Friday, January 31, 2014


Welcome to, Kate Nash who has come along to tell us about writing drama and romance for Pulse.

Romantic suspense is a well known sub genre of romantic fiction but actually at Pulse we are open to any kind of romantic stories with a dramatic quality to the writing. What do we mean by dramatic writing? The simplest answer is stories that read like television or film. If you story is full of action and suspense but also has well developed characters with convincing character problems to solve, as well as of course thrilling romance, then perhaps it's a story for Pulse.
We're looking to publish stories that are lean and fast paced, full of action and dialogue. They can feature a central developing romance or can feature more than one romance plot line. Alternatively they can feature high stakes drama as the primary plot and a developing romance as a secondary plot line. They should be written from the point of view of the central characters.
Dramatic writing is the mainstay of the crime and thriller genre but romances of all kinds can also be dramatic reads. For contemporary romances we're looking for writers writing for today's world: we want to see communication by email and text message and storylines that involve contemporary problems. We would love to see stories involving dramatic occupations such as the emergency services but office romances can be dramatic too in they are packed for example with emotional drama such as Chrissie Loveday's A Computer Guy for Christmas which we published this Christmas. Historical backgrounds offer plenty of scope for drama. Gracie's War by Elaine Everest is set during the Second World War while Sally Quilford's Lonesome Ranger takes place in the Old West.

Whether you're thinking of writing for us or not, if you want to up the drama in your writing, here's some things to think about.

1    Think suspense! Actively think about how your story will unfold to keep the reader interested and guessing. Withholding information creates suspense. So can plots involving a race against time or other external force.

Drama can come from external factors but don't forget the potential for emotional drama in romance. Up the emotion and make the emotional stakes for your heroine as high as you can.

       Think reality! Even if your story is set in the past, put yourself in the shoes of your central characters and give them real and complicated problems to deal with. Remember that fiction must make sense so their problems must be convincing and not too easily solved.

 Convincing drama comes from convincing characters with convincing problems to solve. These problems are at the centre of your story and if you get it right then you'll have all the dramatic conflict you need for a really compelling story.
      Kate Nash is editor at Pulse.

           Submission guidelines are available on the website:

           Thank you, Kate.

Brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.

Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Georgia Hill been writing for E-Scape Press for five years and was taken on by Harper Impulse, the digital first imprint of Harper Collins, last summer. She writes about intriguing heroes, believably flawed heroines – all wrapped up in contemporary rom-coms. After teaching for twenty years, she is now a full-time writer and loving it. Home is a converted oast house, which she shares with her two beloved spaniels, husband (also beloved) and a ghost called Zoe.
In Say it with Sequins 1: The Rumba, ‘Who Dares Dances’ is a reality TV show with a difference. Not only do contestants have to learn to dance, they also face a series of bizarre challenges. When struggling actor, Julia Cooper, signs up and meets daredevil Harri Morgan, the attraction is instant – and hot! Forced to perform a sexy rumba together, the sequins really start to fly. Will they score the perfect ten, or is their romance destined to be a dance disaster!
Say it With Sequins: The Rumba is your first ebook with Harper Impulse. How do you remain an individual author with such a large (and fabulous) publisher?
What an interesting question! To date, it hasn’t been an issue. I was attracted to Harper Impulse as they wanted submissions from writers who ‘mash up’ genres or who write something slightly different. Pitching my writing has always been a problem and I was told my second and third books would have no market as no one wanted to read a novel set in a primary school. In fact, they’ve sold fairly well, thanks to E-Scape Press. With Harper Impulse, I think I’ve found a home for my particular type of writing.
What gave you the idea for your book and how long did it take to write?
I’m a huge Strictly Come Dancing fan. I love the television show, have seen live shows on tour and I’m booked to see two of the dancers when they tour their show later this year. I’m fascinated by how close the celebrity and professional dancer seem to get. With attractive young actresses and hot pro-dancers paired together, it seemed inevitable that a romance might spring up. As indeed it has with one or two partnerships! I started the first draft when I was teaching full-time, so never really had the time to devote to it. Though I’m a good beginner I don’t always see things through but it lingered on until I was determined to finish it! It’s taken me about three years to write. In my defence, other projects intervened.
How did you carry out your research?
I watch a lot of television! Behind the scenes programmes, on how television is made, interviews with dancers and celebs, keep an eye on the gossip columns. I also do a lot of internet research on types of dance. YouTube has great ‘How to dance' videos. There isn’t a lot of technical detail in the book but I try to get it right.
Can you dance?
No! I’m the world’s worst dancer. I think that’s why I admire the celebs who take part, especially those who struggle with the training. I’d be a dance disaster - think I need a session with Anton du Beke!
How do you fit your writing around your home life?
I gave up full-time teaching eighteen months ago and thought I’d be able to write all day. It hasn’t quite worked out like that and I often find, unless I’m very disciplined, that the chores take over. It’s taken a while to find a new working rhythm but I’m getting there. Like many women writers, it’s all about dealing with the guilt of the ironing pile! Dog walking is a great thinking time though.
What is next in your writing life?
The next project is very different – a two narrative partly historical romance (I love the books of Susanna Kearsley and Rachel Hore and wanted to write something similar). However, it’s been hijacked by Say it with Sequins 4 and has temporarily been put on the back burner. It’s on the ‘To do’ list though!
Thank you, Georgia. Perhaps next time we can hear about your resident ghost!
Compiled by Natalie and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.
Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog.

