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The Excitement of Publication Day for my Latest Romance

How the excitement of publication day never gets old

I’ve been writing since 2013 and indie publishing since 2015, and in that time, I’ve published six romance novels/novellas with two more coming very soon. You’d think by now that I’d be getting used to publication days and maybe feeling a bit blasé about them, but I can honestly say that I am just as excited about the one that’s coming up, as I was about my very first one back in 2015.

Five years ago in the summer of 2014, I was just finishing editing my first romance novel, From Here to Nashville, and I was about to commission my first cover design. It was a really exciting time, and although I hoped to sell some books, I had no idea that I would go on to write and publish so many more books, and to still be publishing new ones five years later.

This time round, a lot of things have changed. Now, I have a list of advanced readers and I was able to send The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge out to them for advance feedback. I also have a good sized list of newsletter subscribers and I’ve been able to do lots of promotion to them in advance of the book being published. I’ve received three times as many pre-orders this time as I did for my first book because my audience has grown, and this has helped my book to race up the charts, and even to be listed by Amazon as a Hot New Release! I’m so grateful to all my readers for helping me to achieve this. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a bestseller tag for this book when it comes out 🙂

 

I’ve also scheduled a blog tour a couple of weeks after publication day, and I’ve been delighted to see so many book bloggers sign up for the tour that Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources has very kindly arranged for me. I’ve also put my book up on Net Galley with the help of a co-operative press in the hope of gaining even more reviews this time round.

So this has all added to the usual excitement of publication day which is fast approaching on 6 August, 2019. I’m very lucky to be part of such a friendly writing community online as well who have also been supporting me by sharing the news about my next book. I know they will also be there for me on publication day and beyond as well. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I’m so glad that I’ve persevered with my writing, even when at times, it has been tough.

If you would like to read the first chapter of my new book, and you still haven’t done so, you can find it here. If that whets your appetite so much that you want to pre-order The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge at the special low price of 99p/99c, you can go ahead and do that on that page too. I hope you enjoy reading and I look forward to reading your reviews once the book is published. Let me know what you think of that first chapter by leaving a comment below 🙂

Time to Celebrate!

photoYesterday was the first day in a week of celebrations for me as my debut contemporary romance, From Here to Nashville, reaches the first anniversary of its publication day.

I began by spending the day in London with the RNA (The Romantic Novelists’ Association) yesterday for a special workshop entitled ‘How to Make an Impact in Romantic Fiction.’ First of all we heard from Matt Bates, the WH Smith Travel Book Buyer and Lyn Vernham, Managing Director of Independent Publisher, Choc Lit about what the industry might want from us as romantic fiction writers based on latest trends.

Amongst other things, Matt explained that E. L. James’ book ‘Grey’ had 23% of market sales last year leaving everyone else a bit stranded in the romance market! If you take that book out of the equation, the first book in the top 100 sellers from last year, with only 4.93%, was ‘The Woman who Stole my Life’ by Marian Keyes. Interesting, eh? He also said that £7.99 was the average paperback publication price and that ‘nature’ seems to be a trend in the titles of current bestsellers e.g. Beekeeper, Dandelion, Sunflower, Nightingales, Sea.

Lyn said that romance remains a hard market to get noticed in. She said that series are very popular at the moment and that Apple were really pushing them at one point. On the day that the shortlist for Choc Lit’s latest ‘Search for a Star’ competition came out, she revealed that the one after this competition would probably be the last one. She told us that £1.99 seems to be the best price for an ebook and that contemporary romances still sell the most.

In the afternoon, Julie Cohen took over with an interactive workshop called ‘How can we deliver the right impact with the opening to our romantic fiction novel?’ We had all been encouraged to bring in our own work for discussion. So Julie collected these from us at the start of the day and after we’d analysed the first 100 words of her current novel ‘Where Love Lies’ and picked up some tips on what to include and what to leave out, she set off reading out each of our individual pieces of work. It was a bit daunting at first because she read each one out and then commented on it and invited us to comment too. She mostly kept the entries anonymous though and her comments were very constructive and thoughtful. Although mine broke one of the ‘rules’ by starting with someone waking up in bed, the feedback was really useful and I asked Julie for some more advice afterwards as well. So I came away feeling positive. It was great to go on another writing day and it gave me back my motivation to get going with my writing again.

Saturday, 13th February, 2016

When I got home, I found that my first guest post for this coming week had gone live on my friend, Susanna Bavin’s blog. Sue has been so supportive of me and my writing over this past year and so it was lovely to be asked to return to her blog to celebrate From Here to Nashville’s first birthday.

I’m also appearing on Elaina James’ blog this weekend, talking about the forthcoming Curtis Brown Discovery Day during which I will get the opportunity to pitch to an agent, something I have never done before! You can read all about how I’m feeling and how I’m preparing for it here.

