Oh, What A Night… Romantic Novel Awards 2016

It was a sparkling night to celebrate the Romantic Novel Awards, better known as the RoNAs, at the magnificent Gladstone Library in Whitehall. Here is our night in pictures.



Jane Pollard and Elaine Everest catch up before the awards begin

Jane Jackson and Elaine Everest catch up before the awards begin


The air was tingling with excitement as we sipped our wine

The air was tingling with excitement as we sipped our wine. Natalie Kleinman, Sarah Stephenson, Elaine E, Rosemary Goodacre and our own Elaine.


Time for a chat with friends before sitting down. Karen Aldous chats with Sarah.


Getting cameras ready for the event.

Getting cameras ready for the event. Francesca, Melanie Rivers and Elaine E.


Who do you think will win?

Who do you think will win? Karen chats with Kathleen McGurl.



Pass the bubbly!


Fern & Jane enjoying the evening.

Jane Wenham-Jones hosted the evening and Fern Britton presented the prizes.


Melanie Hudson, winner of the Contemporary Romantic Novel with 'The Wedding Cake Tree'.

Melanie Hudson, winner of the Contemporary Romantic Novel with ‘The Wedding Cake Tree’.


IMG_0245 Hanningham cropped

Emma Hannigan, winner of The Epic Romantic Novel with ‘The Secrets We Share’.


Iona Grey, winner of the Historical Romantic Novel for 'Letters to the Lost'.

Iona Grey, winner of the Historical Romantic Novel for ‘Letters to the Lost’.


Milly Johnson, winner of the Romantic Comedy Novel with 'Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe'.

Milly Johnson, winner of the Romantic Comedy Novel with ‘Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café’.


Annie O'Neil, winner of the RoNA Rose with 'Doctor... To Duchess?'

Annie O’Neil, winner of the RoNA Rose with ‘Doctor… To Duchess?’.


Lucy Inglis, winner of the Young Adult Romantic Novel with 'Crow Mountain'

Lucy Inglis, winner of the Young Adult Romantic Novel with ‘Crow Mountain’.


Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Claire Lorimer.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Claire Lorimer.


Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Anita Burgh

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Anita Burgh.


Iona Grey won the Romantic Novel of the Year: Letters To The Lost

Iona Grey stepped up once more as the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, which was sponsored by Goldsboro Books.


Congratulations to all the winning and short listed authors.

You can see more photos from the event here: 2016 RoNA Awards Event

@FCapaldiBurgess            @RobertsElaine11

A Virtual Welcome to Author Jean Fullerton

Today we welcome award-winning author Jean Fullerton, whose latest novel Fetch Nurse Connie was published yesterday.

Jean Fullerton medHi, Thanks Elaine and Francesca for inviting me to be a guest on the WriteMindsWritePlace Blog.

For those of you who don’t know me I was born within the sound of Bow Bells in Whitechapel – Jack the Ripper country – and I absolutely adore my birth place of East London. My family has lived in the area since the 1820s. I use real East London locations and have my characters walking past actual shops and houses that once existed. I have also drawn on my family for many of my stories, such as the charity school, public houses and market.

I’m a qualified District Nurse and now teach nursing studies at a London University. I live with my hero of thirty-eight years just outside London in Epping Forest and have three grown-up daughters.

When did you know you wanted to write?

Unlike many of my fellow authors I am a relative latecomer to writing. In fact, I didn’t know I could write until I was sent on an NHS stress management course – yes, fact can be stranger than fiction.

I thought it was just a hobby until I got my first Romantic Novelist Association New Writers’ Scheme report back. It said I had what it took to be a published novelist because I wrote pacey stories with believable characters and sharp dialogue. Of course my reader also said I didn’t know the first thing about story structure, punctuation or presentation.

It was then I knew I had to write but it took 5 years of learning my craft before I finally got my big break.

I’ll continue to write until they prise the keyboard out from under my cold dead hand.

Jean's Banner

How long does it take you to complete a manuscript?

My novels are somewhere around the 135,000 word mark so the first draft takes me 5 months to pull together then a month re-working it before it goes off to my agent. She has been in publishing for a long time. Firstly, she was an editor with HarperCollins, Heinemann and Penguin before moving into being an agent so she always gives me insightful comments. Having incorporated those, in another month or so I’m happy to send the manuscript off to my publisher. So all in all from typing ‘Chapter one’ until hitting the send button to Orion is about 9-10 months, after which I collapse in a heap on my desk.

