One Summer in Italy or how I write a book #OneSummerinItaly #NewBook

Publication Day!

Today’s one of the happiest days of the year – a publication day. One Summer in Italy is sent out into the world … well, it’s sent out to shelves and portable devices, anyway. I hope you like my latest book baby.

The jokey term for a novel ‘book baby’ came into being for a reason, I think. Though a fantastic, joyful event, there’s a lot of hard work involved in giving it life.

Here’s the bullet-point version from my perspective:

  • Get an idea for the premise of the book. For One Summer in Italy this came when I was in Italy at Arte Umbria, where I have taught courses and led retreats for several years. The chef and I happened to be taking a break at the same time, sitting in the sun with our feet in the pool, and she told me about being a seasonal worker. I thought, ‘What a great thing for one of my heroines to do’.
  • Work on characters and planning.
  • Research. Yes, this did involve being in Italy again and taking a host of pictures. ♥ But also a lot of finding and absorbing information on seasonal workers (employees and employers), ex-pat families, the hospitality trade, laws and regulations, web development, homelessness, motorbikes, blood groups, watercolour painting and even Italian cemeteries.
  • Write the first draft. This takes months and is punctuated with constant distractions and interruptions. I was thankful for last year’s writing retreat where I wrote nearly a quarter of the first draft and had the joyful experience of being in the place I was writing about … more or less. My imagination added a town and a hotel.
  • Write another draft or two
  • Send book in
  • Receive structural edit. The structural edit covers all the large changes my editor feels will make help me produce the best book I can. Discuss with editor; make decisions on how many suggestions I’ll take up; perform structural edit.
  • Send structural edit back
  • Receive line edits. Line edits deal with smaller matters, continuity and timeline. I’m timeline-blind so this stage often involves a lot of head scratching whilst wearing a grumpy expression – on my part, anyway. Probably it’s the same for the line editor.
  • Send line edits back.
  • Receive copy edits. Copy edits deal with punctuation, grammar and anything that hasn’t yet been picked up in another edit.
  • Send copy edits back.
  • Receive proofs. To proof a book I have to read the whole thing again and indicate any errors I see.
  • Send proofs back.
  • Write acknowledgments and any dedication.
  • Write any backmatter (bonus material) requested.
  • Breathe a great sigh of relief.
  • Start another book. This usually takes place betwixt and between the above tasks.

I can’t tell you in the same detail what the other side of the process is, carried out by the fab Avon team, but it will include the all-important cover (I LOVE the cover of One Summer in Italy), editing, scheduling, typesetting, promo, marketing and blurb writing. I’m involved in some of those areas too, mainly the promo.

Underpinning the process on both sides is respect, co-operation, negotiation, discussion, and a whole heck of a lot of emails!

But it’s worth it when this is what we end up with:

It_s time for Sophia to live her own life – and to fulfil the promises she made to her father Aldo.Montelibertà in Italy_s Umbrian mountains holds plenty of family secrets waitin

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How I created a town in Italy

 

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Arte Umbria

 

As it’s now only one week until One Summer in Italy is published I thought I’d write about the location.

I love to create settings for my novels, whether it’s a little English village or a town in another country. One Summer in Italy is set in Umbria, a verdant region of Italy, and there I built in my imagination a town called Montelibertà.

 

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Orvieto; looking towards the amazing cathedral, ‘Il Duomo’.

 

Where did Montelibertà come from? For the last several years I’ve been lucky enough to run writing courses or retreats for Arte Umbria. The venue is an old stone hunting lodge and it looks out over the rolling Apennines. Their terrace is one of my favourite places and I used it as the basis for Montelibertà, beginning with the view, which my hero, Levi Gunn, is in town to capture in watercolours.

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The building itself grew in my imagination to a small hotel called Casa Felice (Happy House), with a café in front of it – Il Giardino (The Garden, in case you hadn’t guessed). I had to work out how many rooms there would be, where the dining areas were, Reception, back offices, kitchens, even the utility yard. I added in a little marble to the stonework, because that’s what hotels often do.

And I had to create a town for Casa Felice to stand on the edges of. I seemed to have to know a lot about the town too – where the church is and what it looks like; what’s beyond Case Felice; where the cemetery is; the piazzas, the streets, even in which direction the slopes run. I made the town, Montelibertà, a smaller version of the wonderful medieval town of Orvieto, which is only a couple of trains stops, a funicular and a bus ride away. I’ve visited it several times when at Arte Umbria. I spent a wonderful day – and an entire phone-charge – taking photos in Orvieto. Then I took out my trusty big sketch pad and began on the map.

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Sorry it’s not a very good pic. I’ve never found the time to ink the map and tidy it up.

