Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010 Longlist

Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010 Longlist

I'm so happy to discover that a number of authors writing sagas are amongst the longlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday, March 16th 2010 and it's sure to be a glittering affair. To find out more visit


and enjoy the details of the long list;

The Very Thought of You Rosie Alison Alma Books
Passion Louise Bagshawe Headline Review
Beachcombing Maggie Dana Pan Macmillan
Fairytale of New York Miranda Dickinson Avon (Harper Collins)
Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts Lucy Dillon Hodder & Stoughton
A Single to Rome Sarah Duncan Headline Review
A Mother's Hope Katie Flynn Arrow (Random Hse)
A Glimpse at Happiness Jean Fullerton Orion
10 Reasons Not to Fall in Love Linda Green Headline Review
Marriage and Other Games Veronica Henry Orion
The Glass Painter's Daughter Rachel Hore Simon & Schuster
It's the Little Things Erica James Orion
I Heart New York Lindsey Kelk Harper
The Heart of the Night Judith Lennox Headline Review
The Italian Matchmaker Santa Montefiore Hodder & Stoughton
The Summer House Mary Nichols Allison & Busby
One Thing Led to Another Katy Regan Harper
The Last Song Nicholas Sparks Little Brown (Sphere)
Last Christmas Julia Williams Avon (Harper Collins)
The Hidden Dance Susan Wooldridge Allison & Busby

Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010 Longlist

Congratulations to all the authors on the Longlist, saga writers amongst them!

The Very Thought of You Rosie Alison Alma Books
Passion Louise Bagshawe Headline Review
Beachcombing Maggie Dana Pan Macmillan
Fairytale of New York Miranda Dickinson Avon (Harper Collins)
Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts Lucy Dillon Hodder & Stoughton
A Single to Rome Sarah Duncan Headline Review
A Mother's Hope Katie Flynn Arrow (Random Hse)
A Glimpse at Happiness Jean Fullerton Orion
10 Reasons Not to Fall in Love Linda Green Headline Review
Marriage and Other Games Veronica Henry Orion
The Glass Painter's Daughter Rachel Hore Simon & Schuster
It's the Little Things Erica James Orion
I Heart New York Lindsey Kelk Harper
The Heart of the Night Judith Lennox Headline Review
The Italian Matchmaker Santa Montefiore Hodder & Stoughton
The Summer House Mary Nichols Allison & Busby
One Thing Led to Another Katy Regan Harper
The Last Song Nicholas Sparks Little Brown (Sphere)
Last Christmas Julia Williams Avon (Harper Collins)
The Hidden Dance Susan Wooldridge Allison & Busby

Saturday, 12 December 2009


Have just enjoyed an afternoon with my web designer, who has created a wonderful page on my website especially for Romantics. GHOST is my all time favourite movie, seconded by Casablanca. I now have two Utube teasers of these gems, a gorgeous love letter and dozens of very sensual books all leaping from the page. How lucky am I to have an equally hot techie to arrange them?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Austen the Original Saga Author?

What is it about Jane Austen that she can write such great books which are still giving people pleasure nearly two hundred years later? She really is the queen of dare I say it, family sagas! :o)

When most readers think of sagas I feel they define them by Catherine Cookson type novels, I know I did for many years because that's virtually all I read. (total bliss)

However, after watching Emma Thompson's adaptation of Sense & Sensibility for the hundredth time, I realised that before the late great, Catherine Cookson, we had George Elliot and the like, and before that we had the wonderful Jane Austen.

Now who came before her?

Did she start the trend of family set novels? Is she the one who makes us want to read the pitfalls, the tragedies, the love and dreams of whole families? Most sagas have a central heroine, yet supporting that character is a host of others, who we learn about, and like or hate them, they end up becoming just as important as the heroine.

To me, that is the true mark of a family saga of any era or setting. It also reaffirms my love of the whole saga concept and it also teaches me something about my own reading tastes. I realised that I don't read a lot of books that are centered just on the heroine alone with perhaps a small focus on the hero.

Modern day authors of sagas are writing of the times a long way away from Austen's time, like the world wars for instance. Yet, the concept is still the same. The books follow the journey of the heroine and hero but also those family members and friends around them as they grow and learn.

Going through my personal library I've discovered that all my favourite fiction books, whether they are historical or contemporary, have plots that encompass more then just the heroine. I enjoy learning about the secondary characters.

Am I just nosy, wanting to know about everyone, or easily bored by one person?


Friday, 6 November 2009

Eve of the Isle

"Eve of the Isle" is published later this month, a book that opens in the Great Flood. Young widow Eve Kumar and her twin sons are swept out of their home and into the arms of a young London constable. This is the opening - with the great green figure of Old Father Thames looming over the little family, ready to swallow them up, just as Eve's sailor husband was swallowed and never heard from again. Mystery, myth and magic float like the river's flotsum throughout the tale. I believe in all three and hope the island comes to life for my readers, lost in mist and the rising tide and the birth of a very tender new love.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Rivers return...

On a windswept day in October I returned to the Isle of Dogs with my husband and family and travelled the same streets as my characters in the Rivers books. Danny and his costermonger's cart, Billy and his bare knuckle boxing, Lizzie in her bomb-damaged grocery shop, Rose and her Coronation TV set, fallen off the back of a post-war lorry. I saw them all, happy ghosts, under the shadow of the magnificent Canary Wharf building. I stood outside "our" old house, also in its shadow, but now regenerated into an investor's dream. We stopped at The Nelson for a bite to eat and walked the dog at the local park, flanked by the bridges of the Dockland Settlement. My Dad walked with me in his invisible celestial garb, but I know he was there, recalling the days of his youth almost a century ago. Mum was at home, unable to make the journey, or should it be, pilgrimage? A promo-day later, we were on the train and returning...always returning, if not physically then in mind and heart to the Source.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Is the Book Dead?

Throughout September and October I’ve been engrossed writing the first part of my work in progress, which is a sequel to House of Angels.

