Jenny Colgan’s teenage dreams – a flash back to the 80s

Anyone who loves a good rom com will definitely be a fan of Jenny Colgan and, just this week, she was the recipient of the Romantic Novelist Association’s Rom Com of the year award for 2018. What you may not know, is that Jenny’s also a massive fan of the 1980s, although the title of one of her many bestselling books ‘Looking for Andrew McCarthy’ might give you a clue.

Tonight Jenny features on, friend of the Write Romantics, Sarah Lewis’ My 80s radio show, choosing her Favourite Five Eighties tracks, reliving some of her highlights of the decade and even telling us which 80s heart throb was plastered all over her bedroom walls.

Could these teenage dreams have started Jenny’s love of romance and led to her amazing career? To find out, you’ll need to tune into Sarah’s show on Mad Wasp radio at 7 pm tonight, Sunday 11th March. You can also join the Twitter conversation that accompanies the show each week, using #My80s. You don’t *have* to wear your leg warmers to do so, but if you do, don’t forget to tweet a photo to @MyEighties and you might even be selected for one of the occasional My 80s listener interviews that Sarah does.

The story behind my paranormal romance – An Extraordinary Life

Our guest on the blog today is the lovely Jo Hollywood. Jo is a columnist and has written two non-fiction books about her youngest son who has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) under her real name, and has now written her first romantic novel under the pen name of Hollywood. So without further ado, we’ll hand over to Jo to tell us a bit about her inspiration and why she simply has to write come what may.

hollywood2I love to write; I write every day. For the past five years or so I had devoted time to writing on the subject of autism. However, a few years ago I decided that I needed to take a break from writing daily on the subject. This was for a number of reasons. My books on autism are about my youngest son who was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of three, and when he turned 7, I knew that I had set out to do what I had originally planned, that of helping parents during the very early years of diagnosis. So I stopped blogging and writing books, although I do still write a weekly column about autism.

However, I felt twitchy, as I still needed to write. In a former life I had had studied English literature at University, and as a voracious reader and lover of all things books, I decided to write a novel. This was when I decided to join Wattpad. I felt that it would give me focus and a reading and writing community that would support me on my journey. When it came to choosing my genre, it just had to be romance. I love to read romantic stories and I suppose that I am a hopeless romantic at heart. The paranormal element was simply a pleasant surprise as I began to form the character of the rather lovely and handsome ghost, Jack. Originally, he had not been a ghost, but while writing my first draft I decided to add a paranormal element to the story and Jack became the ghost that he is today.

Readers have told me that An Unextraordinary Life is a very different kind of paranormal romance and that it is slightlyhollywood1 quirky, and I suppose that this is true. At its heart is a story of love and loss and ultimately, one that is of new beginnings. It just so happens that one of the protagonists is a ghost. I wanted to write a romantic novel, with real emotions and which conveyed the message that love never truly dies. This is explored via the love triangle of Tess, Rob and Jack; all of whom have suffered loss at some time in their lives.

I really did enjoy writing the paranormal element of this story, as I could let my imagination run wild and play around with the narrative. However, for my second novel I am sticking firmly to the restraints of reality. Picking up the Pieces, is a romantic story that is based around Kate, a mother caring for an autistic son. When Matt, a handsome neighbour moves in next door, she is forced into facing up to her past in a way that may very well threaten her future. Matt too has some issues from his past that he needs to deal with. It is through their exchanges with Kate’s son, Sam, that their friendship grows.

I find writing romantic fiction to be incredibly cathartic and cheaper than therapy. It is what I do as part of my ‘me time’, an activity that is just for me. I just hope that those who read my books enjoy them as much I enjoy writing them.

Jo Hollywood

Thanks Jo, we love hearing about other author’s writing lives, so thank you for giving us a peak into your world. The Write Romantics’ own Jo – Jo Bartlett – has read and really enjoyed your book, so we thought we’d add Jo’s review below, so that our readers can find out a bit more about the story:

dreamstime_s_28682146An Unextraordinary Life by Jo Hollywood

So many romances are predictable from the first page, you know who the heroine is going to end up strolling into the sunset with, but ‘An Unextraordinary Life’ is not like most other romances. Paranormal romance is not my usual reading genre, but the book was recommended to me as a really different read to the norm and Jo Hollywood’s novel did not disappoint. It had me reading until late into the night and I felt like I knew Tess almost as a friend from the start, which might have been because the first person point of view was handled so well. I could really empathise with her desire to re-invent herself to try and escape the ghosts of the past and make new friendships where she wouldn’t just be the girl who’d lost her husband. Only the ghosts of the past aren’t so keen to be escaped and when her late husband makes a reappearance in her life, no-one is more shocked than Tess. Although the resulting triangle, with new love interest Rob, isn’t the sort you’d normally expect, the author handles it with both believability and sensitivity. I didn’t know right up to the end who Tess would choose and both heroes certainly had the ability to make the reader fall for them. I really recommend this novel and if, like me, you haven’t read much paranormal romance, you really should take a chance on this one. Original, poignant and well-written, I’d say this is pretty extraordinary after all!

