Author Spotlight – Helen Pollard

My guest in the Author Spotlight this week is no stranger to my blog. Helen Pollard, contemporary romance author, was my first guest in my Author Spotlight series all the way back in May 2015! I think it’s fair to say that a great deal has happened in Helen’s writing career in that time and she’s here to tell us all about it today and to celebrate her latest book published just a few days ago. Welcome Helen!

Summer at The Little French Guesthouse – Helen Pollard

A feel good novel to read in the sun (La Cour des Roses Book 3)

Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

This summer, escape to the rolling vineyards of France for an utterly uplifting read. Fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson and Nick Alexander will want to join Emmy for a pain au chocolat in the sun-drenched garden at La Cour des Roses.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

*****

And now for my interview with Helen:

Since you were last on the blog, you’ve been taken on by Bookouture. How did that all come about?

The first book in the La Cour des Roses series was a change in direction for me, veering away from ‘sweet’ romance towards chick lit. I’d written the first draft five or six years before, and kept revisiting it and rewriting. I really wanted to find the right home for it, where I could express my ‘voice’ and sense of humour.

I submitted to Bookouture as I’d heard that they are a very dynamic digital publisher. When I got the e-mail to say they would like to publish the book, I was thrilled that they had such confidence in the story I’d worked on for so long!

You’ve published two books in your La Cour des Roses series, with the third one just published last week, can you tell us more about your inspiration for this series?

I’d had the opening scene for The Little French Guesthouse in my mind for years – how would someone feel if they caught their boyfriend with an older rather than a younger woman – but I wasn’t doing any writing at the time (young family, no time, too tired!) Then, one summer, we were on holiday in a gîte in the Loire area of France, and I suddenly thought, ‘This is it! This is where that scene takes place!’ Once I could picture the setting in my mind, I was desperate to get that opening scene down, so I started writing again . . . The creative floodgates reopened, and the characters took on a life of their own. Could Emmy gain strength from that catastrophic start to the first book? Make new friends who might help her through it? Contemplate a different life for herself?

I had to be more disciplined with the second and third books, obviously, to set up plot points and to tie everyone’s stories together – there were so many secondary characters clamouring to have their stories explored alongside Emmy’s adventures.

Was this always going to be a series or did it develop into one along the way? How different has it been to write a series compared to a standalone book?

When I submitted the first book to Bookouture, I mentioned that I had ideas for a sequel, but they were so taken with the setting and the central character that they suggested a series. We agreed between us that three books would be the perfect number to cover the stories to be told.

Writing a series has been quite an experience, and yes, very different. With a standalone book, I’m inclined to see where the characters want to take me. That isn’t possible with a series – you have to plan more, so that everything ties together and there are no contradictions between books. Of course, you already know your characters really well, so it’s easy to get right back into the groove with them, but it also makes secondary and incidental characters more important, so the reader doesn’t become bored.

Will there be other books in this series or have you got something else planned for your next book?

So no, no further books in the La Cour des Roses series. It’s been an exhausting ride, so I’m hoping to take a good long break and recharge my batteries!

You have an incredible 705 reviews of The Little French Guesthouse on Amazon at the time of writing! What’s the secret do you think to getting so many?

Bookouture would have to take credit for getting the ball rolling on that score. They have an incredible publicity manager, Kim Nash, who is a book blogger and knows that online community well. Bookouture put the book on NetGalley, Kim got the word out, and many book bloggers kindly reviewed and – thankfully – enjoyed the book 🙂 I guess it’s had a snowball effect from there. I still can’t believe the number of reviews on Amazon myself!

Are there any other places you’re dreaming of setting another book, and if so, why?

I’d love to set a book by the sea sometime, either in Cornwall or North Yorkshire. Those coastal villages have a lot of atmosphere and the scenery is spectacular. The perfect backdrop.

I read on your blog that one of your favourite things to do with your spare time is to watch old TV shows from the eighties. One of your favourites is Starsky and Hutch, which also happens to be one of mine. And now this is a really important question…Which one of them did you love the most: Starsky or Hutch??

