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I’ve done it!

Signing my first contract.

I’m delighted to share the news that I have signed with Choc Lit Publishing!

Choc Lit is an independent U.K. based publisher who specialises in romantic fiction with irresistible heroes. My third book, The Thief’s Daughter, will be released later this year under my new pseudonym, Victoria Cornwall.

I have a new website and a new twitter account to go with my new name. I hope you will visit them and I look forward to sharing updates on my book’s progress with you through the new sites.

I am thrilled to have a traditional publishing contract and a name that compliments the genre I love so much. I will endeavour to write (what I hope) is good quality romantic fiction as I believe readers of romance deserve great plot-lines and characters just like readers of other genres.

Thank you for taking the time to visit and reading my exciting news.

The things I’ve learnt about hosting a book signing event.

Signing my first book of the day

Signing my first book of the day

Every writer, at some point in their writing career, hosts a book signing event for their latest book. It can be a daunting prospect for both experienced and inexperienced writers, because there is always the fear that no one will turn up. Authors are divided on how much value a book signing event holds, some go on to do many, others the bare minimum. Some, I suspect, have never done one or ever will.

Last month, I held my first book signing event and I’m pleased to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In this blog post I will share my experience in the hope that other writers will learn from it and readers will gain insight into the hidden side of a book signing event.

How many authors does it take..?

My book signing event was shared with seven other authors. This is a great way to learn the process, pick up tips, share its eventual success (or failure) whilst gaining additional access to readers who may attend the event to see your fellow authors. There are other benefits too. An event hosted by multiple authors will have a unique angle and be more newsworthy, which will improve your chances of securing radio airtime and newspaper editors’ attention to spread the word.
J.Jackson, K.Ryder, me, CLoveday, C.Vermaat, M.J.Logue, S.J.Haxton &A.MartinIt may also increase your chances of securing your preferred venue, particularly if the venue is connected to a café/gallery etc, which will benefit from the increased footfall attracted to your book signing event.

Tip No. 1:- Team up with other authors in your area and host an event together. I was lucky to be able to team up with Jane Jackson (Historical Romance), Kate Ryder (Romantic Fiction) Chrissie Loveday (Romance/Murder Mystery) Carla Vermaat (Crime Fiction) M.J.Logue (Historical Fiction) S.J.Haxton (Historical) & Adrian Martin (Horror).

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Why do you want to hold one?

A book signing event is about selling books. Wrong! Book signing events are much more than that. Success or failure should not be measured by the number of books you sell on the day. If Author A sells one book and Author B sells ten, it’s understandable to think that Author B has had the most successful day. However, Author A gave away 50 bookmarks, engaged with visitors to her table in a friendly, positive manner and had an enjoyable experience. The visitors went home later that day and downloaded her latest two ebooks (which were publicised on her bookmark). On the other hand, Author B, who sold ten books, barely looked up from his scribbling to speak to his customer. They went home feeling a little resentful at his arrogant manner and, frankly, who can blame them? Suddenly Author A appears to have had the most successful event, even though they sold only one book on the day.

Tip No. 2:- A Book Signing event is about meeting like minded people who love books. Enjoy it, have fun and don’t panic if you don’t sell very many.

Location, location, location

Finding the right venue is always a challenge. Consideration has to be given to the location. Is it accessible? Are there other services onsite which will entice visitors?  Does the theme fit with your books and if it doesn’t, does it matter? How much do they charge? Is it available for the date required? Where can signs be displayed to help show the way? Are the owners happy for you to give out freebies/business cards etc.? A visit to the venue will help alleviate any concerns or raise a few issues.

Tip No. 3:- Always visit the venue. Recommendations by fellow authors are always helpful. See the venue through the eyes of a shy reader. Would you visit an author at this venue? What would stop you? What would make it easier for you to step inside and browse?

The word on the street…

It’s no use booking the venue if no one knows it’s happening. Today’s author is used to the publicity machine and if they are not, they soon have to learn how it works. It may come as a surprise to most readers to discover that many writers are not “A list” writers who earn big bucks. Many are struggling to make a living and probably have a day job to support their writing career. For these authors, IMG_0205publicity events, radio interviews and newspaper articles are organised by the writer themselves and not by their publisher or agent. A book signing event is no different. Local radio, podcasts and social media networks are all great ways to spread the news. Flyers, posters, newspaper articles and parish magazines are more traditional methods and just as valuable for informing the public of your special event.

