Romancing The Romance Authors with… Frances Mensah Williams

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Delighted to welcome my latest guest to the blog to chat about writing romance and who is the perfect hero. This week’s guest is author… Frances Mensah Williams.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

My books fall into the category of contemporary women’s commercial fiction and to date, I have three published novels and two novellas. I’m incredibly excited to share that my next book will be published in Summer 2022!. My novels are influenced by my African ancestry and the settings include both London and modern-day Ghana. 

Why romance?

Why not romance? I mean, who doesn’t love a happy ending? I think romantic fiction is an incredibly optimistic and positive genre of writing and one which suits my world view. I also find that romantic relationships are a fantastic and relatable vehicle for showing how women encounter challenges, face their personal demons, and grow as people. Typically with my heroines – both the main and often the secondary characters in the story – their romantic relationships become the tests that help them discover who they are, what they’re made of, and what – or who – they really want in life.

What inspires your stories?

Like so many writers, my ideas can appear quite randomly! The idea for one of my novellas came as I was coming out of the supermarket into the car park and saw a woman driving in, circling the parking bays, and then almost immediately driving out! I have had some brilliant plot ideas while I’m taking a walk or in the shower (which can be awkward when you’re desperate to write down the idea before you forget!). I’m also inspired by song lyrics or a bit of shameless eavesdropping. 

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I have to say that for me romance comes in many flavours. For example, I love the African American author Terry McMillan for her insightful relationship-driven novels, Jilly Cooper and Penny Vincenzi for their huge casts and sweeping sagas, Lesley Lokko for her vivid international settings, Dorothy Koomson for her romance tinted thrillers, and Marian Keyes for her funny, family-driven love stories. Then there’s Jane Green, Jill Mansell, Milly Cooper… I could go on.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

That’s a tough question but I would probably recommend Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan. Set in America, it follows the love lives of four single girlfriends and shines a painfully humorous spotlight on the challenges of having to kiss a lot of frogs before finding your prince. I also love that all four women at the centre of the story are women of colour. 

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When the men in their lives prove less than reliable, Savannah, Bernadine, Gloria, and Robin find new strength through a rare and enlightening friendship as they struggle to regain stability and an identity they don’t have to share with anyone. Because for the first time in a long time, their dreams are finally OFF hold….

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Does the Duke of Hastings from the Bridgerton novels, as depicted on Netflix, count? Well, if I could transport him into the present day, visions of a dinner for two as the sun sets over a deserted beach come to mind…

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

What I love about the RNA is that it is first and foremost a community. As a writer of romantic fiction, you can feel a bit like the neglected stepchild in the hierarchy of publishing. Writing romantic fiction as a black woman can make you feel like the invisible neglected stepchild! But, in joining the RNA, I found a community that immediately felt welcoming and inclusive. I’m a member of a couple of the RNA groups and continue to learn so much from the other members who are incredibly generous with their advice and support. If you want to know more about independent publishing or tackling challenges with your plot, characterization – or any aspect of your craft as a writer – the RNA network is invaluable.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

It’s probably a good idea to make sure you know the plot rules of the romance game and remember that while your hero/heroine will – and should – struggle, your goal as a writer is to help them reach their happy place. In doing so, be mindful to focus as much on your protagonist’s internal journey as on their external struggles. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

It’s called Imperfect Arrangements and was published in March 2020. It’s the story of three couples who struggle with their less than perfect romantic arrangements. Best friends Lyla, Maku and Theresa have a rock-solid friendship – it’s the other relationships in their lives that are causing them heartache. When ambitious Theresa moves with her husband to Accra, the cosmopolitan capital of Ghana, not only does it show up the cracks in her seemingly perfect relationship, but it also forces her friends look more closely at their lives and choices. Set in contemporary Ghana, it’s a story full of twists and turns, drama and humour. The novel also shows the perspectives of the men in the relationships, which was an interesting challenge! If you enjoy female-centred dramas, I hope you’ll give this a try. 

You can buy a copy of Imperfect Arrangements here.

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There are two sides to every story…

In the sun-soaked capital of Ghana, best friends Theresa, Maku and Lyla struggle with the arrangements that define their relationships. Ambitious, single-minded Theresa has gambled everything to move with her loving husband Tyler from London to cosmopolitan Accra. Feisty Maku is desperate for professional recognition – and her dream white wedding.  Churchgoing Lyla married Kwesi in haste, but while she battles her growing attraction to the mysterious Reuben, her husband has bitten off more than he can chew with his latest mistress.

Facing lies, betrayal, and shattered illusions, each couple must confront the truth of who they have become and the arrangements they have enabled. Against the backdrop of a shifting culture, each woman must decide what – and who – she is willing to sacrifice for the perfect marriage.

About the Author

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Frances is a British-Ghanaian author. Her debut novel, the romantic comedy From Pasta to Pigfoot which follows hapless PA Faye Bonsu in her search for love and identity, went straight to no. 23 of WH Smith Travel’s Top 100 Summer Reads.  It was followed by From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings. Frances is also the author of the novel Imperfect Arrangements and a novella series (Marula Heights Romances) which includes Sweet Mercy and River Wild. An entrepreneur, consultant and executive coach, Frances has led numerous international skills and business development projects, receiving a CBE from HM Queen Elizabeth II in the 2020 New Year Honours List for her services. Frances’s non-fiction books are Everyday Heroes: Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals and I Want to Work in Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent. 

Connect with Frances:

Website: www.francesmensahwilliams.com

Facebook: Frances Mensah Williams

Twitter: @FrancesMensahW

Instagram: @francesmensahw

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