Welcome to Vivien Brown With Her New Novel, Lily Alone

We welcome back Vivien Brown to talk about her psychological drama, Lily Alone.

Hello Viv, and welcome back to the blog. We’ve known you for years as a short story writer and then a romance novelist. Why the change to psychological drama?                        

I did self-publish a novel called Losing Lucy under the name of Vivien Hampshire some years back, which looked at the trauma and emotional impact on three women when a baby gets kidnapped, so harrowing tales involving young children have been lurking under the surface for a while! Lily Alone does have a couple of romance threads running through it but it’s more than that. Perhaps it’s me getting older, or having children and a grandchild of my own, but I felt it was time to explore the deeper aspects of family relationships and take on more serious issues. Lily Alone has also allowed me to explore a different and more complex structure for a novel, as alternate chapters are told through the eyes and memories of a confused woman in a coma.

Lily Alone covers some traumatic material. Was it difficult to write?

Surprisingly not! I have a grandchild coming up to Lily’s age, and it would be horrible to imagine her having to cope at home by herself, but the novel was always fiction to me. None of it ‘got to me’ or upset me, even though parts of the story brought tears to my editor’s eyes and might just unnerve a few readers. It’s that ‘This could so easily happen to me’ aspect, I think.

What kind of research did Lily Alone entail?

I had to do a lot more research than I would for a romance novel, looking at what a very young child can and might do if left alone for a lengthy period of time, what happens to a head trauma/coma patient in hospital, and how the Social Services system works when a child is found abandoned, but luckily I have friends and family with all the right expertise to guide me.

Viv’s romance novel

Tell us about your writing day. Are you a night owl, a morning lark, or neither?

For years, I had to fit writing around a day job and my family, so I would always head upstairs to write at around 9pm, after the children were asleep, and dinner/chores/my fix of TV soap operas were out of the way. Since giving up my job at the end of 2013, in theory I have all the time in the world, but often still find my natural writing instincts kick in during the evening, although it is really handy to have time in the day to get all the non-creative aspects of the writing life, like emails, social media and admin, sorted. When I am heavily into writing or editing a novel, I will write at any time, putting everything else aside, for hours at a time and often without a break, but that is at peak times, and it’s tiring. It is not the norm.

What do you find is the hardest aspect of being a writer? Or is it all good?

I am not very disciplined. When there is a deadline or I am caught up in a story, I will want to write above all else, but on other days I do sometimes have to force myself. Being at home full-time now does tend to throw distractions in my way, whether it’s a sunny garden, food, something on daytime TV or having my granddaughter over for the day. Mostly, I love being a writer – creating something complete and that I feel proud of from just an initial idea, meeting other writers, seeing my stories and articles in print, and receiving the occasional royalty cheque! I can’t wait to see Lily Alone in paperback later in the year, as my previous novels have only been published as ebooks, and I want a ‘real’ novel to hold.

Viv with her cryptic crossword book

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have always loved cryptic crosswords. I rarely get through a day without tackling at least one, usually in a newspaper so I can try for a prize. I have had a book published helping others learn how to crack them, and I also compile personalised and themed crosswords on a commission basis which people can then give to their loved ones as unique gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc. I read an awful lot (mainly women’s fiction), go to see boy bands in concert, follow horseracing, and have two adorable cats.

You’ve been in the writing game many years now. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Yes, I have been writing women’s magazine fiction as Vivien Hampshire for twenty years, and professional articles for childcare and nursery magazines for around ten. It took me a long while to move into novels with any success, so I would have to just tell her ‘Don’t give up!’ Keep writing as much and as often as you can, experiment with all types of writing ( I have also had success writing poetry for children, wrote a monthly column for Writers Forum magazine for two years, and I’ve won a few competitions), join writing groups and meet others in the same boat, listen and learn. Perseverance is the one thing writers need above all else. You cannot just rely on luck.

What’s next for Vivien Brown?

