CHATTING TO NOVELIST VICTORIA LAMB

Today it’s my pleasure to chat with prolific author, Victoria Lamb, who also writes as Elizabeth Moss

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Victoria, many of your books have been set in the Tudor period. Why did you pick this era in particular?

Some of my earliest reading in historical fiction as a teenager were books by Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt, including some of her classic tales about Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley and Lettice Knollys. So when I was starting out as an historical writer, it made sense to turn first to periods I had enjoyed reading about when young. I also write Regencies as Elizabeth Moss, another favourite era inspired by reading the wonderful Georgette Heyer. Tudors are very popular right now, probably because we can relate to them rather more easily than to characters in the Middle Ages; they’re like us, but not us, and I think that’s very appealing to people who want a touch of historical texture in their fiction.

How do you go about your research? Do you start writing, then research when you need to, or read around the era and subject beforehand?

I check my basic facts, draw up a timeline, and then start writing pretty much as soon as possible. I’m quite impatient and restless as a person, and writing is no different. If I had to make notes for weeks and think deeply about my stories, I would just get bored and never write them. But I can’t start a story without having a feel for the narrative voice – or voices – it will be written in. That can take a few false starts. But if my preliminary research is in place when I start, then I already have a fairly good idea how the voice will sound, because it will have been building up in my mind while I did that research.

As I move further into a book, I tend to trip over situations where I need to do more research – unknown dates and places, or historical know-how like how many days a particular journey would take on horseback in Tudor England or what kind of rules and rituals governed women in childbirth. That’s the point at which I will down tools, pick up my books, Google a date or ask an academic friend, and pin down that fact. Once sorted, I move on. Until the next unknown fact crops up. Some people may prefer to do all that research before writing, but I don’t find it interrupts my flow to research on the hoof, and it certainly means I can write my books more quickly.

Weaving fictional characters and plots into historical fact as you do, how do you keep on top of all the information?

I am addicted to Post-It notes. I stick them on the wall next to my desk, or dangle them from my bookshelves, or even plaster them across my desk. When I start a book, I note down physical characteristics – eyes, hair, height etc – for quick reference and can then check them as I go along. Since I’m almost always working on two books at once, losing track of the colour of someone’s eyes is actually not that difficult! I also keep names, facts and timelines on hand, often on several whiteboards that lean against the wall next to my desk. There’s a wonderfully cleansing and cathartic moment at the end of every book – usually around proof stage – where I tear down the old Post-Its, wipe off my whiteboards, and start again.

Tell us about your latest releases.

As Victoria Lamb, I have the second book in my Tudor Witch Trilogy for young adults out in the States this week – WITCHFALL – with the third and final book, Witchrise, due out in the UK this July. The third book in my Lucy Morgan series, HER LAST ASSASSIN, a Tudor spy thriller with romantic elements set at Elizabeth I’s court, is also just out in hardback. Paperback to follow in the autumn. As Elizabeth Moss, writing Tudor romance, I have REBEL BRIDE out this week, the sequel to Wolf Bride. Rather a lot of publishing activity in 2014, as you can see!

small US edition Witchfall cover small jpg WOLF BRIDE cover image copy copy copy HER LAST ASSASSIN small cover photo

 

Thank you, Victoria, for taking time out of your busy writing life to talk to us. Good luck with your new books.

Victoria Lamb lives in a farmhouse on the wild fringes of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, England, with her husband, five children and an energetic Irish Red Setter. She writes poetry and fiction as her day job, and is addicted to social media. On dark nights she has been known to sneak out onto the moors and howl at the moon . Visit her website www.victorialambbooks.com  or chat with her on Twitter, where she answers to @VictoriaLamb1. 

 

Victoria was in conversation with Francesca Burgess

 

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CHATTING TO NOVELIST CATHERINE KING

  Today we offer a warm welcome to popular novelist Catherine King as we chat to her about her writing life 

 catherine king  ASistersCouragepbk

Catherine, how would you describe your novels and their settings? And are they based on ‘what you know’?

I write gritty romantic novels set in Victorian and Edwardian South Yorkshire where the coal and steel industries flourished. My most recent books have focused on the upstairs-downstairs lives of the wealthy and their servants. I grew up in the area I write about and my mother was in service to the owner of a Rotherham steelworks. Much of the domestic culture in my books is based on her memories and those of her mother.

How many have you written now, and how often do your publishers expect you to produce a new one?

I have written nine books in this series. My publishers expect and receive a new book every year. This keeps me busy!

Who is the one character from your own books that you have most enjoyed writing about, and why?

Before my most recently published book I would have selected one of my heroes as my favourite character. But I really like Meg, the heroine in A SISTER’S COURAGE which came out last year. I like her because, although she does what she thinks is right, she has a tough time of it. Nevertheless, she picks up the pieces of her life and carries on, showing great courage in the end.

