Author Spotlight, Georgina Penney…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Georgina and congratulations on the paperback release of ‘Fly In, Fly Out ’ which was previously released digitally as ‘Unforgettable You’ in mid-2014, can you tell us about the journey to paperback, please?

It was all a little blurry to be honest. My husband and I were in the process of an incredibly intense relocation from Brunei to Scotland, I hadn’t slept for a couple of days. There was also a bunch of other dramas as well, none of which I can remember right now! But the gist of it was that my editor at Destiny emailed me two hours before I was due to catch a plane and asked if she could call me on skype. I immediately thought it was something to do with my plan to do a nudie run wearing the merkin my lovely fellow writer Cate Ellink had sent me not long before. (Editors are obviously prescient.) Instead, I answered a call to be told my e-book was going into print. Some hours later, once the shock had worn off and it all began to sink in, a bunch of people were confronted with a manically grinning woman the entire flight to Kuala Lumpur.

Fly in Fly out 500 pix

What is the most exciting thing about moving from digital to paperback?

It’s all so different but I think the big thing has been the reaction of the non-writing, non-e-book reading people I know. All of a sudden my strange little pastime feels more real to family and friends. Seeing them get excited I think has been the most exciting thing!

‘Fly In, Fly Out’ is part of a series. Can you tell us about that?

Fly In, Fly Out is the first in a loose series of stand-alone novels that follow the Hardy and Blaine families who all started in the same place on Evangeline’s Rest, a fictitious winery near Margaret River. It was originally only meant to be one book and then the characters got all uppity and declared that they wanted more so I kept writing!

You’ve recently moved from one side of the planet to the other, how did that go? What’s it like living amongst the rich history and heritage of Scotland?

Stressful when it came to visas, packing, religious policemen in Brunei and worrying about missing flights! But that aside, incredibly disorientating. The strange thing is, that because Australia has a heritage linked to the UK, there’s the assumption that things will be culturally similar, but I’m finding Scotland as unique and new as I did Brunei or Saudi. There are all these new customs to learn, traditions to get my head around, never mind the local Doric dialect! I’m loving it though. The Scottish are wonderful and incredibly inclusive. I’ve already visited a bunch of castles, hiked a wee bit, ate far too much haggis (haggis mash is the BEST) and gone all mushy at the herd of hairy “coos” in the paddocks near to our house. I can’t wait until summer next year when we’re hoping to hike up some of the nearby mountains.

Our Aussie summer currently has us sweltering, how’s the weather in Scotland?

Is ‘horizontal’ a good way to describe weather?

You’ve lived in many countries, do you have a favourite?

This is going to have to be besides Australia because I miss it all the time. I love some aspect about everywhere I’ve lived, including Saudi Arabia, but I’ve got a particular soft spot for Bahrain. The people there are so lovely. It’s an island so it has this unique sea-breeze smell all year-round. There’s a lot of history going right back to Gilgamesh butting up against brand new malls and skyscrapers. You’re never bored!

Your novels are set in the West Australian wine region, and involves a family of wine makers, what is your tie to wine? Did it involve much research into the wine industry?

I spent a chunk of my childhood in the Margaret River region so it’s always been there in the background. Later my now husband and I used to travel down south a lot, visiting wineries, asking a whole lot of questions about the wine making process. (That’s what happens when you’re with a guy who trained for a while as a chemical engineer!) I also had a bit of help in that one of my friends worked as a sommelier for a while and finally… a bunch of reading. And wine tasting. Lots of wine tasting!

You’re one of the founders of the Naughty Ninjas, what’s it like to belong to a group who combine talents on a blog?

Hilarious! Somehow we managed to team up a bunch of ladies who are some of the funniest people I know, who write some of the best stuff I’ve read in romance. It’s like we all gravitated towards each other, pulled together by our mutual desire to swear and cackle and the weird and wonderful parts of the romance and erotica world. On a more practical level, being a part of a group so supportive is simply brilliant, especially around book launch time. It’s great to know you’ve got a bunch of friends who understand where you’re at and how crazy-neurotic you are for that first couple of weeks the book is unleashed into the wild. If anyone out there is thinking of starting a group, I’d really encourage them to. The key thing is just not to take things too seriously and to have a damn good laugh along the way.