Can you tell us something about your ‘road’ to publication?

I’m dyslexic and when I went to school (at about the time when the Beatles were tripping off to India) the condition wasn’t recognised so English was always tortuous.

As a teenager I consumed Historical fiction of all kinds and I’d thought over the years that one day I’d write a historical novel. To my utter amazement a story tumbled out and after three months I had a 90,000 word manuscript and another story screaming to be told.

No Cure for Love

The book Jean won the Harry Bowling prize with

After writing over a 1,000,000 words my eleventh book, No Cure for Love, won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006. I signed with my lovely agent, Laura and was offered my first two-book contract with Orion Publishing.

My first four novels were set during the Victorian era but my latest series featuring Nurse Millie Sullivan and her friend Nurse Connie Byrne are set in post-war East London. They are nurses in the pre-NHS St Dustan and St George’s Nursing Association.

Although the Nurse Millie and Connie books are stand-alone novels they have some of the same characters. How do you ensure your story lines don’t contradict each other?

It’s not easy and sometimes I end up flipping through my own book to find an answer. I have a plot grid of all my books with a timeline and notes as you can see below and I have that to hand.

Scene Events date
1 VE day Millie delivers a baby as street prepares for a Victory party. blancmange pilchards 8/5/45
2 Gets back & has to take over as the superintendent is drunk.
3 Argues with one of the nurses. Phone rings to say her father’s ill
4 At her father’s bedside with her mother as the peace is announced. Churchill spoke at 3pm
5 Calls her Aunt Ruby. King at 9pm?
6 Ch2 Goes back to work and meets her friend Connie


If you could give one piece of advice to budding authors what would it be?

Firstly, if it took me three years to become a nurse, another two to qualify as a district nurse and a further three to become a lecturer so why on earth would I think I could learn the craft of writing overnight? Very few first books are of a publishable standard. Mine wasn’t. Learn your craft!

Secondly, Write what you love. If you’re chasing a bandwagon by the time you’ve jumped on its left town.

And lastly persevere. Getting published is a long, hard road but you’ll never succeed unless you stick with it.

Thank you, Jean, it’s been lovely talking to you, as always.


Fetch Nurse Connie - Cover Feb  2015..doc-2Fetch Nurse Connie

Connie Byrne, a nurse in London’s East End working alongside Millie Sullivan from Call Nurse Millie, is planning her wedding to Charlie Ross, set to take place as soon as he returns from the war. But when she meets him off the train at London Bridge, she finds that his homecoming isn’t going to go according to plan.

Connie’s busy professional life, and the larger-than-life patients in the district, offer a welcome distraction, but for how long?

Available from Orion Fiction on Kindle, paperback and hardback on 4th June 2015.

Amazon link to buy Fetch Nurse Connie


Praise for Call Nurse Millie:

‘A delightful, well researched story that depicts nursing and the living conditions in the East End at the end of the war’ (Lesley Pearse)

‘…The writing shines off the page and begs for a sequel’ (Historical Novel Society)

‘…you will ride emotional highs and lows with each new birth and death. Beautifully written with some sharp dialogue.’ (THE LADY)

Jean’s website

Jean on Twitter


Interview with Pia Fenton (novelist Christina Courtenay), the outgoing chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association

As Pia Fenton, who writes as Christina Courtenay, steps down as Romantic Novelists’ Association chair, we find out about her last two years and what she’s got planned for the future.

ChristinaCourtenayMarch2013Welcome to the blog, Pia. As a prolific writer with many interests, along with your role as chair, how have you managed such a hectic schedule? Are you very organised?

I try to be but don’t always succeed!  Mainly I make lists, lots of them – I couldn’t survive without lists and often wake up in the middle of the night to add things to them.  It helps that I don’t have a fixed writing schedule, I just write as/when I have the time so I’ve been able to fit in RNA work around the writing (or vice versa).

What’s been the highlight of your time as chair?