Do any of your characters re-appear in later books, or is every book completely stand-alone?

Each book I write is stand-alone although a major character in one story may have a bit part in another book if the area and times overlap. When I changed from the Victorian to the Edwardian era I used a main character from THE LOST AND FOUND GIRL to kick-start the story for THE SECRET DAUGHTER.

Tell us a little about your latest published book

My latest title, A SISTER’S COURAGE, was published in paperback last November. It is about three women from very different backgrounds whose lives throw them together and they become suffragettes. I really enjoyed researching and writing this book although parts of it were harrowing as some suffragettes suffered greatly for their cause.

How did you first get started, and how long did it take to ‘break through’?

I was definitely not an overnight success! I began by writing short stories, and progressed to romance novels, under a different name. I wrote six and sold five of them. Therefore, when I tackled my first Catherine King book I had some experience to draw on. Also, I had made some good industry contacts in The Romantic Novelists’ Association. My first book was turned down by two publishers. I was ‘called in to talk’ by a third publisher who, eventually, offered me a two-book contract. I had to do a lot of work on that first book . . . and the second . . . and the third. But this was a learning process and I got better at it!

What are you working on now, and when will we get to read it?

Currently I am waiting for the edits to come back on the manuscript for my next novel. It is called HER MOTHER’S SECRET and will be out in August (the hardback library edition), with paperback publication in November 2014.

If you could give new authors just ONE tip, what would it be?

Whatever you write, write it from your heart.

Thank you so much, Catherine, for taking the time to talk to us.

Catherine was in conversation with Vivien Hampshire

All Catherine’s novels are available from bookshops and Amazon in print and e-versions. More details can be found on her website http://www.catherineking.info  where there are links to her Facebook page and Twitterfeed.

Meeting author Sally Quilford


Sally Q

Welcome to WMWP, Sally.

Today I’m talking with author, Sally Quilford about her writing life.

It’s always interesting to know why someone wants to write for a living. What sparked off your urge to write novels?

Having left school with no qualifications, at the age of 30, I decided to return to ‘school’ and started with a GCSE in English Literature. It inspired me to want to write. Before then I had a vague notion of being a writer, but never really put it into practice. I started with some very bad poetry, then some equally bad short stories, but over the years, after lots of practice, I improved enough to begin to sell my stories. I had written a couple of novels, but they are clearly the work of a complete beginner. My first official novel was The Secret of Helena’s Bay and even then it was only 30k words in length. I wrote it for My Weekly Pocket Novels and was both amazed and delighted when it was accepted.

Naturally that inspired me to keep going!

You are a prolific writer so could you share with us your creative process?

Basically it’s switch the computer on, check Facebook and emails, play Candy Crush then suddenly panic when I realise half the morning has gone and I’ve written nothing. That being said, when I’m in the grip of a story, nothing can stop me. I’m something of a binge writer. I can write loads and loads over a short period of time, but then can go weeks without writing anything. I do have to be in the grip of an idea to write, and don’t personally hold with the idea that you must write every morning. I try not to let too long go between writing projects, but if I’ve completed a 50k novel, I don’t beat myself up if I spend a month just chilling (though I do have other writing related duties, such as my work with the Romantic Novelists Association and running my workshops).

Your first published book was a novella, was that a conscious decision or did it come about naturally?

It was a conscious decision. I wanted to try something that bridged the gap between writing short stories and writing a full length novel. 30k seemed achievable. So I did my research and decided to ignore all that and just write the romantic intrigue I wanted to write. It worked and The Secret of Helena’s Bay was accepted by My Weekly Pocket Novels.

Would you recommend joining the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA)?

Yes, absolutely. It’s a lovely organisation, with a very friendly membership, and is great for networking with other romance writers, and editors and agents in the industry. The RNA gives our genre a professional ‘face’ and helps us to compete in a world where romance writing is, sadly, seen as not being quite ‘real’ writing.

Ulverscroft publishes many of your pocket novels. Can you tell us about the process of progressing to large print books.

At one time, one could not sell to Ulverscroft Large Print books unless you’d first sold the novel to another publisher i.e. DC Thomson who publishes My Weekly and People’s Friend Pocket novels. I didn’t have a clue about it, until the smashing Cara Cooper let me in on the secret. It’s great to have another market for our books, and also to get Public Lending Rights on them. What’s more, on a personal note, my dad is partially sighted, so I’m always able to get him a free copy.  Now Ulverscroft has changed their rules and if you’ve been published by them before, they will take work that hasn’t been published elsewhere. So it’s a whole new market for us! They’re a nice publisher to work with and produce a very high quality product. They’ve just accepted The Doctor’s Daughter, which is the first in the series of my Peg Bradbourne Mysteries (and is also available on Kindle!)