Friday, January 24, 2014

FOCUS ON: London and South East Chapter

This month, as part of a new series, we chat with Jean Fullerton about the London and South East Chapter of the RNA.

Welcome Jean, how long has your chapter been running?
Over 15 years. It was going strong when I joined the RNA in 2003. We used to meet six time per year but after a consultation with the members we’ve added in an extra two meetings this year. 
Where is your regular meeting place?
We meet in central London at the Lamb public house in Lamb Conduit Street, Holborn.

How many members attend your meetings?
It varies of course, depending on the time of year and the speaker. I think she smallest number we had last year was a dozen but it’s often 25 plus.

Do your meetings include a meal?
We gather for lunch from 12.30pm in the pub then go up to the function room at 1.45pm. The meeting runs until 3pm but many of us linger over tea downstairs a lot longer.

Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
It is and we have some very active non-RNA members but it is by invitation. 

Can you give an outline of speakers/guests you’ve had in the past year?
Last year our meetings had the theme Writers’ Doing it for Themselves, which looked at the whole area of independent publishing. We had jay Dixon talking about how editors can support Indie-published authors, and illustrated talk by cover designer Jane Dixon Smith showing the do’s and donts of cover design. Val Holmes who has developed a cottage industry as both an Indie published author and a writing tutor as well as Janet Gover giving us the low-down on how to deal their the media and Jane Bidder who talked about the perils and pitfalls of being a writer in residence at a high security prison.
What do you have planned for 2014?
Again we have a theme which this year is ‘Honing Your Writing Skills’ so we will be looking at the craft of writing. We have Jenny Barden focusing on dialogue, Rachel Summerson will be helping us polish our grammar, I will be looking at the hardy perennial ‘Show Don’t Tell,’ Janet Gover will be helping us sort out the images for our websites and Amanda Granger, Pia Fenton, Liesel Schwartz and Alison Morton will talk us through various romantic sub-genres. In addition, thanks to the generosity of the RNA committee, we will be having a workshop day in Feb with Julie Cohen talking on story structure, my agent Laura Longrigg and my editor Laura Gerrand in the hot seat for a Q&A session, Melanie Hilton, the NWS co-ordinator will discuss the most commonly made mistakes in submissions followed by an open forum.

What would you say makes your Chapter of the RNA so special?
The lovely supportive writers and friends who come and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the London & SE Chapter. We’re lucky too in that all trains lead to London so it’s easy for people from all over the South East to get to us.

Does your chapter have a website, Facebook page or Twitter account?
We have a Facebook page but the rest of our communications are by email

Who is the contact for new members?
Juliet Archer is the contact: We are always happy to welcome new members.