I don’t think I can pinpoint just one thing, but for me the highlights have been when everything is running smoothly.  The parties, conferences and awards events, for example – there’s an awful lot of work that goes into organising those and it’s wonderful when it all comes together and people come up to you and say how much they’ve enjoyed it.  That makes it all worthwhile.  I have also really enjoyed meeting and getting to know a huge range of people – that’s one lovely aspect of being chair!

What changes have you seen in the RNA during your tenure?

The RNA is changing all the time and we’ve been trying to move with the times.  The main changes have been to the awards, which are evolving and becoming more well-known and appreciated.  And of course we will be admitting self-published/independently published authors from September onwards – it took a long time to figure out the best way to do that, but we got there in the end!

How do you feel about stepping down and is there anything you’ll miss about not being chair?

It will be a huge relief in one way as the responsibility of being chair was quite scary at times – as they say, the buck stopped with me.  And if things went wrong, ultimately it would have been considered my fault.  But I’ve loved being at the heart of the organisation, helping it to move forward and hopefully steering it in the right direction.  And I’ve worked with the most amazing group of people – my committee and all the other volunteers – without whom I would have been totally lost.  I will miss working with them very much!

What are your plans for the future?

To have a break, then get on with some writing which has had to take a back-seat for the last couple of months.  I’ll be at the RNA conference and plan to enjoy being just one of the crowd.  As I sometimes write YA, I’m taking part in YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) in July, where I’ll have a book table together with three fellow YA authors, collectively known as Paisley Piranha.  And then I will concentrate on my family for a bit too, as I’m sure they’ll be feeling rather neglected 🙂  I’ll still be part of the RNA though and look forward to seeing it evolve further as Eileen Ramsay takes over from me – she’ll be a fabulous chair, I’m sure!

Thank you for taking the time out to talk to us, Pia. Good luck with the new book, The Jade Lioness and with all your future ventures.

TJL medium frontThe Jade Lioness is available as an ebook now and due out in paperback in October.  An historical romance, it’s the third in Christina Courtenay’s Japanese series.

Can an impossible love become possible?

Nagasaki, 1648

Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity. However, she soon finds the country’s strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.

On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn’t commit – stealing a valuable jade lioness ornament from the Shogun – and Kazuo must restore his family’s honour.

But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision – can he save her and keep the promise he made to his father?

Buy it on Amazon UK: The Jade Lioness





Paisley Piranha Group


The Feel Good Factor


Elaine and Francesca consider some of their favourite films.

Elaine: When Francesca and I discussed writing a piece on our favourite films, I’m sure you can believe me when I say it was impossible to pick just two.

I’ve thought about it long and hard before coming to the conclusion that my least favourite films tend to be ones where I have read the books. Films that come under that category are:

P.S. I Love You, written by Cecelia Ahern

My Sister’s Keeper, written by Jodi Picoult

Before I Go To Sleep, written by S. J. Watson

Obviously the list can go on and on but for me, the films were enjoyable but the books were great.

However, I do love a feel good film. The obvious ones relate to Christmas. Love Actually is up there, as indeed is Miracle on 34th Street, but I also love an old fashioned Doris Day movie.

It is difficult to pick just two but I’m going to give it a go.

DVDSliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah. This film is up there because I like the idea that you get to where you are meant to be eventually, no matter how many bad decisions you make along the way.

Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams. He was such a talented person and a loss to our society. The film is about students being made to fit into what their family and society decides for them. I won’t give too much away just in case somebody decides to watch it. It comes highly recommended.


Mockingbird About a BoyFrancesca: I agree with Elaine that I’m not very fond of films made from books I’ve enjoyed: they are often a disappointment. One of the exceptions is To Kill A Mockingbird. The film makers did a good job and Gregory Peck plays Atticus Finch to a tee. I’m also very fond of the The Lord of the Rings films. Even though there is much to make me hit my forehead with my palm (eg, soppy, feeble Frodo in the film as opposed to tortured, resolute Frodo in the book), there is much to love too. The first one, The Fellowship of the Ring, remains my favourite of the three, as with the books.

I love British films from the 1960s like Georgy Girl, Alfie, Whistle Down The Wind, Up The Junction, A Taste of Honey and Kes. It’s partly because they evoke the period of time when I was a child. They’re also dramas about ordinary people during an era of social change. The characterisation in them is fantastic and good characterisation is something I always strive for in my own novels (whether I succeed is another matter!).1960s films

I enjoyed The Mummy films (the first three anyway – the last one was ‘muh’). They were great fun and full of adventure. Complete escapism. Ditto the first three Star Wars films (that is, the original three, since they came in reverse order!).

