Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lynne Shelby

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The final ever Romancing The Romance Authors! It’s been great fun doing this feature over the past 18 months but it’s retiring now, ready for a new feature in January. Let’s send it off with a bang by talking romance with author… Lynne Shelby.

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

I write contemporary romance set in the world of theatre and film or in a foreign location that I have enjoyed visiting. I was first published in 2015, when my debut novel, French Kissing, won a national writing competition and since then I have had four more novels published. I am currently editing my sixth novel, Rome for the Summer, which will be published in 2022.

Why romance?

Before I wrote romance, I tried my hand at writing science fiction, fantasy, historical and mainstream stories, but about ten years ago, I ‘discovered’ romantic fiction and realised that with my stories all having a romantic relationship at their centre, romance is what I’d been writing all along without realising it. I enjoy writing (and reading) romance because, with it’s assurance of a happy-ever-after or happy-for-now ending (or even a hopefully-ever-after ending) it is a genre whose books leave the reader feeling positive about life and love, whatever tribulations the heroine and hero have to overcome along the way. 

What inspires your stories?

I find that almost anything can inspire a story. For example, a photograph or a painting or visiting a new place can spark an idea. My most recent novel, Love on Location, was inspired by a visit to Greece when I knew I simply had to write a book set in that beautiful country. I also get a lot of ideas for stories from overheard conversations on trains or buses, or even in the queue at the supermarket!

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

Jane Austen, Miranda Dickinson, Paige Toon, Kate Eberlen, Jojo Moyes

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

This is a very hard question to answer as there are so many fabulous romance novels to choose from, but I would have to say Pride and Prejudice as it sets the standard for every romance novel that came after it.

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

It has to be Mr Darcy! I’d hope to be invited to a ball at Pemberley where I would dance ‘til dawn.

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

My favourite thing about being a member of the RNA is that events such as the Annual Conference have given me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful authors who write in the romance genre. RNA members are very generous with their advice, and if anyone has a question about writing there is usually someone in the organization who can answer it. Besides which, it’s great to meet other people who don’t look at you askance when you talk about the people in your head! I have learned so much about writing since being in the RNA and made some amazing writer friends.

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

Keep going, even when you find writing hard – it’s perseverance that turns a writer into a published author.

Tell us about your most recent novel. 

My most recent novel, Love On Location, is a contemporary romance set in the world of film-making, in London, Athens and on a fictional Greek island that bears more than a passing resemblance to Santorini.

When screenwriter Laurel Martin is asked to rewrite the script for a new timeslip movie set in ancient Greece, she expects the film’s historical advisor to be an elderly academic. But when she meets Professor Jason Harding, a young and unexpectedly handsome archaeologist with his own ideas about the script, she finds that the job isn’t going to be as simple as she first thought…

A screenwriter. An archaeologist. A film crew on location on an idyllic Greek island. Will movie magic lead to real life romance?

The book is available in ebook and paperback formats here.

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When screenwriter Laurel Martin is hired to rewrite the script for a new timeslip movie, 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 his own ideas 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?

About the Author

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Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction and romance. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city with her 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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Friday Night Drinks with… Jennifer Fliss

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My last Friday Night Drinks of 2021 and it’s what is known as ‘Mad Friday’ here in the UK. Only one week to go until Christmas Eve and tonight I am sharing a festive drink with author… Jennifer Fliss.

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

Something fun, but non-alcoholic. But maybe a fancy coffee drink because we are going dancing after this, right? Gotta stay awake because I’m basically middle-aged now and staying awake is one of those skills that goes away with age, like being able to put your leg up straight in front of you in the shower to shave. We’ll hit up a club that plays 90s/00s hip hop. But for now, assuming we are not going out after this, a Shirley Temple or the house mocktail…which many places are doing now, and I’m grateful for that.

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?

It’s raining, okay? And we go to a dark wood-filled bookstore, maybe Mother Foucault’s in Portland here in the U.S. or somewhere in Edinburgh, and we drink coffee and eat Indian curry. And I know they wouldn’t allow eating & drinking in the store, but this is my fantasy, so…I make the rules. Maybe it’s Halloween. And there’s a reading of spooky stories. Remember, it’s raining.

That sounds perfect, I can picture it clearly. 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?

Michelle Obama and Edward Gorey. 

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 always working on several projects. First novel revisions. Second novel generating. I will always write. I love it so much. Also working on the preparations for getting my first book out into the world. I have a flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, coming out in December.

What I really would love is to be able to have my writing career be sustainable financially, which, these days: Ha! Ideally, I’d publish enough to be able to do all those supporting role jobs for writers: teach workshops, edit, etc. as well as make money off the books themselves. I’d never want to be famous; that sounds atrocious. But to be a known enough name so that people would pay me decent dollars to do what I love.

I also dream of my book being translated into different languages. Imagine a wall of framed covers with different designs and languages!

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

Someone teaching my work. When someone reaches out to me and says they’re teaching one of my essays or stories in their class, be it high school, college, or a workshop. What a gift that my writing is being taught! It’s such a gift when people tell me that my writing has made them feel less alone, in particular when it’s traumatic stuff. That’s why I started writing, so when my work is being shared in classrooms, especially to young people, I feel it’s my way of reaching them and saying: it will get better. Let me help.

My biggest challenge is revision in my novel. Writing longer form is not my natural literary state. And while it’s fun to generate the story, when I have to revise something that’s several hundred pages long, I feel mired down and terrified by the breadth of that work.

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!

In addition to having my work translated into many languages, I’d love to see a film adaptation. Or stage play. It just fascinates me how other eyes and minds see my writing. How they are interpreting it. I love when the literary and the visual meet, so this would be the ultimate take on that.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Writing novels is way harder for me, generally a flash fiction writer. But I am quite excited about both of my in-progress novels. I love their settings – honestly the thing I’m most a sucker for when I read. When they say: write what you want to read, THIS is that for me. I would love love to fall into these story lines. I just hope I can do a good enough job that others actually get to read them one day.

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?

Scotland. The old buildings, brick roads, twisty darkness, reading. Cozy tartan blanket. Those great accents. The castles intrigue me, but if I had to choose it would be to spend time in Edinburgh. Get an Airbnb and spend a month there. To write and read and wander the streets. Spend time in cafes. Watch everyone.

Yellowstone National Park was a bucket-list item I didn’t know I had. Initially I was intimidated by it being the U.S’s most visited National Park. But we went during the shoulder season and it wasn’t too crowded. The geothermal features are astounding. Not just geysers – I could not care less about Old Faithful – but the rainbow colored pools! Bubbling mud pots! Landscapes that look like Mars, if Mars was made of porcelain. I have never seen anything like it and chances are, most people haven’t, since there are more geothermal features there than anywhere on Earth. 

And the bison. I am newly obsessed by those dopey cute incredible large creatures. They were everywhere, including running down a hill towards our car, only to slow down and traipse across the road calmly, just feet (meters) from us. 

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

I hold grudges. But I also hold onto every single kindness, big and small. If someone apologizes and works to change, I’m open to that, but if not, I have a hard time forgetting about it and moving on like nothing happened.

And it’s not necessarily a secret because I share it often as my “random fact,” but I did the flying trapeze for years. I’d still like to get back into. 

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’?

This is a really hard question. I love love love reading and have forever. I used to have a book blog before I really started to do my own creative writing. I was going to say something by Yoko Ogawa, but then I just finished reading Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown and I’m blown away by it. It is a view a side of life being Asian American that we who aren’t gloss over, too readily, too easily. It should be required reading for everyone, frankly.

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Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: He’s merely Generic Asian man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but he is always relegated to a prop. Yet every day he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy – the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. At least that’s what he has been told, time and time again. Except by one person, his mother. Who says to him: Be more.

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?

Am I taking care of you? Because I haven’t been drinking. Ha! Maybe something to replenish your electrolytes, some Gatorade – the red kind because it’s not the most awful. Do you have that over there? I’m sure there’s some version of it.

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

Sleeping in is non-negotiable. So I wake up kind of late and then someone serves me eggs benedict with crunchy bacon and a really good mocha. Also a croissant. My daughter pops into bed for a little bit. We read together but separately. Maybe then I go for a run. In the rain. 

