Join Hannah in her journeys between beautiful snowy Sweden and cosy Middledip as her life in Stockholm fragments and the village calls her back. Nico’s downshifted to Middledip too as he has two children to care for and an eating disorder to cope with. Will any of their wishes come true?
If you’d prefer to await the paperback or audio versions then they’ll be coming along on November 12th 2020.
It’s amazing how some (wonderful!) writers are able to keep the end to a story going. Black moment after black moment, more twists than a maze, they thrust their characters together and yank them apart … it’s riveting!
On the other hand, you get the occasional finale that fizzles rather than sizzles and it spoils what’s been a great read.
I try and write the first kind of ending and avoid the second. I believe the right ending for my book already exists in my imagination. It’s just a case of recognising it.
Words such as resolution and conclusion are associated with endings for good reason. I look back at the story’s beginning. What did I want my hero and heroine to learn/find/resolve/defend and what did they have to overcome to do it? How can I answer questions and tie in threads, giving the reader the feeling that they are leaving by the same door by which they came in?
What I don’t want:
My characters to resolve the conflicts over a cup of tea i.e. make the conflicts that have driven the book suddenly trivial. I guess that in real life we learn to live with things but that’s not gripping.
Someone else to come along and solve everything. I want my central characters to be instrumental in their own ending.
The action to occur off stage and some lesser character come on to explain what happened.
To cheat readers with hasty contrivances, previously undisclosed facts or hitherto secret characters.
Like an airliner, a story needs a lot of space for its final flightpath. I like everything to go wrong, so completely wrong that it seems irretrievable. Then I make my central characters fight to retrieve it. I plumb the depths of their courage and fortitude, winkle out what they’re prepared to sacrifice in order to achieve a goal. That, to me, is the end of the story.
But … maybe an Epilogue?
Some people dislike prologues and epilogues. I don’t have one in every book or feel that if I have one I must have the other but I don’t shy away from them either.
I try and wind up the final chapter in exactly the right place – after the big resolution – but I’m also mindful of the advice of a past editor not to leave readers too soon. An epilogue is a great opportunity to glimpse my characters enjoying their happy ending, satisfying subplots and maybe including the readers in a joke they’ve shared.
I leave open or ambiguous endings to others. I want readers to put my books down reluctantly, smiling or sighing … but satisfied. I want to give everyone time to say goodbye.
I doubt the collective noun for book bloggers is ‘an appreciation of’ but I feel as if it ought to be. How can I fail to be appreciative of a body of people who like books enough to make reviewing them a big part of their lives? In the book blogging community I’ve made friends with people who don’t glaze over no matter how much I talk about books. (Any book, not just mine.) Through following their blogs I’ve found new authors to read.
And oh, to return to blogger-author meet-ups in crowded pubs, usually on a Saturday afternoon, or meeting book bloggers at book shop and library events!
To make up, even if in a small way, I decided to ask some book bloggers to tell me about what they do.
Mark says: As Sue likes to say about it, my blog is fairly eclectic in what it covers and I think it does a good job of encompassing what I find interesting – books, films, behind the scenes stuff and nostalgia. I started the current incarnation on Blogger back in 2009 and am now zipping along to 900 posts on a weekly posting schedule. I enjoy researching the articles for it and it’s always nice when I have occasion to discuss my own writing and it’s been a constant pleasure – especially in the Avon years – to feature Sue on it so consistently. I’m not sure where blogging has led me but I have met some nice people along the way and I enjoy writing the posts, so I’ll take those two as wins.
Anne Williams describes herself as ‘happily retired’ and her blog has a considerable following. She’s a member of Team Sue Moorcroft.
Anne says: I started blogging in 2013 – nearly eight years ago now – but I’d been reviewing books on-line from the time I first had a computer. It just seemed a nice idea to save my reviews in one place – and it rather surprised me when people enjoyed reading them and started to follow me. At first, it was just a spare time hobby – but by 2016 the blog had been viewed 220,000 times.
As I was then retired, I decided to step things up a little. I moved everything to a different platform (and learned a whole new skill set, along with a few new swear words!) and posted more frequently – still reviewing the books I enjoyed, but also chatting with and running features from guest authors.