Shelf of filmsOkay, that’s already more than two. Difficult to leave out so many but I must mention About a Boy. It has pathos and comedy and made me want to cry as well as laugh. Perhaps one day I’ll get round to reading the book!

Something else I have to agree with Elaine on: Miracle on 34th Street. It’s my favouriteMiracle 34 Street Christmas film of all time (I’m referring to the 1947 film, not the 1994 one – not sure about Elaine). ‘It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.’ Yes, ‘feel good factor’ indeed.


Nonna Blog: diary of a reluctant grandmother


Which films would you choose?

Just What We Always Wanted?

Francesca and Elaine think back to something they’ve each had a hankering to do.

Francesca: I long had a yearning to restore or convert a house. You know the sort of thing, a run down farmhouse or a Georgian residence by the sea that’s seen better days.

My husband, despite being a structural engineer, has never had the same urge. He would rather build one from scratch. Maybe its because he’s seen the problems restoring old buildings can bring.

Fancy restoring a ruin? (Scotney Castle)

Fancy restoring a ruin? (Scotney Castle)

In Littlehampton, when I was a young child, I recall there being three or four large Art Deco houses overlooking the east side of the beach. We used to pass them on the bus. They were clearly empty and run down, though I’ve no idea why. They were beautiful houses. How I longed to own one and restore it to its former glory. They were eventually pulled down and I think there are ugly flats there now.

I still have dreams that I’ve discovered new rooms in my house (which never looks like the house I’m living in), like two extra bedrooms or a huge secret living area. This is much better than a similar recurring dream of mine, one where I’ve moved and wish as soon as I get there that I hadn’t!

Would I still like to convert or restore a house though? Probably not. TV shows like Grand Designs, where people suffer stress, angry neighbours, trouble with planning permission and unrealistic budgets is enough to put the hardiest enthusiast off. No, the nearest I’m ever likely to get now is designing a house for one of my characters!

@FCapaldiBurgess                     Nonna Blog: Diary of a Reluctant Grandmother


Elaine: The romantic notion of roses growing around the front door and a lovely garden gate at the end of a footpath has always been something I aspired to. Not ever having a garden gate, not in the traditional sense, I always imagined one day living in a character cottage in a small village.

Spending the last few years staying in numerous villages for long weekends, I have to say IMG_1127my magical bubble has burst, but it wasn’t so much a loud pop, more of a little fizz.

There is no doubt the villages I have stayed in have all been lovely, and great for writing, but some have had no street lighting or pavements to walk along. Being the type of person that jumps at her own shadow, I could never come home after dark by myself. However, it has made me realise I’m a townie. Where I live is not the best place in the world, but living forty minutes from London has its advantages, with the many theatres and museums. Equally, I’m probably a similar time from the coast. I’m also ten minutes away from one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe. There are also excellent transport links close by.

IMG_1680While not trying village life, and trust me I’m not knocking it, I have accepted that I am very well placed for everything I need. As I’ve got older, my dream of village life has slowly fizzed away without me noticing, but I will continue to visit the beautiful British countryside and enjoy my time there, knowing I will soon be home and enjoying all that it has to offer.

What have you always thought you wanted, but then…?


A Mugs Game

Francesca considers personalised mugs, especially those of the literary kind.

Most people have cups and mugs that they bought because they have some significance: a family holiday, ‘the best sister’, a football souvenir or one declaring ‘Grumpy Old Man’.

We have all of the above at home. Even more special are the Penguin Classics mugs I bought several years ago, one for each of the family. Most of them have more than one reference to the particular member.

Country LifeI picked a yellow one for me, a colour I’ve always liked, with the book title, ‘Country Life’. I love living in the country, even though I prefer the seaside. I only have to walk a minute to get to the woods, and beyond that, the meadow, even though the village is only classed ‘semi’ rural. I was brought up by the seaside and a river, with a view of the South Downs, so had the best of both worlds.

Man & SupermanMy husband’s mug is red and white, the colour of his favourite team, Sunderland. He hails from near there. Red’s also his favourite colour. The title, ‘Man and Superman’ wasn’t meant to be flattery or irony, but since ‘Andrew’ means strong and manly, it seemed kind of appropriate.

