The 2022 Romantic Novel Award Winners’ Interviews with…. Rosie Hendry

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I’m back from my Easter holidays and back into the blogging life and, to kick off spring on the blog, I’m delighted to welcome 2022 RONA award-winning author, Rosie Hendry, on to talk about her writing and her book, The Mother’s Day Club, which won this year’s Romantic Saga Award.

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Rosie, huge congratulations on your win. How surprised were you to hear your name read out as the winner of the award on the night? Has it sunk in yet?

I was absolutely stunned! To be short-listed was thrilling but I never thought I would win. It all happened quickly after my name was read out and I had to go up to receive the award. I’m so grateful I took my friend Jenni’s advice to write something down to help me in case it should happen, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to string a coherent sentence together to thank people. 

It took a while to sink in, but now when I look at the award, which I can see from where I work, it makes me smile and fills me with joy. It’s especially precious as I struggled with writing The Mother’s Day Club and nearly gave up on it.

What does it mean to you to have won this award? What effect do you think it will have on your future career? What reaction have you had to your win so far?

It means a huge amount as it was chosen by readers. There were many excellent sagas in the category so be chosen as winner is a huge accolade – thank you so much to all the readers. It’s a massive boost to my confidence in my writing and I hope will encourage more readers to try The Mother’s Day Club for themselves. 

The support from fellow writers and readers has been amazing. My dear friends from the Norfolk & Suffolk RNA chapter, those who were there on the night, and others who were sending their congratulation messages virtually was brilliant. It felt like a win for us all as we are a close group who support each other’s ups and downs with our writing life. 

What inspired this particular story and what do you think it is about the story which made it stand out to the judges?

I was doing research at the Imperial War Museum for another book and stumbled across a first- hand account of an expectant mother being evacuated on the day war was declared. She was walking to Liverpool Street Station with other expectant mothers when news came that war had been declared, and shortly after the first air-raid sirens went. The image was so powerful I knew I wanted to use it one day. I’d had no idea that expectant mothers were evacuated as the history we see focuses on the children, so I wanted to tell the mothers’ story. From the reaction I’ve had from readers, they didn’t know about this part of our history either and have been interested to learn more. 

The book is also set on my home turf in Norfolk, in a house partly inspired by the one I grew up in a village. There’s a good dose of my family history and my experience of growing up on a small holding in there too. I think all of this has combined into a story which readers have enjoyed.

How important is research to your writing process? How long does it normally take you to complete and do you do it prior to starting the book or as the story progresses?

Research is key – the characters and setting are mainly fictional but based on real events and places. It’s very important for me to get my facts rights, both to honour those living then and to portray an accurate story of those times. I owe it to readers who invest time in reading the book to get my facts right. 

I usually spend about three weeks researching to build up my knowledge of what I need but will also do a bit as I go along. I’m a planner so getting most of the research done first helps me get the story worked out. With writing historical I must make sure my timelines work with both international, national and local wartime events – I have charts to keep track of things!

Your books are extremely popular. What do you think it is that draws people to sagas?

Fascination with times gone past, learning about social history and seeing how women dealt with what was thrown at them. One of the reasons I like writing WWII fiction is that women were required to do jobs they never would have been allowed to do before. Pushed out of their comfort zone they did brilliantly. It makes for great change and conflict, and perfect storytelling material.

What do you think readers in the modern day learn from reading about the struggles of the women you write about in your books?

That women had it tough and yet they coped in the most extraordinary of circumstances. There was also a great sense of camaraderie and community which is sometimes lacking now. 

What do you have coming up next in your writing? Will you be exploring more stories involving these characters?

The Mother’s Day Victory, which carries on from The Mother’s Day Club came out on March 3rd and has been received well by readers. I’ve started a follow-on series with the same characters and setting called the Rookery House series, the first one of which – A Wartime Welcome at Rookery House – is out on the 7th June. There will be more books to come in this new series, keeping up with the characters as the war progresses and more changes come to the village.

Rosie, thank you so much for chatting to me today, it’s been fascinating to hear from you. Good luck with the new books.

Rosie’s RONA award-winning novel, The Mother’s Day Club, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Rosie Hendry, Romantic Saga, Romantic Novel Awards 2022, The Mothers Day Club BOOK COVER

Will friendship and motherhood keep the Women on the Home Front safe from war?

Norfolk, 1939

When the residents of Great Plumstead, a small and charming community in Norfolk, offer to open their homes to evacuees from London, they’re expecting to care for children. So when a train carrying expectant mothers pulls into the station, the town must come together to accommodate their unexpected new arrivals . . .

Sisters Prue and Thea welcome the mothers with open arms, while others fear their peaceful community will be disrupted. But all pregnant Marianne seeks is a fresh start for herself and her unborn child. Though she knows that is only possible as long as her new neighbours don’t discover the truth about her situation.

The women of Great Plumstead, old and new, are fighting their own battles on the home front. Can the community come together in a time of need to do their bit for the war effort?

Rosie Hendry lives by the sea in North Norfolk with her husband and children. A former teacher and research scientist, she started off writing short stories for magazines, her stories gradually becoming longer as her children grew bigger. She writes uplifting, heart-warming historical fiction based on true events from our social history. Listening to her father’s tales of life during the Second World War sparked her interest in this period and she loves researching further, seeking out gems of real-life stories which inspire her writing.

Connect with Rosie:

Website: http://rosiehendry.com

Facebook: Rosie Hendry

Twitter: @hendry_rosie

Instagram: @rosiehendryauthor

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The 2022 Romantic Novel Award Winners’ Interviews with…. Sheila Norton

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Today I am delighted to be chatting to one of this year’s RONA Award Winners about her win and her writing. Winner of the Christmas / Festive Holiday Romantic Novel Award for her book, Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage. It’s author… Sheila Norton.

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Sheila, congratulations on your win and thank you very much for agreeing to appear on my blog. The Christmas/Festive Holiday Romantic Novel Award was a new category for the awards in 2022. How does it feel to be the winner of the inaugural award?

To be honest, it still feels slightly unreal! I had noticed, during last year, that there was a new award category, and wondered whether my book would be a fit. It’s set in the winter but not specifically at Christmas (although Christmas does happen during the story), so I thought probably not, and anyway I wouldn’t have had the nerve to suggest that my book could be a contender! So it was my editor who entered it, and I didn’t find this out until I got the email saying it had been shortlisted. I was so thrilled about being shortlisted, I honestly hadn’t allowed myself to think any further. So when my name was called out as the category winner, I was stunned! It’s such a massive honour. I keep looking at the award and smiling to myself! The fact that the winners are chosen by volunteer readers makes it all the more special, as it’s readers, of course, that we all want to please with our stories.

How long after you started writing did it take you to get published? Have you had any formal training in creative writing and do you think this is helpful for an author on the path to publication? Do you have any tips for those of us still toiling up the publication hill?

I was writing little stories for my friends almost as soon as I was old enough to write, and I had poems published in the school magazine when I was a bit older. So it was always ‘my thing’ – I was lucky enough that it came naturally to me, and no, I never had any training or lessons in creative writing. I’m sure they would be helpful for people who want to start from scratch as adults, but when I was younger, there was nothing of the kind on offer anyway! In my case, I always wanted to be an author but didn’t know how to go about getting published, so I would have found that kind of advice useful, if only there had been anywhere to get it!  As it happens, I went down the route of writing short stories before ever attempting a novel, and I do think this was a good ‘apprenticeship’. For over a decade, I was quite successful with my short stories and that gave me more confidence. After finally writing my first novel when I was in my early fifties, it took me eighteen months of submitting to agents and publishers before it was accepted. So I’d advise anyone to be patient, don’t expect overnight success! – and definitely don’t give up. And – this might sound obvious – only write if it’s what you love doing more than anything else. It’s very rarely the route to fame or riches, but if you love it, do it for its own sake, and keep the day job until you’re sure you don’t need it!