You can purchase Jo Hollywood’s book here and follow her on Twitter on @mummyworgan

 

How to research a novel

Author photo - Helen J RolfeI’ve always been what I’d call an ‘over-researcher’ if there’s such a term. Back in the days when I wrote articles for health and fitness magazines I’d read up on a subject using literature and the internet, I’d interview a couple of experts in the field and even for a short article I’d have far more information than I ever needed.

So what about when it comes to writing a novel?

With The Friendship Tree I really took the age old advice of ‘write what you know’. I knew the Sydney location well enough to send my characters, Jake and Tamara, into the city. I’d worked with a PR team, Brewer Creek was a fictitious town and I had enough knowledge to place it in the right area. To make Jake’s job as the local veterinarian realistic I chatted to Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas, who owns and runs a dairy farm.

I’m finding that as I write more novels, I need to do more research. My ideas and my characters are taking on dimensions that I’m not familiar with and I owe it to the stories to get all my facts.

So how do I know when I’ve done enough research?

At a certain point I find that the information I’m uncovering is repeating what I’ve already found, what experts in the field have confirmed, and it’s at that point I know I have enough information to go on. Sometimes questions crop up during the writing process and I’ll do a little more research at that stage, but by then it’s minimal.

So what am I researching now?

Well, for book four, which is in the editing stages, I took myself in to see professionals in the field because I knew it would allow me to make my characters jump off the page. This book focuses on a character who owns and runs a chocolaterie and apart from eating chocolate, I know nothing about what they do each day. Luckily, Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard invited me in for a couple of hours to watch them work and to ask as many questions as I liked. By the time I got home I knew I had plenty of information to start writing and as I got the words down on the page I knew it wouldn’t have been so easy without seeing the work environment for myself.

Of course, part of my research was to taste a few varieties too and bring home some samples. I couldn’t resist!

chocresearch

 

I think research for a novel is easy to begin on the internet. There is a plethora of information out there and as long as you’re using reliable sites it’s a good foundation. I think talking / interviewing experts in the field is also really key to good research. For Handle Me with Care I interviewed a specialist who knew so much about testicular cancer. I was able to tell him the situation I’d put Evan, my character in, and ask him if this would happen. I asked him physical symptoms, the emotional trauma patients face. And most of all, it helped keep my story believable, realistic and accurate.

For my novel, What Rosie Found Next, I interviewed a firefighter from Australia and again asked about certain scenarios and technicalities for my characters and situations I’d be putting them in. This was crucial and the firefighter who helped me passed some of my writing around the rest of the team so I could get feedback from more than one source. It helped me make the writing accurate and I was so happy when a few of them said they were desperate to know what was going to happen in the book!

Another way to research is in person. It’s not always possible but I feel it really enhances the way you write if you are able to experience something yourself whether it’s doing a parachute jump (not me!), visiting a foreign country where you want to set your new book, or work shadowing to see how a job is performed and ask questions on the spot.

My first draft of book five is underway now and with it being in a totally different settting, a place I’ve never been to myself, the research is heavy but fun! All I need to do is persuade my husband to let me book a flight over to New York! It’s work-related after all!

Helen J Rolfe.

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If you want to find out more about me or my books, please visit my website: http://www.helenjrolfe.com/

Or you can find me on Amazon:  http://hyperurl.co/pxu978

 

Through the Instagram App and What Sharon Found There

Through the Instagram App and What Sharon Found There

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

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

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

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

Does anyone have a clue?

Does anyone have a clue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100% genuine *cough*

100% genuine *cough*

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

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

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

Here's one I made earlier- honest!

Here’s one I made earlier- honest!

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

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

Tessa to the rescue

Tessa to the rescue

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

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

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

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

Sharon xxx

Saturday Spotlight: Ellie Gray

Ellie Gray Profile PicToday on the blog, we’re delighted to welcome Ellie Gray. Sit down, Ellie, and make yourself comfortable, while we turn the spotlight on you. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit…

First things first. When did you start writing?

I think I first started writing not long after I had my first child, when I was working part time. It suddenly occurred to me that, all those stories I had written in my head, the ones that kept me awake at night, carefully planning and constructing, should actually be put down on paper!  I’ve been ‘writing’ ever since I can remember but, up until that point, it never really occurred to me that I should physically write them down.

Yep, always useful to put the words on the paper! What genre do you write in, and why?

I write contemporary romance, erring on the sweet side, with strong male and female characters who have the same flaws we all have – no-one is perfect! I love writing about their hopes, fears and struggles and, best of all, helping them get to that happy ending; something that is not always guaranteed in real life. I also enjoy writing young adult novels with a fantasy-type edge.

Like Sharon, Alys, and Jessica, you’re a Yorkshire lass. Is setting important in your novels?

I think setting is really important and I love setting my novels in Yorkshire. I think readers like to ground the characters they are reading about, to know about where they live and how that affects them. I try to give enough description to enable the reader to really picture the surroundings, without being too prescriptive and degenerating into sounding like a travelogue! Although my debut novel is set in Yorkshire, my current work in progress is set in the exotic surroundings of Egypt and the Nile.

Exotic, indeed! When do you write? Tell us about your writing day.