The next day, we go for a not-too-strenuous hike with a rewarding view of a turquoise alpine lake at the top. Yeah, maybe it’s raining for that too. And someone’s brought cookies. Someone has definitely baked fresh cookies. Is that you? Thanks for that!

In the most ideal world, I’m back in New York – where I’m from – and I wake up early for a bagel and mocha and then walk the streets for miles…in the rain. The rain breaks and I go down to the flying trapeze rig on the west side of the city and fly above the Hudson River (something I used to do regularly when I lived there.) 

Then I’m back home, it’s raining again (of course) and I order in dinner. I take a bath and eat dinner in the tub and read. Then into bed I go and watch bingeable mystery TV series for a few hours. Did you want all this detail?! Because there you go. From sun-up to sun-down and then some.

Jennifer, thank you so much for joining me, I have had a blast.

Jennifer Fliss’s flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, comes out from Okay Donkey Press on December 14th, 2021. It’s her debut book, but she’s also had over 200 essays and stories published out there in the world. You can buy a copy of her book in paperback and ebook formats here.

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Jennifer Fliss (she/her) is a Seattle-based writer with over 200 stories and essays that have appeared in F(r)iction, PANK, Hobart, The Rumpus, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. She was a Pen Parentis Fellow and recipient of a Grant for Artist Project award from Artist’s Trust. She has been nominated four times for The Pushcart Prize and her story, Hineni, was selected for inclusion in the Best Small Fictions 2019 anthology. Her flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball will be published in late 2021. She is an alumna of the Tin House Summer and Winter Writers’ Workshops.

Connect with Jennifer:

Website: https://www.jenniferflisscreative.com/

Twitter: @writesforlife

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Rachel Brimble

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Welcome to the penultimate edition of Romancing The Romance Authors. This feature is retiring at the end of the year in favour of some exciting new developments on the blog, which I will be announcing in due course. In the meantime, let’s enjoy chatting with this episode’s guest author about writing romance… Rachel Brimble.

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

Right now, I am concentrating on writing historical romance set in the Victorian period. My last series was set in the Edwardian period. I’m fascinated with both periods so I think I’ll be staying within these two eras for the time being!

I am currently working on my 30th novel and have 27 books (contemporary and historical) published by various publishers – my next book/series proposal is currently under consideration so I’m hoping for some good news soon.

Why romance?

Because I love it! I love exploring relationships whether they be within family, friends or colleagues, but it the romantic relationships I enjoy writing the most. With so much doom and gloom in the world, there is nothing better than escaping into a love story – for both me and my readers!

What inspires your stories?

So many things, but my stories usually start with either an historical event or person who takes my interest. Alternatively, an historical building, house or village will spark my imagination. Once I find myself constantly thinking about one of these things, I know a story is brewing. I let it settle for a while and soon enough I know the general plot and then I have to create the right characters to tell the story.

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

Past – Jane Austen/Georgette Heyer          Present – Nora Roberts/Julia London/Julia Quinn

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

Ooh, this is so hard, but my latest obsession is the Bridgerton series – I loved the TV adaptation of book 1 but, as an author, I was desperate to read the books and praying I enjoyed them even more. All I can say is I am absolutely LOVING them… definitely more than the TV series! Highly recommended if you love you romance with plenty of fun and laughter!

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Escape to the ballrooms of Regency London with this beautifully designed boxset of the first four books in the worldwide bestselling Bridgerton series, the inspiration behind the Netflix phenomenon. In this glamorous, witty series, the Bridgertons reign over the Ton, watched (and gossiped about) by a mysterious columnist known only as Lady Whistledown . . .

The Duke & I
Simon Basset appears on the verge of proposing to the lovely Daphne Bridgerton. But secretly their affair is a ruse to escape marriage-minded society mothers . . . Or is it? Amidst the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule . . .

The Viscount Who Loved Me
Anthony Bridgerton needs a wife. As the oldest son, he knows it’s high time he settled down and ensured the continuation of the Bridgerton line. What a shame then, that he seems to have fallen in love with entirely the wrong woman . . .

An Offer From a Gentleman
One ball, one unknown woman and one magical night, changed everything for Benedict Bridgerton. Now, he has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, for he knows this is his only chance for a fairy tale love story . . .

Romancing Mr Bridgerton
Penelope Featherington has loved her best friend’s brother, Colin Bridgerton, ever since she was a girl. When she discovers his deepest secret she must decide: is it time to share her own?

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

I love Anthony from book 2 in the Bridgerton series, The Viscount Who Loved Me – after losing his beloved father, he has inherited the title, riches and property but he is deeply affected and bereaved by his loss which makes him so very real. He is strong, handsome, cares for his mother and siblings and harbours a deep sense of duty. What’s not to like?

If I could have a day with him, I would want to go somewhere beautiful in the country, like the Cotswolds. Walk, talk, take tea and later a wonderfully intimate dinner with music and wine. After that, who knows…

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

My favourite thing is the friendships I’ve made over the years! I have gained so much support and mentorship since joining the RNA that I never feel alone in my writing endeavours which is so, so important. When I was starting out, I learned so much by attending the conferences and talking to published writers. Everything I learned would have taken me so much longer to carry out alone.

The RNA also offers the wonderful New Writers Scheme where an unpublished author can have their entire manuscript critiqued for a cost that is so much lower than a writer would pay for such a service elsewhere. It’s invaluable!

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

See above! First priority should be to join the RNA as you will have immediate access to published and unpublished writers who are on hand to answer questions via the FB page. You will also be able to join the New Writers Scheme.

Practically, the best advice I can give is to make sure you finish your novel, polish it, let it sit awhile and then revisit it. Ensure your story is the absolute best it can be, preferably having been looked at by trusted critique partners and/or a proofreader. Then make sure you submit it to agents/publishers! So many don’t take this terrifying step and if you don’t, nothing will ever change for you.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel is Trouble for the Leading Lady which is book 2 in my Victorian trilogy, The Ladies of Carson Street. Both this book and book 1, A Widow’s Vow, can be read stand-alone.

Trouble For the Leading Lady is Nancy’s story – Nancy is a good-time girl who dreams of one day being onstage. Deep inside, she knows her aspiration is never likely to come true when she lives and survives in the backstreet taverns and houses of Victorian Bath. Then she meets theatre manager, Francis Carlyle… and her dream turns into something else entirely as she and Francis join forces to help the children of Bath’s workhouse. You can buy a copy here.

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Bath, 1852.

As a girl, Nancy Bloom would go to Bath’s Theatre Royal, sit on the hard wooden benches and stare in awe at the actresses playing men as much as the women dressed in finery. She longed to be a part of it all and when a man promised her parents he could find a role for Nancy in the theatre, they believed him.

His lie and betrayal led to her ruin.

Francis Carlyle is a theatre manager, an ambitious man always looking for the next big thing to take the country by storm. A self-made man, Francis has finally shed the skin of his painful past and is now rich, successful and in need of a new female star. Never in a million years did he think he’d find her standing on a table in one of Bath’s bawdiest pubs.

Nancy vowed never to trust a man again. Francis will do anything to make her his star. As they engage in a battle of wits and wills, can either survive with their hearts intact?

The second in Rachel Brimble’s thrilling new Victorian saga series, Trouble for the Leading Lady will whisk you away to the riotous, thriving underbelly of Victorian Bath.

About the Author

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Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 25 published novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world. 

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click here: https://bit.ly/3zyH7dt

Connect with Rachel:

Website: https://rachelbrimble.com

Facebook: Rachel Brimble Author

Twitter: @RachelBrimble

Instagram: @rachelbrimbleauthor

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Friday Night Drinks with… Melissa Oliver

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We’ve arrived at the end of the month again already, can you believe it? And we are now only four weeks away from Christmas! I think it is time to start the Christmas celebrations and tonight I will be having my first festive Friday Night Drinks with Mills and Boon author… Melissa Oliver.

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

It’s getting close to the Christmas season, so I’m going to be indulgent and go for an Expresso Martini, or a Bailey’s White Russian. 

