courage to send them off yet. It’s something I’d like to explore though as I’m a big kid myself most of the time.

What’s the hardest type of scene for you to write?

Sex scenes. In fact I don’t do them. I’d much rather just suggest what’s going to happen, with something like, ‘Jacob, grabbed Clara by the hand and with a meaningful look, led her into the bedroom.’ Readers have imaginations, I’d rather leave it up to them!

Can you tell us a bit about your other writing?dreamstime_s_28682146

I actually started by writing articles and short stories, which I’ve sold to the women’s magazines. I still do, and have articles on the OapsChat website, short stories up with Alfiedog Fiction, and stories in several anthologies.

Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you deal with it?

Yes I do, far too often. I start a quilling project – I’m a quilling artist – and that usually helps clear my head.

If you could have three writing-related wishes, what would they be?

That my books were sold in bookshops, that I actually made enough money to pay the bills, and that I can continue coming up with enough ideas to write future books.

What piece of writing advice do wish you’d known when you started out?

That it isn’t as easy as you think, it’s a long hard slog, but, the sense of achievement when you’re finally published makes it all worthwhile. Thank you, Write Romantics, I enjoyed these questions xx
Thanks so much Tina for joining us on the blog and we wish you every success with The Love Shack, which you can buy here.

You can also find out more about Tina and her books at the links below: http://tinakburtons.blogspot.co.uk/

@TinaKBurton

A welcome escape with Kerry Fisher

IMG_2046Today we are joined for a Q&A session by good friend of the blog, Kerry Fisher, who tells us why, this summer, we might hear her screaming from over ten thousand miles away…

What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve had about The School Gate Survival Guide?

I have been so lucky to have lots of lovely reviews but I think one of my favourites was from a Yorkshire postman: ‘Just finished The School Gate Survival Guide on my new Kindle, first book I’ve read in 10 years, bloody great read, thanks.’ I loved the idea of a little red van trolleying around the Yorkshire Dales with a Kindle and a copy of my novel on the dashboard.

How important was it for you to sign with one of the big publishers and what are the biggest differences to being self-published?

That’s an interesting question. I am so privileged to have self-published because what I learnt about marketing, promoting, networking during the process has been invaluable now I’m traditionally published – I have the confidence to suggest ideas and discuss decisions that I don’t think I would otherwise have had. However, I always felt that what I could achieve sitting at my kitchen table on my own would be more limited than the opportunities offered by a big publisher – foreign rights, audiobooks and of course, even paperbacks.

TescoHow did it feel the first time you saw The School Gate Survival Guide in your local supermarket?

I made a total fool of myself in Tesco by asking someone to take a photo of me with my novel. I blushed so hideously that the poor woman had to back away from the heat. Plus she managed to capture me at such an angle that I looked as though I had a couple of watermelons stuffed up my T-shirt. Not quite the glamorous composed author on publication day photo I had in mind. I don’t think the fact that my book was out there, available to buy, really sank in until readers started tweeting pictures from supermarkets all over the UK.

Your second novel is called The Island Escape. What do you do to escape from the pressures of writing and everyday life?

A couple of times a year, I leave my whole family behind and disappear off with my best friend from university. We walk, talk until the early hours and eat fab food – we both love cooking. Just for those few days we’re twenty again – but without the Silk Cut and lager black. On a day-to-day basis, I walk on the South Downs with my dog, a Lab/Giant Schnauzer cross. It never fails to relax me – unless she steals someone’s picnic.

Your new book was promoted as The Divorce Domino in our anthology. How did the name change come about?

Because the book is coming out on 21 May, I think the publishers felt that having divorce in the title was a bit gloomy for a summer read.

Can you tell us a bit about the plot for The Island Escape? tie 2

The idea behind it was ‘Can one woman’s marriage survive her best friend’s divorce?’

When Roberta finally divorces her bullyboy husband, her best friend and former wild child, Octavia, takes stock of her own life. She wonders how the carefree person she was at twenty ended up married to a man who cares more about opening milk bottles in date order than having fun. She begins obsessing over the ‘one that got away’ – until she ends up going back to Corsica, the place where it all began. But will he still be there and if he is, what then?

What’s your favourite holiday destination, island or otherwise, and why?