That’s a tough one. Like many writers, I also have a full-time job and a family to work around. I am also studying for a Masters degree, just about to start my dissertation (gulp!) so it feels like a real juggling act. I try to write on a weekend and, if the writing itch gets too itchy to ignore, I’ll do a couple of hours on an evening, but I really do try to limit my evening writing during the week and spend some time with my family, and to drag myself out of the writing cave after an afternoon’s writing on a weekend.

Yes, we can all relate to juggling writing time with family time. As authors, we also have to get to grips with social media. How do you feel about that?

I know that social media is an important way of raising an author’s profile and I am building up a profile, using Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest etc. I’m also trying to learn as much as I can about how best to build up a following without shoving the ‘buy my book’ message down everyone’s throat. I do worry about how best to utilise social media, particularly when there are so many authors out there promoting their work. How do you get heard over the crowd? I don’t know the answer but it is something that I’m willing to work at and to learn from others.

Do you read much? What books do you like to read? Who is your favourite author?

I love reading. With reading comes the guilt complex, though – when I’m reading, there’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I should be writing. However, I know that to become a better writer, I also need to read as much as I can – so that’s what I tell that little voice when it whispers in my ear. I like to read a range of genres – contemporary romance, of course, but I also like to read the classics, Austen and Du Maurier, horror such as King, Herbert and Koontz, and I love the Harry Potter and Tolkein books. Oh, there’s the Sharpe series, I love those, and Elizabeth Peters with her Amelia Peabody adventures.

All of the Write Romantics were, at one time, members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Indeed, that’s how we met, so we’re very grateful we were accepted onto it. You were a member of this scheme. Do you feel it helped you? Would you recommend it to other aspiring authors?

Joining the RNA NWS is the best thing that I could have done to kick-start my writing career. I’d toyed with joining for several years but never seriously looked into it until late in 2014. Then, last year I decided that this was the year I was going to take my writing seriously. I knew the NWS is always oversubscribed so I stayed up on New Year’s Day to email my application just after midnight and kept my fingers crossed. Fortunately, I was successful and, since then, I have been overwhelmed by the support offered by RNA members. Even though I can’t always make the planned events down in London, there are lots of other ways to keep in touch and offer support and encouragement, not least via the email and Facebook forums. This year also saw the first RNA Afternoon Tea event in York which I attended and it was lovely to meet up with the people that I’d been connecting with online. Add to this the fantastic manuscript critique that is part of the NWS – I can only say that I would definitely recommend the RNA NWS to any aspiring author.

You recently signed a publishing deal with Tirgearr Publishing. Tell us about your path to publication.

It came out of the blue, which sounds ridiculous because, of course, I had sent the manuscript off for consideration. Beauty and the Recluse is a novel I wrote several years ago and which has been revised several times. Harlequin M&B requested to see the full manuscript about two years ago and, although they passed on it, they did give me an excellent and detailed critique.  As I was already well on with my next novel, I took it on the chin, put it in the proverbial drawer and kept on working on my new novel. Once I had drafted that, I took a break from it and pulled out Beauty and the Recluse and decided to re-work it, taking on board the M&B advice.  Once I had done that, I left it for a while and went back to editing my next novel. It was only when, during one of the email forums, one of the other RNA members mentioned that they had a new novel out for release with Tirgearr Publishing that, out of interest, I had a look at their website, liked the look of their titles and their approach and, on the off-chance, decided to send them Beauty and the Recluse – not holding out much hope. However, less than two weeks later, I had a response from them telling me that they loved the book and the characters and offering me a contract on the spot. I was at work at the time and thought that it must be a hoax!

Loving the title of your first novel! Can you tell us a bit about it? When is it due for release?

As you might guess from the title, it has elements of Beauty and the Beast and, while it isn’t a true, modern day re-telling of the tale, it does have certain similarities to the fairy tale.

Following the recent death of her father, and in need of both a job and somewhere to live, Kiya takes a housekeeping job on the spur of the moment.  She soon finds herself living in a beautiful but neglected mansion, working for a strange and reclusive man.

St. John is a man scarred by the past, both physically and emotionally, and is determined to live out his life alone.  They are two very different people, drawn to each other almost against their will, but can Kiya convince St. John that he is not the monster he believes himself to be? 

It is due for release in February 2016 and I am so excited, although nervous about how it will be received.  I can’t wait to get the first sight of my cover which should be fairly soon.

Very exciting times ahead! What are you planning next? Is there another book in the pipeline?

Yes, I am currently editing my next novel which is set in Egypt and follows the themes of love, loss and letting go of the past.

Thank you for being such a lovely guest, Ellie. Hope the spotlight didn’t shine too brightly in your eyes! Good luck with Beauty and the Recluse. We look forward to reading it. 

You can find out more about Ellie at:

https://elliegrayauthor.wordpress.com/

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/elliegray58

Pinterest:  https://uk.pinterest.com/elliegray71/

 

It’s all about the 80s for Sarah Lewis

Today we’d like to welcome friend of the WRs and all round 80’s addict, Sarah Lewis, to the blog.

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We’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and what it was that inspired you to write your first book?

