If you can reach Moulton in Northamptonshire you might like to come along to the Moulton Literary Festival on (and around) 9th October 2022. Check out the link and you’ll see it’s a varied programme. My session begins at 2pm, ‘Twenty Years to be an Overnight Success’, the story from my first short story sale to reaching #1 on the Kindle UK chart. A slide show accompanies the talk and I’m happy to sign books or join you in a selfie.
Tag Archives: Novels
When I decided to write a post about Christmas books, I first solicited feedback from two large, active readers’ groups on Facebook. I asked: ‘If you read Christmas-themed books, whether they’re romance-at-Christmas or crime-at-Christmas, can you tell me why?’
Overwhelmingly, the most popular answer was:
- ‘I love Christmas books!’
Almost as popular was:
- to get in the Christmas mood and/or feel immersed in the season of goodwill.
- reading Christmas books is a part of the run-up to Christmas, a tradition
- many Christmas books have happy endings, increasing the positive feelings (this possibly isn’t true of crime-at-Christmas)
- to reflect on the spirit of Christmas
- to ‘live’ the sort of Christmas the reader would like to have, but doesn’t, including having a vicarious Christmas if spending the season alone
- escapism – Christmas books tend to focus on what’s important: family, charity, hope and community, rather than commercialism
- Christmas books are frequently uplifting
- they heighten the romance of the season.
Stanley Unwin said: “The first duty of any publisher to their authors is to remain solvent,” so it’s not hard to see why publishers publish Christmas books. Christmas stories sell in large numbers. Most of mine have charted in the Official UK Top 50, UK Kindle Top 100 (one went to #1) and some the Top 20 Mass-Market Fiction. Magazines, newspapers and websites include them in Christmas gift guides. The season is short but intense.
I write Christmas books, and not just because they sell. (Here comes the writing bit.) I think my ‘plotty head’ recognises the possibilities arising from the heightened stakes of a book set at Christmas time.
I view it like this: during the festive season, good things seem better and bad things seem worse.
Let’s take an example of ‘good’ – a couple getting engaged at Christmas. Their wonderful news only doubles the celebrations; they meet more friends and family at Christmas and each time make their announcement, show off the rings, talk about future plans. A Christmas engagement is memorable and romantic, bedecking Cloud Nine with glitter and fairy lights.
On the other hand, how bad does it feel to get a redundancy notice in the week before Christmas? The good time had by others highlights the plight of the character who’s lost their job and money woes leap into hard focus. How will the Christmas credit card bill be paid, the Christmas food bill, the tickets for the latest Christmas movie or fuelling the car for Christmas visits across country? The January pay packet may be the last for a while. Family members are about to be let down just when they were expecting to be flying high.
This heightening of stakes makes my plotting life easier. Contrasts between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ are greater (hence Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol to bring attention to the plight of the poor), conflicts are tougher, celebrations more joyous, goals more important. A bad Christmas experience can taint Christmas forevermore… unless a novelist comes along to weave into the story a reason to enjoy Christmas again and for scars to be healed.
For me, writing Christmas books has an unexpected benefit – I’m part of so many Christmases! People read my books to get in the festive spirit and gift them to each other (there are few things easier to wrap than a book). If someone messages me with a request to buy a signed copy they often ask, ‘Do you mind?’
No, I don’t mind – I’m delighted! It’s a privilege to be, in a small way, part of Christmas.
It’s already been to #28 in the paperback Official Top Fifty in the UK, which made me very happy. HUGE thanks to everybody who bought it and therefore put it there.
If you’d prefer to read Under the Italian Sun on your Kindle and grab a summery ‘escape through the pages’ to a sunny plateau above an Italian vineyard, then now’s the time to buy.
Enjoy your journey to a place full of secrets and passions – happy reading!
When I was researching my ‘Ava’ book in Camden Town, London, I happened across an Irregular Choice shop – the first I’d encountered, although I’ve since found them in Carnaby Street, too. The name of the shop perfectly describes their products – zany – but they’re also gorgeous and imaginative. I like shoes and promised myself I’d buy a pair if the contract for the book proved good enough.
And it did! ‘Ava’ (she’s going to have a better title than that, soon) is scheduled for October 2016 publication with Avon HarperCollins UK, with the second book in the contract due out in June 2017.
So I have bought some Irregular Choice shoes …
And I very much love them.
I went for those with tape measures on to reflect Ava’s creative career in couture millinery.
Slightly on the downside, lovely as they are, standing up in them for two hours yesterday afternoon at the Love Story Awards and 3 hours yesterday evening at the RNA Winter Party, with a walk along Piccadilly in between, was not an irregular choice, it was a slightly stupid one. 🙂
This isn’t the first time I’ve given myself a reward for a writing accomplishment. When I sold my first short story to a magazine, The People’s Friend, I bought myself a new computer chair to replace my dated and uncomfortable typist’s chair. Sadly, the chair had a tweedy sort of fabric cover and, even through jeans, it gave me a rash on my bum.
I’m not deterred and shall continue to buy myself the occasional gift when I achieve a happy point in my career. I shall continue to wear the shoes! But I gave the chair away.
Absolutely thrilled to hear this week that The Wedding Proposal has been shortlisted in the Romance Reader Awards for Best Romantic Read. This is the first year that the entry has been open to all so I’m beyond delighted to be in illustrious company. You can read the complete lists for all categories here but this is the line up for mine:
Best Romantic Read
(Sponsored by Headline Eternal)
Two Weddings and a Baby by Scarlett Bailey (Ebury)
The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman (Ebury)
The Cornish Stranger by Liz Fenwick (Orion)
After The Honeymoon by Janey Fraser (Arrow)
The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell (Headline Review)
One Hundred Proposals by Holly Martin (Carina)
The Wedding Proposal by Sue Moorcroft (Choc Lit)
The Proposal by Tasmina Perry (Headline Review)
One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson (Quercus)
Rowan Coleman is currently flying high as a Richard & Judy pick and Jill Mansell has long been a mega-bestseller so you can see what I mean by ‘illustrious company’.
