Monday, 23 June 2014

My Sunlounger Experience by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

Kindle Summer Sale ONLY 99p - See SUNLOUNGER 2 on Amazon UK
See SUNLOUNGER 2 on Amazon US
It started with a handbag. Well, OK, no. It didn't. But a handbag does feature in this blog post. 

It actually started with an email from the lovely, industrious Belinda Jones early in 2013. Fellow Novelista Trisha Ashley had recommended me (and Louise Marley and Margaret James) for an anthology Belinda was planning called SUNLOUNGER. The criteria was, it had to be set somewhere foreign and preferably sunny, transporting the reader to exotic shores, cities, temples, mountains... anywhere but here. Pure escapism, in effect.

And so I took up the challenge, selected Gibraltar as my setting, as I was born there and still have a lot of family on the Rock, and decided there ought to be an unconventional genie in the tale. Of course. Why not? A brass lamp and a fit genie and a young woman desperately in need of a miracle.

Now I hadn't really written a short story in years. I always scribble on until it turns into a novel. But I took up the challenge (yes, I know I've said that already, but it really WAS a challenge for me) and penned a story under five-thousand words. And something wonderful and unexpected happened - I loved the experience! I loved learning to be brief and to spin a plot that would span a single day rather than months or a year. I relished keeping characterisation spare and painting a picture of the heroine's back-story that would leave the reader with a sense of heartbreak and hope. And from reviews I received afterwards, it worked.

Then, guess what? I was asked if I was interested in doing it all over again for SUNLOUNGER 2. So I bit Belinda's arm off and plucked Gran Canaria from a list of potential sun-soaked destinations. Again, it was a pleasure to write *coughs* - when it was going well - and I ended up with an eight-thousand word story this time. But I allowed my narrator to tell the tale, and that was the length she wanted. As it fitted with Belinda's new maximum word count, I gave my narrator a break. She deserved it; she'd pulled the story straight out of her soul and I think it was painful for her. Sometimes I feel as if I am a medium, and some spirit is telling me their story, murmuring their heartbreak and dreams in my head, especially when I'm working in the first person POV. Anyway, it got written, and now it's there in black and white, or sepia, or whatever colour you prefer for your eBook reading, for the world to hopefully enjoy.

And so now we come to the handbag. Seriously, I'm a bag-aholic (it's in my surname, after all) so there had to be a handbag coming into it somewhere. Directly below, in fact. 
I treated myself to it with birthday dosh, and took it proudly down to London when I attended the Sunlounger Party at Trader Vic's at the end of May. As bags go, I felt it perfectly encapsulated the whole Sunlounger ethos, and I got a few comments about it. I also took a man with an Hawaiian shirt to the party, but it turns out he felt surplus to requirements and went for a wander along Park Lane instead, where he promptly managed to get himself lost for an hour. I know, don't ask.

Made by the lovely Tracy of Tracy's T-cakes
With debut author Stephanie Wahlstrom (left)
So here are a few photos from the party, mainly involving cocktails and cakes. Unfortunately fellow Novelista Louise Marley couldn't come along to London with me, so I had to enjoy the Mai Tais and the gorgeous cupcakes on her behalf as well as indulging for my own sake. It was a hardship, which you can probably tell from my face. No? Oh. Well, hopefully, if it's repeated in 2015, I'll be able to drag her along.