Can you tell us about your current work in progress?

I’m currently working on a whole bunch of projects but the most immediate is a short story for an anthology featuring a bunch of amazing chick lit writers (Carla Caruso and Laura Greaves to name a few) that will be out this Australian autumn.

What does the future hold for Georgina Penney?

Well, I never did get around to that nudie run for Cate Ellink… and I do currently live on a property out in Scottish wilds… hmm. Otherwise, hopefully some stress-free staying in one place and some writing! I’m also going to be lucky enough to pop down to Australia for the Perth Writers festival in February this year and I’d love to catch up with any fellow romance and chick lit writers. I’ll be the swaying, jetlagged blurry-eyed broad trying to look like she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to books.

Thanks for joining us today, Georgina, and congratulations again on the release of ‘Fly In,  Fly Out’. Could you give us a peek at one of your favourite parts, please? 

What the hell?’

Jo Blaine’s motorbike helmet bounced off antique pine floorboards with a dull plastic thud as she took in the state of her Fremantle penthouse apartment.

This was so not the way she’d left it when she’d flown out to her offshore oil job in Mauritania. No way.

There was a rumpled tartan throw rug and a pillow on one of her cream leather couches, a bright-red coffee cup—her favourite damn coffee cup—was sitting on her hand-cut glass-and-jarrah coffee table and the books in her bookshelves looked as if they’d been rifled through.

She took a step further inside, kicking a pair of expensive-looking, size-fourteen men’s leather shoes out of her way, and immediately felt a cool breeze against her cheek.

The sliding door leading to the balcony was wide open, letting in the scent of a recent summer shower on bitumen. The sounds of distant traffic and boats going up and down the Swan River filtered in, an incongruous backing track to her growled exclamation.

Definitely not how she’d left it before.

‘Hello? Anyone here?’ She turned back around, narrowed eyes searching for a coffee-loving, couch-sleeping, male Goldilocks but only saw her massive silver Maine Coon cat, Boomba, who chose that moment to waddle past with a pair of men’s undies firmly clasped in his mouth. His fat furry backside moved side to side as he disappeared into the kitchen, where Jo could see stacked Domino’s pizza boxes on the counter. Her temper, always on a short fuse after a long, sleepless flight, began to sizzle and fizz as she put the clues together.

She only knew one man with size-fourteen feet. That same man had a key to her apartment and was about to experience the flaming wrath of a jetlagged woman. ‘Scott? Where the hell are you?’ She called out her best friend’s name as she kicked off her steel-capped boots and reached into her pocket for her phone. She held it to her ear, hearing nothing but dial tone, feeling herself getting more and more worked up.

Boomba waddled past her again, chirruping around his mouthful. His expression said clearly that as far as he was concerned, she should forget her house invader, admire the thing he’d killed and give him a pat.

‘And what the hell are you doing here, fuzz ball?’ Jo reached down and plucked the underwear out of his mouth, throwing it away. ‘You’re supposed to be at Amy’s. Want to tell me what’s going on?’ The cat gave her his usual entitled feline stare and then butted his head into her shin.

‘You’re no help.’ She walked through the living room, kicking a pair of socks out of her way, and stopped short in front of the vibrant blue-and-green abstract painting she’d bought last time she was in town. It was askew, as if someone had knocked it, and she felt something inside her snap.

This was not cool. Not. Cool. Her house was supposed to be empty. Her cat was supposed to be at her sister’s and there wasn’t supposed to be a … man anywhere within a good twenty metres of her right now, even if he was her best mate. She’d spent the last sixteen weeks surrounded by Y chromosomes and all she’d been looking forward to was a blessedly empty, male-free environment.

Scott finally answered, his tone suitably shocked. ‘Jo? What time is it over there?’

‘It’s eight in the morning. I’m home. In Perth. Where are you?’

‘Home?’ Scott’s deep voice momentarily took on choirboy heights he hadn’t achieved since pre-puberty. ‘You’re supposed to be on holiday in Brazil!’