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Yes, it’s definitely cocktail season. 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’re going all out, Julie, so I’ll be taking you to the Connaught Bar in London, with it’s elegant Cubist wood-paneling, huge smoky mirrors and signature Martinis! We could pretend we’re in a James Bond film or something!

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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?

I would go with a couple who sizzled on the big screen together, oozed elegance but are sadly no longer with us- Peter O’ Toole and Audrey Hepburn- they would definitely keep us entertained with their stories and add a dash of glamour to the place.

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 have just completed my latest historical romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, which kicks off a new series set in Medieval London. I’m really excited about it as both the hero and heroine are quite different from any characters that I have written before and the backdrop of London is really exciting- there’s something quite familiar and accessible about it but obviously with it being set in the 13th century, quite different as well. 

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

Like many writers, my biggest challenge was finally getting published. It can be soul destroying getting those rejection emails but once you get that offer of a book deal, it more than makes up for it. And I’d say that my proudest moment was winning the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon Award in 2020 for my debut, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight (Notorious Knights book 1). It was definitely the cherry on top after being offered said book deal with Harlequin Mills and Boon. I remember walking around in a daze for a few days afterwards wondering if it really had happened or whether my active imagination had run riot! 

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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 not going to deny that the lure of having a book adapted for film or tv wouldn’t be amazing and of course if that opportunity came my way, I’d grab it with both hands. In the meantime, I want to develop as a writer, continue to enjoy what I’m doing, write books that captivate and are really, really, really successful, reaching more readers all over the world. In other words, I would love for my books to become bestsellers. 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I really enjoyed writing my latest book, The Knight’s Convenient Alliance– (Notorious Knights book 4), because …

1) It’s a Medieval romance with plenty of intrigue, adventure, drama, set in King Henry III reign.   

2)The leads first meet in book 3 of the Notorious Knights series. 

3) They have both been marred by tragedy in the past. 

4) The hero is an Agent of the Crown.  

5) There’s lots of banter between the leads- Brida O’Conaill is far too serious and Tom Lovent can’t help but tease her. 

It was a lot of fun to write but having said that, this book marks the end of the Notorious Knights series, which also meant having to say goodbye to many characters from previous books- it was a little sad but I’m really happy where I ended it.  

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 love Italy- it’s filled with so much history, culture, art & beauty, not to mention incredible food! My favourite places include, Rome, Tuscany, Venice and the Amalfi coast. 

I also love places of significant historical interest- Pompeii, The Acropolis, the Pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum and Persepolis have been some of the most amazing places I’ve been to and following in that vain, I would love to see the lost city of Petra in Jordan. The Red Rose city looks so romantic, so breathtakingly majestic, I really can’t wait to see it in person. One day…  

Jordan is also really high on my bucket list. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I used to make made-to-measure wedding dresses which was something I really enjoyed doing at the time. I particularly loved to find out the stories of how and where my clients met their fiancés. So yes, I’ve always been a romantic at heart!

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 love Georgette Heyer’s Regencies. They are so witty, so well-crafted with endearing characters, sparkling dialogue and amusing plot lines. She’s considered to be one of the first historical romance authors and her books have classic timeless quality which I return to again and again. If I had to pick one (which would definitely change depending on my mood, by the way) I would go with Sylvester or maybe Frederica but then there’s The Grand Sophy and not forgetting Cotillion

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Endowed with rank, wealth and elegance, Sylvester, Duke of Salford, is ready to find a bride.

His pursuit of a partner sets him on course to Phoebe Marlow, a young lady who is far more concerned with riding than sewing or beautiful clothes.

With Phoebe struggling to meet her family’s demands of gentility and poise, a potential match with Sylvester is exceedingly advantageous. So, it is very intriguing indeed when a visit from her potential suitor causes Phoebe to flee her home.

When the pair meet again and an unexpected adventure ensues, Sylvester comes to realise that there is much more to Phoebe than her reputation affords . . .

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 always know my limits so never drink to the point that I would have a hangover the following morning but one tip is to alternate your drinks with fruit juice or water and failing that, a full English breakfast with lots of tea does the trick.

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

Spa and afternoon tea with friends. Long walks with my husband, our daughters and cocker spaniel Mr Darcy, followed by a pub lunch with log fires. And finally then cuddled up on the sofa for a movie night with big buckets of pop-corn to share. 

Melissa, I have had the best time chatting to you this evening, thank you so much for joining me.

Melissa’s latest book for Mills and Book Historical is The Knight’s Convenient Alliance (Notorious Knights, Book 4) was published yesterday in the UK and Australia and is out in the USA on 30 November. You can buy a copy here.

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The only man who’s tempted her…

Now poses as her husband!

When an injured knight arrives on Brida O’Conaill’s doorstep, the village assumes he’s her long-lost husband. But her only previous connection to Sir Thomas Lovent was an intense shared moment at a tournament years ago. Brida maintains the pretence while she nurses him, yet once he’s back to full, virile health, she cannot reveal Thomas is not her husband – or that she’s unmarried! – when everyone is expecting them to act like man and wife…

Melissa Oliver is from south-west London where she writes historical romance novels. She lives with her lovely husband and daughters, who share her passion for decrepit, old castles, palaces and all things historical.

Melissa is the WINNER of The Romantic Novelist Association’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers 2020 for her debut, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight.

When she’s not writing she loves to travel for inspiration, paint, and visit museums & art galleries.

You can find out more about Melissa via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lesley Field

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I love my bi-weekly chats with romance authors on a subject close to my heart… the writing of romance novels! I can’t wait to hear what this week’s guest has to say on the subject, so I am delighted to welcome to the blog…. Lesley Field.

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

I write both contemporary and historical romance. My contemporary novels are set in Canada and my historical novels are set in and around the Regency period. I first started writing in 2012 when I saw a short story in a magazine and thought, “I could do that.” So I did. I wrote a contemporary novel, intended to be a short story, but it became more. Eventually it turned into a 90,000 work plus novel which later became the first book in my Saunders series, Saunders-Lies and Deception. However, that was not my first published novel. Having written contemporary I wondered if I could write historical as I’ve always loved reading historical books. Again, I sat at the computer and wrote, Dangerous Entrapment, which became the first book in my Duchess in Danger series. I was fortunate enough to get a publishing contract for that book from Canadian publishers. The book was published in 2015 and to my delight (and shock) was shortlisted for Historical Novel of the Year 2016 by The Romantic Novelists Association (RNA). I published a further 6 e-books through my Canadian publishers, 3 more in the Duchess in Danger series, and 3 books in my Saunders series, Saunders-Lies and Deception, (book 1) Saunders-Endings and Beginnings, (book 2) and finally, Saunders-Sisters and Lovers, (Book 3). All books were set in Banff, Canada. In the meantime I had obtained a publishing contract from a UK publishers for a further contemporary romance set in Canada, Betrayal. The rights to all 7 books have recently reverted back to me and I decided to take a big step away from publishers and become an independently published author. I now have all 7 books re-edited and re-published through Amazon KDP under the publishing name of “Wild Moose Publications,” which is in fact me. 

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Why romance?

I think because I’m a romantic at heart and I love a happy ever after. Not everyone gets that in life but they do in my books. Also I believe that we all need something to make us smile, to take us away from the everyday problems that life throws at us. There is enough violence in life and it’s lovely to sit and escape from it all, even if it’s only for a short while. Not, that there isn’t some danger in my books, or temporary heartache caused by misunderstandings, there is. But it’s the smile on a readers face when they reach the end of the book that’s my main goal.

Also there is sexual content in my books, which goes beyond the bedroom door. Some people like this, some don’t. So if a reader doesn’t like this my suggestion is, skip that bit. In my 2nd book in the Duchess in Danger series, Dangerous Deception, I pushed my boundaries as regards the sexual content. It was way out of my comfort zone and when I’d finished it I had to walk away from the laptop as I was actually shaking. There is always a reason for something like that, and in that particular book it had to be severe to justify the later action/belief of my heroine. I do accept that some people would be offended by some of the content, but those things happened in that era.

