Ode to a Writer

Conf 2014 3I had one of those conversations the other day, where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. My head was wedged into the porcelain torture device more commonly known as a hairdresser’s sink and the young girl washing my hair was talking about her sister who’s studying English at uni.   I asked, as you do in these situations, what her sister wanted to do when she finishes. “She quite likes the idea of writing books, so I think she’s going to do that.” Did I tell her how difficult that was? Or ask her to pass on to her sister that she should have a back-up plan, a postgraduate certificate in teaching perhaps? Of course I didn’t, I just nodded and laughed inwardly. Drawing here on a melting pot of WR experiences, this is what I should have said!

 

Ode to a Writer

You want to be a writer and your mum’s your biggest fan,

Poems penned at eight-years-old convince her that you can.

Your dreams you keep them quiet, until you’re Brahms and Liszt,

You tell your friends who laugh-out-loud and soon you get the gist.

“A living as a writer? I suppose there’s always hope,

You stand about as good-a-chance to get elected Pope.”

 

You read a lot of ‘how to’ books, but not quite ready yet,

You spend enough on stationery to beat the national debt.

After learning twelve new swear words and an awful lot of graft,

Your book’s more holes than Swiss-cheese, but at least you’ve got a draft.

A hundred versions later, to submit it you’re all set,

And stop hiding from friends’ demands if it’s been published yet.

 

Out to publishers and agents, sure the slush pile it will ride,

But what if they all want it? How on earth will you decide?

You start to stalk the postman, your relationship you taint,

He’s forced by your obsession to an order of restraint.

He just brings pizza flyers, not a flaming other thing,

Your email’s also empty and your phone it doesn’t ring.

 

Then a meeting with an editor! To pitch it in one line,

It takes deep consideration and a bucket-load of wine,

A teenager in hot pants rejects the book as “out of style”,

You’d like to run her over, but you force yourself to smile.

“Your target market’s disappeared, your genre in the past”,

Another pitcher full of wine? You swear this is your last.

 

Who needs a publisher anyway? Self-publishing’s the key,

To notice it amongst the rest, you start the book for free.

You don’t let stats stand in your way, you know you’ll be the one,

To earn enough, once you charge, for mansions in the sun.

Your statement comes from Amazon, the sales they do amaze,

Enough to buy a whole doughnut, but only without glaze.

 

A fab five-star reviewer puts the smile back on your face,

But then there is the one-star for that comma out of place.

Mad to be a writer? We’re afraid that much is true,

Take comfort that you’re not alone, as we’re all crazy too.

And if we weren’t still writing, how would we spend the time?

Now pass us back that laptop and another glass of wine.

 

I probably could have written another twenty verses, but despite all this the WRs wouldn’t – or more accurately couldn’t – swap writing for anything else. Happy writing all you crazy fools! Jo x

Our round-up of 2014 and there’s so much to say that we have to do it in 2 parts … Part I

P1060068We hope you’ve had a relaxing, fun-filled Christmas. It’s now time to look ahead to 2015 and this typically means a reflection on how the year has gone.

2014 has been a HUGE year for The Write Romantics. Nine have become ten, we’ve received eight publishing deals, one agent representation, launched three novels, a novella and an anthology, and one of us has relocated from Australia back to the UK. Huge changes all round! And 2015 promises to be just as exciting as those publishing deals lead to actual publication.

But you don’t want to hear it all from me. I’ve handed over to each of the WRs to talk about their 2014. I asked four questions:

  1. What has been your greatest writing achievement this year?
  2. What has been your greatest writing challenge this year?
  3. How has being a WR helped you this year?
  4. What are your writing hopes/plans for 2015?

Because there’s so much to tell, I’ve split this post across two days so here, in no particular order, are the first five responses. I’ll post the other five (including my own) tomorrow.

Happy reading!

Jessica

xx

Author photo - Helen J RolfeHelen J Rolfe:

My greatest writing achievement this year has been to secure my first publishing contract. Yay! I was accepted by Crooked Cat Publishing for my debut novel, The Friendship Tree, which will be published in 2015. At the moment I’m busy with edits and enjoying it knowing that I’m one step closer to seeing my book finally out there.

Of equal achievement has been our Christmas anthology, Winter Tales. Not only has it been published as both an eBook and in print, but it’s doing really well. We have had so many positive comments from the writing and reading community and I think that it pulled us together as a group and showed how passionate we are about our craft. It is incredibly rewarding to know that every sale adds that little bit more to our chosen charities.

tree1My greatest writing challenge this year has been self-doubt, which I think every writer relates to, whether they are unpublished or published ten times over! It’s a solitary occupation and very easy to doubt yourself, but to overcome this, the key is to surround yourself with support. I do that with the wonderful Write Romantics 🙂

In 2015 I also hope to have my next novel published and finish my work in progress. After Alison May’s inspiring interview I may even try my hand at a Christmas novel, you never know! Whatever happens, 2015 will be filled with lots of writing 🙂

This year I met most of the Write Romantics for the first time and it was wonderful. I hope that 2015 brings us all as much success as 2014, and as much support, without which my writing journey would be much more difficult. And a lot less fun!

