Friday, 1 May 2020

Chatting with Elaine Everest (Again!)



Once again I am delighted to welcome Elaine Everest to chat over a cup of tea/coffee. This time we’re talking about her latest book in the Woolworths series, Wedding Bells for Woolworths.

It lovely to see you again, Elaine and what a wonderful opportunity to catch up with some old friends. And to meet some new ones too. There’s a lot of optimism in this book. Well, just look at the title. But there’s tragedy too. You don’t make it easy for your girls, do you?

Hi, Natalie and thank you for hosting me today. No, I try not to make things too easy for my girls as the books would be quite boring!  This time I’ve looked at their longstanding relationships with each other and started to think what could pull them apart and how would they react? In real life we can all think of a friendship, or marriage that has failed, and how other friends take sides. Amongst the many weddings in the book I had to think how friends who had fallen out would react when pushed together in social situations, or how they would connive to avoid each other.

You’ve introduced a few more characters and they all slip into place quite beautifully. I found Lemuel’s story particularly interesting. You always succeed in weaving historical events seamlessly into your stories. Did he come fully formed?

I loved writing about Lemuel and how he slotted into the Erith community during the mid 1940s. As soon as I decided to introduce a plotline that would introduce a man from Trinidad, I knew how long-standing characters would react. People could be racist – even ‘back then’– and I needed to show how locals distrusted the stranger and turned against him just as many did in real life. It was uncomfortable but had to be done. I confess to pulling back on some of the nasty comments as it upset me. I could see Lemuel’s family featuring in future books as well…

Speaking of historical events, the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip! What a gift to the writer, but how did you contrive to make it part of the story without over-egging it (not that eggs were in such abundant supply at the time)?

Being a very crafty saga author I needed to be able to bring in a few historical events to my book. The last book in which some of ‘the girls’ featured was The Butlins Girls set in 1946, so I needed to work forward. With Princess Elizabeth’s wedding in her handsome Philip in 1947 and then the Austerity Olympics of 1948 those two years were a gift. The girls weren’t likely to receive an invitation so how else could I weave a story around that happy event…?

I must say that the ending took me a little by surprise (no spoilers) but I was pleased to see you left it open for the next book. Please tell me – and the rest of your readers – that there’s going to be a next book.

Oh my! I changed that ending so many times. If I could go back now, I’m sure I’d change the ending. However, in life we have to let go of loved ones at some point, and so it was with this book. I still smile at my original outline when I was supposed to kill off George Caselton in The Woolworths Girls, but couldn’t do it – he broke his leg instead!

And what of Ruby? You had me worried about her there for a while.

Ruby worries me a lot. So many readers love the matriarch of the extended Caselton family, and she is growing older with each book. She reminds me of my paternal grandmother and many others of her generation. They broke the mould with those women!

You’ve obviously been working on other things since you handed your manuscript over to your publishers all those months ago. Can you tell us what you’ve been doing? What’s coming next for Elaine Everest fans?

This book went to my publisher at the beginning of last year so yes, much water has passed under the bridge since then. Christmas with the Teashop Girls is to be published in October and it was a joy to return to Ramsgate and carry on with Rose, Lily, and Katie’s story, and to catch up with the women living at the Sea View guesthouse.
I’ve also just handed in the manuscript for a very special book. I was delighted when my publisher approved the idea and I could go back in time to 1905 to the day that a young Ruby Caselton moved into her new home in Alexandra Road, Erith. Publication will be for Mother’s Day in 2021.
At the moment I’m writing the first chapter of yet another idea which takes me to Biggin Hill during WW2 and that’s as much as I’m saying …


Intriguing! Obviously nothing to do with the Woolworths Girls but I must say I’m glad we’ll be hearing from Ruby again. I bet she was a feisty one in her youth!

Thank you again for inviting me to your blog, Natalie. I can rely on you to ask me some interesting stories

Elaine xx

It’s always a pleasure, Elaine. I look forward to the next time.
Natalie xx



ABOUT WEDDING BELLS FOR WOOLWORTHS
Wedding Bells for Woolworth is the latest feel-good novel in former Woolies girl Elaine Everest's bestselling Woolworths Girls series. It sees the return of her well-loved characters in another heartfelt and gripping story.
July 1947. Britain is still gripped by rationing, even as the excitement of Princess Elizabeth’s engagement sweeps the nation…
In the Woolworths’ canteen, Freda is still dreaming of meeting her own Prince Charming. So far she’s been unlucky in love. When she has an accident on her motorbike, knocking a cyclist off his bicycle, it seems bad luck is still following her around. Anthony is not only a fellow Woolworths employee but was an Olympic hopeful. Will his injured leg heal in time for him to compete? Can he ever forgive Freda?
Sarah's idyllic family life is under threat with worries about her husband, Alan. Does he still love her? The friends must rally round to face some of the toughest challenges of their lives together. And although they experience loss, hardship and shocks along the way, love is on the horizon for the Woolworths girls.