What inspires your stories?

I wish I knew. I never know where or when a storyline will suddenly pop into my head. My Saunders series was only intended to be one book, but book 2 came to me when my hubby and I were on a coach tour in America. There was a lot of scribbling in a notebook on that journey. Now I take a laptop with me when we travel. I always remember my mum telling me that I had a vivid imagination, so I guess that’s where the inspiration starts. Sometimes it could be something in a book that I‘m reading. Just a comment made about a person and I can start to weave a story around them, which could eventually turn into a book.

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

I have to say Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland as past authors, not forgetting the Brontes and Jane Austen. I certainly can’t forget Jane Austen as the 3rd Book in my Duchess in Danger series, Dangerous Desire, was awarded a Jane Austen Complimentary Award. For present day authors I have a leaning toward Bella Andre, for contemporary. I think she writes the most sensual loves scenes, I only wish I could do half as well. For historical, Sarah MacLean, Ella Quinn, Stephanie Laurens, and more recently Elizabeth St Michel. 

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

This is a really difficult question to answer as there are so many romantic books out there. I could say Bridgerton, which would be a no brainer. But I think I’ll suggest a contemporary novel, something from Bella Andre’s Sullivan series. I love this series and, as I previously said, I find her description of sex scenes sensual rather than sexual. I would choose, Can’t Help Falling in Love. As a bonus could I suggest a historical novel, set amid the American Civil war, Surrender to Honor, by Elizabeth St Michel. This is the second book in her Surrender series. The description of the events and the relationship between the main characters, where no quarter is asked and no quarter given, keeps you captivated until the last page.

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Gabe Sullivan risks his life every day as a firefighter in San Francisco. But after learning a brutal lesson about professional boundaries, he knows better than to risk his heart to his fire victims ever again. Especially the brave mother and daughter he saved from a deadly apartment fire…and can’t stop thinking about.

Megan Harris knows she owes the heroic firefighter everything for running into a burning building to save her and her seven-year-old daughter. Everything except her heart. Because after losing her navy pilot husband five years ago, she has vowed to never suffer through loving – and losing – a man with a dangerous job again.

Only, when Gabe and Megan meet again and uncontrollable flames of desire ignite between them, how can he possibly ignore her courage, determination, and beauty? And how can she deny not only his strong bond with her daughter…but the way his sweetly sensual kisses are challenging her to risk everything she’s been guarding for so long? If one – or both – of them aren’t careful, they just might end up falling in love.

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

I think it would have to be Ethan Slade from my own novel, Betrayal. A hunky rancher/businessman. I describe him as, “a rancher who exudes testosterone enough to make your toes curl.” Time spent on his ranch on the outskirts of Calgary, romantic picnics and riding into the foothills of the Canadian Rockies with him would be wonderful. That would keep me occupied all weekend. I always fancied myself as a cowgirl, then again perhaps I am in a parallel universe.

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

I think the RNA is fantastic. I came through the New Writers Scheme which is an amazing opportunity for new writers. The organization is so helpful and I have gained friends, and an insight into writing and publishing that I would never have discovered. I also find the other members are most helpful if you have a problem and there does not appear to be any back biting or hostility amongst members, unless I’m walking about with my eyes and ears shut. I’m proud to be a member of this amazing organisation.

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

Never give up and keep reading. Read a much as you can, not only in your own genre, but push your boundaries and open your mind to what others are writing. Never take a rejection personally, and keep submitting, or look at the possibility of going independent. Although, I do think that to be published by a publisher will give a person an insight into editing and what is needed to promote their book. I have learned a lot from my editors and am carrying that into my independent publishing world.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel, which was published on 8th November 2021, was my first independently published novel. Apart from a first for independent publishing it was a first for the genre, as it’s a time travel novel, moving from 2009 back to the Regency period. It does contain sexual content, as do all of my novels as mentioned above. The title is Duchess Thro Time, and it tells the story of Kate who is celebrating her friend Charlotte’s (Charlie’s) birthday, at the country home of Charlie’s grandparents, Halford Park. Finding herself betrayed by her two best friends she flees to the top floor of the house. Finding a door she’s not seen before she follows the sound of music and finds herself back in 1811 and under the suspicious eye of the local spy master. What happens next takes her on a journey of discovery which I hope the reader will enjoy. I have to give credit here to my wonderful husband who has prepared the cover art work for both the e-book and print book. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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Kate Thornton loves Halford Park, the country estate of her best friend’s grandparents, the Duke and Duchess of Halford. A party celebrating (Charlotte’s) Charlie’s birthday, finds them both dressed in gowns from the Nineteenth century. As the party progresses Kate discovers she’s been betrayed by her two best friends. A confrontation and heated words send Kate fleeing to the top floor of the house and into an area she’s not seen before.Following the sound of music she finds herself among people dressed the same as her. Believing this to be Charlie’s idea of a joke she slips out into the garden. As she tries to obtain a service for her phone she is approached by Marcus Welford who escorts her back into the house. When there is a threat of danger he offers her protection. Discovering that Marcus Welford is the Sixth Duke of Halford, and Charlie’s several times removed grandfather is a shock. Unable to understand how she has travelled back to 1811 Kate is grateful to Marcus for keeping her safe, especially when she risks being accused of being a French spy. As they become close danger forces Marcus to extend his protection to marriage. A marriage of convenience soon turns to more.
Can this marriage work or must Marcus send her back to her own time?
And if he sends her back can either of them live without the other?

About the Author

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Lesley Field was born and grew up on Teesside, in the North East of England. She enjoyed riding and reading and later spent most of her working life pursuing personal injury claims on behalf of claimants. When retirement came she kicked off the restraints of the law and discovered her real self. What she discovered or re-discovered was writing something she’d dabbled in when she was in her teens. Although writing contemporary fiction set in Canada, she also writes historical fiction, set in London in and around the Regency period. Using her love of Canada and her enjoyment of horses she brings both to her books.

Lesley is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association coming in through their New Writers Scheme. Having now progressed to full membership she is also a member of ROMNA and a member of Promoting Yorkshire Authors. 

Happily living on the North Yorkshire coast with her husband she spends her days enjoying life, and writing.

Connect with Lesley:

Website: https://lesleyfield.com 

Facebook: Lesley Field

Twitter: @lesley_field2

Instagram: @lesley_field2

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Friday Night Drinks with… Annette Hannah

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Tonight’s guest on Friday Night Drinks is someone I have been lucky enough to actually drink with in person, an event which has ever embedded me in her mind as ‘the woman who fell off an office chair.. twice.’ Tonight, with my seat firmly positioned beneath my derriere, I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author… Annette Hannah.

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

Thank you so much for having me on your lovely blog. As it’s Friday night I think it has to be my favourite cocktail, a cosmopolitan, gloriously pink with a swirl of orange peel in it. Clink cheers.

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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?

Ooh I think one of the best nights in London I had was a Christmas cocktail night in Drake and Morgan. It was hosted by Sara-Jade Virtue and the Books and the City team over at Simon and Schuster. They had custom made cocktails and I remember a gin fizz one which was delicious So I think we would go there. Its handy for St Pancras station too.

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?

It would have to be Jackie Collins as she was my all-time favourite author. I met her a couple of weeks before she passed and what struck me was that she was so genuinely interested in her readers. She wished me luck with my writing too as I’d confided in her that I’d been dabbling. I think for the man it would be Adam Levine from Maroon 5 because I just love their songs and we could ask him to sing for us.

I’m very jealous of you meeting Jackie! Did you see the documentary about her recently, it was fascinating. 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 Poppy’s Christmas Wishes is my third published book but it was actually the first book I ever wrote. I’d been wanting to write forever and after a brief stint when my three children were tiny I realized I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. About six years ago I became part of a promotional team for my favourite author Milly Johnson, just by answering a call out on facebook. I was then invited to a blogger evening by Simon and Schuster and from then on I became a blogger. This helped me to find my voice and when authors started using my quotes in their books I actually couldn’t believe it. I made lots of blogging and writing friends and the lovely Vicki Bowles told me about the Romantic Novelists’ Association which I joined on their New Writers’ Scheme. Simon and Schuster hold a one-day submission event for non-agented writers every year, so I plucked up the courage to write the first three chapters of Poppy’s Christmas Wishes and submitted it. Then I panicked, what if they asked for the rest? This prompted me to finish the book in a month, and that was it my dream of writing a book had come true. It was rejected by S&S and I sent it out to a couple of other places but I realise now how naive I was then as it was a first draft and I hadn’t edited it at all. After writing my other books I decided to edit it and send it to through the New Writers’ Scheme for a second time and then my editor at Orion Dash offered me another two-book deal.

