Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chatting with Joanna Courtney

We are pleased to welcome Joanna Courtney to the blog today. We are sure that many of the answers to our questions will resonate with readers of the blog.

Welcome, Joanna, can you tell us how long you've been writing?
All my life. I was an avid reader from an early age and wrote Enid Blyton style boarding-school
books from 10. I kept long teenage diaries and wrote plays and stories for school events. I studied English Literature at university and once I was working I wrote fiction in the evenings. I’ve always wanted to be a writer so seeing my novel on the shelves is a dream come true.

What about your path to publication?
It’s been a long, hard road and my poor husband has had to deal with many a tearful ‘that’s it, I’m getting a proper job’ tantrum! I started out writing short stories for the women’s magazines when I had young children. I was first published by The People’s Friend in 1999 and over the years I’ve been published by all the major magazines, with serials as well as stories. One of these, ‘Running Against the Tide’ was published as a novel by Robert Hale in 2012 and I’d also been working on a contemporary romance for which I secured my agent, Kate Shaw, back in 2009. We didn’t manage to find a publisher for that but Kate was supportive of my desire to move to historical fiction. The first novel I wrote in the Saxon period was also turned down by publishers, though with enough nice comments to persuade me to write a second, and that one – The Chosen Queen – was finally taken up by Pan Macmillan who have been absolutely brilliant with it.

Do you find it confusing to move between your author name and ‘real’ name?
Courtney is my middle name and also my grandma’s name, so it already feels like part of me and I rather like having a pen name. It makes it easier to find the confidence to do events as I go in almost as an actor – as ‘Joanna Courtney, author’, rather than just as little old me!

Marketing and promotion is a big part of an author’s life. How do you cope with this?
I enjoy a lot of it and I find it easy when I’m editing or researching but when I’m deep in writing a novel it’s much harder to pull myself away from my imaginary world to do all the ‘real’ stuff. That said, though, connecting with readers is wonderful and nothing makes your day like a tweet from someone you don’t know saying how much they’ve loved your book so I could never complain about that.

How do fit your writing around your day to day life?
I have children so on the whole I write during the school day. Up until recently that stopped painfully early at 3.15 but now they are both at secondary school I thankfully have much longer days. I also, however, have to fit in my work as an Open University Creative Writing tutor and have two dogs who need walking – though that’s fantastic thinking time.

What is the next big thing in your writing life?
I’m in the middle of writing the third book of the trilogy. Book 2, The Constant Queen, is finished and edited and due out next May, so I’m now writing the Norman side of the 1066 story for Book 3, The Conqueror’s Queen. It’s proving really interesting as until now they’ve been the ‘baddies’ so it’s lovely getting under their skin and seeing it all from another point of view.

Author Bio:
Ever since Joanna sat up in her cot with a book, she’s wanted to be a writer. She’s had many stories and serials published in women’s magazines and The Chosen Queen is the first novel in her historical trilogy, The Queens of the Conquest, about the women of 1066.

Facebook: joannacourtneyauthor
Twitter: @joannacourtney1
My website: www.joannacourtney.com
My blog: www.joannacourtney.com/blog/

Thank you so much for visiting the blog today, Joanna. We eagerly await publication day for The Constant Queen.

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 elaineeverest@aol.com

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pamela Fudge: Not My Affair

We are delighted to welcome Pamela Fudge to the blog today. Read about her varied career as she answers our questions below:

You are a prolific writer of novels and short stories. Did one follow the other or do you write them in conjunction?
After joining a creative writing class in 1983 I tried my hand at whatever the tutor set for us and quickly discovered that fiction was my passion. I was lucky enough to have a short story accepted for publication within four months of starting the class. Soon I was getting regular acceptances from the majority of women’s magazines and, more than happy with that, I had no real desire to try my hand at anything longer - until I started to feel left out when everyone in my writing group seemed to be tackling a novel. To my amazement my second attempt – a romance – was accepted for publication and, once my novels were being published regularly I concentrated on those. I’ve recently decided I can do both – so I am!

I understand you spent some years as a tutor of ‘Writing for Pleasure and Profit’. Tell us a little about the teaching aspect of your career.
I was ‘encouraged’ to take over the Adult Education class when the current tutor moved away, because I was already getting published regularly. I gained my teaching qualifications and had my first novel accepted for publication in the same year. What I loved most about teaching was building up the confidence of fledgling authors, and helping them to turn a good story or article into a great one. I still have the scrapbooks I filled with my student successes and I still hear from students who continue to get published.

