Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Festivals & Workshops: Aye Write!

Have you decided to attend a writing festival this year? Elaine Roberts brings us another in her series on Festivals and Workshops this month travelling north of the border to Glasgow to talk with event programmer Bob McDevitt about Aye Write!

Welcome Bob, can you tell us something about your festival, how it came about and how long it’s been running?

This is the twelfth year of Aye Write. It came about as an initiative from Glasgow Libraries who felt
Bob McDevitt
that a large cultural city like Glasgow should have its own book festival. We have over 250 authors attending and welcome close to 20,000 visitors each year. The festival features everything from debut authors to best-selling household names and has sessions on fiction and poetry as well as non-fiction areas such as politics, music, sport, science, history and memoir.

Who are your main speakers this year?

Peter Davison, Joanna Trollope, Alan Johnson, Vince Cable, AL Kennedy, Jackie Kay, John Byrne, Val McDermid, Jo Nesbo, Miranda Sawyer, The Rev Richard Coles, Richard Dannatt.

As our blog is for writers can you tell me how your festival would benefit our members?

We run a series of creative writing events across the festival (about 20 session in all) covering a wide range of skills from writing dialogue and creating character to writing humorous and historical novels. These are delivered by tutors from Strathclyde and Caledonian Universities as well as published authors.

Is there anything to enter, if so could details be provided?

We don’t have any prizes or competitions I’m afraid, but we do close the festival with The Great Scottish Books Quiz.

How about staying over for the whole event. Where can people stay?

Glasgow is a big city with many Hotel, B&B and Airbnb options.

What does it cost to attend?

We have lots of free events and the ticketed sessions start at £6 (up to £12). The Creative Writing
sessions are £15 but last from 2-3hours.

Do workshops/talks fill up quickly?

Yes, the Creative Writing sessions are always among the first to sell out.

How much time does it take to organise the festival?

I start in September and deliver the programme in January.

What are the dates for this year:

This year we have Wee Write (for children and YA) 25th Feb – 4th March and Aye Write 9th – 19th

March. Dates for next year have not been confirmed yet.


Email for queries:

About Elaine:
Elaine is a member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and is currently working on a family saga. She has sold short stories worldwide and enjoys attending RNA events such as the London chapter and our annual conference. Elaine is a great fan of writing retreats either week long by the sea with friends or one-day retreats with fellow writers in her home town of Dartford. Elaine runs a writing blog along with writer, Francesca Capaldi Burgess called WriteMindWritePlace.

Thank you, Elaine. What an interesting event and so many good speakers!

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Monday, February 20, 2017

Book Bloggers and Reviewers: Julie Boon of Boon's Bookcase

Thank you to Ellie Holmes for another great interview in the latest RNA blog series.

I am delighted to welcome Julie Boon to the RNA Blog’s new monthly series where we speak to book bloggers and get an insight into their world. Welcome Julie, tell us a little bit about yourself and Boon’s Bookcase.

My name is Julie Boon and I have been blogging as Boon’s Bookcase for 2 years now. Reading is
certainly a passion of mine and since starting Boon’s Bookcase in February 2015. I can honestly say, I have never looked back! I have met some wonderful authors, publishers and bloggers (a few of these have become good friends). I love going to book events, parties and of course getting lots of wonderful books to read. The only thing that makes me sad, is the fact that I don’t think I will live long enough to read all the books I want to! Roll on retirement.

I have a wonderful husband, who I have been married to for 28 years (but have been together for 34). My Son Adam is 22 and has just graduated from university with a first class honours degree in Scenic Art. He is off to Australia in October for a big adventure (lucky him!). My daughter Emily is 17 and studying A levels in Music, Media and Art & Design – I have no idea where my kids get their artistic side from, it certainly isn’t me!! Oh and I also have a Jack Russell called Lola who is 8 years old and doesn’t like Postmen very much.