You have had a career spanning an amazing twenty years so far and this is your twenty-fourth novel, with hopefully many more to come. What is the secret to keeping a successful writing career going for so long? How do you keep your ideas and your writing fresh?

First of all, it’s important to say that success isn’t always ongoing! I’ve had some serious ups and downs in my career, disappointments as well as successes. Getting a publishing contract doesn’t mean you’re set for life, and having learnt this lesson, I now resolve to just enjoy the highs while they last! I think being adaptable is very important. For instance, I took up self-publishing when I was ‘between publishers’, and enjoyed the experience. Then I got the offer of a new publication deal, by writing something completely different from before, so I grabbed the chance. Over the years I’ve written in a few different sub-genres, so that in itself has stopped me getting stale. And it’s true, it’s not always easy to come up with fresh ideas. I often use the ‘what if . . .?’ way of thinking; imagine a couple of characters, what their relationship is, and then think: ‘What if this, or that, happened to them?’ It’s a starting point, anyway.

I know that the publication schedule often requires authors to be writing Christmas books in the height of summer. Was this the case with this book? What do to channel the festive spirit into your writing?

Strangely enough I didn’t set out to write a Winter/Christmas story in this case, but once I got started on it, I decided a winter background would work well with the scenario of the old house sitting bleakly on the edge of the cliff. And I actually finished writing this book quite a long time before it was published, because I knew that, once again, my agent and I needed to find a new publisher for it. This was because my previous publisher wasn’t going to be producing fiction anymore (yes, another setback!). Also, I then had lots of extra writing time, due to the lockdowns. So I’m not even sure, now, whether I was writing it during winter, spring or summer! Probably all of them! But yes, of course, we do have to try not to be influenced by the weather outside . . . or by anything else going on outside our stories, really! I think, while I’m writing, I’m so caught up in the story and the lives of my characters that I forget about the real world – which is sometimes a blessing!

You have said that this has been your favourite book to write so far. What is it about this book that you enjoyed creating so much? What inspired this particular story?

I loved creating the characters in this story; I always enjoy my characters, of course, but in this case, Stella – the older woman – seemed to take on a persona of her own. I wanted her to be a spiky, independent lady who’d led a really interesting life, overcome lots of difficulties and was determined not to complain or ask for help. The younger character, Holly, is a hard-working single mum who has her own problems and I loved describing how they became friends. I also put a little bit of World War 2 history in this story; I don’t write historical fiction and it’s only a few of Stella’s memories from her wartime childhood, but it was something different for me and added to the challenge. And there were poignant moments in the story; I love making my readers shed a tear as well as having a smile!

Aside from the fact that they have given you this lovely award, what other benefits have you gleaned from your membership of the RNA and what is your favourite thing about being a member?

I joined the RNA in 2003 when my first book was published. My editor told me about it; I hadn’t heard of it before then, so I didn’t have the benefit of joining their New Writers’ Scheme but would strongly recommend it for any new romantic fiction writers. But I’ve had other benefits: for instance, I’ve made some lovely author friends. My favourite thing about being a member is definitely my local ‘chapter’. We meet up once a month for lunch and a good chat (it was on Zoom during the pandemic of course), and the exchange of views, news, advice and support among us has been wonderful. I’ve also benefited from advice and encouragement from other RNA authors all over the country on social media, and met up with some of them at various events over the years. Everyone who takes on voluntary ‘jobs’ with the RNA gives up their time and help for us all, and I have so much gratitude and respect for them, from the Chair to those who help with the events, the magazine, the website, helping to secure PR opportunities like this for us! – and so much more. So thank you, RNA – I’m so glad I found you!

What can we expect from you next in your writing?

Like all my recent novels, the next one will be set in a fictitious location in Devon, and this time the central characters will be two neighbours, both of whom are at turning points in their lives and trying to come to terms with their new circumstances. This book – I won’t mention the title, as they are so often changed at this point! – is due for release later in the year, but I don’t yet have a definite publication date as it’s currently going through the editing process. While this is happening, I’m already working on the next novel to follow this one – and that will be a story about two sisters. We always need to be a couple of steps ahead! Beyond that . . . well, I intend to keep writing as long as I’m physically and mentally capable. So I hope to keep coming up with more ideas for heartwarming, character-led stories. 

Meanwhile, thanks so much for this interview and congratulations on your great blog!

That’s very kind of you to say, but it would be nothing without you great authors and your books, which give me so much to write about, so thank you!

Sheila’s winning novel Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage is available now in all formats and you can buy your copy here.

Winter at Cliff's End Cottage

Cliff’s End Cottage is a local landmark. Perched on the South Devon coast, its garden has begun slowly toppling into the sea, yet the elderly and infamously stubborn owner Stella refuses to leave her home. When Holly, a young journalist and single mum struggling to make ends meet, decides to interview Stella about her life, at first she’s given short shrift. However, helped by a slice or two of cake and a couple of friendly cats, a tentative friendship begins to develop between the two lonely women.

Stella and Holly may live different lives, but over the cold winter nights, as Stella shares her story, the two women discover more and more in common. Time is running out for the house on the edge, but perhaps, together, Stella and Holly can find a new way forward.

Sheila Norton lives with her husband near Chelmsford in Essex, and part-time near Torquay in Devon. She spent most of her working life as a medical secretary, before retiring in 2008 to concentrate on her writing. During the years she spent bringing up her three daughters, she took various jobs including teaching the piano and recorder, doing home typing, and working in a playgroup, but always wanted to be an author. She had over 100 short stories published before the acceptance of her first novel, published in 2003. She now has six grandchildren, and also has two cats – the latest in a succession of dogs and cats who have inspired some of her recent stories! When not working on her writing, Sheila most enjoys spending time with her family and friends, as well as reading, walking, playing the piano, and photography, and loves exploring the contrasting countrysides of Essex and Devon.

Connect with Sheila:

Website: www.sheilanorton.com
Facebook: Sheila Norton Author
Twitter: @NortonSheilaann
Instagram: @Sheilaann.norton

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RONA Awards 2022 Interview with… Lynne Shelby

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Today I am thrilled to have a guest on the blog to talk about her recent inclusion on the shortlist for this year’s Romantic Novel Awards. Her book, Love on Locationwas nominated in the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy category. Please welcome, Lynne Shelby.

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Lynne, welcome to the blog and thank you for agreeing to talk to me today. What does being nominated for a RONA mean to you and what do you think is special about this particular book which led to it making the shortlist?

Being nominated for a RONA is one of the highlights of my writing career. To have my book shortlisted was thrilling, and I feel very honoured to be a finalist alongside so many wonderful books and authors. I was particularly pleased to have been nominated for the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy as I was fortunate enough to have attended one of the writing courses that Jane taught at Chez Castillon, and I found her advice on writing invaluable.

As to what is special about Love On Location which led to it making the shortlist – that’s a very interesting but difficult question to answer as I tend to get very fond of my books and find it hard to view them objectively! Readers of the book have told me that they very much enjoyed  reading about what goes into the filming of a movie on location, and the way the screenwriter heroine sees certain scenes in her life as if they were a movie – which leads to some humorous moments in the story!