You can read a review for this latest title on Bookbag: http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=House_of_Angels_by_Freda_Lightfoot

Sadly as a result of all this dedication, or perhaps obsession is a better word, things like blogs, newsletters, websites and dinner for my lovely David all get forgotten.

We did enjoy a few days break in London which was all very bookish. I attended a couple of meetings: one with the RNA where Freya North gave a fascinating and inspirational talk, and one with the Society of Authors where it was debated whether the book was dead. Fortunately it was decided that there was still life in the analogue, battery-free book. And why not? People still listen to radio, don’t they, so why shouldn’t they go on reading real paper books, and not just e-books? It’s seriously scary though that a college in Boston is selling off and giving away their collection of books from its library, apparently to save space, and turning entirely to digital. Do students no longer browse along the shelves, dipping into the delights a book might offer simply out of curiosity? Do they always know what they are looking for, and can they be certain of finding it online? And do they not realise that computers and e-readers are far more environmentally unfriendly than a book made from recycled paper? Read a printed book and save the planet. How’s that for a campaign? I love the feel, the smell of books, the sight of them stacked on my bookshelves, the promise of a pile of new ones by my bed waiting to reveal their secrets. Whether or not I am tempted to buy an e-reader, long may the book live.

Best wishes, Freda

Monday, 5 October 2009

Octavia by Beryl Kingston

I haven't read a Beryl Kingston book for years, but I saw Octavia a few weeks ago and decided to buy it. I enjoyed it.
Much is expected of Octavia Smith. Growing up a much-loved only child surrounded by family friends like George Bernard Shaw and William Morris, Octavia takes it as a matter of course that she will more than meet those expectations. Her childhood ambition is to change the world, but will the sometimes chaotic and often somber events of the early twentieth century allow her to?
During her university career, Octavia joins the Suffragettes, becoming passionately devoted to the ‘cause'. But will the arrival on the scene of the attractive Tommy Meriton give her passions another path to follow?
While the horrors of World War One and subsequent events threaten to tear apart her delicate network of friends and family, Octavia must choose how she make her mark on her time.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Salting The Wound

SALTING THE WOUND has been released a month early, and is now available to purchase.

I’ve just finished writing its sequel, STRAW IN THE WIND. It was one of those books that was a struggle to write, despite the straightforward plot line of a search for a third sister, who’d been given away at birth. The problem was, I had a timeline trauma somewhere in the middle and lost track of seasons. One moment it was winter, the next moment the heroine was plucking a bouquet of summer flowers from the meadow.

Oh dear...it isn’t just a question of changing summer back to winter with this sort of mistake. There is a tendency to have to trawl back through the novel tweaking things into place. The heroine has to put on her winter undies and her shawl. You have to change the crops in the fields, close the windows against the cold and light the fires in the drawing room and bedrooms. As for the evening activities you’ve written in, the leisurely strolls and neighbourly visits, have to be shortened and encapsulated within the daylight hours as you move your whole cast of characters back into the winter mode.

It took me three fairly detailed edits before I got this sequel book right. Okay, it’s my own fault for not paying enough attention in the first place. But sometimes there is a tendency to be a jockey. Swept up by the heart-thumping moments of the steeplechase of the story and characters you just keep your horse hurdling over the fences to get the race over the finishing line - and without taking time to look at the scenery.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

My third Rivers novel CONNIE OF KETTLE STREET is inspired by one of my Dad's wartime adventures. Read now a COPY OF AN EXTRACT FROM THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
This is the rather unusual story of LCI (L) Landing Craft Infantry (Large) as recently told me by her Commanding Officer Lieutenant William T. Skeels, RNVR, of London who before the war worked with the Port of London Authority. The tale has never been made public.
An LCI (L) may be used for carrying troops from shore to shore for short voyages or alternatively for short journeys from a transporter to the shore. Since crossing the Atlantic, No.179 as she may be called for brevity in default of a name, has taken part in the original landing in Sicily and four other operations in Italy. She has had her fair share of excitement and danger in the way of enemy gunfire and bombing and like all the other landing craft out here, has done a sterling good job of work.
Lieutenant Skeels described the evening and night before the Sicilian landing as the worst he'd ever experienced from the point of view of weather. "We hung by our eyelids and many were miserably sick. It was worse by far than the long swell of the Atlantic."
At 4.45.a.m. on the day of 179's great experience, dawn was beginning to break and objects on the hostile coast ahead were beginning to take shape. Filled with troops she was on her way ashore with a concourse of other craft. Soon after daylight shells from a coast defence battery were falling unpleasantly close. 179 beached herself and landed her troops, still under fire. Disembarkation was completed by 6.40.a.m. and the ship hauled off. Almost at once she was hit amidships on the port side of the waterline, the shell making a hole about three feet by two and a half feet. She tried to make water so was re-beached. The enemy battery had meanwhile been silenced by a destroyer; but not before the First Lieutenant and four ratings of 179 had been slightly wounded by shell splinters. It was surprising there were no more, as between twenty and thirty shells had fallen within twenty yards and the ship had been peppered all over by splinters…275 times - I saw a photograph.
Lieutenant Skeels then set about repairing his ship. As a temporary measure the large shell hole was filled with blankets, duffel coats and fenders, anything they could spare, beg, borrow or steal. It wasn't very satisfactory so they asked another ship to cut them a steel plate and having borrowed a drill tried to heel the ship over to get the hole out of the water. With his ship still on the beach that was found to be impossible. But extemporising a diving helmet for working under water out of a service gas mask, with air supplied by a hand foghorn like an exaggerated bellows, they managed to bolt on the plate somehow. It was while this work was in progress that they found the shell - unexploded - still inside the ship.

"Then we hauled off and took her out for a trial," said Lieutenant Skeels. "It was quite successful; a good deal of water came in but it could be kept under by the pumps. However, to make quite certain, I went alongside a ship and they built us a cement cofferdam inside. Then we went to Malta who took a look at us, but said they'd plenty on their hands, that we would do for the time being and sent us on to Bizerta where we were finally repaired by an American repair ship. Those chaps made a thundering good job of it, welding on the big patch and the 275 small ones. The old ship looked like nothing on earth when they'd finished."
"I like the idea of your gas-mask diving helmet,' I said to Lieutenant Skeels. "Who thought of it?"
"I can't quite remember,' he replied, "but it worked."