Thank you, Jean.

Complied by Elaine and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.
Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog or would like to write a craft article.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Eileen is a Scot, educated here and in the United States. Her first teaching position was in Washington DC where her pupils were drawn from America’s top families, the Diplomatic Corps and politicians. Scary at first, she tells us, but then Senator X or Ambassador Y became just someone’s dad! Next came a position as Social Secretary to the wife of a Presidential candidate, followed by marriage and a move to California where she taught in Migrant Education, every bit as rewarding as her first job. Her first publications were in America before she headed home.
Wave Me Goodbye was published in November. It is the story of orphan Grace who joins The Women’s Land Army to escape her unhappy home life. She learns skills, makes friends of all ages, all classes and even from other countries. Buried memories surface as does an old love. New love beckons – which path will Grace take?
What gave you the idea for your book and how long did it take to write?
I’m very lucky I was asked to write a series of books, Churchill’s Angels, the brainchild of my editor, Kate Bradley. I spent some time researching the military jobs done by women during WW11. I choose the areas in which I had some knowledge. Then I wrote a proposal for four stories featuring four friends. Kate chose the storyline she thought would be the best to begin the series. Therefore it took me six months or two years to write the first book!!
Your books are set in one area of the country. Why did you decide on that location?
The books dictated where they should be set. I wanted an area that was directly in the flight path of German bombers and so chose Dartford and Kent’s “Bombers’ Alley”.
How did you carry out your research?
I read everything I could find about Dartford’s WW11 experience, and accumulated an immense library of non-fiction books covering, not only the  history of the war, positions held by “Churchill’s Angels”, but rationing, fashion, entertainment etc. Dartford’s archivist conducted us  through the town, and through its history. Librarians were invaluable. The world-wide web was helpful and I do have an advantage since family members have been or are in the military. I visited military museums, airfields, London hotels, spoke to local farmers, contacted the Milk Marketing Board, even the archivist at Fortnum and Mason. People were unbelievably generous and I’m deeply grateful to all of them.
How do you fit your writing around your home life?
When I was teaching I wrote from 4.30 a.m. until it was time to wake my children. If I was working in the evening or weekends, I continued no matter what was going on around me. Now, except when babysitting grandchildren, my time is my own. My husband helps with housework and cooking. Housework slips when I’m facing a deadline and then we blitz the house together. Social life is practically non-existent but I have boldly invited some friends to dinner – a dear friend, also a writer, is bringing dessert so at least one course will be delicious! 
What advice would you give to new writers?
Read widely would be the main thing, I suppose. Don’t stay in your comfort zone. I heard a writer say, “Write it, and then write it right”, and that’s fantastic advice. Edit rigorously - reading aloud will pick up errors, repetitions, missing words. Listen to the flow, the lengths of your sentences. Leave a few days between readings because your brain and your eyes see what you think you’ve written. You’ll recognise favourite words – make a list of them and when your next piece is finished use your search and replace button. Invest in a thesaurus, put on some Mozart - very calming - and read. 
What is next in your writing life?
I am working on my fourth Churchill’s Angels book. After that, I don’t know. I have, as always, too many ideas.
Thank you, Eileen, for sharing your thoughts with us today.

Compiled by Natalie and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.
Please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.comif you wish to be featured on our blog.














Friday, January 17, 2014

The New Writers Scheme

Today we are talking to Melanie Hilton, organiser of the New Writers Scheme.
The RNA accepts 250 writers into the scheme each year and these places are hotly contested. We asked writers, who were either current members or graduates of the scheme, if they had a question about the NWS for Melanie.

Thanks for asking me along – it is always a pleasure to talk about the New Writers Scheme.
I’ve been the NWS Organiser since 2008 (and 2014 will be my last year in the job.) Yes, it definitely has changed over that time and I think that is largely due to the rapid development of ebook publishing options and the impact of social media. Members are far more willing to ask questions and seek advice and they have a far wider field of publishing choices in front of them.
Two things have changed for the worse – navigating the Royal Mail requires a PhD in post-ology and punctuation has got much, much worse, especially the punctuation of speech.