Your latest book, Not My Affair, is due for publication on 30th November. Not long now. Can you whet our appetites a little please?
I write contemporary family fiction and find plenty to write about from the ups and downs of family life. (Just generally, I hasten to add, not my own). Not My Affair (my 14th novel) opens with the discovery of the husband’s affair – on Christmas morning. Jack finds himself out on the street – unaware that his wife Fay is pregnant after years of them trying for a family. With the affair over, Jack is desperate to save his marriage. However, his ex-mistress has other ideas and suddenly it seems that Fay could actually be in danger.

You are a member of several writing associations (the RNA for one) and organisations. How have these aided you in the past and are there any you would particularly recommend to our readers?
The RNA, and in particular the New Writers’ Scheme, played a big part in my transition from short fiction to novels. My first romance wasn’t accepted for publication, but the very positive critique I received from the NWS encouraged my belief that I could be a novelist, and my next attempt, Reluctant For Romance became my first published novel. I eventually re-wrote the original romance. It became Second Best and was published as a mainstream novel in 2009.

I see you have a dog. We like to know something about our guests, other than just their writerly pursuits. Without straying too far from the subject, are your walks a time of complete freedom from work or do you find yourself turning over ideas as you go?
I have a rescued Pomeranian dog called Honey (and also a 21 year old long-haired tortoiseshell cat called Ellie). I walk Honey twice a day on the heath behind my house. Mostly the walks are a time for Honey and me to socialise with other walkers and their canine friends. However, if I am stuck on any aspect of a novel – most often it will be finding the perfect ending – then a good walk and a good think usually has me rushing back to the keyboard.

Have you always been a writer or was there an earlier career? Or, indeed, do you hold down another full time job and write in your ‘spare’ time?
I was a Recruitment Administrator at Bournemouth University for many years, until I retired at the end of 2011, and it was during my time there – and after I had been widowed for the second time – that my career as a novelist really took off. At least one Pamela Fudge novel has been published each year since 2006.

Are you working on another novel? What can we look forward to after ‘Not My Affair’?
I have completed the first draft of another novel, Least Said, but gave most of this year over to bringing some of my back catalogue of published and unpublished novels out as e-books. It’s been a very different way of passing the time and I’ve enjoyed it – but I am looking forward to getting back to some ‘real’ writing again.


Thank you, Pam. We look forward to Not My Affair at the end of November.

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 elaineeverest@aol.com

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

FOCUS ON: Cambridge Chapter

Judith Lennox was kind enough to answer our questions on the Cambridge Chapter, though it would seem the borders are much extended

We’re the Cambridge Chapter, though our members come from all over East Anglia – Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and beyond.

How long has your chapter been running?
We’ve been meeting since 2006. Jan Jones and I started the group with just a few people, meeting at my Cambridge house. Expanding numbers and the problems of parking in Cambridge soon meant that we looked for a different venue, with good transport links – and plentiful parking.

Do you have a schedule or are your meetings ad hoc?
Our meetings are monthly and always include a lunch. We meet at the Red Lion pub in Whittlesford,
a village a few miles south of Cambridge. It’s a thirteenth century coaching inn with an attractive interior and friendly staff. We don’t have a private room but have, over time, become used to ‘our’ table, in a quiet part of the pub. They are happy to accommodate a light lunch of soup or sandwiches as well as two-course meals.

We alternate between Tuesdays and Wednesdays so that those with fixed obligations have a chance of making a meeting.

A Thirteenth Century Coaching Inn! It sounds lovely. How many members attend your meetings?
It varies, from around four to a maximum of about twelve to fourteen. We’ve a mixture of men and women and a big age range. Some of our members are just beginning their writing careers and others have been published for decades. We work in a wide variety of genres.

Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
No, only RNA members.

How long are your meetings?
Generally around two to two and a half hours. Discussion is spontaneous rather than structured, and we cover a wide variety of topics – for instance, during the last two meetings we discussed the recent RNA conference, self-publication of eBooks through Amazon, how Pinterest can help writers attract new readers, writing erotic fiction and researching the laws connected with marriages licences.

Can you give an outline of speakers/guests you’ve had in the past year?
Jean Fullerton, in her role as Chapter Liaison, was a guest at one of our lunches earlier this year. We don’t have speakers – we decided that what we wanted out of the meetings was informal discussions about the subjects that concern writers, along with the support and encouragement you gain from talking to others in the same profession.

What have you planned for the rest of 2015?
Our monthly lunches will continue. In December we have a Christmas lunch, complete with Secret Santa and turkey and pudding for those who desire it!