The King has approved the following award for gallant and distinguished service in the face of heavy opposition from the enemy for BAR and D.S.C to Lieutenant William Thomas Skeels…R.N.V.R.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Research - Land Girls

I often interview people when I'm working on a book, and they readily find time to share their memories with me of the work they used to do whether in the mill or munitions, farming or forestry, war or peace. With The Land Girls on TV this week, I thought you might be interested to hear about Betty, who I interviewed, among others, for Gracie’s Sin.
Betty joined the Women's Timber Corps, which is a branch of the Land Army, because she was too young to join the WRNS. The girls were trained by foresters too old to fight, and were allowed only a matter of weeks to learn how to do the job. She recalls that her first task was to plant larch and Scots Pine, which had to be one spade length and one foot apart. Later she went into felling. She used calipers to measure the diameter and estimate the height, mark each tree to be felled with a white blaze, then take it down using a 5lb Ellwood Felling axe, or the crosscut saw. These were for pitprops. For loading logs on to the lorry they had a three legged crane with wires, which worked like a pulley. Betty would stand on the wagon and guide the logs on board, checking that they were stacked evenly and didn’t fall. She was only small, barely 5 foot, but learned the task through common sense and practice.

Betty helped to fell a stand of trees on the far side of Loweswater. There was oak along the edge of the water and larch above. She helped build a chute to send the felled trees into the lake so that they could be towed across by boat. These were probably for telegraph poles. The forester was in charge and Betty said you did as you were told or you were in trouble. The trees had to be lopped and topped, then peeled and all the knots taken off with a draw knife. Stripping the bark hurt your fingers, and it was sticky underneath, creamy with sap. A lot of swearing would go on.
Cheese sandwiches seemed to be the main fare to keep them all going. There were blisters, aching muscles and sun burn, and the skin of her hands became hard and calloused, stained by the bark. Her clothes would be crawling with small brown spiders.

Betty worked for most of the war in Grizedale Forest close to the German POW Camp, which was strictly for officers. The POWs used to march up and down the road for exercise. They’d make comments to the girls and the guard would shout at them, 'Eyes front.'
‘We are German Officers and if we say we will not escape, we will keep our word.’

There was a machine gun trained on them the whole time but, of course, escape attempts were common, particularly when they were out working in the forest. If they could reach the coast they could get to Ireland, but none succeeded. They would all be caught later on the fells in a sorry state. Trouble makers were taken up to London in a blacked out car for interrogation.

Betty remembers that she had to have a pass to walk through the camp gates to reach the forest to work. There was a sentry on guard who would say:
‘Halt, who goes there? Friend or Foe?’
‘Friend,’ she would say.
‘Advance friend to be recognised.’
So Betty would show her pass and be allowed through.

Gracie's sin, in my book of that name, was only to fall in love with a German officer, but it wasn't at all the right thing to do.

The Timber Jills, as they were fondly called, worked from eight till five and were rarely allowed a full weekend off, with four weeks a year leave. Betty sometimes got a lift to the station at Ulverston to go and see her mother who was a seven shilling widow. Betty earned twenty-eight shillings a week, less insurance. Fourteen shillings went on board and lodging at the camp and she sent her mother five shillings. She’d be left with about 5 bob, and think herself fortunate.

After the war she worked in 22 different counties in three years from 1947-49. Then stayed on with the Forestry Commission as a cartographer. She drew maps so well that they were often used for publication and she made a career of it. Her memories are happy ones and she can still wield a 5lb axe even though she is now in her eighties.

You can see Betty, first in the line of girls, pictured when she joined the Women's Timber Corps aged just 17.
Best wishes,

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A sequel 23 August 2009

23rd August 2009

Hello Again. As I write the rain is streaming down the windows and this was supposed to be a long hot summer. In Scotland the school holidays start at the beginning of July so the children returned to school this week to begin the winter term. Usually the sun shines again when they are safely in their classrooms but that has not happened this week. Fortunately writing does not depend on the weather so I can continue my addiction.

I have recently completed the sequel to Dreams of Home. The next in the series is already with the publisher – Severn House – and will be out in January with the title A Home of Our Own. In this one two relatively minor characters from the first book have unexpectedly sprung to life. This was not planning on my part but I have really enjoyed writing their story and I hope some of you will enjoy reading it in due course. I shall tell you more once a picture of the jacket is available. Before then the manuscripts will pass through the hands of a copy-editor who scrutinizes it for any errors – factual, spelling, accidental changes of name or eye or hair colour. I try not to make these mistakes so I keep a loose leaf file beside me to note down details of characters as they appear, but mistakes can happen. After that we have the printer’s proofs which is the final stage before the pages are bound into books. I check mine line by line with a ruler looking for any words which may have been changed or the letters transposed.

Usually when writing a series I try to have one word in common for all the titles. In this series it is “Home”. Sometimes I feel it is mistake to write a series of novels following the fortunes of the same family in case readers cannot read them in the right order but each book is a complete story and most of the letters and emails I receive are from readers looking forward to the next story or asking if I could write another about one or other of the characters which has caught their attention. I suppose it is a bit like television soaps.

If anyone has any questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact me through my web site or on this blog.

Enjoy a little leisure with a good book. Gwen

Saturday, 22 August 2009

I thought I would pop by and introduce myself. I’m Jean Fullerton and I write stories set in Victorian East London- Jack the Ripper Country. I was born and raised alongside London docks and the whole area from Aldgate Pump in the West to Bow Bridge in the East is very close to my heart. When I found my storytelling voice it was only natural that I set my tales in the vibrate but poverty stricken streets in that part of London.

Unlike my friends on this blog I am a relative latecomer to writing. In fact, I didn’t know I could write until eight years ago when I was sent on an NHS stress management course- yes, fact can be stranger than fiction.