I work full time in a GP surgery as a Medical Secretary and have worked within the NHS for the past 15 years. Before that I worked near London Bridge for 18 years, so did my fair share of commuting.
I have always been a reader since I can remember and was always called a “bookworm” at school. The main genres I like to read are Women’s Fiction, Psychological Thrillers, Family/Wartime Sagas with a bit of History thrown in. Asking who is my favourite author is like asking which of my children I like the best, but a few of my favourites are:- Carole Matthews, Carol Rivers, Jane Costello, Kate Rhodes, Victoria Hislop – to name a few.
I would love you to take a look at Boon’s Bookcase, so why don’t you pop over and take a peek, you’ll be more than welcome.

What made you start to review/blog?
I had been reviewing books that I had read on Amazon and Goodreads for a while and when I joined Twitter I began asking publishers for books to review. The first question they would ask me was if I had a blog. I mentioned this to my son (who is a whizz with technology) and he said “Well why don’t you start one?” and the rest is history.
 What does your son think of the blog now?
He’s proud of me as I don't ask him questions anymore and he’s impressed with the amount of people who have viewed the blog.
 How has your blog developed over time?
I still feel like a bit of a newbie, even though on 2nd February this year sees my 2 year blogaversary, but I have been overwhelmed by the number of people that have viewed my blog and the positive comments I have had. I am still experimenting with it and learning from it, but I think that is an on-going thing with bloggers in general to make their blog the best it can be.
 What are your review guidelines?
 I don’t have review guidelines as such, but going back to question 2, I am in the process of updating the blog with a review policy. I do answer all queries I get from authors/publishers and if I can’t review or don’t think a book is for me, I will tell them. I am having to be a bit more assertive nowadays and say no sometimes because I have a full time job, a family to look after and I’m also studying for a Business & Administration Level 3 Apprenticeship qualification through work.
What do you expect from a writer when they appear on your blog?
I have done a couple of Q&A’s with authors who have given some great answers and many blog tours (some with pieces from the author) and all in all, the authors have been very supportive and have re-tweeted my tweets and some have left lovely comments on the blog and on my Facebook page. It’s very helpful to get a good response from authors generally.
How important is social media to you and your blogging team?
Social media is crucial to my blog. I would never have had as many views without authors/publishers/bloggers re-tweeting my tweets and people visiting my Facebook page. I am hugely grateful to my friend Julie Williams, who guest reviews on my blog, especially now as I am studying, as she reads and reviews more than I do sometimes. I am so grateful when my tweets are re-tweeted, as this gets more people to look at the blog and that is so helpful in getting your name out there in the world of publishing.
What are your interests when not blogging?
When I am not blogging, my main interest is still reading. I am also passionate about music and musical theatre and when time and money allows, I love going to the theatre and concerts. I listen to anything from Barry Manilow to Take That. I also love nothing more than sitting at home with my family and Jack Russell Lola, watching rubbish TV with a glass or two of red wine.
We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next “big thing” – what do you hope to see in 2017?
Personally, I would like to see more London/Family/Wartime sagas being published. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea but they really are my guilty pleasure. I come from South East London and now live on the outskirts of London in Kent and have a passion for reading books like this as I love a bit of London history as well.
Thank you so much to Ellie and everyone at the RNA for hosting me today. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of your blogger event and I hope you haven’t fallen asleep reading about me and Boon’s Bookcase.

Far from it, Julie! Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your world. I am impressed that you still find the time to review as much as you do, given the other commitments on your time. Congratulations on your two year blogaversary and good luck with the apprenticeship. Ellie x

Check out Julie’s blog and her social media links below.
Twitter: @JulieBoon

Ellie Holmes:
Ellie Holmes writes commercial women’s fiction with her heart in the town and her soul in the country. Ellie’s debut release was The Flower Seller. A member of the RNA and the Alliance of Independent Authors, Ellie’s latest book The Tregelian Hoard, set in Cornwall, is the first novella in her Jonquil Jones Mystery Series:


Thank you Julie and Ellie for a most informative blog interview.

If you are a book reviewer and would like to be interviewed for this popular series please contact the blog team on

Friday, February 17, 2017

RoNA Awards 2017: Historical Shortlist

This year’s shortlisted novels cover a wide variety of periods in history from the Regency through to WW II and the 1950s.