Did you set out deliberately to write romantic comedies or is that just how your voice appears on the page? Do you write what you like to read or do you pull to the dark side when it comes to your own choice of reading?

 I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing fiction, but it was roughly ten years’ ago that I ‘discovered’ romantic novels, and realised that with a romantic relationship at the core of all my stories, that was what I most wanted to write. From then on, I focused on romantic plots, and my voice as it appears on the page arose naturally out of the situations that my characters found themselves in. 

I do write what I like to read, and romantic fiction is my favourite genre, but I also read novels from other genres such as science fiction, fantasy, psychological thrillers, literary and mainstream. Having always been interested in Greek mythology – like my archaeologist hero in Love On Location – I’ve particularly enjoyed some of the feminist retellings of Greek myths that have been published recently.

How difficult has it been to write humorously during the last few difficult years?

For me, when I’m writing, I’m completely within the world I create for my books, so the outside world’s problems during the last few difficult years haven’t changed the way I write. I also believe that writing or reading fiction, especially romantic fiction, can be uplifting during difficult times.

What inspired this particular story and did you manage to visit the location to research it or did you have to entirely imagine the location?

I was inspired to write Love On Location the first time I visited Athens, Santorini and Kefalonia one summer, and knew that I simply had to write a story set in beautiful Greece. Before I wrote the book I re-visited both Athens and the islands to research the location. In Athens, I re-visited places like the Acropolis that my screenwriter heroine and archaeologist hero visit in the book to make sure I remembered them accurately. While the island of Kyros – where the movie in the book is filmed – is fictional, I ‘borrowed’ much of its landscape from real Greek islands.

What do you believe that you have gained personally from being a member of the RNA and what is your favourite things about the organisation?

When I first joined the RNA, before I was published, I was a member of the New Writers’ Scheme and I will always be grateful for the feedback my readers gave me on the manuscripts I submitted to the scheme, which definitely helped me along the road to publication. I have found RNA members to be very generous with their knowledge and expertise – if anyone has a question about writing or publishing, there’s bound to be someone in the RNA who knows the answer. My favourite thing about the organization is that it has enabled me to connect with other romance writers at RNA events such as the conference and chapter meetings, and have the opportunity to talk about all things books and writing. It’s great to meet other folk who don’t look at you askance if you happen to mention the people in your head!

Do you have any advice for anyone (ie, me!) who is currently trying to write an appealing novel in this genre?

I would pass on the advice that was given to me, which is to write your first draft without editing – just get those words down on the page and you can edit at a later stage. 

What is coming up from you next in your writing? Do you have a new book coming out soon?

My next book, Rome For The Summer, is out on 23 June. In the book, my heroine, Kate, seizes the chance of a summer job in Rome – one of my favourite cities – where she strikes up a friendship with artist Jamie. Exploring Rome, Kate and Jamie start to piece together the surprising secrets of another girl who ran off to Rome two hundred years before…

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Thank you so much for answering my nosey questions so brilliantly, and good luck with the new book.

Lynne’s RONA-shortlisted novel, Love on Location, is available in all formats here.

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When Laurel Martin is hired to rewrite the script for a new timeslip blockbuster, she expects the historical advisor hired by the studio to be an elderly academic who won’t interfere too much with her writing. But when she meets Professor Jason Harding, a young and unexpectedly handsome archaeologist who has some ideas of his own about the script, she realises the job isn’t going to be as simple as she first thought.

As their work takes them from arguing over historical details in a cramped London office to discovering the hidden beauties of a Greek island, Laurel and Jason’s relationship starts to echo the romance of their script.

But with Laurel’s actor ex-boyfriend making trouble at home, and constant issues with the volatile director, will Laurel and Jason ever be able to write the happy ending for their own story?

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary romance/romantic comedy. Her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ now re-launched in ebook as ‘Meet Me In Paris,’ won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city, writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Connect with Lynne:

Website: https://www.lynneshelby.com

Blog:  https://www.lynneshelby.com/blog-1

Facebook: LynneShelbyWriter

Twitter: @LynneShelby5

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter

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RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Helen Fisher

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This is my final RONA celebration drinks post! I’ve had 33 fantastic guests chatting about their nominations and their writing. I have some interviews with some of the winners coming up, and one final guest on this slot. So, last but definitely not least, I have a nominee in the Fantasy Romantic Novel Award category with her novel, Space Hopper. Please welcome… Helen Fisher.

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Gin (Bombay Sapphire) and slimline tonic, lots of ice please. I can drink it all night and still appear fairly sober. If you want to get all my secrets out of me, then you better get me some wine.

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I’m with you on the gin, I think it’s the tonic which staves off the dehydration. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

A cocktail bar called Baskervilles in Bury St. Edmunds. I don’t get on that well with cocktails, but I like the atmosphere there and the cocktails are Sherlock-themed. One of their cocktails arrives in a little briefcase billowing with dry ice, and another comes in a little bottle that’s hidden inside a hollowed-out book.

Baskervilles cocktail

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

For my female guest I’d be torn between Reese Witherspoon and Gillian Anderson both of whom I love as actors and who I think would be great fun. But if I have to choose, I’ll go for Reese because, shamelessly, I’d like to get her to read my book and turn it into a film. I love her book-to-screen adaptations and think she’d do a brilliant job with Space Hopper. For my male guest I’m torn between Robin Williams and Bruce Springsteen, but I think I’d cry too much if I saw Robin Williams, so let’s go with Bruce.

I love Reese, she’s been one of my idols ever since I saw Election. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am currently editing book two of a two-book deal. I say “book two”, but it’s essentially “book five” as I wrote two and a half novels after Space Hopper, which the editors didn’t feel would work as a follow-up to my first novel. It sounds so simple when I say it like that, but as you can imagine I shed a lot of tears and pounded a lot of pillows in the process. The idea for the main character in my new novel (he’s called Joe-Nathan) came from nowhere that I can put my finger on, but before I ever committed anything to paper, he had taken up residence in my head with his habits and his funny way of saying and doing things. Joe is so life-affirming that even during some very dark times he kept me going. I’m enjoying the editing, because it means I get to spend more time with him, and no apologies if that sounds plain weird.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

There are so many proud moments for me that came from writing a novel: just finishing a novel; getting an agent; getting a publisher; buying a kitten (as promised if I ever got published) for my kids; seeing my book in bookstores and in people’s hands; writing “author” when I’m filling in a form that asks my occupation; being shortlisted for the RNA awards; having the novel I’m working on at the moment accepted by my publisher. The list goes on.

As for my biggest challenge, well, I’m not a patient person, and this work requires patience. It takes a long time to write a novel and you spend hours, days, months doing it, never knowing if anyone will read it. Writing the second novel in a two-book deal has been, by far, the biggest challenge yet. By the time I started the novel that ended up being accepted, I had lost my confidence and writing it was torture. I think that if this one hadn’t been accepted, I might have given up completely.

I think, as a still-aspiring author, that is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time! What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I would love to see my novels adapted to the screen. Hence my evening out with Reese.

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

Space Hopper was shortlisted for the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) award, in the category of Fantasy Romance. I don’t think of Space Hopper as a romance, but there is a lot of love in the book and the protagonist has a very nice marriage; I’m delighted to have been shortlisted and very excited to be going to a real-life awards ceremony in London. Also, there is an event this June, which was originally scheduled two years ago, and there will be lots of authors there. The thought of mingling with real authors is a dream come true. Mind you, I love mingling with anyone who can talk for hours on end about books and writing.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I was lucky enough to travel around the world when I was younger, with the man I would end up marrying (and then divorcing!) There are so many amazing places in the world, but I loved South Africa. Having said that, I’m drawn to Italy and if I could only travel there for holidays for the rest of my life, I’d be happy with that. I’d love to do karaoke in Japan.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

When I was a kid, I thought all cats were female and all dogs were male. I’ve worked it out now. I blame my confusion on the fact that I watched too many cartoons in which cats had long, dark eyelashes and wore bows on their heads (because don’t all females?) and the dogs carried briefcases and wore ties. Luckily, these days animals can wear whatever makeup and clothes they want and are not so stereotyped.

