Monthly Archives: April 2010

Lotsa Starting Over at Waterstones, Northampton

sue-moorcroft-signs-starting-overMy booksiging for Starting Over at Waterstone’s, Abingdon Street, Northampton on Saturday 24th April, went well. This is the traditional author shot, taken by Emma Mileham, the lovely manager of the shop. As you can see, they gave me a great display.

And I had great company in the store – Gandalf the Wizard and a local Lib Dem candidate! I wish I’d had my photo taken with Gandalf, now. I always think of these promo opportunities when it’s too late. Maybe he’ll spread the word around Bag End or put a review on Amazon.middleeearth.

Gandalf was promoting a local theatre production of The Hobbit, keeping the kids enthralled with stories whilst I zipped around giving my bookmarks out to their mums. It worked out well,  as two of the mums sneaked over and bought the book.

The Lib Dem candidate was less use. I got him to take a bookmark but he wouldn’t buy the book, even when I promised to vote for him. He probably worked out that I make things up for a living, so …

With Julie Shannon
With Julie Shannon

A lovely thing happened at the signing – one of my old schoolmates came strolling in. (And she bought the book. Nice lady.) Julie, and her lovely husband, Alan, had seen my posting on Facebook, that I’d be in the store and so had come into Northampton to say hello.

It was great to see her again and we almost made arrangements to go out to dinner, soon – will complete the arrangements now I’ve been reunited with my diary. Julie’s also going to recommend Starting Over to her book group, and I promised to go over and chat to them about it when they’ve read it. Book groups are great fun, so I’m hoping they’ll take me up on that offer.

The Waterstone’s staff were all really nice and friendly and, through the store being built at the bottom of a slope, I was able to park my car on their roof. I hope they’ll have me back for All That Mullarkey.

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Writing … ‘the end’

All That Mullarkey - an epilogue with a quirk

This post is based on my recent contribution to the Spike the Cat blog.

I’m a writer – and a reader – that likes a satisfying ending that ‘pays off’. Open endings are not for me and, to be honest, I usually think they’re a bit of a cheat.

As I write a lot of romantic fiction, hero and heroine will get together or there will be hope of them getting together. What the reader wants to see is how, and if I can make them believe that the final obstacles between the characters and happiness are insurmountable. The trick is to make the characters believe that they’re insurmountable, too!

I’m quite a fan of epilogues, which allow readers to extend their enjoyment of the Happy Ever After ending. The end of the final chapter contains the drama of heroine and hero finally reaching out to each other, then the Epilogue shows some aspect of their happiness in practice, so that reader feels secure in leaving, having peeked behind the final curtain to see that the characters are going to be OK. In many romantic novels, the hero and heroine’s wedding is shown in the Epilogue but I haven’t thought that the right way for me to end a novel, yet, because my heroes tend to be unpredictable. All That Mullarkey, which comes out on 1 June 2010, contains a quirk in the Epilogue that echoes something in the Prologue – and it’s a quirk that’s so typical of mercurial Justin that when it occurred to me I ran upstairs and rewrote the whole Epilogue in order to include it. It suits Justin, it suits the book and it provides a circular element, which means that although the readers have been on a journey with the characters, they feel they’re leaving by the door by which they came in. This, too, provides a lot of reader satisfaction.

In Starting Over, the Epilogue is from Ratty’s point of view. To be honest, I wondered how readers – and Choc Lit, the publisher! – would feel about this. Would they want Tess to take centre stage? Or to see Tess and Ratty together? What I chose, instead, was for Ratty to let others know how things had worked out for them and how that made him feel.

It wasn’t surprising that Tess was unwilling to rely on a man, having been minced up pretty thoroughly by the dastardly Olly, but she’d upset a few key people with the way she’d reacted to trouble, so I also wanted them – and the readers – to understand her very individual reaction to trouble.

When readers put down my books after the final page, I want them to feel satisfied. And maybe a bit sorry that the book is over.

You can read more about my take on endings – and pretty much everything else – in Love Writing – How to Make Money Writing Romantic and Erotic Fiction.

Writing the ending to Love Writing was an adventure in itself. I hadn’t written a non-fiction book before and wasn’t sure how to do so without characters to pull the final curtain for me. In the end, I just checked that I’d told the reader everything I possibly, possibly could!

And said goodbye.

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Starting Over – in Dubai!

