Blog Tour: The Hidden Child by Louise Fein

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London, 1929.

Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.

When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.

Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.

Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?

I am delighted to be joining the blog tour today for The Hidden Child by Louise Fein. Louise has written a fabulous piece for me to share with you about how she went about researching the book. My thanks to Graeme Williams for inviting me on to the tour and to Louise for preparing the piece for me.

Now over to Louise:

Researching The Hidden Child

Writing historical fiction means I need to do a good deal of research for each book I write. Fortunately, I love research as I spend as much time researching as I do writing. As with all my books, research for The Hidden Child began with reading generally as much as I could about not only the time-period in which the book is set, namely the late 1920’s, but also about the setting (chiefly London, Surrey, and an epilepsy colony), and the social and political events of the time. I also researched the background for my characters who were partly based on, or inspired by, real people. Wherever possible I like to travel to locations for settings to get a real sense of the place. Once I began writing, more specific details needed to be researched in depth. This often slowed the writing process, as it might take me a whole morning to research something which ended up being just one sentence on the page. 

To gain a deeper understanding, I read a wide variety of non-fiction and fiction written at the time as well as historical commentaries and academic papers. I also needed to do a lot of research about eugenics, and the condition of epilepsy and its perception and treatment at the time. I researched the position of women across the classes, the rise of feminism after the first world war, birth control and the reason why it was encouraged for the lower classes rather than the professional and upper classes. I also carried out research into class and politics, the American eugenics movement, French and American research into epilepsy treatments, and legislation in the UK and the USA which led to the incarceration and mistreatment of those regarded as ‘the unwanted’ in society. 

One of my main characters, Edward, is very loosely based on a real person, Sir Cyril Burt, who was a psychologist and educationalist, instrumental in setting education policy for the nation. He was also a prominent eugenicist and much of the policy for setting up the nationwide grammar school system in England during the first half of the twentieth century was based on his eugenicist principles and now somewhat discredited research into intelligence. I read about him, as well as books written by him. I have included other real people in the book, such as Marie Stopes, Leonard Darwin, ‘Junior’ Rockefeller and other well-known names who might not be associated with eugenics. Much information could be found on-line through resources such as The Wiley library and The Wellcome Library. 

I was lucky to complete most of the research for this book just prior to lockdown in 2020. I was able to visit a school for children with severe epilepsy which was once an epilepsy colony. They were kind enough to open their archives for me. I also, through a local history organisation, was able to look at the archives of other colonies and asylums in the area, so my fictional colony is based on a combination of all of these institutions. 

Once all the research is done, it is important to be able to set it aside and focus on the story. This is after all fiction, and whilst I always try to write with authenticity, the majority of my research never makes it into the book. Instead, I aim to infuse the writing with it, so the reader is immersed into another world.   

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A lovely insight into a writer’s way of working. The Hidden Child is out in paperback today and in all other formats and you can buy a copy here.

Do please visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for reviews of the book and other great content:

The Hidden Child Blog Tour Facebook

About the Author

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Louise Fein was born and brought up in London. She harboured a secret love of writing from a young age, preferring to live in her imagination than the real world. After a law degree, Louise worked in Hong Kong and Australia, travelling for a while through Asia and North America before settling back to a working life in London. She finally gave in to the urge to write, taking an MA in creative writing, and embarking on her first novel, Daughter of the Reich (named People Like Us in the UK and Commonwealth edition). The novel was inspired by the experience of her father’s family, who escaped from the Nazis and arrived in England as refugees in the 1930’s. Daughter of the Reich/People Like Us is being translated into 11 foreign languages, has been shortlisted for the 2021 RSL Christopher Bland Prize, the RNA Historical Novel of the year Award 2021 and long listed for the Not The Booker Prize 2020.

Louise’s second novel, The Hidden Child, was published in the Autumn of 2021. Louise lives in the beautiful English countryside with her husband, three children, two cats, small dog and the local wildlife who like to make an occasional appearance in the house. Louise is currently working on her third novel.