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special?
I think some of our members enjoy the fact that we’re a small group. It makes it easier to get to know people and means that everyone, quieter people included, can have their say. Everyone sympathises over the pressure of deadlines and shares the triumph of a contract signed or a publication day. I feel that we are supportive and welcoming – and we aim to enjoy ourselves!

Does your chapter have a website, Facebook page or Twitter account?
No. We communicate through a Yahoo group, which those who join the Chapter can take part in.

Who is the contact for new members?
We always warmly welcome new members. Anyone from the East Anglia area who is interested in joining us please contact Judith Lennox at judith@judithlennox.com or Jan Jones at jan@jan-jones.co.uk

Your meetings are obviously open and expansive and the venue sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing

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 elaineeverest@aol.com

Friday, September 18, 2015

KATE LONG: Something Only We Know

We are delighted to welcome Kate Long to the blog today. Kate shows how one character, invented during a creative writing lesson, led to her latest novel.

Kate Long
Helen Crossley stepped out of my head and onto the page during a creative writing lesson I was teaching. The class had been considering ways to flesh out characters, and we’d all done an exercise together. My own attempt had produced Helen, and though at first the only two aspects I could see were her anorexia and her striking red hair, she quickly began to fill me in on the detail of her life.

She was thirty and still living at home. Her mother was understandably over-protective, and her father baffled by her illness. Her sister Jen, eight years younger, seemed distant and busy. Helen’s best support – the man who’d got her through the very worst of the illness and the bleakest times – was stable, patient, loyal Ned, who’d spent the past twelve years helping her recover.

And yet she nursed a shameful secret. For all Ned’s devotion, she remained obsessed by her first boyfriend. She could not stop imagining where he might be now, if he’d married, whether he was happy. What’s more, she understood that before she could move on and get out into the world as an independent adult, she’d have to address the past – whatever damage it might inflict on those around her.

So that was Helen. But then I thought, was it actually her story? Somehow I felt it wasn’t. It seemed more interesting to me to look at the issue of anorexia from a bystander’s point of view. I began to think about Jen, and what it might be like to grow up with such a fragile, enigmatic older sister. Helen was beautiful and ethereal, and always the focus of attention. Their mother’s eyes were on her continually. Ned (lovely, lovely Ned) was at her beck and call. Obviously Jen loved Helen; sometimes, though, she couldn’t help feeling pushed aside.
And when you threw into the mix her other problems – a bullying boss, a career going nowhere, a thoughtless, uncommitted boyfriend – then it became clear that in her own way Jen was as vulnerable as Helen.

I knew the sisters would have to unite to help each other, but that there’d be a cost. If Jen enabled Helen to confront that first, painful romance, there was a terrible risk the eating disorder might be triggered again. At the same time there was the problem of Jen’s friendship with Ned growing ever closer and confused. I wanted to explore the psychology of manipulation and collusion that exists within so many families.

In the end, Something Only We Know grew into a novel about how you balance what your heart desires against the duties you owe to family and sisterhood. Do you hurt those closest to you to get what you truly feel is yours? Or do you keep your mouth closed, and sacrifice it all? Is a sister more important than the man you know is right for you? Only Jen and Helen together can find the answer to that one.


Thank you, Kate. Another great book to add to our ‘to be read’ pile.
The RNA Blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you are a full member and would like to write for the blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


We all love an excuse to dress up in our glad rags and enjoy a special event. The RoNA awards in March is one that every romantic novelist looks forward to attending. It's so exciting to watch and applaud as writers we admire accept awards for their novels. However, without entries there would be no awards event to attend.  Anne Stenhouse Graham has come along today to tell us more about the RoNAs and to remind us all to enter.

March 7
th 2016 will see many RNA members, agents and publishers gather in London’s glorious The Gladstone Library, Royal Horseguards for the presentation of the Association’s Annual Awards. By that time excitement will have been mounting. The publication of the shortlist earlier ensures that. Some rather nervous people will be assembled.
Last year's winners with special guest Barbara Taylor Bradford

However, Nicola Cornick and I hope to be a little more relaxed by then since you’ve all been very good and followed the rules/instructions/suggestions and made the deadlines.
Haven’t you?

The Awards recognise the effort of all our members. So if you’ve written the best contemporary, epic, historical, romantic comedy or young adult novel and it was published between 1st January and 31st December 2015, then consider submission, why don’t you? You know the adage - You’ve got to be in, to win.
Our outstanding achievement awards 2015 went to Jill Mansell and Carole Matthews

The RoNA Rose embraces the shorter novel where the focus of the book is on the relationship between the two central characters, and magazine serials. It shares the same dates as the others.
For the first time digital first books are eligible and because it’s the first time the dates are extended to include those books first published digitally between 1st January 2014 and 31st December 2015.

