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: writing
It’s cover reveal day!
And isn’t this gorgeously summery?
I love this rendition of Kat walking Angelique around Parc Lemmel, the wonderful place where she works, with everything from a book café to lakes, wild walks to manicured gardens, amusements and rides. I quite expect Noah to leave his station at the kayak slipway and stroll over to greet them.
Here’s the official blurb:
Sparkling sun, strolls in the gorgeous French countryside, that first sip of cool, crisp wine – Summer is Kat’s favourite season. And this year should be no exception…
As soon as Kat Jenson set foot in the idyllic French village of Kirchhoffen, she knew she’d found her home. Now she has a dreamy boyfriend, a delightful dog and the perfect job managing a bustling book café in the vibrant Parc Lemmel.
But when she learns her boyfriend isn’t all he seems, it’s the start of a difficult summer for Kat. Vindictive troublemakers, work woes and family heartache follow, and the clear blue sky that was her life suddenly seems full of clouds.
Then she gets to know the mysterious Noah, and her sun begins to shine brighter than ever. But Noah has problems of his own – ones that could scupper their new-found happiness. Together, can they overcome their many obstacles, and find love again?
The perfect summer read for fans of Trisha Ashley, Sarah Morgan and Carole Matthews.
‘An absolutely gorgeous French escape full of sunshine – I loved it!’ Rachael Lucas
‘Charming, uplifting and utterly delightful – I was totally swept up in this gorgeous book!’ Holly Martin
Summer at the French Café will be released in paperback, ebook and audio on 12th May 2022 in the UK and US. I hope you read and enjoy it.
I’m looking forward to this in-person event at Rothwell Library in Northamptonshire with fellow authors Jane Isaac and N V Peacock. The evening will be hosted by Mark West, author of thrillers and chillers. I love events that include refreshments because there are ALWAYS chocolate biscuits. Somehow, I’ve persuaded myself that whatever I eat at an event doesn’t contain calories.
As you see from this lovely poster, you can email or call in to purchase tickets. I know they’re selling well, so don’t miss out.
The authors will be happy to chat, answer questions, sell and sign their books, etc. Come along! We’d love to see you.
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.
I accepted an invitation to work at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai without any preconceptions about the country. My itinerary was clear enough – a panel on contemporary women’s fiction, a couple of receptions and outings and three days teaching. With flight times of around seven hours, it was a busy schedule.
But I still had time to fall in love with Dubai.
The landmark style of architecture entranced me. The sunshine was welcome and 25-27c was perfect for me. During my 7-day trip, I don’t think a single person was rude to me, everyone was warm and friendly, I didn’t see a single piece of litter or graffiti. I felt very comfortable and safe.
Dubai’s considered a global crossroads and I can see how it earned that title. It seems that every culture and religion is represented in its populace and, from what I saw, coexisting peacefully. I so wish the rest of the world exhibited the same tolerance as I witnessed in Dubai.
My first evening saw a welcome reception, which included such luminaries as Alan Titchmarsh. Everybody who worked for the Festival was warm and welcoming. They gave me food and wine, so I was happy.
I spent the next morning walking in the sunshine and enjoying the shore of Festival City. There’s a lot of construction in this new area but still plenty to see and enjoy. I didn’t go into the massive mall next door. Honestly. Not then …
In the afternoon I was part of the Contemporary Fiction panel with April Hardy, who was launching her new book, Kind Hearts and Coriander (very good – I can recommend it) and Nadiya Hussain. Most people know for Nadiya for her triumphant win of the Great British Bake Off but she also writes for children and adults. Her views on writing collaboratively were fascinating.
The hour shot by as our panel, beautifully chaired by journalist Brandy Scott, discussed our work and whether we felt we needed the word ‘women’ in Women’s Contemporary Fiction. The audience were engaged and supplied plenty of questions for the Q&A, laughing in all the right places. A well-organised book signing followed, which was huge fun. Everyone was so willing to chat and, you know, I’m not backward in that department myself.
Saturday was my day off and Diala, a friend I’d made on Facebook, took me out to Jumeira Beach and Dubai Mall.
And then came the Start Up Writing course, three days with a group of ten enthusiastic participants. We covered … well, we covered everything, more even than I’d allowed for as the questions poured in during every session.
My teaching was interspersed with sessions from agents, editors and other industry professionals (during which I think I took as many notes as the students). My thanks to editor Charlie Scott of local publisher Motivate, as Charlie came into my room to talk for twenty minutes to my students about opportunities for writers in the Middle East.
