Many thanks to Cathy Mansell for inviting me to be a follow-on guest on this blog tour. If you’d like to find out more about Cathy and her work, you’ll do so on
SO – WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
I’m working on my third book for Choc Lit Lite. My first two, EVIE UNDERCOVER and THE ART OF DECEPTION, are set in modern Umbria. For A WESTERN HEART, however, I’ve returned to the American West of A BARGAIN STRUCK, setting the story in Wyoming, 1880.
Will Hyde and Rose McKinley, the older son and the older daughter of successful neighbouring ranches, have grown up together like brother and sister, knowing that one day they’ll marry and thereby unite their two ranches. Their families and friends know this, too, and are now wondering aloud with increasing frequency why their engagement hasn’t yet been announced.
Rose, too, has started to wonder why. Will loves her and she loves him, so nothing can stop them marrying. Can it?
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THIS GENRE?
Everyone writes with a voice, and no two voices are the same. My voice and style are a part of me and the way I express myself, just as the subjects I choose reflect my interests. I love strong stories, and I believe in telling the historical truth. My novels, therefore, tell page-turning stories – I hope – that grow from an authentic historical background.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
Because I love a good story, I’ve always been fascinated by history, which is the story of the past. I’m also extremely interested in the way that other cultures live. My novels are born out of these interests.
I have no interest, however, in writing about true people. I prefer to write a fictional story that owes something to a true event, or events, and to set the whole against an authentic background.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
I write every minute that I can.Real life (too) frequently intervenes.There’s nothing I like more than having a whole day ahead of me in which to write.Just me and the laptop.I might research; I might write; I might develop the plan of my story – I always firm up my plan when I’m about a third of the way through the novel.
Well, that’s me. Following me in this blog tour are Christina Courtenay and Alison Morton.
CHRISTINA COURTENAYwrites historical romance, time slip and YA contemporary romance, all published by independent publisher Choc Lit. She is half Swedish and was brought up in Sweden. In her teens, she moved to Japan where she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East. Christina is the current chairman of the RNA and her third novel Highland Storms won the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel of the year award in 2012. Her latest novel The Secret Kiss of Darkness is published next week.
Christina’s website is http://www.christinacourtenay.com
ALISON MORTONwrites Roman themed alternate history thrillers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history and lives in France with her husband.
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…
INCEPTIO was shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award and awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM in September 2013. The next in the series, PERFIDITAS, was published October 2013. Alison is working on the third book SUCCESSIO.
Connect with Alison on her blog http://alison-morton.com/blog/
It’s becoming a habit of mine, putting up photographs after each RNA event, but the events are so enjoyable that I want an excuse to look at them again, and I want a permanent reminder so that I can return to them in the future. Indulge me, therefore, and allow me to share with you the photographs I took at the latest of the superb RNA parties.
The venue: The Royal Over-Seas League, Park Place, St. James’s Street, London.
Waiting for the party to begin …
And the party begins …
Bowing out, but not with shoes – with BOOTS …
… and BALLOONS!
The RNA Conference 2013 took place in the middle of July in Sheffield, at a conference centre called The Edge, situated in Sheffield University’s Endcliffe Village.
As always, it was a superb conference – very inspiring and I came away full of new ideas.
Once again, I’m putting up a gallery of photos and I’m going to take a back seat and let them do the talking. They’re focused on people at various moments during the conference, and hopefully they’ve captured at least some of the warmth and friendliness which made the conference the pleasure it was. It’s the members of the RNA who make the RNA events the fun that they always are.
I feel it’s appropriate to begin with a gathering of the chocliteers. We are swelling in number, as you can see.
With what better signature could I close my RNA Conference photo gallery than with …
All there’s left to say is, roll on RNAConf14!
One of the most enjoyable things about this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival was meeting author Chris Hill and having a most enjoyable conversation with him. I thought that you, too, would enjoy meeting Chris, so here goes …
First of all, Chris, let me say congratulations on winning one of Britain’s biggest story awards, The Bridport Prize, and on the publication of Song of the Sea God, your first full-length novel, which has already been shortlisted for two national awards including the Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year prize.
Thanks for having me, Liz – lovely to talk to you on your blog having met you recently at the Chipping Norton Lit Fest!
