Top five reactions when people discover I’M AN AUTHOR.

Recently I’ve made a lot of new friends (in-the-flesh, for a change, and not just online!) and the way they react, on discovering my profession, usually falls into one of five categories, some of which  make me a bit wary of wearing my “I’m a writer” T-shirt.

1  They become starry-eyed. In awe. I blame JK Rowling for this 🙂 People imagine red carpet events and sales in the millions. They start inserting complex words into their conversation (that I don’t understand) and talk of the high-falutin’ literary works they read, as if intimidated. So I thank them, but if pressed further, make it clear I’m nothing special. I’m not curing cancer nor have I discovered a new planet. I’m simply lucky enough to be getting paid for an activity I adore.

2  Almost without exception, they declare that they have always thought of writing a novel. This irritates some authors, but not me – as I’ve said above, I’m not exceptional. If I can do it, why not anyone else? I’m a grafter – had to keep my nose to the grindstone during my four years at university, unlike some friends who could socialise as much as they pleased and just cram at the last minute. It’s been the same with writing – I wrote novel after novel at home, for eight years filled with tears and rejection, before landing my publishing deal. So when people react like this I say go for it! You might surprise yourself. Or, you  might discover it is a lot harder than you imagined.

me writer tshirt

3  Quite often, when people discover my genre – romantic comedy – their awe turns to disdain. And I annoy myself by going on the defensive. I laud Mills & Boon authors who earn more than your average writer could dream of. I explain what a diverse, popular genre it is. I did this recently and received the sneery reply “I’m sure it is”. I imagine, in some circles, actors find this if they tell people they perform in a soap and not on the Shakespearean stage. I’m working on not letting these people press my buttons. Huge skill is required in making prose sound chatty and light. The same prejudice is sometimes shown towards children’s authors. I just have to accept that his is just one small downside to a career I thoroughly enjoy.

4  People say what a difficult job it must be – don’t I ever run out of ideas? I explain my belief that the brain, like any muscle, performs better the more you use it. Before you know it, you automatically take on board inspiration. I used to particularly find this when selling short stories. At the beginning I struggled to write even one. But before my novel deal, I sold 50 in one year. My brain just seemed to adapt to searching out suitable material. What’s more, there are a lot more challenging jobs out there, like nursing or serving burgers and fries all day. So yes, you do require determination and stamina but your passion makes it an easy career to follow.

5  The final reaction – it must be the only job in the world where people feel they have a perfect right to ask how much you earn! Not that this bothers me too much. In fact (just between us) I take a certain pleasure in telling them that most writers never earn enough for it to be their only source of income, and watching their jaws drop! Again, I blame JK Rowling (sorry!) for their misconception that being an author automatically means riches beyond your heart’s desire. If you are lucky, with a decent back catalogue out there, then yes, one day you might earn enough to support a mortgage and family. But don’t count on it. It’s not a profession you enter to become a millionaire.

Mindfulness for Writers

One way or another, 2016 was a pretty stressful year for me. And for many, I guess.  Often I compared the world to a spinning top and wished that, just for ten minutes, I could get off. And I think I might have landed upon a way to do just that. Mindfulness. A form of meditation that encourages you to concentrate just on the present; to not worry about the future or dwell upon the past.

How often have you walked down street and suddenly reached your destination, without having observed the route – because your  mind is full of everyday concerns? Mindfulness helps push those worry-some thoughts to one side, for a while, by encouraging you to really focus on your surroundings. Either the noises – traffic, aeroplanes, birds, pedestrians chatting… or the sights, such as the detailed shape and colour of buildings. This enables us to get off the spinning top for a few minutes and relax!

mindfulness crystals

Yesterday I went on a mindfulness walk – I’m doing a course and this was a planned excursion. We studied the textures and colours of the woodland and river. We listened hard to the birds and ended with a super meditation. Below is a photo I took of a log’s perfect reflection.

mindfulness log 2

Here is a tree’s trunk, with contrasting colours and peeling bark. Mindfulness is about observing and appreciating the detail.

mindfulnes bark

So, how can this help my job as an author? Well, mindfulness requires you to connect with all your five senses on an intimate level – and the five senses are so important, in writing, for conveying settings, feelings – EVERYTHING –  to the reader. As a novelist, I do my best to write in the most sensory way possible, but mindfulness is training me how to really become aware of  the detail. That way the story becomes fuller and more relatable and realistic for the reader.

