Wednesday, October 26, 2016


We welcome Jean Fullerton with this month’s edition of Focus on RNA Chapters.

It gives me great pleasure to feature one of our long-established Chapters of the RNA blog and I'm very grateful to Sheila Daglish for taking the time to tells us about the North Devon Group.

'Small and (almost) beautiful' possibly best describes our North Devon Chapter as we gather for coffee, cake, and a two-hour working session in the spacious and pleasant cafeteria at St. John's
Garden Centre, Barnstaple. We meet approximately every six weeks, although winter dates are flexible since our (currently seven) members must tackle ninety-minute drives across Exmoor, Dartmoor or sometimes-stormy coastal roads.

Our Chapter was formed about ten years ago and we welcome new members, whether or not RNA, because fresh ideas and experiences are always appreciated. We agree and are reassured by the fact that, for all of us, holiday weeks, home demands and crises are inevitable, sometimes rendering a daily writing routine impossible. Family life is so often at the core of what we write anyway and, importantly, we know that, whether actively writing or not, all our members make a valued contribution to discussions around the table.

The last few months have brought successes and new adventures. Patricia Fawcett attended the Writers' Summer School at Swanwick in August, brought us news of current short story writing requirements and has plenty of ideas for these - a temporary change from her regular novels. In the summer she gave a talk at Buckland Abbey, one-time home of Sir Francis Drake, where her audience particularly liked the supporting visual aids she used. Frances Evesham's first two Exham mysteries can now be obtained in paperback, and she reports that internet sales of her other books are doing well. At Ilminster Literary Festival she presented a talk on her other love -
Victorian fiction.

Amanda Robinson is writing regularly, an erotic romance which now needs to be finally pulled together. Anne Holman is working on a Regency tale, having had previous success in this genre, and was happy to see 'The Art of Love', her 24th pocket novel, published in July, hopefully also in Large Print. A further pocket novel is currently awaiting a result - preferably acceptance! Lucy Alexander, our newest recruit, attended the RNA Lancaster Conference and, after a one-to-one session with a M&B editor, was asked to submit the next two chapters of her medical romance. An autumn writing course with Kate Walker at Swanwick should help with the final polish. There's one last success for our Chapter to record and that's Sheila Daglish's 'Dangerous Waters' - a My Weekly pocket novel published in May, and accepted for Large Print.

Our North Devon location and cafeteria venue mean that we can't realistically invite guest speakers but, between meetings, through e-mails we always have someone ready to offer encouragement, sympathy, ideas or opinions. Our Chapter does not have a website, nor has it ventured onto Facebook or Twitter, although individual members often find these useful.

For 2017 we plan more of our well-tried recipe - friendly, supportive meetings, always receptive to new trends and movement in the publishing and self-publishing worlds. 'Small and (almost) beautiful', as you'll see from the above success stories, is a concept that seems to work!

Contact for North Devon Chapter is:
Sheila Daglish, 01271 850006.
E-mail: themalthouse94@

Thank you so much, Sheila, for that comprehensive overview of the North Devon Chapter.

Jean x

About Jean: 
Jean was born in East End of London and spent all her career as a district nurse in East London but is now a full-time writer. Wedding Bells for Nurse Connie, is her current release. Her next novel Pocketful of Dreams, set in the turbulent years of WW2, is due for release in June 2017 and is the first in next East London series. 
Her first series with Orion Fiction was set in the Victorian period after which she jumped forward to post-war East London.

She is a proud graduate from the NWS and passionate about the local chapters, which is why she has taken on the role of Chapters Liaison. 

Thank you to Jean and Sheila for this month’s blog contribution. 