Belinda Jones (left) and a few of the SUNLOUNGER authors at Trader Vic's













To make up for it this year, though, Louise and I are throwing a mini SUNLOUNGER 2 launch with our Novelista friends early in July. I hope the sun shines, and even though there won't be cocktails, as anyone familiar with the Novelistas can testify, there will definitely, categorically be cake!

www.valerie-annebaglietto.com
Twitter: @VABaglietto
Facebook: Valerie-Anne Baglietto Author


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Inspiration by Anne Bennett


Many times I am asked when I am giving talks how I get inspiration to write my books and I have to say truthfully that in the main I don't know. 'A Girl Can Dream' came out on 22nd May and I wrote it because, reading round the research for the books about the war work woman took up in WW2,  the girls who enlisted in the Land Army interested me greatly, I found it was so much the Cinderella of the Services, they have only in recent years been included in the Remembrance Day Services for example and yet these intrepid woman from all walks of life fed the nation and without their valiant contribution Britain would indeed have been in dire straits.  Many of these woman were not brought up to the life they seemed to embrace with such enthusiasm.  Nothing seemed too beyond them, though the work was physically demanding and the hours long and yet most women when recounting their time as Land Girls claim they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. 

The name Meg Hallet sprang into my mind when I was in Malta on holiday a couple of years ago.  I don't know where it came from, but once I had the name the story unfolded in my head till I was forced to start putting it down.  I hope those of you who have read it like the finished product and many have asked if there is going to be a sequel and I would like it if there is one, but it all depends on the publisher. We will have to wait and see.

Now we come to 'A Strong Hand to Hold' and this time I know when this book began.  I lived in the inner ring till I was nearly seven, born in the road I placed the Hallets family in 'A Girl Can Dream' and when we were moved under slum clearance my mother asked for the north  of the city, as my father was working at Fort Dunlop, and we moved to a big council estate called Pype Hayes.  It had had its share of bombing and across the road from our house one house stood on its own.  Since it was not Birmingham City Council's policy to erect detached houses on their estates, the house fascinated me.  I was married and had moved away when they realized the houses were sinking and all the people had to be found alternative accommodation.  As a result of that, reminiscence sessions were held at the library chaired by local historian and broadcaster Carl Chin and the people's memories were compiled into a book, and there it was, the history of the estate before we moved onto it.  The house on its own had once been in a terrace of six and the others had been destroyed in a raid on 19th November 1940 when 350 bombers attacked Birmingham and few areas were left unscathed.  Immediately, my head began to fill the ruined houses with fictional people and 'A Strong Hand to Hold' was born.

I was with Headline publishing then and this book was the third book I wrote for them and it was first published in 1999.  In 2001 I joined Harper Collins and over the years the 4 books I wrote for Headline went out of print and the rights were returned to me.  Last year, Harper Collins bought them and will be re-issuing them all in due course.  This does mean though that people might not realize they have already bought this book earlier, for while the title is the same, the cover is very different and I am doing my best to advertise the fact that it is a re-issue, and that is part of the reason for this blog.

One part of that book was very difficult to write and shows perhaps how much I live with my characters through all their trials and tribulations and without spoiling the story it transpired that Jenny O'Leary as an ARP warden was the only one small enough to crawl into a really confined space to try and reach a trapped child.  I was with her every step of the way as she inched her way forward over fractured lumps of wood and mangled iron, broken bricks and plaster and shards of  glass.  Sometimes the space was too tight for her to raise her head and her face would scrape along the ground, and writing it I sometimes found it so difficult to breath that I had to stop writing for a while and return to it later.

So that's it, two books out in the market place at more or less the same time, and I hope anyone who reads them does enjoy them because my readers and their comments and reviews are really important to me.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Finding Your Point of View by Juliet Greenwood

Now that I am well into my next book, I’m facing the same dilemma as in all my previous stories. I have all these characters (some of whom have appeared out of nowhere, quite of their own accord, if you please) clamouring to be heard. Which point of view should I follow? And when? It’s a tricky one, an aspect that can change the entire flavour of the book, if not dictate what kind of book it is going to be.