Jo squeezed her eyes tightly shut. ‘Yes. Home. I cancelled the holiday because I wanted to be home. You know, that place I like to come when I’m not on some rusting oil rig in the middle of nowhere? You know that place? The place you were looking after. The place currently being lived in by someone who has feet the size of yours. The place currently containing my cat, who should be at Amy’s.’

‘Ahh. Yeah. About that.’

‘Yeah, about what? What the hell is going on?’

There was a moment of silence and then a dull thud as if something had been hit, quite hard. ‘I’ll explain, but it’s probably better I do it in person.’

‘What? Why? I just want an answer and I want it now!’

‘You’ll get one … just … just stay there. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. We’ll get all this sorted out. I’m sorry, Jo.’

Jo scowled, turning around, taking in the disorder and feeling a renewed sense of outrage. ‘You bloody well better be. And bring me some goddamn coffee. I haven’t slept properly for days and all I wanted was to have a shower and fall into bed and instead—’

‘Ten minutes,’ he said with an edge of frustration in his tone that had better not be aimed at her. Given the mood she was in at the present moment, she’d be able to take Scott on one-on-one. They didn’t call her Krakatoa out on the rigs for nothing.

Jo hung up, looking around until her eyes settled on her bedroom door.

There was no way Scott would make it in ten minutes, let alone fifteen, and she was tired.

Shooing Boomba out of the way with her foot, she headed for her room.

The feeling of tiredness was blasted to smithereens the minute she pushed the door open, took in the contents of her bed and roared with rage. ‘Who the hell are you?!’

‘AAGGHH! Gnph.’ The very naked, very buff and all-over tanned blond man who’d until that moment been sleeping spread-eagled on her bed shouted in surprise, leapt to his feet, tripped over Jo’s cat and fell facedown on the floor.

Author Bio-

Georgina Penney lives with her wonderful husband, Tony in a cozy steading in the Scottish countryside. When she’s not swearing at her characters and trying to cram them into her plot, she can be found traipsing over fields, gazing and hairy coos and imagining buff medieval Scotsmen in kilts (who have access to shower facilities and deodorant) living behind every bramble hedge.

george

 

 

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Author Spotlight and Give away: Romantic Comedy novelist, Carla Caruso…

It’s a pleasure welcome  RWA Hearts Talk co-editor, and romantic comedy author Carla Caruso. Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Carla, and congratulations on the release of ‘A Pretty Mess ’! Can you give us the blurb, please?

Sure thing! Here goes… A neat-freak professional organiser – Celeste Pretty – gets caught up in a messy mystery with a sexy builder (Lenny Muscat)! It’s set in the ritzy side of town. Celeste has just started a business de-cluttering people’s homes and offices for a living and her first client is a health and fitness guru in the vein of Lorna Jane and Michelle Bridges, who isn’t quite as clean-living as she seems… It’s actually the first title in my ‘Astonvale’ rom-com mystery series.

A Pretty Mess by Carla Caruso

You write Romantic Comedy, where did your love of the Rom Com come from?

I think it’s because my parents liked pretty fluffy movies and sitcoms themselves (and the ABC). I never watched scary, dark movies at home – The Wizard of Oz was about the scariest! I remember going to see The Fugitive at the cinema with school friends once and I was terrified. I couldn’t believe that was the type of thing other people willingly watched. Yes, I was a little sheltered… From there, my love for rom-coms, starring Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson and co., just bloomed!

What are the elements of a strong Rom Com? How do the characters/plots differ from contemporary romances?

Humour! There’s got to be a good dose of the funnies in rom-coms. I think it’s also the style they’re written in – they’re a little lighter and less emotionally-heavy, but more like real-life in that way. The emotion is understated, but maybe even hits harder because of this. I guess the characters can still be the same as in contemporaries – a sassy female and an alpha male, but they don’t take themselves too seriously and have a certain amount of cheekiness to them.

Unlucky for Some by Carla Caruso

In your opinion, what is the difference between Romantic Comedy and Chick Lit?

I think rom-coms still centre around the romance and can include the points-of-view of both the hero and heroine. With chick-lit, career, family and a whole bunch of other stuff might come before the romance, and they’re usually only told from the woman’s point-of-view. And chick-lit doesn’t necessarily have to finish with a happy ending either, especially if it’s hipster-cool ha!