Starting Over in inokuiya book shop, Dubai

What a brilliant start to the day to see from Liz Fenwick’s excellent Just Keep Writing and Other Thoughts … blog that she has spotted Starting Over in Dubai in the Kinokuniya book shop!

It would be great if any of you who have a copy, or see it on sale, could tell me where. If it’s interesting enough, I’ll do a little map. (If I can work out how to do a little map …)

I’ve just returned from another research trip and have taken over one thousand photos (I love digital cameras) so I’ll be blogging about research and how it works for me, suggesting character traits and plot points, later in the week. And showing you some of the pix.

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York Festival of Writing 2010

Central Hall, York University

York Festival of Writing – what a great event! Especially the Saturday sunshine and sitting around drinking tea with friends. I even discovered a real-life hero who, when I was having a chocolate crisis, found some in his bag and gave it to me.

I did seven one-to-ones as a ‘book doctor’, which were interesting. All the material I’d been sent was a pretty good standard and I talked veryveryvery quickly for nine minutes to voice all my comments in the time allowed.

My workshop was titled, ‘Who’s your hero?’

Katie Fforde attended it, which was fun. I told her I’d be able to add to my CV: ‘Taught Katie Fforde’.

The interactive part of the workshop went like this:

  • Five minutes to create a character sketch of a hero – not necessarily a romantic hero. There were writers there writing historical, social commentary, thriller and SF
  • List 15 words that seemed the most important from that sketch to produce ‘essence of hero’
  • Nominate a market. Make any necessary adjustments to hero to make him welcome in that market
  • Give him a quirk or inconsistency – this might drive the story at some point, possibly by creating conflict
  • Check he suits the market
  • Make certain the hero isn’t too ordinary. He should have something to distinguish him from the herd
  • Check he suits the market

We discussed several main types of hero:

  • Alpha
  • Beta/best friend
  • Loner
  • Adventurer
  • Reluctant Hero
  • Damaged Male

And if you wish more information on these, it can be found in Love Writing – How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction.

Love Writing

Finally, everyone chose what type of hero they had created and we talked about some heroes having elements from more than one main type. And we checked that the hero would suit the market (you might see my theme, here).

‘One-to-one’ sessions were organised during the day so tutors expected people to creep in and out of workshops as these appointments arose. I was sitting on the desk at the front, spouting my stuff, and the first of these delegates rose to leave. She gathered herself and crept past. I smiled and nodded and carried on while she disappeared through double doors to my left. And she suddenly reappeared and groaned, ‘That’s a cupboard!’ So she had to cross to the other side of the lecture theatre and go out of the real doors with the whole audience hooting with laughter. I was in stitches and we had a lot of fun framing a meeting between hero and heroine that involved the same scenario.

Cupboard Lady, you didn’t come back to the session … but thank you. That was absolutely brilliant. I hope your one-to-one went well.York’s campus is, in parts, ravishing. The ducks and geese wander around the lawns – they’re pretty rubbish at posing for photos, though – and the lake and gardens surround and enhance the impressive modern architecture.

All that had to be done to make it perfect was to add 400 or so writers, agents and publishers and orchestrate them into an entertaining programme that gave the writers the opportunity to hit on said agents and publishers.

And this the organisers of the Festival did. Thanks, guys.

NB I was really lazy with my camera at York but I believe that Liz Fenwick is going to be kind enough to send some to me to post here. If not, you’ll be able to see them on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s blog in the next few days.

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Steven Hooper, Male Model

Steven Hooper, model and actor

I had a great weekend – research with a male model on Friday and then York Festival of Writing on Saturday and Sunday. I’ll make them separate posts.

Chatting to Steven Hooper, model and actor, on Friday evening, was incredibly interesting. What a personable and sensible guy! With bags of intelligence and the push he needs to succeed in a competitive field. He’s also tall, gorgeous and very comfortable in his own skin. (And, believe it or not, he has an identical twin brother in Formula 1 who lives near me!) He was able to give me loads of information and to tell me stuff that I didn’t know that I didn’t know (if you see what I mean). So I’ve warmed a lot to the idea of making Martyn, the hero of The New Book, a male glamour model, which is not sleazy-ish as some people perceive a career as a female glamour model to be.

You have to think of the Calvin Klein guy …

Male glamour models do underwear, swimwear, drink and aftershave etc. Male models are hunks. They have presence and charisma, play loads of sport and are continually active.

It will be  a lot of fun to have one as a hero, I think.

Steven lives about 1000 feet up in the foothills of the Pennines.

