Friday, July 31, 2015

Gina Rossi asks: What's in a Name?

Do you have difficulty finding the right name for your heroes and heroines? Gina Rossi takes us through the pitfalls and pleasures of finding exactly the right appellations as she asks and answers: What’s in a name? 

Quite a lot, actually, when you’re three quarters through your romance oeuvre, still referring to your heroine as ‘Whazzername’ and hero as ‘Thingy’ – or, even worse, ‘XXX’ and ‘???’.

Carrying on writing until the name comes to you is the best way forward, trust one who procrastinated for the better part of a week thinking up a name for a dog (Trooper, eventually). Yes, ‘thinking’ is a great way to not get writing done so what do you do in the event of nameless protagonists?

The internet, of course! We all look up baby names online, and then click on the French Connection sale ad that pops up on the right hand side of the page. Browsing the gorgeous items – oops, just a quick glance at Accessorize while I’m here, all in the name of inspiration, and oh! The White Company, and…let me quickly email my niece to tell her that her name is third favourite, three years running…

You see? Really, for a number of reasons – names aside − you should turn off the internet when writing.

To get to the point:
Names of family and friends: Awkward for so many reasons. However, second names can be a rich source of inspiration. Not in my family though – everyone’s second name seems to be Margaret, apart from my mother-in-law’s which is Shoreland; that could suit a Poldark-esque type of hero, don’t you think? Friends? A good friend of my daughter recently got engaged to a tall, dark and gorgeous lad called Adam Gallant (emphasis on the second syllable). There’s a name I’d love to use, but can’t. Anyone want it? It’s up for grabs!
Airport arrivals hall: All those names on boards, held by drivers who await their lucky passengers – the ones who don’t have to go by train. Once, I spotted the name ‘Orlando Ducque’. Taught from an early age never to write on myself, I did just that, in ballpoint, and Googled same on the train. One of those mad, Red Bull, cliff-diving maniacs (and not too shabby either, I might add). Subsequently, my hero in ‘To Hear You Smile’, Zac Jordan, came from the airport.
The newspaper: Have a look at the sports pages. Apart from a rich source of strong verbs (pound, slam, crush, hammer, etc.) there are good names to be had. Davit Kacharava, eastern European hero of my chick lit romance ‘Life After 6 Tequilas’, came from the sports’ page of the Nice Matin, no less. A Georgian rugby player on loan to Nice. His photo was an inspiration too, just saying.
Magazines: Turn to that page that lists the editor and her / his underlings. Names galore, with which to play.
Film titles: If you must watch daytime telly instead of writing, at least make it work for you. When the titles roll, pause that thing. ‘The Good Wife’ alone will throw up a treasure trove of names. Mix and match first names and surnames, why not? But watch out for Czuchry, DiCillo and Zakrzewski – readers may be puzzled enough to lose the plot.
Cocktail of celebrity names: Turn Jackie Kennedy and William Windsor into Jackie Windsor and Will Kennedy, why not? Beware however of iconic names. Mandela, Jesus and Elvis could take your story way off on an irrelevant, if noble, tangent.

In conclusion, promise one thing: once you’ve plumbed the depths of the above resources, and your ‘Index of One Hundred Names to Possibly Use in a Future Romantic Novel’ is complete – please get back to your story.
Happy writing RNA, and all members of the NWS.
Gina’s newest release is titled ‘The Sea Horse Door’:
Although Lara Fairmont directs passion and focus into her London business, it goes bust with spectacular finality. Despondent, almost bankrupt, she nabs an astonishingly well-paid job as a carer for an elderly grande dame of Lobster Cove. What could be easier? Almost anything, for a start. A heady mix of misunderstanding, folklore, suspicion, and the hand of fate unbalances Lara from the moment she steps into Lucas Dalton’s desolate mansion on the shore. How many unanswered questions can there be? For a start, is her boss, Lucas – deep-sea diver, oil-rig maintenance man, and closet architect – unhinged? Is he way out of control, or merely lost in a dark place? Where’s his wife? Why so little light, and so much shade? Bewitched, Lara falls in love with the beauty of Maine, and the inexplicably irresistible Lucas. But, is he the devoted son, widower, and father he claims to be, or someone entirely different?