‘Cityglitter’ and ‘Second Chance’ have elements of fantasy/magic in them (Romagic!), from where do you get your inspiration to write these stories?

It’s funny because I don’t read or watch anything that is ‘high fantasy’, but in the early days I kept coming up with these chick-litty stories with a sprinkling of magic in them. (Cityglitter is about a glam city-slicker fairy who does the one thing she swore she’d never do: fall in love with a human. In Second Chance, the heroine accidentally time-travels back to the nineties and has a chance to correct her past.)

It wasn’t until I recently read about ‘romagic’ that I thought, ‘Aha! That’s where those books fit’, because I veered away from that kind of style as I didn’t really know how to find the right audience. They didn’t seem to fit a neat box. But I do love romagic films, like 17 Again and Big, and my favourite author, Sophie Kinsella, has dabbled in the style, and knowing ‘romagic’ is hot now, I feel ready to revisit it!

snd chance        city glittle

List your top 5 Rom Com movies or TV shows, and tell us why they are your favourites.

  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey – out in 2003, this was when rom-coms really surged in popularity and I was 24 (you do the maths haha!), so it was a prime time of my life.
  • Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon and Josh Lucas – this is such a ‘comfort’ flick for me… the cityslicker going back to her hometown… and I love the theme song!
  • The Wedding Planner – love-love Jennifer Lopez!
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic – because I adore writer Sophie Kinsella (and Isla Fisher!)
  • Any Sex & the City movie or TV show – not technically a romcom, but they all have humour and romance, and SATC was really influential for me!

You are a busy mum to twin boys, co-editor of the RWA Hearts Talk and an author of 6 books. How do you manage to do everything?

A few things! My boys are currently 14 months old and now do a three-hour day nap. Simultaneously. It’s insane. So I’ve finally got a good chunk of time to write. And I’m starting to see the benefit of having twins, now they’re a wee bit older, because they’re happy to babble to each other and look at books in their cots for a while before yelling out for me.

Then I do a little more typing at night once they go down at 7pm. My hubby also works out of home as a freelance photographer, so we share the parenting, which helps my energy levels! Plus, I think because I only have limited time to write – i.e. when the boys sleep – it makes me more diligent about using the precious time I do have. (We’re not using childcare currently.) I wouldn’t want to work like this forever, though, because I miss watching trashy TV shows and socialising more at night!

Can you tell us about your WIP?

I’m actually writing the third book in the Astonvale series, involving Celeste Pretty and Lenny Muscat again. Book 3 also provides the points-of-view of Celeste’s nemesis, Imogen Karmel, and Imogen’s love interest! It’s called Pretty Famous and involves a prestigious high school, a mystery that harks back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, a Grace Kelly wannabe, and a possible secret prince!

Pretty Shore by Carla Caruso - out Dec

Are there any other genres you’d like to move into? What does the future hold for Carla Caruso?

I would actually like to try young-adult or middle-grade. I’ve been told I have a ‘young’ style of writing voice (immature some might say) and I’ve had a series idea that has been bouncing around in my head for a while, which I wouldn’t mind giving a crack once I meet my next few deadlines!

Thanks so much for joining us today, Carla. Before you go, could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘A Pretty Mess’, please?

Okay, this is a little bit from the ‘meet-cute’. Right after Celeste Pretty – a neat-freak professional organiser – gags on a mouthful of dust from an industrial extraction fan on her way to meet her first client…

‘Power-walking anywhere in particular?’ a deep voice cut through the air. Through the banging and hammering.

Celeste looked up and into the coal-black eyes of an Adonis. An Adonis in a dirt-stained grey tee, cargo shorts and steel-capped boots. The coal-black eyes — which matched the healthy head of mid-length, wavy hair and faint stubble — were shielded by clear safety glasses. He was pushing a wheelbarrow of bricks, flaunting biceps like Rafael Nadal and sturdy, muscular legs like, well, Serena Williams — in an entirely good way. The mouthful of dust lodged in Celeste’s throat. She couldn’t decide whether she wanted to scrub the guy or jump him, even though clean-cut men were her usual type…

Author Bio

Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop. These days, she plays mum to twin boys Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James. A Pretty Mess is her fifth novel.