PersuasionCarmela’s cup was a no brainer. Not only is it orange, her favourite colour back then and the colour or her room (yes, really!), it also has the title ‘Persuasion’. Since she’s a huge Jane Austen fan, it couldn’t have been better.

The Big SleepPeter’s cup is green, his favourite colour, with the ‘The Big Sleep’ written on it. I doubt that needs explanation!

A Room of One's OwnGiovanna’s cup was purchased just after she’d acquired ‘A Room of One’s Own’. And guess what? The room was lilac, just like the mug. Neat, eh?

The Invisible ManJack’s cup, also his favourite colour green, announces, ‘The Invisible Man’. At the age of around twelve, he’d often say something like, “I’m just out with my friends. Back for lunch.” Three hours after said meal he’d turn up.

And now? I still like yellow and the country and Andrew still supports Sunderland. Carmela no longer favours orange (though the room remains that colour in her absence, though toned down). She’s still a fan of Regency novels. Peter’s step-son, Ben, told me recently that his cup title is still appropriate! Giovanna’s old room remains lilac though her bedroom in her own house is duck egg blue. She’s recently regained a room of her own  as her son Luca has moved to a room of his own, due to the friend she was putting up temporarily finding a place of her own (do you see a theme developing here?).

As for Jack, his absence from his sister’s wedding recently elicited the quip regarding the cup, “Well, it’s still appropriate then!” To be fair, he had already booked a holiday to Italy with friends and Carmela’s wedding was planned at short notice in the hope her terminally ill uncle would be able to make it. (Sadly he didn’t.)

As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Do you have any mugs (or other crockery) with special significance or memories?

Group photo


@FCapaldiBurgess               Nonna Blog: Diary of a Reluctant Grandmother


In The Mood For Love

On Monday Elaine and Francesca joined a table with ten writer friends to watch the glittering annual  spectacle that is the RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards), an event organised by the Romantic Novelists’ Association. 

We were going to write an article, but have decided to let the pictures tell their own story…


Requesting the pleasure of your company

Requesting the pleasure of your company

Francesca and Elaine take a photo call.

Francesca and Elaine take a photo call.


Compere Jane Wenham Jones interviews Barbara Taylor Bradford, who was presenting the prizes.

Compere Jane Wenham Jones interviews Barbara Taylor Bradford, who was presenting the prizes.










The beautiful ceiling of the Gladstone Library.

The beautiful ceiling of the Gladstone Library.



The candelabra lit tables created a romantic setting for the event.








An opportunity to catch up with friends, as well as mingle with well known authors, agents and publishers.




Lucy Dillon, winner of the Contemporary Romantic Novel Award (post-1960) for ‘A Hundred Pieces of Me’.






Ella Harper, winner of the Epic Romantic Novel Award for ‘Pieces of You’.





Hazel Gaynor, winner of the Historical Romantic Novel Award (pre-1960) for ‘The Girl Who Came Home’.





Lucy-Anne Holmes, winner of the Romantic Comedy Award, with’ Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy’.





Louise Allen, winner of the RoNA Rose Award (for category/series and shorter romance) for 'Scandal's Virgin'.

Louise Allen, winner of the RoNA Rose Award (for category/series and shorter romance) for ‘Scandal’s Virgin’.






Joss Stirling, winner of the Young Adult Romantic Novel Award and the overall winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year. She is the first YA novelist to win this prize.

Joss Stirling, winner of the Young Adult Romantic Novel Award and the overall winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year for ‘Struck’. She is the first YA novelist to win this prize.















Two Outstanding Achievement Awards were presented this year. Both authors awarded have made extraordinary contributions to romantic fiction and  both have had at least twenty-five novels published.

Carole Matthews, the other winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award. She said that in an age when it's popular for writers to go it alone, her publisher had done so much and made her a better writer. She gave us several tongue-in-cheek reasons why she deserved the award, including the time she got a one star review because Amazon didn't deliver the book on time!

Carole Matthews, the other winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award. She said that in an age when it’s popular for writers to go it alone, her publisher had done so much and made her a better writer. She gave us several tongue-in-cheek reasons why she deserved the award, including the time she got a one star review because Amazon didn’t deliver the book on time!