The idea for the book came about ten years ago when I was on a Christmas night out and my friends and I met a man who was playing a genie in his local pantomime. I thought it would be a perfect theme for a book and so along came Poppy’s Christmas Wishes. I would love to see it on telly as a cosy Christmas movie, snuggled up on the couch with my daughter with a hot chocolate in hand and snow falling outside the window.

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

My proudest moment has to be when the lovely and amazing Milly Johnson said she would provide a quote for my debut novel Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café

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I think the biggest challenge so far has to be trying to get your book published as I’d tried for a few years but I didn’t hang around waiting I just kept writing more books as after the first one it felt as though a tap had been turned on and my head is constantly filled with story ideas.

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 have a film or a telly deal, because I see my writing in my head as though it’s a film playing before me so I think it would be fascinating to actually sit and watch it with my family and friends.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m currently working on a book at the moment which is really exciting and quite different to the others. The whole story has formed in my head so I just need to get it down, I also have a dual timeline book that I wrote a few years ago which I think is my favourite out of all the books I’ve written. I’m hoping to edit that again soon and get it out there.

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 also love to travel, just before the dreaded lockdown my husband and I recreated a holiday we had years ago but this time with our children. We went to Australia and Singapore and I think Singapore has to be one of my favourite places ever, the Zoo is just wonderful. We all loved it. I also loved Venice and Monte Carlo and San Francisco. So many places. Santorini is a place I’d like to visit one day.

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

As well as being a blogger and an author I’m also Press Officer for the RNA and on the committee

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’?

Oooh that’s a hard one as I’ve read so many fantastic books in my life but there are two that have stayed with me from my teenage days, Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews and Chances by Jackie Collins. I don’t know if it’s because they featured young people like I was at the time but I think for Flowers in the Attic, the wickedness was so shocking in it and I fell in love with Christopher, I also fell in love with Gino actually from Chances so maybe that’s why they meant so much to me, they were my first book boyfriend crushes.

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The book that made Jackie Collins one of Britain’s favourite authors sweeps you from the sophisticated playgrounds of Europe to the glittering gambling palaces of Las Vegas. It plunges you into the reckless, dangerous world of the Santangelo crime family. It introduces you to Gino Santangelo, the street kid who makes it all the way to the top. And then it brings you Lucky – his sensual, stunningly beautiful, and passionate daughter; a woman who dares to win her father’s empire for herself; a woman unafraid of taking … CHANCES.

Flowers in the Attic is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, although not as creepy as My Sweet Audrina by the same author! 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 like to try and drink water between sips of alcoholic drinks and recently started drinking J20 apple and raspberry which is quite cocktail like. If I do have one which is very rare thankfully, then I like a glass of fresh orange with my daughter’s specialty of bacon done in the air fryer on a toasted bagel with avocado in it. It is so delicious and perfect for non-hangover days too.

I had bacon on a toasted bagel for lunch today, although I like mine with roasted cherry tomatoes. It’s even nicer if you spread the bagel with Boursin instead of butter! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

A little bit of shopping and a gorgeous afternoon tea in a posh hotel.

Sounds perfect! Annette, thanks for chatting to me this evening, I’ve had a blast and managed to stay on the chair! Good luck with the new book.

Annette’s new book, Poppy’s Christmas Wishes, is out as an ebook on 2 December and you can pre-order it here.

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What would you wish for if you were granted three wishes?

For the first time she can remember, Poppy is dreading Christmas. Unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend after moving across the country for him, there’s nothing cheery about the festive season this year.

Dragged to a Christmas ball by best friend Layla, Poppy meets gorgeous actor Gabe, who stars as a genie in a play. When he asks her what three wishes she would make, she realises it’s quite simple: love, a job she’s happy in and, just once in her life, to do something extraordinary.

Gabe and Poppy make a pact to help each other make their dreams come true. As they tick off their wishes, their friendship blossoms… But, as they discover, sometimes, what you want for Christmas isn’t necessarily what you need…

Annette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now lives near a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cocker spaniel. She writes Romantic comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown.

She worked in Marketing for many years as a qualified Marketeer which she loved as it tapped into her creative side.

As an avid reader, she began to review the books she read, became a book blogger and eventually plucked up the courage to fulfil her life long dream of writing a book.

For four years she was a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s new writers’ scheme, during which time she wrote a book a year

After signing a two book deal with Orion Dash in 2020 she graduated to full member of the organisation and is also their Press Officer.

She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places and spending time with her friends and family.

Connect further with Annette via her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

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Friday Night Drinks with… Carolyn Mandache

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It’s Friday Night Drinks time again and this week I am joined by Author… Carolyn Mendache.

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Welcome to the blog, and thence you for joining me for a drink this week. First things first, what are you drinking?

Hi Julie, my Friday night tipple is a gin cocktail from Eden Mill. They do all different kinds, but I’m partial to the Gin and Rose Lemonade one.

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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?

Aside from my writing, my husband and I also run a business called time2dine, working closely with local restaurants, so I’d be taking you to one of the fantastic restaurants on offer in Glasgow. Chatting over great food in an attractive setting always seems a good option to me, and we’ve all missed out on this for so long it’s even more enjoyable now!

Great food is always a winner with me! 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?

This question I’m finding really tough! Ok, I’ll go with my gut instinct and say Michael McIntyre for the male, as he is one of the funniest people on the planet in my view and would be sure to entertain us. The female would be Sarah Rafferty in character as Donna from Suits, as she’s funny, smart, has terrific one-liners and wonderful dress sense.

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?

My current writing is a follow up to my debut novel, title still to be decided! To go back to the start, my inspiration for Behind the Curtain was to try and make people re-think Romania and attitudes towards immigrants. 

My husband was born in Romania, and the media is often very negative in portraying Eastern Europe, so I hope to try change that. The book is a fictional account of his life in Romania before meeting me and moving to Scotland. 

Our four children are another reason for writing the book, I want them to grow up to be proud of both their Scottish and Romanian roots. I found researching absolutely fascinating, there is only one year in age difference between Florin and I, but our childhood experiences were so different and I learned a lot about the country’s history, culture and customs. Florin’s childhood in a communist country was not an easy one, but it wasn’t unhappy either, so it was important to me to fully show this.

Now that I’ve caught the writing bug, I’m well underway with the next book which starts where Behind the Curtain finishes off, with Florin meeting me. This book is written from my own perspective, rather than Florin’s, and it is a lot of fun reminiscing about all of our experiences as a multi-cultural family, both in Scotland and Romania. My aim for my books is to encourage people to be more open-minded, not fall into the trap of believing stereotypes and to form opinions of people based on who they are, not where they are from.

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

My proudest moment is yet to occur, as I have been invited to my local Waterstones branch to sign my book once it arrives in stock! This really will be a dream come true moment for me as it’s great selling online, but to see my own physical copy of my book sitting signed in Waterstones will be something truly special.

My biggest challenge was to go for it, and actually publish Behind the Curtain. For quite a while I worried I did not have the right to publish a book based on someone else’s life, in a country I had only visited. In the end, my motivation was strong enough to help me overcome those worries, and I am proud of the book with very positive feedback so far. Another challenge was deciding how many Romanian phrases to include without putting off or confusing British readers, but I think I got the right balance.

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!

If I’m brave enough for the next book I’d love to do a pre-order campaign as pre-release sales would feel fantastic! Other than that, media coverage or being noticed and critiqued by an author I admire would also be of huge value.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

During lockdown, I joined an online creative writing group with Indie Authors World, who helped me publish my book. We produced a collaborative book of novellas, each one of us taking on a different writing prompt, and the book will be published soon. I really enjoyed this project, and tackled a romance story, something I normally would have shied away from. The book will be called Allsorts due to the variety of writing, and profits will go to Calum’s Legacy, a meningitis charity. 