Lily Alone is the first in a two-book contract with Harper Impulse, so I will now be talking to my editor about book two, which is more or less written but not yet accepted and a long way from being edited. Although limited time means that I have given up writing my nursery articles for now, I will still be writing short stories for the magazines whenever I can fit them in. It is what I am good at, and I still very much enjoy telling a story in just one or two thousand words, and the satisfying feeling of getting a sale and payment so soon after it is written! Novels, unfortunately, don’t work that way. I have recently been commissioned by two women’s magazines to write stories for their October issues to tie in with the paperback version of Lily Alone coming out, and those will run alongside short interviews, book reviews and giveaways, so my long association with magazine fiction is now paying off when it comes to promoting the novel. I have also tentatively started another romance novel, but I have a feeling it may stray into darker territory as I get further into the story. And, yes, there is a baby involved – again!

Vivien’s Twitter page

 

What sort of mother would leave her daughter alone?

Would you leave a very young child at home on their own – knowing that terrible things can happen in the blink of an eye? Lily, who is not yet three years old, wakes up alone with only her cuddly toy for company. She is hungry, afraid of the dark, can’t use the phone, and has been told never to open the door to strangers…

In the flat downstairs, a lonely and elderly woman keeps herself to herself but wonders at the cries coming from upstairs. Lily’s grandmother frets that she can no longer see her granddaughter since the child’s parents separated. Lily’s father hasn’t seen her for a while. He’s been abroad, absorbed in his new job and his new girlfriend…

A young woman lies in a coma in hospital – no one knows her name or who she is, but in her silent dreams, a little girl is crying for her mummy…

And for Lily, time is running out.

Published by Harper Impulse and available from Amazon

 

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.

The Last Post!

Welcome to the last post of 2014. When we got together at the end of 2013 to start this blog the idea was that having a joint blog would be a group learning curve until such times as we were ready to blog ourselves and our writing careers had moved along enough to need to blog (or run a website) for ourselves. That time has come quicker than we envisaged and sadly that means that some of us are moving on to fresh fields in 2015. Good luck to the writers remaining with WMWP and no doubt readers will hear more about all of us as the year progresses. Below is an update of what we got up to in 2014 and what we have planned for 2015

Vivien Hampshire

I knew back in January that 2014 was going to be a year of change and adjustment for me. I had just left the day job and was embarking on the big adventure of becoming a full-time writer. Little did I know that I would also get engaged and married before the year was out! My one big writing aim for 2014 was to finish my novel and get it out to agents, and I am pleased to say that I managed just that, all 101,000 words of it. After one near miss with a top agency, it is being read by another London agent right now – and my fingers are well

I just love crosswords!

I just love crosswords!

and truly crossed! With more time at home, I had hoped to see my general writing output go up too, and it has! I have sold fifteen women’s magazine stories throughout the year as well as continuing to produce regular non-fiction pieces and book reviews for a range of professional childcare and nursery magazines. Looking at the year ahead, I am determined to get not only the current novel published but to crack on and finish the next, while still writing the articles that bring in an income and the shorter magazine fiction I love so much. I am very much a ‘Jill of all trades’ and as long as I am writing what I want to write and know that someone somewhere is enjoying reading it, then I will be happy!

This will sadly be my last post here, but you can still catch up with me and what’s happening in my writing life over on my own blog http://vivienhampshire.blogspot.co.uk/

 Natalie Kleinman

2014 has been a pretty full on year. Having graduated from the Romantic Novelists’ (RNA) Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, I was waiting with equal measures of anxiety and excitement for the release of my first book. During this period I submitted a novella, After All These Years, to DC Thomson with the result that both books were published within three weeks of each other. The large print version of After All These Years has since been sold to Ulverscroft and will appear in libraries in due course. To add to the elation I was lucky enough, at the RNA Summer Conference, to have the opportunity of a one2one interview with Lisa Eveleigh of the Richford Becklow Literary Agency. To my delight Lisa agreed to represent me. In the meantime, due to a change in circumstances of the publisher of my debut novel, our contract was terminated by mutual agreement. The book is now available on Amazon under the new title, Safe Harbour.

The first draft of my third novel is now finished and in the editorial stage. A lot of work remains to be done but I’m hoping it will be ready to submit to publishers by late spring/early summer of 2015.

Natalie Kleinman jpeg

In January of this year I wrote a post entitled ‘A Truffle, Black Forest Gateau or Both’ concluding that I would be able to be a novelist and short story writer in tandem. So far this hasn’t proved to be the case. I have written and submitted very few of the latter. However, I recently had a story accepted in Australia and am hoping this will be the catalyst for me to write some more of what, after all, was my first love.