Tip No. 4:- Don’t be shy about spreading the word. Keep notes on who you approached and who were supportive, so you can use them again for future book releases and events.
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Informing the shy reader about your book…

The big day has arrived! You’ve booked the venue, done the publicity and now you want to encourage the reader to your table. The best way to do that is to display what you would want to see if you were a visitor. Again, I imagined I was a shy reader and asked myself the question, what would make it easier for me? I came to the conclusion I would want to know what the book was about, without feeling watched or badgered into buying it. This is what I kept in mind when I set up my table.

I write romances and therefore wanted romance readers to recognise my genre from afar and find my table interesting enough to take a closer look. In order to do that, I covered the table with a white table cloth and decorated it with heart shaped confetti. I filled heart shaped bowls with business cards, bookmarks and sweets with a note saying “Please take one”.  These things helped to set the genre and gave visitors “permission” to take any freebies they fancied without having to ask. While they munched, or considered which bookmark to take, I wanted to promote my book in what I hoped was not a “sales pitch” or hard sell. I displayed several copies of my book, an A4 poster detailing the book blurb and my credentials and a video of my book trailer which played on a continuous loop. If the customer had any questions, I was nearby to help. If my table became quiet, I walked around the room offering sweets and free bookmarks, but with no pressure to buy my book and no sales pitches. There is no bigger turn off than someone saying, “Buy my book! Buy my book!”

Tip No. 5:- Make/order bookmarks and business cards in plenty of time to allow for delivery. If you use sweets and chocolates to entice readers to your table, put a few out at a time and not the whole lot. I have heard of customers taking handfuls of sweets, even emptying a bowl into their handbag, before disappearing without a backward glance. If this happens, your sweets will not last long! However, I must confess, I would probably take far more than I should if I was a visitor, as I find it very hard to say no to free sweets and chocolate!
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The end is not the end…

I really enjoyed my first book signing event. My fellow authors were great fun and it was a privilege to share the experience with them. The visitors and owners of the venue appeared to enjoy the day too. However, the benefits of hosting a book signing event continues long after it is ended. Photographs taken on the day can be used for publicity purposes in the future, whether on twitter, Facebook, Pin Interest or a blog post. Within 24 hours of posting the photographs of our event on Facebook, one author saw her viewing stats soar to over 400!

Tip No. 6:- Take plenty of photographs so readers, family, bloggers and fellow authors can share and remember the experience with you. A book signing event is not the time to become camera shy!

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Kate Ryder and I (B.D.Hawkey)

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Chrissie Loveday

Dear reader…

So if you hear of a book signing event near you, do come along and say hello. Authors don’t bite and we would love to see you – after-all we are holding the event to meet people just like you! Please don’t be afraid you will be pressured into buying something. We just want to engage with readers, share our love of books and let you know we have a book out at the moment.

Hannah Carla Adrian

M.J.Logue, Carla Vermaat & Adrian Martin

Take a look at the books on show, just as you would in any bookshop, but unlike an ordinary bookshop experience, you will have an opportunity to chat to the author about all things to do with writing.

Jane Jackson & S.J.Haxton

Jane Jackson & S.J.Haxton

If you like a book, you can buy a signed copy. It’s fun and a signed book makes a unique gift. If nothing interests you, we will understand. Authors understand that readers have their preferences and we would rather you buy a book you will love, than a book you will hate.

My final thoughts…

I have always been a reader, but more recently, as an author, I have experienced the other side of a book signing event. I’ve learnt that, in the majority of cases, authors are not rich celebrities with a queue of excited fans forming in the streets. They are just ordinary people with a passion for books, hoping to meet like minded people. They might also be a dash nervous, a little excited and a smidgen worried that no one will come, so they will be glad to see you should you choose to drop in.

 

Valentine’s Day…a day for love

It is February, the month of chilly winds, lashing rain and bouquets of red roses, for we mustn’t forget February has the day dedicated to love. Valentine’s Day is a day eagerly awaited by many and dreaded by some, yet within 24 hours it’s over and done with and nothing more than a memory. It should be nothing to get worked up about, but inevitably some of us will. How we, as individuals, celebrate Valentine’s Day  may evolve over the years, but come the 14th February, our thoughts will still turn to love – even if its just briefly.

 Yes, this is me.

Yes, this is me.