Connect with Louise:

Website: https://www.louisefein.com

Facebook: Louise Fein

Twitter: @FeinLouise

Instagram: @louisefeinauthor

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The 2022 Romantic Novel Award Winners’ Interviews with…. Bella Osborne

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Today is my final post in my celebration of the 2022 Romantic Novel Awards and I am delighted to be joined by joint winner of the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy, author… Bella Osborne.

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Bella, congratulations on your award for The Promise of Summer and thank you very much for agreeing to appear on my blog again!

What does winning this award mean for you and what do you think it was about this book that spoke to the judges?

I was over the moon to win! It is particularly special because it was chosen by readers.

It’s very hard to guess what they particularly liked about it as we don’t get any specific feedback. I would hope it was the feisty heroine and unconventional hero who appealed to them.

What is it that draws you to writing romantic comedy rather than any other genre?

It’s naturally how my writing comes out. Like everyone I’ve had ups and downs in my life but even at the darkest moments I’ve still managed to find some humour and I think that’s what gets you through. I have also written two uplifting book club reads where there was no romance but there was still a sprinkling of humour.

How important is membership of the RNA to you, what does it give you and what is your favourite thing about it?

The RNA is my tribe. I love that it is an incredibly supportive group and everyone gets a kick out of each other achieving things – they are a very special bunch of people. They also have a fabulous conference and the best parties!

How did you get in to writing and how long did it take you to get published? What advice do you have for aspiring writers just starting out on this path?

I’ve always written but it was a life coach that suggested that I try to see if I could complete a whole novel. I was lucky enough to meet my first editor at an RNA conference and from there I signed a two book deal. So the answer to how long did it take to get published depends on your starting point – either 45 years or eighteen months!

My advice to aspiring authors is to find other writers either locally or through bigger organisations like the RNA – their support is so valuable.

Where did the inspiration for this story come from and how do you go about developing a book from that first spark to the finished novel?

I wish I knew! These characters just appeared when I was finishing off another story.

I am a big planner so that’s my first stage. I spend time just thinking about my characters and getting to know them. I make character bios, work out their backstory and what their goals and issues are. Almost simultaneously the plot will be developing. Once I know the story has legs I will get out the brown paper and post it notes and start making a plan. Once I’m happy I’ve nailed all the key points that’s when I start a first draft. I do a few rounds of self edits before it goes to my agent. I do her suggested changes before I submit it to my editor. We then go through structural, line and copy edits. The final stage is a proof read after that the next time I see it it’s an actual book.

What do you think awards like this do for the image of books in your genre, and the image of romance novels as whole, which sometimes are unfairly dismissed? What are readers who would not normally pick up a romance novel missing out on?

Anything that can shed a spotlight on romantic fiction is a positive thing. It baffles me that a high percentage of popular music has themes of love, romance and relationships and that is embraced by everyone but when the same thing is written down the attitude towards it changes. 

If you’re not reading romance you are missing out on well written, thought provoking reads with engaging characters, that tackle some difficult subjects and dilemmas before giving you an uplifting ending. 

What is coming next from you and when can we expect to see it?

My next romantic comedy is A Wedding At Sandy Cove which is out on 21st July. 

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Escape to Sandy Cove, where the scent of summer and the sound of wedding bells are in the air!

Ella makes brides’ dreams come true – there’s no dress she can’t make perfect with her sewing skills and some sparkle. But Ella’s own love life is no fairy tale. Recently dumped, surrounded by fussy brides and with the prospect of wearing a hideous brown bridesmaids dress to her friend’s wedding, Ella feels more alone than ever so agrees to go on a blind date.

A mix up on the night introduces her to Kit

Kit is definitely not the man she was supposed to meet, but he could end up changing her life in ways she never thought possible…

Bella, thanks for chatting to me today, it has been fascinating. Good luck with your new book.

Bella’s RONA short-listed novel, The Promise of Summer, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
 
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Bella Osborne has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. Since then she’s written a number of best-selling romantic comedies and book club reads. She’s been shortlisted four times for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. She lives in Warwickshire, UK with her husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. When not writing Bella is usually eating custard creams and planning holidays.

