Sunday, 4 June 2017

Escape to the Cotswolds

If you read my last blog post you will know that I came to writing by accident. I had a huge amount to learn. I still have a lot to learn. Like most things in life, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. Or as properly as one can.

My first published
short story
Yes, it's Norwegian

After selling more than thirty short stories to women’s magazines worldwide I turned my hand to novels and soon discovered it’s a completely different discipline. Like many writers my first attempt ended up in the bottom drawer, or at least hidden carefully away on my laptop. Undeterred – writing friends had told me this was par for the course – I persevered. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme which I cannot recommend too highly and my next book was taken up that same year and published in the summer three years ago. Come to that, so was the one after that, this time a pocket novel with The People’s Friend. So, with two books published within seven weeks of each other, I set to with a will.

It doesn’t do to become complacent in this industry. I have written four books in the time between then and now, diversifying, trying different things. I ventured from contemporary women’s fiction into the realm of historical Regency romance. And what fun I had. An almost lifelong fan of Georgette Heyer (I didn’t read her books as a child) I just had to have a go at writing one myself. And then another. One full length, one novella. I have yet to find a home for them but my next contemporary romance was taken up two weeks after submission to HQ HarperCollins and will be published on 21st June.

On 20th May HQ revealed the beautiful cover of Escape to the Cotswolds. Since then I have been answering questionnaires sent by people who have kindly agreed to host me on their blog. Others will be posting reviews of my book - my fingers are crossed so tightly it hurts. I have been tweeting and posting on Facebook using some of the lovely shareables sent to me by my publishers. Here’s one of them. So pretty. And now publication day is fast approaching. You can almost feel the excitement in my home. But there’s a lot to be acknowledged elsewhere as well.



This is not a journey I’ve made alone. With beta readers to point out my many glaring errors and a creative writing school (The Write Place) to make sure I made as few mistakes as possible - inevitably there are some – I seem to have come out the other side relatively unscathed. I am SO looking forward to publication day. I’m also preparing to write my next book, another contemporary for which an outline and chapter breakdown have already been done, sort of. No time to sit on my laurels BUT I’m so looking forward to 21st June. Do join me if you can.



Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Accidental Writer

I was delighted to be invited to give a talk to a local group last week. It wasn’t a writers’ group and for me that made it all the more enjoyable. As far as I am aware only one of the twenty-two had attempted creative writing but they were really interested and asked me lots of questions. What made it so nice for me was the chance to share my journey from where I began as ‘The Accidental Writer’  to publication. It’s so easy to lose sight of the overall picture when focused on what’s happening in the now. So what did I tell these lovely ladies?

Can't wait to add
Escape to the Cotswolds
In the beginning…It was a time when I was looking for a new challenge. The ten week creative writing course I enrolled in might have been chosen from the list with a pin. In fact, though I don’t remember, that could easily be what happened. It turned my life around. It’s a worse addiction than wine or chocolate. It seemed I couldn’t leave it alone, and I still can't.  For a while I belonged to a writing group which was incredibly enjoyable but I had ambition to improve so I joined a creative writing school, the Write Place in Dartford, which I still attend. In time I had a short story accepted by a magazine in Norway. You can imagine how excited I was. In the same year another of my stories was accepted by The People’s Friend. And for a while this was my writing life. But later, after more than thirty published short stories, I wanted to move on. It was time to attempt a novel. 

Success came with the publication of two books within seven weeks of each other and the high was such that I can’t even begin to describe how I felt. Now I am awaiting the forthcoming publication of my third  on 21st June. Escape to the Cotswolds is a contemporary romance in a beautiful setting. As yet I don’t have a cover photo or a link to Amazon. Not long to go now though. As soon as my lovely editor, Charlotte Mursell, at HQ Digital lets me know, I will be sharing with you. You can be sure of that! What I can give you now is a little taster:

Taking her courage in both hands, Holly leaves London and her cheating husband to start anew in the peaceful Cotswold village of Cuffingham. A talented artist, she opens a small gallery and life seems good except for the intrusion on her peace of the local vet, Adam Whitney. Gorgeous or what! And then she adopts an adorable Bordie Collie puppy. Will Tubs bring them together or will their inauspicious start only serve to drive them further apart?