Deirdre Palmer:

my pic for blog postMy biggest achievement this year was definitely having my novel, ‘Remarkable Things’ accepted by Crooked Cat Publishing. I’d had a lot of interest in this book and so many ‘near misses’ I felt that if I hung on and kept plugging away, I’d get there in the end. Luckily my faith wasn’t misplaced. If you want to know what it’s about, this is the blurb:

When Gus Albourne inherits his Aunt Augusta’s cottage in the Sussex village of Hangburton, he finds himself with more than a property on his hands.  He should feel grateful for Augusta ’s generosity but how can he when his late brother, Robert, was unfairly left out of the will?  Determined to claim justice for Robert’s family, Gus searches for the truth behind the legacy but the discovery he makes poses an even greater threat to his peaceful existence. The cottage, too, offers up its secrets – a random collection of objects in an embroidered bag, a birth certificate, a street map marked with a cross – and Gus realises he’s looking at his own life story. Only it’s not the version he knows. 

Millie Hope is searching for her daughter, Karen, missing for two years. But there’s more than one barrier to the search. For a start, there’s Jack, Karen’s ex-boyfriend whom Millie has every reason to fear. And then there’s the reason Karen disappeared in the first place, which becomes less certain as time goes on. When Gus and Millie meet, they’re instantly attracted to one another. But can they look forward to future happiness when the past is fast unravelling behind them?

author 2I’m also just a bit proud that I managed to finish a novel I started for last year’s NaNoWriMo. It’s a fast-paced comedy but with a dark side, in a very different style from anything I’ve written before. It was great fun to write. It’s set in 1966 and I called it ‘Dirty Weekend’. It’s currently with Crooked Cat awaiting their verdict.

When I began ‘Dirty Weekend’ I was already well into another novel called ‘The Promise of Roses’, which you could say is more of a traditional romance. As I wanted to start something new for NaNo, I put this one aside, and picking it up again, which I have done recently, has been really tricky. Despite my notes, I had literally lost the plot and getting to know the characters again and catching hold of all the story threads I’d started has been challenging to say the least. I’m over the worst now – I think – and it’s moving on, slowly.

How has being a Write Romantic helped me this year? Goodness, where to start…  I’d best describe it as having nine best friends who totally ‘get it’, and even though they aren’t with me in person, it doesn’t matter as they’re only a click away. As time’s gone on we’ve got to know one another better and I’ve had so much kindness, practical help and unfailing encouragement from everyone that I couldn’t really go wrong, could I? I only hope I’ve been able to reciprocate. And of course it’s been a brilliant experience working together to produce our anthology, Winter Tales.

My main hope for 2015 has to be that people will like ‘Remarkable Things’ and it will net me a few quid along the way! If I could get my sixties book published too that would be the icing on the cake. I want to finish ‘Roses’ in the next few months, submit that, start a new full-length novel, and I’d like to self-publish a novella or two. In order to achieve all this I know I’ll have to be a lot more disciplined than I am now, stay off social media and put in some hard graft.

LATE NEWS: I have now heard that Crooked Cat have accepted ‘Dirty Weekend’!  Another book deal is just about the best Christmas present I could have wished for.  I feel very lucky indeed.


photo (10)Rachael Thomas:

2015 has been a year I’ve dreamed of and worked towards for many years. In January I got ‘the call’ from Mills and Boon and was offered a two-book contract. Then in May I signed my second contract with them, but the best moment of all, was seeing my book on the shelves – and the first place I saw it was in London.

My greatest challenge has been writing my second book. When I first started writing it I had never expected it to be the second book in my contract and I had all sorts of wobbles, but with patient encouragement from my editor and amazing support from my fellow Write Romantics, that book will be out early next year. The support of Write Romantics is always there, no matter what the problem is.

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As for writing into 2015, well I’d love to think that I can continue to write for Mills and Boon because I have quite a few heroes and heroines lined up ready to be written!

Finally, I’d like to wish all our readers a Happy New Year.

 

author picJo Bartlett:

1. What has been your greatest writing achievement this year?

I would say the publication of my first novella has been my biggest writing achievement. It’s been a wonderful experience and surpassed all my expectations in many ways – hitting the no.1 spot on one of the Amazon charts every time it was offered as a free download and, in the first three weeks of release, also sitting in the top ten of one of the paid charts. I’ve had some lovely reviews and not all of them were written by my mum! The success of the Write Romantics anthology has also been a highlight and I am so proud of what we have achieved together. Having a book reviewer, who I’ve never met, tell me that she loved my story enough to buy my novella as a result had me on a high for days too. Last, but not least, securing a publishing deal for my first full-length novel was another highlight, but one that leads neatly into the next question

2. What has been your greatest writing challenge this year?

I think it’s been ‘keeping the faith’, convincing myself that what has been a long journey will be worth it in the end. It was a rockier road than I ever dreamt of to get to the point of having not one but two possible publishing deals on the table. By the time I got to that point, I was beginning to question whether I should keep writing or give up on my dream of being published and take up synchronized swimming or avant garde macramé – yes, there is such a thing. I even questioned whether I still wanted to be published because I was so worried about making the wrong decision that I couldn’t make one at all. In the end, I chose the publisher who felt right for me and they’ve been incredibly supportive. I was also thrilled to be joined there by Jessica and so we will be going through the debut novel rollercoaster together next year. It remains a challenge to ‘keep the faith’ but, having met lots of experienced writers over the past couple of years, I have a feeling it’s a writer’s lot to feel that way and maybe it’s not altogether a bad thing.

