Wednesday, 14 October 2020

The book of the heart


I spent a fabulous and challenging morning yesterday, courtesy of Zoom, at a workshop for the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association, led by RNA Chairperson and tutor extraordinaire Alison May. Alison was coaxing us all - OK in some cases strenuously coaxing - to find or rediscover our author's voice, by way of a number of interesting questions about us and our work. Nothing about book writing as such - no tools or techniques - it was all about us - as people  and writers. 

I got a lot from the session and I know others did too. When it was my turn under the spotlight the question that I focused on was about the book of my heart. Yes I have one. It's been with me for a long time, and I have probably mentioned it before in blog posts. But I have never come closer to writing it than collecting a few notes and scribbling down a few ideas. Of course Alison called me out on why I wasn't writing it, and what was I going to do about it?

It's a complex answer. It's still romantic suspense, but it's quite different from the style I am writing at the moment. Will readers like it? It's going to be a big book, in all senses of the word, so it is going to take some work and time. Will I be able to do the idea justice? If start it, am I risking disappointment if I don't produce a perfect result? Better to keep the dream? Having just gone through the process of producing an academic thesis, am I ready to embark on another big, weighty project? I think the answer to that one currently is no. Is that cowardice? Maybe. Having been out of the loop while finishing that thesis, I'm having fun writing the escapist stuff, and enjoying the buzz of having a new book out there. You simply can't beat it. At the moment, after the thesis and with the world as it is, having fun with the writing and producing some escapism feels like the right thing. 

At some stage I really will have to step up to the plate. The idea of doing the PhD haunted me for a long time, until I finally gave in. This book looks like it will do the same. 

I'm not ready yet.  But I sense that it's creeping up on me. 


Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Met any good themes lately?

Doing a guest blog post for Books in my Handbag recently, on the subject of themes and tropes, got me thinking on the topic. This was reinforced when I listen to In Our Time on Radio 4 last week, when the topic under debate was the Shakespeare play Macbeth. The discussion was interesting, and took me back to days when I was studying it, or watching in in the theatre. It always strikes me that along with ambition and guilt, the play has an awful lot in it about children.  Macbeth and his wife do not have any, although it seems that they might have at some stage. The chief nobles have families, who Macbeth sets about wiping out. The sons of the former king flee to avoid a similar fate. It makes me wonder if this was a theme that snuck up on the playwright as he was working. If I ever get to be a guest at one of these fantasy dinner parties, where you can chose you favourite six guests, I'll ask him. 

Although using a theme is one of the pieces of advice that is often given to would be writers, I've never been able to do it. I find it too constricting, and to be truthful, it annoys me sometimes too as a reader, if it feels that the author has chosen and applied a theme, just because they feel they should. This is not to say that themes don't sneak up on me. In Never Coming Home it turned out to be lost children, both the ones who were missing and the hero and heroine's dysfunctional childhoods.  A prevailing one, when you write romance, is often that of trust. You can do a lot with that, and it is one of the bedrocks of a romantic relationship, so does not go out of fashion.

I'm more comfortable with the idea of tropes - often found in romance writing -  friends or enemies to  lovers, a marriage of convenience, rags to riches - the Cinderella story. Internet sites often run top ten polls of the most popular, which are fun to read, and possibly argue with. I can understand the attraction, If you are reading romance as escapism, then it is relaxing and maybe reassuring to be able to have an outline of where the story is going. The use of a trope does not mean that the writing is not good, or the telling of the story and the outcome not satisfactory to the reader - after all, we know that it's going to have a happy ending, and it does not spoil the enjoyment. 

I must admit I have a contrary streak though. My runaway bride turned into a runaway groom, and I'm wondering about the possibilities of riches to rags, although I think that might prove to be too contrived. Which is not to say my subconscious will not hit me with something it has cooked up at some time in the future. 

At the moment the WIP does not have visible theme or trope although there is a Beauty and the Beast style overgrown garden. I have come up with a couple of characters I intend to murder, so things are going well in that regard. I'll keep you posted if a theme crops up. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

What next?

 A Wedding on the Riviera has been out just over a week, and I've been doing the rounds of fellow authors' blogs, with more to come. We've talked about the book, research, my academic interest in the Second World War, locations, writing tropes and mixing love with crime. There are links in last week's post and I'll post more next week. 

In the meantime, how is the book doing? Well it has been in the top five Hot New Releases for French travel on UK Amazon for a few days now. It's at #2 at the moment - will it make #1? Fingers crossed. It's also gathered over 20 UK reviews already - and 7 in the US - and I have to say I have been slightly stunned by the strength of the response. It's nearly two years since I had a book out, and I really didn't know what to expect. If you were one of these reviewers, thank you. I'm sure someone will eventually prick my bubble, as you can't please everyone, but at the moment it is awesome and humbling. But it is why I write the books - I want to give people some fun, excitement and escape, and at the moment that's especially welcome - at least it is for me. I'm not writing great literature, although I do hope that the books are well written. To know that people are enjoying what I have produced is my reason for doing it. 

One thing I have noticed, from the reviews and various other comments - readers are already asking when the next one is coming out! Well I have had to do all those blogs and promotion and I'm part way through cleaning the house, which is the first thing to go when I have edits, and I've also been taking a secateurs to the jungle outside the window, but I have located the Work in Progress, under a pile of magazines, and started to read it, so we have some progress. I'm hoping to get to it this afternoon too, so we shall see. But writing does take time, and I want it it be the best I can make it. So please, you have to give me a chance. 