Not a Border Collie
but a much loved/much missed companion


Well, I love dogs and I love The Cotswolds and as I wrote him I fell in love with Adam as well, but don't tell Holly or my husband. Will Holly and Adam ever get together? I leave it to you to guess. In the meantime, as I wait for further news, I hope you’ll be at my side as events unfold. Watch this space!






Monday, 1 May 2017

Author Interview: Elaine Everest

My guest today is Elaine Everest. With publication of her new saga, The Butlins Girls, around the corner, I just had to ask her a few questions.

Thank you so much for welcoming me to your blog, Natalie. I can’t wait for Thursday and publication day.

You join me just days before publication of The Butlins Girls. Readers of your Sunday Times bestseller, The Woolworths Girls, will be eagerly awaiting another dose of nostalgia. For some it may be a trip down memory lane, but you aren’t old enough to have lived in the period you write about, yet your research and attention to detail are impeccable. How do you do it?
I was fortunate to have been born in the fifties when times hadn’t changed that much. I lived in a town which not only had a lot of history but also still has many people who love to talk about ‘the good old days’. My family loved to chat about what happened (and when) so I grew up listening to stories of the war years. The next step was to read about those times in books – who doesn’t love reading a book?

Did you pick the era or did it choose you? In spite of the hardship of those post-war years, it seems a much kinder and gentler age than the one we live in now.
Like many writers I’ve dabbled with other genres. I have a modern romcom collecting dust but although never picked up by a publisher it did help me become shortlisted in The Harry Bowling Prize. I’d been a fan of Harry’s for years as he wrote about the area where my Aunt Doll and Uncle Geoff had their pub and his writing resonated with me. Somewhere inside me there has always been that interest in times gone by. So, to answer your question I’d say that history and sagas picked me.

Can your readers look forward to more of the same? What else do you have in the pipeline?
I’m thrilled to say that readers loved The Woolworths Girls so much I’ll be returning to Woolies later this year. Old friends and new faces - it was a joy to write. Then in 2018…

You allude to your family’s history in the world of the travelling fairground. What stories you must have to tell. Perhaps a future novel?
My love of the fairground is a link to my maternal family and my mum who died when I was seventeen. She told us of the hard life she had as a child and the bullying because she was so different to fellow school children – that’s when she got to attend school due to travelling with the fair. She made us value education and aimed to having good jobs once we had our exams. The fair closed down after WW2 so I never experienced the fun of the fair. My granddad did still own the ground and some of the old-fashioned caravans, which I remember fondly. Brightly polished lamps, china, a fierce parrot that hated kids! It’s all there locked in my memory ready to use in stories. Oh, and the family link to Billy Butlin…

In addition to writing novels, short stories and articles, you also run a creative writing school The Write Place in Dartford, as well as being in charge of social media for the Romantic Novelists’ Association. How do you fit it all in?
It’s a case of making sure I do fit it all in and all part of being a full time writer. I often tell new writers that if they wish to earn a living and be thought of seriously as a writer they need to do more than write a novel. We have to learn our craft and that can take years. Short stories help us create a piece of fiction with a beginning a middle and an end – just like a novel but not quite as long. I love the time I spent writing more short fiction. I could think of an idea and write it in one day. My record from having an idea to making a sale is 36 hours. Feature writing pays well and authors have to pay the mortgage and eat! Both fiction and features helped me build relationships with editors whilst learning the craft of writing novels. Teaching classes for Kent Adult Education Services in Dartford and Gravesend came about after I won the BBC Radio Kent short Story Writer of the Year competition in 2003 and was invited to run a few classes. I later moved on to run my own classes and workshops as I preferred to make my own decisions. Being part of the RNA committee is an honour as I get to meet so many authors and also watch as new writers progress with their career – they have great parties too!

Many of your readers will know of your love of and association with the dog world. In the past you’ve written non-fiction books on the subject. Is there any genre, fiction or non-fiction, you would like to turn your hand to in the future?
I could talk for hours about dogs and the show world! I’m honoured to have been part of a world where people breed sound healthy dogs and do their best to promote new owners. I’ve sat on a few breed committees and done my bit to keep the positive side of our breeds alive. Even though I’m not quite as active in the show world as I used to be I’m still called upon to broadcast about dogs – usually when something nasty happens. It is down to us to wave the flag for responsible breeding which means closing down puppy farms and not promoting designer dogs.