I’m glad that confusion has been cleared up! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Leonard and Hungry Paul, a brilliantly written story about a friendship between two men, by Ronan Hession. I think it’s just wonderful.

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Leonard and Hungry are two quiet friends who see the world differently. They use humour, board games and silence to steer their way through the maelstrom that is the 21st Century. It is the story of two friends trying to find their place in the world. It is about those uncelebrated people who have the ability to change the world, not by effort or force, but through their appreciation of all that is special and overlooked in life.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Saying the words “never again” a lot, with your head in your hands, should help loads. Failing that, do the boring (but effective) thing: drink pints of water before you go to bed. Problem is, when you’ve drunk that much, you stop being sensible enough to drink water before bed. Next day, if you’ve got a hangover, go for a walk, eat toast and drink tea. 

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I can’t do two nights out in a row, so Saturday will start on the sofa eating toast, drinking tea and saying “never again”, followed by a long walk (I walk every day, nice and fast, with weights on my ankles). The rest of the weekend will involve some combination of meeting friends, watching boxsets and eating out. If I’ve got the kids, then hanging out with them, forcing them to go for a walk, playing games and shouting at the TV together is fun. I love watching programs I might not choose if it wasn’t for them. We just finished The Umbrella Academy, and I loved it.

Helen, it has been a total joy to talk to you this evening and can I just take this opportunity to say how much I loved Space Hopper? I’m very much looking forward to reading your next book.

Helen’s RONA-shortlisted novel, Space Hopper, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. you can read my recent review of Space Hopper here.

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If you could go back in time to find answers to the past, would you?

For Faye, the answer is yes. There is nothing she wouldn’t do to find out what really happened when she lost her mother as a child. She is happy with her life – she has a loving husband, two young daughters and supportive friends, even a job that she enjoys. But questions about the past keep haunting her, until one day she finally gets the chance she’s been waiting for.

But how far is she willing to go to find answers?

Helen Fisher lives in the Suffolk countryside with her two children and a cat called Bear, who thinks he’s a dog. She has a background in psychology and worked as the senior evaluator in ergonomics at RNIB. She now writes for a living. Space Hopper is her first novel, published by Simon & Schuster and will be available in paperback on the 17th of March. Her second novel, also published by S&S, will be out in 2023.

Connect with Helen:

Website: https://www.helenfisherwrites.com/

Twitter: @HFisherAuthor

Instagram: @helenfisher_author

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RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Anita Frank

RONAS

We are drawing towards the end of our celebration of this year’s RONA nominees but we still have a few fantastic authors to talk to. Tonight I am joined by a nominee in the Historical Romantic Novel Award category with her novel The Return. Please welcome to the blog… Anita Frank.

Anita Frank, Historical Romantic Novel, Romantic Novel Awards 2022

Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Well, to be honest, I’m not a huge drinker, but since this is a special occasion, I’ll have a G and T and will probably then swap to lemonade and lime, but I might round off the evening with a cheeky glass of Madeira (it’s a rather old-fashioned tipple, so drinking it always makes me feel like a character from one of my novels!)

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

A nice country pub with a friendly atmosphere, comfy seats, good food and a roaring fire!

Oh, you need to come to my local! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’ve always been a huge Cary Grant fan, and I think he would be charming company with lots of good stories to tell.  I’d also invite Agatha Christie, because her life story is similarly fascinating and maybe she’d tell me what really lay behind her mysterious disappearance!

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

Right, well, I’ve just delivered my book 3 to my editor. That one is a Golden Age crime thriller – I hope she likes it – and I’m also writing my book 4 which is a love story set during the First World War. It’s inspired by a true story, the details of which I read about fifteen years ago. I’m taking my characters into a slightly different dilemma,  

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I would absolutely love to have one (or more!) or my books adapted for film or television. That has been a dream of mine since I was very little and still the goal I’m striving for.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I can’t ride a bike!

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

There are so many! But my favourite book of late has to be Raft of Stars by Andrew J Graf. It just grabs you from the first page, and it made me laugh, it made me cry and I was having heart palpitations by the end. Just a hugely enjoyable read.

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One summer night in Wisconsin, the lives of two ten-year-old boys are changed forever…

Tired of seeing his best friend Dale Breadwin abused by his alcoholic father, Fischer Branson takes action. A gunshot rings out, and Bread and Fish flee into the woods. They build a raft, but the river quickly leads them into even greater danger.

In their wake travel a group of adults – each determined to save the boys from the terrors of Ironsford Gorge.

The further they go, the more the wilderness starts to change them in profound and unexpected ways. And when they reach the edge of the Gorge itself, they begin to understand the true violence and beauty of the natural world, and its ability to heal.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I think before I don’t drink much, my liver is in pretty good condition, so on the rare occasions I do drink to excess (very rare these days!!) I don’t, touch wood, tend to get hangovers! I do always drink plenty of water before I go to bed, and I always take a big jug up to bed with me so if I wake up parched I can drink more.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I’d go for a lovely country walk with the dog (and maybe the family!) in the morning, spend the afternoon reading, get him indoors to cook me dinner, and then have everyone round the telly to watch a good film in the evening. 

Bonnie

Dogs are always the best company! Thank you for chatting to me, it has been fun.

Anita’s RONA-nominated book, The Return, is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Anita Frank, Historical Romantic Novel, Romantic Novel Awards 2022, The Return BOOK COVER

Jack Ellison’s war is over, but the battle for his family has just begun.

When Jack left for the war, he made a parting pledge to his pregnant bride, Gwen, that he would never return. It was, after all, best for everyone that he didn’t.

Now, as celebrations erupt for Victory in Europe, Gwen is terrified that Jack will renege on his promise, threatening the life she has built for herself and their son on the family farm.

But war has changed Jack, and he is coming home, determined to claim a place in Gwen’s life – and her heart.

As events of the past come back to haunt them, Jack and Gwen find themselves facing their greatest battle – and it is a fight neither of them can afford to lose.

A farmer’s daughter from Shropshire, Anita Frank studied English and American History at the University of East Anglia before moving to London to work in media analysis and communications.

She left paid employment to become a stay-at-home mum when she had the first of her three children. Sadly, Anita‘s youngest child developed a rare form of epilepsy in infancy which has left him severely mentally disabled and she is now his full-time-carer, but she has begun snatching what time she can to pursue her lifelong ambition of writing historical fiction.

Anita now lives in Berkshire with her husband, her two lovely girls and her gorgeous boy, a fluffy cat with an attitude, and a bonkers Welsh Springer Spaniel.

Her debut novel, The Lost Ones, was published by HQ in October 2019.

Connect with Anita:

Facebook: Anita Frank

Twitter: @Ajes74

Instagram: @anitafrankauthor

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RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Suzanne Fortin

RONAS

Another fantastic author nominated in this year’s Romantic Novel Awards has agreed to chat to me on the blog tonight. Her novel, All That We Have Lost, was nominated in the Jackie Collins Award for Romantic Thrillers category and went on to win. It’s… Suzanne Fortin.