I was a child when I received my first Valentine’s card. It was from my mother, who placed it carefully in my cardigan pocket for me to find before I went to school. She put it there because she didn’t want me to feel the heartache of not receiving one. Even though I was young, I appreciated the thought.

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Me, dreaming of my latest crush.

As a teenager, Valentine’s Day began with high hopes which slowly dwindled as the day progressed. On the rare occasion I did receive one, the guessing game of who it might be from was far more exciting than the discovery of the sender. Needless to say, it was never the boy I had a crush on at the time.

Having a regular boyfriend finally guaranteed a token of love on Valentine’s Day.Blackpool C By then it was the 80’s and padded cards, with cute, fluffy animals, were the vogue. It was also the age when size really did matter. Shopkeepers rubbed their hands with glee as they watched a trail of young men carry large, unwieldy cards under their arms in the hope of impressing their girlfriends. If you received a card which had all three elements (size, padding and a cute animal), then you were well and truly loved and he was a keeper.

Wedding C-cropMarriage and children adds a new dimension to Valentine’s Day. Meals out have to be planned, babysitters booked in advance and chocolates and wine are added to the shopping trolley – along with a tin of  baked beans,  two loaves of bread and a GetAttachment (5)packet of nappies. When life is busy, Valentine’s Day becomes a touchstone and a reminder to show our appreciation to our partners. A wise person once said, “Before children, a couple holds hands together. When children come along they hold hands with the children. Sometimes we need to be reminded to hold hands again.” Valentine’s Day is that extra reminder to us all.

So how do I celebrate Valentine’s Day now? We will probably choose a box of chocolates and a nice bottle of wine together. We have long given up going out for a meal on one of the busiest nights of the year, so we will spend the evening at home. If the weather is fine we might go for a nice long walk and just appreciate life in general. Perhaps it will not be as exciting as a teenager’s experience – or as devastating, but it will be calmer and less planned than when we were young parents.

And did I marry the boy who gave me the biggest, most padded, Valentine’s card? Yes, I did and this year we will be celebrating our pearl wedding anniversary. Although, it might have been a whole different story if he had forgotten it was Valentine’s Day!

3d Old Sins Long Shadows

Why wait for a man to make Valentine’s Day special for you? Snuggle up with a dark, mysterious hero, like Daniel Kellow, from my debut novel Old Sins Long Shadows

3d The Gossamer Trail

or

curl up with Joss, the troubled hero in The Gossamer Trail , who’s dislike for Beth turns into a passion so strong that he is willing to give up his own identity to be with her.

book the gossamer trail

 

 

A Cornish Maid in London

On Wednesday, 18th November, I was fortunate to attend The Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) 2015 Winter Party, which was held at The Royal Overseas League in London.

Tickets were a sell out, as it’s a great opportunity for writers, agents and publishers to meet, whilst sipping bubbly and eating canapés. The event was also a great opportunity for the RNA to present its inaugural Industry Awards to people who have contributed to the success and sales of romantic fiction.

I made the most of my whistle-stop tour to the capital by spending the morning sightseeing and the afternoon watching Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. This was quickly followed by the RNA Winter Party.

There was a real buzz of excitement and noise at the event, as new writers, established authors and experienced agents met with one another and new friends were made. Three awards were presented; Bookseller of the Year, Best Adaptation of a Novel and Media Star.

The award winners are announced.

The award winners are announced.

The Bookseller of the Year Award went to WHSmith Travel Book Buyer, Matthew Bates in recognition for supporting many RNA members’ books and turning them into bestsellers.

Runner up was Michael Korel, Waterstones, Camden, in recognition of his support for the romance genre, in particular indie romance writers.

The second award, Best Adaptation of a Novel, went to Debbie Horsfield for her adaptation of the Poldark series, written by my favourite author, Winston Graham. I was surprised to learn that in the early days he was a judge of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award and had links to the RNA for many years. This discovery made me feel even more privileged to be a member of the RNA, as I attempt to follow in his gifted footsteps.

Runner up was Jamie Patterson, an independent film director from Jump Start Productions, who adapted RNA member Cally Taylor’s novel, Home for Christmas.

The final award of the evening, Media Star, was awarded to The Romaniacs, a popular blogging and social media group.

Runner up for the Media Star Award was Radio Gorgeous, which broadcasts podcasts which are particularly supportive of women authors.