The magnificent Gladstone Library

The rules, submission buttons and all that sort of stuff are found on the website. Here:

Check it out - Sorry, but no title may be entered more than once.

The  Discipline of the Deadline:

We all, whatever we write, have deadlines and we’re very disciplined about meeting them. So that leads me to…

RoNA awards 2016

Closing Date 1st October 2015 for the 2016 Awards…

Is your entry on its way?

Anne Stenhouse Graham

Thank you, Anne (and Nicola). We hope you will both be kept very busy processing entries and we look forward to news of shortlisted books in 2016.

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lynne Pardoe: Curtis Brown Creative

We welcome Lynne Pardoe to the blog. Lynne has been chatting to Anna Davis, Managing Director of Curtis Brown Creative. Over to you, Lynne.

Anna Davis
I’ve always fancied doing one of those Curtis Brown courses, they have such an enticing programme of events. Anna Davis found time in her busy schedule to answer my questions.

How did Curtis Brown, a well-known literary agency, come to be running a writing school?
We launched Curtis Brown Creative in 2011 when we realised a lot of people were looking for novel writing courses. We were in the unusual position of having both a good understanding of the market and expertise in helping authors edit their work until it’s at its best. The unique selling point of Curtis Brown Creative is the active involvement in the courses of our literary agents. 

Why choose a Curtis Brown course?
For us, it's all about quality. We want to work with new novelists who have real potential, and our aims are to help new novelists to get the best out of their writing and to find new clients for the agents of Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh from among our students. 

Are your courses all London based?
We began with a 3-month course for aspiring novelists held in our London offices. We still run our very popular 3 and 6-month courses from our offices, but now we also run 3 and 6-month novel-writing courses online. When it comes to the online environment, we aim to deliver courses with the same values and emphasis on quality as our face-to-face courses. We run groups with a maximum of 15 students (just as we do in our offices) selected from applications on the basis of the quality of the material submitted to us in order to create strong peer groups who work well together and help to bring out the best in each other’s writing. 
Our online courses have flexible scheduling to allow participation from students all over the world, along with students who need to focus their writing into erratic hours, night-times etc. The online courses  include teaching, workshopping and tutorials, just like our face-to-face courses, and feature an agents’ question and answers day where lots of our agents come online across a whole day to answer students' question; plus a day when agents give feedback on students' pitch letters.

What is the difference in the 3 and 6 month courses? Is it just the same course over a different time-frame?
The two kinds of courses include many of the same components – workshopping, teaching sessions, tutorials and visiting speaker sessions, but the six-month course has more of all of those. The six-month London-based course also has two guest tutors, each of whom come in to teach the students on several occasions – kind of ‘mini-courses’. I think it’s good for the students to be taught by more than one writer where possible – there’s no one way of doing things and it’s great for them to get different teaching perspectives. At the end of all our courses – in the office and online -the students submit some material from their novels-in-progress plus a one-page synopsis to be read informally by the full teams of agents at Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh.

Will each student work with one main tutor or several? 
Each course has one main tutor, who is a novelist with a strong published track record and good teaching experience. I’m also personally involved in teaching the London-based courses (and we have the guest tutors as mentioned above). I’m often also involved in delivering elements of the online course (varies from course to course as indicated in our website copy). 

How does the group communicate?
In the case of the London-based courses, the students meet on a weekly or twice-weekly basis (and often continue to do so once the courses end). For the online courses, the students communicate with each other and their tutor on a secure online educational platform with a discussion area. The online tutors provide lots of feedback to the students in that space, and also in one-to-one tutorials which can be on Skype or telephone (depending on the student’s choice). The tutors also give teaching sessions (using notes, video and tasks set for the students) on key topics. 

Do students have to begin with a partly finished novel?
We ask all applicants to our courses to send in the opening of a novel - up to 3000 words – and a one –page synopsis (along with their completed application form). We expect that to be the novel that they will be working on during the course and assess the applications on that basis. It doesn’t matter how much of the novel they’ve written already – it could be just a few thousand words or they might even be rewriting an already completed novel. But they need to want to work on that novel with us (we’re not here just to introduce students to agents) and they should be open to the idea of making changes to it. 

What if you disagree with the advice?  
It’s entirely up to the students what advice they decide to take on board, and what they don’t. Many students will realise, from feedback they’re given, that there are issues with a novel in progress, but will find their own solutions. We hope to help students to  figure out their own strengths and weaknesses as writers and learn to play to their strengths. And, as I say, there’s not much point going on a course if you’re not actually keen to learn and to make changes to what you’re writing. 