In ‘We That are Left’ the choice was simple. I knew from the start that I wanted this story to be the First World War seen through the eyes of one woman, and therefore it was always going to be Elin’s voice telling the story. But even that had its doubts at times. There was a brief wavering at one point at whether there should be Mouse’s voice, in letters or in a point of view, contrasting the civilians’ experience at home with that of those working amongst the battlefields. My instinct was almost immediately that it would be a mistake. The horrors of the trenches are so overwhelming I felt certain they would overtake the less dramatic griefs and horrors of the civilians. Besides, seeing through one individual’s eyes doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding or shutting out the horrors and injustices, even if they are beyond the understanding of the protagonist. Just think of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

In my previous book for Honno, ‘Eden’s Garden’ I had two points of view: two women living a hundred years apart. That had its own complexities – who should speak when, how much should they reveal? How much would the reader guess before I wanted them to? And as for keeping the balance between the two… But although the final drafts drove me mad at times, I know it was the right decision, because in my original draft the point of view was that of Carys, the contemporary heroine, as she unravelled a mystery. I was constantly struggling with something being not quite right, and I can still remember vividly the thunderbolt when Ann, the voice from the past, began to speak. That was when I could finally feel the story coming alive and just knew I had to go with it.

And so what of my current dilemma? Well, instead of beating my head against a brick wall, and trying to round up my characters into their allotted places, I have decided to let them get on with it for now. This time I have gained enough experience to know that I can always prune out the bits I don’t want. After all, they’ll all still have their point of view, even if it’s not expressed, so it will never be a waste, even if some of them end up in another book at the end of it all.

Meanwhile, we’ll wrestle it out together, experimenting, seeing what works, going off on a tangent every now and again. This is the bit no one will ever see, so it doesn’t matter if a character changes age or hair colour – or even gender, come to that. It’s having them all there, with all their potential, that counts. It’s once the story is assembled that I can stand back, look at them long and hard and gently, but firmly, put them in their place. With a large helping of ruthless pruning, of course.

Now where did I put my shears …

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Launch Party for A Girl Can Dream

Friday was the launch party for Anne Bennett's new novel, A Girl Can Dream.

Anne Bennett

Anne signing copies
The Cake!
Anne with her daughter Beth
Goody bags!
Dedicated to the Novelistas!


A Girl Can Dream by Anne Bennett
A Girl Can DreamWhen Meg’s mother dies in childbirth, she is determined to keep the promise made on her mother’s deathbed – keep the family together. But her father has descended into drink and resents the baby, Ruth, who he believes cost him his wife.

Though struggling financially, Meg resists the offer of help from their unscrupulous and sinister landlord, Richard Flatterly. Things get worse when her father returns home one night with a woman called Doris and announces he intends to marry her. When war breaks out three of the children are evacuated to the country while little Ruth must stay with Meg’s father and his new wife as she is too young.

Meg and her friend Joy sign up for the Land Army and go to work on the farm where she meets Stephen, home on leave after fighting the Nazi’s – the attraction is instant and she and Stephen fall in love. But when she returns to the family home for a visit, she is horrified to discover the house in squalor and that worst of all, Little Ruth has been sent to an orphanage. With no options, Meg must turn to the only man who can help her, Richard Flatterly, but in return for his help, she must pay a very high price…




Photos copyright: Juliet Greenwood & Louise Marley

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

My First Taste of Publication! by Johanna Grassick

Earlier this year I was thrilled to learn that my short story, Rum Truffle, had been short-listed for the Sophie King Prize. I was also stunned because this was a competition open to published and unpublished authors, so I’d sent off my entry with very low expectations, but sent it off nevertheless because what did I have to lose?

Although novels have become my main focus in recent years, I still like to experiment with short stories and my inspiration for Rum Truffle came when I visited the pretty Cheshire village of Nantwich, which has some lovely caf├ęs and bakeries. I was also thinking about anniversaries, and how they’re not always a cause for celebration, but can be a link with darker memories from the past. However, at the core of this story – and all my writing – is the belief that love heals.

The Sophie King Prize was for romantic short stories and open to writers from all over the world, but after my story was short-listed there was even better news to come!