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 would have to say Cocoa Beach, Florida. I have so many happy family memories from there as we’ve visited a few times. It’s next to the Kennedy space centre, and the excitement of our kids watching a real life rocket launch was pretty amazing. Dolphins jumping in the sea, and of course, a magical trip to Disney World, not to mention the fantastic outlet shopping. Perfect holiday destination all in all. It does rain quite a lot there in July, but it’s warm rain that’s over fast, not like the Glasgow downpours I’m used to!

The place I’ve always wanted to visit is Hawaii, I love the idea of enjoying a Luau, experiencing the food, music and culture. The scenery, colourful flowers, and general laid back feel it seems to have would be things I’d really enjoy. Definitely on my bucket list!

I absolutely love Florida! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I met my husband Florin, the main character in my novel, at a foam party in Spain! I’m guessing not many people can say that’s how they met their other half. 

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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’?

Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, but I’d have to buy you a copy as I wouldn’t part with my signed one! Picoult is one of my very favourite authors and I always enjoy her thought provoking books with topical themes and moral dilemmas. This particular book I received at a talk by the author herself at Kelvingrove art galleries in Glasgow. The spectacular setting, as well as her insights into how she tackled writing the book made for a very entertaining evening, and I loved meeting her. Tackling racism, the storyline centres around a black nurse accused of causing the death of a newborn baby, I won’t say any more, but it’s a powerful read and one that I would class as a “must read”.

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When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

I have copy of this, I must get round to reading it some day! 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?

With 4 kids it’s safe to say I avoid hangovers at all costs! A big glass of water at bedtime is a must and if I’m not feeling too great the next day, strong coffee and lots of fresh air always helps.

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

Well, a weekend for me has to have a lie in since it’s a break from the early morning school runs. Saturday afternoons I like to spend as a family, a walk around the Kelpies then coffee and cake is always a good option, followed by either dinner out, or someone else cooking for a change! Sundays I like to find some time to read, meet up with friends, watch some TV (currently bingewatching The Rookie) and catch up on washing and ironing…although you said perfect weekend, so in that case my magic wand would have taken care of that.

Sounds wonderful. may I borrow your washing up wand, please? Thank you for joining me, I’ve really enjoyed our chat.

Carolyn’s book, Behind The Curtain, is available now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

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Florin was born in Iasi, Romania. As a young boy, he lived through rationing and the harsh conditions of the Ceaucescu regime, but always with the love of family and friends to balance out the hardships and mask the struggles.

As he gets older, he tries to untangle his own beliefs from those forced upon him… was a Communist way of life a bad thing? Were the stories about the Roma people true? Was life in the west really as depraved as his country would have him believe? 

Aged 11, on Christmas Day, Florin witnessed the exalted Ceaucescus shot to death on TV, the true feelings of the Romanian people finally stripped bare. From that historic moment, he knew his life in Romania would be a changed one. 

This is a story of the strength of people in the face of dictatorship, how love can sustain people in even the worst of circumstances. Florin’s story and that of his family allow you to see behind the curtain.

Carolyn Mandache is an author and business owner living in Scotland. “Behind the Curtain” was inspired by her interest in Romania, where her husband Florin was born; a country she has come to think of as a second home. Carolyn’s aim with her book is to provide an insight into what life was like “behind the Iron curtain” not as historical fact, but as fiction. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of Strathclyde, and can speak Romanian at conversational level. The author enjoys travelling with her husband and children, with a particular soft spot for Spain…where she met Florin on holiday.
 
You can find out more about Carolyn and her work on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
 
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Blog Tour: I’ll Be Home For Christmas by M W Arnold

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I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the release of book three in The Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club series by M W Arnold, I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Thanks to Mick and Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of the tour and to Mick for providing me with this great character interview for me to share with you today.

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A mysterious key left by her murdered sister, leads Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Betty Palmer on a journey of discovery and danger. Given up to an orphanage upon birth, the parents she’s long thought had no part in her life force themselves back in, purely out of greed and self-preservation.

Penny’s life is unexpectedly turned upside down by a potentially life-changing situation, which causes her wounded husband to question their marriage. No-one seems safe in this year of turmoil in the middle years of the war, as some relationships face breaking point whilst others become stronger.

Kidnap, crashes and dogfights, the girls of the Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery have never faced such dangers. To survive may not be enough as they must find the strength to rise above the most trying times yet of their lives.

Let’s go over now to one of the main characters in the novel, Betty Palmer, and have a chat to her, shall we?

So Betty, a little bird tells me you’re a colourful character. Would you care to comment?

That depends. Will everything I tell you in this interview be kept confidential? Specifically, from the police? Well, if that’s the best you can promise, I’ll just have to trust you. Yes, I suppose you could say I’ve dallied with my fair share of lively enterprises, but I’m really not sure how much I should tell you. I had an unusual childhood, something more akin to Oliver Twist, though a little more structured.

Now you really have my attention. You’ve got to elaborate.

Must I? Oh, very well. My twin sister and I were put into an orphanage because our parents only wanted a boy. You tend to grow up tough and quickly in those places and we quickly learned the only people we could totally trust and depend upon, were each other. Remember I mentioned Oliver Twist? We learned certain, skills as we grew older, which influenced what we did for a living once we were able to escape. That probably doesn’t sound as if were were…honest. Very true, but we did have our own code and only ever dealt with those who could afford to lose things or, who were evil. I know that sounds like some kind of thing you’d read in the legends of Robin Hood, but that’s where the similarities end; we didn’t give to the poor.

That’s quite a story. You mentioned a twin sister.

Yes, Eleanor. I’m very sad to tell you she was…murdered in January of 1942, so you’ll never be able to meet her. I know I didn’t go into details about what we did to make ends meet – sorry, but no promises are worth going to jail for – so I shall only say, she was a girl of undoubted skill in her chosen profession. Indeed, in certain circles, she was quite famous. You could even say that the corridors of power were lined with her pictures.

Perhaps we should move on. Are there any of your colleagues to which you are particularly drawn?

Really? You wish to put me on the spot. To be honest, after I lost my sister, I never expected to become close to anyone again. Certainly, I never intended to allow myself to. Then fate foisted three girls upon me to which I’ve grown inordinately fond, even though one is a Yank! They are all capable of causing me equal amounts of grief and joy so no, I don’t believe there is a single one of which I am fond over any other. I know that isn’t the answer you wanted but would it help if I also told you, I now believe I have the family I never believed I would ever get.

Do you remember where you were when this terrible war broke out? And what you were doing?

You really are determined to get me to say what I was doing, aren’t you? Well, sorry, I’m still going to keep that to myself, though I’m certain you have already made your own assumptions, those will have to do. Let me just say, I was busy valuing certain items my sister may have acquired in the course of her business. However, the very next day, I began to look into what I could do for my country. I didn’t think I was patriotic until I heard the wireless and then saw the headlines in the newspapers. I eventually joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Unfortunately, this was not a very good experience for me and I was very happy and also relieved when I found out about the formation of the Air Transport Auxiliary. I’ve found my freedom and true happiness amongst its members.

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I am sure this has whetted your appetite to find out more about Betty and her past and her experiences in the Air Transport Auxiliary. Well, I guess you had better buy a copy of I’ll Be Home For Christmas! You can find it here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for reviews of the book and other great content:

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About the Author

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Mick spent fifteen-odd years roaming around the world, courtesy of HM Queen Elizabeth II – gawd bless her – before becoming a civilian and realizing what working for a living really was.

He loves traveling, and the music of the Beach Boys, Queen, Muse, and Bon Jovi. Books play a large part in his life, not only writing, but also reading and reviewing, as well as supporting his many author friends.

He’s the proud keeper of two Romanian Were-Cats bent on world domination, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. I’ll be Home for Christmas will be his third novel with The Wild Rose Press.