I love Australia. Pre-children, I was a travel journalist and spent six weeks writing a guidebook out there. There’s so much that’s different and exciting. This year we’re taking the children (13 and 15) – it’s the first time I’ve felt I could bear a 24-hour flight with them, though being together 24/7 for several weeks should pose its own challenges. I’ve booked to do the bridge climb over Sydney Harbour with my son, so you’ll probably be able to hear me screaming back in the UK.

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

I think there are some people who do an amazing job of writing about things they don’t have firsthand knowledge of – I’m always absolutely in awe of writers of historical novels. I always find so many inaccuracies when I’m editing despite the fact that my books are contemporary. I prefer to write about things I know, but that’s probably because I’m fascinated by ordinary people and their experiences. I always use settings I’m familiar with – I’m lucky enough to have lived all over Europe in my twenties, so I haven’t run out of locations yet!

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m in the process of editing book three, which is about how modest secrets become more toxic as they pass down the generations, intertwined with modern parenting dilemmas.

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

I’d love to be able to write a psychological thriller but that would need careful plotting in advance. It probably wouldn’t suit the way I write – I tend to know the beginning and the end, but not too much in between. I would like to write a sit-com about modern families for TV, though I don’t think my teenage children would ever forgive me.

WP_20141002_11_49_02_ProWhat’s the hardest type of scene for you to write?

I find sex scenes absolutely mortifying, because I’m quite prudish and hate the idea that people I know feel that they have a window into a very private world (they don’t!). There’s a little bit of real – rather than hinted at – sex in The Island Escape. I wanted to staple those pages together when my dad was reading it. I’ve forced myself to take author Raffaella Barker’s excellent advice, which was ‘I’d never write another word if I ever thought about what people think about any aspect of my writing.’

Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you deal with it?

I don’t get writer’s block really because I treat writing very much as a job. I turn up at Starbucks every day and write 1000 words in three hours. If I worked in an office, I wouldn’t be allowed to sit there and wait to feel in the mood for work, so I just get on with it – though of course, some days it’s easier than others. Having said that, I do get plot block…I’m currently thinking about what to write for book four and feel as though I’m trying to catch ideas in a butterfly net before they flit off.

If you could have three writing-related wishes, what would they be? Waterstones

Probably the same as all writers, I suppose – to have my book made into a film and to make The Sunday Times bestseller list. In the meantime, a smaller and more achievable wish would be to stop stuttering when I utter the words, ‘I’m an author’.

What piece of writing advice do wish you’d known when you started out?

Where to start? I was so naïve about how tough it would be to get published. I thought writing the book would be the hardest part, so I probably needed someone to tell me: ‘You’ll have to believe in yourself for an awful long time before anyone else does.’ I don’t think I’d fully understood that rejection is an inevitable part of the process. However, the important thing is to allow yourself one day to rant (privately) then channel your energy into creating as many opportunities as possible to get your work in front of the decision makers.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog Kerry and good luck with the release of The Island Escape – our Kindles are primed and ready!

Find out more about Kerry and her fantastic novels at the links below:

http://www.kerryfisherauthor.com

on Facebook 

on Twitter @KerryFSwayne

and Amazon

How to Catch a (Rock) Star…

Today we’re delighted to welcome the lovely Gabrielle Aquilina to the blog, to tell us all about her fabulous debut.  Over to you Gabrielle…

Gabby cover 2First of all, I’d really like to thank the Write Romantics for having me – it’s a real pleasure and I’m thrilled to be publisher buddies with two of them!

So, I have my first book, ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ coming out in a few days which is incredibly exciting but also really, really scary. Pretty much everyone I know has said they are going to buy a copy and read it and that is, quite frankly, terrifying. Great but terrifying.

I’ve been really busy writing guest posts for various blogs as well as getting together a short story for my website but, for this guest post, I want to tell you how ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ came to be.

As with most authors, I’ve pretty much always written – picture stories when I was a kid, awful poetry when I was a teenager, mostly journals, diaries and letters (I know – old school!) when I was in my twenties and, finally, a novel when I hit my thirties.

Actually, ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ started out life as a completely different story to the one it ended up being. Originally, it was going to be a story about a group of friends and the dynamics of those all important female relationships. I wanted to explore what happens when one friend amongst a group of close friends becomes envious of another friend and how that impacts on the entire group.