Jo Bartlett Amazon 13. How has being a WR helped you this year?

The support you get as one of the WRs from the other nine in the group is priceless. Not just for the writing dilemmas and crises that have occurred, or for the great beta reading and help with promo, but in other aspects of life too. When one of us is down or having a wobble, be that about writing or something totally unrelated, the others are there to cheer you up and, equally, with many of the WRs achieving the dream of publication this year, they are pretty darn good at cheerleading too.

4. What are your writing hopes/plans for 2015?

My novel is coming out in June, which is a major part of the plan for next year, but I am also hoping that the second novella in the St Nicholas Bay series will be released by Easter. Other than that, I’d like to try my hand at some more short story writing and edit the two full-length novels I have in draft. One thing I have no plans for in the next year is to write another full-length novel and I’m pleased about that. I’ve written a 100k+ book each year for the past three years, but this year it’s all about keeping it short and sweet. So perhaps I will have time for some avant garde macramé after all…

conf 2014 12Jackie Ladbury:

Although this year has been a slow-ish one of writing for me, I am happy with the way things are shaping up. I’ve finished a really good draft of my Victorian novel (which might yet become an Edwardian novel!) by editing as I go along. It wasn’t quite as painful as my last novel and I enjoyed writing it more. Am now looking forward to returning to an earlier novel which is half revised, but already a second Victorian/Edwardian novel is clamouring to be heard and I keep writing sneaky little notes (which I promptly lose!) about a plot line and character arc.

I have enjoyed my writing more this year as The Write Romantics have been on hand to listen to my moans and celebrate any successes and not just in connection with writing, but other day to day incidents that just need an airing sometimes, to make them better or disappear altogether.

I think the New Year is going to bring lots of changes, for the good to The Write Romantics and our combined group. Most have a publishing deal now and of course we all are officially published in our very successful Winter Tales Anthology of short stories, which was such a thrill for us all – I’m still buying copies for friends and relations- can’t seem to stop!

Collectible Gund Bear

Next year I’m going to make a concerted effort to be published. It takes up so much time to submit to publishers and agents that I rarely bother, as they all seem to want different things, and when they don’t even have the courtesy to reply, it is very dispiriting. (I mean, how long would it take for them to set up a standard template and whizz an email across to us writers if it’s a ‘no’ instead of keeping us hanging on, in hope.) I realise that I do want other people to read my stories as I genuinely fall in love with my characters and have spent years learning the trade to make my writing as good as it can be. I cry when they cry and am happy when they are – so I would like to share these emotions with other readers and hope that they feel the same. That is my quest for next year- and you know what, I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen- so there!

Happy Christmas to you all and have a wonderfully productive 2015.

Thank you to half of the Write Romantics for their year round-up. Please come back tomorrow to hear what the other half have to say xx

conf 2014 14

Another Mega Monday announcement: Lynne Pardoe ‘pockets’ a deal!

Who could have believed the speed with which the Write Romantics have been landing book deals recently. First there was Jessica Redland’s 467141_105087346295108_93731370_oexcellent (I know cos I’ve read it) ‘Searching for Steven’ and her three book contract with So Vain books. Then Harriet James ‘Remarkable Things’ to be published by Crooked Cat, then Helen J Rolfe’s ‘The Friendship Tree’ also to be published by Crooked Cat.

I thought the good luck was bound to run out there. I’d sent a partial of a pocket novel I’d been working on to D. C. Thomson in Dundee around that time. I’d been working on it for months and lacked confidence to send it to them. Then I had an email conversation with one of their staff on their editor’s fiction blog which was really helpful. The next day I saw a blog post by another of their fiction staff, Tracey Steele talking about how to write pocket novels and I thought ‘fate is trying to tell me something, send it off fast!’ So I popped three chapters and a synopsis off one morning and got a request for a full later that day. I was delighted and sent the rest straight away.

I thought it would be months until I heard and prepared myself for a long wait. I knew how many submissions they must have and tried my best to be patient. You see, to me it wasn’t just an ordinary book because my mum helped me write it. Mum has been very poorly lately. She contracted flu many years ago and the virus got into her heart muscle and infected it. That caused the muscular layer of the heart to stretch, get thinner and to work more slowly. Bolstered by tablets you’d hardly have noticed any difference in her for over thirty years, but she’s now 85 and time is catching up with her. She was very, very, poorly for a while recently. Going out was a thing of the past and it was a major effort for her to even walk across the room.

I?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? can only imagine how painful that was, and boredom soon set in too. But then I thought I’d talk to her about the plot for the novel I was then about to write, and her world lit up. She totally followed me into my imaginary world and we chatted for ages about the characters I’d described and why they were behaving as they were. Mum suggested a couple of scenes and the motive for one person’s actions that were crucial to the story. Spending time with mum in our world of make-believe was a tonic to us both.