The publisher, Corazon Books, who ran the competition, decided that the standard of entries was so high they wanted to publish an anthology of the top 10 stories. Would I like Rum Truffle to be included? Would I ever!

Sophie King is a well-respected writer whose work encompasses novels, short stories and creative writing ‘how to’ books, and I feel privileged that she picked out my work.
The anthology, Love Is All You Need, is now available in e-book (a print version will be launched later this year):


‘An anthology of stories which are funny, thought-provoking, and thrilling, with characters you'll empathise with as they discover that ... Love is All You Need.’

Stories by Alyson Hilbourne, Yvonne Eve Walus, Johanna Grassick, Pauline Watson, Melanie Whipman, Linda Triegel, Laurel Osterkamp, Helen Yendall, Mary Lally, Sherri Turner.

You can buy the anthology here: Amazon books




Friday, 6 June 2014

Annie's A - Z of writing...C is for Characters by Annie Burrows






Each month, Novelista Annie Burrows shares insights into her writing life.  In a sort of alphabetical order.  This month the letter C, which is for...Characters.

Not long ago I joined a reading group.  Quite a literary one.  I was hoping to stretch my mind a little, by reading more challenging books than I'd normally choose.  But what I've gained from attending has been so much more.  Discussing books with others has reminded me what readers are looking for in a book.

Time and time again, it hasn't been the cleverness of the prose, or originality of the plots, or evocative descriptive passages that have sparked off the most heated discussions.  No - it's been the likeability of the characters.  No matter how well written a book, if we don't find something about the main characters to like, we won't give the book a high mark.  But we think of the whole book with fondness if we connect with the main characters.
 
This is one of the reasons Jane Austen's books have prompted so many people to write sequels, or spin-offs.  Her characters are so well-drawn that they not only come to life on the page, but often take on a life of their own.  A lot of us want to know what happens after Lizzie and Mr Darcy get married, and will gladly read books, or watch films where they go on expeditions to Egypt, solve murders, or even fight zombies.


Oh, I want to create characters like that!  Characters that step right off the page and take on a life of their own.  Long ago, I realized that I don't have a gift for writing descriptive passages, or thinking up cleverly twisty plots with a surprise at the end.  but anyway, I would rather my readers empathize so deeply with my heroines that they will laugh with them, weep with them, and fall a little bit in love with the heroes who stride manfully into their life and make their hearts flutter.

So I spend ages reading books on psychology, problem pages in the backs of women's magazines (because aren't a lot of the problems in them caused by partners?) and life stories of people who lived during the Regency era, to learn how they would have treated the problems life threw at them.

I also read other writer's tips on how to create characters that will come to life in a reader's imagination.  Just this week, I've discovered fellow Harlequin writer Annie West's website, on which she gives some very useful advice about creating heroes.  All of which could apply to Mr Darcy.


Annie's next book, "Lord Havelock's List" comes out in September2014 .  The hero is sadly nothing like Mr Darcy, but Annie hopes you will fall a little bit in love with him anyway. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Romance Festival Q & A by Anne Bennett

Tell us about yourself

I was born in the inner ring of Birmingham, in a back-to-back house, in 1949. I was the second child of Irish Catholic immigrants, my father came from Fermanagh and my mother from Donegal.  I was an Irish Brummie and there are plenty of us about.  My father worked at Fort Dunlop and so when we were moved under slum clearance in 1956, Mum asked for a place in North Birmingham nearer to where my father worked and we moved into the Pype Hayes Estate.  My brother had passed to Waverley Grammar School and I went to the Abbey in Erdington and in turn passed the 11 plus too and went to Hodge Hill Grammar School.