 

I even had to work out transport links, the nearest autostrade or motorway, the railways and the buses. My map is no work of art – slopes marked with the words ‘up’ or ‘down’ are functional rather than pretty – but it works for me. My library of photos from my various trips to Umbria have been mined throughout the writing of the book, so it’s all pretty clear in my mind.

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I called the town ‘Montelibertà’ as it’s set in the mountains and represents what Sofia is seeking when she travels there, her father’s home town – liberty. Does she find it? Welllllll … she finds a whole heck of a lot of things, most of them unexpected.

 

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Writing retreat, Arte Umbria 2017

 

If you’re interested in joining me on a writing retreat at Arte Umbria this summer (20-17 June 2018 or 27 June-4 July 2018) then you can read more about it on their website. You can also read earlier post, Did the Writing Retreat Work? here. (The answer is ‘yes’, by the way. I wrote almost a quarter of the first draft of One Summer in Italy in one week.

One Summer in Italy will hit portable devices or book shop and supermarket shelves near you on May 17 2018.

Promises, Secrets, Family

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Thanks to @KuoniTravelUK @KuoniDorking – event

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of visiting Kuoni, the travel company, in Dorking to be part of their Books and the Beach event, as they’re providing a GREAT competition for One Summer in Italy. More about that on publication day …

DSC01016It was lovely to meet not just those from Kuoni Dorking and Kuoni‘s head office but so many residents of Dorking and the surrounding area. Even the sunshine joined us as we mingled over prosecco and nibbles.

DSC01023Later, Rachel O’Reilly of Kuoni interviewed me and I answered questions from an attentive and generous audience. It was a pleasure to share the evening with them all.

DSC01049A wonderful lady called Susan even offered to help me with my research for next summer’s book!

My publisher, Avon (HarperCollins), had kindly sent down hot-off-the-press copies of One Summer in Italy to be raffled off, which I was very happy to sign.

My friend Anita Chapman of Neetswriter and Neetsmarketing was able to attend and we rounded out the evening with fish and chips in the dining room of my hotel.

Thanks to Kuoni and all the guests for making me so welcome and sharing the excitement in the run-up to the publication of One Summer in Italy!

OSII bookshot

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Should authors visit the London Book Fair? #LBF18

I attended the London Book Fair at London Olympia for only one day this year, Tuesday, but, as usual, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There have been a few conversations on Facebook about what there is at the Fair for authors so I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Would an author’s time be better spent writing? I suppose it depends how much time you have to write. I write full-time and welcome a chance to widen my knowledge. And meet my mates.

Speaking for myself, even if I go for all three days, as I have for several years, I consider it time well spent. I find many of the talks interesting, even if they’re not aimed at authors, because I like to know what I can about publishing (and I like to hear good talks). Sessions on what Brexit might mean for publishing or how to build writing communities catch my eye and I go on in. At Author HQ I listen to the occasional speaker, too, although I feel as if many of these slots are aimed at self-published authors.

My favourite talks by far are those from authors. On Tuesday, it was possible to hear Joanna Trollope, Kit de Waal and David Baldacci, amongst others.  Last year’s stand-out author-speakers for me were Jeffrey Archer, Marian Keyes, Michael Morpurgo and Meg Rossof. I don’t think it’s time badly spent to listen to them! They’re entertaining and informative.

I like to tour the stands, particularly of the big publishers, to see what they’re pushing and what the latest covers look like.

I do a lot of networking with other writers or bloggers too. This year, naughtily, I spent more time socialising than listening to the illustrious guests! But I had been working hard … and somebody said ‘wine’. It may have been me!

Here are a few of my pics from the London Book Fair 2018:

 

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On the train to #LBF18

 

 

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Bookmark from the Society of Authors (they were also giving out sweets!)

 

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David Baldacci (right, with mic). I couldn’t even get into his talk and had to stand at the back, outside Author HQ

 

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The HarperCollins stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just one of the massive halls at London Olympia

 

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Osborne Publishing’s stand. Isn’t that awesome?

 

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Audio books

 

 

 

 

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#CoverReveal One Summer in Italy #excited

One Summer Jpeg web

It’s my pleasure to reveal the LOVELY cover for One Summer in Italy! I absolutely adore it and want to rush back to Italy this very minute.

If you buy the book you will find news of a lovely opportunity in the back! Can’t tell you any more right now but … look out for it.

And here’s what happened, one summer in Italy:

When Sofia Bianchi’s father Aldo dies, it makes her stop and look at things afresh. Having been his carer for so many years, she knows it’s time for her to live her own life – and to fulfil some promises she made to Aldo in his final days.

So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.

Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off …

One Summer in Italy will be published on 17 May in paperback, ebook and audio by Avon (HarperCollins)

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THRILLED to announce …

… that Just for the Holidays has been shortlisted for a RoNA!

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The Romantic Novelists’ Association runs the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards every year and they’re currently sponsored by Goldsboro Books. You can read more about this year’s awards on the RNA blog here but, in short, the event will take place on the 5th of March at The Gladstone Library in London. There are seven categories – my shortlisting is in the Contemporary category – and each category has a winner, who’s presented with a trophy sometimes referred to as ‘a RoNA’. Then the winners of the categories go forward for the overall award of £5,000 and a trophy to keep for a year. The latter is usually called ‘The Rose Bowl of Doom’ because everybody dreads dropping it.

This year the awards are to be presented by Rev Richard Coles, who happens to come from the town I live in now, and the judges for the overall award are: Matt Bates, the Fiction Buyer for WH Smith Travel, editor Alex Hammond, writer Elizabeth Buchan and Liz Robinson, book reviewer for Lovereading.co.uk.

It’s a PHENOMENAL shortlist, but I’m happy to be in such fab company. The shortlist for the Contemporary Romantic Novel:
Together, Julie Cohen, Orion
The Picture House by the Sea, Holly Hepburn, Simon & Schuster
The Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan – Two Roads, John Murray Press
The Dangers of Family Secrets, Debby Holt, Accent Press
The Queen of Wishful Thinking, Milly Johnson, Simon & Schuster
Just For The Holidays, Sue Moorcroft, Avon Books
My Summer of Magic Moments, Caroline Roberts, HarperImpulse
Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage, Heidi-Jo Swain, Simon & Schuster
http://bit.ly/2nSF6F3

I’ve only been lucky enough to be nominated for a RoNA once before, for Dream a Little Dream, when, unfortunately, somebody fainted in front of me, dumping me hard on my bum, drenched by my wine and that of two other people I crashed into. Richard & Judy were presenting the awards that year and they did ask over the microphone whether we were all OK. I was, apart from a bruise and a bra full of wine. (And I didn’t win.)

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I always go into awards with the view that I won’t win, and I’m usually right (though Love & Freedom did win a Readers’ Romantic Read of the Year Award), but to be nominated is just SUCH a pleasure.

I’m

absolutely

thrilled.

LoveAndFreedom:Layout 1

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The 12 Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas

I decided to celebrate Christmas by sharing my top writing tips on social media, culminating in sending out #12 today, Christmas Eve. You can find them all by searching for the hashtag #12WritingTips, but I thought it would also be a nice idea to collect them all on my blog. So here they are:

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #1

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #2

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #3

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #4

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #5

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #6

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #7

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #8

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #9

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #10

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #11

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #12

 

That’s it! Have a fantastic festive season, everybody. I wish you peace and happiness.

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Why give an experience for Christmas? (Or a book …)

IMG_3431On Sunday morning I joined John Griff, BBC Radio Northampton presenter, for his newspaper roundup. It’s an interesting slot. The guest is given a sofa, the Sunday newspapers and a cup of tea (all good so far) for about three-quarters of an hour before the 10.45am timeslot. All they have to do is find a few stories they’d like to talk about. Then join John in the studio and talk about them.

It was all fairly Christmassy stuff and I was particularly struck by a feature written by Lucy Siegle in The Observer magazine, The Eco Guide to … Not Buying Stuff.

The thrust of the piece is that your Christmas shopping list doesn’t have to consist of material objects. ‘Experiences’ such as balloon flights or a day at a falconry centre are actually good for us. Apparently, researchers at Cornell University have concluded that receiving an experience gift can create more happiness than receiving possessions. The neuroscientists of the University of Pennsylvania link satisfaction to new experiences, especially if they take place outdoors.

I have to say I’m not convinced by “The most rubbish gift of 2017” – a full day of waste collection and recycling in a UK city of their choice. Me, I’d much rather have a few laps of Silverstone in a Ferrari or a glider flight.

A couple of great things about gifting an experience:

  • You can buy right up until the last moment
  • You don’t have to wrap it!

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And you never know where it will lead. It was an experience day at Icarus Falconry at Holdenby House, near Northampton, that led me to put a rescue owl, Barney, in The Little Village Christmas. Then the lovely folk at Icarus invited me back to fly Lillie, the young barn owl I’d based Barney on (except Barney has been injured and Lillie is all in one glorious piece).File 03-10-2017, 21 05 10

Or you could just give books as presents, of course. There your loved one will find all kinds of experiences without ever needing to leave their favourite armchair!

TLVC bookshotThe Little Village Christmas in paperback and ebook.