If members would like to be featured on the RNA blog please contact the team on

Monday, October 24, 2016

RNA Parties: The Season to be Jolly…

We are delighted to be able to introduce Anne Stenhouse to followers of the RNA blog. If you want to know more about  our RNA parties and events please read on…

Members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association like a good party.
Timetabled ones are held three times a year in central London using either The Hall of India and Pakistan in the Royal Over-Seas League or The Gladstone Library in Whitehall. Others are arranged by individuals and by Chapters around the country. Yet others take place in Conference venues and might be dubbed Kitchen Parties, but the champagne cocktails can still be awesome!

The London ones are currently my remit as a member of the RNA committee. Last year I ‘met’ many of you through helping Nicola Cornick organise the Awards’ scheme. This year, I’m ‘meeting’ others as I receive your forms and cheques for tickets. It’s shaping up to be an interesting gathering with a great mix of folk from the writing world.

Writers like our distinguished Chair, Eileen Ramsay, will be mingling with editors, agents, book sellers and publishers. There’s still room for you, but don’t wait too long, will you?

Where  - The Royal Over-Seas League, Park Place
When -   Wednesday 16th November 2016
At –         6.30 – 9.30
Price -     £35 members - £40 guests
How –     click here

In addition to meeting old friends and making new, there’s going to be the presentation of our annual Industry Awards. Inaugurated last year, these were immediately popular and so we bring them again. Who will be the best Romantic Bookseller of the Year, or have written the Best Adaptation of a Romantic Novel, or is the Media Star of the Year, the Agent of the Year or the Publisher of the Year for 2016? Be the first to find out by being there.     

About Anne:

Anne Stenhouse, a graduate of the NWS, writes historical romance set in Regency and early nineteenth century Edinburgh and London. Her most recent title, Courting the Countess, is currently available for a mere 99p from amazon. Anne lives in Edinburgh with her husband and dancing partner of many years. They travel a bit and enjoyed a trip to Chile last year where they were guided round forests of endangered species by an expert from Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden. Anne blogs at Novels Now (she used to write plays) which you may find here.

Thank you so much for visiting the RNA blog, Anne. See you at the Winter Party!

If you would like to be featured on the RNA blog please contact us on:

Friday, October 21, 2016

LIZZIE LANE: War Orphans – A good idea!

It is always interesting to hear how author’s come up with ideas for their books. Was it something that had simmered for years? Perhaps a story based on an old family story? Today, author Lizzie Lane tells us about the idea behind her latest story and shows how many people are involved in that idea. Welcome, Jean!

We were having lunch at a very nice little restaurant in Covent Garden, my editor, my agent and me.
Food and wine flowed as they do when the final manuscript of a contract has been delivered and approved and another contract is in the offing.
That’s when the ideas get thrown about. ‘What do you think about writing about an orphanage?’ To which my answer was, ‘Not a lot. There’s loads out there already.’ ‘A Munitions Factory?’ ‘Ditto.’
Actually those were the kind of subject matter I had been expecting to hear but they didn’t happen.
Wearing one of her cajoling, sweet as honey smiles, she asked, ‘I think it would be quite wonderful if you wrote about a puppy.’
I nearly choked on my Pinot Grigio. A puppy? In a wartime saga? What brought that on?
Editors don’t make suggestions about the content of your next book without good reason. Before coming up with this I knew my editor had checked what was selling in non-fiction or with competing publishers, plus, most importantly of all, she had no doubt had a word with the Sales Department. It wouldn’t have stopped there. She would have sounded out anyone whose opinion she respected. In my case this might include her mother who is an avid fan of mine.
It’s all very logical. Rivals sales, non-fiction sales, her own Sales Department, Marketing, publicity and last, but by no means least, someone who regularly reads my books.  All are very relevant.
It turned out that on seeing the success of non-fiction titles, i.e. War Dog, No Better Friend, Judy: A Dog in a Million.
Besides all that, the old adage about writing about what you know comes into play. She hadn’t known it but she was dining with somebody who knew a great deal about dogs.
In another life I used to show, breed, train and judge dogs. It had never occurred to me to write a story about dogs and certainly not during World War Two.
To say it was something of a challenge was putting it mildly. The moment the lunch and the travelling were behind me, I trawled the internet for wartime incidents involving dogs. I only expected small things, dogs in military service mostly. I had not expected to come across one of the most unknown atrocities of the first week of the war.
A government pamphlet advised that once the war began in earnest, food would be in short supply and reserved for human consumption. There was also the likelihood of mustard gas poisoning or dogs going mad when the bombing started. As a consequence of these dire warnings, people panicked and pets were euthanized in their thousands, a conservative estimate is 350,000 in the first week alone. By the end of the war it was over a million.
My editor and my agent were both impressed. Neither had heard of this shameful piece of history. BTW the dog on the cover belongs to one of my editor’s colleagues at Ebury. His real name’s Louie.
Everything was agreed. Lovely! Now all I had to do was build a story around it.