Sallys book

Thank you for sharing your experiences as a writer.

CHATTING TO HISTORICAL NOVELIST, JEAN FULLERTON

I’m delighted to be able to chat to well-known author, Jean Fullerton.

I confess to using Jean as an example to students of how a writer can have a busy job, family life and find time to write successful historical novels.

Welcome to WMWP, Jean. jean1webpicture

I always try to encourage writers to enter competitions. I understand you won a major novel writing competition. Why did you choose to enter this comp and how did the outcome influence your writing life?

I entered the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006 because some lovely people in the Romantic Novelists’ Association thought the book I was writing at the time, No Cure for Love, would be perfect.

I would have been happy just being short-listed. Winning didn’t only influence my writing life it made it.

Winning the Harry Bowling Prize was the breakthrough I needed. It got me my lovely agent Laura Longrigg and my first two book deal with Orion. I now have six novels published and am just finishing my seventh, which will be out Feb 2015.

I would encourage anyone who is serious about getting published to enter competitions. At the very least, if you’re short-listed or highly-commended, you can add that to you writing credentials and if you win, who knows, it could be your lucky break, too.

New writers seem to feel they have two options. To submit straight to publishers or to try to obtain representation by an agent. What would you advise?

I know how desperate people are to get published but as in any industry there are sharks out there. Anyone can set up as a publisher and I’ve seen authors snatch at the first deal they are offered without really investigating what they are signing away in the contract.

I understand unpublished authors’ frustration but I really do believe that you should think big as far as securing a publisher goes. In today’s world that means getting an agent. Without one you’ll never be able to access the big publishers like Random House, Little Brown and Orion.

Agents are on your side and only make money if you do. They are your insider in the industry and can network for you at events and conferences. They are also the tough guy when it comes to negotiating a contract and if things go wrong. I’ve heard people say agents are a dying breed and authors don’t need them to be a success. You’ll have to judge for yourself what is right for you but I wouldn’t be without my wonderfully supportive agent, Laura.

Your novels are all historicals. Have you ever considered tackling a different genre?

I enjoy political thrillers so I might consider tackling a story of governmental corruption and subsequent cover up like House of Cards. In truth though I feel I’d have to stay faithful to my first love so I can’t really see me ever writing anything other than historical fiction. But to be fair that does give me 3000 years to play with.

Please tell us about your latest book.

We meet up with Millie on 5th July 1948, the day the NHS started. She is now Nurse Millie Smith, having married aspiring MP Jim Smith. The war has ended and the NHS has just come into action, so the nurses are busier than ever as the community realise that they no longer have to pay for the services.

Minor ailments need attention, babies need to be helped into the world and some of the larger-than-life characters need keeping in line so Millie has enough drama to deal with without having to deal with more from home…and Alex Nolan, her ex-fiancé, is back in town.

ALLCHANGENURSEMILLIEfinalcover

All Change for Nurse Millie is available on Kindle for £2.62 at:

All change for Nurse Millie

 

 

Thank you, Jean. It’s been a delight to talk to you.

Elaine

Today we welcome Sue Moorcroft – Award winning writer and Vice-Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association

The Romantic Novelists’ Association has just published its second anthology, Truly, Madly, Deeply. Natalie asks guest Sue Moorcroft to explain how the process worked.

Portrait of Sue Moorcroft

How long was it from inception to publication of Truly, Madly, Deeply and can you tell us a bit about your ‘journey’?

I think it was about two years. I saw Kimberley Young, who was then working for Harlequin, the publishers of the first anthology, Loves Me, Loves Me Not. Kim asked if I’d be interested in editing another and as I was off the Romantic Novelists’ Association committee at the time, I said yes, if the committee members were in favour. They were in favour. I pretty much had to go back on the committee in order to do a good job, and somehow I ended up accepting an invitation to stand for vice chair.

The contributors have been as co-operative as their various careers and personal lives allow but getting the contracts worked out was a mammoth task. Not only had Harlequin’s contract changed since Loves Me, Loves Me Not, but things had developed in the digital world. These developments allow for greater creativity in the sales arena but an even greater number of potential pitfalls.

Did you ask people individually to participate or did you choose the stories from a wider range of submissions?

To actually get the stories together for Truly, Madly, Deeply was simple. Harlequin gave me a wish list of writers and I approached those people with a request to contribute. About two-thirds said yes. Then I put out a call for general submissions in the RNA’s magazine, Romance Matters, and received about 90 stories, the vast majority of which were excellent. It was a tough job to choose amongst those! But I sent a longlist to Harlequin and they decided on the final cut, which was great because then there was no question of my having played favourites. Truly, Madly, Deeply

I have so many friends and even a relative amongst those who submitted, that I was very glad that the line-up was taken out of my hands.