As a personal friend, I know how wholeheartedly you throw yourself into everything you do. Outside of the writing world, is there an unfulfilled ambition?
Are you giving me three wishes? To be honest I’m living the dream. I have a fabulous literary agent in Caroline Sheldon and I’m with a wonderful publisher, Pan Macmillan. So, outside of the writing world… Hmm I love Cornwall and would really like to move there but it would have to be a very large house so I can run workshops and writing retreats. I can be found most days on Rightmove dreaming over houses in the two million pound bracket. I suppose I’d better write faster!

Links:
Twitter: @elaineeverest

Thank you for such interesting questions. Xx

I’m delighted, as I’m sure your readers will be, to hear that Woolies will be returning later in the year. In the meantime, very best wishes for The Butlins Girls. I may just have to book a holiday

Monday, 6 March 2017

How are those resolutions going?



Two months in and they’ve been pretty busy ones for me – and my excuse for such a large gap since my last post.
When I was last here I talked about starting a new book. Ten thousand words in and I realised it wasn’t working for me. I just wasn’t engaging with my heroine. Usually when I’ve written this much my characters are telling me where they want to go and the excitement of following their lead, or reining them in as is sometimes necessary, is one of the joys of this job. Reluctantly, but only because of the hours lost, I abandoned her. Perhaps we’ll come together again at some time in the future. In the meantime I read through an unfinished Regency and oh boy did that call me back. I had to finish Phoebe’s story! Not only did she demand it of me but I demanded it of myself. When I typed ‘The End’ we were both satisfied. I hope one day my readers will be too.


So the moral of this little tale is, know when to give up but never delete. Phoebe was tucked away in a file waiting to be rediscovered and, who knows, maybe one day so will Peta.

I may have to
visit a few of these


Where do I go from here?
Plans are being laid for my next book, a contemporary this time, but with a thread which will take a considerable amount of investigation. Wonderful as Google is I may have to take several excursions in the name of research. I know. It’s tough, isn’t it! But someone has to do it. My characters are ready and my outline is there. Frankly I can’t wait to get started but…



I HAVE JUST SIGNED A CONTRACT with HQ | HarperCollins Publishers
…which will necessitate me dropping everything else when the edits come in. The turnaround time was pretty quick from submission (30th January) to acceptance (15th February), with projected publication in the summer. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m actually looking forward to the edits. And I can’t wait to see what the cover will be like! And…well, there are lots of ands. Suffice it to say I’m pretty excited.


So, if you don’t see me here again for a little while, at least you’ll know where I am. Till next time.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Turning Over a New Leaf



I’ve looked up this phrase and can’t find the origin anywhere. Sources say ‘unknown’. So does this mean literally turning over a leaf…on a tree? Why would you unless you’re looking for caterpillars and I don’t suppose that applies to too many of us? Not enough anyway to have generated a special phrase. And if it’s on the ground it’s probably an old leaf. So without further information I have to conclude that it refers to a new page, a leaf in a book. Today, 1st January, is not just a new page, it’s a whole new book. Take the one on the right for example. A 2017 Diary. Unprepossessing on the outside but inside a leaf for every single day. I hope by this time next year it will be filled with wonderful things. 


Coincidentally I am writing a whole new book. You’ll forgive me I hope for a tiny bit of cheating. I have already written the first chapter but this venture is still very much in the planning stage so I think it’s fair to describe it as new. I’ve decided to return to contemporary romantic fiction and to my beloved Cotswolds. I’m planning a short visit with my daughter next week, in the name of research of course, and maybe to buy some sweeties. It’s some months since I was last in the area and the feel of a place is so important. The warm honey-coloured stone seduces me every time and it would lovely to think I could instil some of that into my novel. So, with a few leaves already turned over, it is still to me a new leaf.




I woke up this morning wondering what it must be like to have a birthday on New Year’s Day. Yes, I really am writing this on Sunday, 1st January 2017. I’ve always felt sorry for people whose birthday falls on Christmas Day – one or other must inevitably be diminished. But the beginning of a whole new year, a personal whole new year. That must surely be something special. So I leaped out of bed, figuratively speaking, and ran down the stairs, also figuratively speaking and here I am. I had no thought of writing a blog today but sometimes you have to go where the mood takes you and this one has me all fired up.



So, for anyone who has a birthday today, may your day be as wonderful and special as you would wish. For the rest, the overwhelming majority, I wish you a very Happy New Year and hope every leaf you turn produces some magic.




