What’s Your Dream?

Elaine Roberts talks about what a difference a year makes.

Firstly, Francesca and I should apologise for being missing for so long, where has this year gone?

Due to a few family problems I have been in a reflective mood lately and it’s made me realise a few things, mainly how lucky I am. I thought I’d share a snippet of my world, without boring you with too much detail.

A few years ago my niece visited me and while we were talking she asked me, if I could do anything, what would it be? I told her I didn’t know. What was interesting was that, apparently, my sister had said the same thing. We came to the conclusion that we had never been asked about our own dreams and ambitions. It was from that conversation that I remembered, when I was in my early twenties, I used to write in the evening when my children had gone to bed. I had sent my work to Mills and Boon who sent me a delightful letter. It was a rejection, but it was encouraging. That was in the early eighties, I think, but then life took over.

In 2012, I joined a writing class and my dream was resurrected.

In April 2016, I had the opportunity to take redundancy from work and grabbed it with both hands, because I had a dream I wanted to follow.

In September 2016, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, which is a World War One family saga, hadn’t even been thought of. I was writing a Victorian novel.

At the end of November 2017, I signed my three-book contract with Aria.

My debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, was published in June 2018.

The second novel in the series, The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War, is published in January 2019.

I am currently writing the third novel, Christmas At The Foyles Bookshop, which is out in August 2019.

It’s all been very exciting. Since signing the contract, my life has been dogged with my own self-doubt and serious family illnesses. At times, I have wondered if I had time to write another novel, or even if I could. I have questioned myself, over and over again, but my laptop went everywhere with me in case I got ten minutes to lose myself, away from the stresses of my reality at that time.

I also wondered whether all writers go through the same emotional rollercoaster, and having spoken to a few authors, I believe the answer is yes.

Anything creative is subjective, so that is easily followed by self-doubt, because everyone has an opinion, and definitely won’t all agree with each other.

A magazine short story

It took me a long time to tell someone I was an author. I built it up in my head to be this great unveiling, and didn’t want to come across as something I’m not. Haha, it was such a let down when I finally got round to saying it out loud, because I got no response whatsoever. The second time I said it, the response was “I don’t read books”. How sad is that? I can’t imagine going through life without a book on the go. My biggest problem is not having enough time to read all the books I want to.

I love a good book, and to write a novel has been a dream of mine since I was young.

Thanks to my hard work, determination and a great support network around me, and to my readers I have achieved my goal. The biggest thanks must go to my niece for asking the question in the first place and my tutor for guiding and bullying me into writing short stories as well as the novel.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what life throws at you, don’t lose faith or hope that you will achieve your dream. It may not be your time now, but remember, it’s never too late.

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To Be, Or Not To Be, That Is The Question…

Elaine Roberts touches on the relationship between author and reader.

When you read a fiction book of any genre, what are you looking for? Good plot? Great characters? Good grammar? Escapism? A good ending? Does it have to be believable? Or all of the above?

This could be my “to be read” pile.

There are lots of different types of books out there, because there are lots of different types of readers, and what it’s always good to remember is, there’s room for all of them. Just because a genre isn’t to an individuals liking, that doesn’t make it rubbish. Equally, if you don’t like a book an author has written, it doesn’t mean she is a rubbish writer. Everything in the creative world is subjective, whether it’s novels, films, music or art. It doesn’t really matter what we read, as long as we are reading and encouraging others to do the same.

Women’s commercial fiction is often described as fluffy, with no substance; such a sweeping statement. Many writers work hard at their research, to ensure the facts in the story are correct. I know some authors of women’s fiction that actually interview people that did, or do, the job they are writing about, to ensure they are getting it right. It must be heart breaking to work so hard, then read general comments about the genre. Some novels can take up to a year to write, because the story is intricately woven into historical facts.

Click on cover for more information.

As an author, I worried about how my debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, was going to be received. Was it too fluffy? Would it be lacking, so the readers found it boring?