Twitter: @Ginagina7

What a lovely light-hearted way of approaching what is, after all, a very serious subject. Thank you, Gina

The RNA blog is brought to you by  
Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman 
If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

FOCUS ON: South Devon Chapter

This month we welcome the South Devon Chapter and learn a little of their history, activities and plans for the future

Marion Lindsey-Noble answered our questions

How long has your chapter been running?
We are based in Exeter and this present group began to meet in September 2010. However, one of the older members recalls that they had started a group in the 1990s when they used to meet for a coffee and then went together to some sort of talk, lecture or discussion they had organised. This seemed to have fizzled out after a while and was only revived in 2010. Not many of our current membership knew about this,

How often do you meet?
We meet on the second Wednesday every month from midday to an extendable 2.30pm. If RNA events encroach and if all are in agreement we shift the date 

Are you an itinerant group or do you always meet at the same place?
Our venue is Wetherspoons in South Street, Exeter

How many members attend your meetings? You say you meet at Wetherspoons. Can we therefore assume food is involved?
The number of attendees varies enormously, anything from six to twenty-six. Yes, we do have a meal but everyone orders by themselves. For our Christmas lunch in December me usually book for nearly thirty people.

Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
We like to welcome all writers but we do encourage new members to join the RNA. Our meetings usually last from two to three hours.

Can you give us an outline of some of your activities?
Quite a number of our members belong to local writers’ groups. Some organise literary festivals or even Literary Prize competitions like the Exeter Novel Prize. We’ve had no guest speakers in the past two years and none are planned at present. Somehow we find we have enough to chat about amongst ourselves and often don’t even get round to speaking to everyone present.

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special?
This RNA group is brilliant! Everyone is open, generous with advice and sharing experiences. I have learnt such a lot, and the compassion never ceases. Every time I wonder whether I should give up writing altogether, I go to one of our meetings and come home buoyed up, full of renewed confidence and many great ideas what else to try next. It’s a great group!

Does your chapter have a website, Facebook page or Twitter account?
We correspond via Yahoo groups under Exeter meetings and have a new Facebook presence under Exeter Chapter

Who is the contact for new members?
Jo Beverley is our group organiser and can be contacted at

You are obviously a cohesive and supportive group. Thank you, Marion, for sharing with us today.

Marion’s new book, The Banyan Tree, sequel to The Green Sari, will be published in September 2015. If you’d like to join her at the launch on 19th September please let her know in the comments sections and she will be delighted to send you an invitation.

The RNA blog is brought to you by 
Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

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

Friday, July 24, 2015

Spotlight on the Sparkling Romaniacs

Anyone attending the recent RNA Conference couldn’t have failed to notice The Romaniac’s ‘Sparkle Spotlight’ event. We asked the ladies to tell us more about the glittering affair.

At the 2015 RNA Conference, The Romaniacs collectively decided to put together a Sparkle Spotlight corner to video some of the delegates and find out a bit more about them. The Romaniacs are eight writers all of whom were members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme and joined together to support each other and blog about their progress.
In December last year, we all met up and had a pre-Christmas weekend, which we named our sparkle weekend and we all came away inspired with lots of ideas. One of those was our Life Cycle Of A Writer feature. Every week, on an eight week cycle, we each do an update on how things are going and we try to feature all aspects of our writing lives. From this, the idea for The Romaniacs Sparkle Spotlight Corner formed. It was a way of saying thank you to the RNA and its members who’ve been so supportive to us and in turn we got to find out about their life cycle as a writer: the highs, the lows, and what they are currently working on.
Having come up with the idea, we contacted the conference organisers (Jan Jones and Jenny Barden) to see if it was possible, and with their approval, we become part of the conference programme.
We got ourselves organised behind the scenes, working out how many appointment slots we could offer and sorting out what equipment would be needed. Posters were designed by Sue Fortin and tickets sent to all those taking part.