Not long after I left with a clutch of ‘O’ levels and began work in an office, I met Denis.  In 1966 you got married if you became pregnant if you could hold on to the chap and so that’s what we did.  I was 17 and Denis 19 at the time, but we were soon parents and had to get on with it.  Money was tight, especially when Nikki was joined by a brother, Simon the following year, so I took on evening jobs.  I worked at a Bingo Hall first and then a chip shop and then a much coveted position, the twilight shift at HP Sauce to ensure that we had a little bit more money than we had week.  Simon was four when I noticed the Evening Mail was advertising for mature students at their Teaching Training College at Bordesley, so I went along.to find out about it.  In those day the life skills of mature students were often  taken into account and as I’d run a playgroup for four years that counted together with my ‘O’ levels.  However,  it was nearly November and as I had missed enrolling that years they suggested I use the time until  the following year taking further studies to get me used to studying again and so I toddled along to Matthew Boulton College and booked myself in for two days a week and worked the other three days at Dunlop’s Canteen.  I loved my three years at College and was grateful for the grant though I worked on Birmingham City play scheme every summer so we could have a week’s holiday in a caravan in Wales.

And then I was a teacher and what a joy that was.  I chose to work with the disadvantaged as I felt I could understand them and I always found it so rewarding. I enjoyed all the years I spent teaching and continued with it despite having two further children, Bethany and Tamsin, and what forced me to leave in the end is dealt with later in this article, but leave teaching I did and I found myself with oceans of time on my hands.  We moved to North Wales in 1993 and I began to use the time to write. I wrote the origin of nursery rhymes, numerous short stories and two books for children before submitting a full length novel though the RNA.s New Writers’ Scheme.  I have already documented this and it only leaves me to say that after four books I parted company with Headline, began at Harper Collins and changed agents at the same time and now Harper Collins are re-issuing the four books I had published with Headline so life is good.

Tell us about your latest book

This book, my eighteenth is called A Girl Can Dream.  Meg Hallett is only 14 when she makes a death bed promise to her mother to keep the family together. This was hard enough to do when he father, who blames baby Ruth for his wife’s death, turns to the drink and then brings home another wife, but the looming world war blew the family totally apart two years later With her father called up, Ruth placed in the care of Social Services and the children evacuated, Meg joins the Land Army to do her bit and is immediately drawn to the farmer’s son. Stephen.  He is in the army, but at home recovering from an accident at the camp and she agrees to write to him when he returns.  Despite the declaration of war and the resultant deprivations and shortages Meg is happy until word reaches her that her evacuated siblings have disappeared and no one knows where they have gone.  Despite  Meg’s best efforts to find them, they remain hidden and she knows she will not know true happiness, much as she loves Stephen, till she finds out what has happened to her little brother and two young sisters although she feels Ruth is lost to them all for good.
When did you start writing?

I have been scribbling since I was a small child and as I grew up I had two ambitions in life to write and teach, although I never imagined that I would earn my living from writing, I thought it would remain a hobby.  An accident in the school I taught in caused me to be invalided out of teaching, which broke my heart at the time and gave me oceans of free time to fill and so I began to write in earnest.  And so I feel privileged that I have been able to fulfil the two ambitions I had.  We moved to North Wales in 1993 so we could afford to buy a house big enough to be adapted for me and still have plenty of room for a growing family as I was in a wheelchair at the time.
Tell us about your experience of getting a literary agent

I started taking a monthly writing magazine, Writer’s News and they have details of many writing competition  and I entered one for Valentine’s day and won second prize, which was a year’s subscription to The Romantic Novelist’s Association (RNA) and they run a scheme for new writers who can submit a manuscript to them to edit once a year and it didn’t  have to be romantic as long as it had an emotional content.  The criticism they gave me for my first submission was so good that I kept their words in mind as I wrote the second submission  which they recommended I send straight to Headline and they accepted it and offered me a  2 book contract in 1996.  With the contract under my belt, getting an agent was no bother, as many wanted to represent me and I chose one and she looked over my contract and advised me to accept it and sign it, which I did.
What tips would you give to other aspiring romance authors, looking to be published?