I suppose you could say that I started writing my first book 30 years ago. It’s just taken me a while to get it finished! I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember – one of my earliest memories is dancing along to the Bay City Rollers when they were on Top of the Pops, when I was about 5. When Bob Geldof and Paula Yates moved to my home town of Faversham, when I was 11, my interest in the music industry and the people in it was piqued even further. By the age of 13, I had begun to meet a number of artists, including Midge Ure, Gary Kemp and Simon Le Bon, and I began to write to other musicians, with a view to putting together a book based on their replies. That love of music, popular culture, and the fantastic decade in which I grew up all inspired my first book, ‘My Eighties’.

Can you tell us a bit about your second book – Your Eighties – please?

It follows a similar format to the first book, in that it’s a combination of memories, anecdotes and celebrity interviews. However, instead of the memories and anecdotes being mine, they are ones they have been sent to me via my website, my blog, Twitter and Facebook. It has been fascinating putting the book together, hearing and reading other people’s recollections of the decade, and even being reminded of a few forgotten gems. To discuss the Eighties with fellow fans (there are a lot of us out there!) is always a real pleasure, and it I have the privilege of being able to share those discussions with a wider audience.

Of course, there have also been the interviews with some of the decade’s favourite faces, including Buster Bloodvessel, Martin Fry, Ranking Roger, Erkan Mustafa (Grange Hill’s Roland Browning), and Musical Youth’s Dennis Seaton and Michael Grant, which have been a blast! Transcribing the interviews afterwards, not so much. Despite what some may think, I really don’t like the sound of my own voice, and it drives me crazy when I have to listen to a section repeatedly, to ensure I’m quoting accurately.

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

Most of my writing tends to take place after 9pm, when I just get lost in what I’m doing. I’ll check the time after what seems like an hour, to find it’s gone 1am! Usually, I’ll be in my office at the back of the house, and will have music playing in the background – anything from classical to Meatloaf, depending on my mood, and what I’m writing. If I’m researching or editing, I’ll do so during the day, and tend to follow the sun – I start off in my office, then as the sun moves round, I move to the desk in my bedroom. During the summer, I’ll work outside as much as possible – you can’t beat the al fresco office. Again, usually accompanied by music or the radio.

Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you tackle this?

The short answer is “Yes, and not very well!” There was a point when I was writing ‘Your Eighties’ when I just hit a wall. I had a stack of research notes, some amazing submissions from 80’s fans, and a few interviews transcribed, but I couldn’t write. At first, I tried doing something completely different, to ‘free the writer’. However, having cleaned my house from top to bottom, tackled an enormous pile of ironing (which I hate), and begun to de-clutter an overloaded garage, I realised I was merely procrastinating. So, I forced myself to write. I wrote anything I could think of, even if it was as basic as “last night I went to a gig, then I went backstage and I interviewed…”. It’s a lot easier to edit something that is badly written than nothing at all. I think the key is to keep the flow and momentum going. I have pens and piles of scrap paper scattered throughout the house, just in case inspiration should strike. Often, my moments of clarity come just as I’m dropping off to sleep, so I’ve become particularly adept at scribbling notes in the dark! I also carry a small notebook around with me. Struck with an opening line whilst driving, I spent 5 minutes the other day saying the same sentence over and over, until I found a safe place for me to pull over and jot down the idea.

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

I have just begun working on the third book in the 80’s trilogy, ‘More Eighties’, and I’ve recently started a weekly 80’s column in the Canterbury Times. You can check out my first post here. As far as writing aspirations go, I would love to write the biography for a musician from the Eighties. I have a couple of people in mind, but I haven’t approached them yet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you see your future books continuing to focus entirely on the 80s or might you diversify?

As much as I love, and indeed live, the 80s, I’m always up for a bit of diversity. It would have to be something completely different though, not just a different era. I love the interviewing and research stages of writing, so anything that allowed me to do that would be great. If it involves visiting sunny climes, even better. Maybe something on the people and history of one of the Greek islands.

What’s the most amazing experience you’ve had as a result of researching the content of your books?

It has to be all the interviews I’ve done at gigs. Not only do I get to hear some of the most amazing live music, but I love the insight into the whole set up. Listening to sound checks, being backstage and seeing what goes on behind the scenes, chatting to some incredibly talented and creative musicians – what a thrill! Plus, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying “I’m with the band”!

Who was your favourite person to interview?

That is a really tricky question, because I have truly enjoyed every interview I’ve done for both books. It’s always good when you feel you can ask an interviewee anything, so from that perspective, I would have to say Steve Blacknell and Erkan Mustafa, both of whom answered my questions with extreme candour. One of the easiest interviews I did was with Owen Paul, for ‘‘My Eighties’. He has loads of interesting stories to tell, and I really only had to say ‘Hello’, and he was off and running! However, I think my favourite interview to date has to be with Dr & The Medics. From the second I stepped into their dressing room, it was non-stop banter and laughter. Clive Jackson (the Doctor) and bass player Jon Randle were like a comedy duo. When you read that part of the book, you’ll see it was a ‘no holds barred’ kind of interview. My face was hurting from laughing so much.