Connect with Bella:

Website: http://www.bellaosborne.com

Facebook: Bella Osborne

Twitter: @osborne_bella

Instagram: @bellaosborneauthor

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Saturday Night Drinks with … Phil Johnson

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A day late due to unforeseen circumstances, but tonight I am delighted to welcome to the blog for a drink and a chat, author… Phil Johnson.

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

Thank you for inviting me! I’m having a small red Boutari, it’s a local Greek wine, as I’m in the Aegean at the moment, researching a sequel to my second novel Run to the Bluewhich my publishers may be interested in. It’s set here in Greece and there’s no substitute for being “on location” to capture atmosphere and flavour.

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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?

If you were able to be whisked away to Greece, then any number of little bars and tavernas overlooking the brightest sea, with the most beautiful smells of wild thyme and bougainvillea, and the sounds of cicadas and a little chilled Ibiza drifting across from the bar. If not, then Norwich, close to where I live.  

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?

Helena Bonham Carter! I always imagine her playing Betzy Blac, one of the central characters in Killer in the Crowd. A great actor. And, being a fan of romantic films, Hugh Grant. Secret confession, but Music and Lyrics is one of my favourites. I’m a sucker for romantic endings! I’ve a perfect role for him in my next book too, if it were ever to hit the screen – hey I can dream!

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 suppose I evolved into writing fiction from being a radio and TV reporter and broadcaster. I love telling stories, whether for news or in documentaries. I always wanted to write fiction to entertain, excite and make people smile. My stories are for lonely nights, beautiful days, beachside bars, and poolsides. I want to take people on a roller coaster of adventure, knowing that however bad it looks, my women will always beat overwhelming odds and win through in the end. Often finding love on the way. As I say, although crime, mystery is the driver for my stories, I’m a romantic at heart. 

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

The biggest challenge was not realizing how much re writing and editing was needed to finally make my stories ready for the world. Proudest moment, was actually holding a copy of Killer in the Crowd and thanking my wife Fi, for putting up with my 10 hours a day writing schedule and the loud music coming from my little room! Also having a wonderful reviewer/blogger give the book “A Million Stars!”

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’m sure every writer says this but, to get a film/TV deal. It’s not the money I’m chasing, I want to see the stories come to life on screen because I think they would entertain. Having had a successful career in TV, my books are, I feel, very visual.   

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

My second novel, Run to the Blue – Tess Anderson is a top TV reporter and she’s running for her life! Her husband’s affair with a cabinet minister is all over the press and a London crime boss wants her dead. Running to the Greek islands, she’s rescued by a handsome, mysterious American yachtsman. But who is he, and who can Tess trust as her enemies close in?

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 here in Greece. Too many wonderful locations to pick just one, but Lakka on Paxos, Naoussa on Paros and Milos stand out. My bucket list? To live long enough to see a world where all women and girls are safe and respected.  

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

I once got lost with a guest star when I worked on BBC Breakfast Time. On my first day as an Associate Producer, I took Brian Blessed up to the attic because I forgot where the studio was! 

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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’?

My favourite book is still One Day by David Nicholls, but I wish he’s re write the ending! However, I’d love you to read Run to the Blue my second novel due out this summer. It’ll whisk you over here to Greece – Paxos and Corfu, and take you to some secret bays where my protagonist Tess will find out, it’s easy to fall in love despite the danger.

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Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY. The multi-million copy bestseller that captures the experiences of a generation.

‘I can imagine you at forty,’ she said, a hint of malice in her voice. ‘I can picture it right now.’

He smiled without opening his eyes. ‘Go on then.’

15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.

So where will they be on this one day next year?

And the year after that? And every year that follows?

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?

Not to drink too much! However nice it is, and this Boutari, well, easy to have another, but I mustn’t!

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

A walk along a quiet beach. Listening to music. Time with family and friends. Reflecting on the past but always looking ahead.  

Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening, Phil, although I wish I was in Greece doing this in person!

Phil’s book, Killer in the Crowd, is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

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Imagine being an ordinary teacher with an unexciting life, except you have a secret – your mum was an outrageous punk star loved by millions, who vanished when you were just seven years old. You always wondered what happened to her, was she dead or somehow still alive? Then, the man you believed to be your father, a fading old rock star, is murdered, and his death linked to your mum’s disappearance.