The blog now has over 10,000 followers, there’s a linked Facebook page – and I also spend a lot of time on Twitter, supporting fellow bloggers and sharing book-related news. For three years in a row I won the Best Pal award at the annual Bloggers’ Bash – and last year I was really delighted to receive the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Media Star of the Year award.
Reading the books and writing the reviews is still what I enjoy the most – and I always love it when someone tells me they’ve bought a book because of my review. Being a blogger gave me a social life I could never have imagined in retirement, and I’ve made so many friends across the blogging and writing community. The blogging itself? It can sometimes become a bit pressurised, but I’m enjoying it every bit as much as when I started – and have no plans to abandon my keyboard for a good while yet…
Mick says: During the first Romantic Novelists’ Association conference I attended – seems so long ago now! – I was so overwhelmed by everything, barely knowing where to look, or who to talk to. During this, I got talking to Laura Parish and when the subject of her blog came up, I asked, quite unprepared, whether she would consider my contributing? Somewhat to my surprise, she agreed.
Initially, and for about the first year and a half, I’d contribute a quartely update on where my writing had got to/what I’d done. This was fun, but at the time, I hadn’t acknowledged my own poor health and gradually, these posts tailed off. I still contributed book reviews, which I love writing, but the posts about my own writing pretty much ceased.
Despite this, Laura and I have remained good friends and she has been supportive of my writing as things gradually came back together. To this day, she has poked and prodded me, as I’ve tried to do for her, though my blog posts for her, blog, does seem to have fallen by the wayside. I believe she understands my not continuing with this, though it also helped me start taking my writing much more seriously.
Karen Byromhas quite a history with stories – including publishing mine in My Weekly.
Karen says: I’ve been a bookworm all my life, and had the ideal job, working as a fiction editor on one of the UK’s oldest women’s magazines, My Weekly. When I retired last year, I knew I still wanted to be involved in the world of books – I’d made so many friends among the writers, publishers and publicists, but, most importantly, I’d enjoyed sharing my news and views on my favourite books with readers, and wanted to continue that. Running my bookblog at www.karensbookbag.co.uk makes me feel I have my own personal bookclub. Though I only review books I enjoy, my reading tastes are eclectic so you’ll find all sorts of genres there from romance to thrillers to sagas to family drama, and even the occasional non-fiction read. Since I retired, I’m busier than ever reading and writing reviews, but I love what I do, and really enjoy the feedback I get from my fellow readers.
My recent blog activity included posts on Prologues and Chapter One. I’m not going to try and post about every possible chapter in one of my books but do think it’s worth saying something about Chapter Two and beyond.
Although I find Chapter Two more flexible than the Prologue and/or Chapter One, it can still have certain characteristics:
Chapter Two can almost be another Chapter One, just as hooky and demanding, introducing a whole new character and/or situation. This is particularly useful if I introduced one viewpoint character in the first chapter and now want to bring on another viewpoint character with just as much room for her/his story. NB I’d probably include the character introduced in Chapter One as well so as not to completely interrupt flow but I’ve seen other authors successfully bring on a new character and situation almost as if beginning a different book. I think this latter approach takes a bit of confidence that the readers won’t feel disconnected and go and read something else instead, though.
Or Chapter Two can be a continuance of, or reaction to, the dramatic situation contained in Chapter One.
Or it can contain the background stuff I need to rationalise what’s grabbed the readers’ attention in Chapter One but I thought would interrupt flow at the time. I could allow myself a flashback at this point … if I was certain I needed one. Instead, I usually choose to bring the same information out in conversation/confrontation/introspection because it keeps the story flowing forward. I feel as if flashbacks put the action in reverse. NB This may be a personal prejudice.
Chapter Two can also be a place for readers to take a breather by introducing a complete change of pace. This can provide a sense of settling into the story. NB I wouldn’t want the pace to drop too far or for too long.
I try and make every chapter open at a point of significance, exactly like a short story – bounce into the action or have somebody say something hookily surprising or intriguing.
I aim to exit at least some chapters with drama, emotion, twists and surprises. As I’ve said before, the last page of a chapter is a good place for people to end a reading session and I like to try and stop them even if they’re reading in bed, shattered, and knowing they have to get up in the morning. I don’t want them to resist reading on. When I receive a message on social media or via my website and a reader says, ‘I was up until two reading your book!’ or ‘I just couldn’t put it down’ I feel as if I’ve succeeded!