Oh, I was SO in love with Paul Michael Glaser. Spectacular smile, hairy chest, tight jeans … I wanted trainers like his and a chunky woolly cardi like his! But I do confess I possessed a David Soul LP, and I still have (and still listen to) a CD of his 🙂

I know you love to read as much as you can as well, naturally. So who would you say is your favourite literary hero from any book you’ve read?

Crikey! That’s a difficult one! I think I would have to go with Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. He really resonated with me when I read the book as a teenager.

If I had to go with someone more modern, I would say Mma Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith’s books set in Botswana – a wise, gentle, grounded woman.

 

Thanks so much for being on my blog again, Helen. I hope you’ll come back sooner next time! By the way, in case anyone wants to know, Starsky was my favourite too 😉

 

About Helen

As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.

She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.

When she’s not writing, Helen enjoys reading, scrapbooking and watching old seventies and eighties TV shows.

Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

 

Find out more about Helen here:

Website & Blog 

Facebook

Twitter

One Month Since the Publication of Book 2

As I’m writing this, it has been a month since I indie published The Vineyard in Alsace, my second full-length novel. It has been a really good month with sales reaching higher than those for From Here to Nashville in its first month two years ago. While I’m really pleased about this, of course, I wish I knew how it had happened so I could do more of the same!

I’ve been a guest on some lovely blogs again but no more than last time, although perhaps the reach of those sites is greater than the ones I guested on last time. I have tweeted here and there about my book but I hate the idea of constantly tweeting about my book so it hasn’t been very regular. I’ve taken part in the RNA’s weekly hashtag on Twitter though which leads to an incredible amount of RTs from the generous members of the group so that has probably helped somewhat. I haven’t written a blog post myself in the past month so that can’t be it! I have shared my Facebook Author Page posts a bit more to my personal timeline and I also tried boosting one of my posts for a while. I have also sold some of my paperbacks independently but not that many. I’m starting to get a few reviews in now but again, not that many yet. I did get into the top 10,000 ranking on Amazon, which was a lovely feeling.

So I am at a loss as to what is helping the book to sell so well. It is only for sale on Amazon at the moment so I guess that Amazon’s algorithms must be doing something for me. It may be them showing my new book to readers who have bought Nashville and perhaps that’s leading them to buy The Vineyard in Alsace as well. It’s tempting to say, whatever it is, I don’t care as long as it’s selling. But you can guess that I’m not going to. I’ve been giving it all a lot of thought, as you can tell. Conversely, sales of my first book have stopped dead, which is understandable but still makes me feel sad. I recently updated the back matter in From Here to Nashville to include the detail of my new book and I think it might be time to put Nashville up for a Kindle Countdown free deal. At last, all those articles I’ve been clipping about running a free book promotion will come into their own!

My prime reason for doing this would be to try and get more reviews for From Here to Nashville. It’s said that when you get to 50 reviews, the Amazon algorithms kick in somehow and start to promote your book more for you. Whether this is actually true, I don’t yet know but I’d love to get more reviews anyway. I have 30 at the moment and have been stuck there for a long time – if you’ve read From Here to Nashville and haven’t yet reviewed, please go and write one for me now! Just click here.

So I’m going to spend some time doing some research into the best approach to running a free deal on Amazon. Then I’ll upload the new version of From Here to Nashville and see what happens. In the meantime, I shall keep my fingers crossed that the good sales continue. If you haven’t bought your copy of The Vineyard in Alsace yet, you can get your copy here. So many people have told me that they read it in one sitting, they were enjoying it so much so you might like to go and see what all the fuss is about!

Thanks for reading and do leave me a comment if you have any advice from running your own Kindle Promotions. All advice gratefully received 🙂

Publication Day #2 and Lessons I have Learned!

thevineyardinalsacePublication Day of my second novel The Vineyard in Alsace has come at last and I have managed to co-ordinate the Kindle and the paperback versions to be published at the same time, something I didn’t quite achieve first time round. As regular readers will know, this book has been a long time coming but it’s here now, indie published again, and I couldn’t be happier.

