Monday, January 30, 2017

Festivals & Workshops: The Purbeck Literary Festival

This month Elaine Roberts takes us to the beautiful county of Dorset where she interviews Emma Fernandez about the Purbeck Literary Festival.

Welcome, Emma. Can you tell us something about your festival, how it came about and how long its been running?
It came about as I was working locally promoting the area, there seemed to be so many inter-woven
stories not celebrated like TE Lawrence, so much more than Hardy. As part of the role I had a year long Enid Blyton campaign celebrating seventy years of the Famous Five, which was hugely successful and it went from there.  2017 will be our fourth year.

Who are your main speakers this year? 
We have a lovely list around our theme of 'Wild' from Nick Hunt Travel writer, to Andrew Lownie biographer, and the Fabulous Rowan Coleman

As our blog is for writers can you tell me how your festival would benefit our members? 
Andrew Lownie
It's a chance to discover an amazing part of the UK, some of the best Coast and Countryside, and be inspired by it's legacy.

Is there anything to enter (maybe a writing competition), if so could details be provided? 
There is a short story competition with details on the website

How about staying over for the whole event. Where can people stay?
There are a fantastic range small B&B's that are very family friendly. The author and festival team member, Lyn Fegan, owns the Limes Hotel. And The Grand Hotel is Victorian and has wonderful views, and several events taking place there.

What does it cost to attend?
From £3 for a library talk to about £18 for our highlight tea

Do workshops and talks fill up quickly? 
There is usually room, although libraries can be very popular. Key authors running workshops can
Rowan Coleman
sell out.

How much time does it take to organise the festival? 
Goodness a year!

What are the dates for this year and possibly next:
16-25th February

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

Thank you, Elaine and also Emma for answering the questions.

Would you like to write for the RNA blog? Please contact us on

Friday, January 27, 2017

Emily Kerr: My route to publication

It is always a delight to feature new authors and today is no exception as we introduce Emily Kerr to the RNA blog.

My name is Emily Kerr and my debut romantic comedy ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’ is published by

Crooked Cat Books. I live and work in Yorkshire, and my day job is as a journalist for regional TV. So I basically spend work hours writing factual news scripts and then squeeze in the fiction writing during any spare time I can find!

I’ve always wanted to be an author, and some of my earliest memories are of sitting in the back of the car on the way to primary school asking my mum to spell out words for the stories I was writing. Ever since then, I’ve tended to have several writing projects on the go at once. I also confess to having a terrible habit of writing thousands of words of one book, then moving onto a shiny new story and not finishing it.

I wanted something to help me find my focus, and so a couple of years ago, I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. The NWS encouraged me to concentrate my efforts on one particular story, which became my debut romantic comedy ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’

The book is set in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, and is all about Lady Aurelia Osbourne-Lloyd whose stately pile is actually more of a pile in a state.  She’s trying (and failing) to turn the family fortunes around by welcoming tourists to the house. When a Hollywood production company chooses the estate as a location for a Regency movie, a whole new level of chaos enters Aurelia’s life, especially as it seems the leading man may have an ulterior motive for wanting to get close to her.

I’m a big fan of the movies and find what goes on behind the scenes really interesting. I’m lucky enough that the newsroom where I work shares its home with the studios of a popular TV soap. This means that I keep on getting tantalising glimpses of the crazy world of television drama production. It also means that sometimes I’ll pop to the canteen and there’ll be six “police officers” and three “hospital patients” queuing for coffee because they’re filming some kind of disaster scene! The world of make-believe looks fun, but it also seems pretty full-on and definitely rather hectic at times. I started wondering what it must be like to have a film unit appear at your home and take over, and ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’ evolved from there.

The August deadline of the New Writers’ Scheme definitely appealed to my journalist side and gave me something to aim for. The advice and support from my reader was invaluable. I tightened up the manuscript, plucked up my courage and started entering writing competitions. I was absolutely thrilled when ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’ was named runner up in the Festival of Romance New Talent Award, and was shortlisted in Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition. Those successes spurred me on and I started submitting my book to publishers.  Putting your work out there is quite a daunting and scary process, so it was really great to feel I had the support of RNA friends met through ROMNA, the RNA conference and the York tea party. When I finally got The Call offering a publishing contract, I was so thrilled I did a little dance, much to my colleagues’ amusement!

My road to publication has so far been a really exciting journey. I’m already at work on book number two, and I can’t wait for the next stage of my life as an author.

About ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’
Lady Aurelia Osbourne-Lloyd has long wished her bank balance was as big as her name. But her home, Leydale Park, is more of a pile in a state than stately pile, and with her father off ‘finding himself’ in Thailand, it’s up to her to turn the family fortunes around by entertaining demanding tourists.
When – thanks to her father’s interference – a Hollywood production company chooses the estate as a location for a Regency movie, a whole new level of chaos enters Aurelia’s life. Her quiet days shattered and privacy non-existent, she has no choice but to go with the flow and let them take over.
Never mind the added distraction of dishy leading man, Xander Lord, who may have an ulterior motive for wanting to get close to her…
Can Aurelia keep her cool in light of all the upheaval?

About Emily:
Emily Kerr has been scribbling stories on bits of paper all over the place since she learnt how to write. She earns her living as a journalist and loves the interesting variety of people she gets to talk to on a daily basis.
She can generally be found with her nose in a book, or hunched up over her laptop typing away, though she has been known to venture outside every so often to take part in various running-based activities. She is also learning Greek for the day when she finally does a Shirley Valentine and swaps her home in Yorkshire for sunnier climes.
Her debut romantic comedy ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’ was named runner up in the Festival of Romance New Talent Award.

Twitter: @EmilyKerrWrites

Thank you, Emily, and good luck with your book.

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Chatting with Publishers: Oliver Rhodes

I’m delighted to welcome Oliver Rhodes in this year’s first post in our Chatting with Publishers series. Oliver is the founder and managing director of Bookouture and winner of our very own Publisher of the Year Award for 2016.

Starting one’s own company is a huge venture. May I ask about your personal journey in publishing and what decided you to establish Bookouture?
Prior to starting Bookouture I was the head of marketing at Harlequin UK.  I’d worked in publishing for more than ten years and I was incredibly excited about the opportunities for digital publishing. 

I had a vision of an author-centric digital publisher with a strong marketing focus and realised that could be achieved just as effectively by a start-up as by a larger organisation.  It felt like a ‘now or never’ moment and I decided to take the chance.

How long was it in the planning stage before the company became established?
It was something that I’d been planning for around a year before Bookouture officially started.

How do you think the industry reacted to a new publishing company?
I’d say the initial reaction was very positive – we had a very high standard of submissions from authors.  I was always aware though that it was important for us to build on that initial interest and to establish a reputation for successful publishing.  That doesn’t happen overnight, but with everything that we’ve achieved in the last four years – and over 8 million sales – I think we’re getting there.

The award must surely be affirmation of your success. How did you feel when you learned you’d won?
Absolutely.  It was a wonderful surprise, and it was particularly heartening to hear so many positive comments from authors in the room.  My aim for Bookouture was for us to be a very author-focused publisher, so it was really encouraging to hear that we’re heading in the right direction.

What are you looking for at present and what do you think is next for Bookouture?
We’re looking for authors who create page-turning stories that will keep readers coming back for more – whether that’s romance, women’s fiction, thrillers or historical novels – or indeed any other fiction genre.

In terms of what is next for Bookouture, we’re in the process of adding to our publishing team, which is very exciting for us.  Jenny Geras has just joined us from Arrow, as Publishing Director, and we’re expecting to add several new faces over the coming year.

Expanding the team will allow us to increase the number of titles that we publish, so we’re also actively looking for new authors right now.

You cover many genres. Do you have a personal favourite?
I’ve always enjoyed working on a broad range of genres – I think having variety across the list is very important – I wouldn’t say I have a particular favourite.

You’ve built quite a team. Should submissions be made to individuals or initially to the company?
We ask authors to send submissions through our website at:

We have a new system which makes it easy for us to share submissions internally and make sure they find the best home.  We’ve also improved our turnaround time, so all submissions should receive a response within four weeks.

What one particular piece of advice would you give to anyone submitting a manuscript?
Really just to focus on the quality of the story – that’s what we’ll be judging submissions on.  I always say that there needs to be a clear reason there that people will want to read the next book from the author. 

Thank you for joining us today, Oliver. It’s easy to see why you received the award for you ‘vision, drive and passion’. It’s infectious.

Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in one of her current projects. She is accumulating a nice collection of Regency works to help with her research. She is also working on a new contemporary novel.  You can follow her blog at

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

Vivien Hampshire: A successful route to publication

It is such a pleasure to invite Vivien Hampshire to the RNA blog. Viv is known to many of us due to the years she’s spent as a successful published writer. Viv, tells us about her journey to becoming an author and how she wrote for her living along the way.