Truthfully, it’s not hard to get enough fantastic stories to fill an anthology if you have the RNA members to dip in to.

This isn’t the first anthology published by the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Have you been involved in the past and how did this experience differ from the previous one?

As mentioned, we put out Loves Me, Loves Me Not in 2010 as part of the RNA’s Golden Anniversary celebrations, and I was its editor. In the intervening period – which didn’t really seem that long! – there had been many changes in personnel, a change of contract, and a change in approach in terms of marketing. What hadn’t changed was the goodwill from all concerned, the huge pool of great stories to choose from and the satisfaction in a job well done.

Another thing that has stayed the same, and gives me great pleasure, is that the stories come from right across the romantic fiction genre and there are debut writers in there along with the household names.

As the dust settles (if it ever does as far as you’re concerned) what is next on your agenda?

The book is now out and the promotional duties will ramp up as Mother’s Day approaches. I facilitate those, in that Harlequin ask for writers to go on panels or write guest posts and I act as intermediary and get all the ducks in a row. That sort of request will probably continue for the next few months on an occasional basis.

So far as the RNA is concerned, I will continue to oversee the anthology along with my vice chair duties. I presently also have an overseeing role for Romance Matters, but I believe that that will change.

In my own career, I have just got a manuscript in and expect my report and request for substantive edits around 21 March. While I’m waiting for that I’m catching up on columns, students, appraisals, and planning a Christmas novella. A little inconveniently, I have a novel in my mind that would like to be written before the novella. Unfortunately, the novella has to come first!

Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes. Is this Love? was nominated for the Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award. Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in 2013. She received three nominations at the Festival of Romance 2012, and is a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner. She’s vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies, published by Harlequin.

Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a competition judge and creative writing tutor.

Website www.suemoorcroft.com.

Blog http://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com/

Facebook sue.moorcroft.3

Twitter @suemoorcroft

Thank you for taking the time to join us today, Sue. I knew you were a busy lady but… phew!!

Do you have a favourite?

The five of us have been chatting about characters we’ve invented during our writing lives and thought we’d share our favourites with you.

Over the course of your writing career do you have a favourite character and why? It can be your hero, heroine or a minor player.

Natalie:      I thought long and hard about this – believe me there are many to choose from – but in the end it came down to the hero of my soon to be published book, Voyage of Desire. His name is Ryan Donovan. He has thick dark wavy hair and is tall to the point of generating neck ache in anyone who wants to look into his gorgeous eyes and with just the right touch of the blarney about him I find him irresistible. Oh, and he has that absolute must – a great sense of humour.

Viv:            The character I most enjoyed creating was Irene, a middle-aged spinster librarian caring for her elderly mother. She appeared in a short story in 2002 – it won a Writers’ News competition, and I later went on to read it on radio. Irene is not the typical womag character I usually write about. Underneath her quiet and respectable surface lurks a dark side – a seething resentment over a lost boyfriend and an aborted baby that’s been festering for years. Irene kills her mother in the end – but I still feel great sympathy for her, and I hope my readers did too!

Elaine R:    My favourite character is Mary; she was in the first short story I had published, New Beginnings. Nature had decided Mary and Peter would be childless, but they had enjoyed decades of happiness together, until his unexpected death. Mary lost her husband and soul mate five years earlier, now she was finally finding the strength to face their favourite pastime together, gardening. Their garden hadn’t been given any love since her husband Peter had died, and neither had she. Mary’s story is sad, but it’s also one of inner strength and hope.

Elaine E:     My chosen character is Joe Johnson the nasty husband of Gracie Sayers from my novel Gracie’s War. I love a bad boy and Joe was nasty from day one. A petty criminal at the beginning of the book his career developed until he was a major criminal and made Gracie’s life hell because her evidence could put him in prison for many years. I was told no one was completely bad so I made sure he loved his mother who died when he was a young boy. Was this the reason he followed the wrong path in life?

Francesca:   I’ve picked fourteen-year-old Morwen Parry from Sea Angel, a Young Adult novel and the first novel I ever wrote. Morwen has problems including a mother with issues, a father she’s never met and having to work her spare time in her mother’s café. She’s furious about all these things. Then she meets Thalassa, the sea angel of the title, who makes life even harder – and weirder. The bright spot in her existence is Gabriel, the (rather gorgeous) boy next door. There are aspects of Morwen’s teen life and my own which are similar (not Gabriel, sadly!), so I guess I identify with her.

An eclectic mix and one that demonstrates, I think, how different we all are.