Eating a biscuit? Okay. Let’s be mindful about the five senses! Say with a fruit and oat cookie.

Sight – its surface is rough, with oat ridges and soft spots filled with succulent raisins and perhaps apple. The biscuit is baked to a warm, inviting brown colour. The round shape is not a perfect circle and it is too big to eat in one go. It is solid. Chunky. Thick. Looks filling and unbreakable.

Smell – a subtle sweetness, increased by the fruit but subdued by the oats. A similar aroma to apple crumble. It reminds you of baking sessions with your mother. A cosy kitchen with sweet treats in the oven. Buttery and comforting.

Hearing – as you bite in, there is a snapping noise as a bit breaks off. Then munching  sounds as you chew and break it into smaller parts. The whole process quietens down as saliva mixes with the biscuit and makes it almost liquid as it travels silently down your throat.

Touch – initially as solid as concrete when your teeth touch the outside. But after a little pressure, your teeth sink in and break off a part. Then that chunk moves to the side of your mouth and  becomes chewy as your molars go up and down on the raisin and apple bits. Eventually it crumbles across your tongue, spreading nicely to hit all those tastebuds. The whole experience is satisfying and makes you feel full. There is a sense of safety, well-being and happiness. You recall more memories of childhood baking and time spent with Mum or coffee and cake excursions with friends or a loved one.

Taste – solid oaty flavours dominate until you chew and then burst of sweetness dance on your tongue as the apple bits and raisins break apart. Apple crumble. Flapjack. Breakfast cereal. A satisfying taste that isn’t rich and sickly, and leaves you wanting more.

So, forgive me, if my novels become a little longer! A cup of tea and slice of cake could become a whole new adventure! But seriously, why not consider taking some time out to connect with the fundamentals? It will give you a whole new set of tools to deal with the complexities of modern life.

 

 

 

 

Summery Questions with Holly Martin!

The lovely and talented Holly Martin has a new book out today! Summer at Rose Island.

Holly small

 

So I thought it appropriate to ask her some very summery questions! First of all here’s what the book is all about:

Fall in love with the gorgeous seaside town of White Cliff Bay this summer and enjoy long sunny days, beautiful beaches and… a little romance. 

Darcy Davenport is ready for a fresh start. Determined to leave a string of disastrous jobs and relationships behind her, she can’t wait to explore White Cliff Bay and meet the locals. 

When Darcy swims in the crystal clear waters of the bay, she discovers the charming Rose Island Lighthouse. But it’s not just the beautiful building that she finds so intriguing… 

Riley Eddison doesn’t want change. Desperate to escape the memories of his past, he lives a life of solitude in the lighthouse. Yet he can’t help but notice the gorgeous woman who swims out to his island one day. 

Darcy is drawn to the mysterious and sexy Riley, but when it seems the town is trying to demolish his home, she soon finds herself having to pick sides. 

She’s fallen in love with White Cliff Bay. But is that all Darcy’s fallen for? 

Pull up a deck chair, sink back with a bowl of strawberry ice cream and pick up the summer read you won’t be able to put down. 

You can get your copy of Summer at Rose Island here and its only £1.99 at the moment.

 

So, Holly, great to have you here – now to find out all your summer secrets!

  1. What is your favourite, foreign summer holiday destination?

I don’t know if I have a favourite as I never go back to the same place I’ve visited before, but one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited was Zakynthos, everything felt so peaceful there, the sea was so blue and warm, the views were incredible, the people were so friendly and the food was amazing. I’d definitely like to return there one day.