Monday, 15th February, 2016

Tomorrow, I will be appearing on my Canadian friend, Tracey Weller’s blog, Never Too Late to Write but this is an interview with a twist because Tracey and I did the interview over Skype! We actually talked for three hours in total and the original interview was thirty minutes or so. Obviously, we didn’t want you dropping off in the middle so Tracey has edited it down to ten minutes. Once I got over my initial shock of seeing myself on video (!), I actually found I enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

Thursday, 18th Feburary, 2016

I will also be guesting on Zeba Clarke’s blog, That Reading Writing Thing on Thursday, answering some very interesting questions that Zeba sent me. I’ve not appeared on Zeba’s blog before and it is so wonderful to be meeting new writers all the time and to be able to take them up on their generosity of spirit.

On Tuesday which is the actual anniversary of From Here to Nashville’s publication day, I will definitely raise a toast to my debut book which has done me proud in its first year. I will also thank goodness for all my lovely writing friends and supporters who have kept me going throughout the past year and who continue to inspire me for the future. Thank you!

Finding You (Jenna’s Story) – Book 3 in the From Here to You series

My latest contemporary romance was published in June 2018. This is book 3 in the From Here to You series, and tells Jenna’s Story after the end of From Here to Nashville. It’s available at the following link: Amazon.

Here are some early reviews:

‘I loved everything about this book, from the gorgeous seaside setting to the details of Jenna’s floristry business. It’s well-written and gorgeously romantic and works well on its own, but anyone familiar with Julie Stock’s other books will find particular satisfaction in meeting some familiar faces again. A lovely, uplifting read.’ KSS

‘Such a lively ending to the trilogy. Again you are transported from England to Paris (beautiful city) to Nashville. The stories are so well intertwined from the start, Nashville was such an amazing journey and now it has all come together. It was a fantastic read joining all the characters back together without being too mushy. I would definitely recommend the trilogy.’ Ana

Finding You (Jenna’s Story) – Book 3 in the From Here to You series

Can love blossom despite all the obstacles in its way?

Jenna Andrews’ delight at welcoming her boyfriend, Will back from his business trip to Nashville is short-lived when he tells her that he now has to leave for Paris for the next few months. What with running her busy flower shop and developing wedding business, everything is conspiring to stop them being together.

Will Thompson loves his job but hates the way it keeps taking him away from his girlfriend, Jenna. When he gets called back to Nashville again because of a family bereavement, he starts to think he and Jenna will never get to spend any time together.

As the survival of their relationship becomes more at stake, Jenna and Will finally realise they need to put it before everything else in their lives if they want to be together forever.

Are Jenna and Will determined enough to finally get their own happy ever after?

This is a novella of around 35,000 words and can be read on its own but if you want to know how Jenna got to this point, it’s worth reading From Here to Nashville.

If you’d like to read a preview before you buy, you can do so here.

 

 

 

My First Indie Author Podcast Interview!

MXL Microphone for my first indie author podcast interviewAs some of you may have seen if you’ve liked my Facebook page, this week I gave my first indie author podcast interview. Paul Teague from the Self-Publishing Journeys podcast invited me a few weeks ago and I said yes before I could talk myself out of it! If you click on the link above and scroll down the page, you will see that my interview is coming up on 5 November. When it goes live, it will move to the top and you can listen to it there on your computer.

Subscribing to Podcasts

Alternatively, you can subscribe to Paul’s podcast on your phone or other mobile device to listen to it while you’re on the go. A couple of people told me they weren’t sure what a podcast is so I hope this makes it clearer for you.

You can listen to podcasts on all kinds of topics these days, anything from comedy to politics (you may consider these to be the same right now!) It’s so handy for the commute to work or even to while away the hours (!) spent cleaning, gardening etc. My husband listens while he’s at the gym but the thought of the gym just makes me shudder 🙂

Podcasts I listen to

I mostly listen to mine on my commute and while driving here, there and everywhere. I tend to listen to writing podcasts only – apart from Paul’s, I listen to the Self-Publishing Formula and The Creative Penn. If you already listen to podcasts, which are your favourites? Do let me know in the comments or by sending me an email to julie@julie-stock.co.uk. I’d love to hear your tips.

Preparing for the interview

And so, to the interview. Well, I was delighted when Paul asked me to be a guest on his show. I’ve listened to his podcast diary and his interviews for a long time now. So it was a real badge of honour as an indie author to be invited to chat with Paul about my self-publishing journey. However, I was also quite nervous. Paul is a former BBC man with lots of experience so I wanted to make sure I came across as professional and not like a bumbling idiot! (Only time will tell…)

Anyway, Paul was very organised and I didn’t have to do much beforehand except to make sure that my Skype account was all set up properly. (The last interview I did over Skype was in February 2016 and you can read that post here). My husband sorted me out with a decent microphone from his own supply at his business, and once I had my earphones, I was all set. I did spend a bit of time thinking through the questions that Paul might ask me but not so much that I would sound rehearsed when it came to it. Paul advised me to think of it as a chat between us rather than an interview so I tried to focus on that.

How did my first indie author podcast interview go?