Who’s the most famous person you have in your contacts list?

Now, that would be telling! All I will say is that my teenage self would have fainted if she’d seen some of the numbers I’ve got. There are some more famous names in the pipeline for ‘More Eighties’, as that contact list keeps on growing.

Do you ever get nervous when you interview people?My Eighties

Luckily, I’m quite good at compartmentalising, so even though I can be ridiculously excited or nervous before an interview, as soon as I walk into that room it’s like a switch flicks, and I go into ‘professional’ mode. Well, at least I hope that’s how I come across! I become so focussed on what they’re telling me (often fascinating insights), that I almost forget who I’m talking to. It’s only afterwards when I look back and think ‘Wow, did that really happen?’ The only person I’ve met, who’s given me an attack of nerves, was Jimmy White. I’d been to see him play a snooker match a couple of years ago, and bumped into him in the bar afterwards. I was shaking when I had my photo taken with him!

How important has social media been to your writing journey?

I would say it has been invaluable. Twitter especially has been a fantastic means of engaging with 80’s fans, and getting feedback on a particular topic. I must confess to being something of a Twitter addict (you can follow me @MyEighties). It’s wonderful to be listening to a radio show like Forgotten 80s, and discussing it in real time with fellow listeners. I do the same thing with a lot of the music programmes on TV – BBC4 on a Friday evening is a favourite, if I’m at home. I’ve encountered some amazing music brains and some lovely people through tweeting, and even got to meet some of them at a recent ‘Tweet Up’.

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

The answer’s the same for both – having your work and thoughts out there for the world to see. It’s the best because you get to reach a lot of like-minded people, and hopefully make them smile. There’s nothing better than having people tell you how a piece you’ve written brought back some good memories for them. It’s the worst because I’m actually a very private person (despite being what one DJ described as “all over social media”). Every time I publish something, even if it’s only a blog post, I have an unnerving thirty second panic of feeling totally exposed, before I get a grip and get over myself!

New colours- Natalie's designWe love the design for ‘Your Eighties’, can you tell us a bit about how it came about?

It’s great, isn’t it? Back in the summer, we ran a competition to design the cover for the book. It was won by Natalie Owen, a 24 year designer from Nottingham. Her dad is a big fan of the 80s, and had told her about the competition, having seen me tweet about it. Her design perfectly captures the decade.

Are you doing anything to celebrate when the book is published on 28th November?

Most definitely! The launch party for ‘Your Eighties’ is going to be held at an old music hall in Kent – a fantastic venue. There’s going to be live music from an amazing local band called Skatacus, plus an 80’s disco, with none other than Erkan Mustafa (Grange Hill’s Roland Browning) on the decks. I’m also going to get to meet Natalie, as she’s travelling down for the party. Some of the book’s contributors will be there, along with some wonderful friends and family, so it promises to be a great evening.

What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer or even to yourself, if you could go back to before you’d written your first book?

I would say “don’t sweat the small stuff”. With the first book, I got very caught up in the tiniest of details, proper punctuation and having everything ‘perfect’. That’s what editors are for! I also wrote in a very linear fashion, which became very inhibiting. Now, I write freely in chunks, as and when I can, and pull it all together at the end.

‘Your Eighties’ is available for pre-order from 8th November on Amazon here and from the My Eighties online shop in paperback here. Published by Fabrian Books 28th November 2015.

In light and shade with Elle Turner

Hidden FaceOur guest on the blog today is friend of the Write Romantics, Elle Turner, telling us how she’s got this self-publishing lark all sewn up. Over to the fabulous Elle…

Hey there lovely Write Romantics! Thank you so much for having me back on the blog. I can’t believe two years have passed already since I was last here. It’s been great to follow your individual journeys over the period – you’ve all done tremendously well.

I re-read my 2013 interview with you guys before writing this post and one of the things I said was that I was mulling over the idea of self-publishing a short story collection. Well, at some point I must have stopped mulling and taken some action because I published Tapestry, my first collection of short stories, in September!

One of the things that struck me when I re-read the interview was how apprehensive I sounded. At that time I was still breaking out into a sweat every time I submitted anything anywhere. So how did I manage to get from there to here – excitedly sending my writing out into the world?

I know with complete certainty that being a member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme has played an enormous part100_0740. The annual deadline to submit manuscripts, the readers’ reports, the supportive community and, this year, my first trip to the summer conference have all provided a focus, friendships and the will to keep going. Writing in itself has contributed to my growing feeling of belonging in the writing world, but also the online support through my blog, twitter and other social media platforms has been invaluable. In other words, in no small measure I have all my online buddies, not least the Write Romantics, to thank for helping me get here. It’s not all been plain sailing – self-doubt, rejection, impatience and what have you – but that’s all part of life’s rich TAPESTRY, right? 😉

My collection of twelve short stories went through many titles before I chose Tapestry, but now I wonder why I didn’t think of it in the first place. The stories are a tapestry, exploring the complexities of life and love through what I hope are moving tales, whether happy or less so. I wanted to write stories about love in different guises, whether romantic love, familial love or obsessive love and took the opportunity to explore the darker, sadder sides of the emotion too. Some of the characters appear in more than one story – I wanted to see what happened to them before or after their first story in the collection. I hope, if you read it, you find you wanted that too!