We rounded out my part of the Festival with an open-air dinner at the Etihad Museum, listening to honoured guests speaking about what Dubai meant to them. Moving and inspirational.
I’d like to end this post with extending thanks to Yvette Judge and her fantastic team at the Festival, along with the sponsors who make the event possible.
Thank you to my fantastic students.
And some to those who extended the hand of friendship to me during my stay, especially April and Andrew Hardy, Sharmila, Al, Ronita and Monita Mohan, Dial Atat and Ruba Naseraldeen.
Also to Magrudy’s bookshop, which did such a fantastic job all festival long.
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.
Finishing writing a book is an odd feeling. For one thing, I know the book isn’t actually finished. I’ve completed the major edits and returned the book to my agent but I know it needs at least one more polish and probably tweaks. And that’s before a publisher has even got hold of it …
Still, it’s a milestone, a feeling of accomplishment and lightness that it’s off my hands for a week or two. I’m not the kind of writer to grab the opportunity for loads of time off (not sure why) and I am the kind of writer to have left a lot of other jobs while I got my edits done. So here are the post-edit headlines:
- I tidy my study. To be honest, there’s not that much difference to be seen, except the timeline is no longer lounging seductively across a drawer while I obsess about it and there are no longer any notes hanging in the copyholder beside my monitor. There’s a little less on the floor.
- I do my annual accounts. I hate doing my accounts. Seriously hate it. I hate it so much that I had to eat two packs of Quavers in one afternoon to get me through. At least I didn’t cry, this year. (It’s not that I can’t do them – I used to keep other people’s books. I. Just. Hate. Them.)
- I understand why people who have jobs they hate hang out on Facebook.
- I work through my ‘to do’ list, which includes booking two holidays to Malta. Yes, two! For me! In one year! Whoop! I did this before I’d got to the bottom line in the annual accounts, but I’m not cancelling.
- I look at booking a ticket to the London Book Fair.
- I add some more things to my To Do list while I think of them.
- I relax. It’s a nice feeling to know that a huge project is coming to the end. Two, if you consider the hideous accounts.
- I go on with the course I’m adapting from Love Writing and think about the novella I’m to adapt for My Weekly. (Oh look – two more big projects!)
- I look forward to a complete weekend off.
- I begin to wonder about whether my agent will like my revisions. I feel slightly anxious, and not so relaxed.
- I think about the next book. I think I want it to be set in summer. Writing a Christmas novel and a Christmas serial this year has fried whatever Christmas spirit I have. (Not a great deal.)
- I consider having lunch with my gym friends and don’t feel guilty, even though I’m having dinner with them this evening.
- I hang out on Facebook and Twitter more than usual, mainly to whine about having to do my accounts.
- I read a lot of articles and watch podcasts about writing/publishing that have been stacking up. This is helpful but not, you know, actual work …
- I look at my website and decide what needs updating.
- I feel good.
Starting Over is part of the First in Series promo in the iBooks store. At the time I’m writing this blog it’s at number 15 in the Free Chart, which is fabulous!
This book has a history. Some time ago my then agent got this close to selling it but, ultimately, Starting Over and the following book, All That Mullarkey, emerged from acquisition meetings unacquired. My first novels published were Uphill All the Way (Transita) and Family Matters (Hale – which only came out as hardback and was later released as Want to Know a Secret? in paperback).
It was a few years before I pitched Starting Over to Choc Lit and they bought it in three weeks flat. And wanted All That Mullarkey, too! I count Ratty, the (slightly unlikely) hero of Starting Over, as my most popular hero because he’s the only one to have received his own fan mail and done his own interviews.
Starting Over is the first of my novels set in the fictitious village of Middledip on the edge of the Cambridgeshire fens. I have a whole drawer devoted to Middledip information, including maps, timelines for each novel and an overall timeline for the series but I wish that when I began I’d realised I was writing linked books because I would have kept more.
That some readers like linked or series novels is no surprise to me as I like reading them myself. It’s satisfying to see various characters in the cast get the chance to tell their stories and to check if the characters I’ve already met are getting along (and haven’t messed everything up). I like the constant but secondary characters such as the lady in the village shop who is agog over every bit of gossip or the landlord of the pub who looks like a miseryguts but has a heart of gold. When I find a series I like I tend to read everything in it.
I hope that you find as much satisfaction in reading the Middledip books as I have found in writing them.