When we finally did the interview, Paul was so easy-going that my nerves melted away and soon we were chatting like we’d known each other for years, which in a way we had. The time passed very quickly and we had a short break after the main interview where I breathed a sigh of relief. Then we carried on chatting about all sorts of things. We recorded another short interview of quick fire questions afterwards, which is for Paul’s Patreon supporters first of all but will be available generally at a later point. And then it was time to say goodbye. I was buzzing for a good hour afterwards because it had been such a great experience. I did then start to worry whether I’d said anything I shouldn’t about anyone or anything (!) but I’m reasonably confident I didn’t…

Should I start a podcast?

As you can see from this link, my husband now offers a podcast bundle of gear you’d need to set up your own podcast. It’s professional gear so it is a bit expensive (cheaper options are available) but since he put that bundle together, I’ve been thinking more and more about whether to do a podcast myself. I’ve thought about it for a while but always decided against it because of lack of time and skill, but who knows? Maybe one day I will give it a go.

Anyway, don’t forget to let me know your favourite podcasts and to tune in to my interview on Paul Teague’s Self-Publishing Journeys podcast on 5 November. In the meantime, it’s back to editing book 3 for me!

Author Spotlight – Sandra Danby

This month, I am delighted to welcome romantic suspense author, Sandra Danby to my Author Spotlight. Sandra’s second identity detective novel, Connectedness, has just been published, and she’s here to tell us more about it and her other writing today.

 

Photo © Sandra Danby Sandra Danby – Connectedness

TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING

Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.

Buy on Amazon.

*****

An extract from ‘Connectedness’.

Prologue

London, September 2009

The retired headmistress knew before she opened the front door that a posy of carnations would be lying on the doorstep beside the morning’s milk bottle. It happened on this day, every year. September 12. And every year she did the same thing: she untied the narrow ribbon, eased the stems loose and arranged the frilled red flowers in her unglazed biscuit-ware jug. Then she placed the jug on the front windowsill where they would be visible from the street. Her bones ached more now as she bent to pick them up off the step than the first year the flowers arrived. She had an idea why the carnations appeared and now regretted never asking about them. Next year, someone else would find the flowers on the doorstep. In a week’s time she would be living in a one-bedroom annexe at her son’s house in a Hampshire village. She walked slowly back to her armchair beside the electric fire intending to tackle The Times crossword but hesitated, wondering if the person who sent the flowers would ever be at peace.

1

Yorkshire, May 2010

The clouds hurried from left to right, moved by a distant wind that did not touch her cheek. It felt unusually still for May. As if the weather was waiting for the day to begin, just as she was. She had given up trying to sleep at three o’clock, pulled on some clothes and let herself out of the front door. Despite the dark, she knew exactly the location of the footpath, the edge of the cliffs; could walk it with her eyes closed. Justine lay on the ground and looked up, feeling like a piece of grit in the immensity of the world. Time seemed both still and marching on. The dark grey of night was fading as the damp began to seep through her jeans to her skin. A pale line of light appeared on the eastern horizon, across the flat of the sea. She shivered and sat up. It was time to go. She felt close to both her parents here, but today belonged to her mother.

Three hours later, she stood at the graveside and watched as the coffin was lowered into the dark damp hole. Her parents together again in the plot they had bought. It was a big plot, there was space remaining.

Will I be buried here?

It was a reassuring thought, child reunited with parents.

The vicar’s voice intoned in the background, his words whipped away by the wind. True to form, May was proving changeable. It was now a day requiring clothing intended for mid-winter, when windows were closed tight and the central heating turned on again. Or was it that funerals simply made you feel cold?

‘Amen.’

She repeated the vicar’s word, a whisper borne out of many childhood Sunday School classes squeezed into narrow hard pews. She was not paying attention to the service but, drawn by the deep baritone of the vicar who was now reciting the Lord’s Prayer, was remembering her first day at art college. The first class. Another baritone. Her tutor, speaking words she had never forgotten. Great art was always true, he warned, and lies would always be found out.

In her handbag was a letter, collected from the hall table ten days ago as she left the house for Heathrow and Tokyo. She had expected to return home to London but, answering the call from her mother’s doctor, had come straight to Yorkshire in the hope of seeing her mother one last time. The envelope, which was heavy vellum, and bore smidgens of gold and scarlet and the Royal Academy of Arts’ crest, was still sealed. She knew what the letter said, having been forewarned in a telephone call from the artist who nominated her. It was the official invitation. If she accepted, she was to be Justine Tree, RA.

*****

And now for my interview with Sandra:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the theme of an identity detective for your books?

The concept of the ‘Identity Detective’ series was originally about adoption reunion and how the adopted person, adrift from their roots, gains a sense of identity. Where does this feeling of belonging come from; genes, place, a secure family, life experience? As I started to process these thoughts and put them into Ignoring Gravity, which was intended to be a standalone story about Rose Haldane, I realised there was a whole experience out there that wasn’t being told. We hear about adopted parents and children being reunited but not about how they find each other, the struggles, the failures, the rejections, the awkward meetings, and who helps them. It seemed natural that Rose, a journalist, should evolve into an identity detective helping others to find their families as she had found her own. From there it was a logical step to developing a series of novels, each one looking at a different viewpoint in the adoption experience. Birth mother, father and siblings; adopted child; adoptive parents and siblings. These names are blunt tools, labels that serve a purpose in aiding lost people to find each other.