Then the conference arrived! The prosecco and chocolates were chilled – we were ready. Originally the plan had been to video in the coffee break area, but the sound of 200+ novelists chatting would have drowned out our interviewees. So instead we camped outside the one-to-one rooms in an area that was just perfect for our red carpet. It also meant that we managed to interview some industry professionals, which was an added bonus. We soon found out Celia J Anderson is a natural interviewer and we all need to work on our clapper board action.
Once home, it was Laura E James who sat down and edited the final videos. She spent a couple of days doing it and we owe her a big thank you for carrying out undoubtedly the most complex of the tasks.
Here is the conference video we put together:
It gives a real feel of what it was like to be there. The interview videos have been featured on The Romaniacs blog over the past week with more to be released. Hopefully that’s coffee break entertainment covered for a while. It was really a privilege to hear what a whole range of writers have been up to. We’re a talented, determined bunch in the RNA.
And as it’s been so popular, there’s already talk of it happening again next year. So if you are going to conference next year, make sure you sign up for The Romaniacs Sparkly Red Carpet!
The Romaniacs

The Romaniacs are Catherine Miller, Jan Brigden, Lucie Wheeler, Vanessa Savage, Debbie Fuller-White, Laura James, Sue Fortin and Celia J Anderson.

Thank you ladies, be assured The RNA blogging team will add their names to your list for next year!
The RNA blog is brought to you by,
Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman
If you wish to be featured on the blog please contact us on

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Philip Whiteley takes us to the 2nd Ampthill Literary Festival

Fairly new to the calendar is the Ampthill Literary Festival. One to watch out for next year.

Philip Whiteley hosted two sessions at the second Ampthill Literary Festival on Saturday 11th July – an event he co-founded last year. Opening the afternoon sessions, author Bobbie Darbyshire held the audience’s attention with an eloquent discourse on the theme ‘Where do novelists get their ideas from?’, and described how ideas appear, nurture and are brought to bloom.
Philip with Bobbie Darbyshire
Image courtesy of Neil Hannam
She discussed the options that face all novelists in story development: whether to plot and plan the arc to its tiniest detail in advance, or create characters and let them take decisions and shape the narrative as they go along. She declared herself to adopt a blend of the two approaches – deciding upon an overall narrative, but letting herself be surprised by some of the comments and choices made by the characters.
Bobbie read the opening of her latest novel Oz, a heartfelt and beautifully drawn portrayal of a flawed young man Mark Jonsson, his wife and his lover, and the chance of redemption through the relationship with his precocious daughter Matilda, aged seven. 

Later at the Festival, after a non-fiction session on popular science, the audience was entertained by the veteran journalist, author and broadcaster Barry Norman, who regaled some astonishing true tales of Peter Sellers, John Wayne and many more.
The evening session started with Philip in conversation with actor and author, John Challis, well known as ‘Boycie’ from Only Fools & Horses. The audience learned how John Challis has acted in Shakespeare and Tom Stoppard, as well as TV sitcom roles, and penned the 'Reg' series of comic novels and a two-part autobiography. 

Philip with John Challis
Image courtesy of Neil Hanna

Concluding the evening – which was hosted by renowned actor-author Robert Daws – was Jenny Eclair. She warmed the audience up with ten minutes of belly-laughs, but then turned to literature, reading from her wonderful novel Moving – about the history of a house that has been a family home for half a century, revealing the stories as the elderly Edwina takes an estate agent from room to room, and she remembers the family secrets, the tales of love and of tragedy. Jenny Eclair told a packed house that she has been fascinated by the history of buildings since wanting a doll’s house as a young girl. She stayed to take questions from the audience and brought a hugely successful event to a rapturous conclusion.

'Creating a literary festival is in many ways a creative project, like writing a novel. The organisers worked hard to create two successful main events, plus several informal evenings of talks and readings in pubs that we call ‘Beer and Books’. Bobbie gave us the perfect start. We’re already looking forward to next year.'

Philip Whiteley: Website:
Ampthill Literary Festival:

Thank you for reviewing the festival for us, Philip. I’m sure many of us will be putting this one in our diaries.

The RNA Blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Still Fabulous at Fifty Five!

All roads led to Queen Mary University, Mile End Road, in the East End of London, as romantic novelists in all shapes and sizes arrived for their annual conference. Even industrial action by tube and some mainline rail workers could not keep us away.
As usual all delegates received a goody bag brimming with books, sweets, chocolates and an RNA mug – perfect gifts for RNA members. One very special gift was a copy of ‘Fabulous at Fifty’ the book published five years ago to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the RNA. If you have not read
this book please take time to dip in and find out about our amazing association. How was the New Writers’ Scheme developed? What about our awards? Read about the people who started the RNA as well as the famous people that we still talk about. Did you know that the person who organised our first conference eighteen years ago was still working hard behind the scenes last weekend? We’ll leave you to read who it is.
This year we asked visitors to the conference to write a short piece on their experience. We were not disappointed. Thank you one and all!