Photo by RNA

Matt Bates, The Romaniacs and Jamie Patterson

Katie Fforde and David Headley

Katie Fforde and David Headley

After the awards, Katie Fforde, president of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, was delighted to announce that Goldsboro Books were going to sponsor the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2016. This news was a wonderful way to end the award ceremony.

More wine and bubbly flowed, as everyone got back to the serious task of mingling before the evening came to a close.

Two train journeys later, I was able to kick off my high heels and put my feet up. My last visit to London was many years ago, but I found it as vibrant, busy and fascinating as I remembered. Now I am back in Cornwall (which is also vibrant, busy and fascinating, but in a completely different way), however, I am glad I made the journey to London and resolve not to leave it so long next time.

Photos of award winners courtesy of the RNA

North Cornwall Book Festival, Pasties & Cake.

IMG_0423I believe to be a great writer one has to read a lot and be willing to learn from others. Book festivals are a great way to meet fellow readers and writers. The North Cornwall Book Festival, which this year was held entirely in the small parish of St.Endellion, was no exception. Although it ran for three days at the end of October, I was only able to attend the final day. However, I couldn’t have picked a better day, the autumn sun was shining, the people (both authors and visitors) were friendly, and the pasties and cake for sale were delicious.

For those who have never been to a book festival before, it is open to all who have an interest in reading IMG_0427and/or writing. It usually involves a variety of presentations, workshops, interviews, readings and book signings by authors, with the aim of fostering a love of literature and writing, whilst providing an opportunity to meet your favourite author, or discover new ones.

I arrived too early, but was still welcomed by Festival Chairman and established author, Patrick Gale. I had just finished reading his latest book A Place Called Winter, so it was great to be able to tell him face to face how much I enjoyed it.

Next stop was my first workshop, “Handling Romance in Fiction” by Alison Mercer, author of After I Left You and Stop The Clock. At the risk of sounding like a rom com script, Alison had me at “Hello…” because she quickly followed Alison Mercerthe greeting with “…help yourself to the chocolates on the table and the cake on the side”. Needless to say, I liked her approach to the workshop immediately and was the first to reach for a sweet. As with most workshops, the attendees varied in experience, from those who aspire to write, to those who have published before but just want to polish up or expand their writing skills.

Alison fostered a workshop which was relaxed, informative and encouraged open discussion and input, yet at the same time skilfully kept us all on track and to time. She took us through the key events of a writing arc to help develop a storyline, and the main types of characters one might use that can add depth and subplots to a novel. We read extracts from books which depicted very differing romantic encounters and discussed why they work, why they may not work for every reader and the use of the senses to enhance the storytelling. The workshop ended with an opportunity for us to write a paragraph depicting a romantic encounter. Everyone was very supportive of each other’s efforts and we all came away feeling motivated to attend our next event.

In my case, it was to seek out the Cornish pasty tent. They were delicious, just as I knew they would be, and feeling energised and a bit cheeky, I accosted Patrick Gale and asked for a photo. Being the gentleman that he is, IMG_0426he said “Why have one author when you can have three,” and led me outside to where Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others  (which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and The Costa Novel Award in 2014, and won the Encore Award in 2015) and Alison Mercer were sitting. All three kindly posed, despite having their coffee break interrupted and being blinded by the sun.

Next stop was to have my bibliotherapy session with Ella Berthoud , author of A Novel Cure.  A bibliotherapist helps you to tackle life’s ups and downs, with the healing power of a good book. They find out about your reading history, likes and dislikes, passions and pet hates, and discover what is happening in your life. They then suggest the perfect collection of books to read over the next few months in order to reflect your life and overcome the problems you may currently be facing.

At the moment, my only problem is finding the right books to read which will enhance my own writing skills, butIMG_0428 will also be enjoyable. I love the “author voice” of Winston Graham and Francine Rivers, and would like to read more historical romances with a similar narrative. Ella was able to quickly assess my needs without her assessment feeling too intrusive, and I soon discovered her mind is like a literary encyclopedia, with a recall memory that was jaw dropping. She was able to provide me with a list of historical novels that would inspire me to become a better writer, but also be a pleasure to read. I can’t wait to start the first one and, just in case you are interested, these are the books she suggested for me.

The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capello
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
The Arthurian Saga Series by Mary Stewart

IMG_0429Sadly, it was time for me to leave, so I didn’t get the chance to catch up with friend and ex-work colleague, and now successful children’s author, Veronica Lamond or the other poets, illustrators and authors who held workshops that day. However, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and will certainly return next year to have my creative juices energised again and my book shelves filled with new, inspiring reads.

