In a Manhattan Minute

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In a Manhattan Minute… everything can change.

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

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

Here’s the blurb…

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Helen J Rolfe x

 

The Tightrope Women Walk – a Jane Lythell guest post

At my launch with lesley and sinnetToday we are joined on the blog by good friend of the Write Romantics, the very talented and totally lovely, Jane Lythell. Jane’s guest post explores the ways in which her new novel mirrors the challenge so many women face in balancing their work and home lives. Over to you Jane.

 On the dust jacket of my new novel Woman of the Hour it says: Meet Liz Lyon: respected TV producer, stressed-out executive, guilty single mother… Woman of the Hour. This sums up the dilemma of my central character very well. I was keen that in this, my third novel, I would put the focus on a working mum who has a high pressure job as a TV producer and a stroppy teenage daughter at home.

My heroine Liz Lyon is 41 years old and divorced; her daughter Flo is 14. Liz took on a big mortgage so that she and Flo could have a decent home. She is stressed by the demands of her job but she needs the TV salary to pay her mortgage. She calls this ‘golden handcuffs’, being paid so much that you feel you can’t leave your job.

Liz is in charge of the feature output of StoryWorld TV station which puts out a daily live morning show. It is her job toE-book and Paperback cover woman of the hour_rough 2_new_1 manage and soothe the huge egos at the station. There’s Fizzy Wentworth the star presenter, Gerry Melrose the astrologer, Ledley the Chef and Betty the Agony Aunt. There is also Liz’s team of researchers and a power-crazed boss called Julius Jones.

A television station often has a feverish atmosphere and even more so when the shows are live. Live TV is more dangerous than pre-recorded because things can go wrong. When it does go wrong presenters have to cope under pressure, there’s a surge of adrenalin and feelings run high. I try to capture this in a number of scenes in Woman of the Hour from the moment when a guest won’t come out of Make-Up because her hair looks awful, to the scene where a prominent politician tears off his mic and storms out of the TV station. Liz is left to pick up the pieces and has to be the calm sensible one who sorts out the problems.

When Liz gets home she has to deal with her daughter Flo who she loves deeply but who is doing that teenage thing of pulling away from her mum. Liz often can’t say what she means when she’s at work but when she gets home she can let her out her emotions, and she does. She’s sometimes like a pressure cooker ready to blow. She worries that she’s a better mother to her team at work than she is to her daughter Flo who presses all her buttons.

Why did my rows with Flo escalate so fast? Why was I able to control my anger at work but not at home? I felt a failure as a parent and I wanted to call Ben (her ex-husband) and tell him that he didn’t know what he was missing.

Liz feels a lot of guilt about the length of time she spends at work. She knows she should put Flo first but all too often the demands of work take precedence.

When Janis first came to work for me she told me a story that has stayed with me. It was a hot afternoon and after she had picked Flo up from school she took her to Primrose Hill to find a breeze and to eat sandwiches on the grass. They had walked to the top of the hill where there is this panoramic view of London spread out below with all its buildings, cranes and spires. Flo pointed to the view and said: ‘That’s London and my mummy works there.’ It makes me sad when I think of Flo saying that. She was missing me and she probably wished she had a stay-at-home mum who would pick her up from school every day.

When Liz gets home she often cooks to help her decompress from the stresses of work. At the end of the book I’ve included three recipes called: Comfort Recipes for the Stressed Out. I do think that many of us find comfort in cooking after a particularly bad day at the office!

Doing an interview for TV-am at car factoryI worked in television for 15 years, first at TV-am and later at WestCountry Television doing live TV. On Good Morning Britain I was one of the people who booked the guests for Anne Diamond to interview and I’d write the briefs for her. The hours were long and unpredictable and this made it difficult for me as a lone parent. I left my career in television when my daughter was nine years old.

Many books depict the emotional and family lives of women. I’ve seen much less fiction about a woman struggling with the pressures of work. Yet that had been my life. A working mother, trying to keep all the balls up in the air and feeling conflicted about competing pressures and I wanted to explore that in Woman of the Hour.

Jane Lythell

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Thanks so much for that insightful post, Jane. The Write Romantics loved Woman of the Hour and here’s Jo’s review:

 I’ve loved both of Jane Lythell’s other books – The Lie of You and After the Storm – but I think she hits new heights with ‘Woman of the Hour’. This is a departure from the tense psychological storylines in her first two books, to more of a women’s fiction feel – although my husband is reading the book now, and loving it too, and there are still plenty of deeper themes around the complexity of family and working relationships.

I really liked the first person writing in this novel and it was as if I was living Liz’s experiences with her. Sharing her upsCover WOTH and downs, anxieties and frustrations, particularly at the treatment she received from some of her colleagues at StoryWorld and the huge egos battling it out at times!

It is obvious that the author has researched this book by living some of the experiences and the writing is all the more authentic and engaging for that reason. There are a wealth of wonderful characters in the StoryWorld setting, many of whom could warrant their own novel, so I’m really glad to hear that there is more to come from this series.

There are clever sub plots weaved into the story, but Liz’s life is undoubtedly the main focus. As a working mum myself – familiar with the constant guilt trip that accompanies it – I loved the way the book moved between Liz’s working life and her interactions with her teenage daughter Flo. Again, the authenticity with which the scenes between mother and daughter were written, had me hooked.