But once I wrote Jed in, he wouldn’t leave the story and it became a novel of love, lust, mistrust and betrayal set against a backdrop of rock music! And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good love story? Especially one that involves super hot rock stars, relatable heroines and some good old drama and tension…

The drama in ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ comes from people keeping secrets and the fallout that happens when that secret explodes. I’ve experienced this myself in a relationship although it wasn’t quite as dramatic as either of the secrets Married Matt or Jed are keeping, thank God!

I hope a lot of readers will be able to relate to Lillie’s reaction and her subsequent downwards spiral. I’ve tried to make her a realistic heroine, one who makes mistakes and has flaws but, ultimately, is strong and picks herself up in the end.

I’m sure she’s frustrating at times, but isn’t everyone? Even my most favourite people annoy me sometimes and I try to write characters who are as real as possible because I prefer to read books where the protagonists are less than perfect. I find that makes for a more compelling and interesting story than perfection!

I enjoyed writing the characters from ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ so much (and quite honestly, they just will not leaveGabby 2 me alone!), that I’m currently writing a follow-on novel, which will star Johnny, Jed’s best friend, and I plan on writing a third which will be all about Lillie’s best friend, Kate. So, if you read and like ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’, then keep an eye out for the next two books!

If you do read ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’, then first of all, thank you very much, I hope you enjoyed it! And secondly, if you have the time, please leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon…

Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, Write Romantics! x

Saturday Spotlight with Publishing House So Vain Books

Happy Easter! We hope that you’re having a lovely, relaxing time and haven’t overdosed on the chocolate eggs. If you’re working this weekend, we hope your time to relax comes really soon.

Squared_BLACK_logoMost of our Saturday Spotlights feature other writers, but every so often we bring you a different insight into the world of writing and today is one of those days.

About a year ago, Alys shared with The Write Romantics an advert she’d spotted for a new publishing company called So Vain Books. They weren’t looking for the genre of books she writes (urban fantasy), but she wondered if they might be a good fit for others in the group, particularly Jo and possibly myself. Jo submitted her MS and was offered a publishing deal with them. ‘Among a Thousand Stars’ will be out on 17th June. However, I didn’t submit. I felt that my novel didn’t really match the request for glamour/fashion/sex.

I was so impressed by the way So Vain Books were working with Jo that I remember joking that I should change parts of my MS to fit more with the glamour/fashion/sex element as they sounded like a company with whom I’d really like to work. Instead, Jo asked Publishing Director, Stephanie Reed, if there was anything else they were looking for. Steph said they were after books with heart where the protagonist changes their partner/life/career and learns from it. That was exactly what my book was all about so I submitted and was delighted to secure a publishing deal too. ‘Searching for Steven’ will be out on 3rd June.

Today, we welcome Stephanie to the blog and thank her for a valuable insight into the world of a new publisher.

Jessica xx

image_stephanieWhat’s your background?

My background is mainly in magazines and PR. I worked for over 5 years in the field of magazine editing, writing, fashion styling and PR, whilst in the meantime studying Publishing and getting some experience in the book publishing industry as a freelance editor.

What inspired you to start So Vain Books? How did you go about it?

Back in 2009 I founded So Vain Magazine, a now well-established online fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazine. After four years in the industry, I started thinking of how to expand the brand in different ways. Given my love for books and my background, an idea was very soon formed: we were going to start publishing books. What I always wanted to do was to bring my unique approach to the book publishing process. The fact that I didn’t come from years and years working for any big book publisher meant that I did not have a “standardised” way of seeing things, and had the luxury of being able to shape the publishing house in a way that I thought could work. We publish unique books that we really believe in and market in non-traditional ways. All the So Vain Books team members come from different industries and we are all very young and full of fresh ideas. After a few months spent planning, getting funds, focusing our editorial direction and recruiting new members for the team, So Vain Books was launched on the 13th of February 2014 with a very glamorous and successful event in Central London. Ever since then we have spent all our time reading manuscripts, signing up very promising authors (including the fabulous Jo Bartlett and Jessica Redland from The Write Romantics), meeting with industry experts, building up our database or bloggers and editor, etc.

It’s a very stressful job, full of long hours and no holidays, but also a very rewarding one, as now we have had the pleasure of signing up some talented authors and we really can’t wait for what’s to come in the future.