 

In conversation with romance author Jo Beverley

Today I am delighted to welcome romance author, Jo Beverley, to my blog.

Jo Beverley

Jo Beverley

Jo is the NYT bestselling author of over thirty-nine historical romance novels, all set in her native England. Her novels have won the RITA, romance’s top award, five times and she is a member of Romance Writers of America’s Hall of Fame.

Publisher’s Weekly declared Jo Beverley as “Arguably today’s most skilful writer of intelligent historical romance…” Her work has been described as “Sublime!” by Booklist and Romantic Times described her as “one of the great names of the genre.”

Welcome to my blog, Jo and thank you for taking time out of your busy day to chat. Just for fun, which five words do you think best describes you?

Five?  I can come up with laid-back and creative, but I’m really not self-analytical.

What inspired you to write your very first book?

Photo by Kromkrathog FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Vocation, perhaps? I always had stories in my head and started to write them as a child. I fiddled around, with my efforts becoming longer, until we emigrated to Canada and I had time on my hands, and then one poured out. I do feel that I have always been a writer, just as I have not been an athlete, a musician, or an inventor. I’m fortunate to have found the way to be what I’m meant to be.

 

 

What are the challenges (research, literary, psychological or logistical) in bringing a book to life?

I suppose, being true to it. I don’t pre-plan my books, so sometimes I find myself hurtling along and have to stop because though it’s fun it’s not true. Then I have to toss the rubbish out and dig deeper for what’s really going on.  In addition my books always hit a spot about half to two-thirds through when I’m sure that this time it’s not going to work. My husband calls it “the time of the book.” The only thing to do is carry on.

I don’t get writer’s block, though I sometimes find the energy weakens on a book. In that case I start something new, or return to an old project, sometimes just for fun, and return to the other one later. I do believe in preserving the fun in fiction, in all senses.

What books/authors have influenced your writing or writing style and why?

Photo by usamedeniz FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo by usamedeniz
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That’s a tricky one because I’d have to say all of them. I’m sure everything we read has some effect. I’ve never been a great one for how-to-write books, though some have been helpful along the way. Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block was helpful. I read it early in my writing life and it liberated me to do just that. I didn’t have to “write what you know” or be literary-serious about this. I could invent people and places for the sheer joy of it and hope others would enjoy reading my stories.

By the way, the SF writer Orson Scott Card clarified the “write what you know” for me when he pointed out that he knows more about the books he’s read, the films he’s watched and the stories other people have told him than what he was doing as a teenager.

While you are writing, do you ever feel as if you are one of the characters?

No, but I’m often inhabiting them, if that makes sense. Mostly I see what’s going on as a video but I also get inside their heads and share their emotions in order to share all that with the readers. There have to be bits of me in my characters, but I’ve never been interested in writing disguised autobiography.

Tell us a little about your latest book and why you chose that story-line/setting?

I assume you mean the MIP? (Masterpiece/mess/monster in progress.) It’s a marriage of convenience story, which is a favourite of mine. I also write linked books and this one, The Viscount Needs a Wife , rolls out from last April’s Too Dangerous for a Lady . In that one the hero has a friend  who’s a town dandy.

Braydon was in the army, but we’re past Waterloo and he’s sold out and is enjoying his money and his leisure. Being a bit bored after a year of gadding about he’s happy to become involved in Lord Faringay’s anti-terrorism activities. (Yes, that does make sense in the Regency.) So he has the life he wants — London-based, but with challenging government work. Then he unexpectedly inherits a title and, worse, a country estate. When he arrives at Beauchamp Abbey he also finds the previous viscount’s mother and daughter, both intent on making his life worse.

So, as the title says, The Viscount Needs a Wife, in particular one who’ll look after the estate and deal with the troublesome women so he can return to London. A friend suggests a widow, Mrs. Kitty Cateril, who turns out to be sensible and forthright, and so he settles on her. The novel follows their relationship as they learn about one another and make necessary adjustments, but there’s an external plot about an attempt to kill some of the royal dukes — the king’s sons.

The story opens just before Princess Charlotte died in childbirth in November, 1817. Despite George III having seventeen children, she was the only legitimate grandchild, so the royal succession was in peril. Braydon’s called upon to find the culprits and keep the royal family safe.