Carla Caruso - author pic

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Carla is kindly providing a give away of one ebook copy of ‘A Pretty Mess’: An Astonvale Novel #1 (an ITunes voucher)

To be in the running, all you need to do is answer the question below:

 What area of your house do you find most difficult to keep clutter-free? And how do you hide it from guests?

This competition is open world wide and will be drawn one week from posting date. The winner will be notified via email so please ensure that we can contact you!

 

A Day in the Writing Life of Sara Donovan

SusanDonovanakaSaraDonovanphotoLet’s welcome Sara Donovan to the RWA blog. She’s just had her new book published.

In one or two sentences, please tell us what genre you write in and what made you decide that particular one is your calling. I thought of my genre as chick-lit when I was writing Love By Numbers, but when I got The Call from the fiction editor at HarperCollins, she called my novel a romantic comedy – a term I associate with movies. Since my life is like an accidental romcom movie most of the time anyway (that’s a story and a half) and I wrote my book as if it were a film (my dream), telling myself I write romantic comedies really floats my boat.

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer? Despite being a morning person everywhere else in my life, my best writing happens late at night – and I mean very late at night – from 1.30 am onwards. In fact, I often have my best ideas at about 3.30 am. I think the combination of tiredness and regular dark-chocolate-induced serotonin hits makes it easier for me to be open to ideas from my subconscious. Plus I’m more relaxed in the early hours of the morning because I knew no-one is going to interrupt me to tell me I’m being obsessive (because they’re all asleep).

Where do you write? Do you have your own special place? Does the location vary? I have a special space. It’s the home office of my day job but I have filled it with things that inspire me as a writer (landscapes, inspiring quotes and pictures of hero’s and heroine’s I love). I feel yummy and identify with being a writer when I look around at all my stuff.

Is there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse? Love poetry by the stalwarts gets me in the mood (you know – William Blake, Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Rumi). I sometimes ask my muse (my husband – who also does all the cooking and cleaning when I write. What a guy!!) to look me in the eye with ‘that look’ then kiss me. That gets me in the mood for love and writing about love. In case, that sounded too perfect, we often fight like cats and dogs.

What’s the first think you do before you begin to write? I do mindfulness practice for a minute before I write ie I close my eyes and track everything I can feel, hear, smell, touch; at the same time, ensuring I bring a curiosity and benign attention to everything that shows up.

Do you spend much time reading over the previous day’s work? Do you have a special system in place in order to begin writing or go with the flow? I write new scenes late at night and/or first thing when I get up, and I edit in the afternoons and early evenings. I can’t go to the next scene until I’m sure the previous scene expresses what I want it to express. What that really means is I’m terrified the last scene has failed and I don’t trust myself or the process enough to move on until I’m sure enough that it hasn’t. (Maybe this will change one day).

Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser? Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms? I plot my stories to the last detail and edit as I go. Being a planner doesn’t mean you don’t have pantser moments (and vice versa I’m sure). I still get lots of surprises popping in my head as I execute my plan. The piece of my writing that particularly seems spontaneous, is the comedy. Most of that shows up as I write, which is a hoot.

Do you have a schedule that you follow for your writing time? Are you a goal setter with your writing? I work to deadlines, which I guess is the same thing as goals. The threat (or fear) of missing the deadline helps me focus.

Do you use whiteboards, posters, visual aids to help in your creativity? I use whiteboards, mind maps, posters, visual aids, music, paintings and poetry to help me in my creativity.

Do you give yourself any writing rewards for achieving goals? What a bloody great idea. Should do!!

Do you take time out to stretch, rest your eyes etc and if so do you do any exercises at your desk or between sessions? No. I’m totally obsessive when I’m in the throes of writing and even resent going to the toilet, let alone stretching or anything as sensible as that.

Can you name five objects that are always on or near your work desk while you write? Inspiring quotes, my butcher paper, bright colour scented pens (so the mind maps on my butcher paper look pretty), my blue-tooth earpiece so I can dictate straight onto my computer if I notice I’m censoring too much and several hard copies of my scene construction template.