How do you match up NWS submissions to the Readers and how many readers are there?
There are about 70 Readers – it varies slightly from year to year. Without them this Scheme would be impossible and they make a huge contribution in time and expertise. I match submissions to Readers who write in the same genre, or have a specific interest or expertise in that type of book. Obviously Readers will tell me how many submissions they can take, and dates to avoid, and certainly, up to August, I will avoid sending someone more than one at a time. I also try to avoid sending work to a Reader who has read that particular author before so that members receive as wide a range of viewpoints on their work as possible. However, sometimes either the Reader, or the author, will request that partnership again and I will discuss it with both of them first. But in August everything becomes much, much more difficult with over a hundred typescripts arriving, most of them in the last fortnight. The Readers who are still able to take them find themselves with several typescripts on their desks, especially if they read for a genre with few other Readers in the pool. This is why I nag on about submitting well before the deadline (not that anyone takes any notice of me…) – I will have a wider field of Readers to choose from and the Readers are unlikely to have a queue. But don’t forget, all the Readers are busy professional writers and deadlines, proofs and revisions can crop up unexpectedly at any time.

Are there any plans for NWS members to submit via email rather than post?
We’re looking at this, and I’m sure we’ll be doing it fairly soon, but it isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Many Readers, who spend hours at a computer screen as it is, find they are much more comfortable, and effective, reading ‘hard copy’ and some know they will have to give up as Readers if we insist on electronic submission. There are other issues, including security and making notes on typescripts. This will be one for my successor in 2015 to take forward!

In your experience would you consider an unfinished but polished submission a better option than a complete but unedited novel? Do the Readers approach completed and incomplete manuscripts in the same way?
The answer to this is, unhelpfully, ‘It depends.’ It is probably easier for a Reader to deal with an unfinished novel that has been thoroughly revised, provided it has a really good synopsis so they can see where it is going. A complete but unedited one will result in them spending a lot of time telling you about points that you know you’ll have picked up for yourself when you started revising. On the other hand they’ll see the work in its entirety and be able to judge pace, structure, the effectiveness of the ending and so forth. The shorter a partial, the harder it is for the Reader to give you as much help as they would like to, and the greater the importance of the synopsis. Having said that, we’ve taken partials as short as one chapter and unfinished novels which consisted largely of chapters of notes. Always better to submit something than nothing and Readers will approach a partial just as seriously as they will a complete novel.

How much do you think the NWS influences a writer’s success?
You would have to ask NWS members and ex-members that! Many, when they tell us about their publishing deal, will say that they don’t think they’d have made it without the NWS or that they are certain their Reader's advice was a great help. This is another of those ‘it depends’ questions. Some NWS members join when they are on the brink of success and just need that little extra polish, others have started from scratch and need quite a bit of help and some, I suspect, may well never have made it on their own. If nothing else, it helps writers understand the importance of feedback and the role of the editor.

In percentage terms, how many members of the NWS would you say go on to find publishing deals and how many years on average does it take them to reach that point? How many give up and drop out?
I can’t give you a definitive answer on publishing deals because I don’t have statistics for NWS members who become Full members with a book which doesn’t qualify them for the Joan Hessayon Award. (ie it must have gone through the NWS in some form and they must have remained in membership from that time). However, in the time I’ve been Organiser the numbers for the Joan Hessayon Award are as follows (the year is the year of the award, so the contracts would have been in the previous year):
2009 – 2; 2010 – 4; 2011 – 5; 2012 – 9; 2013 – 10; 2014 – 17.  We already have 5 contenders for 2015!
The length of time it takes to secure a deal is incredibly variable. We have had ‘instant’ successes – but these are often authors who were already almost there when they joined. We have had members who have been in the NWS for 10+ years, often not because their writing was not good, but because they just weren’t the right match for mainstream commercial market requirements. This is where the greater variety of publishing outlets of recent years has been so helpful.
As for those ‘giving up’, that is impossible to say. I know how many don’t renew each year of course, but that can be for a number of reasons – a change of genre, family pressures, illness and so forth. The number who feel, ‘I just don’t want to do this anymore,’ is, I suspect, very low.