 

  1. What do you think a summer holiday in Britain offers, that you can’t get abroad?

 

The ease and convenience of getting to your destination without hours on a plane, or hours waiting around an airport, the familiarity of the food and the language, the quaint little seaside towns, the friendly locals, the cheap cost, the cute b&bs with the full english breakfasts.

 

  1. Favourite summer holiday meal and drink?

 

Fish and chips whilst sitting on the pier or on the sea wall, probably with a can of coke. There’s something about the taste of fish and chips when you are on the seafront, it tastes infinitely better.

 

  1. Touring or sunbathing holiday?

 

Oh that’s hard, I love a good relaxing, do nothing but read and sleep holiday but I think I prefer a holiday where I get to see the sights, either on day trips or by moving around to different locations.

 

  1. Your summer holiday fantasy hot hero would be:

Sexy sailor – a girl in every port

Fit fisherman – up for romantic jaunts in his boat

Lush lifesaving guard – ready to pull you from the waves whenever necessary

English Benedict Cumberbatch bookish type – sits in the shade,  ready to woo you with reading poetry at any point.

or finally

Romantic restaurant owner hoping to win you with his award-winning garlic bread!

 

That’s hard too, I love food so someone who can cook or at least have someone who can cook for him would be a definite plus in my books, but there’s something very sexy, at least in my mind, about a rugged fisherman so I think I’ll have to go with that.

Well best of luck with the book, Holly, and thanks for dropping by!

holly martin small

 

Holly lives in sunny Bedfordshire in a house with round windows. She studied media at university which led to a very glitzy career as a hotel receptionist followed by a even more glamorous two years working in a bank. The moment that one of her colleagues received the much coveted carriage clock for fifteen years’ service was the moment when she knew she had to escape. She quit her job and returned to university to train to be a teacher. Three years later, she emerged wide eyed and terrified that she now had responsibility for the development of thirty young minds. She taught for four years and then escaped the classroom to teach history workshops, dressing up as a Viking one day and an Egyptian High Priestess the next. But the long journeys around the UK and many hours sat on the M25 gave her a lot of time to plan out her stories and she now writes full time, doing what she loves.

Holly has been writing for 6 years. She was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance. Her short story won the Sunlounger competition and was published in the Sunlounger anthology. She won the Carina Valentine’s competition at the Festival of Romance 2013 with her novel The Guestbook. She was shortlisted for Best Romantic Read, Best eBook and Innovation in Romantic Fiction at the Festival of Romance 2014.

Follow her on Twitter @hollymartin00

 

Foodie Questions with Cathy Bramley!

I have just finished reading the first installment of Cathy Bramley’s latest book, The Plumberry School of Comfort Food. Wow. What a deliciously comforting story. As anyone who has read my books will know, I love writing about food – scones, cupcakes, donuts, you name it! I mean, what goes better with romance than a satisfying sugar rush?

cathy plumberry

 

So, I thought it would be fun to ask Cathy Bramley some quick foodie questions about her scrumptious book and its tasty heroes.

Hello Cathy! So, first things first… what is your favourite comfort food?

Scones with blackcurrant jam and clotted cream.

Great answer! Or perhaps… plumberry jam? How did you think of the name Plumberry, I love it!

I wanted something which had a foodie ring to it but without actually being food. I thought I’d invented it but it appears in the Urban Dictionary and means awesome!

Appropriate as this books is pretty awesome! What is your fail-safe comfort food recipe?

My own cottage pie which includes red lentils and cinnamon for extra flavour.

Sounds yummy! So, your new book has two tasty leading men – would you prefer to go out to dinner with gorgeous young dad Gabe or dashing Irish chef Tom?

I agonised over this one! But I think I’d like to go with Gabe. He deserves a night out and diner with Tom might be stressful if he’s pedantic about food!

Finally, your main character, Verity, loves a fish finger sandwich – what is your go-to fast food?