Many people think they can write because they can construct a sentence, or bash out the keys of a computer, but a person wouldn’t call themselves a carpenter as soon as they could hammer a nail into a piece of wood.  They need to learn their craft and so does an aspiring writer.  So I would say read, read and then read some more.  Try to write something every day, even if it means turning off the telly to free up some time, take a writing magazine I found Writer’s News and the bi-monthly sister mag The Writer good, but there may be others.  It keeps a person in touch with the writing, world, gives valuable tips and guidance, often runs a advice section when a person can write in with problems and in the magazines I took  there was a have short story competitions in every issue.  I found it developed good discipline to do those, even if initially I didn’t  send them in.  And when a person thinks they are ready to complete a book I believe the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme is still very good, but there are other critique services. And when that manuscript comes back with a list of things that are wrong with it, an aspiring writer should listen and take heed, not sink into the depths of despair or  throw a hissy fit and think the reader has got it in for them, because one thing a writer needs is the ability ti take criticism and look upon it as constructive and helping to make the book better.

Where do you write?
Only ever in my small, cosy study.
Where do you look for writing inspiration?

I don’t look anywhere for inspiration.  Things pop into my head unbidden, or I am told a story, or read something and it might only be a sentence that starts the thought processes.  Once that begins I let them fester while the story takes shape in my head and when it demands to be written, I put it down.
Which other authors do you admire?

These are numerous.  Maeve Binchy is at the top and then in no particular order. Catherine Cookson, Rumer Godden, Tolkien, Joanne Trollope, Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy.   However, ask me in six months and I’ll probably have a different list.  There are so many books and so many dedicated and brilliant writers out there and I respect them all a great deal and they have all inspired me in some way.
Are you on social media?

You bet I am.  Isn’t every writer now?
If so, tell us what you like about it

I love the way everything is so instant today, that if you ask a questions so many take the trouble to answer.  I love the way it is so easy to document events these days and I love al the photos put up by my friends and the way it is so easy to keep in touch.   Many people’s posts on Facebook or Twitter  make me smile, but some are thought provoking or disturbing, when I read about the injustices in the world and I stand in awe of Google who seems to know the answers to everything, making research so much easier.
Personal
Where were you born?

I was born at 301 Bell Barn Rd.  It was a back-to-back house in an area known as the Horse Fair in Birmingham’s inner ring but our house opened directly on to the street
What is your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is Queen Elizabeth’s 2 Coronation in 1953.  Just a year or so before this, the houses that opened on the street were fitted with electricity and the gas mantles taken out and so Dad bought a telly so we could watch the Coronation along with half of those down the yard who hadn’t been changed over.  Our telly screen was tiny and it was housed in an enormous box and showed the only channel then BBC and often the picture often looked as though it had been snowing and we thought it was great.  It cost one hundred pounds, a hell of a lot of money in those days and was bought from Wood houses on the Never Never.  I vividly remember watching the Coronation with awe and then we had a party that was supposed to be in the street, but despite it being June it was cold and drizzly rain was falling-  does this sound familiar?  We decamped to an accommodating laundry, also in Bell Barn Rd and after the party all the children were given a coronation mug, which I still have and a golden coach, long gone and I also had a personal present of a pink dressing table set. 
Where do you live now?

We live in North Wales now and I dealt with why we moved from Birmingham earlier.
Dog or cat person?

I am definitely a dog person.
When were you happiest?

I’m happy now.  I think I have a lovely life and I am usually happy with where I am and what I’m doing.  We should all try and take joy in every day. Life really is far too short and regret is a wasted emotion,
What advice would you give your 18 year-old self?

Don’t waste the years ahead.  Life should not be measured in years but rather what you have done with those years.  Honesty is important and kindness, true generosity of spirit and I would caution any young person never to be too busy to stop sometimes and look and appreciate this beautiful world we live in.
What was your most embarrassing date?

I can’t remember one but then I’m not easily embarrassed.
What is your favourite romantic moment?

