Natalie Kleinman Escapes To The Cotswolds

We would like to extend a warm welcome to Natalie and her new novel Escape To The Cotswolds

Thank you for welcoming me to your blog. It’s lovely to be back here.

Photo courtesy of MJE Photography

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It’s difficult to quantify. It may be that an idea rolls around in my head for some time while I’m still working on another project. It’s in the background but it is there, occasionally making its presence felt but most of the time just simmering away. A plot never arrives fully formed but I always know the beginning and end. It’s how to get from one to the other that’s the problem! That said, once I put fingers to keyboard the actual writing process takes anything from four to six months, which includes editing as I go. I’m very lucky to have beta readers who are ruthless with me and when the manuscript is finished it will be read and reread until we are all satisfied it’s as good as it can be before submission. All in all I would say the whole process takes between six and eight months, depending on how long it takes to complete the first draft.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Finding a plot I’m happy to work with. I know many writers who have a list of works just waiting to be written. I’m just not one of them. As I’ve said above, an idea may occur to me while I’m entrenched in my current project but usually I’m so engrossed there isn’t room in my small brain for any more. If anything does occur to me I’ll jot it down. Having said that, once subbing begins and my mind is clear something usually jumps into my head and that’s always very exciting.

The main characters in your Escape to the Cotswolds are called Holly Hunter and Adam Whitney. How do you select the names of your characters?

A good question for which I don’t have a satisfactory answer. They come seemingly out of nowhere and are frequently changed when the character lets me know very firmly that their name does not fit their personality and they demand it be changed. In Escape to the Cotswolds Holly was Holly from the word go. Adam went through two incarnations before he was happy with his name.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured and how many hours a day do you write?

I don’t have a rigid regime although I try to write in the morning, not to get it out of the way but because I become riddled with guilt if I haven’t got something under my belt by lunchtime. If life (yes, contrary to some people’s opinion I do have one) doesn’t get in the way I might be at my laptop from morning to night. It’s not all writing time of course. Social media has to be fitted in and my daily several online Scrabble games with my sister are a must.

Your novel is set, obviously, in the beautiful Cotswolds. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning?

It depends on whether I’m writing contemporary or historical – I write both. There’s a lot of online research if I’m writing a Regency and it’s very easy to get carried away so I restrict myself timewise or I’d never get the book finished. With a contemporary though it’s a different process. I’m lucky enough to live within striking distance of the Cotswolds and have visited the area many times. My second novel, Honey Bun, was also set in this lovely part of England. Google Earth is an amazing tool but there’s nothing quite like being there, so there I go…often. Or as often as possible. While I didn’t ‘lift’ it in its entirety, Cuffingham, where Holly lives, is based on a much loved much visited Cotswolds town.

How did publishing your first book, Safe Harbour, change your process of writing?

It didn’t so much change the process as my attitude to the process. It changed my focus. I’ve been committed to my writing since I began some fourteen years ago. I worked very hard and was lucky enough to have several short stories published before I decided I wanted to write a book. Prior to Safe Harbour being published the notion of having a book with my name on the cover was still a dream. When that was realised it wasn’t the end of the dream, it was merely the beginning. I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to. It’s become part of who I am – a very large part.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Both. I think you will probably have grasped from my previous answer that I am pretty motivated and I now wake two hours earlier than I used to (I was never an early riser) because I can’t wait to get at it. That said, it’s often a very tired author who falls into bed at the end of the day.

Give us an insight into your main character, Holly. What does she do that is so special?

Holly deserves better than the cheating husband she got. After accepting her marriage wasn’t the forever relationship she’d always hoped for, she picks herself up, moves from town to country and starts over. It takes guts to do that. So I guess I’d say Holly is a big personality in a diminutive body.

What are you working on at the minute?

I’ve just started work on a book which is again set in the Cotswolds – there’s a bit of a theme going on here – but this time my heroine is an interior designer working on the renovation of an old country house. Like many old houses, this one is hiding a secret.

What a lovely set of questions. Thank you.

Biography: Natalie, a born and bred Londoner, has a not-so-secret wish to live in the area she so enjoys writing about. While this isn’t practical at the moment she stills allows herself to dream of honey-coloured stone cottages, quaint villages and rippling brooks. Maybe one day.

A late-comer to writing, she has two published novels prior to Escape to the Cotswolds and many short stories to her name. She attributes her success to a determination to improving her craft, attending any and every writing event she can. All that and a weekly attendance at The Write Place Creative School in Dartford where cream cakes are frequently on the agenda.