If I’m making it myself I spread pesto, a little bit of grated cheese and a handful of spinach on a wrap, fold it in 4 and toast it in the panini grill – gorgeous!

Gosh, my mouth is watering now. I’d better go get some comfort food for myself! Thanks for popping in, Cathy.

 

So, if you fancy a comforting read, for fans of food and romance, go treat yourself to The Plumberry School of Comfort Food!

Here is the blurb:

Verity Bloom hasn’t been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend is about to land her right back in the heart of the kitchen! The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks’ time and has rather gone off the boil. It needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up . . .

But as Verity tries to balance stirring up publicity, keeping their top chef sweet and soothing her aching heart, will her move to Plumberry prove to be a sheer delight . . . or a recipe for disaster?

 

 

 

 

Five Best Things about Being a Romance Author

I love my job – and not only because it means I can spend the whole day, in my pyjamas, eating chocolate, instead of heading out early to commute to an office (although the latter has its benefits, namely the avoidance of writers’ bottom!)

Creative kitkat

During my life I have had a taste of many different occupations – translator, cleaner, tutor, shop assistant… I’ve worked in a German publishing house and spent a few months employed by Disneyland Paris. It took my until my late 30s to discover the career I really wanted to settle in – namely, being an author.

And now I have achieved that goal, what are the five best things about it?

Firstly, spending all day with impossibly romantic heroes. Take my latest book released last week, an e-novella How to Get Hitched in Ten Days. It stars two gorgeous men. Dave makes a disastrous proposal to his girlfriend, Jasmine, and Mikey tries to help him turn this around. Both men have different but equally appealing qualities. Dave is rugged, clumsy but does his best. Mikey is every girl’s best friend with his popcorn and DVD sleepovers. As one recent reviewer said:

“I fell for Dave big time, then Mikey, then Dave, then Mikey…”

And for several weeks, I got to spend my nine to five in their company!

hitched facebook ad

 

Secondly… The romance community is one of the friendliest I know. I belong to the RNA, the Romantic Novelists Association, and they hold several Prosecco- and laughter-filled events during the year which always give me a huge buzz – and the opportunity to meet dear online romance friends in the flesh.

rna 1

Thirdly… Being a romance author gives you the opportunity to connect with some of the most generous and friendly readers on the planet, many of whom share your love of a bit of escapism mixed up with a huge dollop of a happy ever after. Their support, feedback and kind words mean everything.

Fourthly, pink and red. Fluff. Fun. Girliness. Call it a midlife crisis if  you like but having been a tomboy all my life, since becoming a romance author, I have developed an interest in clothes, spa weekends and beauty treatments. I am loving every minute of this newfound chicklit lifestyle!

nails

Finally, of course the romance genre is very diverse, from the frothy to deeper reads. It has given me enormous satisfaction to see my writing develop and whilst my writing is still light-hearted, I am now addressing more serious issues. In my #GetHitched book I consider the prejudice that people have shown against Mikey all his life and examine the effect it has had on Jasmine to have grown up with an alcoholic father. The diversity of the genre means that I can easily explore my own writing and take it into new directions, if that is the way it pulls me. So whilst “romance author” is a label, it is a very broad one.

 

 

My Writing Year 2015

Wow. What a year it has been. My summer novel, Game of Scones, was a top ten Kindle bestseller and then won the Love Stories Best Romantic Ebook 2015 award, at a fancy cocktail bar in London.

 

me and victoria

 

I couldn’t ask for more and so appreciate everyone who bought and read the book. Above is a photo of me, on the night, with my lovely HarperCollins editor. I still think I’ve got that smile on my face!