Incognito by Caitlyn Callery is the story of governess Grace who’s been in hiding from her family for three years when someone threatens to expose her. Luke unexpectedly becomes heir to an earldom. Uncomfortable with this, he does not make it widely known. They fall in love, but can their feelings survive their secrets? 

We asked Caitlyn where the idea for Grace’s story came from:
I read a book about a duke who fell for a governess and I got cross because, in the time it was set, the marriage could not and would not have been accepted by either his class or hers. Without social acceptance, it was doomed. While I am happy with a little poetic licence in historical novels, such glaringly obvious errors spoil the story for me.
It got me thinking about how such a match could become acceptable to a society where class was rigidly observed, and Grace’s story arrived. Then I realised she would need a hero who would interact with her when she was a governess, and at the same time, be eligible to marry a baron’s daughter. So Luke’s story came into being.

Helen Carey’s London Calling, set in World War Two, follows the lives of a number of people living in one perfectly ordinary London street. But in wartime ordinary people sometimes find themselves doing extraordinary things, and nurse Molly Coogan and actress Jen Carter are about to take on their biggest challenge yet.

We asked Helen where the inspiration for this novel came from:
The original inspiration came to me during a holiday in Sicily when my aunt asked us to visit the grave of her brother, Basil Beazley, who was killed during the airborne invasion of 1943. It took us seven hours to get there and when we did we found a beautifully maintained cemetery with lines of white memorial stones stretching in all directions. Uncle Basil was in the front row. He was twenty-nine when he died and had amazingly survived the disastrous glider landings but died later defending a bridge. We put flowers on his grave, cried for twenty minutes, and then we drove the seven hours back again. And that night I decided I wanted to write a novel which in some small way would touch on his story.

It Was Only Ever You by Kate Kerrigan is set in late 1950s Ireland and New York; this is the story of three women and the charismatic man with whom their lives are interwoven.
Patrick Murphy has charm to burn and a singing voice to die for. Many people will recognise his talent. Many women will love him. Rose, the sweetheart he leaves behind in Ireland, Ava, the heiress he marries, and tough Sheila Klein, hungry for success as a music manager.
But in the end, Patrick Murphy’s heart belongs to only one of them. Which one will it be?

Kate worked as editor of Just 17 magazine in the early 90s, we asked her if the character of Patrick bears any resemblance to any of the pop stars she interviewed:
 It was part of my job to promote heartthrob pop stars to keep our young readers happy. The nicest of these was undoubtedly Take That – whose first big gig was a Just 17 road-show in the Hammersmith Odeon. I did their first interview and the passion and talent each of those lads had back then did help to inform the main character of the book, Patrick Murphy.

The Reckless Love of an Heir by Jane Lark tells the tale of Lord Marlow, a character for whom no wager is too risky – until he is injured. Susan has always thought Henry arrogant. But an injured, vulnerable Henry brings out her natural compassion and a stolen kiss leads to a forbidden passion. Then Susan knows what it’s like to be as reckless as he is.

We asked Jane how she felt on hearing she’d been shortlisted:
 At the age of eight I was told by a teacher I’d write a book one day. At thirty when I hadn’t done it yet I put it on my “to do before I’m forty list”, and now in the year that I’m fifty I’m shortlisted for an award!
I still work full time as well as write and live with a daily struggle with Ankylosing Spondylitis and Chronic Fatigue and so this achievement feels even more special to me as it’s more evidence that things can be overcome and you can still fulfil dreams when you have a disability even though it can be hard.

Map of Stars by Catherine Law is set in wartime Kent in 1940 with heroine Eliza torn between loyalty to her husband and passion for her lover Lewis. With the enemy waiting across the Channel, a spy in their midst and a secret document missing, danger is closer than she imagines. When Lewis disappears, Eliza must wait twenty years to discover his fate.

Readers commented on the location of this novel and we asked Catherine why she chose Kent as the setting:

Thanet and the countryside around Canterbury always seemed like a second home for me, having spent the past twenty-five years travelling from London to visit friends here. Kent’s historic roots and landscape of orchards and hop gardens, not forgetting the vibrant coastline, intrigued and inspired me so much that I finally caved in and moved to Margate in 2014.