Journey to the 2015 RNA Conference
Jayne Hall (Morton Gray)
Alison Maynard, Janice Preston, Lynn Forth and I arranged to get on the same train at different stops heading for Birmingham. Laughter started with many witty comments from Lynn, later called ‘Lynn-isms’. One of the most memorable concerned her two fans! We were in awe of Alison’s tiny case. I wanted empty space for extra books, of course. At Moor Street, we admired Alison’s attempt at selling her book in the lift. The London train was quiet, apart from our table! Lynn produced snacks,
wine glasses and serviettes. Jan poured wine. The journey to Marylebone passed in an instant.
Travelling during the tube strike, we’d booked a taxi to Mile End, but grid-locked traffic stopped it reaching us. Thankfully, the weather was sunny. When we got a taxi, forty minutes later, the driver couldn't promise an arrival time or price. Traffic was nose-to-tail, with police at bus stops to stop fighting. We could probably have walked faster at times, but it was a long way.
We all started to get weary in the hot taxi. Lynn still managed some witty repartee about buttocks, but I think we were grateful to arrive at the university an hour and a half later.

The Spectacular Setting of our RNA 2015 Conference
Karen Aldous
Canal side
What a delight to discover so many fascinating features at the Queen Mary University of London, the conference venue just off the main Mile End Road in East London. Not only is it situated on a now stunning stretch of the Regent’s Canal with a community of moored house boats and a bustling canal path giving access to local parks, but in the centre of the campus is the site of a grade II listed, Jewish cemetery, the second-oldest surviving in England.
As well as a modern student village, the site houses the original ‘People’s Palace’, the Queens Building, built in the mid-Victorian period with the education of local people in mind. And, it really can only be described as a classically-built Victorian palace and, within it, was the beautiful Octagon Library where busts of famous poets and writers such as Byron, Wordsworth and Samuel Johnson watched over us while we wined and dined at our Gala Dinner.
I was truly amazed to discover all this along with another interesting snippet. In the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Pathology Museum here, the skeleton of the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick is housed. I can’t wait to explore this place some more.
Queen Mary College – then and now
Helena Fairfax
Tube closures, terrorist attacks and traffic jams – and I don’t mean last weekend. This was the London of the 1980s, when my husband – then boyfriend – was a student at QMC. I remember once arriving at King’s Cross to find the whole tube network closed down because of an IRA threat. And the station itself – my God! What an intimidating and run down place it was. The old café served weak tea and limp ham sandwiches, and all the knives were plastic to stop people stabbing each other. And who could believe nowadays that people smoked underground, on wooden escalators?

 The station was a disaster waiting to happen, and tragically, in 1987, fire engulfed it. The modern concourse bears no relation to the grim place I knew.
As for Mile End, it’s still as congested, but they’re building cycle paths and the canal is a lot cleaner than it used to be. And the lecture rooms! Hazel Gaynor’s fabulous Powerpoint presentation shows just how far we’ve come since the days when white boards and marker pens were the height of progress.
Roll on the next thirty years!
(Image: Frisking my boyfriend outside Kings Cross!)

The Conference Opens
John Jackson

Jan Jones & Eileen Ramsay
Before this weekend’s Conference started I asked Eileen Ramsay, our Chair, if she would give me a copy of her opening speech, as I was going to write it up for the RNA blog.
“Oh, you won’t need that, it’s going to be very short!” she replied.
And so it proved to be.
Eileen welcomed us all with great warmth in a crowded Milner Lecture Theatre. While her opening speech may have had all the advantages of brevity, it was certainly no less warm and, as a newcomer at his first conference, I can only emphasise its warmth and welcome. Many thanks for that.

John Jackson
After Eileen had finished, she handed matters over to Jan Jones who gave us a summary of immediately important information, and we cracked on with an excellent series of talks, lectures and workshops. Jan proved herself a fountain of knowledge for all sorts of queries, especially on Friday as people came in to register and attend their first sessions – not to mention a full programme of meeting old friends.