 

Game_of_Scones

 

One of the best things, about 2015, however, had been to meet so many lovely writers and bloggers. I’ve attended events organised by the wonderful Romantic Novelists Association and it’s been lovely to put some faces to names from the internet. Here I am with the fab Cathy Bramley, Trevor Williams, Karen Aldous and Holly Martin.

rna 1

It’s also been a year for meeting things/people that have inspired me – this included a trip to Highclere Castle, as the series Downton Abbey inspired my 2013 debut Doubting Abbey…

downton house

 

… plus a night out in Manchester with the Dutch KLM flight attendant who inspired the character of Henrik in Game of Scones and its Christmas sequel.

me and Frank

 

… and a trip to… Ooh. Mustn’t give too much away! But here is a clue to my spring story, out soon!

american diner

 

Writing-wise – ie the craft itself – 2015 has been an exciting and challenging year. Game of  Scones took my writing in a more romantic direction and I wasn’t sure it was going to work. Plus I’ve had a few dark moments, on receiving revisions from my editor, wondering if I am up to the job. I’ve been challenged and feel/hope my writing has moved forward, otherwise what is the point?

I recalled recently, how my New Year’s resolution always used to be “to get published this year”, back in the old days when I was new to the business and a little naive. I mean, getting published isn’t as simple as that. So many factors out of your control are involved, plus you need a little luck. But of one thing I have no doubt – if you are determined and persevere, you will get there eventually. Your path might just be longer than others. But don’t give up.

Of course, finally getting published, doesn’t mean that all problems and disappointments stop there and whilst 2015 has been a wonderful year for me, I am well aware that you are only as good as your next book – and I have no idea what challenges 2016 will throw my way. Having said that, I already have several pieces of great news that I should be able to share in January, so watch this space 🙂 And thanks, with all my heart, to all the people who have supported me and my writing this year. I’m eternally grateful. Here, have a cocktail on me!

cocktails manchester

 

 

 

 

Carina author tips for writing Christmas novels!

Every year my publisher, Carina UK (HarperCollins) releases a lovely number of Christmas novels and novellas, and this year is no different from any other. So, I thought it a good idea to ask some of their writers for tips on how to go about creating a festive story. My own novel, My Big Fat Christmas Wedding was a joy to write and if you want my very own top tips have a look on the lovely Wendy Clarke’s blog, here.


festive

 

TA Williams author of What Happens At Christmas

Write it in the summer when you think nostalgically of snowy scenes and winter wonderlands, rather than in the winter when it’s freezing cold, grey and soggy.

 

Buffy Andrews author of The Christmas Violin

It can be tough writing a Christmas story when the holiday is months away. To help get in the mood, create a feeling of Christmas. Listen to Christmas music. Make a cup of cocoa. Put up a small tree or display a few of your favorite ornaments in your writing area.

Jennifer Joyce author of The Mince Pie Mix-Up

To get myself in the festive mood while working on The Mince Pie Mix-Up during the summer, I listened to lots of Christmas music (AccuRadio have a great selection of festive stations year-round) and used a festive mug for my all-important tea.

 

Jaimie Admans contributing author to Christmas Wish Come True

My tip would be to immerse yourself in Christmas, no matter what time of year you’re writing in! Drag some tinsel out of the attic, burn a festive scented candle, go and bake gingerbread men, find a Christmas playlist on Youtube, and think of all the senses – what Christmas feels, sounds, smells, and tastes like!

 

snow gif

 

Darcie Boleyn author of Wish Upon a Christmas Cake 

Play some Christmas tunes, burn some cinnamon candles, look at photographs from Christmases gone by then let the words flow.

 

Misty Shaw contributing author to Christmas Wish Come True

Remember the Christmas magic from your childhood, how the snow always used to cover the ground.

 

Annie Lyons author of A Not Quite Perfect Christmas

Watch The Snowman, It’s A Wonderful Life & Love Actually to get those festive emotions (& tears) flowing!

 

Jenny Oliver author of Four Weddings and a White Christmas 

There’s nothing more fascinating (and unique) than other people’s Xmases – so draw on your own memories and traditions as much as possible when writing festive.

 

Maxine Morrey author of Winter’s Fairytale 

‘Nothing beats Michael Buble’s Christmas album for getting you in the festive mood – even when it’s 30 plus degrees outside!’