I now teach Nursing Studies but at that time I was a manager in the NHS. One of the recommendations to alleviate work place stress was to take up a hobby or do something you’ve always said you would do. I’d consumed Historical fiction of all kinds, Anya Seton, Jean Plaidy, Mary Stewart Catherine Cookson and many, many more Since my early teens and I’d thought over the years that one day I’d write a historical novel. Not knowing any better, I scribbled a plot on a sheet of A4, opened the computer and started typing. To my utter amazement a story tumbled out and after three months I had a 90,000 word manuscript and another story screaming to be told in my head so I started again.

Honestly, it took me by surprises when stories started pouring our. I’d done OK at school in most subjects but English was always a bit tortuous. I’m dyslexic and when I went to school, at about the time when the Beatles were tripping off to India, the condition wasn’t recognised. I was consistently bottom of the class for spelling, but thinking back, I always got top marks for composition so my inner storyteller must have been flexing its muscles even then. Anyhow, after I left school I did various jobs, got married, had three daughters and qualified as a nurse, never dreaming that I by 2009 I would be an award winning author signed to a major publishing house.

Of course, in between I spent hours writing, attending workshops, reading books on writing and received dozens of rejections from agents and editors before becoming published. My big break was in 2006. After writing over a 1,000,000 words my eleventh book, No Cure for Love, won the Harry Bowling Prize. I signed with my lovely agent, Laura Longrigg, and was offered a two book contract by Orion Publishing.

No Cure for Love was published December 2008 and the sequel, A Glimpse at Happiness, is to be published in November 2009. I am currently working on the third of the four part Wapping Series.

I still have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I’m not actually dreaming but what makes me spend hours bent over the keyboard typing and laying awake at night running plot scenarios over in my mind is to tell my characters stories and have readers love them as much as I do.

We’ll have a chat more next time about East London but if you want to have a look at some of the locations I used in No Cure for Love then click onto my website at www.jeanfullerton.com . There’s even a picture of me on my tricycle outside the house where I lived as a child. In No Cure for Love my heroine, Ellen O’Casey lives in that same house.

See you next time.


Tuesday, 18 August 2009

From Small Beginnings

Writers never throw anything away. As I tidy my office on completion of my latest novel, the books, leaflets, maps, photographs and newspaper cuttings give testament to that. Lovingly filed away deep in the back of my filing cabinet are my most treasured mementoes: early articles which put me on the first step of the publishing ladder. It all seemed so simple when, at home with two young children, I dug out an old portable typewriter and began to indulge a long-held ambition to write. My first published piece was called An Elizabethan Toothache, published by Today’s Guide in 1972. Goodness knows where I got the idea from but it began with a strong hook, ‘The Queen was in a rage.’ I followed this small success with pieces on how to pass various badges, how-to-make-its, crosswords, quizzes and puzzles, even a short story and a serial, all of which sold to the Guide and Brownie press, including their annuals. I was hooked. I moved on to women’s magazines and sold several short, snappy articles and longer features, particularly humorous ones. History fascinates me and while haunting second hand bookshops, I discovered some early copies of Woman At Home. This gave me a rich store of material for feature articles on such topics as advice to the lovelorn; etiquette; the fisher girls of Scarborough; fashions for early motoring; suffragettes; strange inventions, and beauty secrets of the Edwardian Lady. Fiction was what I really wanted to write but we were young and money was tight. I needed to get a job so, loving books as I did, I opened a bookshop. This way, I hoped to mind my children, augment our income and, in between customers, knock off the odd novel. Of such stuff are dreams made.

Almost ten years were to go by. The children, and the book shop, grew surprisingly well. The writing foundered. Sometimes, in the wee small hours I could be found scribbling but rarely did I send anything out. The old saying goes that it’s an ill wind which blows some good. Debilitating headaches which the doctor diagnosed as stress, forced me to sell the business and we bought a half derelict house out on the Lakeland fells. Doing it up would be a great stress-buster, I thought, then I'd write the novel. However, when the snows came that first Christmas, the mains water froze and we had no central heating, we discovered the truth. I had cervical spondylitis, a form of osteo-arthritis. For almost two years I was overwhelmed by pain but as I began to slowly get improve I made an amazing discovery. Writing is the best therapy of all, a fact which remains true for me to this day. With the help of a new electronic typewriter, (still no computer) and propped up by cushions, I was able to type despite being encased for a while in a neck collar and arm sling. I must have looked hilarious.

Oseo-arthritis is a chronic condition rather than an illness, so on good days when I felt marvellous, euphoric even, I would feed my hens, look after our few sheep and their lambs, grow fruit and vegetables. I even planted a small wood and learned how to make jam. All great material for amusing articles, which I wrote on the endless days when I was confined to the house and my family were at work and school. I wrote short stories, serials, a children’s novel, and a couple of Mills & Boon contemporaries. The aim was to send stuff out faster than it came back. Not easy, but I got pretty chummy with Postman Pat. ‘I’ve got a nice fat one for you today, Mrs Lightfoot,’ he’d say. Oh dear, I wanted a nice thin one with a cheque in it.

The day I sold my first short story to D.C.Thompson was a red letter day indeed. This was also the name of the magazine, now defunct. Following this breakthrough I seemed to develop the knack, or my luck changed for I went on to sell several more to My Weekly, People’s Friend, and My Story magazine. With renewed confidence I tried again for Mills & Boon, this time with a historical, and when they accepted Madeiran Legacy I was jubilant. I Used the money to buy myself a computer and went on to sell them four more. I'd served a long apprenticeship but learned how to build strongly motivated characters, how to structure a story, fictionalise real life incidents, put emotion on the page and make every word count. Only then did I have sufficient confidence to try for the mainstream fiction market, selling Luckpenny Land to Hodder & Stoughton the year I turned 50 on a fantastic three book contract. Since then I’ve hit the bestseller lists once or twice, with Polly’s War and The Favourite Child, and I’m about to publish my 24th historical saga. Persistence pays. I’ll maybe tell you something of my research methods next time.