Sue Fortin author pic mono

Sue, welcome to the blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you so much for inviting me, it’s lovely to be here. Mine’s a Bacardi and coke – I’m such an 80s girl. 

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Probably to my local village pub, sitting near the open fire and having a bar meal of some description. Not very rock n roll, I know.

Well, since in front of the fire in my local is one of my favourite places, I’m not going to argue with you! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Wow, what a question! Let’s see … I think I’d ask Rik Mayall, who I hope would be equally hilarious and outrageous as he always appeared. My other guest would be someone like Sophia Loren, although I’m not sure what she’d make of Rik! 

I loved Rik Mayall so much. I rewatched The New Statesman recently and it genius and also scarily realistic now! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

So, at the moment, I’m very much juggling different projects. I have two books, both historical dual-timelines, which are at different stages of the editing process and I’m expecting edits to come in from those any time now. I’ve got an idea for a new historical book which I’m running by my agent and editor and I’m also working on a short story for readers. I’m planning on using the short story as a giveaway for existing and new sign ups to my newsletter.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

The proudest moment was when one of my books went to Number 1 in the whole of the UK Amazon chart and Number 3 in the whole of the US Amazon chart. It was a bit overwhelming at the time but when I look back, I’m really proud of that achievement.  The biggest challenge has been then trying to keep everything in perspective with the books that followed and not to get hung up on whether the next book is as good, sells as many copies, gets as many reviews etc. 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I used to have a list of things I wanted to achieve pinned by the side of my computer, but over the years, my goals have changed and I don’t have that list anymore. I used to want to be a Sunday Times Bestseller and, I guess, to a degree, that still remains a dream. However, I have different types of things I want to achieve and, at the moment, that is to have a good work/life balance. 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I have a new book coming out in July called Beyond A Broken Sky. I really enjoyed writing this one. I can’t wait to be able to share the story. It’s another historical dual-timeline where we meet Rhoda Sullivan who is restoring a stained-glass window of a church which has an unusual backstory and a mystery to be solved. The mystery dates back to wartime England and Italian POWs in Somerset.

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I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favourite place is France. We have a cottage in Southern Brittany and love to go over there as often as possible. It’s in a very rural and quiet location but not too far to travel for every day needs. We went to Australia a few years ago and I’d love to go back there and explore different parts of the country.

I’d love to go to Australia but I think I might have to wait until the kids leave home now and go for six weeks to see it all, maybe tag New Zealand on too. I think I may only persuade my OH to fly that far once! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

Oh, what to say … erm … I can tap dance. I haven’t tapped for a long time but I learnt as an adult and loved every minute of it. I would like to go back to it one day.

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

I feel this is an impossible question to answer! I read Omerta by Mario Puzo years ago and loved it but equally I thoroughly enjoyed Plan B by Emily Barr. Sorry, that’s two which is cheating.

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The perfect couple. The perfect French farmhouse. Plan A is the perfect life. But then there’s Plan B…

Emma adores living in Brighton, but she loves Matt more. When he suggests they buy the perfect farmhouse in the South of France, she reluctantly agrees, even though he continues commuting to London while she looks after their daughter and the builders. But France is not the idyll he promised, and when she discovers the true reason he spends half his time in London the foundations on which she’s built her life start to crumble…

That Emily Barr book sounds so good. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I am the world’s worst drinker. I only have two glasses of alcohol as I can’t handle any more, it just makes me go to sleep. My cure to any kind of hangover is definitely sleep.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Going for a long walk in the countryside or along the beach. I live on the south coast of England, so I’m lucky to have both things very close by. There would also have to be a Sunday roast involved and a few hours reading.

Thank you for a lovely chat over a drink – a perfect way to spend the evening.

Thank you Sue, it’s been an absolute joy to chat to you this evening.

Suzanne’s RONA Award-winning novel, All That We Have Lost, is out now in all formats and you can buy your copy here.

All That We Have Lost

Papa always told us that to be brave doesn’t mean you have no fear.
It just means you can move forwards in spite of that fear.

2019. When Imogen Wren‘s husband dies, she must realise their dream of moving to France on her own. She finds a beautiful abandoned chateau and starts to rebuild her life among its ruins. But she soon notices that the locals won’t come near. A dark web of secrets surrounds the house, and it all seems to centre on the war…

1944. Since the moment German troops stepped foot in her village, the sole aim of Simone Varon‘s life has been to avoid them. Until one soldier begins leaving medicine bottles for her sick brother, and she gets to know the man behind the uniform. Then the Resistance comes calling, and she must choose between love and duty – with devastating consequences that will echo through the decades.

As Imogen restores the chateau, she’s determined to uncover the truth – and set to rest the ghosts of the past.

Suzanne Fortin writes historical fiction, predominantly dual timeline and set in France. Her books feature courageous women in extraordinary circumstances with love and family at the heart of all the stories.

Suzanne also writes mystery and suspense as Sue Fortin where she is a USA Today bestseller and Amazon UK #1 and Amazon US #3 bestseller. She has sold over a million copies of her books and been translated into multiple languages.

Connect with Sue:

Website: https://suefortin.com

Facebook: Sue Fortin Author

Twitter: @suefortin1

Instagram: @suefortinauthor

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RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Catherine Tinley

RONAS

Tonight I am chatting to another winner in the Romantic Novel Awards 2022. Winner of the Historical Romantic Novel Award  with her book, A Waltz with the Outspoken Governess, please welcome… Catherine Tinley.

CT profile pic 2021

Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

I’m drinking a gorgeous pink gin made in a local distillery. It’s called Rostrevor -the Mourne Dew distillery also does whiskey and poitín, which are also fab. Do you want to try some?

mourne-rostrevor

I am a big gin fan (I was going to say ‘big gin drinker’ but that makes me sound like I have a problem!), so yes please. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I’d take you to the Old Killowen Inn in the village of Rostrevor, for great Guinness and Irish music. The craic (fun) would be great!

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If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Let’s see…Danny O’Donoghue from The Script for the singing and the craic, and Eloisa James, because I think she’d love it!

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m writing a trilogy set in Regency times, but in the Outer Hebrides! I know, I know…unusual. But I am absolutely loving it! There’s always great fun to be had in the research for historical fiction, and I’m lucky to have a friend from the Hebrides who has been wonderful in keeping me right on history, geography, and language. He’s a native Gaelic speaker, so I’ve included small bits of the language in the books. 

Book 1, A Laird for the Governess is just out and I’m relieved and delighted by the early reviews. People really get it, I think. It features a London governess who takes a post in the wilds of the Hebrides, and finds not just love, but belonging, and a sense of community. Book 2 reverses the scenario, as I plan to take a couple of characters from the island community and bring them into the glittering heart of Regency society. I had planned to stop after three books, but a reader has just requested a happy-ever-after for a secondary character from A Laird for the Governess, so who knows?

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A penniless governess

And the dour Laird of Ardmore

Lydia Farnham must travel to a remote Scottish island to work for widower Alasdair MacDonald, who doesn’t trust her or her unconventional teaching methods! Yet as his daughter flourishes, so too does the intense connection between Lydia and Alasdair. Only she should know better than to fall for the handsome laird when it could leave her without a job, or a home…

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Getting ‘the call’ and the offer of a two-book contract from a major publisher was a dream come true. It’s the moment I began thinking of myself as an author as well as a writer. I’ve also been lucky enough to win a coveted Rita ® award in the US (for Waltzing with the Earl) as well as winning the RoNA last year for Best Historical Romance (for Rags-to-Riches Wife). That one also won the HOLT Medallion in the US…it’s just so lovely to know that readers like what I write!