ABOUT ELAINE EVEREST:
Elaine Everest is from North West Kent and she grew up listening to stories of the war years in her home town of Erith, which features in her bestselling Woolworths Girls series. A former journalist, and author of nonfiction books for dog owners, Elaine has written over sixty short stories for the women's magazine market. When she isn't writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent. She lives with her husband, Michael and Polish Lowland Sheepdog Henry. You can find out more about Elaine on Twitter @ElaineEverest or Facebook /elaine.everest

Elaine lives in Kent is available for interviews and to write features.


Wedding Bells for Woolworths by Elaine Everest is out now, published by Pan Macmillan, priced £6.99 as paperback original and eBook


Links:

Website:                                   elaineeverest.com
Facebook Author Page:           Elaine Everest Author
Twitter:                                     @elaineeverest
Instagram:                                elaine.everest
Amazon:                                   https://amzn.to/2V8xWNm
Hive:                                         https://bit.ly/3aXvVdE  

If you’d like to make some more stops on the blog tour you can find them on the banner below


Friday, 21 February 2020

In the Name of Research


Yesterday I went with my sister to the V&A with the specific aim of seeking out all things Regency. I’m very lucky to live on the edge of London within striking distance of all it has to offer. On a very blustery and quite unpleasant day, my husband dropped me at the station and, two Underground trains and forty minutes later I found myself exiting South Kensington Station via the huge tunnel that leads to ‘The Museums’. Under cover all the way. It was packed! Half term. Maybe not the best time to go but wonderful to see so many excited children (and adults) heading to their chosen venue. I turned off at the arm signposted Victoria & Albert to find my sister already there but she hadn’t been waiting long. We headed straight to the café for coffee.

It’s all a bit of a blur but mobile phone cameras are a wonderful asset. So, in no particular order and with details courtesy of the information plates…

Watercolour Box
About 1820

As watercolour painting became increasingly popular among fashionable young men and women, suppliers of art materials such as Reeves and Woodyer in London began to sell portable paint boxes. Colours were pre-formed into cakes with a binding medium, avoiding the messy preparation previously needed. 
Wood, paper and mixed materials including pigments



One of the characters in the novel I'm writing at the moment is a keen artist so I was particularly interested in this. Easily portable and beautifully set out. I wanted it!

Walking Dress
(spencer, skirt and bodice)
1817-1820

            England. Silk with satin appliqué, silk frogging, tassels and braid.



Gown
About 1805

Women’s dress changed dramatically after 1785. The rich fabrics and complicated formal shapes of the late 18th century gave way to simple, lighter fabrics that draped easily. These new gowns achieved something of the effect of the simple tunics shown on classical Greek and Roman statues and vases.

Muslin embroidered with cotton thread.
Fabric made in India, gown made in England.



Evening Cap
1818-23

England.
Silk and net embroidery with silk thread; wired paper and muslin artificial flowers.



This last was, I think, my favourite piece. There are other photos, other descriptions, but I hope this will give you a taste and perhaps convey some of my excitement. One of the most difficult things was walking through some of the other galleries staring fixedly ahead. I was on a mission! But, oh, so many wonderful things to see. Almost inexpressible thanks to those who had the forethought to create these spaces and those who donated or loaned their artefacts for the continuing joy of anyone who chooses to go and see them.

Our last stop was back to the café for lunch. These lights were dazzling but not as dazzling as some of the amazing things we saw.



See you next time
Natalie

Monday, 16 December 2019

Chatting with Shirley Blair

Image courtesy of Norman Watson

What a pleasure to be sitting down to tea with Shirley Blair, Fiction Editor of The People’s Friend. Many of you will know that after more than forty years of working in magazines, the last twelve of them with The Friend, Shirley will be hanging up her boots in February next year. So let’s find out what she’s been doing all that time, why she’s leaving now and what her hopes are for the future.