How do you go about coming up with ideas for your books that work with your theme?

One thing I am not short of is ideas. As a magazine features editor I had a box file of cuttings and scraps of paper, each one an idea for an article. And it’s the same now. I’m a magpie, a collector of facts and snippets, stories on the television news or in the newspaper, good news stories on Facebook. I have a series of box files into which all these cuttings are placed, and the virtual equivalent on my computer. Sometimes I will read a story and know immediately how it will fit into my work; there is an excitement that comes with this, like fitting the last piece into a difficult jigsaw. Each book has to have a mystery at its heart, questions to be answered, anonymous people to be identified. Often an event in history is the trigger, that’s how I found the idea for the third book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. Sweet Joy will tell the story of an elderly woman seeking the truth of her abandonment; she was found as a baby, uninjured, alone in the bombed out ruin of a house in London during The Blitz. I had a vague idea that I wanted to set my third novel in wartime London and was reading in the library when I came to a passage describing how half of a house was demolished by a bomb while in the other half, an elderly couple slept on, curled up together in their bed, unharmed. What if, I wondered, it was a baby instead? I ask myself ‘what if?’ a lot.

How important is setting to you in your novels? I know this book is set in both Spain and Yorkshire, places you know well. What made you choose these places particularly?

Knowing the setting is one of the key building blocks for me, I must know the setting before I can start writing. Until then I will build on ideas, writing exercises to experiment with characters, motivation and personality. Perhaps I need to visualise a character in a particular place before I can write more. It seems all my novels are destined to be set in places I know; so, I will never write a fantasy novel! I found a note to my writing group, written in 2010, when I first started to explore the character of Justine. Even that early in my thought process Justine was born in Yorkshire, like me, though she was heading for art college in Paris not Spain. The Spanish connection happened when I realised it was futile planning to send Justine to Paris to study art, when we live in Spain only an hour from Málaga, birthplace of Pablo Picasso. And so the Picasso link was born and I spent many happy hours in Málaga researching the streets, the art, the parks, choosing the settings for key scenes. I was able to use my own sense of foreignness, alienation and language struggles, experienced when we first arrived in Spain, for Justine’s arrival in 1982. I still write about our life in the Spanish countryside at my Notes on a Spanish Valley blog.

How do you go about doing your research? How do you keep your research organised?

The other side of idea generation comes through research and I enjoy this a lot. I read a lot of non-fiction and history, I visit archives, museums and country houses – this instinct to research comes from my journalism training, the need to search for facts – and from this I will experience ‘light bulb’ moments. Sweet Joy is taking me into new territory and I am relishing it. I have always been interested in World War Two, raised as I was in the Sixties on my father’s diet of war films and Alistair MacLean novels. So my research list involves visits to IWM Duxford, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, and ‘The 1940s Relived’ day at the Brooklands Museum.

How long did it take you to write your first draft of this novel? How many more drafts were there after that?

I wrote the first chapters on Connectedness in 2015 though I had been researching and planning long before that, during the time Ignoring Gravity was written and published. There were seven full drafts with ‘down time’ allowed in between; I find it helpful to put the manuscript aside and occupy myself with something else so that when I return to the draft I read it afresh. This does mean that I write quite slowly, but I have come to accept that I will never be able to produce a novel a year, or even every two years.

What do you use to write your books? Word, Scrivener, pen and paper…?

I write on Word on my Mac, on an old wi-fi-free laptop, on the Word app on my iPad with a little clip-on keyboard, and in my writing notebook. Although I use Scrivener to produce mobi files, I haven’t used it for writing and admit to finding it a little confusing. Re-writing is mostly done on the old laptop. I don’t need to be in a particular place to write; I have written in noisy coffee shops, cramped airplane seats, vibrating train seats, and sitting on a sunbed on a beach. I do believe however in printing out each draft and reading it with a pen in my hand, another old journalism habit. I spend a fortune in paper and printer cartridges.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I am not great at technology. I used to be when I was younger; it’s easy to be proficient when you work in a big publishing company with the latest computers, regular training and a helpful IT department. It’s very different being a company of one. But I have found a group of people who support me in what I do, who can answer my questions and help when I despair. I also find support in various online writer groups; all writers today, I think, sit alone at our computers so are ready and willing to help each other. I find that heart-warming.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

As the first reviews come in for Connectedness, each one giving me a little boost of excitement, I could say ‘now’, just before the book is published. But actually I enjoy the process of writing. If I could, I would live on a remote hillside or deep in an isolated forest, alone with my writing. Wi-fi not required.

Are you going to continue writing about this theme in your novels or do you have plans to write something completely different in the future?

I have ten clear outlines for further ‘Identity Detective’ novels and a few more sketchy ideas. I may take a break after Sweet Joy and write a standalone novel. There are a number of options I could choose. I grew up in Yorkshire and would like to return to my roots.

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

Sweet Joy starts in 1940 as a baby is found alive in a bombed house in Twickenham after one of the worst nights of The Blitz. The house is shut-up and unoccupied, its owners moved to the countryside for the duration of the war. So why was a baby left there, alone, and what happened to her parents? Decades later, when Rose Haldane moves to Twickenham she cannot understand how she has acquired a stalker, an elderly woman who watches from across the road. Except the woman is not stalking Rose.