In 1990, while at school, I was involved in an incident that left me with spinal damage. One of my discs had split open and had stuck fast to the spinal  column and I was in severe pain and couldn’t walk. I had two small operations in the spring of that year to try and ease the situation, but they didn’t and so spinal surgery was attempted in September.  Unfortunately, the wound opened up and my body developed fibrosis in order to protect the wound and continued to grow, wrapping itself around the sciatica nerves running down my legs effectively cutting off feeling and movement.  The hospital tried one more procedure and when that too was unsuccessful they told me I faced life in a wheelchair.  I had to leave teaching and that was as traumatic to me, at the time, as being told I would never walk again.  16 years passed and during those years I began to write and had books published and tried to keep myself physically fit by swimming and later using toning tables.  In 2006 in early August I was cajoled into standing on a vibration plate the owner of the toning tables had just purchased.  I was helped to stand for just two minutes and felt movement in my spine.  Once home I tried to pull my toes towards me and lift my legs off he bed and when I could, I knew I would be able to walk and did manage a few paces using my wheelchair like a Zimmer.  I kept practising and the doctors were astounded and as time passed people got to know and after I was interviewed by a reporter from BBC local radio, GMTV heard about it and wanted me on the show before the news broke in the press .  It was now September and I was actually on the road during promotional work for To Have and To Hold and we had to drive straight to London, So we arrived at Tower Bridge and there I walked across it, holding Denis’s hand, mounting some steps and looking over the barrier into the Thames, all things I hadn’t been able to do beforehand.  And then the presenter produced a gipsy fiddler and there on Tower Bridge in the light of the early evening autumnal sun, Denis took me in his arms for the first time in 16 years and we danced as the fiddler played The Last Waltz.  The presenter cried and so did the publicist and though after that, the story was in all the national papers and magazines and I was on numerous radio shows, including one from Australia and another from Germany and also on television to talk about this  phenomenon that had happened to me, nothing beat that dance on Tower Bridge.  And you know what? Life doesn’t get any better      
What do you wish for when you blow out the candles?

That depends on what’s happening at the time.
What is your favourite smell?

I don’t know what sort of smell you mean here.  I like the smell of bacon cooking, or bread baking, or coffee brewing, but at the moment some of the perfumes I like  are Marks and Spark’s ‘New York’, or ‘Cashmere’ by Next  for daytime use and Esther Lauder’s’ ‘Pleasures’ or Jasper Conran’s ‘Woman’ or similar to use in the evening.
What book would you choose to take on a desert island?

Probably I’d take Lord of the Rings in case I was there a long time
What music would you choose to take on a desert island?

Abba and music of 60s and 70s
Three people you’d like to be stranded on a desert island with

Someone who knew what plants could be eaten safely and how to make a fire from nothing, someone who knew how to hunt and prepare the catch and someone good at constructing shelters and it would be imperative that these three people would have a highly developed sense of humour.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My husband, my family and my dog
What is your favourite romantic song?

I haven’t got one.  I like lots.
What is your favourite romantic film?

Ditto to the above.
Do you believe in love at first sight?

No but I believe in an attraction at first sight.  I think you have to know someone before you can love them, but if you are attracted to a person you probably want to spend time getting  to know them better and that can lead on to love.

Monday, 2 June 2014

How I Became a Bestseller on Kindle by Juliet Greenwood

When I heard, several weeks ago, that We That are Left was going to be a 99p Kindle Daily Deal, I never imagined for one moment that it would get into the top 100, let alone to the dizzy heights of number #4 in the Kindle store.

We That are Left
At first I told myself there was nothing I could do to prepare. I couldn’t tell anyone until the day itself, and it was just one day. I’m with a small press, the incomparable Honno Press, and I’m not a big name. Besides, like most writers, trying to balance the day job, writing, editing and promotion (plus a life) means that choices have to be made.