Natalie lives with her husband, Louis, in Blackheath, south-east London – except when she’s tripping off to The Cotswolds in the name of research. Somebody has to do it!

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Escape to the Cotswolds

Artist Holly Hunter is turning her life upside-down! She’s leaving the bright lights of London (and a cheating husband) behind her and hoping for a fresh start as she escapes to the peaceful Cotswolds countryside.

Men are off the cards for Holly. Instead, she’s focusing on her little gallery and adopting an adorable Border Collie puppy named Tubs. Or so she thought…

Because no matter how hard she tries to resist him, local vet Adam Whitney is utterly gorgeous. And in a village as small as this one, Holly can only avoid Adam for so long!

@RobertsElaine11

@FCapaldiBurgess

A New Chapter…

It was exactly a year ago today Elaine left paid employment for the last time. What a year it has been!

I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to concentrate solely on my writing, and what a year it has been. I work at it everyday, whether that’s planning, researching or developing my manuscript. I have a goal and I try to stick to it. My aim is always to write a thousand words per day. This is calculated over a week, allowing for peaks and troughs and for the unexpected to happen. It is always my intention to be in the office by nine am and work through until three; this allows for family time, as well as keeping my novel on schedule.

Francesca and I at an RNA RoNAs Award evening

As you already know, I am a member of The Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) New Writers Scheme (NWS) and have been to numerous events they hold. The two main events for me have been their conference, which is held every July, and the London Chapter meetings. The conferences are all about workshops, panel talks, agent one to ones and, of course, wine.

 

I also joined the Historical Novel Society (HNS) and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ). I even have a press card you know.

I completed my Victorian novel and went to the HNS Conference in Oxford to hear the news that the Victorian era doesn’t sell well. This was a major disappointment for me. With the help of friends I had a rethink on what to write. By the time I came away from the conference, I had a plan forming in my mind. It has taken me five months to research, plan and complete another historical novel, which I am thrilled about. It was a test I set myself, to see if I could write about anything, which in my mind I have passed. The manuscript has been sent off to the RNA NWS for critique, so it’s hold your breath time, to see if it’s any good.

Last week, I attended my first SWWJ event, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was an awards afternoon tea and I met some lovely people there.

Of course, I still attend the creative writing class run by Elaine Everest in Dartford. My son finding the class for me has been life changing, or as writers would say, an inciting event, which started my rollercoaster journey. Over the last few years, with Elaine’s encouragement, I have attended many workshops to help hone my craft, but the ones that have been the most memorable and left a lasting impression on me are those held by Julie Cohen, such a fabulous, upbeat person who makes learning fun.

The view from our favourite restaurant in Ramsgate, on our writing retreat.

Four of us rent a house each year and spend a week enjoying the sunshine, food, and of course writing. A writing retreat focuses the mind, so alongside the week, I have also attended many one-day retreats.

Towards the end of last year, I started a monthly feature for the RNA Blog, on literary festivals and workshops. I cannot deny the thought of writing something that other writers will read terrified me, but I bit the bullet.

It has been a year of learning and enjoying being part of the writing world. Do I regret leaving work? Oh no, definitely not. Am I closer to achieving my dream? Most definitely; there are no regrets here.

If I could give advice to anybody with an ambition it would be have a plan and stick to it. Yes, things will get in the way because that’s life but as soon as you are able get back to the road that leads you to your goal do so. Try to mix with like-minded people so you know that whatever you are experiencing is not unusual, but above all else don’t give up!

 

 

@RobertsElaine11

@FCapaldiBurgess

 

 

 

 

 

 

LADIES WHO LAUNCH!

We welcome back Vivien Hampshire, a former member of Write Minds, to tell us how she organised an online launch party for her first novel, How to Win Back Your Husband.

Launching a new book is a bit like launching a new boat. Having spent so long building it, the last thing you want when you push it out into the choppy seas of the big wide world of publishing is for it to sink on its first day!how-to-win-back-your-husband-cover

I had known for a couple of months that my new romantic comedy ‘How to Win Back Your Husband’ was going to be published on 18 January. I also knew that, although my publishers HQ Digital (formerly Carina) would be promoting it quite heavily on twitter, it was going to be up to me to do a lot of shouting about it too.

I have never been a great twitter user (although I do check it every day and retweet anything I like the look of), much preferring the more intimate feel of Facebook, so that seemed to me the best place to concentrate my efforts. And there, in the sidebar of my Facebook author page, I found a little button marked ‘events’. Having pressed it, it wasn’t too tricky to set up an event of my own: a party to take place online on publication day. If I advertised it early enough and encouraged people to share, I just might attract some interest, and acquire a few new friends and readers along the way.