With 250 NWS members to coordinate each year I wondered how much of your time is spent working with these new members and how do you plan your own writing life around this work?
When September 1st arrives I will always get emails saying, ‘I’ll bet you’re glad that’s over for another year!’ at which point I hoot with laughter (or reach for the tissues!) Most of the year it takes from one to three hours a day. January to July I’m receiving typescripts and distributing them and dealing with queries, September through to December is following up outstanding typescripts, answering queries, organising the Joan Hessayon Award books coming in and working with the Membership Secretary on the next year’s forms etc. August it is full time and I will never go on holiday or schedule a deadline then. But it is incredibly satisfying to be able to help aspiring authors and I know I am going to miss it when I stop.

How about your own writing, Melanie?
At the moment I’m working on a book for the Waterloo anniversary in 2015. It will be part three of a trilogy - the other authors are RNA members Linda Hooper (Sarah Mallory) and Chris Burrows (Annie Burrows). I’m also getting my self-published book Walks Through Regency London ready to go up as an ebook and researching the Georgian seaside for Shire Publications. In January Harlequin are publishing my 44th historical romance, From Ruin To Riches

Melanie’s website:

Many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Melanie.

Thank you also to Karen Aldous, Francesca Capaldi Burgess, Natalie Kleinman, Elaine Roberts and Vivien Hampshire for asking such interesting questions.

Compiled by Elaine and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


When runaway bride Fiona Clutterbuck crashes the honeymoon camper van, embarrassed and humiliated she knows for sure she can’t go home. Fi’s thrown a lifeline, a job on an oyster farm.  But nothing could prepare her for the ride ahead or her wild and unpredictable boss Sean Thornton.
 As oyster season approaches, will there be love amongst the oyster beds of Galway Bay or will the circling sharks finally close in?
Jo tells us she got the idea for her book, The Oyster Catcher, while enjoying dinner in Galway with her husband. They were in a restaurant overlooking the sea. The candles were lit, the fire was roaring and they were eating Pacific oysters. Both the view and the delicacy inspired her. When we asked how long it took to write she said as long as an oyster takes to grow, some three years. 
A keen fan of romance, she grew up with Little Women and Gone with the Wind, later moving on to authors like Christina Jones, Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews, Wendy Holden. Her comment on being asked how it felt graduating from the NWS to full RNA member…“Absolutely delighted. It’s only because of the friendship and faith from others that I’ve finally become a published writer,” a sentiment many will recognise. She was lucky enough to meet her publisher, Hazel, from Accent Press, through mutual friends in the RNA, telling us, “those parties are great for meeting people”.
Jo began writing when she realised as well as reading romance she wanted to create it. At the time she had three children under three but she was able to go to that place in her head, relegating the untidy toys, piles of washing and other housewifely things to a more convenient time. Later, she would drop one child at school, the next at nursery and, when the baby fell asleep in the car she would stop at the first suitable place and pull out her laptop.  
Research for Jo must have been a bit of a mixed blessing, eating lots of oysters in restaurants and at home. She bought them at farmers’ markets then went on a seafood cookery course. Returning to Wales she took a weekend off one cold November to visit an oyster farm in Scotland, donning wet weather gear and wading into water, working in a shed, grading and washing the oysters ready for market. Nothing, she assures us, had ever tasted as good as the champagne and the oysters she had herself picked from the sea. 
She is already writing her next book, A Festival Fling, about three women who discover that sometimes in life you have to go back before you can move forward.
Jo celebrated publication day having Sunday lunch at her local pub. I wonder what she ate? 
Jo Thomas started her broadcasting career as a reporter and co-presenter with Rob Brydon on BBC Radio 5, reported for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and went on to produce at BBC Radio 2 working on The Steve Wright Show.  She lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her writer and producer husband, three children, three cats and a black lab Murray.  She writes light hearted romances about food, family, friendships and love; and believes every story should have a happy ending.
The Oyster Catcher is available from Amazon and also Accent Press
Facebook: Jo Thomas Author
Twitter: @jo_thomas01
Thank you for joining us today, Jo.
Compiled by Natalie and brought to you by the blogging team, Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas
Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog.







