Monday, 26 January 2015

What's in a Name?

What's in a name? Not a lot, you might think, or maybe it’s everything. It’s rare that I have a problem with my heroine although one or two have been known to change identity mid-stream. I’ve never had an issue with my heroes prior to my current novel.

Ryan Donovan presented himself to me even before I put pen to paper or, more correctly, fingers to keyboard. The hero of Safe Harbour is handsome, as all heroes should be, tall and very Irish. I kind of wish I could meet him in real life (I’m not telling my husband that). He came to me as a fully formed character and I didn't change him. He would never have allowed it.

I had a similar experience with Guy Ffoulkes, the hero of Honey Bun who will make himself known to you in the near future when the book is published on Amazon towards the end of March. His identity was set, his occupation, critical to the plot, fitted him like a glove.

So in my work in progress why was I having so much trouble with Joel/Max/Adam? The first draft is finished and, as the edits altered the structure of the story, so did they change his personality. But was I doing the editing or was he? Turns out it was him. It was as if he was saying This isn’t me. How dare you put me in this situation/put these words into my mouth? He won every time. Well, you don’t argue with your hero do you – not unless you’re the heroine.

So what's in a name? In my opinion an awful lot.

Monday, 19 January 2015

An Army (and Talli Roland) March on their Stomachs

When Talli agreed to be a guest on my blog I knew we were all in for a treat. What I wasn’t expecting was to laugh out loud as I read (and related to) the following. Enjoy.

Talli Roland - in between snacks
Writing from home each day, most of the excitement in my life revolves around food. From the second I sit down at the computer to start writing, I’m already fantasising about burnt toast o’clock, when I get to munch on yummy carbon slathered with butter. We all know the benefits of cupcakes and chocolate, and how they can lift us from the doldrums when things may not be going so swimmingly with our writing efforts. But what about all those other mood swings writers experience? What should we munch on then?

I've developed a handy-dandy guide to help with just that question.

Stuck on a plot point. If your creative juices aren't flowing, why not encourage a little saliva? I'd suggest munching on something sour; perhaps some of those super-mouth-pursing penny candies from the corner shop. Or, why not try sucking a lemon?

Bored with the MS. No matter how excited we may be when we begin a new project, it's inevitable that at some stage, boredom will set in. At this point, I'd recommend a bracing bite of a durian. It tastes like feet and I can guarantee you'll feel alert after eating it!

Restless and anxious. Sometimes, reading over one's own writing and the thought of showing it to others can be vom-inducing. I'd suggest a lovely cup of chamomile tea, paired with a digestive biscuit. Ahhhh...

When that character just won't behave! Don't kill them off with abandon. Instead, I recommend cooking up a piece o' meat then stabbing it over and over to release frustration. (Note: I haven't actually done this – yet).

I suck. I’m finished. No-one will ever want to read this rubbish. There’s only one thing for it: sugar sugar sugar! Chocolate, liquorice all-sorts, or even just some granules straight from the canister (I’ve done it in desperation) – whatever you choose, rest assured that in about ten minutes, you’ll get a rush that will banish the blues.

The Amazon one-star review. If you’re published, only two things are certain: 1. your mum will buy your book; and 2. at some point, you’ll receive a one-star review. Such moments are crushing and even soul-destroying . . . until you drink some wine and put it all back into perspective again. Someone doesn’t like your book. So what? They probably can’t read, anyway.

The elusive 'this MS rocks' moment. Grab whatever food is handy and stuff your face fast, 'coz I can guarantee that moment probably won't last!

Happy eating! Oh yes... and writing.

Talli Roland writes bittersweet and witty contemporary women’s fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine).

Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories—complete with happy endings. Talli’s novels have been short-listed in Best Romantic Reads at the UK’s Festival of Romance and chosen as top books of the year by industry review websites. Her most recent book, Marriage to Measure, was published in December 2014.

