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 . 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 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