Some of you may have read my interview with my good writing friend, Susanna Bavin which was posted this weekend. Sue has been such a good friend to me, always cheering me on and boosting my confidence. I am truly grateful to her for her support. If you haven’t seen the article, do pop over and have a read if you can.

On Friday 10th March, I will be appearing on the French Village Diaries website, talking about my love of France, which I am really pleased about. It’s so lovely to discover a new website dedicated to some of my favourite things. So if you like all things French as much as I do, don’t forget to pop on over and have a look. Jacqui will also be posting a review of my book a couple of days later so look out for that. You can always get your own copy now though, if you can’t wait! Just click here.

Next weekend, I will be on fellow romance author, Abbey MacMunn’s blog, talking about the inspiration behind The Vineyard in Alsace, and the Monday after, I will be on my friend, Sam Russell’s blog, talking about how I came to write a book about a vineyard from the rustic viewpoint! I have another couple of guest blogs coming up in the near future as well but no dates for those as yet.

Amazingly, it has only been seven weeks since I first spoke to the designer and proofreader I used this time round because, as my book was already edited, it was pretty much ready to go into the final phase. However, I have learnt a few lessons since last time and I thought it would be good to share them with you.

  1. In retrospect, it would have been better to get the proofreading done and out of the way before engaging the designer. This is because when you come to sort out your paperback version, you can’t get the number of pages of your book until you upload your final mansucript, and your designer needs this for the width of the book spine. It may sound obvious to some people but if I came across this last time, I’d forgotten!
  2. If you have a foreign language in your book, like I do, and you want your proofreader to check it, make sure the one you want to use is available by speaking to them a couple of months before. By the time I spoke to my original choice of proofreader, she was all booked up. To be fair though, I hadn’t planned this very much in advance so I didn’t even know two months before that I was actually going to indie publish again. I found another wonderful proofreader but she was very honest in telling me that she wouldn’t be able to check the French. I got round the problem but it’s a lesson learned for the future.
  3. As many of you will know, I write in Scrivener which is so great in terms of generating a .mobi file. It also generates Pdf files which can be uploaded directly to CreateSpace but I really couldn’t work that out last time so I uploaded a Word document instead. This time, I was determined to do the Pdf to save some time. However, a Pdf is like a photo of your file and you can’t adjust things, like empty lines at the top of the page or widows and orphans. I have reviewed my file using CreateSpace’s online reviewer tool (when it finally decided to work for me) and it looks acceptable but with hindsight, I wish I had just gone for the Word option. A proof copy is on its way to me and if I really can’t stand it, I will swap the files over. All this adds to the time it takes to do everything, of course!
  4. I put my book up for pre-order again as I did last time and was surprised to see that I can now see a report at any time on just how many pre-orders I’ve got and how that compares with last time. There’s a lot of talk about whether it’s worth putting your book up for pre-order and my conclusion is that it is worth it. It generates a bit of a buzz and a sense of expectation and even if you don’t sell many, at least you can see sales coming in 🙂 I’d be interested to know what you all think about pre-orders from a sales point of view and as a reader? Is it a Marmite situation or do you think it doesn’t matter either way?
  5. The other thing that I did last time was to create a book trailer using Stupeflix. I think a book trailer is a good thing to do but crikey, it’s so time consuming! I’ve looked at a few other software programs like Animoto for example but didn’t find them any easier so the date for the book trailer is TBC 😉

And so, there it is. All in all, it has been a bit of an easier ride this time round but it’s amazing how much you forget in two years. I really do hope to publish my FHTN novella this year so I hope it will all remain fresh in my memory till then!

Thanks for all your support and to everyone who has bought my book especially!

When Books get Turned into Films or TV Shows

I’ve recently watched both a film and a TV programme of two books I had loved reading so I had high expectations of what I would see on screen. Over the years, I have seen many such films or TV shows based on favourite books and the results have been quite hit and miss. It’s a fine line for production companies to please everyone but it’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get everyone talking.