Joanna is an orphan when she finds the puppy she names Harry. Her schoolteacher Sally Hadley is a joy but has no life outside of school and her father still grieves over the death of his wife. When Harry enters their lives, Joanna no longer feels like an orphan, Sally allows herself to fall in love and her father ceases to grieve for the loss of his wife. All down to a puppy named Harry.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chatting with Publishers: Dominic Wakeford

We welcome Natalie Kleinman with the second in our new series for the RNA blog, 'Chatting With Publishers'. This month Natalie chats with Dominic Wakeford, Commissioning Editor, Piatkus Fiction.

Welcome to the blog, Dominic, and thank you for agreeing to answer my questions.

Can you tell us something about your journey to your present job?
My first job in publishing was in the ebooks team at Random House, which just so happened to coincide with their publication of the  Fifty Shades trilogy – a baptism of fire! This was the first time I came into contact with the romance genre, and having recently completed an English Lit degree and studying the canon for three years, it came as a relief to work on engaging and addictive commercial fiction. After a couple of years at PRH I became an editorial assistant at an independent publisher, Constable & Robinson, who were later acquired by Little, Brown. From there I joined the Piatkus Fiction imprint in January 2015 as a Junior Editor and have recently been promoted to Commissioning Editor.

What is a typical day like as a busy editor – if there is such a thing as a typical day?
Most people think that editors sit around reading and marking up manuscripts in red pen – if only! Like most of my colleagues I’m glued to my emails for much of the day, but will try and fit in some submission reading too around meetings, speaking to authors and agents and tweeting about our forthcoming publications. When I’m working on a manuscript I prefer to lock myself away in our quiet room as we work open plan and so it can be quite hard to concentrate out on the floor. I also handle the desk editing for our imprint, which involves collating proofs and liaising with freelancers. If it’s a really good day, I’ll have a lunch meeting – my favourite perk of the job!

Have you ever wanted to write a book?
I’ve started a couple of things (in my iPhone notes!) but no, I don’t really think I’m cut out for it – which makes me respect what my authors do so much more. I’m a big film fan though so would quite like to try writing a screenplay.

When not surrounded by books in your job what do you like to read for leisure?
I have catholic tastes and don’t like to confine myself to a particular genre, but I’d say my preferred fiction sits at the commercial end of literary. I try to mix old and new, though of course there’s never enough time to read everything I want to. I’m a keen cook so will happily curl up with a cookbook as well.

What are you looking for at present?
I’m on the lookout for romance fiction of all kinds, as well as commercial women’s fiction with a strong voice, memorable characters and sparkling writing – books that allow me to escape daily life and be transported to extraordinary places. A particular focus of my acquiring has been bringing previously self-published authors onto the list, including bestsellers Tillie Cole and Kelly Elliott.

If you receive a submission that is not a genre you handle, do you pass it to another editor in your company?
Absolutely – one of the nicest things about working at Little, Brown is the collegiate atmosphere and so we all have a pretty good idea of what our fellow editors are looking for.