There are moments to make you laugh, bring a lump to your throat and even to make your mouth water! The comfort food recipes at the end were a lovely touch too. As I said at the outset, I think Jane Lythell is a fabulous author and once again her novel, as with the other two, had me reading into the early hours. This is her best yet, though, and I’m already waiting impatiently for the next in the series.

You can find out more about Jane Lythell on her Facebook author page here or follow her on Twitter @janelythell

You can download Woman of the Hour, and Jane’s other books, from Amazon and they are also available in all good bookshops.

A Year Without Pyjamas…

trifectaAnd what a busy year it has been!

February 24th 2015 signified my official launch as a published author when my debut novel, The Friendship Tree, was released. Since then, my writing life has become even busier and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

I left the I.T. world in 2003 and began writing articles for Women’s Health & Fitness magazines and part of what kept my momentum was my routine of setting an alarm, having a shower, getting dressed, and eating breakfast before starting the day. I’d ensure I was at my desk well before 9 a.m. and I know it helped me to think of freelancing as a real job, even though I was working from home. I seem to have kept the same habit since I began writing fiction in 2011, and I think I work better when I’m up and ready to face the world, even if it’s the fictitious world I’m creating. Mind you, maybe I’ll think differently when my kids are old enough to walk themselves to school!

Author photo - Helen J RolfeSoon after I wrote The Friendship Tree, I planned and began Handle Me with Care and I went on to publish this title in June 2015, followed five months later by What Rosie Found Next. I enjoyed writing each of these books, going through the editing process, deciding on cover design and plotting the next story. I also love connecting with readers, authors and anyone else on social media. It can be lonely working away on a draft or editing, and when I hear from other writers, or perhaps readers in other countries who have enjoyed my novels, it really makes my day. I’ve had some lovely messages from readers in Toronto, Connecticut and Australia and it always gives me a buzz to know people overseas can read my books.

Book five is well underway now and I’m hoping to have the first draft finished within the next month… and then the hard work starts! I also hope to have some plans to publish book four very soon, and I will be sure to post my updates on Social Media as soon as I can.

So for now, Happy Reading!

Helen J Rolfe x

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Mega Monday – What Rosie Found Next

What Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP version

Well, it’s been a whirlwind year. In February I published my debut novel, The Friendship Tree, followed by Handle Me with Care in June. And tomorrow sees the publication of my third novel, What Rosie Found Next.

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I can’t believe that already I’m at publication day number 3, and I have to say it doesn’t get any less exciting. There’s still the thrill of the latest book being out there, finally, and then of course I anxiously await reviews to see what people think of the story. I wish I could say I have a glamorous day planned tomorrow, November 3rd, with champagne and a posh lunch surrounded by fans and a signing of my book…maybe one day. But it’s reality for me this time and coordinating the installation of shutters in our new house, plus fitted wardrobes!

IMG_5210It has, however, become a bit of a publication day tradition to make a cake or cupcakes with a photo of my new book cover as the topper and so, for a little touch of glamour to celebrate the publication of What Rosie Found Next, I will be honouring this tradition and whipping up some cupcakes. Not sure what flavour yet…usually I’d go for anything chocolate, but the pretty cover may look better on a lighter background 😉 And even though it’s only Tuesday, I’ll be sneaking in a glass or two of Prosecco or champagne…another tradition for publication day!

 

What Rosie Found Next is set in Australia, in the fictitious town of Magnolia Creek and will be the first book in the Magnolia Creek series. I became so attached to the town I’d created that I couldn’t resist going back there when I began plotting book four, and so the series will be a set of books which are all standalone stories set in the same location.

I’m pleased to be able to share my blurb for book one in the Magnolia Creek series here…

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What Rosie Found Next is available as an eBook for pre-order now and the paperback will follow soon. I can promise you a story full of secrets, love and friendship, and I look forward to sharing more stories in Magnolia Creek with you next year some time…

Helen J Rolfe x

 

 

Saturday Spotlight: Interview with Kendra Smith, bestselling author of ‘Jacaranda Wife’

It’s a real pleasure to welcome Kendra Smith to the blog today.  Kendra’s first novel ‘Jacaranda Wife’ was published by Endeavour Press in March.  It has been hugely successful and a few weeks ago was #1 on Kindle in Australia.  I’ll hand over to Kendra to tell you more. Alys x Kendra, PHOTO

What inspired you to write Jacaranda Wife? Life. We had recently moved back to Australia and whilst I absolutely love the country, it was a time of great upheaval for me. I wanted my heroine to grapple with conflicting thoughts and issues and, at the time, I was exploring the idea of where ‘home’ is. Also, I was missing using words. I’d started typing away as the baby napped and scribbled notes where I could. Funnily enough, as the kids were young, it was one of the busiest times as a mum, but I really needed a creative outlet.  Finding new and fun ways to stack the dishwasher wasn’t quite working for me – and neither was a great Australian stay-at-home mums’ sport – cake baking & icing. I was terrible at it! So I found my outlet on the computer instead.

What are your biggest influences as writer?