It sounds really interesting. You have written many books during your illustrious career and experienced many book launches. Do you still get excited or nervous when your latest book is launched?

I’m not sure books launch these days so much as flow out when the sluice gate is raised. With the promo build up and many readers pre-ordering copies online to be delivered on the day, the actual day doesn’t mean much. The reviews are in, as are the orders from the major booksellers. My editor, agent and I all watch the bestseller lists, but part of our attention is on the future.

I find that time is odd in a writer’s life. When Too Dangerous for a Lady was released my mind was deep into The Viscount Needs a Wife, and we were already discussing the back copy and cover.  Too Dangerous for a Lady was important, but not at the top of my mind. In addition, these days all my backlist is available in e-book, and mostly in print, so I have  thirty-nine “live” books, plus a number of novellas. If I get an e-mail from a reader it’s as likely to be about one of my backlist as about the latest one.

 

Are there any words of wisdom you would give to your younger self at the start of your writing career?

Well, about ten years ago I should have claimed back some rights to books that weren’t truly in print, because I could probably do better now publishing them myself. Now the publishers have realized their value and are less likely to release them.

At the beginning? Perhaps I should have tried harder to get my first book published back in the late seventies. On the other hand, I don’t think I was a good enough writer, and I’m not sure I was ready then in other ways.  By 1988 there was much more support and education for romance writers and I learned. Also, word processors and computers were becoming available. I don’t think I could have written many books on a typewriter. Not long after I sold my first book, the internet became more available and I had access to writers around the world. So I think I did all right in the end.

Jo Beverley

Jo Beverley

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I write for your entertainment and pleasure. If ever I dissatisfy, it’s not for want of trying. But I also have to be true to myself, my characters and my stories, so it is what it is. And thank you.

Thank you for a candid and informative interview, Jo. I’ve really enjoyed it.

For more information on Jo’s books, please visit Jo Beverley’s website by clicking on this link .

 

In conversation with romance author Jane Jackson

Jane Jackson

Jane Jackson

Before my first book was published, romance author, Jane Jackson, was incredibly generous with her time by answering some questions I had about the publishing industry. A professional writer for thirty years, three times shortlisted for major Awards, today is the launch date for Jane’s  29th published novel, The Consul’s Daughter. Married with a growing family, she has lived in Cornwall all her life where wonderful scenery, fascinating history and pioneering inventors provide inspiration for both her historical adventure romances and her new Polvellan Cornish Mystery series. I am, understandably, delighted such an experienced and successful author has agreed to be my first guest.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today, Jane, as I understand 2015 has been a busy year for you so far. Are you able to tell us a little about what you have been up to?

The-Consuls-Daughter-192x300I’ve been working on a sequel to The Consul’s Daughter but took a break to write the third of my Polvellan Cornish Mysteries, The Loner, which I hope to finish by the end of July. Then it’s back to complete The Master’s Wife.  After that I’ll begin research for a trilogy of historical thrillers. I also have outlines drafted for four more Polvellan Mysteries. Because these are present-day and at 25,000 words much shorter, writing them makes a lovely change even though they need just as much research!

You have enjoyed a very successful career as a writer, was there a particular moment, incident or book that inspired you to write your first novel?

There was. It came about through a combination of circumstances.  I was a single parent with two small children and an ulcer which meant my life revolved around playschool and domestic life. I’d loved reading since I was four, so I decided to have a go at writing something. I finished a Correspondence Course in Writing that my mother had abandoned. I enjoyed the challenge and learning something new, but realised that journalism and writing for TVPhotoFunia-1435845382 weren’t for me.  Then I had a nightmare. In my dream I ‘saw’ a bar in an old Cornish pub, and a group of fishermen who were members of the village male voice choir.  One of the men started laughing. At first everyone was amused. But he didn’t – couldn’t – stop and he laughed himself to death.  It was still vivid in my mind next morning. I wondered if such a thing could actually happen (it could, and had) and discovered the joys of research. Deadly Feast took three years to research and write. It was accepted by Robert Hale and I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

How long does it take to write a book now and do you have any writing quirks or habits that help with the writing process?