Best wishes,

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Rivers Books

Hello again from Carol Rivers!
My stories are all located in the heart of the East End - the Isle of Dogs to be precise. This is where my family lived and the island provides all the material I need to write about. It all began when World War 11 ended. Dad was de-mobilized from the navy. He'd spent five dangerous years at sea and was eager to start a new life with Mum. But they'd lost everything in the Blitz. The East End was devastated by the bombing. Their house, furniture, belongings and possessions, all those precious photographs and letters, all gone up in smoke. Still, my parents were alive and together - and expecting me! So they left London for fresh pastures. Wherever they travelled Mum somehow managed to recreate the "Island World" she loved so much.
The first stop was the East Coast, the "Garden of England". Many Londoners spent memorable holidays hop-picking here. But I was lucky enough to have an aunt and uncle who owned a small hotel here. I was born and it wasn't long before my parents were off again, this time to family in Oxfordshire. My aunts and uncles were a musical bunch with fine singing voices and threw lots of parties. My cousins and I loved listening to the grown-ups getting merry as we huddled in our den beneath the table watching various sets of feet trip past accompanied by howls of laughter.
Dad and Mum developed itchy feet once more. Now we headed south. I was sent to a small convent where the nuns were kind and softly spoken, quite a contrast to my lively family background. One of the nuns, Sister Patricia, sat at a fabulous oak desk and daily placed a thick, creamy candle to burn on its leather surface. As she called the register the liquid wax bubbled down the sides and the bright blue Parker ink oozed from her gold tipped fountain pen. Her longhand flowed effortlessly across the page and I was hooked! I can still smell the candle, hear the rustle of the register page and see her beautiful slim fingers clasped around the pen. Now I often burn a scented candle as I write and I still arrange my desk, books to the left, pens and pencils to the right.
I wasn't a wild child but I adored the Beatles. All my first memories of falling in love are synonymous with their songs.
As the family has grown, so has my writing. The Millennium saw me writing LIZZIE OF LANGLEY STREET for Simon&Schuster, my first East End saga set in the 1920's and 30's. And this month number six arrives; the hardback of EVE OF THE ISLE, with the paperback to follow in November. How quickly time has flown and how lucky I am to be included on this list of esteemed historical writers!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Getting Ideas for Books

I’m often asked how I get my ideas. Basically, I don’t know. I just – get them.

However, there is one thing that regularly helps me get ideas for my historical novels – the books I read for research. I’m always looking for aspects of history that haven’t been exploited by other authors, so I read all sorts of books.

Some story ideas have been done to death and I avoid them like the plague eg woman unjustly accused is transported to early Australia on a convict ship, and makes good in spite of the difficulties. I heard one Australian editor say she feels sick every time she sees yet another story with that background.

I love to read about social history, especially ordinary people’s autobiographies, and I note down ‘titbits’ ie pieces of information which may come in useful. Not big information like wars and epidemics, but small details about everyday life in the past.

I’ll illustrate this by telling you how I got the idea for FAREWELL TO LANCASHIRE, which came out last month (July 2009) in hardback, will probably be out in Australia only in a special trade paperback edition around January, but won’t be out until the middle of next year in mass market paperback everywhere.

I was reading a book called ‘The Bride Ships’ about women’s migration to Western Australia in the 19th century. A very small entry (one paragraph only) mentioned that 60 cotton lasses had been sent to Western Australia to work as maids. The cotton lasses were desperate because the American Civil War of the early 1860s cut off supplies of cotton. They were not only out of work, but starving as there was no social security in those days, only charity, which might or might not be enough.

On the employers’ side, there were about ten men to every woman in Western Australia in those days, and marriageable women got snapped up quickly, so ladies regularly lost their maidservants. And who wouldn’t want to get married and have a house of one’s own, instead of working long hours keeping another woman’s house clean for a pittance?

I duly noted this titbit of information down, but it was about 10 years before I used it. What nudged me into writing a story based on it was reading the autobiography of a clergyman’s wife, who’d travelled to Western Australia with her husband in the early 1860s. That book was a brilliant find, because she travelled out on the same ship as the cotton lasses, so I had a lot of eye-witness information about that particular voyage.

Once I’d started writing ‘Farewell to Lancashire’, I also had to revise my knowledge of the American Civil War, read up on measures taken in Lancashire for relief of those starving because of the Cotton Famine, find out more about sailing ships going to Australia in that period – it was before the Suez Canal and also before steamships became common. Oh, and I also needed to know which parts of Western Australia were settled (with only 30,000 population, not many!), how people lived and made a living, how they travelled around in a huge country without any railways – just a few tiny details like that!

Another time I’ll tell you about the research I did for the sequel ‘Beyond the Sunset’. That led me down a few interesting paths.
NB This is the cover of the hardback. The cover for the trade paperback and paperback will be different. I'll add them to this blog next year.

Happy reading!


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Reviews for HEARTS OF GOLD - Janet Woods

A month after receiving a top pick review from the Romance Reader at Heart site, my current release, “Hearts of Gold” has just received a 4/5 star review from Julie Bonello at http://singletitles.com The whole review can be read at the website, but I’ll just post the comments part.

Fast-paced, suspenseful, intriguing and wonderfully romantic, in Hearts of Gold Janet Woods has once again written a captivating tale imbued with plenty of drama and emotion which will keep readers enthralled from start to finish! Set in Victorian Australia and England, Hearts of Gold is another winner from this most talented of storytellers!

Severn House UK
ISBN: 9780727867612
Reviewer: Julie Bonello

Saturday, 1 August 2009

From Catherine King

Hello from Catherine King! Why do I write? Well, I write because I love it and it's fun. I think I have always been a writer but I didn't know I was a novelist until recently, after I was offered a redundancy package from the day job. I decided to grasp the nettle and write a book set in South Yorkshire in the UK, the area I was born and brought up. The outcome was my first 'South Riding' romantic historical novel entitled WOMEN OF IRON, published by Sphere in 2006. SILK AND STEEL followed in 2007 and was shortisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year Award. That was great fun and I wrote a blog 'Killer Heels at the RNA' for the Sphere/Little,Brown newsletter.