The award ceremony is at the Festival of Romantic Fiction on the evening of Saturday 13th September 2014 at Leighton Buzzard Theatre. I’m attending the Festival all day on the Saturday, to be part of the book fair in Leighton Buzzard High Street from 10am to 3pm and the Traditional Afternoon Tea with the Authors at The Green House, Market Square, Leighton Buzzard. I’m glad I booked a hotel for Saturday night as drinking fizz at an awards ceremony is a basic human right … and I’m rather a fan of it.
When we think of weddings we tend to think of all the traditional things – big venue, bride in gorgeous white dress, long black cars, bridesmaids, pageboys, guests in suits and hats. It’s an incredibly expensive undertaking.
For some, the price is just too much.
Recently, I discovered that the wedding plans of the son of friends had been badly affected by an unexpected redundancy notice. They had to look at the wedding expenses and see what they could cut. An obvious candidate was the wedding car at nearly £500. The dad said that he’d drive the happy couple, instead, but that would mean double journeys and fallback plans for others in the family.
It was great! As soon as the ribbons were on the car I found that traffic stopped for me, even when I didn’t even have the bride and groom on board. (I’ve stored this information up for future use and may always keep a supply of white ribbons in the glove compartment.)
I ended up going to the wedding reception in the afternoon and then back to the extended family reception at the parents’ house in the evening. (By that time I was off duty and could indulge in a few glasses of Pimms.) I had time to chat with members of their family that I hadn’t seen for years, as well as meeting a few new ones.
The Wedding Proposal was at the printers, by this time, but this lovely wedding day did make me wonder what kind of wedding Elle and Lucas will have in the end. Will they do the traditional thing at a stunning venue? Run off to Vegas, as Elle once suggested? Or get married on a beach, somewhere exotic …
I wonder if they need a driver?
My new novel, The Wedding Proposal, is out as an ebook today!
(The paperback comes out on 8 September.)
When I was little and used to look out over a Malta yacht marina from our balcony, I never dreamed that one day I’d set a novel there. At that time the marina was just part of the scenery. I was an army kid in army accommodation and never troubled my head over how it felt to live on a boat, even when I caught the school bus just opposite Gzira Gardens and gazed at the boats as the bus trundled along the seafront road.
When I decided to make Elle and Lucas meet up again after their break up four years earlier, I wanted to put them in a situation where they couldn’t easily escape each other and so had to face their past. Put them on a boat together, I thought. So I created the Shady Lady and moored her within sight of the bridge to Manoel Island. The boat belongs to Lucas’s Uncle Simon and it’s due to Simon’s meddling that Elle and Lucas end up in the same boat for the summer.
I was lucky to be invited to the Southampton Boat Show by Fairline Boats to explore the twin of the Shady Lady. She’s 42′ long.
Oliver, the delightful man who took time out of a busy day to show me around, said, ‘This is a small boat for two people who aren’t ‘together’ to occupy together. There’s going to be friction.’
I just smiled. ‘He’s going to be annoyed when she turns up with four huge suitcases, isn’t he? They’re going to fall over one another at every turn.’ Yeah …
And, of course, I went to Malta to take hundreds of photos of every area of Malta that I thought Lucas and Elle might need for their story to unfold. The seafront, the gardens, the nearby resort of Sliema and, across the harbour, Valletta, Manoel Island, the streets of Gzira, the rocky foreshore and the Mediterranean Sea. But everyone knows that I love Malta, so that was no hardship!
Here’s the blurb:
The Wedding Proposal – available today as an ebook.
Can a runaway bride stop running?
Elle Jamieson is an unusually private person, in relationships as well as at work – and for good reason. But when she’s made redundant, with no ties to hold her, Elle heads off to a new life in sunny Malta.
Lucas Rose hates secrets – he prides himself on his ability to lay his cards on the table and he expects nothing less from others. He’s furious when his summer working as a divemaster is interrupted by the arrival of Elle, his ex, all thanks to his Uncle Simon’s misguided attempts at matchmaking.
Forced to live in close proximity, it’s hard to ignore what they had shared before Lucas’s wedding proposal ended everything they had. But then an unexpected phone call from England allows Lucas a rare glimpse of the true Elle. Can he deal with Elle’s hidden past when it finally comes to light?
Yesterday, in the pursuit of research, I had the enormous pleasure of visiting Abigail Crampton, a couture milliner, to learn a little about her art and her business, Abigail Crampton Millinery.
I began to understand the difference between picture hats and cartwheels, fascinators and cocktail hats, cloches and trilbies.
And the colours and decorations! Stunning.
Making a hat by hand is an enormous skill as well as a testament to creativity. Abigail makes bespoke creations so if, say, you want a hat for Ascot, you take along your outfit and Abigail designs a hat that completes your ensemble and is a visual joy.
I fell in love with a cocktail hat (probably because the height of the decoration made me look taller) and discovered that I have a totally average head size. I also learned a lot about blocking, steaming, stab stitch, sinemay and the uses of an egg iron.
The research is for a novella I’m planning – The Twelve Dates of Christmas. I came away content that I’ve chosen the correct career for Ava Bliss, my heroine. She’ll prosper amongst the sinemay, straw, felt, feathers and veiling.
I’ll let the rest of my photos speak for themselves. My thanks to Abigail for giving up her time and sharing some of her expertise.