TAPESTRY_front150dpiIn hope, in pain

We lose, we gain,

But always and forever

The human heart braves life

In light and in shade.

A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love.

Available now from Amazon http://hyperurl.co/ymjfs2

Tapestry came out at the end of September and publication day was so much fun! Again it was my online buddies who made it so and I’m more grateful than I can say to everyone who really got behind me. I’ve had some lovely comments about the stories too, so I’m very happy. J

It’s all been very exciting, but it’s back to work now! I’m looking for an agent for my books and am keen to hear what my NWS reader has to say about Book 4. I’m also planning a new project for 2016. That’s the idea anyway, but who knows what will happen? I’ll have to take it as it comes. Part of life’s rich…

Yes, OK, I’ll get my coat… 😉

Thank you so much for having me, Ladies! I hope to see you again soon and, in the meantime, happy writing!

Much love,

Elle J xx

Congratulations, Elle, the WRs are all really looking forward to escaping into your stories! Good luck with the agent submissions and the NWS news and thanks for joining us on the blog again, we hope you’ll come back next time you have some news.

Elle Turner writes contemporary women’s fiction. She lives in beautiful Scotland with her husband and two sons. She has pretty much no sense of direction, if you offer her a 50:50 she will ALWAYS get it wrong and, despite living in Scotland, she rarely manages to wear shoes that don’t leak.

If you would like to find out more about Elle or her writing, she’d love to see you at www.elleturnerwriter.com on Twitter @ElleTWriter, Instagram elletwriter or she’s on FB as elleturnerwriter

 

 

Today’s Spotlight Lets in Light with Emma Davies

We’re delighted to welcome Emma Davies as our Saturday Spotlight guest. Emma is an indie-published author whose debut novel Letting in Light – which we reviewed last week – has stormed the charts and we were eager to get to know the author behind the success. Over to Emma …

IMG_0254Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself (e.g. where you live, family, day job (if there’s one other than writing) etc.

I live in Shropshire which is a beautiful but undiscovered (by many) county just shy of Wales, and have lived there for about 14 years since our children were little. There’s me, my husband, three children, mum in law, and two guinea pigs, so life is mad / busy / hectic / fun / frustrating / noisy / all of the above. I’m currently a finance manager for a group of four schools, but like a lot of writers would love to be able to give that up and write full time. I’ve taken a little step closer to that by reducing my contract from full time to a four day week from September, something I’ve been hoping to do for a long time, especially since my full time role is not exactly a nine to five one. I’m so excited at the thought of having a whole day a week to write!

What led you to becoming an indie writer?

I think it was a natural progression for me really rather than a conscious decision. Since getting a kindle a few years ago, I’ve read many books by authors who are not traditionally published and found some absolute gems, by writers who I now count among my favourites. I hadn’t realized before until I looked into self-publishing this was even possible, and in fact how easy it is to do. As I was writing Letting In Light at the time it seemed the best way forward for me. I was getting older, I didn’t know if what I had written was any good, and I was put off by the length of time that seeking a traditional publishing route can take. It was a way of dipping my toe in the water and testing things in my own time and on my own terms.

The new cover

The new cover

Would you consider becoming traditionally published? What might tempt you?

I’ve always been very honest about my views on traditional versus self-publishing, and indeed readers of my blog will have read my countless deliberations before. I am still a bit on the fence, purely because I like to keep my options open; things change and I think you have to change with them. I’m not against traditional publishing, that’s not why I self-publish, but equally I don’t self-publish because I’m an ardent supporter of the ‘cause.’ I’ve done what felt right for me at the time. Both types of publishing have pros and cons and at the moment I can see that financially, self-publishing is the better option for me, and I like the greater flexibility it gives me. Having said that my ego would love nothing more than to walk into a bookshop and see a huge pile of my books on a table, so who knows? If I get a tempting offer I’ll let you know!

‘Letting in Light’ is an emotionally-packed read. Where did the idea come from?

That’s a really difficult question to answer without giving away a huge spoiler so I’ll have to stick to the book’s setting to answer the question if I may. I’ve always loved walled gardens and country estates, simply because of the capacity they have for the imagination to run riot, and that’s what really appealed to me; that I could take a setting such as Rowan Hill, put a bunch of people in it, and see what happened. The setting and characters have been with me for a very long time, and I knew the type of story I wanted to write. When I discovered the story line that would give the book the impact I wanted the rest just fell into place.

‘Letting in Light’ has been very successful. Have you been surprised at the success?

Utterly, but although it’s currently doing very well it has taken over a year to achieve this.

What do you do to promote your novel? What method do you think is most effective and why?

I guess like most people I just look for any opportunities that are out there, so guest appearances on blogs such as this one are a great way of getting your name and book information out there. I’ve done quite a few ‘interview’ features and also other fun posts, but these have all been quite widely spaced so it’s been a bit of a drip feed to be honest. When I first published Letting in Light I didn’t even know that book bloggers existed, let alone think about setting up reviews prior to launch. I have had a few blogger reviews now, but again perhaps this is unusual for a book already published. Social media is brilliant for networking with other authors, readers and bloggers etc but I have to say that Twitter has been the most effective for me. I try really hard to be as generous as I can to other writers because the one thing I have learned over this last year or so is how supportive and friendly everyone is. Twitter is great for this, and I really enjoy the interaction I have with people.