Thank you for inviting me onto the blog today.

Although ‘How to Win Back Your Husband’, published by Harlequin HQ on 18 January, is my first
commercially published novel, I have actually been writing for a very long time. I won the annual ‘Best Opening to a Novel’ competition run by the Mail on Sunday way back in 1994 and then came second two years later. Both of those were just short 150-word pieces written to draw readers in and make them want to read on. Having beaten around 5000 other entrants to make it to the winners list, I had clearly got that bit right, but sadly the full length novels that grew out of them never made it to publication.

With young children at home and limited time to myself, I turned my hand to short stories. They were quicker to write and far more likely to bring some more immediate financial reward. I sold my first – an emotional family story based at Christmas - to Woman’s Weekly in 1997, and have continued to write and sell stories to all the usual UK women’s magazines on a pretty regular basis ever since. I have stories in issues of both Woman’s Weekly and The People’s Friend Special this month, and usually manage to get one into the People’s Friend Annual every year too!

As my confidence as a writer grew, I also ventured into poetry and non-fiction. Several funny poems for young children found their way into school anthologies published by Macmillan, and I won a few minor poetry competition prizes, including an all-inclusive weekend hotel break, only spoilt by the fact that they misspelled my name and had me living in the wrong home town in hundreds of printed copies of the love poetry booklet they gave away free to all their hotel and wedding guests! 

By day, I was working with young children in libraries and children’s centres. So I started pitching article ideas to nursery and childcare magazines, got myself regular commissions, joined the editorial board of one of them, and have now had over 250 articles and children’s book reviews published in that field. I also drew on my hobby of tackling cryptic crosswords and wrote my first book, ‘How To Crack Cryptic Crosswords’ (How To Books), and started a small business compiling my own personalised crosswords as gifts, with all clues individually tailored to the recipient. 

Joining a creative writing evening class and then a local writers’ group early in my career was probably the best move I ever made. I came across like-minded people, learnt a lot about technique, found out about markets, and began to share my work and receive criticism. Within a few years, I ended up both teaching the evening classes and running the local group! Writers’ holidays at Caerleon followed (I went eleven times!) bringing me into contact with some lovely writers who have remained good friends, and I joined the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, where I now serve on Council and administer the Society’s competition programme.

With the children grown up and gone, I made the decision at the end of 2013 to quit my job and write full-time. I had self-published an e-book novel which had some very good reviews, but I lacked the marketing expertise to make it a sales success, and the urge to get a novel accepted and published by a ‘real’ publisher had started to rear its head. I had a feeling it was now or never… so that’s when I turned to the experts, the RNA. 

I spent four years in the New Writers Scheme and, despite briefly having an agent who didn’t manage to get me a deal, two of the novels I submitted to the NWS have now found publishing contracts. The first, ‘How to Win Back Your Husband’, is out now as an e-book, with the second to be published by Harper Impulse under my married name of Vivien Brown in the summer, and another contracted for 2018. The original contacts with both my editors were made as a result of short but very successful one-to-one meetings at last year’s conference in Lancaster. No agent. Just me chatting to the right people, and showing them the right manuscript at the right time. What a result!

Vivien Hampshire xx


Thank you, Vivien, and good luck with your very busy 2017.

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

Friday, January 20, 2017


Welcome to our latest blog series, Book Bloggers & Reviewers. Author, Ellie Holmes will be chatting each month to the wonderful industry bloggers who love to read books and do so much to promote our work. Welcome also to Rosie Amber the first in the series. Over to you Ellie.

I am delighted to welcome Rosie Amber to the RNA Blog. Nearly five years ago, Rosie decided to
use her love of reading to help promote authors and their books through her blog.  She is now in the top 1% of Goodreads reviewers and has been a runner up in Sacha Blacks’ Bloggers Bash awards for the last two years. Rosie says one of the best things about her blog is that it has allowed her to meet some lovely people.
Inspired by “A Year of Doing Good” by Judith O’Reilly. Rosie decided to undertake her own challenge of doing one good deed a day for a year. She enjoyed the challenge so much she decided to carry on and wrote about it on her blog. You can check it out by following the link at the bottom of this article.

Welcome Rosie. What made you start to review/blog?
I began blogging nearly five years ago, both my children had reached their teens and it was a way of legitimately entering the huge social media scene to keep up with them and more importantly an eye out without stalking them. I’ve always loved reading so writing reviews for the books I read was an easy step.