I think everyday life is. I would find it hard not to capture things with words. My husband often says to me, ‘your brain is so busy!’ That’s what I try to put down on paper, all my thoughts and the emotions of life. I also play with dialogue in my head on the school run, and end up feeling a bit startled as I pull up outside the school, as my head has been somewhere else. Of course, other writers inspire me, too, and how brilliantly they write, how they can capture the essence of something in a few words and how writing styles can differ so much and convey so much emotion in one sentence.JW cover copy

Do you think being a journalist previously helped you to get established as an author?

I think being a journalist meant that I am used to working with words and enjoy writing. The idea of penning, say 1,000 words from the off didn’t phase me, as it might do some other non-writers. But in a funny way, it hindered me for a while. For years you are taught to write about facts. Is this true? What backs it up? What are the figures for this trend, how can we explain it? The stress of editing on a national woman’s title never leaves you, as I’d remember how I’d look over the copy and wonder if it had been checked properly, when you found yourself ringing the writer to say, ‘so when you say that the coffee was black, was it actually black, can you remember it being black? What kind of black?’ And then realising that you took your job far too seriously.

When it came to fiction, I felt like I was free-falling; all my normal guide ropes for writing had vanished, I had to hold onto new ones. I spent a lot of time reading about how to write fiction: I was playing in a totally new playground this time and wasn’t always sure what the rules were. I remember thinking, once I got into my stride, ‘I’m making this up!’ as I tapped away at the keyboard, and was feeling slightly guilty! But it was fun, I was learning all the time – in fact, you never stop, do you?

How important do you think the old saying ‘write what you know’ is?

I think it can be very important, because then the writing will be from the heart. Also, I really feel you need to have lived a bit of life before you can write. Wasn’t it Joanna Trollope who said you can only create your ‘best works’ after you are 35? She felt that you needed life to have ‘knocked you about a bit’? I think that’s true. You have stories, feelings and emotions which you simply couldn’t mine out of yourself, say, in your early 20s.

As for writing about what you know, for me, having lived in Australia on and off for almost 10 years, I wanted to capture some of the essence of the country, some of the challenges it presents to you when you first get there (humorous and emotional ones) and I also wanted to remember its beauty and spirit; so for me, I certainly did write about ‘what I knew.’ Equally, however, you need to do your research and talk to people if you are ‘covering’ a topic or emotional situation that you know nothing about. For example, you need to read about or interview someone concerning about a particular journey they have had (IVF, cancer, bereavement, sibling rivalry etc) in order to be able to create believable characters who have travelled down the same road. JW & pink bubbles

What’s been your writing highlight so far?

I think reaching the number one spot in the Australia Kindle charts a couple of weeks ago, really was one of my absolute highlights. My husband came home and with a lovely bottle of pink champagne that night – it matches the cover! It was such a marker for me, for all the hard work, that it had reached that spot. So, thank you, Aussie readers!

If you had three writing-related wishes what would they be?

That I could have a machine that kept my coffee hot in my study. The number of times I re-heat my coffee, which has gone cold by my computer… That I could go on a week’s writing course or retreat and really take myself away from everyday life, when I need to read through my book and get expert help. That I could meet Allison Pearson in person!

What’s your connection with Australia (other than the fact that Jacaranda Wife is set there)?

Huge. The whole family have dual nationality and my youngest son was born there. I have lived there on and off for almost 10 years, but currently live in Surrey. I went straight to Sydney after I graduated with the intention of working around Australia and making cappuccinos for tourists. What in fact happened was that I got a job on a magazine and absolutely loved Sydney. After that, came the travelling, a move back to London, but then two other long periods back in Sydney. So I’ve lived there as a young working woman, travelled to every state except WA, I’ve been there without kids soaking up Sydney’s nightlife and beaches – learned to scuba dive on the barrier reef and body board on the Northern Beaches; I did a 1km ocean swim for charity – practically drowned when I thought a shark was underneath me, (in fact it was a diver employed to deter any possible sharks) – and have been back as a married mum with three children. We have great friends there too.  It’s definitely our second home.at winchester shot

What has surprised you most about being published?

You somehow imagine that once you are published, that that might be ‘it’.  Rather like when the lovely NCT woman talked to you about motherhood, the whole focus of the course was on giving birth. Having a baby, as everyone knows, is really just the start of a long learning curve. She forgot to mention the months of vomit and the sore tits. And giving ‘birth’ to a book is the same, you’ve got to grow and learn your trade once the book is published, much like parenting! There has been so much work to do in terms of networking, promoting Jacaranda Wife. All lovely things to do, but all very time consuming. And it’s been a very steep learning curve, but fantastic fun.

What are you working on now?

As well as all my Tweeting, Facebooking, buying surf boards for our next holiday, guest blogging and tearing three boys apart from fighting over one Kitkat, I’m writing my second book. It’s about three women who all have different wants and desires – plus a few secrets. Essentially, it’s about love, honesty and friendship.

Thank you so much for letting me take part!