Is your writing space messy, organized or somewhere in between? Are you prepared to show evidence of your claim with a desk photo? SaraDonovanworkingspace My work space is busy, but organized and depending on how much research I need to do, ends up chaotic.

What is your favourite form of procrastination? Do you have any tips to beat off that old foe “procrastination”? Cleaning the house is my favourite form of procrastination. My best remedy is reading a particular Stephen King quote over and over (the hardest time is just before you start…) until one of two things happens. I actually start, or I work out what I don’t know that I need to know to start, in which case I research.

What’s the last thing you do before you finish your daily writing session? Read over a bit I particularly like. May as well. It’ll probably make me cringe the next day.

Thanks Sara! You can find Sara’s links below.

www.saradonovan.com

Love by Numbers

COV_LoveByNumbers_CD2 (1)A blurb about my new release: How to Fall in Love with (Almost) Anyone in Seven Easy Steps Choose an available friend who doesn’t turn you off, and rewire your brains for a hot and heavy romance.

1. Get emotional together while watching a sad movie.

2. Share an adrenaline rush by jumping out of a plane.

3. Show how competent you are at something, but don’t make a big deal of it.

4. Have him bring home food from the hunt — a good restaurant will do.

5. Eye gaze in bed without talking until it doesn’t feel weird.

6. Role-play each other’sprimal fantasies within reason and without judgement.

7. Sleep together like stacked spoons. Repeat the above until love and lust kick in. Then when they do, send your attraction into overdrive by not seeing each other. That’s when things really get cooking.

A Day in the Writing Life of Laura Greaves

Laura Greaves_ColourAway we go with another profile of a newish RWA member!

In one or two sentences, please tell us what genre you write in and what made you decide that particular one is your calling.
My novel, Be My Baby, would be classified as chick lit (though I must admit I prefer ‘romantic comedy’, as I’m a little mystified as to why funny, warm stories about love, friendship and family are seen as the exclusive domain of ‘chicks’!) I adore chick lit novels because they’re pacy, modern and frequently hilarious. And while they’re definitely romantic, chick lit stories are just as interested in life’s other key relationships as they are with boy-meets-girl, which is why I find them so easy to relate to.

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer?
I have a five-month-old baby, so these days I’m an ‘anytime the kid’s asleep’ writer! But if given the choice I always prefer to write in the afternoon, because I’ll (theoretically) have taken care of the day’s admin and chores in the morning and will have nothing but my characters vying for my attention for a few hours.

What’s the first thing you do before you begin to write?
I always write a loose outline of my entire story, so before starting to write each day I’ll skim-read the previous few paragraphs and then consult my outline to refresh my memory about what’s coming next. Then I pop my feet up and away I go!

Are you a plotter/planner or a pantser? Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms?
I’m a little bit of both. I like to write a broad outline of the whole story because it helps me keep the finer details straight in my mind, but invariably my characters will take on a life of their own and march off in completely unexpected directions. I wrote most of Be My Baby while commuting to and from work by ferry, and I remember one morning my main character, Anna, doing something I that hadn’t anticipated, but that was entirely logical. I suddenly shouted, ‘Of course!’ – much to the amusement of my fellow passengers! I always edit as I go – my journalist’s soul won’t let me leave an errant comma or spelling mistake until the end!

Do you have a schedule that you follow for your writing time? Are you a goal setter with your writing?
I am definitely a goal setter; I have to be, because I am a world-class procrastinator. And because my background is in journalism, I also find it really tough to get anything finished without a deadline. With Be My Baby, my writing had been so sporadic for so long that I finally set myself the deadline of my birthday that year to complete the first draft – and it worked. I started writing my current novel while pregnant, and vowed to hit 60,000 words before my daughter arrived. I got there in the nick of time!

Can you name five objects that are always on or near your work desk while you write?
I have a picture rail above my desk that is cluttered with inspiring images – everything from snaps of my dogs to photos taken on my travels. I also have a big, beautiful chunk of quartz crystal given to me by a family friend when I was a child; it’s supposed to promote energy and clarity of thought, which I figure are handy to have when writing! Then there’s my special red sandstone pebble from the beach on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, which is the setting of my all-time favourite book, Anne of Green Gables. And importantly, a mug full of pens and lots of scrap paper – I write on a laptop, but I always find myself needing to make notes.