I wrote a short blurb, explaining what was happening and when, including the lure of a few competition prizes to entice more people in, and added a big picture of my book cover as the banner heading. Knowing it was a mid-week working day, I decided to open at 10am and stay online to welcome ‘guests’ right through until 7pm. It would be a long day, but hopefully worth it!

Now I needed party guests. Sending invitations was easy. No trawling through an address book, rummaging for envelopes or paying for stamps. Facebook very kindly threw up a list of all my ‘friends’ and all I had to do was tick the ones I wanted to invite – pretty much all of them! Within a few minutes, people were pressing the ‘interested’ button, or even more pleasingly the one that says ‘going’.

Like any good party, an element of planning was needed next. It was no good me just sitting there at my computer for nine hours on the day, typing ‘Hi. Come in and buy my book!’ every time someone new turned up. So, I started thinking about what music I should be playing to kick things off, having some (virtual) cake and champagne on offer as people arrived, maybe letting off a few fireworks once it got dark, and – of course – those competitions with prizes that I’d promised.

viv-blog-divorce-cakeI opened up a new folder on my computer and started saving stuff! Photos of balloons, champagne glasses, fireworks going off, cats partying, and lots of enticing cakes (I even found a pic of a cupcake with ‘Happy divorce day’ on top – perfect for the theme of my book), along with welcome and goodbye pictures, all of which I could dip into quickly throughout the event to help me keep things lively and fun.

Next, the prizes! I found a company that would produce some lovely ballpoint pens with an image of my book along the side and ordered enough to give a few away while still hanging on to a couple for my own use. Notebooks and post-it notes were a good idea too – perfect for both writers and readers. I found bags of heart-shaped confetti cut from romance novels, and some lovely heart-shaped stickers too, keeping one bag as a prize while opening the other so I could pop a little pink heart on the back of the envelopes when sending out prizes to the winners. Well, it is a romance novel, after all!

viv-blog-penI had a few competitions in mind, although a couple more evolved during the party itself, and it was lovely to see people joining in all through the day. One competition involved choosing the right music to reflect both the divorce and ‘wanting him back’ themes. My own daughter won that one on the day, but I deny any nepotism as her choices were just brilliant! Another involved a picture of a tie – What did that have to do with my book? It didn’t take long for two guests to arrive at the right answer at much the same time. It was made from the Ross tartan – and Ross is the surname of my main characters! A pen to each of them. Who would play my characters in a film? How old did people think my character Gladys might be, based purely on her name? Again, a couple of guests were spot on – she is 89, turning 90 during the course of the book. And the age-old question: Who is your favourite romantic hero? Mr Darcy, Romeo, Prince Charming were all put forward, but in the absence of anyone suggesting Poldark, I went for Kevin Costner in ‘Dances With Wolves’ as the winner. I do so love Kevin Costner!

It was heartening to see so many people say they had bought the book and were looking forward to reading it, and I did try to keep an eye on the Amazon rankings as the party went on. It rose from being lower than 100,000th in the Kindle store at the start of the day to around 3000th at its peak, so I like to think the buzz being created was doing its bit. Now I just need the reviews to start rolling in to encourage others to buy it too, especially while it’s still only 99 pence.

It was tiring, staying by the screen for so long, especially as I was babysitting my little granddaughter at the same time, and I was having to keep popping over to twitter to keep abreast of (and retweet) HQ’s promotional efforts, including their offer of a free copy of the book to a lucky reader at 4pm. As soon as I knew who had won, I congratulated her and invited her to the party, where she later won one of my pens in the ‘Who should play them in a film?’ competition!

But, was it worth it? Well, what a fantastic way to reach out to readers! It’s hard to say how many sales the party helped me to secure, or how many people who had never heard of me (or my book) now have, but I did enjoy it, very much, and I hope those who came along did too!

 

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/VivienHampshireAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VivienHampshire

Link to buy the book:   http://amzn.to/2cOjPIn

Author bio:

viv-hampshireVivien Hampshire was born and brought up in West London where she still lives and works. She has been writing short stories for almost twenty years, and regularly contributes women’s fiction to a variety of UK magazines, including Woman’s Weekly, The People’s Friend, and My Weekly. She loves cats, reading, taking part in quizzes and TV game shows, sitting in the sunshine and eating chocolate, and is an avid cryptic crossword puzzler. She is a Council member and the competitions co-ordinator for the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) and a member of the Romantic Novelists Association. ‘How To Win Back Your Husband’ is her first commercially published novel.