Now I haven’t told you what happened to this story once I’d consigned it to paper. I’ve left you in the lurch a bit about the outcome of this tome. I thought with the rush of publishing contracts coming to the Write Romantic’s there would be no way I would get one, so I got ready to slog in with my trilogy of social work books. Then about a week later, I saw an email from Tracey from D. C. Thomson. I opened it fully expecting to see a ‘..thanks but no thanks,’ sort of comment.

The first sentence yielded nothing of the sort. Nor the second. Then the third seemed to say she liked it and would like to buy it! I could hardly believe my eyes but when I saw the word ‘Congratulations!’ later on I knew what I read was true! It was all confirmed the following day when a paper contract arrived in the post. I quickly signed it and sent it back before they could change their minds!

D.C. Thomson is a bit special to me. My dad was Scottish and always spoke very highly of them. He was a printer at The Daily Telegraph and cameauthor 2 home with ‘The People’s Friend’ and ‘Beano’ every week. I loved them and read every word. As I grew older I read ‘The Friend’ in the nursing homes I worked in, often with the patients. I kept reading it when I left nursing, so getting published by them is very special.

Now I won’t keep you much longer, you must have plenty to do. But do check back soon because I’m hoping this lucky spell will continue. I’ve read some of my fellow WR’s work and know how good it is and how close to publication they must be!

Lynne x

Short Stories are in the Saturday Spotlight with Margaret Mounsdon

 

The Write Romantics are compiling an anthology of short stories to be released later this autumn in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust and Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Several writing friends have kindly given their time and talent by providing short stories and we’ve all contributed ourselves. For some of us, this was quite a challenge as we’re novelists; not short story writers. We were therefore delighted to welcome prolific short story writer, Margaret Mounsdon, to The Saturday Spotlight.
 
CIMG2091Over to Margaret …
 
As I said to Jessica the two things I love talking about most in this world are myself and writing! So I am honoured to be a guest on the blog and hope everyone finds what I have to say is interesting.
 
A little introduction for those of you who’ve never heard of me.
 
My name is Margaret Mounsdon and I have been published in the womens’ magazines, namely Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, People’s Friend, The Lady and Take A Break’s Fiction Feast. Apart from the UK my short stories have been published in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway and Sweden.
 
I have had 25 light romance novels published and I’m in the process of putting my backlist on Amazon ebooks.
 
img078I have won or been placed in several short story competitions and the reason I am telling you all this is not to blow my own trumpet but to let you know it is possible to do this without knowing a single soul in the publishing industry or having an agent, or being able to pull strings with editors, publishing assistants, whatever.
 
Unlike mainstream fiction when the publishers want to know all about you for publicity purposes, in the short story market it doesn’t matter. You can quietly sell your stories with as much or as little publicity as you like. Different rights to short stories can be sold several times and can become ‘nice little earners’ over the years.
 
About 14 years ago I had no idea how the published short story business worked. I knew I liked reading them in the in magazines and sometimes I thought I can do as good as that. Eventually I decided to have a go.
 
I have to say I was not an overnight success. I started writing in the 1990’s and my first short story acceptance was from Woman’s Weekly in 2000. Having said that a lot of my rejected stories have since been re-worked and most of them have found a home so it pays not to throw any of your work away.
 
Thanks to all those who posted questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.
 
What do you think makes a good short story?
I like to have a good opening line. It’s important to make the reader want to read on. Some examples of mine are:-
  • ‘You find out who your true friends are when you appear at a party dressed as a trifle and custard.’ WWFS
  • ‘Don’t I know you?’ ‘ Yes I was once your wife.’ WW
  • ‘Private detective seeks assistant – must be discreet, practical and flexible.’ WWFS
  • ‘Vanessa stopped stalking Kevin after she left school.’ TAB FF
As you can see from these examples there is a broad range of choice and, as long as you follow the bounds of decency, almost nowhere you can’t go
 
Do you have any advice on how to crack the short story market?
One way is competitions. They are an excellent way to get in. The Lady magazine unfortunately no long publishes fiction but they used to have a short story competition which I duly entered one year. I didn’t win and I wasn’t placed but I received an email from their fiction editor who liked my story and offered to buy it and it was duly published. All because I entered their competition. Apart from that you must study everything in the magazines, including the adverts. I even completed the crosswords! Up to date market study is very important.
 
Also Woman’s Weekly run fiction writing days at their London office. I am going on one for serials (a market I’ve never been able to crack) in October.
 
img077Any tips on creating a believable romance in a short story?
Believe in your characters. Make them as genuine as possible. Make their problems creditable. Don’t create a situation ‘just  because’. Every action has to have a reason.
 
Do you create characters for short stories differently from the way you create the characters in your novels?
The characters in my novels are much more in depth. I do histories for them and cut pictures out of magazines and supplements etc. In short stories I work more on an idea and go from there.
 
What type of short stories do you enjoy writing the most?
I’ve been asked by People’s Friend to write a 10,000 long/short story for one of their ‘specials’. They wanted a ‘cosy’ type crime caper. These are great fun. Think Midsomer Murders meets Miss Fisher.
 