Here’s a taste of Jacaranda Wife postcard shotWhen a double dip recession hits along with a tax bill, most people tighten their belts, cancel the summer holiday and look for the two-for-one offers. But not Katie Parkes. The home-loving mother of two from London finds herself tightening her seatbelt on a plane to Australia, where her husband has been sent to save their financial bacon. And, she realises, it might just be what they need to save their marriage… Trouble is, she doesn’t much like heat, can’t swim properly, hates spiders and finds herself further outside the M25 than is strictly necessary. Then there’s the Sydney yummy mummy with a cleavage you’d lose your car keys in eyeing up her husband, bouts of homesickness – and a few deadly spiders. Taking the bull by the horns (or at least pulling on an old Speedo) she tackles her fear of the ocean first. Find out how Katie copes in her new country – does it provide the spark to ignite her marriage, or send the whole thing up in smoke…?

Sophie King, best-selling author of The School Run: ‘An entertaining, fast-moving, page-turner for anyone dreaming of a new life….’

Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space in the late 80s. She has lived and worked in London and Sydney, working on Cosmopolitan, OK! Magazine and the BBC’s Eve as well as freelance for Woman & Home, Delicious, New Woman, Prima Baby and Junior. Born in sunny Singapore, she was educated in sub-zero Scotland, including Aberdeen University. She has lived in Australia three times. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.  Jacaranda Wife is her first novel and she is well underway with her second when she’s not burning food.

Find her on www.aforauthors.com and www.kendrasmith.co.uk or follow her on Twitter  @KendraAuthor or https://www.facebook.com/kendrasmithauthor Book link  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jacaranda-Wife-Kendra-Smith-ebook/dp/B00UZ2B3UE/ref

Somebody pinch me!

book14I know there’s nothing more annoying than someone telling you about the dream they had last night, but bear with me please, or perhaps that should be ‘bare’ with me given the nature of the dream…

It was one of those almost nightmarish scenarios where you realise you are totally exposed. It wasn’t quite as bad as the recurring dream my friend has about pushing a shopping trolley around Morrisons, in her birthday suit, but it was bad enough. Somehow, in my dream, I had got myself a job promoting gym membership. Now trust me when I say I wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice to promote their gym. Perhaps I could make it as a ‘before’ photo, but I’ve somehow never got round to getting the necessary physique for the ‘after’ shots. Anyway, I digress. In this dream it was my job to stand in the high street, wearing nothing but a lycra leotard and one of those signs you see being held up by someone who wishes they’d done better in their GCSES, about a golf sale being around the corner, that sort of thing.

People, understandably, were looking at me agog and I think it was their laughing that woke me up in the end. I did one of those flinching, falling-from-a-cliff type jolts awake, giving my long suffering husband a swift kick in the shin in the process. So far, so weird you might be thinking. But I know exactly why I had this dream and it wasn’t entirely down to the birthday Prosecco consumed the night before. It was all about being exposed and thinking I’d somehow been given a role for which I was a complete fraud and that I was about to be found out any minute. Which is more or less how it feels to be published.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely thrilled, but I can’t quite believe it’s happening to me and that today marks the release of my debut full-length novel. I’m expectingAATS Cover someone to tap me on the shoulder any moment and ask me to move along, make room for the real authors. Getting somewhere with writing wasn’t something that happened to people like me and yet, once it did, it was a bit of a domino effect. I ended up with several potentially interested publishers for ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ and I’m so glad that I went with So Vain Books, as they’ve been beyond brilliant and I can’t recommend them enough.

Publication deals ended up being like buses and shortly after signing with So Vain Books, I had an offer on a pocket novel from DC Thomson, ‘No Time for Second Best’ which hits the shops tomorrow. So if you happen to read in the news online that a woman has been arrested for taking selfies in WHSmiths over the next two weeks, that will be me. DC Thomson have also bought another pocket novel from me and it will be their Christmas release this year, so Christmas shopping with me could be a trial whilst I see just how many shops I can spot it in! I also had an email this week, which could bring some more exciting news, but I’m not talking about that just yet, in case I really do jinx all this.

snorkelI’m not cool in any sense – my thirteen year old, who has the wit and merciless delivery of Joan Rivers, will attest to that – and I’m certainly not cool about being published. I’ve been getting stupidly excited by the lovely reviews for ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ and if I spot someone reading it on the beach this summer, they’re likely to have to take a restraining order out against me! But if someone as terminally uncool as me can become a writer, then anything is possible.

 

 

 

Blurb for Among A Thousand Stars by Jo Bartlett

When her mother turns up naked and proud during her first term at college, Ashleigh Hayes assumes that life can’t get any more embarrassing. Ten years later, with best friend Stevie at her side, and a successful career as a freelance photographer for monthly magazine Glitz, it looks like she might have finally got the hang of things. Only she seems to have inherited the embarrassment gene from her mother and her every encounter with new boss, Tom Rushworth, looks set to send her career spiralling backwards. Getting past their shaky start, Ashleigh and Tom embark on a relationship that was only ever meant to be a bit of fun. But when life, paparazzi and love-sick Labradors get in the way, they suddenly find themselves caught in a roller coaster ride of emotions.