In terms of challenges, I’ve had to transition from writing as a hobby to being a professional author. I work full-time in the NHS, so I have to be very disciplined about my writing targets and stick to my routines, otherwise I’d never meet deadlines. I also have ADD, which I’ve worked hard to manage, so overcoming this challenge is something I’m very proud of. I’ve discovered, for example, that I daren’t take a break between books as I risk losing the good habits, so now I take no more than a day or two off before starting the next project. I also use a tracker called www.pacemaker.press (it’s free!) which really helps.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I’d like to write a longer Regency, and have it published by a major trade publisher. I am working on a draft, so watch this space…

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

Travel! It’s been so, so long, so this year I’m making up for lost time. Apart from flying to London for the RoNA Awards I also intend to go to the RNA conference this year for the first time, plus we have unused holiday vouchers from two years ago that will take us somewhere sunny in August. Can’t wait!

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I lived in Munich for a year and will always love the place. Interrailing was wonderful so I did it three times, yet there’s still so much of Old Europe I want to see. The bucket list includes Vienna and Salzburg, Berlin, and Brussels.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

Ooh! Ok then. People are often surprised when I tell them I manage a maternity hospital as my day job (and people at work are always surprised when I tell them I’m an author!)

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Impossible! Even within Regency I can’t choose just one, but maybe Frederica or Venetia by Georgette Heyer. I also enjoy high fantasy, and my favourite there is Daughter of the Empire by Feist and Wurtz. Apparently they’re planning to make it into a TV series – I hope they do it justice.

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Enter the mysterious and exotic world of Kelewan…

Mara, the youngest child of the ancient and noble Acoma family, is about to take her pledge of servitude to the goddess Lashima when the ceremony is disrupted by news of her father and brother’s death in battle.

Despite her grief, as the only surviving member of her house, Mara must now take up the mantles of Ruling Lady. But she soon discovers betrayal at the heart of her family’s loss, and the Acoma’s enemies have brought her house to the brink of utter destruction.

Daughter of the Empire is the magnificent first book in The Empire Trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts.

Mara, an inexperienced political player, must draw on all her wit, intelligence and cunning to navigate the ruthless Game of the Council, regain the honour of House Acoma and secure the future of her family. But with assassins waiting around every corner, it might take everything Mara has simply to survive.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Sadly, I’ve learned that I have no head for drink (despite the reputation of Irish people) so I’ll have been supping water alongside the alcohol this evening. You wouldn’t have known it to look at me though, cos I’ve been singing and clapping and yee-ho-ing with the rest! If we’re hungover in the morning I’ll take you for a lung-cleansing stroll along the beautiful Fairy Glen, just five minutes from here, then afterwards we can wander along the shores of Carlingford Lough or check out the stunning views from the Big Stone (don’t worry, we can drive most of the way up the mountain). You’ll love it!

Carlingford Lough

I’ve yet to visit a part of Ireland that I haven’t loved so I am sure I will! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Let’s mix our nature walks with some pampering in a local spa. I’m no shopaholic, but happy to go with you if that’s your preference. Mine would be local Neolithic sites, Viking era towers and Norman castles, and a Gaelic football or hurling game! 

Going to see a game of hurling is one of the things on my bucket list, so I’d love to be able to tick that off. Thank you for joining me this evening, Catherine, it’s been a hug pleasure to chat to you.

Catherine’s RONA award-winning bookA Waltz with the Outspoken Governess, is out now and you can buy a copy here. A free preview of her new book, A Laird for the Governess, can be found here.

Catherine Tinley, Historical Romantic Novel Award, Romantic Novel Awards 2022, A Waltz with the Outspoken Governess BOOK COVER

A quiet governess…

An unruly heart

Sir Nicholas Denny is desperate to find a governess to care for his boisterous nieces and nephews. Demure vicar’s daughter Mary Smith seems ideal—at first. All too soon Nicholas discovers a different side…a beautiful, vivacious woman, even if she infuriates him with her strong opinions! When he waltzes with Mary at a party, he knows he’s in trouble—the spark between them is so tempting, but she challenges everything he thought he wanted in a wife!

Catherine Tinley is an award winning author of historical romance. She writes witty, heartwarming Regency romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her first book, Waltzing with the Earl, won the Rita® Award for Best Historical Romance 2018, while Rags-to-Riches Wife won the RoNA Award for Best Historical Romance 2021 as well as the HOLT Medallion, and A Waltz with the Outspoken Governess has been shortlisted for the RoNA Award for Best Historical Romance 2022.

She has loved reading and writing since childhood, and has a particular fondness for love, romance, and happy endings. After a career encompassing speech & language therapy, Sure Start, maternity campaigning and being President of a charity, she now manages a maternity hospital. She lives in Ireland with her husband, children, cats, and dog.

Connect with Catherine:

Website: https://catherinetinley.com/

Facebook: Catherine Tinley 

Twitter: @CatherineTinley

Instagram: @catherinetinleywriter

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RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Freya Marske

RONAS

It’s Friday at last and tonight I am joined by the winner of the Fantasy Romantic Novel Award 2022 for her book, A Marvellous Light. Welcome to the blog, author… Freya Marske.

Freya Marske, Fantasy Romantic Novel Award, RONAs 22

Freya, welcome to Friday Night Drinks and thank you for joining me. First things first, what are you drinking?

I’m a gin & tonic girl through and through, so I’ll pore over the menu for any kind of gin that’s new to me and sounds exciting. And then I’ll add tonic in an alarming ratio that will make you wonder why I didn’t just order a martini, but trust me: the tonic is vital. Even if it’s just a splash.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

One of my favourite places here in Australia is a hotel in the Southern Highlands which has a gin bar attached to the restaurant (see my gin weakness above) and, even more pleasingly, also has a whisky lounge. I think we’ll start with a meal and then retire to the lounge and curl up on their velvet sofas for a good long chat.

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’m extremely torn when it comes to my parcel of favourite dead Dorothys, as to which of them would be the best value on a night out drinking. I would seriously consider both Dorothy Sayers and Dorothy Dunnett, so I could hurl myself into their laps with despairing pleas that they somehow teach me all the secrets of their genius—yes, right now, over this glass of wine—but I think Dorothy Parker would liven up the party best.

Similarly, much as I’d love to meet Shakespeare, I think Kit Marlowe would be a better addition to a drinking party. Just so long as nobody brings out any knives.

Great choices, although I would love to meet Dorothy L. Sayers too, I’m a huge fan. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

At the moment I’m in the early, groping-through-the-darkness, oh-God-why stages of drafting the third book in my romantic historical fantasy trilogy. You’d think I would be less melodramatic about it, given it is my third book in this world. But each book does have a different pair of POV characters and a slightly different narrative vibe, and hammering out the character voices always makes me feel like I’m breaking in an uncomfortable pair of new shoes for the first half of the first draft. 

Ideally, though, I’ll build up my calluses quickly and then be able to get on with finishing this trilogy. I’m really excited to be fulfilling some promises and digging my teeth into some themes and plotlines that I’ve been setting up since book 1. Here’s hoping I can pull it all off. 

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I still get a jolt of disbelieving pride when faced with evidence that someone who is neither related to me nor a friend has read my book and enjoyed it, or found something in it that spoke to them and connected with them.