Does your company accept un-agented submissions?
We don’t, but part of my acquisition brief is to seek out previously self-published authors whom I will approach directly if there’s potential to work with them.

Do you have a crystal ball? What do you feel will be then next ‘big thing’?
I wish I did! The most interesting thing about the book publishing industry is how cyclical it is – certain genres which had been going down (paranormal, for example) are coming right back up again, which is great as we’re able to mine our enormous backlist and hopefully introduce old titles to new readers. The recent trend in sports-themed romance doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and it’s been refreshing to see the return of good romantic suspense as well.

If you have one piece of advice to give to anyone submitting a manuscript, what would it be?
Try to make your submission as targeted as possible, and if you see yourself in the same vein as an existing author on a publisher’s list, say so – it’s often one of the main things we consider when taking on new work. As I said before we don’t take unagented submissions, but if you need help getting an agent an invaluable resource I always direct people to is the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which is updated annually and provides a list of agents and their preferred genres etc. It’s also worth carefully reading the submission guidelines that agents and publishers include on our websites – it’s a waste of everyone’s time if you submit a romance novel to someone who exclusively handles non-fiction!

What a lot of very useful information you have provided us with, Dom. Thank you so much for joining us today – and if you ever want any guinea pigs to sample your culinary skills just put out a call to RNA members. I’m sure you’d have a lot of takers.

About Natalie:

Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romance novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in her current wip. She is accumulating a nice collection of Regency works to help with her research. You can follow her blog at

Thank you Natalie! 
If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Friday, October 14, 2016

Clare Harvey: The English Agent

Elaine Everest interviews Clare Harvey about her latest book.

I was delighted to be able to interview Clare Harvey for the RNA blog. Being present earlier this year when Clare won the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers, and having enjoyed her book The Gunner Girl, I was delighted to be able to read The English Agent. I can honestly say it is an excellent read that had me hooked from the first page.

 I asked Clare a few questions about her writing life.

Welcome Clare. Can you tell us something about your life and how you came to be a writer?
Hi, thank you for having me on the blog! I have three school-aged children - my son is 14 and the
girls (twins) are 11. One of the girls has cerebral palsy – brain damage that affects her balance and muscle control – but we’re fortunate in that it’s quite mild, so she’s able to go to the same school as the other two. We live in Nottingham, but we also have a houseboat in Buckinghamshire, which is my husband’s crash pad – he works in North London four days a week. My father-in-law has just moved into the annexe in the back garden, and we also have a German Shepherd dog, so it’s busy at home, but luckily there’s time to work during school hours (and sometimes at night, if deadlines are pressing…).
I came quite late to writing. Of course I loved reading and creative writing at school, but being an author always seemed terribly glamorous and out-of-reach, something that other people do, a bit like being a film star or a polar explorer. Then, after I’d been post-university travelling in the 90s, I picked up a job as a nanny to the author Betsy Tobin. She became a bit of a role model, because she was a mum, and she wrote, and she was a REAL (and also very nice) person. So I suppose my contact with her planted the seed that I could perhaps become an author one day myself.
I began writing my first novel when I was on maternity leave with my son in 2002. In between starting writing and getting published (in 2015), I had three children, moved house five times (two different towns in the UK, two different towns in Germany and also Kathmandu in Nepal – my husband was in the army so we were constantly being relocated with his job) and wrote four full-length novels, as well as starting a handful of others. I also took an MA in creative writing. Learning the craft of writing was a very long apprenticeship for me!