The reviews and messages, from readers and bloggers, started to come in and I held my breath. I was absolutely thrilled and read the first one with disbelief. Were they talking about my writing, my novel, when they said they couldn’t put it down and gave it five stars? I thought it was a fluke and continued to be fearful of what everyone’s opinion would be. It’s been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, of my own making I hasten to add, but I have received some lovely messages and reviews. Thank goodness for the readers.

Whatever people may write about any genre, it is important to remember the only thing that matters are the readers, as they are your marker. Yes, I’m sure it would be lovely to be recognised by your peers as doing a brilliant job, but surely that’s not why we write is it? It’s not why I do it. I write because I love to write, and yes, I want to publish the best I can, though not for my writing peers, but for my readers.

It has taken me several years to get my first novel published and if I had any advice for budding writers, it would be do not give up, keep learning and try writing other genres, until you find one that fits you and your style.

Twitter: @RobertsElaine11

Facebook: elainerobertsauthor

It’s The Real Thing

Elaine Roberts talks about how her dream has become a reality.

When you have a dream, or what you think is an unachievable ambition, and it suddenly becomes a reality, does it live up to what you expected?

Me WorkingIn my case, the dream, or the lofty ambition, was to become a published novelist and to see my name on a cover. I have been lucky to have many short stories published in different countries, but the novel was always my dream for as long as I can remember. There were times when it felt the learning curve, the work, the commitment needed was insurmountable, but it wasn’t. It just needed time, patience and reminding there was no rush. I had to learn my craft.

The followers of this blog will know that I signed a three-book contract with Aria, Head of Zeus, at the end of 2017. Since then, my dream has become a reality. I’ve had structural and copy edits in, thankfully nothing too onerous. Rightly or wrongly, the copy edits made me chuckle because I hadn’t realised how many times I’d used the phrase “took a deep breath”, despite reading through quite a few times before sending it off. Thanks goodness for editors. I met my editor for lunch this week and I think we could have talked long into the night, and without alcohol, amazingly. Part of our conversation was about book four onwards – now that was scary. Joking aside, the team at Aria are lovely to work with.Business Card

Thanks to my son, I now have some wonderful business cards and a nearly finished website, with an interactive business card on it. I got so excited about the card on the website, I was like a child at Christmas. I also have an author page on Facebook. So you can see, I am now on another steep learning curve about promoting myself. If you visit my author page, please feel free to like and follow me. It’s always good to talk.

I’m sharing the cover of my first novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, here first.
The Foyles Bookshop Girls

I was beyond excited when it became available for pre-order on the Amazon, Kobo and WH Smith’s e-book sites.

Amazon:          The Foyles Bookshop Girls

Kobo:               The Foyles Bookshop Girls

WH Smiths:    The Foyles Bookshop Girls

 

So my opening question was, does the reality live up to the dream? My answer is a resounding yes. It is hard work and there are times when I hate what I’m writing, that’s usually around the 30,000 word mark, but I can’t stop writing. It’s in my blood, my DNA. You can rest assured I have ordered a kindle version of my book but when it becomes available I will also order a paperback copy as well. It’s so exciting!

By the nature of the word “dream”, what you want always feels unachievable, but what you have to remember is, if your dream was easy, everyone would be doing it and then it wouldn’t be your dream, because it would be the norm.

Good luck to everyone who has a dream, no matter how small that is. Stick with it. With perseverance and patience, you can get there. If I can do it, so can anyone.images

Facebook:        Elaine Roberts Author

Website:          www.elaineroberts.co.uk

Twitter:           RobertsElaine11

 

 

WHO IS VIVIEN? WHAT IS SHE?

Vivien Hampshire reveals the inside story of the woman behind the pen

When it was suggested that, for the theme of this blog during November, we all write a few interesting snippets about ourselves, for some reason I found myself singing the opening lines of Shakespeare’s song from The Two Gentlemen of Verona!

Who is Silvia? What is she,

That all our swains commend her?

Holy, fair and wise is she.

Nose in a book as ever!