Suddenly, the press announce you apparently have a brother – an international American superstar, a man who turns your life and your emotions upside down. Determined to find the truth, you lead your mum’s old band on tour. Four aging women former punks, rekindling their youth to help you succeed. You play your mum’s part as the singer, to elicit stories from fans to find out what really happened to her, wherever it takes you and whatever the cost. It’s a gig you just can’t miss!

As a TV Newsreader, Reporter and Producer for both BBC East and ITV Anglia, Phil Johnson covered everything from tracking down criminals in Spain and going on high-octane police chases, to interviewing pop stars, politicians and celebrities. P N Johnson was also the face and voice of Crimestoppers in the eastern region for many years and created the successful TV series: “999 Frontline”. Now living near Norwich, P N Johnson loves music, travelling, walking, and sailing, and bringing exciting new characters with amazing stories to the page.

Connect with Phil:

Twitter: @PhilJohnson01

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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.

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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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Friday Night Drinks with… Nancy Stohlman

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Normal service is being resumed on Friday Night Drinks this week and I am delighted to be welcoming to the blog, author… Nancy Stohlman.

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Nancy, lovely to virtually ‘meet’ you and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Tonight I’m drinking a Maker’s Mark—neat. But later I might switch to a nice 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’m a big fan of an outdoor patio with a view. But since it’s still a little chilly in April, one of the places I love to take people is an indoor cocktail lounge, Peaks Lounge, on the top of the Hyatt in downtown Denver. There is an absolutely incredible view of downtown as well as the entire Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. And if we time it right: we can watch the sunset. Cheers!

Peaks Lounge

That place looks amazing, I’d love to join you there for a drink. I’ve always wanted to visit Denver. 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?

Oh gosh—such pressure! Well, we would certainly want our drinking friends to be smart, great conversationalists, as well as unique from each other. I’m thinking we invite Margaret Atwood and Snoop Dogg. 

That would make a great mix I think. 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?

Well, tonight we are celebrating the re-release of my book Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction  as an audiobook! (cheers and clinks!) This is the first time I’ve narrated an audiobook, and it was a wonderful experience! We recorded the entire book in ONE day in the studio (crazy! whew!) and I just love the result for multiple reasons: not only am I thrilled that the book is in the world in a new format, but I really appreciate the accessibility that audiobooks offer to new audiences. The print book got such a wonderful response when it was released in 2020 (yes, THAT 2020!) that I’m excited to extend its reach and widen our flash fiction community.

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

Proudest moment: Every time I release a new book it’s like birthing a new artistic child into the world—so it’s hard to pick favorites. But I was especially proud when Going Short won the Readers View Gold Award—it confirmed that the message was actually reaching its audience. Writers work so much in isolation–we spend so much time in our own heads–that getting a nod of outward recognition was extremely validating.

Oh: and I was really proud of this book trailer (I made it myself!)

 

Biggest challenge: When you finish a book there is always that no-man’s land between projects where you wonder if you will ever have another good idea again! Seriously, this happens every time. But, after publishing many books, I’ve come to trust it as part of the process, and I even try to psyche myself up for it: just relax and don’t fight it! Going fallow, especially after a big project, is just one of the stages of re-flowering (to use a spring metaphor).

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 think every writer dreams of the day when they can write full time—when their body of work is self-sustaining. I think it takes a long time, but I believe it’s possible, and every year it feels a little bit closer. Thankfully, writers only get better with age—so I’ve got time!

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

I run a lot of awesome, amazing writing retreats (more on that below) and I’ve dealt with a lot of writers experiencing creative burnout. Creative burnout is different than regular burnout because the work of creativity, which is visionary work, requires a certain type of focus. We can’t “push through” creative work. 

In fact, I’ve become so passionate that I’m declaring next week I’m offering a FREE 5-day challenge FREE 5-Day Reversing Creative Burnout Challenge: From Burnout to Breakthrough: 5 Days to Get (or Keep) Your Creativity on Track: April 4-8, 2022

Learn more and register at: https://nancystohlman.com/

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?