Your wonderful novel won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award earlier this year.  What gave you the idea for the story?
 The inspiration for The Gunner Girl was my mother-in-law, who served with the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in WW2. I never met her, because sadly she passed away before I got together with my husband. My father-in-law also served in the army, and one day my husband said, “Of course the joke was, growing up, that Mum had seen more enemy action than Dad.” When I asked what he meant, he said his mother had been on the anti-aircraft guns in London during the war, but his father, who was a couple of years younger, hadn’t joined up until after the hostilities were over. I had no idea that women were on active service in wartime, and I wanted to find out more. However, my husband said there was nobody from his mother’s side of the family to ask. He said there were no grandparents, aunties, uncles or cousins from his mother’s side – or at least, he’d never met any.
So, I had this fascination with the idea of women soldiers in WW2, combined with the mystery of how someone could ‘lose’ their background like that. I wondered why a teenage girl would begin an entirely new life when she joined the army? Had she lost her family or chosen to leave them behind? What part had the war played in her circumstances and her choices? Those questions catalysed the creation of the main character in The Gunner Girl, and the rest of the book grew organically from that starting point .

Will you always write historical novels or do you yearn to write another genre?
I wouldn’t say I yearn to write another genre, but I’m certainly open to it. The Gunner Girl was actually the first historical novel I’d written (the other three unpublished books are contemporary stories about women soldiers). Although The English Agent (out now in hardback) and my third – as yet untitled – book are also based in WW2, I certainly wouldn’t rule out returning to something contemporary, or perhaps a time-slip story. I also quite fancy doing something like historical crime – but there are so many excellent crime writers out there, that I’m not quite sure I’m brave enough to give it a go until I’m a little more experienced.

Do you enjoy the research for your novels?
I love the research. I trawl Amazon for obscure wartime memoirs and biographies, and YouTube for old Pathe news clips. The Imperial War Museum has some great online sound archives, and there are wonderful WW2 images to be found just a Google-click away. Hurrah for the Internet! I’m also a big fan of ‘optical research’. The English Agent is set in Paris and London, so I had a few days wandering round Paris, scouting locations, and a very long day-trip to London, again just walking around, seeing where things were. Going to the places you’re writing about makes you realise the story in practical terms (how long would it take a character to walk across Hyde Park, for example, or whether your character would be able to see the horizon from her apartment window) – but also going to an actual place engages all five senses, and knowing how somewhere smells, or the sound your feet make on the floor there, can really help make a location feel real when you’re writing about it.

Do you have a few tips for our newer members?
I bet everyone says this, but DON’T GIVE UP. I went through the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme three times before I wrote anything good enough to be published, and it took me thirteen years…I hang on to that Samuel Beckett quote: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."

Please tell us more about your latest book.
The English Agent (Simon & Schuster) is out now in hardback. I felt that one of the characters in The Gunner Girl had a story that wasn’t quite finished. I decided to send her off to wartime France with the Secret Operations Executive (SOE) because I was fascinated by the real life stories of the very brave young women who took on such dangerous work behind enemy lines.
I wrote The English Agent in a wild combination of panic and excitement, because I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to write a book in less than a year, but also thrilled to be able to throw myself into an enthralling new storyline. In retrospect my panic-excitement was probably the perfect state of mind for a novel about undercover agents in Occupied Paris!

What comes next for author, Clare Harvey?
I’m extremely fortunate that Simon & Schuster has signed me up for another two-book deal, so I’m working on my third novel at the moment. I do realise how lucky I am to get paid for doing a job I love, so I don’t have any grand plans, I just want to be able to keep on writing books for as long as I can.

Facebook: clareharvey13
Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth

                                                        The English Agent
How far will two women go to survive a war?
Having suffered a traumatic experience in the Blitz, Edie feels utterly disillusioned with life in wartime London. The chance to work with the Secret Operations Executive (SOE) helping the resistance in Paris offers a fresh start. Codenamed ‘Yvette’, she’s parachuted into France and met by the two other members of her SOE cell. Who can she trust?
Back in London, Vera desperately needs to be made a UK citizen to erase the secrets of her past. Working at the foreign office in charge of agents presents an opportunity for blackmail. But when she loses contact with one agent in the field, codenamed Yvette, her loyalties are torn.

Thank you Clare. We look forward to your next book.

If you would like to be interviewed for the RNA blog please contact us on