Nose in a book as ever!

It’s easy to hide behind our writing. In our stories, given the right research, we can visit places we have never been and act out thrilling, romantic or even sexy scenes we have never experienced in real life – and hopefully make our readers believe every word. Many of us may take on a pen name, maybe going so far as to change gender in the process, so our readers, and maybe even our nearest and dearest, don’t have to know who we are if we choose not to tell them. Writing is a wonderful smoke screen behind which we can happily hide our true selves and revel in make-believe.

So, who is Vivien? What is she? What can I tell you about me that you are not able to guess from looking at my Amazon author page or from reading my fiction? Well… holy, fair and wise I cannot claim to be, but (in case you’re curious) here’s a potted history of me – the me when I am not wearing my writer’s hat – and leaving out most of the boring bits!

I left school earlier than planned because my dad was ill, but that didn’t stop me from finishing my exams. I managed the second year of my A level studies while holding down a full-time job in a bank, thanks to a couple of close friends who brought me their lesson notes and passed on homework details, and teachers who continued to mark it even though I was no longer a pupil. I took time off and joined my former classmates on exam days, and passed three subjects with flying colours. And I’m pretty sure the experience has been an enormous help to me in managing my time and juggling the conflicting demands of work, children and writing in the years since.

After around ten years in banking I went to work for a London council in their accountancy department and stayed there for a further eight, before leaving to bring up my children. I was always surprisingly good with money, figures, balance sheets and budgets, even though, had anyone asked, I would have said (and still do) that I am a words girl, not a numbers one! Give me a crossword over a Sudoku any day. But somehow I had fallen into a career path that I would never have consciously chosen. Again, handy in later life though. I never have trouble balancing my bank account, sending out invoices or filling in my tax returns, and apart from a mortgage (now repaid) and a not-to-be-missed interest free deal on my new car, I have never had to take out a loan for anything either.

From the age of sixteen, although I worked with numbers, I really just wanted to write. Poems at first, then stories, and eventually a novel – the opening to which won a national competition and brought two literary agents knocking at my door without me having to seek them out at all. Oh, dear. The book didn’t sell, despite some very near misses, but I went on to write another two, both unpublished but great practice for later on. And while all that was going on… I gave birth to twins! After an ectopic pregnancy, years of infertility and five rounds of IVF, the miracle happened and life changed – more hectic, different priorities, and less time. I registered as a childminder and, for the next ten years (still writing as a hobby when I could), I looked after other people’s kids as well as my own, followed by my best job ever, helping very young children to gain a love of books and reading in a children’s centre and running storytelling and rhyme sessions in libraries. All this daily contact with toddlers turned out very useful for helping me create the character of Lydia, a childminder who ‘loses’ a baby in her care, in my first (self-)published novel, Losing Lucy  – and in writing my newest book about a child left alone at home. This novel, the one I have enjoyed writing the most, is still trying to find itself an agent and ultimately a publishing deal.

I just love crosswords!

I just love crosswords!

But, always, whatever job I was doing, bubbling underneath were words! The constant urge to read (here I am in the photo above, reading the fantastic charity short stories anthology Diamonds and Pearls ), to dip into dictionaries, to play around with words and learn their meanings, to complete ever harder cryptic crosswords, and to write. It never went away. And now I’m sixty, the kids are grown and gone, and I have a new husband who follows his own hobbies and leaves me plenty of time to pursue my own. Life feels right. And the time feels right too. I have written well over a hundred published woman’s magazine stories and a book about my crossword passion, How to Crack Cryptic Crosswords – and now I’m back writing novels again, with a vengeance!

If I could go back, I doubt I would do anything very differently. I don’t feel I’ve missed out on much. Marriage, children, good health, enough money to get by – I’ve been lucky enough to have had all those. I have never dreamed of setting off on major foreign travel trips, of doing a parachute jump or learning to play the piano, or even of winning the lottery. No, my dream is much more modest, but sometimes feels just as unattainable. I want that bestseller, and I want it NOW!