‘The perfect feel-good read’ Kerry Fisher, Bestselling Author

‘A very funny and thoughtful look at relationships behind the lens – a really enjoyable and poignant debut’

My Reading Corner ‘Sharp and witty dialogues, realistic characters, laughing-out-loud and tear-jerking situations’ On My Bookshelf

Wednesday Wondering – All About Genre

Hello and welcome to March’s Wednesday Wondering. Last month, I attended a one-day script writing workshop at a local theatre. We were given some prompt images pasted from the Internet and asked to develop our characters and plot from these images. I found myself selecting an elderly couple and developing a plot that stepped back in time to WWII. I was actually really proud of the plot I developed, but came away with the overriding feeling that it was a novel rather than a play, and that I wanted to develop it further.

bookshelves1This isn’t the first time I’ve outlined a plot that takes me back to WWII. I attended a creative writing workshop several years ago and developed a story of two friends who became nurses during the war who both fell in love with the same man. It arrived in my head as a fully-formed story and it’s begging to be written one day.

The problem is, it’s not what I normally write.

When I started writing, I’d have classed myself as a writer of romcoms. I write female-led romance stories with characters in their late twenties to early thirties. However, as the trilogy developed, I realised that my storylines were a bit deeper than that and, although there are some funny moments, they’re less comedy and more about character development. If I have to put a label on them, I’d probably say contemporary women’s romance.

They’re not history, though. They’re not set in WWII. So why do I keep going back to WWII and setting stories then? It’s an era I have some awareness of from history lessons in school and watching films or TV programmes set at that time but I wouldn’t have ever said I was particularly drawn to that era. Or am I? I’m in my early forties so wasn’t alive during the war, my parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they don’t have any recall either, and my grandparents on both sides of the family are no longer with us so I’m not surrounded by insights into this time. Yet I can’t stop thinking about it.

Karen cocking2When I was younger, I devoured Catherine Cookson books. My mum is a huge fan so I borrowed them all off her. Maybe this is where the history interest spans from, although most of Catherine’s books were set much earlier than WWII so, again, I don’t know where the pull of that era comes from. All I know is that there is a pull. So, after I’ve written the trilogy and book four, maybe I’ll address it.

My WW this week is therefore all about genre. I asked the Write Romantics:

What genre do you typically write and why?

Have you every ‘dabbled’ in a different genre. What was it? Why? How was the experience?

Would you try writing in a different genre? What and why?

What genre(s) do you mainly read?
Have you tried reading outside genre?

For me personally, contemporary women’s romance is my favoured genre for reading, but I do dabble in history, thrillers, contemporary non-romance and also children’s books. I’ve toyed with writing a thriller and a YA book and may still do so. After the historic ones. Or perhaps number five of the romance ones …

Jessica xx

Helen R says…

I typically write a cross between women’s fiction and romantic fiction. Usually there is a romantic thread in my story but there are other themes too such as family and friendship so a few subplots running at the same time.

I’ve never ‘dabbled’ in a different genre and I’m not sure whether I ever will or not, but if I had to choose another genre it would be teen fiction. I loved Judy Blume books as I was growing up – I couldn’t get enough of them  – and I’d love to be talented enough to write for the same type of audience.

I’ve recently read a couple of books outside my genre, both historical fiction. I enjoyed both although they were definitely more heavy going than what I’m used to. It was refreshing to read something different though and you start to learn a bit about different techniques used in different genres.

Deirdre says…

I find it difficult to say what genre I write in, firstly because there are such widely differing opinions on genre definition, and secondly, I don’t set out to write in a particular genre. I get an idea and run with it, and it will be what it will be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy first novel I labelled as contemporary women’s fiction for the purposes of submitting but when I self-published it, I felt that needed qualifying so it became rom-com, although I wasn’t sure there was enough humour for that. With my next, Remarkable Things, the first to find a publisher, I fought against pinning a label on it and it morphed into something slightly different each time I submitted. The closest I can get is contemporary women’s fiction with a romantic thread. My male reader enjoyed it, though, and said the ending brought a tear to his eye, so maybe it’s not exclusively for the women’s market, who knows?

When I set out to write Dirty Weekend, also to be published, I’d signed up to NaNoWriMo so had write much faster than I normally do. This led me to the fast-moving plot peppered with plenty of comedy. The best I can do with this one is general fiction; I can’t call it contemporary as it’s set in the 1960s and that is now classed as historical by some. It’s strong on romance (actually more sex than romance!) but I don’t feel it fits with the romantic fiction genre as it’s normally understood.

The book I’m writing now, The Promise of Roses, is easier to classify; I’d call it contemporary romance. It has a stronger romantic thread than my previous ones so although there’s a lot else going on besides, including themes of bereavement, guilt and entrapment, I feel more confident of the genre.

I don’t see my genre confusion as a problem. I just want to write good books that people will want to read and don’t rule out any particular types of books for the future. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’d like one day to write something that could be classed as literary fiction. There is a slight passing nod to that in Remarkable Things – it has some of the tropes you’d find in lit-fic – but I’m not deluding myself that I could write a full-on lit-fic.

My reading, as you might expect from the meanderings above, is not tied down to particular genres either. I don’t tend to read crime or fantasy but otherwise I’m happy with romance (as long as it’s edgy and has more going besides), sagas, recent historicals, literary fiction and the odd thriller, like Gone Girl and Appletree Yard. At the moment I’m particularly drawn to male authors who write about love and relationships as you get a different perspective. Some of my favourites are William Nicholson, Danny Wallace, David Nicholls and a recent discovery, Douglas Kennedy.