What sorts of books are you looking for? How might a potential writer submit to you?

3d CoverSo Vain Books is always looking for a great story to publish! We are passionately interested in anything to do with fashion, beauty and romance no matter if it is a light and entertaining fiction novel or an insightful guide on how to be part of the fashion elite.

  • Fiction: we publish light fiction romance novels, specifically in the genre of chick-lit, erotica and New Adult that are funny, witty and quite glamorous.
  • Non-fiction: we publish memoirs, how-to guides, coffeetable books and DIY books all written in an entertaining and informative way by bloggers, celebrities and industry experts.

We only accept submissions from authors based in the United Kingdom.

We require a minimum of 3 chapters for the non-fiction guides and a full manuscript for the fiction books. For both of them, we will ask you details about yourself, a full synopsis and how you see your book positioned.

Sometimes, even if you have not written anything yet but have a fantastic idea you want to explore with us and see if we might be interested in it, we will read it and give you feedback and maybe work with you to develop it, but we will wait until we have the right amount of words to consider it for an actual contract.

For all submissions, you can refer to our dedicated page: http://www.sovainbooks.co.uk/are-you-an-author

How quickly do you know whether a book is for you or not?

Depending on the number of submissions we have at a given time, it may take us up to 8 weeks to come back to any author who has submitted a full manuscript to us. We do provide feedback both if it is a no or a yes.

Many of your books are set in a glamorous world. Is your world glamorous?

Not at all! There might have been a time when I think I led a pretty glamorous life, going to fashion shows and parties, always wearing super high heels and red lipstick wherever I went. But I soon realized that life was not for me. I am more of a tea-and-duvet kind of girl, and I prefer spending my evenings reading a good book rather than going out to glamorous events. Plus, that’s what books are for: they provide an insight into a world in which everything is glitzy and sparkly, without having to leave the comfort of your home (or bed)! Plus, often, when you end up living “the dream” you do realize it’s not always how you expected it and it’s just better to read about it in a book!

book 3dWhat do you do to support your authors?

We pride ourselves to be a very author-centred publishing house. We won’t publish anything that we do not passionately believe in, and for this reason we only publish a limited amount of books per year, focusing on quality over quantity. We dedicate to each author and each book the right attention to detail, offering editorial support, creating stunning designs, planning bespoke marketing and publicity campaigns, and being by their side every step of the way, supporting their own initiatives and ideas for the production, publication and promotion of their books.

Our bespoke publicity campaigns include a customised author’s website, social media campaigns, email marketing, blog tours, reviews, and much more. We don’t want to simply publish great authors, but we are committed to creating a brand around them and bringing them to success, so all our plans are about thinking long-term and ensuring a bright future for all our authors.

In a very competitive market, what do you think authors can do to promote their work and get themselves noticed?

It is really hard nowadays to get yourself noticed. There are hundreds of new books published every day, so finding a way to stand out from the crowd is no easy matter. The main thing people value when deciding whether to read a new book or not is recommendations. They have been proven to be the most influential factor, so having a large number of reviews on Amazon and on websites like Goodreads is key. Once you achieve that, it opens up a world of possibilities. So get as many beta readers as possible (including your friends and family), contact book bloggers and Amazon reviewers, and offer them your book for free in exchange for an honest review. If your story is a good one, it will take no time to start getting some very positive feedback and building that network of recommendations and “social proof” that is fundamental to get people to buy the book!

What sort of books do you read for pleasure?

I love romance, but you might be surprised to know they are not the only kind of books I read. I love fantasy almost as much as I love chicklit! I adore books by Cassandra Clare, JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Sophie Kinsella, Cecelia Ahern and also from some far less-known authors.

I am currently reading “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes.

horizontal BLACKWould you ever consider writing a book yourself?

No, definitely not. The more I read the manuscripts we get submitted by authors, the more I realize I would never be able to do that, or at least not as well as they do it. I also would not have the patience an author must have, as it can take a very long time to write a book and get it perfect.

What does the future hold for So Vain Books?

I am confident that it will become a well-established publishing house, full of successful and exciting books, ensured by the fact that we dedicate all our passion and creativity to each title and we have a mix between fiction and non-fiction, with an array of celebrity books that will help with promoting the less famous and first-time authors.