Connect with Mick:

Facebook: M W Arnold Author

Twitter: @mick859

Instagram: @mick859

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5BTjvD9Jp–rLfjB9hcd9g

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Kathy Strobos

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I am delighted to be chatting today to another romance author about why she loves and writes in the genre. Please welcome to the blog, author… Kathy Strobos.

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

I’ve written three books so far, all of which have been through the RNA New Writer’s Scheme. I’ve also taken a lot of classes. My first writing course was the Penguin UK Writer’s Academy “Constructing a Novel” course, and my teacher said the exchange between Audrey and Eve (two characters in Partner Pursuit) was “sparky.” That made my month. I realized I could write commercial fiction—and not just legal briefs. I took some more courses and finished the novel. I submitted it to the RNA New Writer’s Scheme. I received very positive feedback that encouraged me to keep writing. I think I floated on air for several weeks as a result of this final line of my first report: “In this rollercoaster narrative, the plot is deftly handled, and the conclusion is fun. Partner Pursuit has plenty of the feel-good factor that makes this romantic comedy such an enjoyable and satisfactory read.” 

I published Partner Pursuit in October. It was briefly in the Amazon Top 50 Best Sellers for City Life and Humorous American Literature in paperback. I will publish Is This for Real? in January and then publish Caper Crush in May 2022. And then write some more. 

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An opposites attract, friends-to-lovers, slow burn, fake dating romantic comedy

Love is all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. Usually me. I admit it, I’m a relationship-recluse. Ironic, given that I write romantic comedies. So, I’m on a sabbatical from dating.

Which is why fake dating my best friend Rory is fool-proof. Rory suggested it because he needed a date for work functions. And I can use our experiences as fodder for my romcom novel. Plus, my sister doesn’t know it’s not real and she is thrilled that I’m not walling myself off emotionally. Her words, not mine. But I do wish she would stop saying that she always suspected there was something more between me and Rory. She should realize that we’ve been friends forever so I’m immune to his appeal. 

We would never work. Rory is such a romantic; he still believes in that perfect love similar to his parents’ marriage. My parents fought bitterly. So, we are better off as friends. I can’t risk losing our friendship, even if this might be my chance—before his ex-girlfriend wins him back.  

Those flickers of attraction? Easily extinguished by cold water reality—like a two-mile hike in drenching rain over sand with wheelie luggage. 

But our relationship is not sticking to the plot—or is it?

I think that they are all a mix of women’s fiction with romance/romantic comedy/chicklit. Partner Pursuit focuses a lot on Audrey’s journey and her legal career. Is This for Real? is more focused on the romance. And Caper Crush is more focused on the romantic comedy.

Why romance?

I read romance, probably because I like to read stories with a HEA. And it took me awhile to find my husband, so I had a lot of dating stories (good and bad) while I was single. Audrey’s bad date in Partner Pursuit was based on one of my dates, although I made it much worse in the book. 

What inspires your stories?

I initially started drafting Partner Pursuit because I watched a really bad romcom, and I thought, I could write a better one. I really miss the brilliant romcoms like When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Proposal. So, I started writing scenes of Partner Pursuit. Partner Pursuit was also inspired by my having a hard time finding work/life balance while working as a corporate lawyer. But I also did make a lot of great friendships at the office, so I also wanted to convey those friendships. 

I love fake dating stories and friends-to-lovers so that inspired Is This For Real?

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

Jane Austen, Sophie Kinsella, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Giulia Skye, Jill Mansell, Helen Fielding, Hester Browne, Judith McNaught

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

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. Kinsella is brilliant at comedy. 

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Samantha thrives under pressure. A high-powered London lawyer, all she can concentrate on is taking the next step in her career; eating, sleeping, seeing friends – even taking a breath – will have to wait.

But just when she’s about to get everything she has ever wanted, Samantha makes a mistake. A fifty-million-pound, career-destroying mistake. Unable to face the consequences, she does the unimaginable and runs away…

Catching the first train she can, she finds herself in the countryside, outside a beautiful grand house. Mistaken for another woman, she falls into a new job as the family’s housekeeper.

Disaster ensues. In a blink, her life has shifted from writing briefs to washing them – and she has no idea how to work the washing machine. Let alone the oven. A former master of the takeaway menu, she’s now expected to whip up fine cuisine.

But gradually, she falls in love with her new life in a wholly unexpected way. Will her employers ever discover the truth? Will Samantha’s old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?

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

That is super difficult. After much consideration, I’ve picked Nelson of the Hester Browne Little Lady Agency series. For my perfect romantic weekend, we would fly to Costa Rica. We could go sailing there (Nelson can sail), do a little easy hiking, have romantic dinners with beach breezes etc., and spend some time at the beach. 

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

I have gained so much. First, my favorite thing is the friendships I have made. I made so many friends when I was at the RNA Conference in Leeds. That was an amazing experience. Everybody was so friendly. I went not knowing anybody.

I met my now-critique partner Giulia Skye on the train to Leeds, and we immediately clicked as we discussed The Hating Game and the novels of Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Now we email each other weekly, and she is the one who encouraged me to indie-publish. But I’ve made a lot of friends at the RNA (also online via the Facebook groups). It is great being friends with other writers.

Second, I think the critiques in the NWS are invaluable. 

Third, I also enjoy the camaraderie, friendships and mentoring in the Facebook groups. 

Also, the RNA Conference, the online classes and the magazine articles are really helpful. I had a 1-to-1 consultation for my Partner Pursuit blurb at the RNA conference this past summer.

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

Join the RNA New Writer’s Scheme. (If I am only allowed one piece of advice). Second, just write. You can fix a rough draft. For me, I get better ideas when I re-read what I’ve written. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Audrey is a workaholic lawyer. She is trying to make partner—with only six months until the decision. She’s torn because she’s stressed by working so much, but she also loves being a lawyer and the analytical thrills. And then she meets Jake.

Jake is a fun-loving music marketing executive. He definitely doesn’t want to date a workaholic lawyer—because his dad was one, and his dad often put work before family. I made him a music marketing executive because when I became in-house counsel, I worked for the parent company of a music company, among other things. When I would ride up in the elevator in the morning, other people would talk about how they’d been up all night at a concert. I thought, “wow, that’s so different than my life writing a brief or compliance policy until late at night.” You can buy a copy of Partner Pursuit in ebook and paperback here.

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When a workaholic lawyer meets a fun-loving music marketing executive for opposites attract, friends-to-lovers adventures, which partnership will she choose?

Workaholic lawyer Audrey Willems is not going to take any chances with her bid to become a partner at her New York law firm—especially with only six months until the decision. 

Until she bumps into Jake—her new neighbor. Jake is a fun-loving music marketing executive who might just be The One.

He’s funny, caring, supportive—and able to kill water bugs in the bathroom.

But Jake will never date a woman married to her job. His father was a workaholic lawyer who never had time for family. 

And she’s just got the case of a lifetime—the one she needs to win to make partner.  Working 24/7 at the office may not even be enough hours to pull off a victory.

If only she had not met him now.

Audrey is determined to prove that she can juggle work and romance—even if managing court cases, candlelit dinners, and bike rides around Manhattan is a lot harder than it looks.  She keeps canceling dates for yet another case crisis.

But when making partner is like a game of musical chairs and the last seat is a business-class alone, which partnership will she choose?

About the Author

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Kathy Strobos is a writer living in New York City with her husband and two children, amid a growing collection of books, toys and dollhouses. She grew up in New York City and graduated from Stuyvesant High School, Harvard-Radcliffe University magna cum laude, and Columbia Law School. She spent two semesters abroad at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. She previously worked as a lawyer. She left law to pursue her dream of writing fiction full-time and getting in shape. She is still working on getting in shape.

Connect with Kathy:

Website: https://kathystrobos.com

Facebook: Kathy Strobos Rewrites

Twitter: @KathyStrobos

Instagram: @kathystroboswriter

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Friday Night Drinks with… Joan Schweighardt

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Welcome to November! It’s Friday again and I’m away at the moment, so I am fully relaxed and in a sociable mood. the perfect time to have Friday Night Drinks with another fabulous author. Tonight I am delighted to welcome to the blog… Joan Schweighardt.