Book blurb:

how-to-win-back-your-husband-coverNicci has made one stupid and seemingly unforgivable mistake and, after eight years together, her husband Mark is divorcing her. Her best friend is determined to help her get over it, start enjoying life again and move on, but Nicci knows getting over Mark just isn’t an option – she still loves him and she wants him back! With no clear plan in mind and only thirty days left until the divorce is finalised, the race is on to prove her love, regain his trust and save her marriage, before it’s too late. A debut romantic comedy with a sprinkling of winter magic!

 

 

Thank you, Viv. We wish you all the very best for your novel.

It’s All In The Title…

Elaine Roberts talks about wrestling with the problem of titles.

I have always read a lot; my mother used to tell me off for not going out to play when I was a child, because my nose was always stuck in a book. There was nothing I enjoyed more than losing myself in a good adventure. Books like The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe were books I read over and over again. Nothing has changed in that I am still an ardent reader, except I now write as well.

Anybody who isn’t a writer would think coming up with an idea for a novel would be the hardest part, but not for me.

My White Board & Plan

My White Board & Plan

Some writers who are learning their trade, like me, may think coming up with the structure and avoiding the saggy middle is the most difficult part, but not for me.

Once the manuscript is written, some might think the editing is the worst part; now I don’t like it, but it’s not the hardest part for me.

Coming up with a title is my biggest problem. Am I the only one? It’s one I have mentioned on a few occasions to different people and have had a number of really good suggestions, yet I can’t seem to make them work.

Why is the title so important?

IMG_0143All the professionals say you should have an attention-grabbing title. The cover and the title of a novel usually draw a reader’s attention first. When you are submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher, there is no cover to grab their attention so the title needs to make the manuscript stand out from the other hundreds they receive. So a title needs to be memorable and easily understood.

Titles can be about the theme of the novel; an example of this is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Alternatively, they can contain the main character’s name, such as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté. Some titles also contain the character’s occupation or title.

It doesn’t matter whether I am writing a short story, a blog piece or a novel, my biggest sticking point is always the title. The name is meant to give an idea of what the story/article is about. What I find puzzling is that I know what my story is about and yet a catchy title seems to evade me and I don’t understand why. Writers come up with excellent titles all the time and yet I can’t seem to.IMG_7427

Several people have suggested record titles, which is an excellent idea but not one that has helped me with my latest novel. Maybe a film title, but no, that doesn’t work for me either.

Perhaps it is my Achilles heel; maybe I have a mental block on the subject.

I wonder how others decide on their titles, where do they get their inspiration? Any advice would be gratefully received.

@RobertsElaine11

 

It’s Only Words, Isn’t It?

As the new term gets started, Elaine and Francesca think about their writing year ahead.

September and the new school year is upon us. For some it is a momentous occasion, with children going into the next level of education. Whether their son/daughter has gone from nursery to reception or from sixth form to university, or anything in between, many tears have flowed.

Just as it’s a new beginning for the children/grandchildren, so it is for the writers amongst us. It’s a challenge, getting back into the swing of sitting still long enough to write some words, after the hustle and bustle of the summer holidays.

IMG_0942

Elaine’s novel planning whiteboard

Elaine: Earlier this month I attended the Historical Novel Society Conference and a Woman’s Weekly workshop on historical writing. Although they were obviously very different, both were a first for me. I gained something from both of them but what astounded me more is that I know more than I realised; it is clearly about putting that knowledge into practice.

My Victorian Saga is technically finished and out trying to get snapped up, although I am sure changes will need to be made. While I am waiting for those decisions, I am planning my next novel. That means I am up to my neck in research, learning some fascinating facts that I hope I can slip into my novel. It’s pretty safe to say there have been times when I thought my head would explode.

I have paper and Post It Notes everywhere. Luckily for me, I have an understanding husband because while I have an office, I have also commandeered the dining table as well!

Francesca: It always seems that I start new novels in September, as if studying for a new course. I guess this is because of sending novels off to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme several summers in a row.

Islwyn Morgan, late 1930s.

Francesca’s historical idea came from an incident in her grandfather Islwyn’s family.

Like Elaine, I attended the Woman’s Weekly workshop on historical fiction. Although I tend to write contemporary novels, and have just started a new one, I’ve had an idea for an historical bubbling away for some time that the workshop helped me develop. So which to continue with? 