In the future we also aim at becoming an online store, with many books and other items revolving around our core brand. I want the company to also expand into things other than books, organizing events, conferences, etc.

Jo and I can honestly say that it has been a pleasure working with So Vain Books and we’re both very excited about our June releases. Thank you for joining us today, Steph.

If you’d like to leave a comment or ask a question, please click on ‘comments’ at the end of the teeny weeny tag-words below this post xx

Finding A Sense of Place with Jane Lythell

13 Oct 2014 Author picOur guest on the blog today is the lovely Jane Lythell. Jane lives in Brighton and is a sea-lover, star-gazer, film and football fan. She was formerly a Producer at TV-am and Commissioning Editor of Features at Westcountry Television. Jane left to become Deputy Director of the British Film Institute and later Chief Executive of BAFTA before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for seven years. She now writes full time and her second novel has just been published by Head of Zeus. Write Romantic Jo was lucky enough to meet Jane at a writers’ lunch organised by the equally wonderful Kerry Fisher. It was a day filled with laughter, fun and some brilliant advice for new writers, so we are really lucky that Jane has agreed to write a guest post for us, to tell us all about the inspiration for the setting of her second novel, her experiences with the first and to share her top writing tips. Here’s Jane to tell us more…

I’ve been a bookworm since primary school and wanted to write all my life, but I was a single parent with a small daughter and a large mortgage. For years I worked in the kind of jobs that didn’t end at six pm. There would be calls and emails deep into the evening and very little thinking and writing time. My great treat was to go on Arvon residential writing weeks. Arvon is a terrific organisation and those courses certainly helped keep my writing flame alive. In May 2011 I finally got into a financial position where I could give myself two full years to write. At last I had the time to do the one thing I’d wanted to do for years.

I’m interested in the dark side of people and what makes them do extreme things. My first novel ‘The Lie of You’ explores jealousy that deepens into full blown obsession. My second novel ‘After The Storm’ also has one character in the grip of psychological trauma.

‘After The Storm’ opens in Belize City and then moves to an island in the Caribbean called Roatan. An English couple,FINAL After the Storm_JANE Rob and Anna, have just met an American couple Owen and Kim who have a handsome old wooden boat. Owen suggests they charter his boat and he will take them to Roatan, where the diving is sensational. Anna does not want to go at all, but Rob is really keen and he persuades her. Unknown to them Kim is desperate to go home to Florida. It is Owen who is determined to continue their life on the boat. So straightaway we have conflict of wishes between the four characters and a boat can be a very claustrophobic place when tensions start to build.

They set off. With only the four of them on board it should be paradise: lazy afternoons spent snorkelling; long nights enjoying the silence and solitude of the sea. But why does Owen never sleep? Why is he so secretive about his past? And why does Kim keep a knife zipped into her money-belt? Anna, who is a speech therapist, can usually get people to talk… but this time does she want to?

I wanted ‘After The Storm’ to have a strong sense of place. I’ve been to Belize and to Roatan and I always felt they would make a great setting for a novel. Roatan is beautiful but it also has a kind of frontier feeling to it where the normal rules don’t seem to apply. I kept a journal when I was there and took lots of photos and I used these to help me create the atmosphere of the island. I try to write character driven stories rather than plot driven stories. My aim is to let the plot develop from how a particular character reacts to circumstances given their history and their psychology.

The shoutline on the cover is ‘Some Secrets Destroy You…’ It took us a while to get to this but I think it’s a very apt one because there are all kinds of secrets in the novel – some are trivial, some are serious and some are deadly.

LOY Paperback Cover‘The Lie of You’ has had over a hundred reviews and I can’t thank readers enough for taking the time to write down their reactions. These reviews are pure gold for a debut writer. And yes a few of them are negative but you learn from these ones too. One of the points that emerged was a difference of opinion about whether or not to sympathise with Heja by the end of the book. This definitely divided people. In ‘After The Storm’ there are four main characters and I’m so looking forward to hearing what readers make of them all because you do become attached to your characters.

Quite a few readers said they found ‘The Lie of You’ very ‘filmic’ and I hope ‘After The Storm’ has this same quality. This could be because I worked in film and television for fifteen years. I do see the scenes in my novel unspooling as film sequences as I’m writing them.

My top writing tips
For me it’s all about creating characters that readers will believe in. I try to think about what food they would eat, what flat they would live in and what single thing they fear most in life. You don’t have to put this in but it will help make them real to you as you write them.

Don’t worry if your characters are flawed or have some nasty sides to them. Flawed people are interesting. It doesn’t matter if your readers dislike them or adore them. But it does matter if they don’t believe in them.

Show your drafts to people you respect. I asked two close friends and my partner, who is a TV writer, to give me some frank and honest feedback. You can only learn from that and their comments helped me so much.
Take the time to edit your writing again and again. Your first draft is just that – a first draft. You only get one chance with a publisher so you need to get your book into as perfect a form as possible. Never submit too early.

And finally, I find it helps me to write standing up! I’ve rigged up my laptop to be the right height and it certainly makes me feel more alert.

Jane Lythell

Find out more about more about the Avron Foundation and Jane’s books at the links below:

ARVON FOUNDATION http://www.arvon.org/

AFTER THE STORM – on Kindle from 1 December and in bookshops from 7 January is available here.

THE LIE OF YOU is available here.

Choices, choices…by Helen Rolfe

Choices, choices…by Helen Rolfe

The way we read has changed a great deal over the years and unsurprisingly, the way we choose our books has had to evolve to keep up with the constant changes in the publishing industry.

When my daughters were tiny I would escape from the house as soon as my husband walked through the door. I’d walk down to the local shops and into Borders where I’d spend at least an hour perusing the shelves and more often than not I’d come away with a couple of purchases. I was always drawn to a bright cover, sometimes the author’s name in big bold letters, or perhaps reading a blurb enticed me to buy. I would stop in the coffee shop next door and enjoy my new read over a hot chocolate, completely lost in my ‘me’ time.

Like many other people, I am devastated every time a bookshop closes. They are special places that warm me the second I walk in with their endless possibilities for a good story. The ‘Books Are My Bag’ campaign operates across the UK and Ireland and is the biggest promotion of bookshops since its launch in 2013. According to the ‘Books Are My Bag’ website, 56% of all book buying decisions are still made by consumers in a bookshop, which is great to hear!

But what happens if I can’t choose my books by browsing at the local bookshop?

I often base my next book purchase on previous experience. I’ll go back to the same author time and time again if I like their voice and the stories they tell and I get really excited when their next book is released.

I personally don’t use reviews or ratings to choose a book but it works for some people. If there is great media hype surrounding a new book or I see it advertised often enough, I can be enticed to read it out of curiosity…perhaps to see if I agree with the comments that are being made about it. I am also influenced by my peers. Thanks to the Write Romantics and the contacts that we all bring to the group, I’ve been reading more widely and loving every minute of it. I’ve discovered new authors and voices that keep me constantly entertained.

Then there is what I like to call ‘accidental book selection’. This can happen via friends’ recommendations: JoJo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’ was being passed around at the gym one day and I grabbed it. ‘Accidental book selection’ can happen when you least expect, too, perhaps enticing you into a new genre: at the RNA conference 2014 up in Shropshire I had the pleasure of sitting next to Hazel Gaynor and she was so lovely and friendly, answering many of my writing questions. Historical novels have never been my thing but I bought her book ‘The Girl Who Came Home’ anyway and I was hooked…it kept me engrossed during the flight between the UK and Australia 🙂 It can be uncomfortable to step outside your usual genre, but there’s also so many unique books out there that sometimes, as with Hazel’s book, it can be a lovely surprise.

bookshelves1

With a trip coming up from Sydney – Melbourne – Singapore – UK, these are my latest purchases and how I chose them:

Saving Grace by Jane Green – Jane Green is one of my all-time favourite authors so I jumped at the chance to buy her latest book when I saw it in Dymocks bookshop in Sydney.

Amy & Zach by Sarah Louise Smith – The eye-catching cover combined with the blurb on the Crooked Cat website.

Big Lies, Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – I read a newspaper article about Lianne Moriarty, who lives in Sydney. I’d also read her previous novel The Husband’s Secret and loved it.

I’d love to hear how others choose their books…do covers matter, or the publisher perhaps? Do you rely on friends’ opinion, reviews or ratings? Or do you look at book blogs or prize winners to make your choice?

Until then…Happy reading!

Helen R x