It’s lovely to see you, Shirley, and while I wouldn’t have the cheek to offer you Dundee cake, there are some nice mince pies for you to tuck into while we talk. It’s more than seven years since you first accepted one of my short stories, only the second I’d ever sold, and it was for me the beginning of what has come to feel like a personal friendship. However, I realise that I know very little about you other than that you are highly regarded in the industry and that tears (even be they metaphorical) will be shed when you leave. So, how did you get into this somewhat crazy business in the first place and what have your experiences been up to the time you landed what you have referred to as your dream job?

Shirley with Oor Wullie 
Hi, Natalie, and thanks for the excuse for a coffee-and-cake-break in the usual daily whirlwind. Always appreciated.
Gosh, 43 years of me and DC Thomson…
I always loved writing, encouraged by my parents, who I must have half-deafened battering away on their old Underwood typewriter. Encouraged by them, and by my English teacher, I applied from school, the only full-time job I’ve ever applied for. I started work the week after I finished my last exams. I was so keen I didn’t even take a holiday. I began in “Star Love Stories in Pictures”, a romance library similar to “Commando” – same office and Editor, in fact. From there it was to Chief Sub in letterpress, a range that included “Red Star”, “Secrets”, “Red Letter” – remember them? All fiction, of course.
Then there was a change of direction into our glossy monthly “Annabel”, where I was Beauty Editor, which was fabulous fun and a whole new experience. I got to write features there, too, for example about visiting a plastic surgery hospital and observing procedures. How many jobs give you that kind of opportunity?
From there I was drafted onto Chief Sub a launch project, but I moved on again before it actually got beyond the lengthy development stage. Next it was Chief Sub in “My Weekly”, then, after a few more years, I was made Editor of “The People’s Friend Story Collection”, which evolved into the “’Friend’ Pocket Novels”. And it’s from there that I came here into “The People’s Friend” itself as Fiction Editor.
Interspersed with all of those experiences I’ve had other random short spells, eg, as a Features Editor, a Knitting Editor….! All great learning opportunities.

What a varied and rewarding career you’ve had! It’s a well-known saying that if you want something done you should ask a busy person. Obviously they don’t come much busier than you. Do you have a strictly adhered-to routine or do you juggle your work as seems fit?

Taking a short break with Marmalade, the office cat
There are some tasks that follow routine. Website content is very schedule-driven, as is anything fiction related that’s already on the production schedule. And I keep in mind which month we’re in in relation to when manuscripts have been submitted. I hate to keep writers waiting any longer than necessary. But other than that, if I feel like reading short stories from regular writers, or unsolicited writers, or serial instalments or ideas, or getting back to writers, I can please myself, though I always balance that with what’s actually required.

Who came up with the Writing Prompt Story Starter idea? It certainly worked for me. One of yours or one of the team? And speaking of the team, it’s clear there is a very special relationship between you all. That comes through on Facebook, on Twitter and through your web page. Can you tell us about the fiction team and how you all work together? Oh, and do please have another mince pie.

The Story Starter was my own idea. I was always taking random photos with my phone, and I thought they might be useful. I only intended to do it for a few weeks, a year at most, but I know from feedback how it’s caught on. Now I can’t not see things to photograph!
The fiction team – well, we’re genuinely great mates. We have such a giggle – between all the hard work, of course – and talk about a million different things, from space travel to politics, favourite cakes, books, films, TV…But we often just talk about the work, too. We honestly love it. As well as the general fiction content, we each have our roles: Tracey’s is pocket novels, Lucy is pocket novels and poetry, Alan provides the sweets, and I keep it all ticking over on schedule.
Oops, sorry – ‘scuse the crumbs….

Job satisfaction is obviously something you have in shed loads. What pleases you most?

It sounds a cliché, but it genuinely is signing up a new writer. Discovering that talent, giving it its opportunity. And it really is rewarding. One writer who I’ve just signed up with a short story shyly said, “As it happens, I’ve just written a long read…” It’s a corker and we’ve just bought that, too!
It’s also satisfying to take a chance with a story, something our readers haven’t encountered before – as we did with ghost stories, and our cosy crime category - and to receive letters saying how much they’re enjoying the variety.

I’m aware that you are yourself a fiction writer but, as I don’t know your pen name, I have no idea if you have a preferred genre or whether your writing takes the form of books as well as short stories. Can you enlighten those of us who don’t know and will we be able to follow you in the future?