When Serenity Holland proposes to her long-time boyfriend Jeremy, she’s certain ‘forever’ is a perfect fit. As the wedding train steams forward, though, Serenity starts to wonder if they really are an ideal match. From a crusty old ring to a dilapidated house she’s left to renovate on her own – not to mention the appearance of Jeremy’s clingy ex-fiancĂ©e – engagement feels more like disengagement. 

To learn more about Talli go to or follow Talli on Twitter:@talliroland.


Delighted you could join us today, Talli…and thank you for the permission to indulge in what might before have been considered forbidden fruit. And speaking of fruit, I had to look up durian. Not sure I'm quite ready for that one yet. Next time I have a guilt trip I shall think of this post.


Monday, 12 January 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different

Well, it is for me anyway. As is probably obvious from the title of my book, Safe Harbourand, more particularly, its cover, I write contemporary romantic fiction. 

However, one of my greatest pleasures when my children were small was reading to them and with them. 

I know I’m not alone in this.You can see above the delight on all three faces so I thought I’d try to understand the appeal to the adult, other than the obvious one of spending quality time with little people. And therein I think lies part of the answer.

Having decided that writing for children was going to be my topic for the week, I stopped off at the library on my way home from my Tuesday morning writers’ group. I’m not even going to tell you how long it is since I last went there. Kindle has a lot to answer for and it isn’t just about holding a book in your hand. Aside from that there are shelves full of books in my home that are still waiting to be read so why go to the library? I found out why soon enough.

Our local library underwent a complete refurbishment a couple of years ago. While it still retains that wonderful hushed atmosphere that prevails in any of its counterparts that I’ve ever visited, it is sleek and modern with a huge computer area and just as large a children’s section, and it was to this latter that I gravitated. What a joy! There were armchairs – adult and child size; tables and books…lots and lots of books. I suppose it was mainly the pre-primary school section I looked at and I discovered almost immediately that I have for many years wrongly been under the impression that most of the illustrations in children’s books were done by the author. Not true, though some most certainly are. I am now given to understand that it is the publisher's job to find an illustrator and that indeed some are so well known that books are written around their pictures or, indeed, that illustrators supply their own words.This is where I admit to a long-held wish. I’d love to be able to write for this age group but, unable to fulfil the other half of the input, I’d rejected it as being out of reach. But if it's feasible to find an illustrator …could I, might I?

I’ve been told it’s hard to write for children. Far fewer words but every single one has to count. I chose six books from the hundreds available and brought them home. I’ve read them all; it didn’t take long; but I was taken back so many years to the excitement and complete suspension of disbelief I’d shared with my daughters. 

So what if a pig could talk or a little bull save the world? There was wonder and joy in all six volumes and each was, in its own way, a morality tale. And I enjoyed them. On my own. Without two small children sitting beside me in rapt attention. Aren't we all just big kids at heart? So isn't that another part of the answer? The child in each of us is just as capable to enjoying something 'aimed' at a four year old. All we have to do is use our imagination...and believe, just for a while anyway. A children's book well-written is suitable for any age group. 

Will I do it, write that book? Almost certainly not. I’ll leave it to the experts. But what a delight to go back in time to such innocence. Time travel. Hmm. Now that’s another genre I’d quite like to try. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Cathy Mansell - Across the Sea to Ireland

I'm thrilled to welcome Cathy Mansell to the blog today. It's always a pleasure to talk to this delightful lady.

I’ve not long finished reading ‘Where the Shamrocks Grow’. You covered a huge amount of history in this wonderfully inspiring book. Can you tell our readers something about your research?
Although Where the Shamrocks Grow is a work of fiction, some aspects are loosely based on my mother's life, my great aunt and my experience of New York.

I love research and when I was writing Where the Shamrocks Grow it was a great excuse to go back to my roots. I walked the streets of Dublin that I remembered as a child, visited Dublin's National Library where I researched the upstairs/downstairs of the period. Scrolled down many Dublin newspapers printed in the 1920s and 30s. The history of the Irish Civil War I recalled from my school days and researched what I wasn't sure of.