Do you plot your short stories or have an idea and start writing?
I usually get an idea then sit down and get typing. I managed to get a story out of a trip to our local recycling centre, and another when I was in a queue in a charity shop and I eavesdropped on a conversation. Inspiration can strike anywhere so take a notebook with you at all times. Coffee shops are good places to get ideas.
 
What gives you the most satisfaction; writing short stories or a novel. Why?
I have no preference but if I’ve just done a 42,000 word novella for People’s Friend, I like to take a break and a 1500 word short story makes a nice change.  
 
Do you buy the editions of magazines in which your short stories appear or do you get sent a copy?
Woman’s Weekly send copies. TAB Fiction Feast, My Weekly and People’s Friend don’t, but you do usually get told when your story is coming out. I tend to browse in WH Smith or the supermarket, just in case they’ve changed the dates. Also titles can get changed so you need to double check the magazines.
 
Fountain.Tell us more about getting “the call” for your first novel
It was with the defunct Heartline publisher. I’d met Sue Curran at a writing day. She agreed to look at my NWS submission. I was actually out when the call came. When I got back there was an answerphone message asking me to call her. She explained about Heartline and what they were planning to do. I still didn’t really ‘twig’ that they wanted to publish because they were only starting up. When she called back several times more, the penny finally dropped. I was ‘in’. I did a dance round the room and the joy of acceptance never goes away fourteen years later!
 
Why did you write under a pen name? Have you used this for all your novels?
I only wrote as Clare Tyler for my two Heartline novels. They had another Margaret on their books at the same time and suggested I used a different name. I have only used it once since when People’s Friend had two of my stories in one edition of their magazine and they wanted me to use another name for the second one. These days it’s Margaret Mounsdon all the way.
 
I have a People’s Friend novella coming out on 28 August. I entitled it Angela’s Return Home. The titles do get changed but it will be under the Margaret Mounsdon name.
 
Details of my novels can be found on my blogYou can follow me on twitter @SwwjMargaret and on my website through which I can be contacted if anyone’s got any more queries.    
 
Thank you for inviting me to be your guest today.
 
Margaret 
 
 
Thank you for joining us, Margaret. It’s been really fascinating to get a much deeper insight into the short story market which we haven’t really explored on our blog before. We appreciate your time and your advice.

For anyone interested in finding out more about our anthology of short stories, please see our earlier post. We’re running a competition for a book title and you’ve got a little over a week to get your ideas in to win a gift voucher so get your thinking cap on and get emailing!

 
Enjoy your weekend
Jessica
 
(We’d love your questions/responses to this post. Comments can be left my clicking on the button at the end of the tabs below)

 

Liv Thomas on fulfilling her promise

We are delighted to be joined again on the blog today by Liv Thomas. Liv wrote her debut novel, Beneath an Irish Sky, with fellow writer Val Olteanu, under the pen name Isabella Connor. Beneath an Irish Sky was released by Choc Lit in August of last year and their second novel, An Irish Promise, is due for release in November. All this, despite the fact that Val and Liv have never met in person!

Liv’s long held dreams of becoming a writer took a while to come to fruition, as it was only after she received praise for some Lord of the Rings fan-fiction that she decided to make it a reality.

a_LivCongratulations on the success of Beneath An Irish Sky and the completion of the next novel in the series, which we know is due for release in November.  Please can you tell us a little bit about An Irish Promise?

An Irish Promise is the story of how bullying affects a young girl, both in childhood and as an adult. She returns to the village in Ireland where the bullying took place, set on revenge, but of course, romance gets in the way in the form of a handsome Aussie.  The novel also deals with how the results of their actions impact on the bullies themselves.

Is writing a second novel really as difficult as people say and just like the notoriously difficult second album that musicians often describe?  

On the whole, I think it was easier this time because we’re more aware of what’s required.  We’ve also become more used to each other’s writing style.

What have been the best and worst things about being a published author?

The worst thing is having to grit your teeth (and not cry) when someone criticises your baby.  The best thing is the sense of achievement … I don’t know if you ever lose that.

Do you read reviews for your novels and have you had any that you have found it difficult to deal with or been bowled over by?

We’ve been incredibly lucky, and have had some lovely reviews.

Who would play the lead roles if An Irish Promise were made into a film?

We used this visual of Chris Evans (the actor not the presenter!) for the character of Aussie actor Finn.

http://hdwallpappers.com/images/wallpapers/Chris-Evans-Wallpaper1.jpg

He has an incredibly soulful/vulnerable look which conveys Finn’s emotions to perfection. Finn is something of a tortured soul, bless him.

Beneath an Irish SkyHow important do you think networking with others in the publishing industry is and how do you do this?

I have a sadly neglected blog, and am active on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s extremely important to be a part of social media, which is a bit like a rolling stone gathering a huge amount of moss. I think it’s important not to view it purely as a means to promote your work though – on Twitter in particular, there’s nothing worse than following someone who only ever tweets links.  I’m far more likely to click on a link from someone who has socialised and interacted with me.   A Facebook ‘author page’ is also useful.  Try and treat social media as an actual get-together – make conversation, respond to others, and don’t expect help with promotion unless you’re prepared to do the same for them.