The recent TV programme I’m talking about is of course, the BBC adaptation of Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. There are no spoilers here by the way, if you want to carry on reading 🙂 So, here’s what happened. I read all the build-up telling us that this great book was going to be on TV and then I saw the author’s name, recognising her from when she had been on the celebrity version of University Challenge over Christmas. I remember liking her at the time but feeling a bit ashamed as I’d never heard of her and after the show, I went and looked her up on Amazon. And I was overjoyed to see that she has written a lot of books. I made a mental note to buy one of those books at the earliest opportunity. Then came the news that Apple Tree Yard was going to be on TV so I decided to buy that one – the premise looked so compelling – and I planned to read it before watching the show.

By the time the first episode aired, I was about a quarter of the way through so I decided to risk it and watch the show unable to wait while everyone else was watching. The book was fabulous and so was the first episode of the TV show, with Emily Watson in particular, doing a wonderful job of playing Yvonne as I knew her from the book. I did feel disappointed that all the nuances of Yvonne’s inner thoughts couldn’t be shown on screen and also I had to wonder why there was the need to change minor details, like the name of her husband but apart from those niggles, I felt it was very faithful, in fact shockingly so, to the story. I carried on reading, furiously trying to get far enough ahead before the next episode. When I watched the next instalment, I was so close to the story that I could pick out exact phrases from the book when they were used and I felt that Emily Watson did an amazing job of recreating Yvonne’s suffering.

By the time the final two shows were aired back to back, I had finished the book and I was looking forward to a thrilling ending in the programme to match it. Unfortunately, this did not happen for me. I watched it with my husband who hadn’t read the book and he thought the ending to the story was brilliant. And it was, but the TV version didn’t have quite the same brilliance for me as the book did. There were too many differences, some subtle and some huge and it was at this point that I wondered if I had perhaps done the book a disservice, and myself in the process. Maybe I needed to have read it some time before so that there was some distance between my reading of it and the TV interpretation of the same so that I could be objective. Having read some of the online reviews of the TV programme since then though, I don’t think I’m alone in the view that the TV programme just didn’t quite live up to the book.

Last night, we watched The Girl on the Train, which is the only audiobook we have listened to. We listened to it in the summer of 2015 when we were on holiday in France and were doing a fair bit of driving. I remember the book pretty well, maybe because we listened to it and it took us quite a long time to do so. The narration was brilliant, told by three different female narrators, and the story literally had us on the edge of our seats. After every chapter, we discussed what had happened and what we thought it all meant, and the shared experience was very enjoyable. Mind you, we haven’t listened to any other books together since then, but I don’t think we would be averse to doing it again if the circumstances were right.

When the film came out at the cinema, we decided not to go and see it because of the poor reviews we’d heard about the film. Set in America, you say? How would that translate? And Emily Blunt in the main role? Hmm, we’d just watched her in Sicario, which I really didn’t like although I do think she’s a good actress. We would watch it eventually we maintained, just not at the cinema. So I added it to our Amazon watchlist and last night we were in the mood for it. And do you know what? We loved it 🙂 Our daughter watched it with us as well and even she was drawn in enough by it to unglue herself from her phone! The change of setting worked well, we thought, and didn’t bother us at all and Emily Blunt’s acting was nuanced and empathetic. The tale unfolded carefully and as we approached the end, I realised that I couldn’t remember exactly what happened so the thrill of the ending was just as good for me as if I hadn’t read the book. So, perhaps a bit of distance does help, who knows?

Of course, there have been plenty of awful adaptations of books I have loved. The worst one of all time for me was the film of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I loved this book so much and spent half the time I was reading it sobbing in anticipation of the ending so the film had a lot to live up to. And it didn’t.

I have tried the film a couple of times but the depth of the love story just isn’t there for me, no matter how much I want it to be.

In April, I am lucky enough to be attending a local literary festival where Louise Doughty is going to be talking and giving a creative workshop. I imagine that there will be quite a few questions about Apple Tree Yard, especially as I hear that a sequel might be in the offing.

Do you have a favourite TV/film adaptation of a book you’ve loved? Or worse, one you hated? Do let me know in the comments and keep the conversation going. See you next time, when I hope to have news about my second book – actual, definite news with dates and everything!