Way back I set myself the challenge of writing a story for every one of our genres. I’ve completed it apart from a pocket novel. So far! But I actually enjoy writing modern serials. It’s a challenge to make them contemporary and interesting and yet still “Friend” appropriate.

You have said on your own blog that in February you will leave your Fiction Ed’s chair spinning behind you and go off and do new things. Work or leisure? Are you planning to travel? Are there things you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time? Perhaps you can share some of your aspirations with us. What is the hobby you would most like to pursue?

The big novelty will be that I can ignore the calendar and the clock. My working life has been entirely dictated by deadlines. Mr Fiction Ed and I have never denied ourselves in the travel and holiday department, so we’ll probably do even more of that. But I have lots of little ambitions. To make jam when I feel like it instead of squeezing jobs like that into weekends. To catch up with friends over leisurely lunches. There’s a corner of the garden that needs rethinking. To write more. To get involved in some local environmental projects. My big one is to try – yet again – to learn to swim, but I think I may need hypnosis!

Do you have a dog? Or a cat? Or a budgie? Are pets part of your life and/or will they be so in the future?

No pets. We’ve had two cats twice. The first two, separately and many years apart, got run over. The second two lived the lives of Riley until succumbing to old age. We haven’t replaced them and have no plans to, but I enjoy being cat auntie to my sister’s gorgeous Angelo.
 
Working hard at the Serial Writing Workshop
It’s been a delight working with you and I’ve enjoyed talking to you today. I wish every success to whoever steps into your shoes but I cannot let you go without saying how much I will miss our email chats. As you know, we met in person for the first time at the Writing a Serial workshop at the beginning of September but it was like meeting an old friend. And that’s what I feel you’ve been to me over the years. I’m sure there are many others who will say the same. The People’s Friend is not the only friend I found at DC Thomson.

*blushes*

I wish you a very Happy Christmas, an outstanding Hogmanay and the future you wish for. Thank you, Shirley, more than I can say.

It’s been a pleasure, Natalie. My whole career has been a pleasure, from the first minute to this. I will miss it, and the people I’ve worked with along the way, but at the same time I feel a cosy wee glow knowing that my stepping aside allows someone else the most wonderful opportunity.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Chatting with Rosemary Goodacre


I’m delighted to be one of the first stops on Rosemary's blog tour for her new WWI saga, Until We Meet Again. Here we are chatting on publication day.

Welcome back to my blog, Rosemary, and thank you for talking with me today and answering my questions.

Thank you for inviting me as your guest again, Natalie.

May I begin by saying how very much I enjoyed your book. There is an air of authenticity about ‘Until We Meet Again’ that is apparent from the first page where you introduce us to Amy and her home in Larchbury. Though your location changes, this sense of place remains throughout, almost as if you were there over one hundred years ago. How did you go about your research?

Although times have changed, the old-fashioned village is still part of our heritage. There are traditional looking villages to be seen, including ones in Kent, where I live, if you can ignore the roads and traffic. They featured a lot in storybooks when I was young. You often see them in TV series, like Lark Rise to Candleford. The weather always seems better there! I need to be careful of details, as public phones, for example, were beginning to appear by WWI, but the familiar red ones were not introduced till the 1920s.

I took to Amy immediately, a young woman of character who stuck to her principles in difficult times. Have you based her on anyone in particular or has she come entirely from your imagination?

She’s largely imaginary, though one of the incidents was inspired by something that happened to a friend of my mother’s, near the end of WWII.

It isn’t long before you take us into that dreadful time that was World War 1 but, unlike some other books I have read, you bring us right to the action. The attention to detail is outstanding and I’m sure your readers would like to know what sources you used.

World War I burst out very suddenly and it’s hard to write about it without making the story impossibly grim but I was inspired by accounts of soldiers enjoying songs and jokes even in the trenches. My hero and heroine needed to be special people to survive it with their spirits intact.
I have learnt a good deal about the Great War through the moving memoir of Vera Brittain, in Testament of Youth. (Virago Press, ISBN 0 86068 035 5.)
I have also referred to A Nurse at the Front, based on the First World War diaries of Sister Edith Appleton, edited by Ruth Cowen. (Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-84983-366-0.) Some of the injuries she saw were appalling, and in those days there were no antibiotics to aid recovery.

If, as I suspect, you have visited some of these places in peacetime, did you have a sense of the history and horror or was it difficult to relate the one to the other? Or was your groundwork so good that I’m completely mistaken and you’ve never been there?