The length of time varies depending on the length of book. I always get drawn along unexpected paths of research and end up doing far more than I need. But of what I learn, 90% remains under the surface supporting the 10% that appears in the story.  My longer novels take between 8-10 months to write. One quirk I have is to begin researching the next when I’m ¾ of the way through the current one.  This means that though I still suffer end-of-book-blues, they can’t last long as the next one is demanding to be written. My Polvellan stories take 2-3 months each.  Another habit is to do a rolling edit – re-reading the previous day’s work as soon as I sit down. This gets me tuned into the story and raring to move it along.  When the book is finished it gets another careful read-through so it’s as good as I can get it before it goes to my editor for his input.

As an experienced author, is there anything you have learnt during your writing career that has surprised you?

The way the characters in my books become absolutely real to me. They are a product of my imagination, yet it’s as if they actually exist in another dimension and I’ve found a way from my world into theirs allowing me to live the events and emotions.  Though I plan my stories in detail, the characters make choices and take actions I hadn’t foreseen. These have consequences which add further layers to the story.

I can certainly relate to that. If you had to choose a career that had nothing to do with writing, what would it be and why? 

When I was at school I wanted to work in a pathology lab. What appealed to me were the research and discovery aspects of the work. But I failed maths – twice.  So though my potential medical career fell at the first hurdle, my love of research was already in place, waiting to be developed.

So now you use your love of research in your writing career. If your “significant other” had to choose a career for you, what would they choose and why?

I’ve just asked him and his answer made me laugh because he said ‘a pathology lab.’  (I was a fan of the original CSI series, and I also enjoy NCIS and Kathy Reichs’ books.)  ‘Or maybe a Records office or archive. Definitely a job where you’d be involved in research.’   He knows me well!

The-Consuls-Daughter-192x300I understand your 29th book is coming out today called The Consul’s Daughter, would you mind telling us a little bit about it?

I’d be delighted! Caseley is the 21-year-old daughter of Teuder Bonython, successful shipyard owner and consul for Mexico. When he falls ill, and her brother refuses to be involved, Caseley takes responsibility for the shipyard, the consulate, and her father’s health. Not conventionally beautiful, Caseley also resigns herself to a life without love … until she encounters Jago Barata, half-Spanish captain of a Bonython ship. Jago is fearless, determined, a brilliant sailor – he’s also impudent, arrogant, and unnaturally perceptive. Love is the last thing on Caseley’s mind as their every encounter sets her and Jago at each other’s throats.

But just when she thinks Jago is out of her life for good, Caseley must deliver a letter to Spain on behalf of her father – a letter containing information that could seal the fate of Spain one way or another. It will be a journey filled with doubt, intrigue and danger – and the only ship leaving in time is Jago’s…

It sounds really exciting, what inspired the plot/setting for this latest novel?

Cornwall

Cornwall

In a biography of Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick I read that he spent time in Mexico, installing huge pumping engines at silver mines.  I thought that sounded interesting.  Then I read that when silver is extracted from copper, lead or zinc ores, the process requires mercury – which was shipped out to Mexico from Spain.  But in 1874, the middle of the Victorian era and a favourite period of mine, Spain was gripped by civil war and ships were trapped by a blockade in the port of Bilbao.  My historical romances always have a connection to Cornwall. So once I know the background and period (usually inter-dependent) I think ‘what if?’  What if the owner of a ship repair yard also owns and charters ships?  What if one of his captains is half-Spanish? What if, being a respected businessman from a long-established family, the yard owner is also a consul?  What if he is sent documents from Mexico vital to Spain’s future but he’s too ill to take them himself? What if he has a daughter? What if, a crippled foot caused by the accident that killed her mother has left her with a limp? Unable to dance – an important social skill in young women – she was taught Spanish by a sympathetic teacher?   For me, plot grows out of character, and character choices influence development of the plot.

Do you think the names of the main characters in a book are important and why did you choose the names in this latest novel?

Yes, I do think names are important.  They need to be right for the period of the story and for the location.  They also need to ‘fit’ the characters so you can’t imagine them being called anything else.  I chose Caseley, which is actually a Cornish surname, partly because it was different but authentic and I liked the sound of it, partly because at that time children were often named for grandparents, godparents or to flatter someone from whom the family might have ‘expectations.’  Bonython is an old Cornish surname. Caseley Bonython works well.  The same applied to giving her father the first name ‘Teuder.’  You have to admit ‘Teuder Bonython’ does have a certain ring to it! My hero is half-Cornish half-Spanish. Jago is Cornish for James.  His surname, Barata, is Spanish from his father. But he also has a middle name from his Cornish mother’s family, Lansallos.

 Where and when can readers purchase  The Consul’s Daughter?