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

Caipirinha! It’s a Brazilian drink, consisting of Cachaça (a spirit made from sugarcane juice), lots of fresh lime, and sugar. I generally stay away from sugar, but this is a special occasion.

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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?

Since I’m starting off with a Brazilian drink and hoping you’ll join me and try one too, let’s go to Brazil. I know a great river/rainforest guide down there. He calls himself Carlos the Jaguar: He has a small boat and he takes tourists up and down the river, or he did, in the days I want to remember (pre COVID and pre all the mining and drilling that’s been going on forever but has really picked up in the last few years). Anyway, it’s a lovely night and the river will be as smooth as glass and the banks will be alive with the songs of insects and frogs, and, every now and then, curious screeches we can’t identify. 

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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?

How about two Scots? I’m thinking Anne Donovan and Thomas Lipton. I’ve only read one of Anne Donovan’s novels, and but it was wonderful and I intend to read more. The one I read, Buddha Da, begins with this line: is “My da’s a nutter.” It’s a coming of age about a girl (the narrator) whose happy-go-lucky but none-too-spiritual father comes home one night and announces he’s going to take up meditation at the local Buddhist center. 

As for Thomas Lipton, he was actually born in Ireland but moved to Scotland very shortly thereafter. Here in the U.S., we really know him these days for his tea, but he was a very famous man back in the 1920s, here as well as in the UK, a large-hearted man who quit school at the age of 13 to help his parents run their Glasgow grocery shop and whose marketing genius made all of them fabulously wealthy. He didn’t sit on his money either; Lipton was a renowned philanthropist, always giving to the poor, and he made sure his employees at the various businesses he came to start (some in the U.S.) were fairly paid. (One of my fictional characters in my recent trilogy worked for him, so I have this firsthand.) He loved the sea, Lipton did, and he participated in the American Cup year after year—and never won. But he won the hearts of sea lovers everywhere with his personality and generous nature. 

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; I’m always writing. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I’ve always worked on my own projects, but I also made a career writing for other people. I’ve written for newspapers, PR companies, corporate clients and several private clients who had stories to tell but neither the time nor inclination to do so themselves. I’ve recently finished the trilogy I referred to above, and now I’m putting together an anthology with several other writers and completing a non-fiction about my younger sister, who died almost four years ago.

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

By 2000 I had three novels published, and I had a friend who had written a brilliant novel, better than anything I’d ever written, but hadn’t been able to find a publisher for it, even with an agent. It bothered me so much that I decided that I would start a small publishing company and publish not only her novel but books for other people who were being passed over too. I told my friend I was going to publish her, and she was thrilled. And then I woke up a few mornings later and thought, What have I got myself into? What do I know about publishing, other than that I’ve had stuff published myself and I’ve done a bit of freelance for publishers? And how could I have forgotten that I’m really shy and suffer from imposter syndrome and seldom step out of my comfort zone?

Long story short, I did it, because I’d made a commitment. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud that I actually became a pretty good small publisher. The authors I published got interviews and book reviews and won awards. At some point the distributor I was working with went bankrupt (this is the challenging part), owing me and several other client publishers a lot of money. I found another distributor, but I could never get back on my feet, and so I shut down my little publishing company five years after I’d started it. Publishing was a roller coaster of an experience, especially since I freelanced for clients the whole time I was publishing. I learned so much—about myself, about the industry, even about unique ways to recover from a relatively big financial loss. I never regret doing it.

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!

I’d like to see my recently completed trilogy become a Netflix or Amazon Prime or whatever series. I wrote a story bible based on the three books and offering my vision of how they would work in a series, and I sent it to the one person in the film world that I have indirect access to. He liked it enough to ask me (indirectly) to send the three books, which I did. I’ve got my fingers crossed, though I know my chances are slim to non-existent.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

I’m excited to see what my next big fiction project will be. I’m always happiest when I’m writing fiction. I’m waiting for the universe to point me toward it, so I don’t have much to say about it at this moment in time… which is fine, since, as mentioned above, I’ve got some nonfiction projects to keep myself busy.

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 favorite place is the South American rainforest. That’s why we’re sitting here, with Carlos the Jaguar making our caipirinhas and Thomas Lipton and Anne Donovan chatting away about the highlands. Another favorite place is Ocracoke Island, which is one of the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, and the only one that isn’t connected to the others by road. You have to take a ferry to get there. I’ve been to Ocracoke many times, in many seasons, with many different people. On my bucket list is the chance to stay there for a full month, in a big rental house from which friends and family can come and go, during the off season when it’s not so crowded.

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

When I was a kid we were poor and my father could never make ends meet with his machinist job alone. So he did work on weekends for the supermarket we lived near, retrieving grocery carts people walked off with and picking up trash in the supermarket parking lot with a long stick that had a nail at the end of it. Oh was I embarrassed to see him out there, in his big army coat when it was cold, picking up other people’s trash and shoving it into a cloth bag he carried on his shoulder. I didn’t want anyone to know I was related to him. 

We live near an arroyo that has a bike path on one side and a dirt trail on the other. We walk our dog on the dirt trail, and it is always filthy, everything from candy wrappers to burger bags and soda cups to the tiny liquor bottles the night hawks leave behind. Once a week I take my trash grabber and a paper bag and pick up all the trash. My father is no longer among the living, but I always imagine he’s watching me, amused because I tried so hard not to be like him. And I always say something corny like, “Turns out I’m my father’s daughter after all,” in case he’s listening from the great wherever, to let him know I miss him and I don’t mind being like him one bit. 

That’s such a lovely sentiment! 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’?

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst is a wonderful story about a linguistics professor who tries to teach his dog to talk because the dog was the only witness to his wife’s death. Parkhurst never tells the reader what the poor professor is feeling; she only tells us what he is doing—and that has more power to make us feel his emotion than if she had spelled it out.

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A poignant and beautiful debut novel explores a man’s quest to unravel the mystery of his wife’s death with the help of the only witness — their Rhodesian ridgeback, Lorelei.

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 can drink as much as the next woman, so I don’t anticipate a hangover. But if I get one, I’ll take an aspirin and spend the day on the sofa with a book.

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

Maybe a nice hike in the mornings, and then back to the sofa with a good book, whether I’m hung over or not, in the afternoons. 

Sounds perfect. Joan, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me this evening, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The latest books by Joan Schweighardt, The Rivers Trilogy includes the novels Before We Died, Gifts for the Dead and River Aria. You can buy the book as a Kindle boxset here. All three books work as standalone novels, but to sum them up collectively:

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In 1908, two Irish American brothers leave their jobs on the Hudson River docks of Hoboken, New Jersey, to seek their fortunes tapping rubber trees in the Brazilian rainforest. They expect to encounter floods, snakes, and unfriendly competitors, but nothing prepares them for the fact that the Amazonian jungle will take most of their crew and that saving the life of one brother will require leaving the other behind.

The trilogy follows Henry Ford’s plot to desecrate the rainforests and own the rubber trade, the impacts of World War I and prohibition on daily American life, and, finally, the journey of a talented young soprano who travels in the latter part of the 1920s from her birthplace in Brazil to New York City, where she struggles to make peace with her Irish American father, while establishing herself in the world of metropolitan opera.

Joan Schweighardt is the author of nine novels, two memoirs, two children’s books and various magazine articles, including work in Parabola Magazine. She is a regular contributor to Occhi Magazine, for which she interviews writers, artists and filmmakers. In addition to her own projects, she has worked as an editor and ghostwriter for private and corporate clients for more than 25 years. She also had her own independent publishing company from 1999 to 2005. Several of her titles won awards, including a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers,” a ForeWord Magazine “Best Fiction of the Year,” and a Borders “Top Ten Read to Me.” And she has agented books for other writers, with sales to St. Martin’s, Red Hen, Wesleyan University Press and more.

Her most recent work is the Rivers Trilogy—Before We Died, Gifts for the Dead and River Aria—which moves back and forth between the New York metro area and the South American rainforests from the years 1908 through 1929.

You can connect further with Joan via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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