I’ve visited some towns in Flanders, chiefly the famous ones like Bruges and Ghent, which were not especially significant in World War I, though most of Belgium was occupied by the Germans. Today towns in the Belgian and French parts of Flanders tend to have a peaceful atmosphere. They generally have a tall belfry, often linked with a market place or town hall, symbolising the town’s importance.
To imagine the area during the war you need to see the shocking photographs of towns like Arras, Amiens and Ypres after they were bombarded. In Arras the city hall, belfry and cathedral were all destroyed.
There are also photographs of battlefields where all the trees have been reduced to stumps.

I was surprised at the ease of correspondence and how quickly letters would get home or to the front line. Was there anything in your research that surprised you?

I understand letters took up to five days to reach their destination, though there were probably longer gaps at times of the major battles.

The women’s Suffrage movement plays a large part in your story. Is this an aspect that’s close to your heart?

I have a great respect for the Suffragettes, active in the period before World War I, and the Suffragists, who were less militant. Many of them did valuable war work and helped women to be recognised as deserving the same rights as their menfolk.

I’m delighted to see that we can look forward to meeting Amy and Edmond again in your next book. Is this a work in progress? Can we expect to see them again soon?

A sequel is in the pipeline. I hope Amy and Edmond will be back next year!

I’m sure your readers would love to learn a little about you. What can you tell us about Rosemary Goodacre?

I love travelling, mostly in Europe. I also enjoy music, mainly classical, and reading. I love stories which transport me to a different place or time. It’s intriguing to try to imagine how people survived challenging times in history.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Good luck with ‘Until We Meet Again’ and I look forward to the next in the series.

Thank you, Natalie. I’ve very much enjoyed the visit!

The Great War drove them apart - but love kept them together 

Summer 1914: Shy young woman, Amy Fletcher, lives a quiet life in Sussex. An office worker, she lives at home, along with her parents and spirited younger brother, Bertie. But her life is transformed when she meets handsome young man, Edmond Derwent, son of one of the wealthiest families in the small town of Larchbury, and student at Cambridge University. 

The couple are falling deeply in love when war breaks out and, eager to do his duty for England, Edmond signs up as an officer. The couple plan to wed, eager to start a new life together - but their happiness is short-lived when Edmond is sent to Flanders to lead his men into battle. Amy trains as a VAD nurse and is soon sent to France, where she sees the true horror of war inflicted on the brave young men sent to fight. 

Separated by war, Edmond and Amy share their feelings through emotional letters send from the front line. But when Edmond is critically wounded at Ypres, their love faces the biggest test of all - can their love stay strong while the world around them is crumbling?

A romantic, emotional saga set in WW1 - readers of Rosie Goodwin, Katie Flynn and Val Wood will be captivated by this story of love. 


Links:
Amazon:      https://amzn.to/2miX2vD
Apple:          https://apple.co/2ncLTg3
Kobo:           http://bit.ly/2m4UgKB
Twitter:        @RoseGoodacre
Facebook:    http://bit.ly/2W31k81 

Author Biog: 
Rosemary Goodacre has previously worked in computing and teaching. She has had short stories published and a novella, A Fortnight is not Enough.
Her father's family came from continental Europe and she loves travelling.
She enjoys country walking, bridge and classical music. She lives with her husband in Kent, England. 

Here is the blog banner if you would like to follow Rosemary’s tour.






Sunday, 29 September 2019

It's Been a Long Time


It’s been weeks since you last saw me here. I wouldn’t for a single moment want you to think it’s because I’ve had nothing to say. Does that ever happen? In fact I’ve been extraordinarily busy. Maybe a list is the best way to describe it:

29th August – I met my publishers at Sapere Books in person for the first time...

Amy Durant, Editorial Director
Caoimhe O’Brien, Marketing Director
Richard Simpson, Operations Director

I was understandably slightly nervous. After all, there were three of them and only one of me. My trepidation disappeared in the blink of an eye and I began to believe I’d won the Lucky Dip. It didn’t really come as a surprise. We’d communicated online so I was fairly confident we’d get on but what a pleasure to meet REAL people. I can’t wait to get down to work with them. Here is my link on their website if you’d like to see what’s to come.


After snatching a week’s holiday in sunny Eastbourne during the first week of September things took off big time. It’s been a whirlwind of a month.