Song of the Sea God has been described as ‘a visionary and delightfully bizarre novel’. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I suppose the honest thing to say is that the idea evolved. The book is about a man who washes up on a small island off the coast of England and tries to convince the local people he is a god. Perhaps it began with wanting to write about the nature of god and religion in people’s lives – what faith means to them. I’m not particularly religious myself and I guess I’d describe myself as agnostic – but saying that I don’t know the mysteries of the universe is not the same thing as saying I think there are no mysteries. So I wanted to write a book about the god shaped hole in people’s lives – with jokes.
The research for a novel that takes the reader on a ‘microcosmic wild ride’ must have created particularly challenging problems. How did you set about your research?
Well, I made some of it easy for myself by setting the book on the island where I grew up – Walney Island off the coast of Cumbria. That meant I knew where everything was, the geography of it was second nature to me which gave it a basis in reality.
But the characters and the plot are nothing to do with Walney or the people there. There was a lot of research went into the rest of the book – everything from how to do psychological magic tricks like cold reading, through to the beliefs and traditions of ancient religions.
I’m flattered that since publication I’ve had experts in some of these areas tell me they think it rings true. That’s down to reading lot of library books, plenty of research on the internet and so on. I think as far as research goes, it’s always best to know more than you put on the page – it should inform what you write, rather than cause you to regurgitate information like a school essay!
Which did you find the hardest part of the novel to write, and how did you overcome any problems?
The ending is pretty intense. The way I structured it, the book starts out quite calm and even light-hearted, then gets gradually darker. There are some genuinely disturbing scenes which I think work for the reader partly because of what’s gone before. I just had to go for it, in the knowledge that what I was describing was backed up by research and in the hope that my readers would be invested enough in the plot and characters by that stage to ride the tiger with me.
What is your own favourite novel, and are there any particular novelists who have inspired you?
Hard to name just one isn’t it? I suppose my first love was the work of the American novelists of the last half of the 20th century – now recently deceased. People like Updike, Heller, Vonnegut, Bellow. They combined fabulous writing, great narrative voices and amazing plots and characters.
The novels that Sea God most often gets compared to are different ones though – all great works of course and I’m very flattered. People have said Lord of the Flies, they’ve said Tin Drum by Gunter Grass, Perfume by Patrick Suskind, then there’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, The Magus by John Fowles, the list goes on. I can see what people mean with all of those. A curious one I had was someone telling me I wrote a lot like Magnus Mills in The Restraint of Beasts – but I’d never read the book. I have now and love it. How can you write like someone you’ve never read? I guess perhaps we had similar influences?
What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
I’m guessing you mean in terms of writing here rather than say, romantic rejection? I’m going to assume you mean writing. The first novel I wrote was a kind of thriller – it was me trying to be liked, trying to be conventional and popular. One agent who rejected it said it was too ‘safe.’ I thought right – next time I’m going to give full vent to my imagination, and nobody is going to get to call it safe. So I wrote Sea God – my tale of a would be god told by a dwarfish mute on an island full of magic. And nobody has said it’s safe!
Would you tell us something about your next novel?
It’s called the Pick Up Artist and it’s lighter and gentler than Sea God. It’s a kind of rites of passage book about a young man’s attempt to attract women using the PUA system of ‘psychological techniques’ which he hopes will persuade them into bed with him.
And lastly, a question I’m sure that readers will be asking, Where can we buy a copy of Song of the Sea God?
It’s published by Skylight Press and the simplest way is probably through Amazon. Just click here.
Thanks very much, Liz – great to talk to you! If people want to link up with me they can find me here:
As always, a fabulous time was had by all at the RNA Summer Party 2013 – the ambiance at The Royal Overseas League, the company, the food – all were lovely. But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself …
I’ll begin with the Joan Hessayon Prize contenders. Yes, that’s because I’m among them!
Yes, once again I’ve let my photos do the talking. Bye for now!
MANIC! That’s the word that springs to mind when I think of the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, held in Kansas City, Missouri, from which I returned last week. MANIC and FUN!! There was so much on, both day and night, that it’s hard to remember all of the things that I went to. There were three parties/balls/dances every evening to give you a hint of what the week was like.
I went to the event with a team from Choc Lit. To give you an idea of the sort of things we did, and the ambiance of the place, I shall share a few of the photos that I took with you, and I’ll let the pictures and their captions do most of the talking.
I travelled from Heathrow, via Newark Airport, to Kansas City, in the company of two other Choc Lit authors. Here they are in Newark Airport, New Jersey.