But no one ever got anywhere by looking a gift horse in the mouth. So I took the risk, put everything else on the back burner for a couple of weeks, and went for it. I’m so glad I did.

Preparation

Juliet Greenwood
I couldn’t publicise the Daily Deal in advance, so I focussed on upping my profile. I increased my number of blog posts during those weeks, both on my own blog and on that of the wonderful and supportive Novelistas Ink, and publicised them as much as I could on Facebook and Twitter. Twitter is an amazingly supportive place. I made a real effort to use it more efficiently, following people back, tweeting blog posts, and retweeting publicity. Along the way, I grew my numbers of followers and learnt so much about really interacting, instead of just popping in now and again – plus I met some great people and made new friends along the way!

The day itself

I had decided to set aside the whole day to focus on networking and publicity. Which was just as well, as it turned out, because apart from a short dog walk and a few cups of tea in the sun, it was nonstop all day. I put a blog post publicising the deal at around 6.30am, and hit the social networks. It’s no good just shouting ‘buy me!’, so much of the time was the usual tweeting of information and other people’s blogs, and lots of retweeting, interspersed with a quick wave.

#2 in Sagas (Amazon UK)
It was all quite sedate for a while. I didn’t realise (until fellow Novelista Louise Marley told me) that it takes a few hours for Amazon’s figures to show, and what I was actually looking at were sales figures from several hours before. It was great being in the top 500, and definitely higher than I had ever been. There was just a small niggle that was thinking of all that work I’d put in over the past weeks, but I told myself to be philosophical. I was nervously looking at the figures, holding my breath and taking screen shots (work out how to do them before the day!) as a record.

Just before lunchtime I found one of my screenshots was blurred and dived back in without thinking. And there it was. We That Are Left had jumped to #61 in the Kindle store. Top 100. (Luckily I have very understanding neighbours, who nod sagely at the odd wild squeal and don’t call the men in white coats.) That’s when I knew all that work had paid off, and from that point on, until I finally collapsed at midnight when the promotion ended, it was one rollercoaster of a ride, up to number 2 in three saga categories, and number 4 in the overall Kindle store. Still pinching myself.

#4 in the Bestseller Chart (Amazon UK)
What have I learnt? That writers are the most generous and supportive bunch on the planet. That social networking really does work. Facebook and Twitter are amazingly supportive. That all the blog posts I’ve done over the past six months also helped to make the book familiar: I’ve done it myself, remembered a post and a cover of an author I don’t know and thought ‘that sounds interesting’, but done nothing about it until it appears in a charity shop or at 99p! That it is possible to get to #4 in the Amazon charts with a small publisher.

Top Tips:
  1. Do your preparation – network, blog, make yourself as visible as can be. Keep on doing it - you never know when the chance might come your way.
  2. Support other authors. Not just before you need them, but all the time. We’re all in this together.
  3. Love your readers. They are your best advocates, and hopefully feel just as passionately about your book as you do.
  4. Set aside the day. It’s a promotional opportunity, make the most of it. It’s only one day. The sun will be there tomorrow.
  5. Be prepared for things to happen both slowly and very fast.
  6. Take screen shots each time there’s a change, it might be your only chance! I made a folder on my desktop, so I could label each one and shove it in there out of the way until I had time to sort them out.
  7. Share your excitement. I loved sharing the journey with my Twitter and Facebook friends, it was part of the blast, and it definitely helped to spread the buzz.
  8. Forget about healthy eating, head for the chocolate. I was a nervous wreck by lunchtime, in need of the hard stuff (i.e. sugar).
  9. Write the best book you can, straight from the heart. Listen to what your editor tells you, however much you want to sulk. She’s right. And if you believe passionately in your book, it’s not just about me, me, me, it’s about the book. You’ll fight to the ends of the earth to get your baby out there to take her place in the sun - and believe it or not, that’s catching.
  10. Whatever happens, it’s only a day. Who knows what might happen tomorrow? Enjoy!
We That are Left