Thanks so much for being my guest this month, Sandra. Wishing you every success with your new novel.

*****

About Sandra Danby

Photo © Sandra Danby

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.

 

 

 

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A Month of Learning Opportunities

March has been another busy writing month for me but this time, it has mostly been because of so many new learning opportunities that have presented themselves to me.

Prime Reading

One of those has been being invited by Amazon to have The Vineyard in Alsace included in a Prime Reading promotion for three months. Since I signed up, my book has risen up the charts to a high point of no. 7 so far, which as you can imagine, has been fantastic to see. I am learning new things about how it works all the time and delighting in the recognition my book has been getting. I have Amazon Prime myself but I had no idea that it included books! How mad is that? So if you do too and you want to read my book for free, get yourself along to my book page here and download it! And if you could please write a review when you’ve finished, that would be even better!

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New Courses

So what else have I been up to? Well, first of all, I decided to sign up to the Self-Publishing Formula Podcast’s Cover Design course. I do some design work in my day job, and I used to do design when I worked in marketing before I became a teacher many years ago. I enjoy doing it but have never taken any courses, and as I enjoy the cover design process so much, I thought it would be useful. I don’t really have any plans to make my own covers, although there might be some circumstances when I could in the future, but I thought it would help me to understand the process a bit more. And it really has. The course is delivered on behalf of the SPF team by Stuart Bache, who designs all of Mark Dawson’s covers. Stuart’s own company is called Books Covered and you will see many familiar covers there from the romance genre. You do need Photoshop to get the most out of the course but you will then get such a lot of practice in from trying to create your own covers and seeing what goes into the process. The course is still open but is a bit more expensive now. I’m still working my way through but enjoying it immensely.

Then after I heard about the Cover Design course on the podcast, they re-opened their Self-Publishing 101 course. Hopefully, you’re thinking ‘Why would you need that course, Julie?’ when you read that! Well, that’s a good point and one I had worried over myself since I first heard about the course opening late last year. It’s quite expensive and I didn’t want to make an investment like that if I wasn’t going to learn anything new. However, even after indie publishing three books now, with a couple more to come this year, there are still things I’m not doing to best effect. I haven’t really built a proper mailing list and for that you need a reader magnet (which I haven’t written yet!) and to promote that in various ways to encourage people to sign up. One of those ways is via a landing page on your website, which is when you realise that a free WordPress website doesn’t have the scope for you to do that kind of advanced stuff. It has been on my mind for a while to migrate my website again but I just haven’t done it. So really, doing this course is about helping me to work out what I still need to do to move myself to the next level, writing a checklist and then doing it! Fortunately, you can pay monthly for the course and it is still open for a few days. If you should want to take a look, the link is here. If you can’t stretch to that kind of investment, you should listen to the podcast because there are so many useful hints and tips in each episode – it really is great!

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Writing Retreat

Finally, this month, I went on my first ever writing retreat, just in time for the second wave of snow. It sounds terribly self-indulgent but I was given it as a birthday present from my family! Last weekend, I drove up to Warwickshire to a lovely hotel and joined about a dozen other writers at various stages in their careers for a weekend of writing and learning. The course was run by two RNA members, Alison May and Janet Gover. You can find out more about their courses here. They’re both traditionally published and have lots of experience between them.

Before I got the schedule, I was expecting to spend most of the weekend holed up in my room, bashing away at my laptop in isolation. However, that wasn’t the case. There was writing time, of course but there were also tutorials and workshops, which were really helpful. The most helpful ones for me were the ones on plotting and editing. I also had a one-to-one with Janet about there first three chapters of my next novel which I’m calling The Bistro for now. One of the things I struggle with is knowing where to start with the editing process when I get my first manuscript appraisal back from the RNA. It all seems insurmountable! But as a result of this course, I now have a proper plan to work to and I made a start on the plan while I was there so when I come back to it, I feel that I will be better prepared to make a start and not be as daunted as I normally feel.

I learnt a lot from my fellow writers too, and the weekend was a very sociable experience that I would really recommend to you. I switched everything else off and just spent time on my writing, and that felt wonderful!

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My Latest Publication!

I can’t finish without mentioning that I also published a new book this month! Over You (Sam’s Story) was published on 12 March, 2018, and already has a few good reviews. It means that I now have a series – the From Here to You series – and this is book 2 following on from the end of From Here to NashvilleThe third and final sequel will be out around May, I hope. If you haven’t downloaded Sam’s Story yet, it’s only 99p on Amazon and tells a story of heartbreak, love and healing. You can get your copy on Amazon now.

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If you want to know when my next release is out, why not sign up to my mailing list here?

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Author Spotlight – Susanna Bavin

This month, it’s my very great pleasure to welcome my writing friend and fellow RNA member, Susanna Bavin, to my blog for my Author Spotlight feature. Susanna’s debut novel, The Deserter’s Daughter, a 1920s saga, was published earlier this year and I can thoroughly recommend it as a cracking good read!