9th September – Visit to the House of Lords

As a member of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists I attended the AGM in one of the committee rooms at the House, introduced by Baroness Floella Benjamin, the society’s president. Following this (and a scrumptious tea) we were so lucky to be treated to a tour of the House by Floella and her husband, a wonderful couple who work as a team. It was a privilege and a day I shall never forget.

The lovely Floella Benjamin and SWWJ members


11th September – The People’s Friend Workshop at DC Thomson, Fleet Street

This was a full on day. The workshop was entitled ‘Write a Serial for the “Friend”’ and was run by Shirley Blair, Fiction Editor at The People’s Friend and Alison Carter, an experienced writer for the “Friend”. It had long been my ambition to meet Shirley who has been my editor since my first short story was accepted in 2012 and I was delighted to have the opportunity of spending the day with her and 22 others writers.

23 writers all hard at work


On the same day one of my stories appeared in The People’s Friend Special. It was set in England’s Regency, the period in which I now write my books, and a delightful coincidence that the two things coincided. I was a very happy bunny.

My People's Friend Story

14th September – The RNA York Tea and Joan Hessayon Award Presentation

Not one to miss the opportunity for a ‘jolly’, three friends – Elaine Everest, Elaine Roberts and Francesca Capaldi (one of this year’s contenders for the award) - and I decided to make a weekend of this event and travelled up by train from London on Friday the 13th. Far from being horrific, we had a wonderful time, meeting other friends who joined us later. We steeled ourselves for the obligatory visit to the famous Bettys Tea Room. It had to be done! York is a beautiful city and I walked further in three days than I have for a very long time. And we went for a short cruise on the River Ouse. The ‘Tea’ on Saturday was a fabulous event. Held at the Merchant Taylors Hall, we were plied with lovely sandwiches and cakes before the main event, the presentation. This year’s winner was Lorna Cook with her debut novel, The Forgotten Village. My congratulations to her and to all the other contenders, each of whom was a winner, having graduated from the RNA New Writers Scheme with their book being published.

Lorna Cook - Joan Hessayon Award Winner 2019

I was delighted to have a further opportunity to chat with Amy Durant who was present as one of the final judges and to meet Natalie Linh Bolderston, Editorial Assistant at Sapere, whom she brought with her.

Since then (was it only two weeks ago?) I’ve been busy preparing for what promises to be a fabulous event on 25th October when I am lucky enough to be one of twenty-five authors at a book-signing event at The Grand in Folkestone. I hope some of you will be able to join us from 7-9pm. And here we are: 



That’s about it for now. I look forward to seeing you next time
Natalie

Monday, 15 July 2019

Being a writer isn't all about sitting in a garret

Being a writer isn't all about sitting in a garret or some other lonely and isolated place, producing words and hoping that eventually you will end up with a book that people want to read. Sometimes they let us out. The past weekend was one of those times. 


Last Thursday morning, with excitement and expectation levels considerably raised, I met several friends at Euston Station in London and travelled with them to the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual conference in Lancaster. I knew I was going to have a good time. I always do. The amazing Jan Jones has been organising this event for years and her attention to detail is unbelievable. I honestly don’t know how she does it but I do know she has to put the rest of her life on hold to achieve what she does. We owe her a debt that’s impossible to exaggerate.

The Incomparable Jan Jones

On arrival, we collected the keys and went to our designated flat – student accommodation with eight bedrooms and a shared kitchen. Since everyone else was in the same fever of anticipation as I was, any observer might have been forgiven for thinking we were of the age when the majority of students would be attending university. Our majority was something we’d all attained several years ago! We were familiar with the campus, having been there three years earlier and that gave it, for me at least, a feeling of coming home. It not being term time and the facilities being self-catering, we found ourselves without any equipment in the kitchen and I’m sad to say I purloined some plastic cups when we went back to the hub at the George Fox building. Well, students we may have been for the weekend but too old to drink from the bottle. The wine bottle, that is. Somehow it’s different when it’s beer.

Nicola Cornick

I'll skip over the next twelve hours or so as we bedded in and move to Friday when the conference proper began, starting with the AGM. It being an election year, the chair passed seamlessly from Nicola Cornick (huge thanks for everything she's done for the organisation during her tenure) to Alison May (good luck to her and looking forward to seeing her achievements over the next two years). 