Upon arrival at the Sheraton Hotel Crown Center …
And so the fun began.
We were there to promote Choc Lit and to sell our books.
A taste of the Wild West at Rosie Gulch’s Saloon …
Gearing up for another day…
There were workshops. Some we gave, some we attended. A fun Choc Lit workshop, organised by Juliet Archer, tested the readers about their knowledge of Pride & Prejudice. With chocolate and cover models, of course. There was even an interview with Mr. Darcy at the end!
I ought to show you a glimpse of two of Kansas City.
Farewell from Kansas City!
See you next week, when I blog from the RNA Summer Party. Yes, with pics!
I thought I’d begin today’s blog with a photo taken in the Green Room of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, which was held 18-21 April. The Green Room is where the speakers and organisers gather between giving talks and leading workshops. As you can see from the above spontaneous, unposed (ahem) photo, we’ve paused in our conversation and are all reading Cotswold Life.
The picture was taken by Sarah McIntyre, who’d just returned from leading a workshop in which she and some highly enthusiastic children had created The Silliest Superhero on the Planet. The photos taken at her workshop speak for themselves. Click here if you’d like to see her photo-filled blog of her workshop.
To go back to why I was at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival last Saturday – it was to give a talk at Number 24, the Literary Cafe. My subject was writing a novel and how to stand out from the crowd when it came to looking for an agent or publisher.
As is my wont, I reached the cafe ridiculously early, having had a glorious, traffic-free drive through the Cotswolds. I arrived at about the same time as Chris Hill, who was to give the talk ahead of mine. Chris and I got talking, and I decided to keep him company whilst we waited for people to arrive.
Time passed very pleasantly. I learned that Chris’s novel, Song of the Sea God, had been shortlisted for both the Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year competition and the Yeovil Literature Prize under its earlier name of The Longing. A literary writer, Chris has won a number of short story prizes including the Bridport Prize. You can find out more about Chris and his writing by clicking here. He was a fun companion and I very much enjoyed getting to know him.
The social side of these events is very important, and after a most enjoyable morning, I wandered through the beautiful little town of Chipping Norton, which was gleaming gold in the bright light of the sun, and ended up at the Green Room, where I hoped to meet the organisers of what was clearly a festival with a buzz and to catch up with any friends there.
On my arrival, I passed Julian Fellowes, who’d just been giving a talk entitled The Story Behind Downton Abbey and who was now signing books. I went up the stairs to the Green Room, and the first people I saw when I entered were agent Carole Blake and author Liz Fenwick.
It was great catching up with Carole and Liz, and it was whilst we were all talking, eating – the food was delicious – and drinking that Sarah took the photograph with which I introduced this short blog. So that brings me round full circle.
All I can say is, Roll on ChipLitFest 2014!!
In the interim, I shall be going to Kansas City next week with my publisher, Choc Lit, to take part in the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention. My next blog, therefore, will come from Kansas City, Missouri.
Judy Dench and Ben Whishaw, on the stage together, a cast made in Heaven, and me in the front row of the stalls. Bliss.
The chance meeting of elderly Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the real-life inspiration for Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, with 30 year old Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the five brothers who inspired J.M Barrie’s Peter in Peter Pan, in the Bumpus bookshop in 1932, has been described as the collision between enchantment and reality.
From the moment that playwright John Logan learned that the two had met, he wondered what the real-life Alice and Peter might have said to each other, and out of this germ of an idea grew his play, Peter and Alice, a drama about literary identity theft – the unhappy notoriety gained from being written about in a highly successful literary work.
What did I think of the play, which is at present playing in the Noel Coward Theatre, St. Martin’s Lane?
Well, the acting was superb, as you would expect. The sets were magical, conveying both of the fairy tale worlds in which the fictional Alice and Peter lived out their lives, and the dusty atmosphere of the Bumpus bookshop, which framed the drama. The play, itself, I found a little long, although only 90 minutes (without an interval), which is a fault that I’ve found with several plays in the past few years. A dramatist needs to accept the point at which an idea has run out of steam.
Is there anything in this for a fiction writer, you may well ask.
The answer: two possible story ideas, and a salutary reminder.
First story idea. A meeting of two characters, who have something in common with each other, but who may or may not have met each other in real life. It’s a variation of the ‘What if?’ prompt. That Alice Liddell met Peter Llewelyn Davies is known, but no more than that. The playwright did the rest.