How has your blog developed over time?
Rosie Amber
At first my reviews were only one or two sentences. Clearly this wasn’t enough, I studied other book bloggers and soon took a pencil and paper with me when I read and made notes as the book progressed. I was rather shocked when I was first approached to review a book from a “real“person.
My first review copies were read on my computer screen, I didn’t even own a kindle. Next came the kindle, I found out how to upload mobi files. I made a point of learning my craft from the bottom up, researching and teaching myself. I had a friend show me the basics of Facebook and Twitter, I’d have a lesson from her and then she’d send me off to experiment. My first blog was on Tumbler but the platform didn’t work for me and I made the switch to Wordpress.
To develop the blog I offered a book review and then an author promotional piece on the next day. I ran my own themed book tours – “Romancing September” was popular, I co-hosted with a blogger in the States giving a double opportunity for promotion each day of the tour. I also took part in the April A-Z challenge, it opened my blog to lots of bloggers from different walks of life.
Soon I had too many books to review of genres I wasn’t always keen on, I created a book reviewing challenge to reach out to get more people writing reviews and I made lots of new friends. On the back of that I created a book review team. We can now offer the possibility of multiple reviews of an author’s book all from one place.

What are your review guidelines?
I read books across a range of genres, both fiction and non-fiction.
I enjoy romance, paranormal, humour, murder mystery, mild thrillers, spiritual, a bit of fantasy, reading about other cultures and places all over the world and YA/NA books.
I don’t read blatant erotica, political or strong religious themed books, nor do I enjoy a book with a lot of violence. I’m afraid poetry isn’t my thing and I can only take a little sci-fi, please no short stories.
I prefer to accept books in paperback, I love their feel, but I’m also happy to work with Mobi files which I download to my Kindle.
Before I accept a book a few lines about it should be sent along with your details, plus a link to where I can find the book. The final decision to review the book, is mine. Upon acceptance I will provide a mailing/e-mail address.

Book review team guidelines:
The book review team gives you access to a wide range of reviews. I have reviewers from around the world who read and review books, posting reviews on several platforms.
Authors should decide how many copies of their book they could donate for a review. Accepted formats are e-formats;  Mobi , e-pub, vouchers for Smashwords or Amazon, Gifted books from Amazon. I then post the book details on my team book list. They will request a book and I will then get you to send them the book direct in their chosen format.
Reviewers have been asked to post a review on a minimum of 2 sites such as their blog, Amazon or Goodreads, etc. Plus they are asked to send me a copy of the review which I will post on this blog.
If a reviewer has taken the time to read and review a book I shall post a copy of the review on my blog. We write as we see a book in our own personal reading experience. If you put a book out in the public domain, expecting only positive 5* reviews from all readers it is unrealistic, the top authors all get a range of star ratings.
Full details here

What do you expect from a writer when they appear on your blog?
The best type of author is one who supports my blog, I do this as a hobby and don’t earn anything from it, an author has the potential to earn money, so repaying mine and my team’s time in kindness is important, social media shares are my “bread and butter”. So this means following the blog posts and sharing them on their own social media, not necessarily every day but as a regular supporter would be lovely.

How important is social media to you and your blogging team?
Social media is huge for us. If we are posting a review of a book we’ll never post under a 3*. An author can get a lot of publicity if they act on the day, posts go out on my blog, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. As a group the review team are very supportive and most share these on their own social media. One of our favourite hangouts is Twitter and if authors pick up and share all the tweets they’ll get about their book then the message really gets out there. On Tuesdays we use #TuesdayBookBlog for book related blog post tweets and we get it trending nearly every week. Anyone can use it, here are our guidelines.

What are your interests when not blogging?
I live in Hampshire and I’m a farm secretary, I run bookwork and accounts for three farmers. I’m also keen to keep fit and try to walk most days for at least an hour, often longer.

Do you ever read a book purely for enjoyment and not with an intention to review?
I try, but most times, I’ll end up reviewing it too. One of my favourite authors is Louise L Hay, she writes non-fiction self-help books. I’m very interested in alternative health, past lives and the spirit world.

We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next 'big thing' - what do you hope to see in 2017?
A million dollar question! I work with a lot of indies and self-published authors, rather than a next “big thing” guess I’d like to see Amazon iron out the removal of precious real reviews for good small time authors.
Thank you so much for inviting me today.


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


Thank you, Rosie and Ellie, for such an interesting blog.

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