If you could go back and give your un-published self any advice what would it be?

Don’t get carried away – we wrote 240k words for Beneath an Irish Sky because we thought there was a minimum number of words that would be accepted, not a maximum!  We had to lose half of it.  In hindsight, it was for the best!

What do you think the main benefits of being supported by a publisher, rather than self-publishing, are?  

You obviously get promotional support, but it’s also a huge psychological boost.  Being accepted by a respected publisher is the realisation of a dream.  I’ve only ever been with Choc Lit, so can’t speak for other authors/publishers, but I would say the support we’ve had is second to none, not just from CL themselves, but from the other writers.  We call it the Choc Lit family, and it is.

What is next for you in terms of working in partnership as Isabella Connor and do you envisage writing separately at some point?

We’re working on a third novel together, so that will take priority.  Eventually, if time allows, we might give solo writing a go, but not at the expense of our partnership.  With a co-author you have moments when you’re like a reader – you don’t know what’s coming next.  And we’ve both had ideas for scenarios in both novels, that the other wouldn’t have come up with.

Thanks again for taking the time to come back for an update interview with us. The Write Romantics wish you every success for the future and we will be pre-ordering An Irish Promise!

Find out more about Liv and purchase Beneath an Irish Sky or pre-order An Irish Promise on the ChocLit website at: http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/isabella_connor.html

Or on Liv’s own blog at: http://livbet.webs.com/

Follow Liv on Twitter at: @Livbet

Join Liv on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/livvie.thomas

The link to Beneath an Irish Sky on Amazon can be found here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beneath-Irish-Sky-Isabella-Connor/dp/1781890048/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378056623&sr=8-1&keywords=beneath+an+irish+sky

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.

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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

The Saturday Spotlight – Rhoda Baxter tells all!

Our guest on the blog this week is Rhoda Baxter.  Rhoda  started off in the South of England and pinged around the world a bit until she ended up in the North of England, where the cakes are better. Along the way she collected one husband, two kids, a few (ahem) extra stone in weight and a DPhil in molecular biology (but not necessarily in that order). She had a childhood ambition to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humorous novels instead.

Her first novel, Patently in Love was a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award and was a top ten finalist in the 2012 Preditors and Editors poll for romance reads. Her third novel, Dr January will be published by Choc Lit Publishing in autumn 2014. 

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Hi Rhoda, welcome to the Write Romantics blog and thank you for agreeing to be our guest this week.  We’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and what was the very first thing you did when you heard you’d got a publishing deal?

Thank you so much for inviting me in for a chat. It’s nice to sit here in the warm when it’s so wet and cold outside.

My writing journey was pretty long. I won’t bore you with the details (if you really want to know, there’s a blog post about it here: http://rhodabaxter.com/2013/10/25/two-emails-abo…22nd-of-a-book/).  I went to a talk once where they took a poll of the authors around the table as to how many books they wrote before they were published. The average was 3.5 books. I’d written 3 books and was on my fourth by the time Patently in Love was picked up by a publisher.

Yes, please, I’d love a cup of tea. Milk please. No sugar. Thanks.

In all honesty, I can’t remember what I thought when I first got the email.  It was a mad old time as I’d just started a new job after moving from Oxfordshire to East Yorkshire and my youngest was still only a tiny wee baby. I do remember buying a celebratory cheesecake though. Very nice it was too.

What are you most looking forward to about your publication with Choc Lit and moving away from the e-book only approach?

Without a doubt, it’s the idea of having a physical book in my hands. Having a book only in ebook format should be no different to have a print book – real people still buy them and read them and review them. But there’s something about the physical book that you can put on a book shelf and stroke and cuddle… I think it’s a generational thing. We grew up with paper books and they ‘feel’ more real to us than ebooks. My Mum reads my books on her computer, but doesn’t really feel they’re ‘real’. My kids, on the other hand, are perfectly at home with ebooks and print books alike. They tend to get jam on things though and a Kindle is easier to wipe clean than a paper book.

I’m also looking forward to doing some real life promotion for my books. So far I’ve concentrated on doing everything online, because I’ve only had ebooks to promote. When I have a print book I can take along with me, I will try and do some talks to libraries and at local events.

Lastly, of course, I’m looking forward to the celebratory cheesecake I’m going to treat myself to. Mmmm… cake… Sorry, zoned out there for a moment. What was the next question?

Do you have any writing superstitions e.g. writing in the same place, using a certain pen etc?

In an ideal world, I would. I’d have a special desk (very tidy, naturally), and a special mug and a special pair of pants to wear when I’m writing. In reality, my desk looks nothing like that, so I end up writing my books sitting in bed at the end of the day.

I don’t really mind, so long as I get to write. I do wish I could see the surface of my desk now and again though.

HAB

What are you working on now and what are your writing goals for the next 5 years?

5 years! You make it sound like it’s normal to have a plan! (What do you mean it is? Damn. That explains a lot). It’s not possible to plan that far ahead because life tends to get in the way. If you’d told me four years ago that I’d be relocating to the North East, with a three month old baby and a three year old in tow, whilst DH and I both start new jobs and I try to get a writing career off the ground, I’d have laughed  at you on the grounds that no one is THAT mental.

