Congratulations Margaret Locke!

Margaret recently contacted me to tell me of success for her published books in 2017.

Firstly, THE DEMON DUKE hit the USA Today Bestsellers list in November.

Secondly, A SCANDALOUS MATTER was awarded the 2017 Publishers Weekly Book Life Prize.

Two wonderful achievements, and so well deserved.

Congratulations, Margaret!

 

Calling All Jane Austen and Regency Historical Fans!

A very talented writer I know debuts with her first novel in July.  Terri Fleming’s PERCEPTION is a must-read for all those who adore Jane Austen and anyone who loves Regency Historical fiction, following as it does the fortunes of Bennet sisters, Mary and Kitty, after their older siblings Lizzie and Jane have married.  Here’s a little taste:

 

 

Mary Bennet does not dream of marriage. Much to her mother’s horror, Mary is determined not to follow in the footsteps of her elder sisters, Jane (now Mrs Bingley) and Lizzy (now Mrs Darcy). Living at home with her remaining sister, Kitty, and her parents, Mary does not care for fashions or flattery. Her hopes are simple – a roof over her head, music at the piano, a book in her hand and the freedom not to marry the first bachelor her mother can snare for her.

But Mrs Bennet is not accustomed to listening to her daughters. When one of Meryton’s wealthiest residents reveals her son is returning home, Mrs Bennett is determined to hear wedding bells ring for one of her girls. Thrown into society, Mary discovers that promises can be broken, money can conquer love, and duty is not always a path to happiness. But by the time she realises her perceptions might be false, might she have missed her chance at a future she’d never imagined?

I adore this novel for the originality, characterisation, wit and, yes, the perception with which it is written! I thoroughly recommend it as a top summer read.

Terri is shortlisted for The Romantic Novelists Association’s Joan Hessayon Award, the winner of which is to be announced on Thursday, 18th May.  To read Terri’s blog on the RNA website, click on this link: http://romanticnovelistsassociationblog.blogspot.co.uk/ (dated 9th May.)

PERCEPTION will be published by Orion on 13th July to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and is now available on Amazon for pre-order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elly Redding—an exciting new author!

 

 

Here’s a shout-out for a new British author who publishes her first novel, True Colours, on 25th November, 2016.  I’ve been working with Elly, and I feel she is a really exciting, fresh new voice in the women’s fiction world.

 

true-colours-elly-redding

True Colours reunites Kate, a London career girl, with Saul, her seriously successful and gorgeous ex-fiancé. He’s already broken her heart once, so maybe accepting his business proposition isn’t such a good idea. But sometimes decisions just aren’t that easy.  As the chemistry between them bubbles with renewed vigour, Kate is sorely tempted.  Can a leopard really change its spots – or is she just deceiving herself, with the man who broke her heart?

 

The novel won the Festival of Romance New Talent Award in 2014, and I thoroughly recommend it as a wonderfully warm romance that has lashings of emotion and passion, and a lovely sprinkling of delicious wit.

What Romance Readers Really Want

 

There’s one thing the romance writer must always acknowledge: romance readers know exactly what they want!

 

  • Escapism. The romance reader wants to be entertained, carried away, offered the chance to dream.  So there has to be a good helping of fantasy.  Find out what the women around like—the type of man who turns them on, the world they want to jump into with him, the kind of loving they’d like to receive from him. If you have any tough elements in your plot, how can you give their outcomes a positive spin?

 

  • The romantic relationship must be at the heart of the story. Take care to keep it as your primary focus from the very first page, and don’t let yourself get diverted by secondary characters or plot threads. Ensure that a strong emotional connection between the reader and your main characters runs all the way through to the end.

 

  • Create characters who engage the reader’s imagination. Readers want to experience the romance through the heroine’s eyes, so walk the miles of your novel in her shoes.  As for your hero, fall in love with him first yourself and share your fantasy.  Give glimpses of what he feels and thinks too, but remember to make his motivation believably male—therefore sometimes stubborn and frustrating!  But at heart, he’s a rock with a code of honour which will see him do the right thing in challenging situations.

 

  • A believable plot. Fantasy means anything can happen—right? Ultimately, yes, but the journey to a happy ending has to be rooted in reality for the reader to stay engaged. She wants to see the universal emotional truths that shape her real-life relationships worked through to a satisfying resolution.

 

  • Conflict. This is a scary word that conjures up bad emotions, such as anger, jealousy and revenge. And anyway, we want everything in our romantic garden to be rosy, don’t we?  In the end, we do, but consider digging up a few flowerbeds first.  Too much conflict is exhausting, uncomfortable and boring.  But the right amount adds suspense and tension, a delicious feeling of anticipation, and a chance to ride a thrilling roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. So think about what’s keeping your main characters apart—the motivations that divide or unite them, the personal struggles that spill over and create barriers.  And how do your characters resolve their differences, by action or discussion? Fictional conflict like a sea tide; it ebbs and flows and is driven by the emotional weather, be it stormy or calm.

 

But, needless to say, in the end it’s your choice what you write and how you meet these needs for your audience.  Be yourself and write from the heart.  Because this is what the romance reader craves most: to hear that special voice of yours filling the pages.

Motivation: the Choices your Characters Make

 

Motivating your characters well in a romance is essential, but also one of the hardest things to do.  I find motivation is something the writers I work with struggle with the most.