The Deserter’s Daughter – Susanna Bavin

1920, Chorlton, Manchester. As her wedding day draws near, Carrie Jenkins is trying on her dress and eagerly anticipating becoming Mrs Billy Shipton. But all too soon she is reeling from the news that her beloved father was shot for desertion during the Great War. When Carrie is jilted and the close-knit community turns its back on her as well as her mother and her half-sister, Evadne, the plans Carrie nurtured are in disarray.

Desperate to overcome private shock and public humiliation, and with her mother also gravely ill, Carrie accepts the unsettling advances of well-to-do furniture dealer Ralph Armstrong. Through Ralph, Evadne meets the aristocratic Alex Larter, who seems to be the answer to her matrimonial ambitions as well. But both sisters put their faith in men who are not to be trusted, and they will face danger and heartache before they can find the happiness they deserve.
Amazon

*****

And now for my interview with Susanna:

1. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book and how you went about your research?

The Deserter’s Daughter is set in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, to the south of Manchester, and I’m enormously proud of readers’ and reviewers’ comments about the strong sense of place. My second saga for Allison & Busby, A Respectable Woman, is set in the same area and readers will recognise one or two landmarks.

As for the research – well, Chorlton is where I grew up, as did several generations of my family before me, so I know the area very well. I studied old photos to make sure that I got the details right about how the various buildings, roads and landmarks looked 100 years ago. I also used the maps drawn by my late father. Dad was very artistic and he used his skills with watercolours and calligraphy to produce beautiful maps of Chorlton as it was when he was a boy. He even made notes about the shops he remembered and who lived in which house in his road.

2. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

Hard to think of ideas? Never! But the way I go about developing ideas has changed. Gone are the days of knowing how the story ends and then letting the plot and characterisation develop and find their own way there.
When Allison & Busby bought The Deserter’s Daughter, they also wanted to see the synopsis for a second saga. It was news to me that you could write a synopsis before you wrote the book. Didn’t you have to finish the book first so you knew what to put in the synopsis? Apparently not. I wrote a detailed synopsis and A&B bought A Respectable Woman on the strength of it.

My agent and my editor both told me I didn’t have to stick to the synopsis if the story took off in another direction during the writing, but – aside from a couple of minor plot details – I did keep to the synopsis.

3. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many drafts will there be after that?

I don’t think there is a single answer to that. The first draft of The Deserter’s Daughter was written while I was a teacher. It took 15 months of writing at the weekends and in the school holidays, but it wasn’t until I had produced the fourth draft that I attracted an agent and the published version is the fifth draft.

Being a member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme was a big help. That August 31st deadline certainly worked for me. The two novels I submitted after The Deserter’s Daughter were both written in under a year. I respond to deadlines! Of those two books, one has now had two drafts and needs a third to finish it off; while the other has had three and needs a fourth.

4. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

All I need is the right first line and off I go; but sometimes I spend ages agonising over that perfect first line. I know I shouldn’t do that. I know I should just get writing and change it later if needs be.

5. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

There are many answers to this, so I will take the first three that sprang to mind.
Firstly, I love the physical act of writing. I love putting pen to paper. I am more creative with a pen in my hand than I am composing straight onto the screen. Also, writing by hand makes the writing completely portable and I can take it anywhere, such as…

Secondly, I love writing on the train. Is that weird of me?

Thirdly, I love the way ideas develop simply by being written. Writing can surprise you and take you down unexpected paths. I once wrote a scene in which the heroine went to her friend for help. I started the scene fully expecting the friend to say, “Yes, of course I’ll help. Tell me what you want me to do,” but instead she said, “No – and how dare you ask it of me?”, which came as a big surprise to me as well as to my heroine.

6. Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

One theme that fascinates me and that I particularly like to explore is the legal position of women in the past and the social impact this had on their lives. The most obvious and basic example of this is a woman’s marital status. To be single was to be an old maid and therefore looked down on, and probably dependent on your father or brother to look after you; while all aspects of marriage were weighted heavily in the husband’s favour. I have a book of Victorian documents – letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings etc – and one is about a lady whose stolen handbag was recovered by the police, but when she went to the police station to claim it, she wasn’t allowed to have it. Her husband had to go and claim it, because technically it was his.

Something I have never forgotten from Anne of Avonlea was one of Anne’s friends – Jane, I think it was – saying she wanted to be a widow. A spinster was an object of pity or scorn; a wife could be pushed around by her husband; but a widow, as well as being an object of respect, could do as she pleased. The perfect solution!

7. I know you have finished your next novel. Can you tell us anything about it?

With pleasure. It is called A Respectable Woman and is a story of second chances – in life, in work and in love. The respectable woman of the title is Nell Hibbert, a young back-street housewife in 1920s Lancashire. When she discovers that her husband is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbours and fellow-workers believe she is a respectable widow. Nell realises various things about herself in the course of her story; that she is ambitious and highly capable; that love can sneak up on you; and, hardest of all, that the past is difficult to run from.