My first Conference
Heidi Swain
2015 is turning out to be a year of firsts for me – first book deal, first cover reveal, first publication day and now I can add first RNA conference to the list! Initially disappointed to only be able to attend on Saturday I’m now rather relieved. Romance authors party hard I’ve discovered and I’m not sure I could have coped with the pace first time around.
On arrival I was escorted to register by Eileen Ramsay herself and after picking up my loaded goody bag and name tag I set about making a note of where the talks and workshops I had signed up for, were happening.
I don’t need to tell you how amazing the organisation of the conference is and how invaluable the advice and expertise on offer. What I would like to say however is thank you. Thank you to everyone for making me feel so welcome and relaxed and hello to the dozens of authors I was finally able to meet in real life. It never ceases to amaze me that we can recognise one another from a tiny thumbnail image!
I simply can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Ten Minutes to Make an Impression!
Natalie Kleinman
The annual RNA Conference offers a wealth of opportunities to its members. Just one of these is the chance to have a ten minute interview, known as a one2one, with an agent, editor or publisher, sometimes all three. Prior to the weekend, delegates are invited to submit a synopsis and first chapter in anticipation of receiving what might prove to be invaluable feedback on their work.
I asked Elaine Roberts, veteran of three conferences, what had been her experience this time. “Firstly, for me, attending the annual RNA Conference is the “don’t miss” event of the year and thanks to everyone involved for making it possible. The one2ones each year give me confidence to continue writing. Spending ten minutes with an Agent/Publisher/Editor is priceless. My feedback this year is no different. My manuscript was well received and now, for the first time, I’m daring to hope I will actually graduate the New Writers Scheme.”
Such a choice!
For Sarah Stephenson is was her first visit to a conference. She had this to say.
As a first-timer to the RNA conference, I had no idea what to expect. There were excellent one2ones with agents and publishers. I sat in the corridor, biting my nails; a small child waiting to see the headmistress. What wasted anxiety. The response was extremely positive. I was encouraged to continue writing and get the book finished as soon as possible. I left the conference exhausted but very buoyed up.”
Both writers told me that whatever the outcome of their interviews they valued both the opportunity and experience and had taken on board a huge amount from the feedback they had received.

Speed Dating for Writers!
Lisa Eveleigh
I’ve heard one-to-ones referred to as ‘speed-dating for writers’ which would be terrifying if either party was really going into a session blind…
Fortunately the RNA members I had appointments with last weekend were all impressively well prepared and had clearly looked at my website beforehand , so I didn’t have to waste any of those precious ten minutes in describing my agency and tastes in fiction.
It helped that most writers I saw are members of the New Writing Scheme and accustomed to editorial feedback. I think it’s essential to give truly constructive criticism and I always read the chapters I’m sent as close to Conference as possible, so that the work is fresh in my mind. But I’m acutely aware that these sessions are short and rather than undertaking a forensic analysis of every word, I try to leave at least three or four minutes for the author to tell me about their hopes and aims, and any previous publishing history. 
Apart from a bizarre - yet enchanting moment - when I poked my head out of the door of my seminar room looking for my next delegate, to be immediately offered a glass of Prosecco by The Romaniacs, busily  filming outside, these sessions were serious.  (And for the record, I said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ and gratefully accepted some of their fizzy water instead; it was HOT last weekend!) 
Finally, it’s important to remember that agents enjoy meeting writers – you could be our next bestselling client! -  SO, if you’re thinking of making an appointment next year, leave your nerves at home; we don’t bite!    
*Lisa also found time to be part of our Agent Panel on Industry Day. From left to right in above image: Caroline Sheldon, Hannah Ferguson, Carole Blake, Tim Bates and Lisa Eveleigh.