Ebook edition available 2nd July  price £2.99

Paperback edition available 30th July price £12.99

Click here to view and buy the book

Finally, is there anything specific you would like to say to your readers?

Thank you, BD, for inviting me onto your blog.  If anyone has further questions I’d love to hear from you.

You can reach me via my blog or my Facebook Page .

Thank you, Jane, I’ve really enjoyed our chat today and I wish you all the best for The Consul’s Daughter.

Book Review: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Redeeming Love by Francine RiversInspired by the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers tells the inspirational love story between Sarah, a prostitute, and a devoutly religious man called Michael Hosea.

Rivers tells a beautifully written tale of an abused, betrayed child who grows into a physically and emotionally damaged young woman. Her view of life and people is skewed by the horrific experiences of her past and only great patience, understanding and unfailing love will help her leave her past behind. She finds this in a quiet farmer called Michael who believes God has answered his prayer for a wife when he first sets eyes on Sarah/Angel and falls instantly in love.

This is a Christian romance, but don’t be put off if you are not religious or of a different faith. The strong belief and dialogue Michael has with God, as he inwardly struggles, gives a reason why he behaves as he does and therefore makes his character more believable.

Rivers captures the complicated emotions of an abused victim, and in doing so provides an explanation and understanding why Sarah struggled to be saved from an abusive life.

Although at times it makes difficult reading, it is a lovely story of how a devoted loving man will always be there for you to catch you when you fall…and what woman would not want that.

Today’s book is the sum of the past.

I saw the flicker of scepticism in my friend’s face before she had a chance to mask it. Unfortunately, the look did not surprise me, as it was a reaction I have become familiar with in others.

“Really?” she asked.
“Yes. Why do I feel that you don’t believe me?” I challenged.
The scepticism changed to nervous, embarrassed laughter.
“Well…,” she said eventually, “…you just don’t look the type.”

You would think that I had just confessed to robbing a bank vault or expressed a wish to be a nun, but the reality was not so dramatic. Yet, my confession that I liked to read historical romances had, I could tell, subtlety changed my friend’s view of me and, in that moment, I felt it was not towards the positive.

So has the historical romance genre become uncool to read? I certainly hope not! However I can’t help wondering why a business woman, who is independently minded and (I hope) fairly intelligent, not be considered the “type” to enjoy historical romance. Perhaps its chequered history can be partly to blame…

In the past, historical romances were chaste and even sometimes lacked the now obligatory ‘happy ever after’. If lust and passion reared their obscene heads in England, as with Lady Chatterley’s Lover, publishers risked being brought to trial under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

However, the titanic plates of the romance genre shifted by the 1970s and the historical romance genre were all about domination. Today we may find these hard to tolerate and even label them abusive. However, these novels were ground breaking for the time as, for the first time, novels showed passion and lust that was previously, for decency sake, not referred to. Readers lapped up these stories in the privacy of their own homes. Yes, the 70’s was the hippy era and free love for all, or so we are to believe, but for many women the reality of their lives was much more mundane. Reading about a passion filled, dominate hero gave the reader the escapism that they longed for. These readers were, strangely, being rebellious in their own way, although readers of today may be horrified to hear this view.
By the 1990’s women wanted to read about sassy heroines, who were independent and no longer victims. Although historical romances remained, trying to remain true to the historical period would place the inevitable constraints that contemporary romances did not have to limit themselves to.
By the 2000’s a whole sub-genre of romances grew in popularity, including humorous, suspenseful, inspirational, erotic, science fiction, paranormal, vampire and werewolf romances.

Perhaps this explosion has left the traditional historical romance appearing, to some, a little out of date or stuck in a rut.
Perhaps the historical romance genre of the past has given my friend a slanted view of the typical historical romance readers of today. Does she believe lovers of historical romance are still like the wide-eyed 1970s reader, who, strangely in her opinion, enjoyed reading about dominant heroes and must, therefore, be lacking in some part of their life.

The reality is that the well written romance of today are about women finding their own identity and their journey getting there, whilst finding Mr Right along the way. It can have the historical detail of the classics, the passion and lust of the 70’s and an independent heroine of today that is a survivor of the constraints placed upon her. Historical romances can be fluff and fun, after all who needs serious reading all the time, but equally it can be an informative, passionate roller-coaster that can rival any thriller, autobiography or mystery. It’s the author and their skill that matters, not the genre it is placed in.

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