TLVC 99p Kindle glitter

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#TheLittleVillageChristmas – a magical #99p on #Kindle

TLVC 99p Kindle glitter

One snowy day, an author decided to write a blog post to tell everybody that her latest book, The Little Village Christmas, is on sale throughout the land (or UK-based cyberspace) for the magical price of 99p.

A Christmas fairytale? Sorcery? ‘Tis not!

You can make The Little Village Christmas appear on your device. All you must do is click here and a window will emerge. Upon entering the window, the first step in your quest is to discover a button like this:

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Be not afraid to click it! And your path to Christmas in the little village of Middledip will appear.

The author sends you luck upon your quest! The way is clear for you. Hurry now before the chance has gone …!

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An Interview with Mark West @MarkEWest

mark west by liz kearns

I’m welcoming Mark West onto my blog today to talk about his new novella, Polly.

Mark’s one of my oldest writing buddies, one of my most local writing buddies, one of my beta readers and a member of Team Sue Moorcroft.

So, Mark, tell us a bit about yourself, and about Polly.

Okay, I’ve been writing fiction since I was about eight (I wanted to know what happened next to The Six Million Dollar Man and also the Star Wars characters and decided to make up the stories myself). I wrote some short horror stories in the late 80s, moved to contemporary novels in the early 90s then went back to horror and started getting published in the small press in 1999 (when I first met you). Polly is a dark thriller about a woman who goes to Paris when she realises her marriage is over.

When we first met you wrote the kind of horror that gave me nightmares (literally). In recent years you’ve moved over into chillers and thrillers. I’m glad, because, a wussy wimp when it comes to scary things, it means I can read your stories again, but what has made you change direction?

I loved writing horror (and still do) but one of my writing goals is to get a mass-market deal and that will just never happen with horror. I wrote a novella called “Drive” a few years ago, which isn’t horror and I was worried about how it’d be received and it went down very well, even getting nominated for a British Fantasy Society Award. Based on that, I decided to move into thrillers and you & I talked it over in-depth at the time during one of our Trading Post meet-ups. Polly was the first step towards that, to see if I could do it again, and my novel-in-progress is a psychological thriller.

I’m always surprised at your writing output, considering you have a full-time job and a family. You’re active on your blog and on social media too. Where do you find the hours?

I don’t really know and I worry that it’s one of those things where, if I figure it out, it’ll all collapse like a house of cards.

What’s your planning process? You write short stories, novellas and novels – does the process vary from one form to another?

I make a LOT of notes. I’ve been more suited towards shorts and novellas the past few years, to be honest, so going back into a novel was a big step for me and I’ve been like a magpie, stealing ideas and processes from all over.

Which is your favourite form?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on the novel but I still prefer the novella – it’s long enough to stretch out and luxuriate in the space, but not get bogged down in the length.

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But back to Polly, I love the cover art. Did you have much input on that? Are you pleased with it?

I really like the cover art and didn’t have any direct input, other than to say I didn’t think the first image represented the character properly. It was well done, a woman in front of Notre Dame (which is key to the story) but the model was clearly in her twenties (too young for Polly) and had a lot of tattoos (which Polly doesn’t have). But the one that we ended up with is marvellous, very elegant and also nicely noir-ish.

Is there an audio version of Polly coming along?

There is, and it’s the first audio version I’ve had of one of my books.

What made you write this particular story? How did you find the right publisher?

Stormblade Productions, the publisher, asked me, and I knew Carrie Buchanan would be narrating the audiobook. That led me towards writing with a female POV (which also helped as a good exercise to get me up to speed with the novel), I quite liked the idea of writing about Paris and once I’d got the notion that her marriage had collapsed, it all laid itself out. Though, if you remember, my original ending was a lot darker and you & I, in another Trading Post session, brainstormed pretty much what’s there now.

I know you’re working on a novel right now. How’s that going? Can you give us an idea of what it’s about?

I am, it’s into the second draft now and seems to be going well, though I’m currently at the “this is rubbish, it’s not original, nobody’s going to like it” stage. It’s about Claire, a woman in her mid-forties, who is on the verge of divorce and having to start things over. Unfortunately, at the same time, she realises that someone is stalking her.

I know that stage! But I’m sure you’re wrong, it’ll be great, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks for chatting.

Thank you for having me! J

Mark West lives in Northamptonshire with his wife Alison and their young son Matthew. Since discovering the small press in 1998 he has published over eighty short stories, two novels, a novelette, a chapbook, a collection and three novellas (one of which, Drive, was nominated for a British Fantasy Society Award). He has more short stories and novellas forthcoming and is currently working on a novel.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading, walking, cycling, watching films and playing Dudeball with his son.

He can be contacted through his website at http://www.markwest.org.uk and is also on Twitter as @MarkEWest. Click here if you’d like to know more about Polly.

 

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