It was the year that…

This week Francesca and Elaine review what they’ve done, writing wise, in 2016.

IMG_0840Elaine: I have to say I was quite shocked at how much time away from home has been committed to writing. 2016 has been the year of opportunity for me. I had the chance to walk away from my full time paid employment in March and I grabbed it with both hands. It is my dream, and has been for many years, to write novels for a living, but life got in the way of that dream.

The year began with me renewing my membership of the Romantic Novelist Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme. If you want to become a writer of romantic fiction, it is something I would highly recommend.

The London Book Fair

The London Book Fair

Since then, I have attended numerous RNA events. The London Chapter meetings, which I have to admit I haven’t attended as much as I would have liked, the RoNA Awards, the summer and winter parties, and the valuable RNA Conference in Lancaster. Smattered in between them have been The London Book Fair, several writing retreats and workshops. I also attended, for the first time, the Historical Novelists Society (HNS) Conference, which was quite enlightening.


Elaine R, Francesca, Natalie, Elaine E in Ramsgate

Francesca: Looking through my diary, it certainly has been a busy year for writing activities. I continued with the RNA blog’s ‘Competition Monthly’ and will carry on into 2017. I attended all the things Elaine’s mentioned, apart from the HNS Conference. We also attended Foyles Discovery Day in February. 

Elaine and I did a week’s writing retreat in Ramsgate in May, along with Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman. I will never forget singing My Sharona with Elaine R (you had to be there!). Later in May I went to the Romance in the Court event with Elaine E and Natalie. There I got an opportunity to talk to Freya North, an author I greatly admire.

Summer was busy with the RNA Conference and for me, The Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard. Don’t be fooled by the word ‘Holiday’ – we all work jolly hard!

My White Board Plan

My White Board Plan

Elaine: For the first time, I tried my hand at writing a Victorian saga; once I got my head round the difference between a historical romance and a saga, it made life a little easier. I would like to thank Louise Buckley for explaining the differences to me at my RNA one to one with her. I was quite proud of my work and it got good reviews at the RNA and HNS Conferences from the Literary Agents and Publishers alike. Unfortunately, as much as they liked it, I was informed, both directly and indirectly, that Victorian doesn’t sell, so it was back to the drawing board or perhaps I should say white board. Of course, what I haven’t mentioned is the many hours of research that is the commitment of writing anything historical.


London Book Fair: Elaine with Rosemary Goodacre

Francesca: Moving into autumn, Elaine and I attended the Woman’s Weekly’s historical novel workshop and visited the ‘Undressed’ Exhibition at the V&A for clothing research. In October I went to the lovely Bishop’s Palace in Wells for the results of a novel competition I’d been shortlisted in. (You win some, you lose some!) 

I got my RNA New Writers’ Scheme report back in November for A Woman Walked into a Life, and was thrilled that the reader said it read like a published book. Still a little bit of work to do but it was very encouraging.

In November Elaine and I joined the Society for Women Writers and Journalists. The first six days of December  saw me at the RNA London Christmas lunch, the SWWJ Christmas afternoon tea  and The Write Place Christmas dinner (the last two on

the same day!). 

Elaine: I am now working on another historical piece, which will also be a saga, so watch this space. I have also made a commitment to interview organisers of Literary and Book Festivals for the RNA Blog.

If anyone should ask me, am I committed to my writing, I would answer just look at my calendar, because in-between all those things, I also try to write at least a thousand words a day.

Inside A Berlin Shop At Christmas

Francesca: I’m  currently dipping my toes into an historical novel set in World War One. At the same time I have ideas going through my head for two contemporary novels. Then there’s A Woman Walked to work on. And I’ve loads of ideas for short stories.

It’s going to be a busy year for both of us. What have you got planned?

@RobertsElaine11                     @FCapaldiBurgess


We wish our readers a very happy Christmas and a wonderful 2017.

The Hove Book Festival

Elaine Roberts had an insightful and entertaining couple of days.

all-300x144_2Dorothy Koomson gave us something special when she introduced us to her brainchild, the inaugural Hove Book Festival, which ran from Thursday 3rd April to Saturday 5th April 2014, it was celebrating her love of reading and really good story telling. The event opened in the intimate venue of Hove Library where Melanie Whitehouse, who runs the Book Lovers’ Supper Club evenings in Ditchling, interviewed three very different authors, Simon Toyne, Bethan Roberts and Dorothy Koomson. Each read passages from their books:
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Simon Toyne read from his first book of a trilogy, Sanctus.
Bethan Roberts read from My Policeman.
Dorothy Koomson read from The Flavours of Love.

They continued entertaining us with stories of how they became writers and where they find their inspiration. Dorothy believes her books fall into a new genre, which she may have invented, the emotional thriller. Though her books often have a crime in them, her stories are not about solving the crime, but about how the crime affects the characters around it.

The Hove Book Festival had something for everyone with a Big Book Quiz, involving authors Lynn Truss, Tom Bale, Joanna Rees, Mark Barrowcliffe and Alexandra Hemingsley with Sarah Gorrell from BBC Sussex and Surrey radio asking the questions. The festival brought Stripy Horse to the seaside for 3 to 5 year olds, with award winning children’s authors Karen Wall and Jim Helmore reading from their first story, encouraging the children to discuss it. Saturday afternoon saw writers and readers alike fill the Hove Town Hall Banqueting Room, to listen to a series of “How To” talks. I attended all the Saturday afternoon talks for £12.

Elly Griffiths, while entertaining, gave valuable insight into the way she works and how she came to have a forensic archaeologist as her main character. Her top tip was to send the manuscript to at least six agents at a time, tell them that’s what you are doing, and ask them to respond in a week, otherwise you’ll assume they are not interested. Apparently this worked for her, she had three agents wanting to see more within that week, but I have to say I’m not sure I’m brave enough to take that line. However, if you’ve done something similar, I’ll be interested to know whether it also worked for you.

Jo Dickinson, the Publishing Director of Adult Fiction at Simon and Schuster, explained how publishing has evolved since she started in the business as an Editorial Assistant. Jo acknowledged it’s subjective. Her best advice was don’t give up; many famous authors got a lot of rejections before someone gave them a chance. To refer to their submission guidelines please visit

Lizzie Enfield and Araminta Hall talked to us about how to find our elusive writing voice. They advised to free write ten or twelve times in a month and assume no-one will read it, this will help find your own unique style of writing, your voice. They also suggested writing about an inanimate object but in the first person, so you become the object. Pour yourself into your writing as if no one will ever read it and you will produce some of your best work.

The day and the festival ended with Eleanor Moran talking about writing for television and how you can put together a story for the small screen.

This has been a very small resumé of the Hove Book Festival, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s, the tickets were excellent value. What struck me most was how open all the authors were to sharing their experiences and happy to answer any questions that came from the floor. They had respect for people already in the business, as well as those striving to be part of that world; they were all normal people like you and me. Dorothy should be pleased her brainchild was a success and as a budding writing I came away inspired to keep trying and never give up.

For more information on the Hove Book Festival: