Tag Archive | reading

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.

Own it, share it, tackle it.

“This is an opportunity too good to miss,” I said to my husband as I read the article. St.Ives Literary Festival was being held the following week and one particular event seemed tailor-made for me. Aptly called Free Speech, the event allowed writers to read extracts of their work to the unsuspecting public.  What could possibly go wrong? I thought to myself as I packed my latest novel in a bag, downloaded a map from the internet and set off in my car which was desperately in need of a wash.

I arrived in high spirits and in plenty of time. Even the fact that the car park meter swallowed up my money and refused to give me a ticket did not dampen my mood – much. Luckily, I still had some cash left and marched off to another, more friendly, meter, before making my way down the hill to the quaint little town of St.Ives.IMG_1193[1]

The historic Cornish port is a picturesque gem. Unsurprisingly, it is a popular town for tourists, with plenty of time to window-shop, to visit. I, on the other hand, was on quite a different mission and struggled to find the venue amongst the warren of narrow streets. My search was made all the more difficult by the map I had brought with me. I had foolishly printed it out in draft to save ink, which made it so faint I could not see the streets, let alone read their names. However, my perseverance paid off, (coupled with asking a bemused pasty seller for directions) and I finally arrived at the venue. I put my name on the list to be the first speaker. This was not the act of bravery, but the heart sinking realisation that my car park ticket would run out before the event finished.

As the venue began to fill with people, my nerves kicked in – and for a very good reason. What I had failed to dwell on, until that moment, was my long-held fear of reading out-loud to people.sad young girl At school I dreaded the Thursday afternoon English lesson, when our young, bohemian teacher would make us take turns reading passages from Watership Down. No matter how hard I tried, I always seemed to mess up when it came to my turn. I would miss sentences, read the same sentence twice, or just lack the fluency to tell the story well. My ears would burn with humiliation as I listened to my classmates stifled giggles. The more I messed up the more my anxiety grew. I even resorted to faking sore throats to get out of my turn. To many, rabbits are soft fluffy creatures, to me they are reminders of my torture. Yet, here I was, volunteering to do it all again.

As I stood up my right leg began to shake, involuntary beating a drum beat against my chair. At this point I had a choice – give up, fake confidence (despite my trembling body telling a very different story), or share my fear of reading out-loud with the audience.

I did the latter and, after some understanding nods and smiles, I began to read. When I finally ended, their enthusiastic applause suggested that they genuinely enjoyed my reading. I had done it and felt a great sense of achievement that it had gone well. This first reading was going to be the start of many and, surprisingly, I even enjoyed the experience.

happy womanOn reflection, by sharing my fear with the audience I was freed from having to be perfect. This change in my own expectation gave me the space to just have a go. This freedom relaxed me and, if I say so myself, the reading ended up being pretty flawless.  Sometimes it takes strength to share one’s weaknesses. Own it, share it and tackle it, then move forward. We must not let our insecurities from the past prevent us from being who we want to be today.