The cover of my third title WITHOUT A MOTHER'S LOVE is featured on this blogspot. It came out in paperback last March and is available from WH Smiths in the UK, or from Amazon. All my books can be borrowed from UK lending libraries. I have just finished editing my next novel A MOTHER'S SACRIFICE, which is coming out in December; more of that in my next blog when I hope to be able to show you the cover. Meanwhile, I have some serious research to do for book five.

Kind regards to all

Friday, 31 July 2009

Why Do I Write?

I write because I must I suppose. I was a voracious reader from a young child and my head was full of other people that filled the stories that I made up in my head and wrote down as soon as I could. But for many years life got in the way of my pursuing this. I had a full time and very demanding job teaching, four children to bring up and a home to run and I told myself, like many others, that would write when I had more time to myself. Then in 1990 an operation to my spine went wrong and suddenly my teaching life came to an end and I was in a wheelchair and set to remain there for life, according to the doctors. We moved from Sutton Coldfield to North Wales in 1993 where we could afford to buy a larger house that could be converted to accommodate not only my husband and myself in a wheelchair but also my two young daughters who moved with us. The conversion were completed by the following year. Now I had all the time in the world, more time really that I wanted and I began to write in earnest. I was still coming to an acceptance of my disability then and the restriction this would impose on me as a person, as a teacher and a mother and and writing I believed saved my sanity, or if that is a little too dramatic at the very least stopped me feeling sorry for myself. I tried writing books first for the poor inner city children I had taught before my accident, then short stories for adults. I heard about the Romantic Novelist's Society when I won a year's subscription as second prize in a writing competition for Valentine's Day in 1995. And I found that this organisation does a unique thing in that it runs The New Writer's Scheme where, for a small fee, unpublished writers can post off their manuscripts for critical analysis once a year. I duly wrote and send off my first manuscript, which they said was good, but not good enough but, most important of all, the reader said why it wasn't. So armed with that critque I wrote and submitted another. This one they said was too long and if I lost 40,000 words I should then send it to Headline. I did just as they said and Headline took the book in 1997 and offered me a two book contract and I found out that the books I was writing were called Sagas. I ended up writing four books with Headline before moving to Harper Collins in 2001 and my tenth book with them will be published in Jan 2010. The last four books, "A Sister's Promise", "A Daughter's Secret", "A Mother's Spirit", the latest book and was out in March of this year and the one yet to be published, "The Child Left Behind" are all part of a series. They all stand alone in that each one is a complete story but they tell the individual stories of members of a family called Sullivan who come from Donegal in Ireland and end up in Birmingham and of course because they are a family their lives do intermingle at times. This theme of linking Ireland and Birmingham is a common one in my books and it is because though I was born and reared in Birmingham ,my parents were both from the North of Ireland, Donegal and Fermanagh and I was brought up steeped in that rich, Irish, Roman Catholic, culture and consider myself an Irish Brummie. As I began to write these stories of The Sullivan's, a miracle occurred in my own life which I suppose could be construed as a story all on its own. In late July 2006 I regained feeling and moment in my legs totally confounding the doctors. I didn't leap out of my wheelchair with a cry of Eureka and dance a jig you understand. I had been 16 years in a wheelchair and my body complained that it had to hold me up at all, let alone that I was attempting to walk about. It took about nine hard and often painful months as I journeyed into world of the able bodied and even then I wasn't walking really well. But I kept at it, walking my dog every day and continuing to exercise in other ways and now I can honestly say that life really doesn't get any better than this.

Getting Started.

I already had two books, set in modern times, published before I wrote my first historical novel. I wanted a change and to see if I could do it But primarily because I loved reading them.

From the Victorian age through to post WW2 has always been of interest to me. It was just over a hundred years of such immense social changes which fascinate me. There was the increased mobility of the population – the exodus from the land to the cities during the industrial revolution. The speed with which their lives altered with new inventions had never been seen before. And then there is the transformation in women’s lives – nothing would ever be the same again.

The chasm between rich and poor, the social hypocrisy, the rigidness of the class system gives endless potential for a novelist.

I was living in Cornwall at the time, in a thatched cottage overlooking the sea on the cliffs at Lands End – so Cornwall was the logical setting and its generic title was Daughters of a Granite Land. I intended to write a single novel but it insisted on becoming a trilogy - a saga.

Fortunately for me, during the war, I lived at Lanhydrock House a Cornish stately home. My mother had been in service there and was invited to return to help with the evacuees billeted there from London.

The house is a complete time warp, frozen in Victorian times, as were the Viscount and his two spinster sisters. I lived in the servants’ quarters, where cook and butler held sway, but I was also allowed to wander the other side of the green baize door. I was privy to a lost time and small child that I was I soaked up the atmosphere and filed away the information. So when I wrote that first historical I simply remembered my life in that lovely house, how the inhabitants spoke, their manners, their attitudes. It was all there for me. In many of my books there is a large house and it is always Landhyrdock.

Subsequently I have written nine historical. Now I shuffle back and forth between them and modern novels. I would be hard pressed to say which I prefer doing – I suppose the honest answer is the one I’m working on when asked.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

isle of dogs

The Isle of Dogs is a horseshoe of land that curves into the River Thames. Water surrounds it on three sides and Millwall and Cubitt Town are to the east and west with Poplar to the north. Queen Elizabeth the first was said to exercise her dogs here hence the name, but in the 20's and 30's my father and grandfather raced greyhounds around the island too. Whether they were ever successful at White City depends on ones view. For one of them broke loose from the track and somehow landed on the doorstep before the family's return. Another, Billy Boy, liked buses. My dad, as a youngster, preferred a quick bus ride to a long walk before school. And Billy Boy was only too happy to oblige. All this and more in the Rivers books.