American history had always fascinated me because of my great aunt who lived in the Bronx before, and during the great depression. We never met, but I tried to imagine how she might have felt when she lost her savings in the 1929 crash.

It would seem that all your books are set in Ireland. You’ve lived in England for many years. What prompted you to set your work in the land of your birth?
I've asked myself this question many times, Natalie, having lived so long in Leicester. For some reason, I've never been inspired to set one of my books here. Maybe one day. Ireland to me is inspirational, the people, the landscape, the history. Besides I was brought up there, worked and went to school there at a time when I was an impressionable young teenager. I seem to have an affinity with Ireland, Dublin in particular.  Inspiration to write comes easily when I'm there.

You haven’t always written novels. What did you do before and when and why did you change?
When my first husband died from leukemia in the 70s, I found comfort in writing short verse. I then progressed to writing articles on bereavement to give consolation to others going through the same thing. To my surprise these articles were published in National magazines. I found healing in writing so I then wrote my life story for my children. It went for a second read at Arts Council England, and I was encouraged to carry on writing.

This, in turn, gave me confidence to have a go at writing a full-length novel.  Then in 2003 when I had finished writing and editing Where the Shamrocks Grow, novelist, Jean Chapman encouraged me to join the Romantic Novelists Association's (RNA) New Writer's Scheme.  It proved to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. With support from the RNA, and other supportive groups, I am now a published author writing my fifth novel.

Can you tell us about your working day?
My working day has changed over the years. When I started writing first, I had lots of time to write. Usually from nine in the morning and on and off throughout the day, sometimes working well into the night. I thought time was my own.

But that is never the case when you have family and grandchildren. I adore spending time with them, and they are all supportive of my work. When I have time off, I find myself working later and later into the evening. I start at nine but rarely get to my writing until the afternoon.  Promotion and networking take up half of my writing time.  Most authors will identify with this, but as we want to sell books, it becomes part of the working day and night.   

Where is your favourite place to write – and why?
I am fortunate to have a fantastic working place. My husband, Dennis, calls it the crow's nest. It's a small attic room in the roof of the house that he converted some years ago. It overlooks fields and trees. I can be completely alone up here with my characters.

I love it because no one likes climbing the ladder, and it keeps the grandchildren away from my computer. I've been working up here in my special place for years now and have become quite good at climbing the ladder. Some days it is the only exercise I get. 

Do you have any favourite hobbies outside of your writing (not that writing can be called a hobby)
I used to like gardening and decorating, but that fell by the wayside. I love reading and read most genres apart from science fiction. I have a passion for good drama, live or otherwise. Can’t get enough of it.

Your most recently published book, ‘Where the Shamrocks Grow’, has received excellent reviews. Is there another in the pipeline? 

Yes, I'm currently writing another romantic suspense set in Dublin and Birmingham in 6os. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my publisher, Tirgearr Publishing, will like it. It's always a bit nerve racking when you start a new book, wondering if the story will engage readers.  

Your publishers, Tirgearr Publishing, are based in Ireland. Is this a coincidence?
Yes, in a way. When the situation arose to submit work to them, I thought they might be the right publisher for me as my work was set there. As it turned out, my publisher is from California and her husband is a Cork man. I love this combination. It was a right decision.  

Cathy is an experienced writer of romantic fiction. Her early work was stories and articles published in national magazines. She organized an anthology of works funded by Arts Council England, appeared on the TV show Food Glorious Food 2012

Nowadays, Cathy writes novels set in Ireland, depicting the lifestyle and hardships of families in those days. Some of her characters become wound up in intricate criminal plots.

She lives in Leicestershire with her husband, where she writes daily in her ‘Loft Study’
Thank you so much for sharing, Cathy.