Recently you had 100 copies of your book downloaded in one day. The Write Romantics were in awe! What’s your secret?

The scary thing is that if I have one I’m really not sure what it is! I think for me a combination of things seemed to come together at the same time, and once sales started to pick up I think Amazon starts to play its part too. Much is written about the mystery of Amazon’s algorithms and how they work. Personally I don’t have a clue either but I’m sure that they have been wafting my book under people’s noses and undoubtedly I’ve benefited from that. One thing I have done it to create a SmartURL for Letting in Light. Essentially all this does is allow whoever clicks on it to be taken to their own country’s Amazon site so that you don’t have to post lots of links. However it also provides you with a whole range of statistics and as soon as I started to use it, with some very carefully put together tweets, I could see that my links were being clicked on, and at a rate that really surprised me. When I started I had over 500 click throughs in a matter of days so I knew that my tweets were attracting attention. Once I discovered that, I just kept going, and things have gathered their own momentum. Obviously now it’s a combination of things that are contributing, and I’m just thrilled that people are loving it the way that they are.

The original cover

The original cover

‘Letting in Light’ has a gorgeous cover, but we’ve seen a different version. What made you change the cover design and when did you do this? Did the cover change have an impact on sales?

I changed the eBook cover in May of this year from a design which I produced myself. A friend of mine who is an artist painted a beautiful watercolour which is the central image, but my desk top publishing skills really did not do it justice. I still have the watercolour though which is just lovely. When Letting in Light was first published I couldn’t afford or justify spending any of our family’s budget on a professional cover and so I did the best I could at the time. Earlier this year though when things started to pick up I realised that the cover really didn’t have the kerb appeal it needed to get noticed. People might look at it, but it wasn’t saying ‘buy me’. Also the thing about eBooks is that when people browse they are only looking at a thumbnail image and so this has to stand out. I spent a long time looking through pages of bestsellers so see what colours and types of design were more noticeable than others. There is only a very small window of opportunity to grab someone’s attention when they’re browsing before they’re onto the next book. So, I saved up and when I could had the cover redesigned professionally. I always knew what I wanted and the end result is exactly what I hoped for. Now of course I wish I had done it much sooner as I’m convinced it has helped sales.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently writing the sequel to Letting in Light which I had hoped to release later this year. However a few weeks ago, with the school holidays looming (and therefore for me more writing time) I had a mad idea about writing a novella for Christmas. Then one morning as I was brushing my teeth the perfect plot came to me, and so I’m right in the thick of this at the moment. It will (she says through gritted teeth) be published in October.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since you published your novel? What’s the most challenging thing?

I don’t know whether it’s the best thing that’s happened, because this year has certainly been a year of firsts, but the nicest thing happened recently when I received a message from someone via my website; ‘I enjoyed your book so much I just wanted to let you know. I was devastated that this is your first and I can’t go straight out and buy all your others. Please write us another one soon.’ I was so touched that someone had actually taken the trouble to contact me personally; I got a bit emotional over than one!

The most challenging thing has to be trying to get the balance right between all the areas of my life, when most of the time what I want to do is just sit and write. I don’t think I’ve got the hang of it yet, but perhaps this comes with time!

You say on your website that you love Pringles. What’s your favourite flavour? Did you ever sample the Mint Choc Chip ones that came out a couple of Christmases ago?

I’m on record as saying I never met a Pringle I didn’t like, and that’s probably true, although my least favourite are salt and vinegar, not because I don’t like them but because if I eat too many they take a layer of skin off the inside of your mouth. I do however always keep going back to the original flavour, which on balance are probably my favourite. I did try the mint chocolate ones when they came out and loved them too, but really, chocolate Pringles? It’s not right; they’re a savoury snack, and if they’re not then I’m sorry but they’re an Elizabeth Shaw mint and I love those too!

Huge thanks to Emma for joining us. We look forward to reading the sequel to Letting in Light and wish her continued success. We’re not convinced about the mint chocolate Pringles though. Ew!

Jessica x

You can buy Letting in Light here and find out more about Emma on her website. You can also find Emma on Twitter @Emdavies68 and on Facebook.

A Glimpse into the World of a Full-Time Author by Jessica Redland

Exactly one month ago today (a Monday morning), I went into work looking forward to one day in then the rest of the week off to celebrate the launch of my debut novel, Searching for Steven. My manager had been on holiday the previous week so we had a catch-up meeting arranged. Except we didn’t “catch up”. I was made redundant instead! Eek! I hadn’t seen it coming at all.

_MG_4314-2Talk about an extreme week: Lose job on Monday, launch book on Wednesday! By the time Sunday came round and my friends and family launch party was over, I was absolutely drained.