Readers letters

I doubt if any author would deny that writing is hard work. It drains the energy both physically and mentally. However, the pleasure of writing usually outstrips the pain of frozen shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome, dry eyes and mental exhaustion that comes with life in front of a computer. The author creates a plot and the characters, and as they take their designated journey, a struggle takes place to bring them alive in a believable way. The characters themselves sometimes put up a fight. It’s as though - once you’ve given them life - they’ve decided that they’re going to live it their way, just like real people do. This independence of character is surprising when it happens, even though it’s not entirely unexpected. Sometimes, their meddling will take the plot in a different direction altogether, so everything has to be adjusted.

I didn’t know how much work went into a book until I actually started writing one. As a reader I had my favourite writers, of course, and usually, I either liked a book or I didn’t. Either way, I never thought to contact the author. Writing is subjective, but most published books will please some of the people some of the time. Rarely will they please all of the people though. If I didn’t like a book I wouldn’t write and tell the author. And having been singed by a rotten and totally unfair review, I would rather not review a book at all, than badly review one. But praise is always acceptable, and it surprises me now to realize that when I was a reader, I never wrote to an author with a word of praise, telling them how much I enjoyed their work. Rather, I took them for granted.

I do receive a steady amount of letters from readers of my books. I always write to the readers and thank them (it makes up for all the writers I didn’t thank in the past!) and when I can, I try and help them out with any queries they may have. A little while ago I exchanged a letter with Kath who lives in Rayburn, a farming community near Bendigo in Queensland. She borrows her books from the mobile library. Today, I received an unexpected gift of two coffee cups and a tea strainer dish in Bendigo pottery, to thank me for writing books that she enjoys reading.

I was very touched by this gesture, and it brought home to me how lovely it is to receive thank you letters and praise from readers. On the bad days when nothing I write seems to go to plan, it warms me to be able to look through the letter files and be able to find faith in my creative self again. So thank you Kath, I’ll think of your kindness every time I have a cup of coffee. And thank you to all the readers who buy and read my books.

Monday, 20 July 2009

When Did it Start?

I can never remember when I decided I would be a writer. I wrote stories at school, but back then I didn't dream of being an author. In high school I co-wrote a Mills & Boon story with my best friend, but even then, I didn't think being an author was my future. However, my head was, and still is, full of characters speaking to me. When I lived in England, high on a hill in a very old farm house, missing my old life in Australia, I would walk the countryside for miles listening to the characters in my head.

During a very difficult three years in England, reading saved my sanity. I lost myself in books. I was a savage reader and read continually. As soon as one book was finished I'd start another. The books I read where a mixture of Mills & Boon romances and thick historical saga novels. The romances gave me some lightness in my world which at times was frequently dark. The sagas, such rich stories of young women suffering from different circumstances, who then beat the odds, were the lifeline that made me feel I wasn't alone and if they could survive what happened to them, then so could I. The heroines in those sagas gave me hope, they shared my despair, they become my friends and I loved each and every book.

My favourite author at this time was the late Catherine Cookson. I devoured her books on a weekly basis, not going to bed until 2am, or until my dad knocked on my bedroom door and told me to go to sleep. Catherine Cookson had a style of story telling that drew me in from the first page. My favourite books of hers where The Whip, the Tilly Trotter trilogy, The Dwelling Place, but in truth, all her books touched me in some way. My mum would go to the markets and buy whatever CC books she could find for me. We were not only poor, but bankrupt from a farming failure, but she'd find a few pence to buy me my books, which (in my mind) saved my life. I suppose that sounds dramatic, but I'd been ripped from a very good life in Australia. I had the sunshine, friends, school, a nice house, family and money. We ended up in a 250 year old farmhouse with no running water in winter, our money gone, my parents relationship in ruins, and my mother having a nervous breakdown. I was 14 years old. Books became my life.

They still are to this day twenty four years later.
As I grew older and we moved back to Australia I started to read more widely of other genres, but my comfort reads would always be some form of saga type novel. I collected the entire Poldark series, and enjoying a series I found the Australians series, by William Stuart Long (Vivian Stuart) and realised there were some great saga type novels set in Australia, too.
It was only when I actually started to write my own novel that I slowed down on reading sagas. I was frightened I would use similar plot lines, etc. So I turned to reading medieval fiction and romantic comedies and historical fiction set in other eras away from Victorian and Edwardian because those are the two main periods I set my books.
Now I spend most of my reading time on researching, which is another great love of mine. However, I have relaxed my own rules and will now buy a saga again as a special treat.
I do buy Audrey Howard's books the day they are released. I have every book of hers and she is another author who has made me laugh and cry and who will always be listed as a favourite author of mine.
So, even though my time in England wasn't always ideal, it did give me some things I will always treasure, my best friend Samantha, the love of history and the joy of reading saga novels.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Freda Lightfoot's first post

Hello everyone, this is my first post on a blog too, and I’m delighted to join this talented group. I write multi-viewpoint sagas set either in the Lake District or Manchester. Regional differences seem to be fast disappearing in modern Britain, as are the old industries which created them, so I generally start the research for my novels by talking to the people who were a part of them. I feel privileged to listen to their memories: so real, so personal, so vividly recalled. Some of the subjects I’ve studied for my books have been the water industry, forestry, sheep farming, the Lakes steamers, travelling theatre, carpet and shoe manufacturing, and customs and traditions by the score. These stories of the social under-classes, the weavers and land girls, the ordinary farmers and folk of the hills and dales, the oral history of our past, is the life blood of my sagas.