Jill Mansell, winner of one of the Outstanding Achievement Awards. She told us she read Barbara Taylor Bradford's novel 'A Woman of Substance' as a 21 year-old, but never thought she'd be presented with an award by her. She said she'd found the RNA "helpful and supportive and wise" and had even considered getting an RNA tattoo!

Jill Mansell, winner of one of the Outstanding Achievement Awards. She told us she read Barbara Taylor Bradford’s novel ‘A Woman of Substance’ as a 21 year-old, but never thought she’d be presented with an award by her. She said she’d found the RNA “helpful and supportive and wise” and had even considered getting an RNA tattoo!












A hearty congratulations to all the winners.

After the awards were presented we carried on mingling and drinking the bubbly provided on each table. Time went quickly and it didn’t seem long until another enjoyable RoNA ceremony was over. Perhaps we’ll see you there next year?

For a full report on the evening, see the RNA blog post, A Night For Romance.


Twitter: @FCapaldiBurgess                   @RobertsElaine11




In the midst of life…

Francesca Burgess considers eternal tweaking and how life interferes with deadlines.

Seven years ago I started submitting short stories to magazines. Deadlines didn’t feature unless I was writing a seasonal story and needed to get it subbed within a certain time frame. Not having a deadline can be a problem where I’m concerned as I tend to tweak and hold on to a story far longer than I should. With competition entries the deadline is a definite cut off point which can be advantage if you’re like me.

When I started writing novels in 2009 I had no deadlines for them, no publishers, editors or agents to get them off to byNaNoWriMo 2009 a certain date. For someone who edits and tweaks ad infinitum, this can be an even bigger disadvantage than it is with a short story. My first good idea was to join in with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place every November. I’ve done this successfully every year since. However, it doesn’t mean that I don’t go on to tweak and edit endlessly later.

My second good idea was to join the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2011. This was extremely effective at giving me a kick up the proverbial. Apart from having to get a manuscript in each year, there is the opportunity to meet publishers, editors and agents. If one of them shows an interest in a novel and asks to see the whole thing, this gives a deadline and a reason to stop ‘fine tuning’.

The cut off date for the NWS is 31st August. Every year it’s been my aim to get the manuscript off by the time I go to the Caerleon/Fishguard Writers’ Week, at the end of July. For the first three years I succeeded.

For the first time this year, my fourth year in the NWS, I took it to the wire. And I mean the wire. It was one of those times when, deadline or no deadline, life itself got in the way, quite literally in the birth of my granddaughter, Seren. But death also played a part as my much-too-young brother-in-law passed away with cancer. Hence visits and funerals to Wales and to the north of the country. In between all this we were preparing for my eldest daughter’s wedding in the West Country, brought forward in the hope her uncle would make it.

So writing and editing this summer – the new novel plus the last one which I’ve been editing twice over for different interested publishers – has been fitted in between the hatch, match and dispatch of human existence. Sometimes life is like that. In the midst of it we have to face all sorts of complications, both wonderful and terrible. Maybe, at some point in the future, all of what I’ve experienced this summer will itself go into a book.

The EndIn the meantime, my NWS entry at least did get finished and sent and both book edits have gone to the publishers concerned.

Now I have NaNoWriMo looming once again in nine days time. Life continues to be complicated but I am hoping to get my 1,667 words written each day.

Wish me luck!



National Novel Writing Month  http://nanowrimo.org/

Romantic Novelists’ Association: http://www.rna-uk.org

RNA New Writers’ Scheme:   http://www.romanticnovelistsassociation.org/join/new_writers_scheme





Deadlines… or just dead lines?

Viv Hampshire talks about the effects on her writing of being put under pressure

There are times when we all have to write to order. If we want our work to be accepted for publication, it’s vital that we remain open not only to suggestions from editors and publishers, but to directions too! And one of the most important of these is the dreaded deadline. Whether it’s a magazine article, a seasonal short story that could miss its slot, or the submission of a completed novel manuscript, there will always be a date by which it HAS to be done… or we are in big trouble, quite likely missing our chance to see our work in print, and probably getting a bad reputation as a non-professional time waster along the way.