What am I working on now? I’ve just submitted the 2015 book called Please Release Me (which is set in a hospice) to Choc Lit. I’m trying to figure out what to write next. Something with the whole email/prose mix again, I think. I have my characters, but need to figure out what happens to them. I’ve also got to do some promotion for the Truly, Madly, Deeply Anthology which is coming out in February.  I’m very excited to have my story included in a book that’s got stories by Katie Fforde, Judy Astley, Carole Matthews and other famous people.

How do you keep creating new and entirely different characters as you write more and more books?

I don’t know. They just turn up.  Sorry, that’s not a good answer, is it? But it’s true. It’s like Paddingtion Station in my imagination. Characters turn up in my head and I have to find stories for them. I usually find the men easier to think up than the women. I love my heroes.

I don’t do character sheets and character interviews like some people do. I’m too lazy for that. Quite often I write my way into the characters by writing a few extra scenes before the story really starts so that I can get a feel for their voice. Sometimes there’s a key aspect I have to get right before they ‘click’. Once that happens, it’s easy to hear and see them.

I’ve never tried to analyse where these people came from, in case they stop coming. If it ain’t broke…

It sounds like your professional life and your writing persona are two different worlds.  How do you cope with the different approaches to writing and has this ever caused you any conflict?

My work writing is very analytical and matter of fact. Details need to be spelled out. My fiction writing is about subtlety and emotion. In that sense they are very different. On the other hand, the technical writing needs to be structured, with all the introductory information in place, arguments made and neatly tied up into the conclusion. The same is true of a novel.

With work, I’m allowed to be boring in what I write (apparently, people don’t like jokes in their technical summaries. Huh).  With fiction boring your reader is a definite no-no.

One of the Write Romantics, Alex, is also a lawyer and it’s not a world that has ever made her think of romance fiction.  What gave you the idea for Patently in Love?

Marshall from Patently in Love has been around in my head for a long long time. When I was plotting the book,I realised that the combination of email and prose would work really well as an office romance. So I picked an office I knew and used it as a setting. I didn’t use anyone I knew as characters, but I did include a few jokes about the obsession with hierarchy that seemed to be prevalent in that environment.  It also meant that I didn’t need to cross check patent related bits of the plot. (A good thing too because one of the big IP blogs reviewed the book. It would have been awful if they’d found a glaring error!)

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 of all is Hibs, the hero of the next book Dr January (due to be released in autumn by Choc Lit). He has a PhD in molecular biology, long dark hair, lovely high cheekbones and is an expert in karate. He’s really funny and sexy and I had a crush on him when I wrote it.

Hibs wasn’t based in anyone real (if only!), but after I wrote the book, I realised I’d effectively taken the character of Edward Cullen from Twilight and split him into two men. The lovely, adoring, caring side (in Hibs) and the controlling, domineering, stalkery side (in Gordon).  Both men are gorgeous – naturally.

We’ve heard that some writers use pictures they find, of celebrities or sometimes photographs that they just happen upon, to inform the physical descriptions of their characters and we wondered if you did this or, if not, how you form a mental picture of your characters’ physical qualities?

I don’t do that, although I should. If I found a picture of Hibs from Dr January, I’d definitely enjoy looking at him from time to time.

The mental picture of my characters tend to start fuzzy and solidify as I write the introductory scenes. I know I’ll cut those scenes out eventually, but they’re still useful for finding out who the characters are.  Weirdly, I often forget what colour their eyes are, so I need a post it on my laptop screen to remind me.

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

Remember that it’s a long game. Your first book is not the only book you’ll write (in fact, it’s not even the best book you’ll ever write because you’ll learn and grow as a writer with each subsequent book).  Have patience and keep going. You’ll get your break eventually

Oh, and get some sleep, while you still can.

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

The best thing – you’re never alone. There’s people in your head all the time.

The worst thing – you’re never alone. There’s people in your head all the time, insisting that you write stuff down.

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

Write stuff you want to read. Even if the first draft is crap.

Find a good critique partner (or join the NWS!) and listen to what they say. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but make sure you give it good consideration before you dismiss it.

Keep going. The more you write, the better you’ll get.  All authors were unpublished writers once.

Read how to books. You won’t learn anything new, but it may shift something you already knew into a new light.

Read a lot of books in your genre. Call it market research if you like.

Enjoy it! Otherwise, why do it?

Thank you very much for having me over. It was a lovely cup of tea.

Good luck with your writing careers. I’m sure it won’t be long before you’re all published.

Find out more about Rhoda:

She can be found wittering on about science, comedy and cake on her website www.rhodabaxter.com  or on Facebook or Twitter (@rhodabaxter).

You can buy Rhoda’s books here:

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BUEKFX2/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Having-Ball-Email-Ice-Cream-ebook/dp/B00BUEKFX2/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Kobo UK: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/having-a-ball

All other formats (including non-DRM PDF) from the publisher’s site: https://www.uncialpress.com/Rhoda-Baxter

Liv Thomas – a tale of two authors

Our regular Monday interview slot has been replaced by a new occasional slot, where we can select our absolute favourites from the new and established writers we have been privileged enough to meet, either online, or in person. We are delighted that Liv Thomas will be our first interviewee in the new slot.