There have been various happy moments this year, starting with signing with Allison & Busy in January; but possibly the most surprising moment was when I found A Respectable Woman available for pre-order on Amazon a whole year before it will be published.

8. What does success as a writer look like to you?

As a former librarian, and coming from a family of library users, I am thrilled that The Deserter’s Daughter is in public libraries. One of the high-points of this year was finding it in my local library catalogue. The paperback edition won’t be published until next spring, so I hope that any readers who are interested will request it from their library. Can I also say how chuffed I am to see my book as a hardback? Many books go straight into paperback these days and I’m proud that mine is starting life in hardback.

I’m also delighted that The Deserter’s Daughter has recently been released as an audio book. I have listened to audiobooks for years and always have one on the go. I used to have a job that involved a lot of driving and being paid to drive round while listening to stories felt like a great perk. Now other people will be listening to my book, read by Julia Franklin, and the thought of that is just wonderful. If anyone would like to listen to a snippet, here is the link:

https://soundcloud.com/isisaudio/the-deserters-daughter

Thank you, Julie, for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions.

*****

And thank you, Susanna for a lovely interview!

*****

About Susanna Bavin

Susanna Bavin has variously been a librarian, an infant school teacher, a carer and a cook. She now lives on the beautiful North Wales coast with her husband and two rescue cats, but her writing continues to be inspired by her Mancunian roots. The Deserter’s Daughter is her first published novel. Her second 1920s saga for Allison & Busby, A Respectable Woman, will be published in June 2018.

Find out more about Susanna here:
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Author Spotlight – Karen King

My Author Spotlight feature is a bit like that old saying about buses this month – you don’t see any for ages and then two come along at once! This week, it’s my pleasure to welcome romance author, Karen King, to my blog who is here to tell us all about her latest release, The Cornish Hotel by the Sea.

The Cornish Hotel by the Sea – Karen King

Ellie Truman’s widowed mum is struggling to keep Gwel Teg, the family hotel in Cornwall, afloat.  Ellie is determined to do everything in her power to help her, even if that means moving back to the sleepy Cornish village she fled from broken-hearted a few years ago.

Things go wrong from the start and she’s grateful for the help from hunky guest, Reece Mitchell. But does Reece have ulterior motives? Will Ellie’s efforts be for nothing?

Amazon
Waterstones
W.H.Smiths

*****

And now for my interview with Karen:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

The Cornish Hotel by the Sea is set in Cornwall, a place I’ve lived in for almost a decade and visited for years previous to that. Writing it brought back so many happy memories.

I know you write books for younger readers as well as romantic fiction. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

No, ideas are always coming to me. Anything can start them off, something I see, something I overhear, places I’ve visited. I’ve often overheard something on a train or in a queue and thought ‘that’d make a good story’ or ‘I can use that’. I always try to carry a notebook and pen with me but failing that I’ll use anything to scribble on, till receipts, a napkin, the back of my hand.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

It’s difficult to say as I never work on just one project. I usually have a couple of books on the go – I have three at the moment – and I’m a writing tutor too so a lot of my time is taken up marking other people’s work. It also depends what I’m writing – children’s books are a lot shorter than romantic novels. If I was to concentrate solely on the one romantic novel of approx. 75,00o words I’d say I could write a first draft in a couple of months. I then revise and rewrite several times, writing as many as ten drafts.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Finding the time to write all the ideas I have in my notebooks.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

Getting the story out of my head onto paper/the screen. I work out character profiles and the main story outline then start writing the story down as it comes. I love watching the characters and story develop and grow, how it goes off in tangents I hadn’t thought of or the characters do something I hadn’t planned but seems so right.

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

Feisty heroines who don’t want to get tied down feature quite a bit – as in Never Say Forever and The Cornish Hotel by the Sea. In The Millionaire Plan and I do?…or do I? the heroines are getting married for the wrong reasons so I guess there’s a bit of a connection there. Also, I always have part of the story set in the UK and part abroad. I didn’t plan that, it just happened.

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I’ve just finished my next novel for Accent Press, it’ll be published next year. I can’t give away the title or the plot just yet but I’ve seen the cover and it’s gorgeous. I’m now working on three novels A YA, an emotional drama and a romance novel so I’m keeping busy!
Thank you so much for inviting me over, Julie.
My pleasure! Thanks for being such a lovely guest, Karen 🙂

About Karen

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Karen King writes sassy, fun, heart-warming romance. The Cornish Hotel by the Sea is her second chick lit for Accent Press, her first – I do?… or do I? was published last year and there is another one in the process of publication. In addition, Accent Press have republished her earlier romance novels, The Millionaire Plan and Never Say Forever.

Karen has also written several short stories for women’s magazines and had 120 children’s books published.
When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.

Find out more about Karen here:
Website
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Karen King Romance Author Facebook Page
Karen King Young Adult Books Facebook Page

Deepings LitFest and a Look Forward to May

Deepings Literary Festival 2017I have just spent a lovely couple of days at a Literary Festival not far from me in Market Deeping, Cambridgeshire. My good friend and fellow romance author, Ros Rendle (whose books you can find here), lives there and she alerted me to the festival early on so I was able to book to attend a couple of brilliant events before everyone else cottoned on! The Festival came about through the efforts of their Deepings Community Library. This library was threatened with closure by the local council until a group of community volunteers took it over and saved it. What better way to celebrate that success than with a Literary Festival?