But having to finish writing by a certain date means added pressure. When it comes to a novel, it’s bad enough juggling plot, sub-plots, research, setting, characters and everything else that goes towards a great story. Now we have to finish it on time too! For me, this year, that meant getting my unfinished novel ready to send off for its critique under the RNA’s New Writers Scheme before the end of August deadline. Yes, they will take a partial, but having paid for a reader to look at a whole book, it’s a terrible waste to only send a few chapters. The last couple of months as the deadline approached saw me scribbling away at such a furious pace that I went way over the word count I had intended and actually wrote the last half of the book in about triple the time it had taken to write the first! 

It's not a hobby any more

It’s not a hobby any more

But what can happen when writing becomes a race against the clock instead of the pleasurable and leisurely pastime it used to be when it was just a hobby and not a way of life? The most obvious problem for me is a potential drop in quality. When I don’t have the time to carefully consider every word, rewrite every clanky paragraph, and rip up my synopsis umpteen times and start again, there is a real danger that what I write won’t be as good as it could have been, or as good as I would like it to be.

What if the dreaded deadlines do nothing more than push me into producing just that – dead lines, that don’t spring to life on the page and that nobody will want to read? But, how will I know if I don’t plough on and get to the end? When weighed up against not finishing at all, perhaps that’s a risk we should all be willing to take. Novels that are not quite perfect have the chance to be seen and edited and ultimately accepted. Novels languishing in drawers because they are never quite ready have no chance at all.  

Trying to achieve perfection comes at a price, and for me that price is definitely time. Therefore, I have made the decision to just do my best, get the words written, and stop worrying about every little comma or trying to become the next literary sensation. There are many less than perfect books out there – all accepted and published – so why shouldn’t mine be one of them? I can no longer afford to take three or four years playing around with a novel to tweak it into submission. Submission… there’s a pun there somewhere! So, until I acquire an agent who will no doubt be only too keen to push me on at a pace, it’s going to be self-imposed deadlines for me. A novel a year from now on, and I’m already three chapters into the next one!



How Hard Can It Be?

Elaine Roberts begins the month with her own experiences of research.

Research is different things to different people. I know people who love a bit
of research and will do masses of it, just to buy a television or a mobile phone.
Some actually do it for a living and I take my hat off to them, because it’s not
a job I could do.

Personally, I have nightmares about it. As soon as it’s mentioned, I’m immediately transported back to school, sitting at the dining table, surrounded by masses of
book pics encyclopaedias. My memories of starting with one book, which gives away my age, and looking in the index for the page number where the information can be found. Excitement sets in because you’ve found the page, only to find it contains one line of the research item and advises looking under another category, in another book, for more information. So half an hour, and six books later, I would have several small amounts of information, which I never had a clue how to make into an essay.

Hence the reason I was always surrounded by books.

Recently, during a one to one with a publisher, at the Romantic Novelists Association Conference, I was asked if I would mind changing the setting for my novel. “Of course not,” I said, “thinking yeah, I can do that, how hard can it be, that shouldn’t take long” and in all fairness it probably didn’t. I’m not altogether sure how long an author would normally take over major changes to their novel.

Thank goodness for technology, the Internet and a supportive husband who likes research. Google Earth, a marvellous invention, allowed me to walk along streets in Australia, so I had a good idea of areas and the types of houses. I could see what shops the main character would walk past when she left the house. I was able to find out all sorts of information, including college courses, the weather conditions, plants, spiders, even Australian Christmas cards. All done on a click of a mouse and in a fraction of the time it would have taken me at school, oh to be young again. Actually, for the record, I have no desire to go back to being school age.

Research can also come from talking to people, whether by e-mail or face to face. It’s surprising how many people are happy to impart their knowledge, when they know you are writing a novel. Although it’s always best to check any facts and sources, so the novel doesn’t get discounted on a technicality.

I take my hat off to past authors; research must have been slow for them. Although, I suspect I picked up associated skills along the way, which have helped me as a writer. Patience and perseverance are two that immediately spring to mind, along with being able to tackle things in a logical manner and problem solve. I approach my writing in the same way as I do any other problem, how to get from A to D without going via F.

I believe I am lucky to have the ability to use modern technology to embrace
the research side of my writing. However, there is a small part of me that thinks the younger generation have missed out on my school days experience and only time will tell whether they have also missed out on gaining the associated skills that go with it.