 

You may well ask: what is motivation?  Well, it can be internal (coming from the character’s emotion and beliefs), or external (as the result of something that happens in the front or backstory).  It’s how a character makes choices and then acts.  It can provoke reactions in the opposite main character and shape their motivation, and also change the course of a story.

 

I’m seeing a trend amongst romance writers to throw in totally new but basic character motivations fairly late on in their novels.  However, this rarely works.  It can feel left-field and inconsistent to the reader.  I also believe it’s the result of a confusion caused by character motivation versus author motivation; when the writer gets caught up in what she needs to do in order to move the story forward, rather than focusing on the character’s reason for acting that way.

 

So, here are my three top tips for executing successful character motivation:

 

  • Know who your characters are before you put your fingers to the keys. Map out their personalities, influences, strengths and weaknesses and give them contrasts and flaws which you can unfold in relation to your plot.

 

  • Keep motivations consistent— focus on how a character feels about what they’re doing all the way through. However, it is okay to challenge a character’s motivation with another’s act, or a situation, which brings out an unexpected reaction, or a fresh insight.

 

 

  • Your characters’ motivations need to be clear from the very first page; resist the temptation to throw in a completely new motivation some way through the story, unless it is consistent and part of your initial plan.

 

 

Popular Fiction: is Variety the Spice of Life?

Are you a popular fiction author who’s new to self-publishing? What’s your strategy for the books you will publish going forward—what are you planning to write next?  It’s very tempting to think variety is the spice of life and suppose every book has to be totally different from the last one.

 

Being a successful genre author in today’s digital market is all about building a profile which stands out from the crowd.  The best way to do that?  Become well known for one big thing, be it a continuing character, linked characters, a central setting, certain themes, or all of these things.  If after your first novel is published you divert down a new path, it may feel refreshing and personally satisfying, that you are avoiding being boring.  But actually this could lose you readers. They are wanting to come back for more of what you offered them in the first place, continue with the experience.

 

Think of it this way: if a TV series is successful, do its producers and writers cancel the second season and branch out into something completely different?  No, they carry on building the world that reached out to viewers, make it a place to return to.

 

In this situation, variety comes from enhanced characterisation—we discover more and more about a person as the story unfolds—the introduction of new characters, unexpected plot twists that take the reader on an exciting journey and sheer quality of writing.

 

So the name of the game is extending the franchise.  Think of how you can compel readers to keep on coming back to your world with different content.  Create a core series with memorable characters, themes and settings, then use it to diversify; short spin-offs, prequels and sequels can be wonderful for attracting and retaining readers.

RNA Annual Summer Conference

I’ve just returned from attending the RNA’s annual summer conference, which this year took place at Lancaster University. If you’ve ever seen Lancaster’s campus, you’ll know it’s very pleasant—almost like a small town—and surrounded by rolling Lancashire countryside. Unfortunately, the weather was awful—another helping of the bad summer we’re having this year in the UK. But the food was great—hearty and delicious—and the staff went out of their way to help. The conference itself was very well organised, with lots of sessions to interest and stimulate writers of romantic fiction, and the delegates were a lovely bunch. So the rain and the gales didn’t matter at all. Many thanks to the RNA for a very successful event.

The word from attending publishers and agents was that commerciality is key to getting published in the UK romance market. The overall trend continues to be British escapism, so think city girl goes cosy—country cottages, seaside idylls, knitting circles and tearooms. Interestingly, the ‘cupcake’ genre has a healthy pick-up overseas. Also, touches of luxury, glamour and material comfort, though nothing too showy, vulgar or avaricious because we’re British! The writers who succeed are those who can pick up and run with these themes and give them a fresh spin and a unique voice. There was quite a bit of speculation about how Brexit might affect the market in months to come. If we do go into recession, escapism will be even more sought after by female readers!

Being a Writer: Some Tips for Success

Why do you write? Probably, like most other writers, you don’t even know; you just do! You’re driven by an instinctive thing, a passion; a need to create and share your fictional world and its inhabitants, tell their stories.

And, no doubt, like most other writers, you’d love to succeed, be widely read and recognised.

So, after more years than I wish to count of being an editor, and a few of being a published author, here are my top five tips for taking that drive within and managing it to make your writing work for you.

• Understand the reader comes first. You may write what you know, but never just write for yourself. Always know who your reader is, and how you are going to satisfy her.

• Attitude is everything. Be strong, be positive; believe in yourself and your characters. But also be prepared to listen and take feedback, to learn and change. Be willing to take risks, accept challenges and to embrace the fact that writing can be a solitary business.
• Know your Inspiration. You will have times when the words won’t come, when your characters won’t play and your plot is tangled up in your head like ball of wool, and you need something to kick-start you. Work out what inspires you, feeds your imagination, conjures up new pictures in your mind. Music, walking, daydreaming, watching films or reading other books are all great sources.

• Try to write every day. Most of us don’t have the luxury of just writing when the muse takes us. We have lives and responsibilities. Make sure you schedule in your writing time and protect it ruthlessly! Be creative about where and when you do it—I wrote my first novel during commutes to work on a train! Even if it’s just for fifteen minutes and a few sentences, keep going with your characters and your storyline.

• Always take a notebook with you. Whether a digital device, or paper and pen, have something handy to capture the ideas, words and phrases that will present themselves to you as you go about your day. A TV news story, the conversations of strangers, bon mots utter by family and friends are all grist to your writing mill, and can find their way into your next novel.