And sBlack Water - Louise Doughtyo it was that I went trundling up the A1 from Bedfordshire to Cambridgeshire on Friday afternoon for my first session which was a Creative Writing Workshop with Louise Doughty, no less, the author who wrote the brilliant psychological thriller, Apple Tree Yard which was recently shown on the BBC. I was very excited to meet Louise of course – I’d loved the book and the TV series – but also to hear how she goes about plotting. There were about twenty of us there for the workshop and Louise asked us all to start by saying how much writing experience we had. Most people there were not writers but it was quite a surprise to find that I had sat down next to a new member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme – how uncanny! You know what they say about ‘Birds of a Feather…’

Anyway, Louise was very generous with her knowledge and her handouts! She is about to start writing her ninth book and she said she always starts with a vision of a character in a situation. For Apple Tree Yard, she saw a woman (Yvonne) in the dock at the Old Bailey and she knew in her mind that the woman was about to be caught out in a great lie. She didn’t obviously know what that lie was yet but she knew it would be the character’s undoing. Louise also knew that the man standing next to the woman, was the woman’s lover not her husband. And that was it. She said she sometimes lets the idea germinate for up to two years before she starts writing and in that time, she will write the odd scene and collect lots of material from her research. She then works on the basis of three critical plot points at 25%, 50% and 75% – many of us will have come across that idea before – but Louise elaborated on it by saying that it’s not just about making something happen at each plot point  They have to be events which change the situation irrevocably for the character – there can be no going back from it, which has certainly got me thinking about how I might need to change my current work in progress…Louise Doughty signed copy

After the workshop, Louise answered questions for another hour and would have gone on longer, I think, had there been enough time. I had received a copy of her latest book, Black Water, as part of the workshop and was even able to get it signed before leaving. Louise was also given a gift by the organisers of the festival. I’ll have to tell you what it was because I don’t think you’ll guess. A local butcher’s had made some Apple Tree Yard sausages in celebration of Louise’s visit to the festival and she was given some to take home! I also bought some the following day and I can confirm that they were very delicious 🙂

Grasmere Butcher;s, Market Deeping

Erica James - Deepings Literary Frestival 2017My first session the next day involved lunch and conversation with bestselling women’s fiction author, Erica James. I have to confess that I’ve not read any of her books before but after listening to her speak and tell us about her writing career and her life, I’m looking forward to discovering this ‘new’ author. She’s written fifteen books as well so that will keep me busy for a long while! Her latest one is Song of the Skylark and it looks like a lovely story. Once again, I was lucky to be in the company of some good friends at this event, even though I went on my own. My friend, Ros introduced Erica, and I managed to sit at a table with another friend and romance author, Karen Aldous (who also has a bit of a thing for French vineyards!) and her husband on one side, and lovely book blogger and reviewer, Linda Hill of lindasbookbag.com on my other side. We had a wonderful lunch at Lilli’s Tearoom in Market Deeping, Lilli's Tearoom, Market Deepingwith dainty sandwiches, scones and cakes all taken with a lovely cup of tea! Linda’s husband took a super picture of us all enjoying our tea, which you can see on Linda’s post about the festival here.

And so I waddled back to the library for my final session of the festival. This was a Read Dating session where there were ten local authors with their books and you got to sit down with each of them for about five minutes before the bell rang and you moved on to someone else. A unique way to introduce readers to new writers. Most of the writers were new to me and it was really enjoyable to meet them and find out about their publishing journeys while sharing my own. But my best conversation of all was with my friend, Jane Isaac, who I ‘met’ almost as soon as I went online but have never had the pleasure of meeting in real life until this weekend. Jane writes crime thrillers and her latest book, The Lies Within, is coming out on Tuesday. It was such a pleasure to meet Jane in person and to chat together, albeit briefly, and such a wonderful reminder of the benefits of social media in bringing people together.

Bookmark - Jane Isaac

*****

My book The Vineyard in Alsace continues to sell well as it comes up to its third month since publication. I will be visiting the blog of another romance writer this month, Karen King, taking part in her Travel Thursday feature, so look out for that on the 18th.

I’m also going to be attending a craft fair on 21st May with my books and as a result, I discovered that I would need Public Liability Insurance (don’t ask!) Anyway, the cheapest quote I found was via The Society of Authors and while I was exploring their site again, I realised that I qualify to be an Associate Member of The Society. When I looked at the criteria previously, I obviously didn’t read the conditions properly. So I am now an official member of The SoA and will be attending my local writers’ meeting next month for the first time 🙂

I’m also off to the RNA’s Summer Party this month where the Joan Hessayon Award winner will be announced. A number of my friends have qualified for this award this year by having been given a traditional contract by a publisher after being on the New Writers’ Scheme. So I’m really looking forward to going and celebrating with them all, regardless of who wins.

After all that, I will need a holiday, which is lucky because I have one coming up in June!

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!