When my mother was in hospital for the last time, I managed to get hold of a brand new release from

her favourite author. It was the first of a trilogy. She really enjoyed it and when she handed it over to be returned to the library she asked me rather  wistfully how soon I thought the next one would be out. She knew the score, having a writer in the house. 'I know it takes you authors longer to write them than it does for us to read them, but I hope it's soon.'  It was the last book she read. 

She and my grandmother were great readers and probably one of the reasons I am a writer. So I will be working on the next one as soon as I can. Promise. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Well, it's out there now...

 Yesterday was publication day for A Wedding on the Riviera. 

This is the scary bit - now people get to  read it! So far reaction has been good and I got a lot of lovely messages from friends wishing me and the book well, and had a French style breakfast to celebrate.

I've been out and about too, talking about all sorts of things on all sorts of blogs. Everything from writing about sunshine locations to my academic interest in World War Two. If you missed any there are a links below. I've tried to talk about different things with all the fab ladies who invited me, so I don't repeat myself too much. There will be a few more next week, when a couple of visits will be with my crime writer hat. 

A Q&A with Claire

Talking to Jane Cable 

Themes and tropes - with Jessie

Spotlight with Katie

A guest post with Karen

Chatting to Chris

A Q&A with Joanne

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Less than a week to go!

 It's getting closer! A Wedding on the Riviera is released on 22 September as an e-book, with an audio version to follow. 

Although it's my fifth book for publisher Choc-Lit, it doesn't get any less exciting, or scary, especially now, as I have not had a book out for nearly two years. I know people a pre-ordering it, because it's in the top ten hot new releases on Amazon for French Travel. This is good, but - the big question - will readers like it? It has a couple of pre-publication reviews on Goodreads, and they seemed to, so I can only hope. 

I've been frantically busy, doing blog posts for lots of fellow authors who have kindly invited me to chat to them about the book and life in general, so you will be seeing me about a lot next week. The audio version is being recorded this week too, with the same narrator as What Happens at Christmas - David Thorpe, which is nice to know.  It's a very weird experience having someone voice your words, but I know I am in careful hands. 

Once blog day comes around next week, the book will out. Then we shall see. 

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Are you ready for the most fabulous wedding?

Save the date! A Wedding on the Riviera is out on 22nd September. That's just under two weeks time. Time to buy a new hat. And you will need one, because this is a very upmarket wedding.

There's the venue for a start - an amazing Art Deco Villa in the South of France, with stunning flower filled terraces leading down to the sea and even  it's own chapel. And with Cassie from Summer in San Remo doing the organising, and husband Jake picking up the bills, you know it is going to be unbelievably OTT.

As you might have guessed, I had a ball inventing the wedding for the book. Lots of research, to find out all the details that I might include. That was hard work, of course, but authors have to make sacrifices for their readers...

Then, as a gloss on top, I added anything else that I could think of to make it truly spectacular. Flowers, music, scents, food - it was a blast. A harpist, a string quartet, a specially created fragrance, masses of orchids and roses... I got to help Nadine pick out her wedding dress too. At Cassie's prompting she chose something slightly unusual, and I really enjoyed writing that scene.

As a genre, women's commercial fiction has lots of books that feature weddings. Often all the preparation is a time of tension, family feuds, bridezillas. I didn't have to cope with any of that. No stressed bride, fractious bridesmaids and interfering mother and mother in law.

If I wanted a cake covered in edible flowers, like the one I saw a few years ago in the craft tent at the Hampton Court Flower Show, I could have it. The wedding is initially part of the sting operation that is the plot of the novel, the means to trap a con man. But then... Well, you'll have to read the book to find out.

I don't think you will be disappointed. I had such fun creating my wedding on the Riviera, and I hope that fun comes across in the writing.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Now it's getting closer.

It's September. In three weeks time my fifth book, A Wedding on the Riviera, will be out in the world. In the run up to publication day there is a lot of writing of guest blog posts and interviews, all ready to go once the book is out. I'm knee deep in them now - they are particularly important to me, as it has been a longish gap since I last had a new book, so people have had plenty of time to forget me!

Writing romantic suspense, I get to approach things from two sides - love and crime. I'm doing posts for blogs that specialise  in romance and those that concentrate on crime. A romantic suspense novel has to be in balance. Perhaps that's why the genre appeals to me, as it is a balancing act, and I like things that are a bit of a challenge. I always say that I plot the crime and let the love story sort itself out, which is mostly true.  You know what your protagonists problems, strengths and weaknesses are, and the direction in which they need to go, but the way they reach their happy ending works out through their interactions with each other. And twined around it is the crime plot. That gives another layer - a peril, often life threatening, that adds a kick to the love affair.

Both sides have to dovetail and complement each other and be equally matched with time on the page, although it's always the love story that ends the book - the happy ever after. It's one of the things that I most enjoy, Real life can be messy and complicated, but in the pages of a book everything can be brought to a resolution.

One of the challenges of A Wedding on the Riviera was mixing a joyous celebration like a wedding with a very nasty con trick, another was that for stretches of the novel Nadine and Ryan are not physically together. I had to find ways of maintaining the emotional connection between them. The working out of the sting operation they are part of, has to match the development and unfolding of their attraction for each other. Have I managed all this? I hope so.