I reluctantly went back into work the following week. I’d hoped that my employer would grant me gardening leave when I was first told about the redundancy but it was refused. A week’s absence must have helped get things into perspective because, when I got back, I was asked to finish a few things off and then granted gardening leave for the rest of June. This resulted in me having two weeks off, ending yesterday. Today sees my return into full-time work as a Recruitment Consultant at a local employment agency. I’ve been extremely fortunate in being able to walk out of one job and straight into another. Phew.

_MG_4959The fortnight off outside of school holidays has given me a glimpse into another world: the world of a full-time author and it’s going to be very strange letting it go. I’ve been able to keep on top of the goings on in the worlds of Facebook and Twitter (well, almost). I’ve been able to spend time – quality time – working on the structural edits for book 2, Getting Over Gary. I’ve been able to tidy my office … although I somehow managed to trash it again. Oops. And I’ve been able to do a few things with my daughter that I’ve not normally been able to do like the school run, taking her to swimming lessons, attending the summer fete, and watching sports day for the first time ever (she’s 8 so I’m feeling a little guilty about this one).

On Monday I took a long lunch break and finished a book I’d been reading and I was able to post my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads almost immediately. I needed to nip into town one day, so I did, and I had a bit of prep to do for a Brownies meeting (I’m a Brown Owl) another day, so I did that too.

It’s been a wonderful glimpse into the world of being an author, yet it’s also shown be that, the more time I have to write, the less time (proportionately) I spend writing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly had a few days where I’ve really cracked on with it and put in a full day’s work, but I’ve also had a few days where social media, a little nap, and the temptation of DVDs have distracted me. But surely that’s one of the niceties about being a full-time author; working long hours when it’s deadline time and taking the foot of the pedal at other times? I like it. A lot.

11406714_884714794901155_6795003481857504518_oSo, from today, I’ll be back to the old routine of writing on an evening. One thing I’m looking forward to is having more time to read. I was a five-minute car journey away from my old job but I’m a ten-minute bus journey from this one. I know ten minutes doesn’t sound much but add in ten minutes waiting for the bus on the morning (I’m always paranoid I’ll miss it) and ten to twenty minutes waiting at the end of the day and I’ve suddenly got heading for an hour of reading in every weekday. Luxury. Knowing I only have two-three hours on an evening to write will probably force me to be much more structured with my time because it’s all I have and I’d only be causing myself problems if I wasted it.

I’m excited about the new role, but I will definitely miss the opportunity to write full-time on those days when the creative juices hit and my fingers are on fire because, let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen between 7.30-10.30 in the evening.

Do you write full-time or do you work full-time and squeeze writing in around it? Whichever you do, I’d love to hear from you as to how you get the balance right. Or perhaps you haven’t managed to get the balance yet and would like some tips. Just click on the comments next to the tags below.

Thanks

Jessica xx

Friday Friends Competition – win a signed copy of Jane Lythell’s ‘After the Storm’

FINAL After the Storm_JANEWhen I was in my twenties, life was very different. I could stay up all night, drink whatever I wanted and still wake up the next day bright-eyed and ready to take on the world. Since becoming a mum, sleep is like gold dust and it takes me about four days to recover from a late night. Children just don’t give you the luxury of lying on the sofa until 3 pm, eating bacon sandwiches and watching re-runs of Friends until you feel ready to face the world, do they? So, reading into the small hours, just like late nights out, has largely become a thing of the past. Only a handful of books now keep me reading through the night, knowing that I’ll suffer the next day but not caring because the story is so worth it. In the last year, two of those very books were written by Jane Lythell.

Jane writes novels that you simply can’t put down. I was on the edge of my seat (well, more accurately, my bed) reading both The Lie of You’ and After the Storm’. I woke up in the morning, on both occasions after finishing Jane’s books, exhausted, with a hint of tan from the glow of my Kindle and serious writer envy, but over-ridingly pure enjoyment as a reader of two great books.

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are today but, down here in Kent, we woke up to a terrific thunderstorm, the low rumblings waking me up before either the children or the alarm clock had the chance, but it’s also tropically hot and humid. All of that seems pretty apt for this blog post, since today I have the privilege of running a competition to give away not one, but two signed copies of Jane’s second novel ‘After The Storm’, which tells the story of two couples setting sail for an idyllic island cruise in the Caribbean – except there are secrets simmering just below the surface, so it’s far from plain sailing and, as the tagline says, some secrets can destroy you…

All you have to do to win a signed copy of this fantastic thriller is to write one or two sentences on your worst ever holiday disaster!Picture 405

You can leave a comment here (click comment in the tiny green writing at the bottom of the screen) or tweet us @writeromantics, leave a message on our Facebook page or email us at thewriteromantics@hotmail.co.uk. Jane will pick two lucky winners and you’ll also get a mention on her blog.

I’d love to enter, but of course I can’t – suffice it to say that my worst holiday disaster involved missed transportation, a serial-killer style haircut and gravel in the inner ear! You can read more about ‘After the Storm’ in the publisher’s press release here, it’s available right now in WHSmiths travel outlets nationwide and, of course, online.

Good luck and, to the winners, you are in for a treat!

Jo

PLEASE NOTE: The competition closes at midnight BST on Tuesday 16th June.