The biggest challenge has been the direct flipside of that: realising that now my joyful creative hobby is also a career, and I have contract deadlines and reader expectations to meet. There have been weeks where I can feel the tendrils of toxicity and pressure trying to sneak in, wrap themselves around the creative process and strangle all the fun out of it. But I’m determined to hold onto the joy and satisfaction that writing can produce for its own sake.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

The biggest and best thing I can think of is flourishing longevity of career. I want to be eighty years old with a massive backlist of both SFF and romance (and any other genres I feel like picking up along the way!), still writing new books, still acquiring new readers and delighting old ones, and swanning around the world to have cantankerous opinions at festivals and conventions. 

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

Every single idea for The Next Book (of which I have…approximately seven) has realised that I’m meant to be writing my book 3 draft, and so they’ve all ratcheted up in detail and excitement. I’m planning some novellas—a format I haven’t played with before—as well as a space opera, a story about a magical medical school, and a new contemporary romance.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

It might just be recency bias, given it was one of the places I visited just before the pandemic put an end to international travel, but I adored Barcelona. Researching A Marvellous Light gave me an enormous fondness for early twentieth century art and design movements, and I spent a lot of time geeking out over the Art Nouveau architecture of that city. And the food. And the wine. The rest of Spain is near the top of my bucket list, too, as I’ve only seen that one city and am dying to explore the rest of the country! 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

The one thing about me that usually elicits an “oh! That’s interesting!” is the fact that I’m a figure skater. I think more adults should get into this as a sport: there’s much less pressure if you start as an adult than if you’re a tiny flexible child, and it combines strength and athleticism with moving to music (and wearing sparkly clothes, of course). And there’s something of a life lesson in the fact that learning to fall, expecting to fall, and cheerfully getting up again every time is part of the process. The overachiever in me has had to learn that it’s good for the soul to be bad at things, sometimes, and to slowly improve through hard work. 

This is  lesson I’m still trying to take on board at the age of 49! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

 One of my favourite books of all time combines history, science fiction (time travel!), screwball comedy, mystery and romance: To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. I defy anyone to read it and not finish with a huge grin on their face and a lightening of the spirit that will last for days. 

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Ned Henry is a time-travelling historian who specialises in the mid-20th century – currently engaged in researching the bombed-out Coventry Cathedral. He’s also made so many drops into the past that he’s suffering from a dangerously advanced case of ‘time-lag’.

Unfortunately for Ned, an emergency dash to Victorian England is required and he’s the only available historian. But Ned’s time-lag is so bad that he’s not sure what the errand is – which is bad news since, if he fails, history could unravel around him…

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Drink a very boring and large amount of water before going to sleep, and then drink some more. If you wake up with a hangover anyway: stumble to the kitchen, put the kettle on for coffee, and give fervent thanks to the past version of you who knows to keep the freezer stocked with frozen hash browns.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Saturday mornings I’m always at the ice rink, which means I start the weekend energised! Yes, I’m aware of how insufferable this makes me sound. I think that in order to force my bones out of bed before seven o’clock, on a weekend morning when the tiny devil on my shoulder is whispering sleeeeeep iiiiiiiin, I’ve somehow Stockholm Syndromed myself into genuine enjoyment. It does help that I love skating. (“I DO love skating,” I tell myself through gritted teeth in the middle of winter, when it’s minus six degrees outside and I’m about to step into an equally cold icebox of a rink.)

After that, my perfect weekend would usually contain several hours of reading, reaching my word count goal on whatever I’m writing, lunches comprised mostly of different types of cheese on crusty bread, going to an art gallery or a theatre matinee, and then going out for dinner with friends before coming back to my place to ply them with the contents of my cocktail trolley.

Freya, you have been an absolutely marvellous and entertaining guest, huge thanks for chatting to me and I can’t wait to read your book. Please come back on the blog any time.

Freya’s RONA award-winning novel, A Marvellous Light is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. The second book in the series, A Restless Truth, is available for preorder in most places, including here!

Freya Marske, Fantasy Romantic Novel Award, RONAs 22, A Marvellous Light BOOK COVER

Young baronet Robin Blyth thought he was taking up a minor governmental post. However, he’s actually been appointed parliamentary liaison to a secret magical society. If it weren’t for this administrative error, he’d never have discovered the incredible magic underlying his world. 

Cursed by mysterious attackers and plagued by visions, Robin becomes determined to drag answers from his missing predecessor – but he’ll need the help of Edwin Courcey, his hostile magical-society counterpart. Unwillingly thrown together, Robin and Edwin will discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles.

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My website:

My twitter: https://twitter.com/freyamarske

My Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/freyamarske/

Freya Marske lives in Australia, where she is yet to be killed by any form of wildlife. She writes stories full of magic, blood, and as much kissing as she can get away with. Her hobbies include figure skating and discovering new art galleries, and she is on a quest to try all the gin in the world.

Her short fiction has appeared in Analog Science Fiction, Andromeda Spaceways, and several anthologies. In 2020 she was awarded the Australian National SF (Ditmar) Award for Best New Talent.

Her debut novel, the queer historical fantasy A MARVELLOUS LIGHT, was published in 2021.

Connect with Freya:

Website: https://freyamarske.com

Twitter: @freyamarske

Instagram: @freyamarske

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RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Suzanne Ewart

RONAS

Tonight’s guest is another nominee in the Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award category in this year’s Romantic Novel Awards. With her book, One Month of You, please welcome to the blog, author… Suzanne Ewart.

Suzanne Ewart, Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel, Romantic Novel Awards 2022

Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Hello! Thank you so much for having me. I’m drinking a very cold glass of white wine. 

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I would be taking you for a night out in Manchester. We’d start with a cocktail in Cloud 23, a hotel bar with the best views over the city and then we’d head into nearby Spinningfields, which is packed with great bars and restaurants if we get hungry. 

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

If we’re on a night out, I’d want to invite people who seem like great fun, so I’d choose Marian Keyes, who I love and think is hilarious and so warm. I’d also choose Graham Norton so we can spend the night chatting about books, but also celebrity gossip! 

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m in the middle of writing a first draft of my latest romance novel. Unlike my last two romances, where I had come up with the plot first, in this case, the main character appeared in my head fully-formed one day, and I knew I had to write about her. It’s been really good fun writing, and I hope readers love her and her flawed ways as much as I do.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

Without doubt, my proudest moment was when my debut novel, One Month of You was nominated for the Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award for the RNA Awards. I’ve followed these awards for years, and I was over the moon to be selected among other brilliant writers. I’m also a huge Katie Fforde fan, so it was particularly special to be in this category. 

I think my biggest challenge is one that many writers face, and that is the challenge of keeping going! Writing a novel takes a lot of time and perseverance and often the hardest thing is continuing with a book when you can’t imagine ever finishing it. I have to constantly remind myself that I’ve done this before and that it will be worth all the hard work in the end. 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

Honestly, I would love one of my books to be adapted to the screen, and I’d love to be part of an adaptation. My teenage ambition was (still is, really) to be a script writer for Coronation Street, and I would love to work on a script for one of my own stories. It must be the best feeling making your characters come to life on a screen.  

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m super excited about the book I’m currently writing. The main character is more flawed than characters I’ve written before, she makes a lot of decisions that hold her life back, but at the same time she’s so romantic and optimistic, it’s been lovely to spend time with her. I’m excited to share her story once it’s finished and hear what people think. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favourite place is Rome. I love the history and the food and the shops. I can’t wait to go back. Top of my list is California. I’ve always been fascinated by the glamour and the lifestyle there, and would love to spend time driving down the coastline.

Oh, I love Rome, one of my absolute favourite cities in the world. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m an identical twin. Not the exciting, psychic kind I’m afraid, but we do look exactly the same and have this thing were we have no idea which of our earlier memories actually belong to us. They’ve all kind of mixed to together into a joint pot. I love reading books about twins and would love to write about them one day. 