Alison May
And this is where in many ways it all becomes a bit of a blur. Panel talks; Q&As; workshops; Quiz the Agents; In conversation with… So many choices and mostly three at the same time. Now you tell me, how do you choose when you want to go to everything? No, I didn’t know how to either! In between all that, if you were lucky enough to have booked, there was the opportunity, organised again this year by Elaine Everest, of having a ten minute one2one with Industry Professionals. Arranging this too is a monumental task and I know Elaine spends hours and hours liaising with IPs and delegates to ensure it all runs smoothly. This particular element of the conference is priceless to any writer and several very happy people were given invaluable advice or asked to submit their full manuscript. And that’s how it was, full on, with a lot of food and visits to the bar, until suddenly it was Saturday evening and time for the Gala Dinner. Below are my dinner companions and flat mates.

Elaine Roberts and Viv Brown

Viv Brown, Rosemary Goodacre, Sarah Stephenson and Catherine Burrows

Natalie Kleinman and Francesca Burgess

Rosemary Goodacre, Sarah Stephenson, Catherine Burrows and Elaine Everest

AND THEN THERE WAS THE FLAT PARTY! Nobody hammered on the wall or banged on the ceiling so we can’t have been THAT noisy. This was the best flat party ever although it might have been quite painful to any listener with an ear for music as we sang our way around the table time after time with songs from the shows, films and popular solo artists and groups. Failing to answer a question or identify a song resulted in having to take a sip of wine. There was one member in our flat whom I wouldn’t dream of naming, who professed she didn’t know the answers and was therefore obliged to drink during every single round. She’s only a little person. I am in awe of her capacity.

Sunday came and once more we were up with the lark, though possibly a little jaded, only to return once more to the hub for more sessions during the morning. And all at once, for those not staying for the Sunday Extra, it was all over and time to go home. Hugs and goodbyes to friends old and new and we were on our way, very tired, very happy and up to here with an input of information which it will take (me at least) some time to assimilate.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this thing work and thanks to all the delegates, without whom there would be no conference. We did have fun, didn’t we?

All photos courtesy of John Jackson. Thank you, John. 

So now I’m back in my garret but filled with inspiration

See you next year.
Natalie

PS My apologies for the strange formatting. I tried. Honestly I did!




Monday, 1 July 2019

Where did the time go?




It’s been a while. Far too long. But not for one moment does it mean I have nothing to say – as if that was ever going to happen!

Like the whole of 2019, these past few weeks have whizzed by and I find it hard to believe that it’s been eight weeks since I last posted. As I write this evening, it is now July and half the year has gone. So what have I been doing?

Something monumental (for me) happened on 18th May which I splashed all over Facebook and Twitter but in my excitement omitted to shout about here on my own page. So, are you ready? Here goes then. I entered into a four book contract with Sapere Books. FOUR! I really wanted to put the whole of that sentence in capital letters because that’s what it feels like. Okay, I must lower my voice and calm down a bit. But that’s easier said than done. Why? Because these are my Regencies. 


This fabulous publisher is going to launch my books in a way that a debutante might have been launched into Society in the eighteen hundreds and I could not be more excited. You can find my page on their website here

This is the genre I most like to read, but I began my career by writing contemporary romantic fiction. With three books published I needed a pretty good reason to change direction. I enjoyed working in ‘real’ time. For one thing, there was little intensive research involved. I could rely on things I knew and could see. All I had to do was tell the story. I say all but, as any author will tell you, it isn’t quite that simple. Nevertheless it was fun, it was rewarding and I would have been quite happy to have continued in that vein.

Only something was pulling me in another direction, and tugging hard. As a teenager, my mother introduced me to the novels of Georgette Heyer, me and my sister both. Over the years my taste in reading has been quite catholic, though I gave up on horror a long time ago as it gave me nightmares. A good thriller, though, a Sci-Fi, comedy, tragedy…they were all in the mix but never have I encountered another author whose books I have read time and time again with equal and sometimes increasing enjoyment. Heyer does that for me.

As a romance writer, there is to me no more romantic age than that of the English Regency. Could I dip my quill into the inkpot and produce something of the era? The question demanded an answer and I had to try and it seemed that once I began to write I couldn’t stop. On 25th April last year, The Ghost of Glendale was published. There are now three others waiting to follow and the next is already begun.

Sometimes life hands us a gift. There are occasionally days when I do not write but they are few and far between. Weaving stories is a delightful pastime but when it’s your work as well you are truly lucky. I hope you enjoy mine.

Till next time

Natalie