Monday, 19 December 2016

A New Beginning

A New Beginning…

which if you think about it is a bit of a silly phrase. Aren’t all beginnings new in one way or another? Am I guilty of an overuse of adjectives – not quite as bad as the dreaded adverb but coming close sometimes. Since I cannot find anywhere that new can be used as a noun I will explain rather than apologise.

New Friends


But first, the ending. The last three months of 2016 have been full of excitement and trauma, if not in equal measure then certainly in impact. We have been blessed with a beautiful grandson. We had a wonderful holiday where we made friendships that I hope will last even across the Atlantic. We celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary and two birthdays. And sadly we suffered two bereavements within the space of a fortnight.




December brought a change of direction in my writing life and in the past couple of days I have drawn up the outline of a completely new book and written part of the first chapter. Now here’s the thing. People who know me will be aware that I usually begin a story and carry on until it’s finished, bringing in sub-plots that occur to me as I go along, though the main plotline is always in my head from the moment I start. This time it’s going to be different! I think! Well, I’ve said that before haven’t I? But it’s a new book, a new year, a new frisson of excitement. My online dictionary defines frisson as  a sudden, passing sensation of excitement. I hope it doesn’t pass. One of the thrilling things about writing is the discovery of new things, things that before had no shape or substance. Things that become real as they appear before you on the page. That isn’t to say I don’t have my troughs. Those days when I think I’ll never have another idea; that I’ll never write again. But the frustration of typing lalalalala several times usually puts paid to that and leads to something a little more interesting. Well, anything would be, wouldn’t it?


My new strategy is to attempt a mixture of ‘as it has been’ and ‘how it will be in the future’. I don’t have it in me to chart meticulously before I begin a new novel. If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that I lose the essence of what makes me a writer if I try too hard to follow a pattern. But not all patterns have to be complicated. Just a few jottings about each chapter will, I hope, keep me on track, prevent me falling headlong into those troughs or hitting a brick wall. It’s a sort of obstacle course. As a youngster I always loved taking part in sports and I’m a lifelong fan of quizzes. This obstacle course will be a metaphorical combination of both and I am ready to attack it with enthusiasm.

Thank you for being with me this year. 2017 is just over a week away. A New Beginning. Bring it on!


Friday, 21 October 2016

Stairway to Heaven

Welcome to Queen’s House. After a massive refurbishment Inigo Jones’s gem has reopened to the public. The Tulip Staircase is probably its most famous feature but there is such a lot to see here in the heart of Greenwich, home to so much history.

Join me on a short pictorial tour:

The Queen's House

The Old Royal Naval College
The Queen's House sits opposite the Old Royal Naval College. If you look carefully, in the background of the first picture you can see the Royal Observatory. And yes, that's the River Thames between to two iconic buildings in the one on the right.



The Tulip Stairs weren't the first in the Queen's House. The Greenwich Park side of the Queen's House was originally the front of the building and the South Stairs formed the main stairway. Its two half landings were resting places for ladies in their heavy dresses! Changes from the 1660s meant the side that faced the river became the main frontage. The South Stairs then became a discreet route to the Queen's private apartments.

The Tulip Stairs
seen from below

The Tulip Stairs were the first centrally unsupported stairs in the country. The stone treads lock so perfectly into each other and the wall that no central structure is required to support them, giving this unobstructed view to the sky. The wrought iron rail has been restored to a striking smalt blue and the designated tulips are more probably lilies.



The Grand Hall
Music practice
The Grand Hall is a perfect cube. During our visit a music group was practising. When we came back through the hall they had gone and it was being set up for a function, a dinner to celebrate the reopening of the house. We don’t know whether or not the two were connected but it was a bonus to have a short concert while we stood on the balcony.







Kings Charles II
Inigo Jones (honest)
While these images of Inigo Jones are almost impossible to see (the flash didn’t work on my camera) it seems disrespectful not to post them.

And here in the King’s Presence Chamber you might just be able to recognise the image of Charles II.



On a plinth outside on the park side, and nothing to do with Queen’s House, is the biggest ship in a bottle I have ever seen. In Royal Greenwich, so famous for its naval history, it seems a suitable final image.



I may have mentioned before that I live within two miles of this wonderful historical area. With the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House, the Old Royal Naval College and others, it is a glorious architectural feast. And that’s only on the outside. Most if not all of these treasures are open to the public and what can be found within is equally spectacular. Visit if you can.