Up in the hills

And the track up there! Argh! I wish I’d heeded warnings that sat nav is next to useless in that locality, evidenced by a sign: This is a private road – say no to your sat nav! Then it tried to send me up a cliff. I reversed out of that horrible disaster waiting to happen but when I found the real road up … It’s a good job I’m a brave girl. Most of the time, all I could see was car bonnet and sky.

But the trip was worth it for the fantastic hospitality of the family and the gorgeous walking weather. Steven’s Mum is Sarah Mallory and Melinda Hammond, so once Steve had bombed off to watch a local band play (he plays in a rock band, too), we had a chance to demolish a bottle of wine and kick back.

On Saturday morning, before I set out for York, we walked up above the world for half-an-hour. The weather was fabulous and it felt a nice long way from civilisation, even though we could see farms and villages below us.

England was at its best for us.

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Hey ho, hey ho, it’s off I go

I’m off on a road trip this weekend – first to meet Steven Hooper, actor and model, who has kindly agreed to help me with some research.

Then, on Saturday and Sunday I’ll be at the Festival of Writing, in York. Along with several hundred other people, I understand. I’m looking forward to a pretty free day on Saturday and on Sunday morning I’ll be seeing seven people who have booked one-to-ones with me. In the afternoon, I’ll be leading a workshop: Who’s Your Hero?

It should be great! I’m really looking forward to the whole weekend – I might be working but I’m leaving behind housework, shopping, laundry and cooking. A bargain. And I might sell a few books …

Starting Over

By the way, Starting Over now has its own fan page on FaceBook. Click on the link to join. I was supposed to be doing a broadcast from there yesterday but it had to be postponed owing to sad events for somebody on the team. But it will take place in a few weeks – probably ready for when All That Mullarkey hits the shops in May. I’ll publicise the broadcast when the new details are established. If you have any writing questions or want to know more about my career, please come along.

I’m going to have to put All That Mullarkey’s cover up, now, because it’s so pretty. It’s available for pre-order. In fact, judging by various rankings, people are already pre-ordering it. Which is nice. Even if I know that one of them is my niece.

After York I’m ‘in my office’ Monday and Tuesday and then off on a research trip to the south coast of England until Sunday. My laptop and my camera will be my only companions and so I should really make that time count.

Apart from watching the Formula 1 on TV. Obviously. One has to prioritise.

And, just after I come back, I’m doing a signing at Waterstones in Northampton on 24th April, 11am-2pm. Do come!

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Writing … themes

Starting Over's about ... starting over

Over on Spikethecat I’ve been asked about themes in novels. Do I think much about theme? You betcha.

I do weave themes into my books and am always keen to find a way to encapsulate the theme in an interesting way for the first line of the synopsis. ‘Starting Over‘, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, is about starting over. It’s a popular theme for novels, having to begin again after a giant life wobble. To create conflict, Tess is good at starting over because she’s had so much practice – she’s not used to standing her ground and battling through because whenever life overwhelms her, she just moves on. The theme develops, so that the finale depends on Tess finding something that’s worth sticking it out for, fighting for what she wants and not just starting over.

Theme is important to me as knowing what my theme is helps me write with focus, to think, ‘This book is about starting over.’ Then I don’t go waffling off exploring what people will do for money or the relationship between revenge and love. Those are other books.

I’m not aware of readers seeing themes that I didn’t intend but they do sometimes talk about character motivation that hadn’t occurred to me. I find that really interesting. If a reader wants to discuss my characters with me as if they’re real people that we both know, I’m always incredibly flattered.

I think that many readers don’t bother with identifying themes. Not consciously, anyway. But a writer who doesn’t identify their theme is missing an opportunity to write tightly.

Love Writing

If you’d like to win a copy of Love Writing – How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction, turn to page 13 of Writing Magazine, May issue. All you have to do is write a scene in up to 250 words of the first meeting between hero and heroine – and one of them have to be climbing out of a window.

I don’t know who threw in the last requirement but it’s a nice little kicker, isn’t it? It’s certainly got my mind working. It’s a recognised technique that whenever a scene seems stodgy you should roll the dice again by throwing in something quirky and I guess that that’s what’s happened here.

Writing Magazine has run a lovely profile on me, in the same issue, written by the wonderful Margaret James, and run the first part of my article about what use the Internet is to writers, too.

Happy Easter! Hope that it’s not tipping it down with rain, wherever you are. As it is here. Never mind, it’s a Formula 1 weekend so I wouldn’t be going out much, anyway …

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