Building Character Workshop
Sally Quilford
It’s always exciting, and a little bit nerve racking, to be asked to speak at the RNA conference. And having to wait till Sunday morning definitely ups the ante. I was even more nervous on account of following the incredibly erudite (and totally lovely and down to earth) Emma Darwin, and in the same room! I sat enthralled through Emma’s excellent talk on Writer’s Voices, and wondered ‘How am I going to follow that?’
But I think it’s important – and I’m sure Emma will agree – that the RNA conference covers a wide range of topics and for all skill levels. My talk on character building might not have been as cerebral, but I think my audience enjoyed it, especially when I used pictures of handsome men to illustrate my points on appearance (any excuse really…). Everyone in my workshop was very attentive, and said all the right things afterwards. I was able to enjoy the rest of the day safe in the knowledge that I had not let the organisers down.
I also think what both Emma’s and my talk proved was that even those of us giving the talks at the conference can learn something from each other. Her talk had taught me so much, and there were established authors in my talk who I hope also went away with new ideas.
That’s the great thing about the RNA. No one thinks they’re above learning something new and it’s this enthusiasm for knowledge on the part of the attendees that makes every workshop so special.

121s – The Aftermath!
Elaine Everest     
For me the experience of conference 121s started way back on the 28th May when I received the message from Jan Jones to ‘brace, brace, brace’ as the conference packs were in the post.
Taking part on the Reviewer Panel
Early next morning my email box began to fill with requests for appointments and it didn’t stop until days before the conference. Did I write much during June? No! Was I busy? Yes! Did I enjoy it? Yes, Yes, Yes! The most enjoyable part of allocating over two hundred appointments is to be able to get to know new members, say hi to members I’ve met before and to also be able to chat to industry professionals who have given up their valuable time to encourage and advise our members. I was able to calm the nervous - point out I’d been a bag of nerves myself not so long ago and also to advise anyone who wasn’t sure about their submission. The saddest part of the job was when I had to say I’d run out of appointments. I could have filled many two times over.
The joy came later when I bumped into many delegates who had news to share. Who doesn’t like good news and there was plenty of it. Authors being taken on by agents, book commissions, helpful hints and advice, the good news kept on coming. In fact one week on I’m still receiving emails full of good news. Please keep it coming.
As conferences go this one will be hard to follow but I’m sure we will give it a good try!
Let’s Learn!
Alison May

This is the second time that I’ve run a workshop at the RNA Conference. This year’s topic was Developing Back Burner Projects, which I’d subtitled ‘Writing the Book You’ve Always Wanted to Write’ and actually running the session was one of my favourite bits of the whole weekend. The impression at writing conferences is often that the people sitting in the room are learning and the

person at the front is working and teaching. Let me tell you a secret – 99% of the time the person at the front is learning just as much. Good workshops depend on the input from the attendees, and, in my experience, there’s always at least one question that pushes the session into territory you’d never expected and could never have planned for. For me that’s a large part of the fun; being in a group of fabulous creative people who are ready to learn and develop and ask questions is incredibly inspiring.
The main message of the session was this: if there’s something you’ve always wanted to write, get on and write it. That’s it in a nutshell. The real thing was essentially that but longer, with a bit about badgers fighting robots and some pictures of ironing.
Weaving the Tapestry of Time!
Charlotte Betts
I’m no longer a RNA conference virgin but this was the first time I was invited to take a workshop. Immensely flattered and not a little apprehensive, I agreed immediately. Deep in the throes of finishing my fifth novel, I didn’t have much time to think about the subject. Playing safe, I chose to talk, rather than write, about ‘what I know.’ Readers tell me that what they like best about my novels are the historical details and I decided to focus on writing about settings that transport you to another time and creating believable characters true to their era.

I’d imagined there might be 20 delegates but when I heard over 50 were expected I was amazed. I’d intended to provide six page hand-outs but realised that this would be an awful lot of printing! Undaunted, I set about learning to use Powerpoint.  Amazingly, the presentation and workshop went smoothly and it gave me a buzz to discuss my favourite subject with others and to learn from them, too. I also learned not to be so ambitious another time and stick to only one subject as an hour passes very quickly.

However many books you’ve had published, there is always something new to learn from other writers and I’m a great believer in sharing that knowledge.

Kitchen Capers!
Elaine Roberts
I have been attending the RNA Conference for three years and the after Gala Dinner kitchen parties are legendary. You’ll be pleased to know this year was no different, although I believe more were held outside in the cool night air and I don’t recall hearing that anybody ended up in the canal.
The laughter carried across the Mile End campus as friends met up. Many seeking out friends they made on social media. However, trying to find someone was like looking for a needle in a haystack, especially as some only had an avatar picture to go by.
Gala Dinner courtesy of Karen Aldous
Everyone in my block arrived armed with wine, wine and more wine, which we started on Thursday evening. Of course, where there’s wine there’s also snacks.
Traditionally, the kitchen parties are usually after the Gala Dinner but we started on the wine before the glitzy occasion. Consequently, we were definitely flagging by eleven thirty and some were clearly suffering on Sunday morning. However, we made it for breakfast and our first talk at nine. When we left at five, we were definitely flagging!
It needs to be said, I still haven’t got over the fabulous RNA Conference weekend. Can I have a nap now?