Because I did a history degree back in the dim distant past, several people have asked me why I don’t pursue that genre of novel. I have written several historical short stories and a serial, but I always seem to come up with masses of ideas for contemporary novels. It would be interesting to proceed with the historical, though there’s a danger I’ll get carried away with the research, for which I’ve acquired several books!

My other goal is to return to short stories. In the past I’ve had sixty-odd ‘out theres’ sent to various magazines, but I’ve sadly neglected them in favour of novels recently. And I’d like to write another serial. 

Time to just get on with it, because as Bruce Lee once apparently observed, ‘If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.’ Good luck with your own ‘new term’. 

Do you have plans for the new school year or are you just enjoying the peace and quiet?

It’s My Life…

As you all know Elaine Roberts gave up her day job at the end of March 2016, to become a full time writer.

The question is, did she?

Elaine: When you are used to getting up and going to work everyday, and have done for more years that I care to admit to here, getting into a routine is important. I am pleased to report that I have established that. In my old day job, I always had things that I had to do on a daily/weekly basis, so I have transferred this to my new routine.

The question now is, am I following my new routine?

clock5I don’t set an alarm clock to get me out of bed in the morning; in fact I very rarely do anything by the clock anymore, not even eat, unless it involves somebody else. My pressures are now self-imposed. If my children decide to visit, or babysitting duties beckon, then my laptop will always be closed while they are here. However, I have given myself a target for each month. When I took the decision to try and write 20,000 words each month, it seemed unachievable, but how wrong was I. May was the first month for that target and I am proud to say I achieved it, while also editing as I went, so now I am taking it a step further by thinking I could easily have my first draft finished in five months. I am not a quick writer and spend a lot of time dwelling on all the usual questions, what, where, who, when and how. It is all in my plan, but I find my story evolves as I am writing it, so the plan becomes null and void in some places.

So where am I at with my new career?Me Working

I finished my novel in May and sent it to the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme (RNA NWS), to be critiqued. I have everything crossed that the report won’t be too bad, but I am expecting things to need changing.

The plan for my next novel is in place and I have written 14,000 words of it. The question at the beginning of this piece was “have I become a full time writer?” The answer is, most definitely. I am not a published writer. Let me just correct that statement; I have had many short stories published, but my dream has always been about writing and publishing a novel. Therefore, for me, I am unpublished. However, for the first time ever, I truly believe I will achieve my goal, because I never stop learning and listening to others. The apprenticeship is being served, so improvements are being made all the time.

The next stop is the RNA Conference at the beginning of July; for me there is nothing better than mixing with other writers, except maybe chocolate!

Am I happy? You bet I am!!

@RobertsElaine11

 

 

I’m So Excited…

Elaine brings her dream to life.

Happy Easter everyone, I can tell you I have never wanted Easter to arrive so much as this year. I hope you are shouting, or at least wondering, why.

I have finally been given the opportunity to stop working for someone else and embark on my second career as a full time writer.

A spare bedroom has been converted into an office for me; a white board has been put on the wall, in my line ofIMG_0943 vision. I can leave my work sprawled out and shut the door on it ready for the next day. There are no excuses now. There is no hiding behind work commitments. Will I finally be found out or will I succeed in getting my novels published. This opportunity is a dream come true for me and I intend to grab it with both hands and not let it pass me by.
Of course, my dream has taken on a life of its own. Not only am I hoping to become published with my novels, I already aIMG_0942m with my short stories, but I’m also hoping to lose a couple of stone in weight. No, the two aren’t connected but the office where I worked always had lots of biscuits and
cakes, so with the temptation being removed, I’m hoping the fat will follow suit, but I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Do I have a plan? Indeed I do. My day will be structured as if I am still leaving the house to go to work, only not as early. I write best in the morning because a half an hour siesta is always welcome in the afternoon, that’s probably due to spending many years living in Cyprus. The idea will be to set a word count for the day; however, if I’m in the zone then I will continue to write. When that is completed, I will plan the writing for the following day. I still have to write approximately 40,000 words before my novel target of 100,000 words is completed, I would say it’s a first draft but it isn’t, although it will still need editing.IMG_0946

My excitement can be tempered with fear of the unknown and the hard work that is ahead of me, but the difference is I will be doing something I love. It just goes to show if you plan, prepare and keep the dream alive, anything is possible. The next step is to carry that dream to the next level. Plan, prepare and keep the dream of publication alive.

Share your secret dreams with us. If you could give up work and do anything, what would you do, other than watch daytime television?

@RobertsElaine11