Travel and writing are my two favorite things! As I said earlier, I run writing retreats for emerging or experienced writers in exotic, rustic, gorgeous, inspiring locations. With my co-facilitator, Kathy Fish, I’ve taken writers to Iceland, France, Italy, Costa Rica, and we have two exciting retreats planned for this summer! In June we are heading into the hills of southern Spain, for a week of creative breakthroughs, and in August we will gather in the Rocky Mountains overlooking Grand Lake for some high-altitude inspiration. We have a few spots left in each—you should absolutely join us!

Open Your Heart/Open Your Art:
High Altitude Inspiration in the Mountains of 
 Colorado and Spain

June 6-13
August 9-14 and August 16-21

To learn more or register: https://mailchi.mp/816443ccf0e8/summerretreats

Or: https://flashfictionretreats.com/

Grand Lake Colorado Retreat

And at the top of my bucket list right now: Egypt and Cuba. (And yes—I’m trying to figure out how to have retreats there, too!)

I’d love to go to a writing retreat in the Rockies – if only! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I spent three years living in a van and traveling with the Renaissance Festival. I have MANY stories, and I’ve been lucky enough to see just about every corner of this beautiful country. Talk about love of traveling!

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’?

Books are a passion we share, of course! And Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction is a “must read” and here’s why: Going Short is about creativity, not just flash fiction. I’ve had non-writers (musicians, painters) tell me that the book speaks to their processes as well. Creativity is creativity. Yes, it’s a book about writing and flash fiction (so if you don’t know what flash fiction is, this is the book for you!) but its really a book about being a revolutionary creator. And the world needs visionary people to do their thing more than ever, now. Being blocked or burned out is not serving you, and it’s not serving your purpose to the world. We need you to shine-now more than ever.

Going Short Front Cover

Flash fiction is changing the way we tell stories. Carving away the excess, eliminating all but the most essential, flash fiction is putting the story through a literary dehydrator, leaving the meat without the fat. And it only looks easy.

Enter Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction. In this, her treatise on the form, veteran writer Nancy Stohlman takes us on a flash fiction journey: from creating, sculpting, revisioning and collecting stories to best practices for writers in any genre. It is both instructive and conversational, witty and practical, and presented in flash fiction chapters that demonstrate the form as they discuss it. If you’re already a flash fiction lover, this book will be a dose of inspiration. If you teach flash fiction, you’ll want it as part of your repertoire. And if you’re new to the form, you might just find yourself ready to begin.

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?

Ha. Well, I know it’s only 9 pm, but it’s my bedtime! 

No really, my new favorite healthy drink to avoid hangovers AND dehydration is…drumroll… hot water. Not hot tea, just hot water–all day long. It’s like drinking water but better. And the best part is, unlike coffee or tea, if I forget to drink it and it goes cold, I can just pour it into a plant.

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

My favorite gift to myself is to have an artist date where I give myself big chunks of open time for creative play: take myself to a museum, write in a café with a latte and a croissant, go for a long walk while I take artsy pictures, maybe go vintage shop exploring, and of course end my evening watching the sun set with a cocktail. 

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Nancy, thank you for joining me tonight, I’ve loved chatting to you, it has been fascinating.

Nancy’s non-fiction treatise on flat fiction, Going Short: An invitation to Flash Fiction is out now in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats and is available here.

Nancy Stohlman is an award-winning author, performer, and all-around rabble-rouser. Her book Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction (2020), won a 2021 Reader Views Gold Award and was re-released as an audiobook in 2022. Her other books include After the Rapture, (forthcoming 2023), Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (2018), and The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (2014), among others. Her work has been anthologized widely, appearing in the Norton anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and The Best Small Fictions 2019, as well as adapted for both the stage and screen. She teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder and around the world.

Connect with Nancy:

My website: https://nancystohlman.com/

Facebook: Nancy Stohlman

Twitter: @nancystohlman

Instagram: @nancy_stohlman

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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.

Love On Location Cover jpg

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.

SPACE COVER

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

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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.

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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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