What about you? Can you think of two people, alive or dead, whose meeting and subsequent conversation/actions, would make a good story? If so, you have an idea from which to develop a story.
Second story idea. In Peter and Alice, the fictional Peter and Alice appeared on stage to question/chastise/rebuke/shadow the real-life Peter and Alice.
This added colour and interest to the drama and allowed us to see facets of the real-life characters that they might not have shown us themselves. A subplot in a novel can allow secondary characters to relate in a similar way to the main protagonists, thereby giving the reader a deeper insight into those protagonists. Using a subplot thus, which Shakespeare regularly did, gives an alternative to the author presenting the character in an authorial voice or through the character’s Point of View.
Salutary reminder. Every story has a natural conclusion. An author should accept the point at which his/her story has run its course, eschew the temptation to add words by waffling/padding/repetition/drawing out the conclusion till it’s long past its sell-by date, and write The End.
Peter and Alice is the second in the series of five Michael Grandage directed plays – the first was Privates on Parade – which are being staged at The Noel Coward Theatre. This was formerly the Albery Theatre.
All photographs are courtesy of Wikipedia.
The RAF Club proved a wonderful setting for the presentation of the RoNAs 2013. The room looked lovely, the wine and bubbly flowed freely, the food was delicious and plentiful, and everyone was warm and friendly. It has often been said that no one throws a party like the RNA, and this party certainly proved the truth of that.
I know you will have all seen the results by now, and will have been told how delightful Richard & Judy were, and that the charming Sophie Kinsella gave a lovely speech, so I’m going to stand back and let my photographs do the talking.
A friend of mine, ALISON MORTON, is today publishing her novel, INCEPTIO. I haven’t yet had the chance to read the novel, but I’m sure it’ll be a gripping read. As an introduction to Alison’s novel, I’m going to let you eavesdrop on our conversation. I’m the one in bold font.
Mega congratulations, Alison, on your Publication Day!
Thanks, Liz. After three years of slog – researching, writing, polishing – at last I’ve come to this exciting moment.
As you know, I’ve not yet been able to read INCEPTIO. Would you give me an idea of the story line?
Hunted by a killer, New Yorker Karen Brown flees to her mother’s mysterious homeland, Roma Nova. She breaks up with her new lover, arrogant special forces officer, Conrad Tellus, and finds a career as an undercover cop. But despite her new training and skills, she has to ask for Conrad’s help. The killer has set a vicious trap knowing she will have no choice but to spring it…
That sounds great. I meant to ask you, in the past I’ve heard you describe your novel as an “alternate history thriller”. How’s that different from a normal thriller?
Stories with Romans are usually about famous emperors, epic battles, depravity, intrigue, wicked empresses and a lot of sandals, tunics and swords. But imagine the Roman theme projected sixteen hundred years forward into the 21st century. How different would that world be?
It would be different all right! What first gave you the idea for such an intriguing novel?
When I was eleven, I was fascinated by the mosaics in Ampurias, a huge Roman site in Spain, and I asked my father, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?”
My father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”
Real life intervened in the form of school, uni, career, military, marriage, motherhood, business ownership, move to France, but the idea bubbled away in my mind and INCEPTIO slowly took shape.
So what came after writing the novel?
In my enthusiasm, I made the classic mistake of submitting too soon, but the replies were so encouraging that I rewrote the novel and decided to self publish, using bought-in publishing services with high quality professional backing – editing, advice, registrations, typesetting, design, book jacket, proofing, and so on.
What comes next, now that INCEPTIO is out in the world?
I’m working on PERFIDITAS, the second book in the Roma Nova series, which is about betrayal, both personal and professional.
I certainly wish you every success with INCEPTIO, Alison. I love the cover and I love the idea behind it.
Thank you, and thank you very much for letting your readers listen in to our conversation, Liz. If they want, they can find out more about the Romans, alternate history and writing on my blog: www.alison-morton.com. I’m also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor, and they can follow me on Twitter @alison_morton
My official UK launch will be held at Waterstones Tunbridge Wells on 12 March.
And finally, for your benefit, dear readers, you can add INCEPTIO to your bookshelf, virtual or otherwise, by …
… going to Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inceptio-Roma-Nova-Alison-Morton/dp/1781320624 and Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Inceptio-Roma-Nova-Alison-Morton/dp/1781320624