Is your writing space messy, organized or somewhere in between? Are you prepared to show evidence of your claim with a desk photo? Laura Greaves photo
Sigh. I wish it was organised, but the state of my writing space can usually be described as organised chaos. I’m one of those terrible writers who will allow the surface of her desk to slowly disappear beneath piles of paper and junk, to the extent that I’m often forced to relocate to the sofa or dining table (anything rather than clean it!). Every now and then I’ll have a big purge and tidy-up and vow never to be so slothful again. This usually lasts about three minutes.

Thanks Laura!

You can find Laura at her links below.
www.lauragreaves.com

www.facebook.com/lauragreaveswritesbooks

Laura GreavesBMB_Hi-resBe My Baby by Laura Greaves, published by Destiny Romance.

Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, Search for Be My Baby in the iTunes book store.

Women’s Fiction

Please Note: This article first appeared in RWA’s official monthly newsletter,
Hearts Talk, in April, 2010. Due to the passage of time, some information in the
article may no longer be relevant. Please ensure you research your chosen genre
thoroughly before submitting.

Women’s fiction – Wow! We could write a 100,000 word thesis debating what the words, Women’s Fiction mean. It’s a tricky category because while Women’s Fiction appears broad, many writers don’t like being pigeon-holed, I guess for fear of alienating potential buyers and readers of their books.

 New York Times Bestselling author Nora Roberts says, ‘Women’s Fiction is a story that centres on a woman or on primarily women’s issues, not necessarily the romantic relationship based books that I do, but the women’s story.’

Broadly speaking, Women’s Fiction is an umbrella term for a wide-ranging collection of genres including romance, chick-lit, mystery, fantasy and hen-lit. However, Jessica Faust, a literary agent with Bookends LLC, says that genre definitions are ‘fluid’ and that definitions change with the market and the times. ‘Years ago, there was a very clear line between what was considered romance and what was considered fantasy,’ Faust says. But now, ‘books that were previously considered strictly fantasy are now finding their way into the romance section at bookstores and vice versa.’

Bearing in mind fluid definitions, what does it take to write a Women’s Fiction novel? Let’s start with chick-lit.

Chick-lit:

It’s widely accepted that Helen Fielding kicked off the modern day chick-lit phenomenon in 1996 with the publication of  Bridget Jone’s Diary, a witty, first-person look at single life told through the eyes of twentysomething Bridget. Since then there’s been a flood of chick-lit books, the most popular of these being made into movies. Examples include Sophie Kinsella’s, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Lauren Weisberger’s, The Devil Wears Prada, and Jennifer Weiner’s, In Her Shoes.

Generally, these books have several of the following elements:

  • The heroine, usually in her twenties, is either looking for Mr. Right or getting over Mr. Wrong.
  •  She’s looking for the perfect job.
  • The tone is often light and funny.
  • The story usually is told in the first person.
  • By novel’s end, the heroine usually has worked out all (or most of) her problems and has learned important lessons about life.

As for the term ‘chick-lit’, it has its fair share of fans and detractors. Jennifer Weiner says that chick-lit is ‘something that says chicky, fluffy, inconsequential, of no importance and no literary quality.’ While Shopaholic series author, Sophie Kinsella, who has more than 7 million copies of her six books in print, says she’s not bothered by the label. ‘To my mind, it means a fun, light book, often with humour, often featuring a contemporary heroine that women of today can relate to, often addressing an issue of today.’

What’s In A Name?

Regarding chick-lit, Jessica Faust says, ‘A few years ago it was the hottest thing going and every bookstore displayed a sea of pink martini glasses. Now, just a few short years later, the term chick-lit is taboo and not to be spoken of ever again. However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t write a light, humorous book about a young woman in an urban setting.’

Confused Yet?

Marian Keyes, an Irish novelist often dubbed the ‘reigning Queen of British chick-lit’, has written ten novels including The Charming Man and Anybody out there? and has sold over twenty-three million copies of her her books world-wide.