Does my Waist Look Big in This?
Elaine Everest

Mireille Weller gave a fascinating talk on how to dress as a Victorian woman, including: the layers of underwear; the realities of wearing a corset; going from daywear to eveningwear in five minutes; and why you need a man to help you sit down.

Those taking part all agreed  it was not the weather for a corset and so many layers of clothing.
We marvelled at the many petticoats and the beautiful gowns all hand made by Mireille and held our breath as she tightened her corset. Elizabeth Hawksley was invited to measure  Mireille's waist to show how many inches were lost once corseted.
We all felt as though we knew a little more about our Victorian characters at the end of this talk.

Did you blog about your experiences at conference? Why not post a link in the comments section below and share your story with our members?

The RNA Blog is brought to you by,

 Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mandy Baggot Loves Digital!

Mandy Baggot doesn’t just love writing romance. She loves the digital age that facilitates spreading the word. This is what she has to say:

As a reader I enjoy lapping up new books in any medium I can get my sticky hands on them in! Kindle, Kobo, Sainsbury’s e-books – I have accounts with them all. The Works, Waterstones, WH Smith – I’m a browser and a sucker for a cover I can fondle.

But, as a writer, I’m currently riding much higher with my latest romantic comedy, Truly Madly Greekly in the digital arena.

So what’s so great about digital publishing?

1)      Fast

It doesn’t take as long to prepare and publish an e-book. This doesn’t mean the novel doesn’t go through a rigorous editing process (I’m going through one of those right now!) but digital done right can cut down the process by months.

2)      Flexible

You can make amendments quickly and easily – change the cover, add bonus content at a later date etc. You can also jump on trends as they occur. This might be getting something into the marketplace quickly to hit on a special event – a tennis romance in time for Wimbledon, a gardening tale for the Chelsea Flower Show, athlete heroine for the next Olympics etc.

3)      Price

Digital publishing doesn’t have a lot of the costs involved with traditional paperback publishing. You can offer books at a more competitive rate to readers and still make money.

4)      Ride the electronic wave

More people that ever own tablets for entertainment and recreation. You don’t have to have a specific e-reader to read digital books – any tablet, smartphone or P.C. has the capability to download a free app to read books on. Some people are becoming readers for the first time because it’s cheap, convenient and accessible.

5)      New writer opportunities

Since Kindle Direct Publishing was born, more and more storytellers are taking the plunge and getting their work into the marketplace. Self-publishing and digital publishing have let authors take much more control over their work and I’m embracing that!

Writing and reading have never been hotter and I say, long may it continue.

About Mandy:

Mandy Baggot is an award-winning romantic fiction author, writing hot heroes and emotional reads. She is represented by Kate Nash of The Kate Nash Literary Agency.
In 2012 she won the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK's Festival of Romance and has since scooped Top Ten Reads/Book of the Year places from a number of UK book bloggers.
Traditionally published by US publisher Sapphire Star, Harper Collins' digital first romance imprint, Harper Impulse, and most recently, digital fiction specialists, Bookouture, a great story is never far from her fingertips!
A contributor to writing blogs and short story anthologies, Mandy is also a regular speaker at literary festivals, events and women’s networking groups.
Mandy loves mashed potato, white wine, country music, World's Strongest Man, travel and handbags. She has appeared on ITV1's Who Dares Sings and auditioned for The X-Factor.
Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband, two daughters and cats, Kravitz and Springsteen.


Thank you, Mandy, for joining us today and giving us such a comprehensive explanation.