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Liv’s long held dreams of becoming a writer took a while to come to fruition, as it was only after she received praise for some Lord of the Rings fan-fiction that she decided to make it a reality.

Liv is a wife and mum, who works for the NHS in the hospital featured in the early series of One Born Every Minute. Liv wrote her debut novel, Beneath an Irish Sky, with fellow writer Val Olteanu, under the pen name Isabella Connor. Beneath an Irish Sky was released by Choc Lit last month and the second novel is well underway, despite Val and Liv never having met in person.

Hi Liv, welcome to the Write Romantics Blog and thank you for agreeing to an interview. We know that, like us, you were formerly a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you were a member for, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?

I always wanted to write. I have loads of short stories that I’ve written over the years, but never had the nerve to submit anywhere. I joined the RNA in January 2010, after being put in touch with Katie Fforde by a friend who spoke with Katie on Twitter. Katie recommended the RNA, which I’d never heard of. That year we submitted a part work of the novel that became ‘Beneath an Irish Sky.’ We received valuable feedback, the best bit being “I think this novel is of a publishable standard”. Next year we submitted the whole thing, and again had great feedback. We were told the beginning and end were good but the middle sagged a bit, so we set about cutting and crisping it. Before sending it to the RNA it had reached 240k words – we thought there was a minimum length, not a maximum! We eventually trimmed it to around 120k, and then by another 10k before submitting to Choc Lit. Our current genre is Contemporary Women’s Fiction. (Or should that be Women’s Contemporary Fiction?  )

Please can you tell us a bit about your journey so far, including how you came to start writing with Val and the impact this has had on the way in which you work, as well as any positives and negatives there might be to such a partnership and whether you would recommend it to others?

I’m still not sure how we came to be writing together! Well, I know how, but maybe not sure why. I barely knew Val who I’d got to know on a ‘Lord of the Rings’ message-board. (I know…geeks). I’d known other people for longer, and consequently knew them better, but …cue violins…fate drew me to Val. I just asked her if she wanted to write a novel with me, not really expecting her to say yes, but she went for it right away. I’d had this idea kicking around for a couple of years, and had started it, but never fully committed to it. I sent her what I’d done, and she promptly changed it all… only kidding there, but she did make suggestions which was the idea really, and very soon the novel had two voices. I had got the idea from her messages on the forum that she was both eloquent and verbose (in the nicest possible way). At the time (and maybe still, though I think I’ve improved), my biggest weakness was impatience, which led to a lack of detail in my writing, and from what I’d seen of Val’s postings, I felt – correctly – that she would be a huge help with that. Right from the beginning, I felt we shared the same feelings for the story and the characters. One of the best bits about writing as a partnership – you get to ‘read’ your own story! Well, the bits you haven’t written yourself obviously. So around half of the book is new to you – until you get the striking pen out and change it  which is how we do it. Neither of us are frightened to change what the other has written. We use a colour code system which makes our drafts look either very pretty or a total mess – red for strikethroughs, blue for comments, green for bits up for arm-wrestling etc.

We would love to hear about your route to publication. What made you choose ChocLit publishing and how did ‘The Call’ for Beneath an Irish Sky come about?

I saw a piece in one of the writing magazines, and as our novel features the hero’s point of view, thought it would be worth a shot. We didn’t actually feel it would suit Choc Lit because although there are actually two love stories in it, the novel was never written as a romance with a traditional hero. We saw it more as a family drama, and the main relationship is really the one between the two male protagonists. It was also a plus that Choc Lit offered a response within 4-6 months. I’ve heard of unpublished authors waiting a lot longer than that. And they were as good as their word – we heard four months to the day after submission.

Beneath an Irish Sky

What’s next for you, Liv, with the recent launch of your first novel, your WIP second novel and future projects? Do either of you envisage going ‘solo’ at any point?

We have a series of novels planned, all set in the same area. Half of ‘Beneath An Irish Sky’ is set in Ireland, but the other half takes place in a small Cheshire village, one of a group of four in the same locale. We plan to write a novel for each village, and are half way through Village No. 2.

What are your dreams and aspirations as writers, in terms of your long-term careers?

To be recognized as a decent story-teller would suit me. Of course, I wouldn’t be averse to seeing BAIS turned into a six-part drama on TV. 

What has been the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?

The critique is invaluable. Also, the support and the advice.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?

Believe in yourself. Join a writing group, either online or physically. Social networking is very useful. And learn from those more experienced than yourself.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your story so far with us. The Write Romantics wish you every success for the future and we will be keeping a look out on the best seller lists for you!

Find out more about Liv and purchase Beneath an Irish Sky on the ChocLit website at: http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/isabella_connor.html

Or on Liv’s own blog at: http://livbet.webs.com/

Follow Liv on Twitter at: @Livbet

Join Liv on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/livvie.thomas

The link to Beneath an Irish Sky on Amazon can be found here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beneath-Irish-Sky-Isabella-Connor/dp/1781890048/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378056623&sr=8-1&keywords=beneath+an+irish+sky