Friday, January 10, 2014

Lessons in Love

Today we welcome author, Sally Quilford, who explains how she teaches the subject of romance to new writers.

I’ve always been a ‘pay it forward’ sort of author. I had a lot of help and support when I first started out, and I’ve tried to repay that by giving advice to new authors. With this in mind, as soon as I had a few romance novels under my belt, I decided to start running workshops, at a reasonable rate, to pass on what I have learned.

The biggest obstacle to teaching romance writing is that the information is pretty much the same, and so can get a bit repetitive. So I try to look at different and (hopefully) interesting ways to get the points across. At the last workshop I did for the Write Place Writing School in Dartford, called The Recipe for Making Love Stories, I presented the information in the form of flash cards. Everyone had the chance to pick out the name of a hero and heroine (or two heroes or two heroines if they wanted to write same sex relationships), a conflict, and professions for their characters. I added ‘recipe’ sheets so they could fill in more information about their characters as they went along.

But first I encouraged everyone to work with the same information, giving them the characters Esther and Rand, two conflicts and two professions. This proved that you could have a hero and heroine with the same names, the same conflicts and same professions, but still come out with 13 or 14 very distinct stories. Even if the elements of writing romance may seem formulaic, the fact is that everyone can bring their own voice and ideas to the genre.

This not only made the lesson interesting for my students (and I’m assured a great time was had by all), but made it great fun for me too.  I wanted to read every one of those novels and look forward to doing so one day. Several of my students have gone on to be published, and I’m as thrilled for them as I am for myself when my work is accepted.

My online workshops can’t be arranged in the same way as the face to face classes, but I have now created a text book, and set six tutor marked assignments for the course. This is done by email and covers the basics of romance writing, including the hero and heroine, the conflict, the ‘getting to know you’ moment, the pivotal moment, the black moment, with critiques from me on all those elements, and then ends with the students able to send me the first 2000 words of their romance novel to me for critique.

I continue to look for new ways to teach romance writing, but have not yet persuaded Sean Bean to come along to my workshops as an example of the ultimate hero!  One day…

Sally’s next course begins on 1st February 2014.
Contact Sally:

Thank you, Sally!

Compiled by Elaine and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.
Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Today we are talking to Anna Jacobs who is addicted to storytelling, has over sixty novels in print and more under contract. Stories are nagging to be told, but sadly she has to waste time sleeping. Anna’s extremely happily married to her own hero, with two daughters and a grandson.       

Anna avoids winter by splitting her year between homes in the UK and Australia. She writes for three traditional publishers, historical novels for two and modern novels for the third.          

Was it easy to start publishing some of your back catalogue on Amazon’s Create Space and would you recommend authors try this rather than go to a company that provides the service? 
It’s my husband who does the publishing of my backlist on Create Space (and Kindle). The first book took him over a day, the second only a couple of hours. He used the templates supplied by CS. We’ve used stock photos bought on line for the covers, and some family photos. I think most of us have friends who can help with the baffling bits of publishing on CS so to avoid payment go to a company for help only as a final resort. CS is free.
With moving house and hitting the festive season how did you fit writing around so many distractions?
I’m used to fitting my writing into busy times but I managed to dabble with the first chapter of a new story. I didn’t produce much but I got started, that was the main thing. There are still boxes to unpack but they can wait, my heroine can’t . . . She’s in trouble . . .
Can you tell us something about your latest books?
I’ve just finished writing ‘Mistress of Greyladies’, the second in the series set from 1900 to just after the Great War. Our heroine is a nursing aide and general dogsbody and Greyladies has been converted into a convalescent home. But the old country mansion and its resident ghost are still helping the Latimer ladies.
I’ve just started is the third in the ‘Hope’ series of modern novels, romantic suspense set mainly in the Pennines and linked to the antiques world. My heroine is going through a divorce. The hero was a minor character in the first two books.  Once I’ve got the story and characters set up, I can’t plan ahead. I just walk through the adventure with my characters. I do know the ending will be happy, though. Before the end of June I have to finish the first in a new series for Hodder & Stoughton and have already started the research.
For members of the New Writers’ Scheme at the beginning of their writing careers, can you tell us how you started out as an author?
I started in the days before the Internet, so things moved more slowly. I spent about ten years writing one book after another, working full-time, studying for a Master of Business and raising teenagers, so it was hard to fit in as much writing as I’d have liked. When I had long service leave I took several weeks off to write full-time.
I entered a national novel writing competition in Australia and came second of 800 entries, with a $10,000 prize and publication. The latter was far more important to me than the money. Then the publisher abandoned the competition. I came down with ME but found I could still write between resting. I think the writing helped me recover. The following year I had six novels accepted for publication, three already written and also contracts for sequels. My first novel was never good enough to see daylight but years of writing and polishing taught me to write and paid off big time. 
To sum up, never give up. Learn the trade and don’t expect your first novel to be publishable till it’s been polished later, after you’ve learned your trade by more writing. 
I have two books coming out in January: 