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Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman 
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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Nora Fountain: Blackthorn Child

A big hello to Nora Fountain who is our guest on the blog today.
Nora, you have written short stories for the women’s magazine market as well as novels. What would you say is your favourite form of storytelling?
I prefer to write novels. I’ve written lots of short stories and sold some of them but it’s not really my thing. I very much admire those who can turn out short, snappy stories. I like to get my teeth into a story, with the freedom to develop characters, and more than one or two of them. I like to get inside their heads and become that character. The first draft is the bare bones of the story, then comes the best part, editing and polishing, going through several times, the characters developing each time till I know them like old friends. As they develop they suggest little twists and turns of their own. In the end I love them all – even the baddies. They are me. I am them, and I’m sorry to have to say good-bye to them.

Would you recommend that those new to writing try their hand at writing long and short fiction?
If they want to. I don’t think it’s always necessary. I always wanted to write longer, more in-depth stuff. However, I didn’t really have a clue when I started Blackthorn Child, which began life as Downton’s Heir (!) and grew with every rewrite until it reached 180,000 words. Fortunately I’ve always enjoyed the art of précis but I’m now aware of the practicalities of producing such a long book. Publishers do not want to invest large sums in new writers.
I tried writing for M&B for a while, reading their authors voraciously. I loved writers such as Charlotte Lamb, Penny Jordan and Sara Wood. There was a seamless quality to their writing it is difficult to emulate. I did try, though, around a dozen times. On three occasions they read a partial and asked to see the rest. I was quite excited the third time but in the end it was turned down. I submitted one to Robert Hale, minus the steamy bits and it was accepted. Hurrah! They went on to take several more. These went into large print and translation in some cases. I carried on with full-length fiction and, to my delight, Thorpe bought Love Thine Enemy direct from me.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading, Love Thine Enemy, Can we expect more historical novels from you with overseas settings?
I certainly hope so. Blackthorn Child went back and forth to agents and publishers till I changed tack and put it on Kindle. It soared to the top of three of their lists, occupying top spot for a while.
I am currently writing another historical set in Puglia where my youngest son lives, designing houses and teaching yoga. I have lots more research to do but I’m enjoying it. I’m also writing a contemporary romance set in Africa called Tropical Madness. It’s a year now since the accident that wrote off my car and broke eleven bones – a bit of a setback but I’m getting back in the saddle with interruptions for physio, etc. Perhaps I should write a hospital drama.
There are certainly a few health issues in Cupcakes and Candlesticks. This is my latest novella with a mature hero and heroine and set in the Dorset I love. When Rob announces he is leaving Maddy and their four children she is shocked but she picks up the pieces and forges a new life for the family out in the sticks. There she meets the gorgeous Guy Deverill, a landowner with angst of his own. I sold the large print rights to Cupcakes and Candlesticks to Thorpe and in the same week brought out the Create Space version of Blackthorn Child – or rather my son Basil did. He’s been a driving instructor for a couple of years but now has another string to his bow, offering services to novelists, formatting, putting on Kindle, etc. I’m no techie and couldn’t manage without him. My younger daughter played her part designing the cover for the paperback so it’s something of a family production.

Please tell us more about your five novels that are being reprinted by Samhain?
The American publisher Samhain have started a new line called Retro Romance. They’ve taken five of my novellas and given them gorgeous new covers which is all rather exciting. They can be viewed and are available on line from Samhain.

These days authors have to promote themselves on social media. How much time do you spend online? How does it help your work?
I probably spend far too long online, mainly Facebook where I have two pages, one an author page. I enjoy keeping up with news of my extended family- recently extended to include my first great-grandson, Alby Koa. Don’t ask. I’ve never heard of the names, either, but I do know he’s absolutely gorgeous with silky dark hair and eyes that will probably be brown. It’s great to hear news of other writers’ successes, too. I occasionally post on Twitter but I think I need lessons on using social media to the best advantage.
Nora Fountain is a professional writer and translator. Her short stories have been published by People's Friend, Yours, Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day and Fiction Feast, among others.
Her novels are mainly in the contemporary romance genre published by Robert Hale and My Weekly Story Library. Nora has also written historical romance. Her books are available on Amazon.
Five novels are currently being reprinted by Samhain as part of their Retro Romance series and are available from the publisher as ebooks.
Nora lives in Dorset and is a member of the Society of Authors and the Chartered Institute of Linguists, and is a committee member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Thank you, Norah. It’s also good to hear you are well on the way to recovery after your accident.

The RNA Blog is brought to you by,
Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman
If you would like to write for the blog please contact us on