Is there much competition for places? 
Yes – I’m happy to say that we’re always massively over-subscribed. Long may it last! It’s important that we’re able to be selective in order to bring together groups of writers who can operate at a high level and give each other valuable feedback and support. It makes a huge different to the experience of being on a writing course for our students.  

Where do students go onto once they’ve finished?
Most of our students haven’t actually finished writing their novels at the end of a three or six month course. Some finish rapidly and are then ready to start pitching their work to agents, while others may take years to finish. I’m still hearing now from students in our very early groups just finishing – and I’m as happy to hear from them as from those in the recent classes. Writing a novel takes as long as it takes. 
Clearly we can't offer representation to all our students, but 16 of our alumni already have deals with major commercial publishers, including Jessie Burton, whose debut The Miniaturist was the biggest selling debut of 2014. Kate Hamer's The Girl in the Red Coat was published in February to great success, and James Hannah's The A-Z of You and Me (also February) In July we've also seen the launch of the first published novel to come out of our online novel-writing courses: Bitter Fruits by Alice Clark-Platts; and Nicholas Searle, another online student who was taken on by Curtis Brown CEO Jonny Geller, is published early next year. 

There is lots of information about our online courses - including course details, fee, tutor information etc (and indeed information about our other courses too) on http://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk . 

What an enticing description of a super course! I’m not surprised that it’s oversubscribed. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, Anna.

Lynne Pardoe writes fiction about social work after 30 years in the job which she describes as a really interesting and rewarding post. Nothing like the papers description.  Read all about it at lynnepardoe.com or try ‘Please Adopt Me,’ as a kindle book.

*Don't forget that all writers have the chance to pitch to Curtis Brown and Conville and Walsh on the fourth Friday of each month using the hashtag #PitchCB.

Good luck!

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

Friday, September 11, 2015

Georgina Troy: Jersey Cream

Georgina Troy is lucky enough to live on the beautiful island of Jersey where her books are based. We were delighted to have the opportunity to interview her 

We understand your third book with Accent Press has just been published…congratulations. How did you and your publisher get together in the first place?
It was August 2014 and I’d just turned down a contract with another publisher when I received an email from Accent Press saying that they would be very interested in taking on my Jersey romance series. At that time I’d written and self-published the first two books, which have now both been edited and republished by Accent Press. They also signed me for a further two books. A Jersey Dreamboat (The Jersey Scene book 3) was published by them earlier this month. The fourth book in the series, A Jersey Bombshell has been written but has yet to be edited. It’s been a wonderful experience working with Accent Press, a publisher I’ve long admired, and I’ve learnt a lot.

Your books are based on the beautiful island where you live but, apart from the setting, what else gives you inspiration?
Things that have happened in my life and that of my family and friends have inspired a few of the stories. For example, a close friend and I went to a joint birthday party and met the two brothers of one of the hosts; they invited us to go on a cruise in the South of France. The brothers turned out to be Counts and we spent the first few days of our trip staying in their family chateau. That holiday became the inspiration behind A Jersey Dreamboat.

If your home was burning down what would be the one object you would strive to save – and why?
Apart from the obvious family and pets, it would have to be the portrait of my grandmother painted in 1967 by Vasco Lazzolo. He was a friend of Stephen Ward and despite threats agreed to give evidence on his behalf in court during the Profumo Affair.

Tell us about your writing regime. Are you a full-time author or do you have to fit your writing around a ‘day job’?
I work 27.5 hours a week. I did work full-time until January, but my boss very kindly let me reduce my hours to give me more time to write the two books I’d been contracted to submit. I usually get home at around 3pm, take a bit of a break and then get on with writing whatever it was I’d intended to do that day. I like to write at least 1,000 words each day, but usually write between 1,500 and 2,000 words when I’m writing a first draft.

Do you have a writing ‘space’ or can you write anywhere?
I can write anywhere. At the moment it’s at the dining room table. In the summer, I tend to write in the garden, or maybe in a local park in St Brelade’s Bay.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
To visit India where my grandmother was born and lived for the first few years of her life.
Thank you very much for interviewing me for the RNA Blog.

Georgina Troy lives on the island of Jersey and can see the lights in France at night from her bedroom window. This isn't surprising as Jersey is only fifteen miles off the French coast. She lives near the sea, then again most people live fairly close to the sea in an island only nine by five miles in size. She's an impossible romantic and likes nothing more than creating gorgeous heroes. Her books are published by Accent Press.


Thank you, Georgina, for joining us today from the sunshine island of Jersey.

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 elaineeverest@aol.com