My new one is House of Angels, coming in hardback in September, paperback Spring 2010. It’s set largely in Kentmere, a beautiful Lakeland Dale. It is 1908, and to all appearances, Livia, Ella and Maggie Angel lead a privileged life, with seemingly little to disturb their happiness. But since the death of their mother, their family home has been far from a quiet haven. Their bully of a father, Josiah Angel, who runs a high-class department store and has aspirations of becoming the town mayor, sees his daughters as mere bargaining tools in his property empire. Empty-headed, spoiled Ella is married off to a farmer in a remote part of the Lake District, but Livia, the eldest and most spirited of the three, refuses to be dictated to and suffers bitterly as a consequence. Having found true love with a man from the poorest district in town, she is not going to give in to her father’s wishes quietly. The youngest sister, Maggie, is not so lucky, and her young life is blighted by her father’s actions. When the sisters discover their father had an affair many years ago, which resulted in the birth of a baby girl, they determine to find their half-sister, and their search begins in the local workhouse. Mercy, however, is not so sure she wants to be found…

Best wishes,

Saturday, 18 July 2009

flu and Dr Tapper

Flu epidemics of all sorts come and go, but in London's pre-war East End, there was no vaccine to fight an outbreak of anything. There were countless diseases springing from poverty and all you had at your disposal were the coloured glass flasks of herbal remedies lining Dr Tapper's shelves. Each one held a cure or so you hoped and best of all, they were free. Blind faith in an old man riding a horsedrawn cab was your best defence against the grim reaper. From Dr Tapper's carpetbag came a brave philosophy on life; let nature be your cure. And my mum who is 91, still agile enough to shop on my arm each week and wink at the boys, is proof enough that faith can work miracles! Read the Rivers novels for more.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

15th July 2009 Gwen

Gwen Kirkwood 15th July 2009

This is my first attempt at a blog. You will see more about me and my books on my web site. Briefly I was born on a Yorkshire farm and went to school there but I have lived most of my life in Scotland and my novels usually have a rural Scottish setting. I often write a series of three or four novels following the same family. I enjoy weaving the stories through changing times and generations with subplots and minor characters which may become the main characters of a following novel. There may be sad or scary events but there is always an element of love and romance ending with optimism and hopefully encouraging the reader to await the sequel.

Dreams of Home is my latest novel about a young man who was forced to fight in the war but who dreams of returning to farm Willowburn, with his parents and half brother. In 1944 he is dismayed to find he is no longer welcome there. Megan Oliphant was a schoolgirl when he went away and she has written to him faithfully. He is surprised to finds she is now a lovely young woman with a bright future of her own and admirers who can offer her far more than he could. He begins the struggle to start farming on a government smallholding but the future seems bleak. He considers giving up his dream but a crisis almost tears their world apart.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Bastille Day

This should have been posted in advance as a sort of warning for those travelling to France who do not know that July 14th is sacrosanct, and don’t attempt it if you want to eat!

Last year we went to France on Bastille Day. As we bowled along we were thrilled at the lack of traffic and made quick time to our hotel near Rouen. We knew the hotel well but the welcome was not up to the usual standard, they were grumpy to say the least. When we asked for the dinner menu we were regarded as imbeciles. There was no dinner. A sandwich? No sandwiches. No problem, we’d get something at the supermarket. Everywhere shut!

The dinner we had dreamt about, talked about all the way from Calais was, eventually, one small Snickers bar divided in half and ditto with an apple I nicked from a bowl at reception.

The French are a constant mystery – they didn’t bat an eyelid at serving us a bottle of wine!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

FREEDOM’S LAND by Anna Jacobs

How it came to be written . . .

About three years ago, I saw a project advertised by a small town in the south-west of Western Australia. The people of Northcliffe (population about 1,500) were setting up a tourist attraction, an arts and sculpture walk, and wanted artists and writers to produce the material for it. I very much admire the way small country towns in Australia set to work if they need something, fund-raising and making things happen. I was tempted by a new and hopefully enriching experience.

I was fortunate enough to win a commission to research the local history and write a novella about a strong woman of the sort who’d been involved in creating the town.

This is a different type of Australian settlement story, because Northcliffe wasn’t founded till 1924, when the West Australian government decided it wanted dairy farms not forests in the south-west of the state. It offered land to ex-servicemen and others, paying them to clear the forest and giving them loans to establish dairy farms. The scheme was called group settlement because people were assigned to the land in groups of about 10-20 families, each with a foreman to help them settle in. Many were townies from England – and later from other countries – and knew nothing of farming.

People arrived before things were properly organised and the earliest settlers had a hard time of it. The ‘town’ itself at that stage was bare land with one building on it, the shop.

The more I learned about group settlement, the more interested I became in this fascinating episode of history. I visited Northcliffe to be briefed along with the other writers and artists. I walked through the remaining forest and spent time in the museum looking at household objects families had made from kerosene tins and crates. Nothing had been wasted. I talked to an elderly woman who’d been a child of one of the early settler families and I read every book of group settlement memoirs I could lay my hands on.

In the end my short story about a group settler’s wife came out as a booklet of 60 pages, and I was very pleased with it.

But it wasn’t enough. I had all the research and story ideas seething in my mind and I knew the group settlers deserved a much longer novel. New characters walked into my imagination, set up camp there and I was off running, the longer story pouring out of me as the shorter one had. I’m so proud of ‘Freedom’s Land’ and believe it’s made one of the best books I’ve ever written (46 novels published now). And I salute the group settlers, who faced hardship and built a town from nothing.

Janet Woods intro.

April 1st 2009
Severn House. UK
Cost £18.99
ISBN: 978-0727867612

1890 Western Australia. 14-year-old Sarette Maitland is orphaned when her father dies from a snake bite on the goldfields. Left to fend for herself by her father's villainous partner. she is rescued by wealthy adventurer, John Kern, and takes the place in his heart of his own dead daughter. Several years later he reluctantly send her back to England, to learn the manners that society expects of a beautiful young woman.
A short introduction. I was born and raised in Dorset in the UK. and now live near Perth, in Western Australia, a rather isolated part of the world. The above is my currently published novel, I have 23 others, historical romance, modern, but mostly romantic saga. I think (hope) that English styles sagas are here to stay, for writers like myself who love to work with sub-plots and several characters, as well as weave in a romance - and also for the readers who love to read them.

Welcome to our new blog!

Welcome to the Historical Saga Novels blog.
We hope to entertain, educate and encourage you to read not only
our books, but saga novels the world over!