‘The Trader’s Gift’ published by Hodder & Stoughton 
‘Winds of Change’ a novel set in Australia and England, published by Severn House.

Anna’s website:      
Visit ‘Anna Jacobs Books’ on Facebook 

Thank you for joining us today, Anna. 
Compiled by Natalie and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas
Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog.

Friday, January 3, 2014


We are pleased to welcome literary agent, Caroline Sheldon to explain why the saga is alive and kicking.

I have long noted there has been an almost indecent haste among editors to announce the death of the saga.  Reasons for the diagnosis of its demise vary from the perceived declining readership because the books are only of interest to older readers to a perceived lack of understanding of the category by young supermarket buyers who are only interested in chic lit written for their contemporaries. But I am pleased to report that rumours of the death of the saga are greatly exaggerated.  A new generation of readers is springing up, supermarket shelves groan under the weight of sagas each month and e books sales are strong. In a very difficult market, books by authors such as Katie Flynn, Maureen Lee, Donna Douglas, Rita Bradshaw, Ruth Hamilton, Lilian Harry, Dilly Court and Lyn Andrews continue to reliably generate bestselling sales.  One or two sagas are always in the bestseller list - and editors are now keenly looking for authors who can write in this genre and write regularly with a minimum of one or two books a year.

What makes a great saga?  Of course, as in any genre, the formula varies, but at the centre of the story there is usually a heroine battling against the odds holding her life (and often the family) together through her determination. Despite the landscape often being grim and grittily industrial, there is always warmth in the writing and a nostalgia for sense of community that is past – a time when neighbours helped each other and in need went to borrow a twist of sugar or a candle –end from next door.  Sense of place can be very important with books set in the back streets of great cities such as Liverpool or London or Sunderlandoffering a picture of a tough urban landscape but rural life can also play a part.  A wartime setting or a setting between the wars works well but the background can also be Victorian or just post the Second World War.  But the most important facet is that the author writes from the heart: the author has to deeply care about their characters and the world in which those characters live and most importantly the author must feel no snobbery about the genre itself. The emotions and warmth of saga writing cannot be faked.

And in today’s perilous market, I feel sagas have another advantage.  As an agent I feel to sell a rom com or mid-age read to one of the major publishers the book needs more than just to be very good of its genre.  Maybe it’s just New Year blues but sometimes I think the bar has been set almost impossibly high for print publication – the manuscript has to feel like the best book ever-written, or be written by a celebrity or to be based on such a dazzlingly brilliant high concept idea that no-one can resist or of course be by an author with well-established sales.  The saga market is more open – it just has to be very good of its type and of course tell a great story. 
Caroline Sheldon runs the eponymous Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency which she set up twenty five years ago and represents a roster of bestselling authors writing in the broad church of woman’s fiction.  She welcomes submissions from authors.  Her submissions requirements are a full email describing the project you would like her to consider and telling herself about yourself and your ambitions as an author.  Email subject line should include the word Submission and her email is

Thank you for joining us, Caroline.

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