I’m thrilled a bit to have not one but two paperback releases in America this winter! Let it Snow has just been published and The Christmas Promise follows on October 27th, both published by HarperCollins under the Avon imprint.
In The Christmas Promise Ava is struggling for money and petrified her ex will carry out revenge porn threats. Sam’s mother is in between surgery and chemotherapy and he wants to give her a special Christmas, which involves Ava in a promise. Can she keep it?
Home for the Holidays is the story of Alexia, a bit of a reluctant heroine because she’s trying to leave the village and take up an exciting new life … until a project she’s working on goes wrong. It would have been a great farewell to Middledip to project-lead the restoration of a derelict pub and conversion to a community café. But then someone runs away with all the money. Alexa stays to help but her situation is now beyond tricky.
Home for the Holidays is published by HarperCollins under the Avon imprint. I can’t wait for one of those glossy paperbacks to make it across the pond to me!
I view Chapter One as an access corridor to the rest of my book and I want it to be interesting and uncluttered, regardless of whether it’s the opening to my book or a prologue has already had that honour.
I do want:
Something to hook readers into the story. An interesting situation or a point of change. A startling fact. A puzzle. Something that makes the readers want to know what happens next.
To set the tone. I remember beginning a book where, unusually for that author, corpses littered the landscape – and I don’t enjoy reading about death. It was several pages before the author revealed that she was describing a training exercise and the ‘corpses’ were actually personnel playing dead. The rest of the novel was just my cup of tea but I’d almost deleted it from my e-reader halfway through Chapter One because the tone wasn’t what I expected. It was scary and chilling – and slow – whereas I wanted warmth and to be hooked into the story.
To jump into the story. I like to hit the ground running and draw the readers in.
To keep the momentum up with action.
To introduce one of the viewpoint characters straight away. Readers are a bit like ducklings and instinctively follow the first person they see. If the scene’s about my heroine receiving a parcel I want the reader to see the heroine first, not the delivery person.
At least one character to like, to want to be with.
A sense of place.
Dialogue to ensure that characters act out the story and interact with each other.
To keep it all one scene, if possible, so I don’t break the connection with the reader.
I don’t want:
To clutter the pages with masses of description. Description’s static. I weave it in with action and dialogue rather than pausing for a long stare around at the scenery.
Flashbacks. A flashback takes a story back rather than forward. I don’t have many flashbacks in my books anyway, choosing to show backstory in other ways, but I definitely keep them out of Chapter One. I want the action to be smooth and a flashback chops it up. NB Maybe this is why I sometimes have a prologue. I want the readers to have certain information from the past but don’t want to let it interrupt the present.
Too much introspection (thoughts). I feel dialogue conveys information in a way that keeps things moving. ‘How dare you talk to my child like that?‘ feels more immediate than: She had no right to talk to his child like that, he thought. Introspection can be a bit one-paced. NB This isn’t an unbreakable rule because there might be a reason he doesn’t want her to know his feelings. It’s just a ‘where possible’. NB2 I would often cut he thought from the sentence in reality but used it here for the sake of clarity.
An unsympathetic character (i.e. one the readers are probably not going to like) taking up too much space. To expect readers to spend time with someone they don’t like right at the beginning is a big ask. NB An exception is if the unsympathetic character’s not showing her/his true colours yet and I don’t want the readers to know s/he’s going to be unlikeable in the end.
If I can, I end the chapter with drama or high note, which encourages the readers into Chapter Two. Readers think a chapter end is a good place to put a book down.
But I think it’s an opportunity to keep them reading!
8th APRIL 2022, 2.00-3:30pm – Towcester Library, The Forum, Moat Lane, Towcester, Northants NN12 6AD. FREE! Sue will be talking about her writing life and her books, and reading from her upcoming novel, ‘Summer at the French Café’. Q&A, signed books available to buy. Come along!
Email email@example.com for tickets.
13th-19th AUGUST 2022 – Swanwick, The Writers’ Summer School, The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Alfreton, Derbyshire, DE55 1AU. Amongst all the great courses and sessions, Sue will be delivering the Writing Romantic Fiction Course. Bookings for Swanwick are now open at: https://www.swanwickwritersschool.org.uk/