Jo says…

In my writing so far, at least as far as my submissions to the New Writer’s Scheme went, I’ve been a bit of a genre hopper.  I suppose my natural style is contemporary women’s fiction, which is also what I usually read.  That said, there is always a romance, although I can’t write *pure* romance.  I tried once and failed miserably, so really admire those who can do that and do it really well, like our very own Rachael Thomas and others whose books I’ve enjoyed, like Liz Fielding.  My novella and the novel due out in June, are both women’s fiction with emotional themes and a romantic angle.  However, I have also written a YA fantasy, which is awaiting an edit, and I’ve got several ideas for younger children’s books.

I’ve been thinking recently about establishing myself as a writer and getting involved with a really recognisable brand as part of that, which might also help me stand out from the crowd in the competitive short story market.  If I want writing to be my career, I think it’s a route I need to take and I have seen other writers I really admire take that path – having made a name for themselves with an established brand. Lots of writers subsequently settle on one genre, but others also write under other pen names across a range of genres or sub-genres and different lengths of stories, which I suspect is the way to make a living from writing. I had an idea that I thought might work for an established series and sent off three chapters, hearing almost immediately, to my delight, that they wanted to see a full.  I’m now working very hard to get that polished and off to the publisher by next week.  If they like the rest of the story as much as the partial, I’ll also be able to see something I’ve written being sold in shops like WHSmiths, Sainsburys and Tescos.  If it comes off, I’ll be taking selfies everywhere I go! If not, I’ll keep plugging away, writing the stories I want to write, whichever genre or sub-genre they happen to cross into.

As for my reading, like my writing, I love emotional women’s fiction by authors such as Jo Jo Moyes and Julie Cohen, but I also read a lot of children’s fiction too – generally following my son’s latest obsession.  We worked our way through all the Dick King Smith books and we’re now on to Michael Morpurgo.  One genre I’m not madly keen on in adult fiction is pre-war historical, although I love war-time novels like Lena Kennedy’s books and post-war stories like Jennifer Worth’s trilogy of memoirs, which inspired Call the Midwife.  I don’t think I’d ever attempt to write a historical novel though  – far too much research required to get it right!

Sharon says…

m878-5l52zcfFb_a7bo5pqwInitially, I thought I wrote romantic comedy, but then my books seemed to have some deeper issues in them, too, and they weren’t really as laugh-out-loud as true romantic comedy should be. There are definitely some very funny moments in them, if I say so myself, but I would hesitate to market them as romcoms. I think I write contemporary women’s fiction with romance and a good sprinkling of humour! Try categorizing that on Amazon!

I’ve never written in another genre as an adult, though as a child and teenager I used to write pony books aimed at my own age group at the time. They were strictly for my eyes only, thank goodness. I still love to read pony books, though. I have a huge collection of them, although I had a horrible “accident” and sent the wrong boxes to a charity shop a couple of years ago and lost loads of my favourite books during a house move.

the chaliceI mainly read the genre I write in, which is romantic fiction with humour. However, I also read the occasional saga — especially the ones written by Catherine Cookson and Valerie Wood — and I often still read children’s and YA books. I still love Enid Blyton and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. I have quite a few historical novels on my bookshelves which I really want to read, and I enjoyed Dan Brown’s books, too. I studied the nineteenth century novel for a course some years ago and I really enjoyed the classics such as Middlemarch, Far From the Madding Crowd, Northanger Abbey and, my favourite book, Jane Eyre. I love Daphne Du Maurier’s books and I’ve read all the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie. I love the naughtiness and fun of writers like Jilly Cooper and Fiona Walker, and I am a huge fan of supernatural crime stories. Our own Helen Phifer is very good at writing those! I love Phil Rickman’s books. They’re steeped in mystery, fairly bloody, often have myth and legend interwoven throughout, a strong sense of place, great characters, tight plots, and are terribly scary!

download (3)I love writing the kind of books that I write now, but I do have an idea for a saga, based on my own family history. I don’t know if I’ll ever get round to writing it, though. I would love to have a go at writing romantic suspense with a supernatural twist. I think it would take so much careful plotting and a lot of time and research. Maybe one day I’ll do it, though. I’d never say never!

Helen P says…

bookcaketopperI love to write crime/horror novels because I love to read them myself and I can’t find enough of them to satisfy the ghoul in me.

Yes I had to write a romantic story for the fabulous Write Romantics anthology Winter Tales and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I find it so easy to murder and scare people so being nice was a whole new experience 😉

I love to write. In fact I think I live to write so I’d try anything and any genre although I have no idea if I’d be any good at it. I read horror, crime and ghost stories. I have read a few books outside of my genre, mainly by my fellow Write Romantics. I’ve just finished Helen Rolfe’s The Friendship Tree and loved it.

Jackie says…

I can’t imagine writing a novel that doesn’t revolve around a romance, I just wouldn’t know how to fill all of that white space. I have written short stories that don’t have romance at its core but even then, I think there is a relationship of some sort at the heart of the story. However I have dabbled in different strands of the romantic genre and become clearer over time about what I enjoy the most. I started off writing stories that were very much chic-lit: vast quantities of booze being drunk with shopping and sex and bitchy put-downs (the characters were doing that, not me – much!) But as I’ve mellowed and no longer mix with the type of people who fuelled that particular fire, I don’t feel it’s ‘me’ anymore and consequently my writing has become less frenetic and more deliberate and thoughtful. I am overall relieved that I never tried too hard to get them published as I know I wouldn’t be able to write them today.