I have identical  twin step-daughters. Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. It’s a beautiful book about love and family and identity and it is also absolutely hilarious. I love it. 

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Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets.

So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave?

Maybe she is just too sensitive, someone who finds it harder to be alive than most people. Or maybe – as she has long believed – there is something wrong with her. Something that broke when a little bomb went off in her brain, at 17, and left her changed in a way that no doctor or therapist has ever been able to explain.

Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix – or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself.

I really must read this, I’ve heard so many people rave about it. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

See, in my youth, I’d have gone for a fry up and many, many cups of coffee, but experience has taught me there’s nothing better than a home-made banana milkshake to get going the morning after. It works a treat!

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I’d spend the rest of the weekend going on long walks with my kids (who magically wouldn’t moan about this!), and there would definitely be a trip to a country pub for some lovely food. I’d also make time to do some cooking, which I love, and to read.

Sounds great, hope you get one of those perfect weekends soon!

Suzanne’s RONA-shortlisted novel, One Month of You, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Suzanne Ewart, Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel, Romantic Novel Awards 2022, One Month of You BOOK COVER

When Alec asks Jess out, she knows it won’t work. He may be charming and handsome, but Jess has rules. And the first? Don’t fall in love.

Jess has inherited Huntington’s disease from the mother that she cares for. Falling in love would mean condemning someone to the heartbreak that she feels every day. Jess has learnt to keep everyone and everything at arm’s length, but Alec is determined to break down her barriers. When she finally tells him why they have no future together, he proposes that they forget the future and live for the moment – for just one month.

Before writing her first novel, Suzanne Ewart taught English to secondary school children in Greater Manchester. In 2019 she won the eHarmony / Trapeze books Write Your Own Love Story competition. Her debut novel, One Month of You, was published in 2021. She now lives in Warrington with her husband and children.

Connect with Suzanne:

Twitter: @SuzanneEwart1

Instagram: suzanneewart_author

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RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Amber Crewe

RONAS

Tonight we are back with the shortlistees in the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy category in this year’s Romantic Novel Awards. Nominated for her novel, That Jewish Thing, I am joined by author… Amber Crewe.

Amber Crewe, Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy, Romantic Novel Awards 2022

Amber, welcome to the blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

An elderflower cordial spritz! 

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

We’d be heading to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square for a cheesy singalong experience, followed by hiring a private karaoke room in Soho. We would only be allowed to sing songs from the nineties (don’t expect to have any voice left the next morning)

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You will sincerely regret asking me to sing, although I do know the lyrics to a lot of nineties songs! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Anne Boleyn, because I reckon she’d need to let off some steam and would be a riot to get drunk with, and Bang Chan from the Kpop group Stray Kids, because he’d watch our drinks and make sure we’d all get home safely afterwards. 

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am awaiting edits back on my latest project. Every book I write gets closer and closer to something truthful in my life, and without spoiling anything, this is the most personal book yet. I’m anxious to get it right. It’s another romance, but it has a meaning and a mission too. I want the right people to find it.  

Intriguing! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Proudest moment: being able to write the names of people I love in the acknowledgments of my books, and then seeing their faces when they realise. I find it hard to express affection sometimes, so this is a very real way I can let people know how much they mean to me. 

Biggest challenge: the gap between my two children’s books, and publishing my first romance as Amber Crewe. I didn’t know if my writing would ever be published again. When my agent called to tell me about the offer of that deal, I was scared she was calling to let me go as a client! Getting through that time, maintaining belief in myself and what I wanted to do, was tough when the world seemed to constantly be giving me hints to give up. 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

As much as I’d love to see one of my books come to life on screen, I also want to write directly for the screen too. I want to tell stories with as wide and broad an audience as possible, and make people happy that way. I lot of people I love aren’t readers (for various reasons, including being neurodiverse and struggling to focus on words on a page for long periods) but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy great stories, and I want to write for everyone. 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

It may sound bleak but I really don’t have anything planned in my life right now. The world has been really scary, and making any sort of plans feels a kind of brave I’m not ready to be yet. But I have some leave from my day job coming up, and once Spring really hits I want to go to the seaside. A day trip to see some friends and smell the sea air. It’s a tiny thing, but it’s a start after a very reclusive couple of years. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I was so overwhelmed when I visited Vienna that I had a panic attack! There was too much to do and see and I couldn’t figure out where to start, so just had a meltdown instead! I was only there for a couple of days as part of a much larger trip, but I’m yearning to go back and explore. 

Top of my bucket list is the Spanish town of Girona. I was meant to go there on holiday in what transpired to be the third week of the first lockdown. The holiday that never was! 

Ah, I love Vienna, a beautiful city. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I have a form of alopecia that has left my hair very thin in places. Over the last year I’ve embraced wearing wigs and they’ve changed my life.

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. It’s sci-if, but the focus is on emotional connections and empathy. The kind of book that makes you feel truly happy to be alive, and gives you hope in everything, despite all the bad things in the universe. 

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When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The ship, which has seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.

But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Didn’t I tell you? My drink is non-alcoholic! I have a condition that affects my heart so can’t drink alcohol I’m afraid (otherwise I’ll be really poorly). Although to be honest, as an extroverted autistic person, a night out even when sober can leave me completely drained and brain-foggy the next day. When I know I’m going to be exertion-hungover I just make sure I have all my favourite snacks to hand, close my blinds and hunker down under my weighted blanket. I watch a lot of romantic Korean dramas, and I’ll find a good one to get lost in for the day (the kind where it takes five episodes for the main leads to even hold hands for the first time!). A fail safe method to end up feeling restored and ready to face the world again! 

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

See above! I’m a cosy bird. One night out and I’m pooped for a week! Let’s watch old music videos on YouTube and order pizza!!! 

Sounds great, I’m in! Thanks so much for joining me, I have had a great evening and added a new book to my TBR!

Amber’s RONA-shortlisted novel, That Jewish Thing, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Amber Crewe, Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy, Romantic Novel Awards 2022, That Jewish Thing BOOK COVER

Tamsyn Rutman is at yet another wedding, for yet another cousin. She wouldn’t mind – the food’s pretty good, the location is fabulous and there’s a moderately famous singer crooning away – but what is a Jewish wedding if not the perfect opportunity for the bride to do a bit of matchmaking on behalf of her single, workaholic cousin? Tamsyn’s not at the table with her parents and her family, she’s sitting next to Ari Marshall.

Ari is everything Tamsyn doesn’t want for herself, and everything her family want for her. Stubbornly determined not to fall into the trap of someone else’s happily ever after, Tamsyn decides to focus on work, and while interviewing London’s hottest new chef, finds herself being swept off her feet . . . by someone her family definitely wouldn’t approve of.

But somehow, Ari and Tamsyn keep crossing paths, and she’s about to find out that in love, and in life, it’s not always easy to run away from who you really are…

Amber Crewe is the romantic alter-ego of Nicole Burstein, who lives in North London with her family, multiple bichon frises, and a tortoise. In the past, Nicole has worked as a gallery attendant at the Natural History Museum, a bookseller for Waterstones, a warden at Buckingham Palace, and used to present the travel and traffic news on various radio stations, including LBC and local BBC radio. She is currently working as a customer support manager for a fintech company called GoCardless. Nicole is a keen watcher of romantic Korean dramas, is a little too obsessed with rollercoasters, and has three Blue Peter badges.

Connect with Amber:

Twitter: @NicoleBurstein

Instagram: @bursteinnicole

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