Her tone is chatty, conversational, funny and generally written in first person but I wouldn’t say her books are primarily set on finding Mr. Right, or about losing weight and finding the perfect shoes.

Keyes books deal variously with modern ailments, including addiction, depression, domestic violence, theglass ceiling and serious illness, but they’re written with compassion, humour and hope. Keyes says, ‘Rachel’s Holiday is about someone coming to terms with addiction, and Anybody Out There? is about bereavement.’ She says, ‘okay, so this doesn’t exactly sound like a laugh a minute, but in my experience the best comedy is rooted in darkness. All ten of my books are different but share a common theme of people who are in The Bad Place, and who achieve some form of redemption.’

 Beyond Chick-lit:

I wouldn’t call Jodi Picoult’s novels a rollicking laugh but she does write compelling Women’s Fiction even if she prefers not to be labelled. Picoult, who has written seventeen novels and tackles hard subject matter in her books such as Nineteen Minutes and My Sister’s Keeper, says, ‘I hate being pigeonholed…you can legitimately label my novels as legal thrillers, mysteries, romances, or plain old fiction. Marketing departments like to label authors with just one tag, so that they know how to promote a book, but I think the best books straddle genres and attract a variety of readers. I’d like to think this is one reason my books appeal to people—because I give them something different every time.’

For want of a better word, Chick-lit has spawned spinoffs including lad-lit (Nick Hornby, About A Boy) and hen or lady lit, which is where I see my books, Lucy Springer Gets Even and What Kate Did Next, sitting.

It’s here that we find relationships, but not necessarily, romances, are at the core of the plot.

Bridget has grown up and is now in her 30’s or 40’s and is perhaps married, had a couple of children and is struggling with issues such as infidelity, divorce, a career slump, as well as raising a family. Characters are asking themselves, ‘what happened to the dreams I had?’ and ‘how did I get here?’.

These stories tap into the hopes, fears, aspirations, dreams, and fantasies of women the world over. You name it and women’s fiction deals with it because women’s fiction touches on subjects women can relate to in real life.

There may be an element of romance but it doesn’t make up the entire focus of the story. It is much more about the heroine’s journey and the heroine finding herself rather than finding the man of her dreams.

Happily ever after?

In women’s fiction, you might not get the ‘happy ever after’. More often, the end, if not happy, at least is hopeful. The heroine does tend ‘find herself’ by the end of the book. Even if the story is tragic, (think of most Jodi Picoult novels) there is generally a life-affirming resolution by the story’s end when the character has confronted and settled conflicts, even if only in her mind.

Point of View:

A lot of women’s fiction is written in first person. Why? So that the action can be told through the main character’s eyes. The reader learns their thoughts, feelings and reactions to events.

In my books, the reader only knows what the main character is thinking and I like to think that the reader assumes her role. For example, in What Kate did Next, the POV doesn’t suddenly shift to Kate’s best friend, her mother or her children. The reader is only told the story through Kate’s eyes. I like writing in first person because it gives me an instant connection with my character, which hopefully the reader feels as well.

Occasionally, you’ll pick up a women’s fiction novel written in second person, such as Anonymous’s The Bride Stripped Bare (by Nikki Gemmell) but it’s very difficult to get right and can quickly become irritating for the reader.

Word length:

Most women’s fiction novels tend to be between 80,000—100,000 words but can be in the 50,000 range. For example, Nicholas Sparks’ phenomenally successful, The Notebook (made into a movie of the same name) a love story about an elderly couple coping with Alzheimer’s disease, was only 52,000 words.

As I mentioned, my two novels have been called chick-lit, lady-lit and contemporary women’s fiction. I didn’t set out to write to a particular category, I write stories that I think I’d enjoy reading…stories about real women in their thirties triumphing over adversity in real settings overcoming real life dramas. The stories don’t necessarily have happy endings but they’re realistic and hopefully resonate with readers. I write to entertain and at the end of the day I don’t care what people call my books as long as they read them.

Labelling the various sub-genres in Women’s Fiction is subjective but whatever you choose to call them, publishers are clamouring for well written engaging stories that women the world over will connect with.

Lisa’s latest book is What Kate Did Next. You can visit her at: www.lisaheidke.com

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