I write in a very haphazard way which probably wouldn’t suit many writers, but I find I become bored quite quickly when writing a particular story, so if I swap over to another one, while the last one ‘stews’ for a while, I come back to it with fresh eyes. I currently have five novels in various stages of unreadiness, but two of them are all but finished.

I will read most types of books apart from erotica (read one once to see if I could write it – that’ll be a ’no’ then!) but find I have less patience than I used to have if a story doesn’t grab me immediately. A feel good romance will always win me over. I do love a happy ever after!

Rachael says…

I’ve always loved reading Mills and Boon. As a teenager I would often be in the library getting my latest fix. When I decided to write, aiming at Mills and Boon seemed a natural progression from having spent many years reading them.

Anthology coverBefore I completed my first book, I had written short stories, even submitted them to magazines, but to no avail. I still enjoy writing short stories now, especially Meet Me at Midnight which featured in Winter Tales, our charity anthology.

Another genre I always thought I’d love to write for was for children, particularly boys about eight years of age. I read to both of my daughter and son as they grew up and felt there was definitely a gap in the market for boys of that age. There are of course, only so many hours in the day, but you never know!

As for reading, not only do I still enjoy a good love story, but I am fascinated by history and enjoy a good historical read. I have also been known to scare myself with a good horror story too!

Alys says…

I’ll read pretty much anything with print on it except for horror.  That’s about the only genre I can’t get to grips with.  But I regularly read fantasy, romance, crime, steampunk and very occasionally these days, something more literary too.

As to what I write, well, I call it urban fantasy with a spot of romance but you could just as well describe it as supernatural romantic suspense.  It’s starting to become clear that the fact that it doesn’t fit neatly into one genre is a bit of an issue when submitting to publishers. I’ve had rejections that say ‘there’s too much romance in it’ and others which imply that the fantasy bits are getting in the way of the love story. But even if I’d known that when I started it wouldn’t have stopped me (or not for very long anyway).  It’s the book that I wanted to write. And if they’re struggling with this one then just wait until I get round to writing my steampunkesque murder mysteries!

What about you? If you’re a reader, what genres do you read and, if you cross-genre read, tell us more about this. If you’re a writer, do you write in other genres or are you tempted to do so ?

Happy Wednesday 🙂

Jessica xx

A cast of characters you’ll never forget: guest blog with Carol Cooper

Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)A woman accused of killing her father. A young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother. A bereaved biographer who travels to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist. A gifted musician forced by injury to stop playing the piano. A single mother of four who dares to date again. A prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter, and the wife of a drug lord who attempts to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son.

All these unlikely heroines – and more – appear in a new ebook anthology from seven indie authors called OUTSIDE THE BOX: WOMEN WRITING WOMEN.

Carol“Women characters in novels are often too good to be true. Too smart, too beautiful, too kind – or, even worse, all of these things at once. Or else they’re hapless, which is equally unrealistic,” says Carol Cooper. She’s an author, doctor and journalist; her fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda, a gripping story about a group of people searching for love, is one of the seven full-length novels in this box set. “I wanted my characters to be feisty but imperfect. To me, that’s far more compelling.”

Orna Ross (founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors, and named by The Bookseller as one of the 100 mostOrna influential people in publishing) is the author of Blue Mercy, a tale of betrayal, revenge, and suspense. Her principal character Mercy stands accused of killing her tyrannical father, and now she wants her daughter to know what really happened that fateful night.

Orna says, “The mother-daughter relationship is one of the most fascinating, complex, and under-explored relationships in fiction. It was my hope, in writing the story of Mercy and her daughter Star, that it might help us all to look more closely at our own mothers and daughters.”

JaneThe mother-daughter relationship also features in Jane Davis’s An Unchoreographed Life. Prima ballerina Alison Babbage finds herself pregnant, and turns to prostitution to support her young daughter. Jane won the Daily Mail First Novel Award for Half-Truths and White Lies, and has gone on to self-publish four more acclaimed novels.

Jane says, “I wanted to address a major issue: the lengths that a mother will go to in order to provide for her daughter. I was gripped by a 2008 court case, when, in an interesting twist, it was ruled that a prostitute had been living off the immoral earnings of one of her clients. The case also challenged perceptions of who was likely to be a prostitute. She might well be the ordinary middle-aged woman with the husband and two teenage children who lives next door.”

In Crazy for Trying, the heroine Tulsa is a bookish misfit, says author Joni Rodgers. “Much as I was in my early 20s,” shejoni adds. “I also drew on my experience as the lone female disc jockey at a rock station in western Montana.” Joni is a New York Times bestselling author who’s also an accomplished ghost-writer.

The box set OUTSIDE THE BOX: Women Writing Women is the brainchild of Australian author, artist, and musician Jessica Bell. She’s also the editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the author of books on the craft of writing (the most recent is Polish Your Fiction). In her novel White Lady, Sonia, unfaithful wife of a Melbourne drug Jessicalord, yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and maths teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats. Easier said than done.