My most recent new venture has been to set up my own blog. Some of you may be aware that I also co-manage the RNA blog with Elaine Everest. Working on the premise that one can have too much of a good thing it is with regret that I must now withdraw from WriteMindsWritePlace to pursue my own individual venture. I wish the very best of luck to those who remain.

Blog:

Facebook:

Twitter: 

Francesca Burgess

I said at the beginning of the year that I wanted to finish the novel I was working on by February, but I didn’t finish it till August, leaving very little time for editing (of which I normally do endlessly) before sending it to the RNA New Writers’ Scheme. Not a good idea, but personal and family events have rather overtaken everything else this year, so it’s a wonder I got it finished at all. What really suffered was my output of short stories, which I was hoping to get up to a reasonable level. It was not to be. As for getting a publisher for Ten Years Later, I have two currently interested, so I’m waiting for them to get back to me.FB from Winter Party 14

During November I did manage to write the rest of a novella I started a couple of years ago, adding 30,000 words to it, so that wasn’t too shabby. One of my goals for 2015 is to get that sent out and hopefully picked up. It would be great if Ten Years Later was picked by one of the interested parties, but if not, I’ll be sending it to do the rounds once more (hopefully resisting yet another edit!). I’ll also be editing my NWS entry. As for the short stories, I have hundreds of ideas outlined in notebooks, so I really need to get back to them. In addition, I have an idea for a new novel, but I need to resist it until I have some of the other items sorted out!

Currently I’m awaiting the publication of a story in an anthology, but don’t have a date as yet.

Twitter

Elaine Roberts

Looking back over my goals for 2014, I like to think I’ve done quite well.

I have completed two very different novel manuscripts, Taking it Back and Forgotten Love, which are currently with publishers; both needed changes to meet their requirements. One asked if I could change the setting, and of course I said yes, but this required a lot of research and a major rewrite. Although it was challenging, I’m proud I rose to it.

One of my goals was to write a short story each month, which I did at first, but then my novels took over and all thoughts of short stories disappeared. Looking back, this is IMG_1090something I regret. Writing and selling short stories gives me a lift in the short term. Metaphorically, novels are the marathon and short stories are the 100 yard sprint, but the short stories reinforce that my writing is on the right track, so this is something I need to get back to.

 

I have also been fortunate to have a short story accepted for an anthology, to be published by Pulse; the publication date has yet to be confirmed.

My 2015 goals are to have at least one of my novels published, although two would be great. Also, I aim to complete the novel I’m currently writing and research and start my next one, ideas are already buzzing around my head and distracting me from my current project.

I am also going to write my short stories again.

Elaine Everest

Where to begin? 2014 has been a fabulous year for me and not one that was planned twelve months ago. I’d not long seen my novel, Gracie’s War published with Myrmidon Books (Pulse). I was planning to work on a dog show related crime novel as well as another canine non-fiction book. I’d not long joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) as a committee member and was taking over control of their blog alongside Natalie Kleinman. I’d made a conscious effort to step back from my journalism work as well as short fiction in order to concentrate on writing books. A recent ‘big’ birthday had made me decide to follow my original writing dreams of being a novelist and not be side tracked any longer by shorter work.

Well, my writing life changed in January 2014 when I met literary agent, Caroline Sheldon of the eponymous Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency and was taken on for future representation. Already she has secured me a two book contract with Pan Macmillan which will see two saga based historical novels published in the next two years.

Another exciting event was in May when I was short listed for the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award with Gracie’s War. I didn’t win but the excitement of standing alongside such good writers and the kudos being on such a short list gives a writer is something I’ll never forget.ElaineESeptember2013

So what do I have to look forward to in 2015? Hopefully the first of my books with Pan Macmillan will be published at the end of the year and Gracie’s War will go into large print in libraries during the summer. Apart from that I will be pounding the keyboards with book number two and outlining ideas for further novels. My dog show related crime novels are on hold for now but watch this space…

Like Viv and Natalie this will be my last blog post for WriteMindsWritePlace but I will shortly have my own writerly website and news of my writing and teaching can be found on www.thewriteplace.org.uk Facebook and also Twitter (@elaineeverest)

Don’t forget to keep following the WriteMindsWritePlace blog during 2015 to see what exciting things Elaine and Francesca have in store for readers.