The spotlight here is on unlikely heroines. As Jessica says, “Though the seven novels included may fit through the Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction slot, they are all remarkably and uniquely different in style, which I believe to be a very strong attraction. There are readers out there who don’t like to read the same kind of genre, or about the same kind of characters over and over. This box set is for them.”

Roz Morris is a ghost-writer and teacher of creative writing master classes. “But I was busting to write as myself, with my own Rozcharacters, my own style and my own vision,” she says. Her novel My Memories of a Future Life is the haunting story of how one lost soul searches for where she now belongs. “My principal character Carol fits well with this collection of unconventional female protagonists. On one level, Carol is hardly an everywoman because her life has been unusual – she is a concert pianist. But the impulse that started her on that path, and ultimately undoes her, is certainly universal – she wants a place to belong and to feel loved.”

KathleenThis reader’s smorgasbord also includes Kathleen Jones’s novel The Centauress. A Royal Literary Fund fellow, and best-selling author, Kathleen contributes a story about a bereaved writer Alex, a young woman from a conventional background, who has come to Croatia to write the biography of a celebrity sculptor. Alex brings her own problems with her, and also encounters the puzzle of the eccentric artist’s ambiguous gender and a disputed inheritance. “As we were compiling books with unusual female protagonists,” says Kathleen, “The Centauress was the obvious choice.”

Outside the Box: Women Writing Women brings these uncommon heroines together in a limited edition box-set from February 20. It’s already had interest from the BBC, The Bookseller and the national press, and now it’s available for £7.99 for just 90 days across a range of ebook platforms. More info on www.womenwritewomen.com

Here are some short excerpts to give you a taste of the novels in Outside the Box:

From Blue Mercy:

We stay out until the bats start to appear and then we leave the lake and turn back the way we came down. I pick another flower, an orchid for my daughter’s hair, and we walk, with me just a shade ahead of you, through the slow-gathering darkness, back to the house where my father no longer lives.

From Crazy for Trying:

Trekking into Helena, Tulsa was somehow surprised by the full-size laundromats, buildings and Burger King. She’d half expected log cabins and free-ranging cattle and was a little disappointed to realize that, for all its legends of copper kings and Chinese muleteers, this town was still, on a mechanical level, the same as any town, including the one she’d just run away from.

From My Memories of a Future Life:

I wasn’t born gifted. It’s how I’ve cheated with the unsatisfactory clay I’m made from. When love went wrong, I turned to the intimate communion with ivory, iron, ebony and wire. Take the piano out of my life and what is left?

From The Centauress:

In every tragedy there is the accidental moment – choosing a particular seat on a train, turning down the wrong road, deciding to take a lift from the 89th floor – the arbitrary, pivotal moment that means destruction or survival.

From An Unchoreographed Life:

None of her mother’s friends ever stayed for tea or sleepovers, thank goodness – not like Emily’s mummy’s horrible bristly boyfriend, who transformed breakfast into a circus of broken eggshell and tossed pancakes, leaving washing-up piled high in the sink after he had basked in applause.

From One Night at the Jacaranda:

Superglue was a wonderful invention. They should have made some that worked on relationships.

From White Lady:

The warm soothing blood oozes from my skin and releases the pressure in my head as if I’ve injected myself with a sedative.

I drop the knife to the floor. It clangs on the tiles. I spread blood all over my arm and admire the patterns it makes on my skin.

Ibrahim. I miss you.

Outside the Box: Women Writing Women is a limited edition box-set available for £7.99/$9.99 across a range of ebook platforms. Details on www.womenwritewomen.com.

 

 

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

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

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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

Jo’s NaNo Journey – by the seat of her pants!

Helen P and another writing friend, Vikki Thompson, inspired me to sign up for NaNo this year and I am loving it so far.  At the time of writing this, on Tuesday evening and five days in, I have just passed the 10,000 words mark.

The novel I am writing is my second one aimed at the women’s contemporary fiction market.  The first is currently with a publisher and has, if I was using X factor as an analogy, made the judges’ houses equivalent far.  The news should be in about whether they want to publish in January and so I would like a second book ready by then; either as a follow up or as another avenue of submission if the publishers don’t want book 1.  In between I have written a YA fantasy novel, which is currently with an NWS reader somewhere out there in the big, wide world.

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NaNo’ing has really pushed me to get going with Novel 2 and by the end of the process, at the current rate, I should be about three quarters of the way through.  I would rather clean toilets than edit my books, anyway, so I absolutely love the NaNo approach so far.  I took a similar approach with the YA book, writing a thousand words a day for three months, but I have almost doubled this quota with NaNo so far.

It’s not only the freedom to just write that I am enjoying , it’s also the way that writing and thinking about plot lines almost constantly has seemed to somehow kick-started my creativity.  I was out on a dog walk today, in the rain, and by the time I got home I had written a whole synopsis in my head for a potential crime novel.  I might never write it, but just seeing a ‘meals-on-wheels’ driver trying and failing to deliver someone’s lunch inspired an amazingly detailed plot.  If you’d told me a year ago that I would be writing or thinking about writing fantasy or crime novels, I wouldn’t have believed you.

So, if you haven’t NaNo’ed or considered NaNo’ing before, I would urge you to sign up next time around.  As someone on the NaNo forum I have joined so eloquently put it – we should definitely have November more often!

Jo x