Author Spotlight: Juliet Madison, Sarah Belle, Jacquie Underdown and Robyn Neeley – Magical Realism Romance Novelists…


Today on the Author Spotlight, we have four authors who have previously been categorised as multi cross -genre, but now, due to readership interest and a proactive publishing team, finally have a subgenre to call home. The genre formerly known as Fantasy-Magical Elements- Paranormal twist-Contemporary-Time Travelling-Dream Casting, please welcome, Magical Realism Romance and the authors who live it!

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 Firstly, what is Magical Realism Romance?

Not quite paranormal, not quite fantasy, this genre believes that magic is a part of the every day, and that there’s more to our lives than can be explained. If you’re looking for a little mystical, a little miraculous, a little more, this is the romance for you.

As an author, how important is it to fit within a defined sub-genre?

Jacquie– In terms of being able to brand myself as a romance author and explain to readers succinctly what my books are about, I think having a defined sub-genre is incredibly important. It also provides readers with a quick reference that they will fit with my books. However, the fact that I’ve not been able to fit within a defined sub-genre, until now, also has its benefits in that I know I’m creating a new breed of romance, one that will be original and fresh for readers. And that’s the main reason I’ve persevered with the magical realism romance genre.

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Juliet – I think it helps readers the most, letting them know what there going to be getting from a book.


Sarah– Like everyone has said, it helps readers to identify what particular elements are in a story and will allow them to seek out other authors in the same genre.

Robyn– It’s definitely important to me. When readers pick up one of my books they are in for fast and funny dialogue, a sweet story, and a heart-warming ending. Magical realism fits in nicely with my brand, and I was more than eager to give it a try with Batter Up, my first book that includes one spell-binding approach to finding true love.

What were the main issues with being ‘subgenre-less’ prior to this new branding? 

Jacquie – Being subgenre-less hasn’t limited by ability to become published (that I know of). But I do think it has had a direct impact on how my books can be marketed and to whom they are marketed to. My books are normally slotted into the fantasy romance or sci-fi romance categories, which, as mentioned earlier, give readers the wrong expectations as magical realism romance is far removed from fantasy or science fiction. Having a sub-genre now, with a name that conjures images and ideas that reflect what my books are about, will make it a lot easier going forward.

Juliet – I didn’t feel so much that I was subgenre-less, but multi-genred! When you story crosses into several different genres it can be tricky to know how to pitch it to publishers, or which types of readers to target. Having a more defined sub-genre to categorise the overall type of story is better than saying ‘my book is a futuristic-romantic comedy-chicklit-fantasy-time travel-romance-scifi-adventure’! 😉


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Sarah– It was very difficult to explain what I actually wrote. ‘It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that’…it was confusing to people and difficult to pitch to publishers and readers. Thankfully there are some amazing authors out there who have paved the way: Marian Keyes, Cecelia Ahearn, Sophie Kinsella and Melanie Rose. For a person who struggles with marketing anyway, being across too many genres meant that my target market wasn’t clearly identified and pitched at.

Robyn– Putting a touch of magic in Batter Up, I wasn’t quite sure where it would fit. A fellow romance author recommended I submit it to Escape, knowing that they had recently acquired romantic comedies with magical elements. I was beyond thrilled to find Batter Up a home among other awesome magical realism books including Fast Forward by Juliet Madison and Hindsight by Sarah Belle.

Why do you write Magical Realism Romance ?

Jacquie – I’m someone who wants more from life than flesh and bone, and I believe there is more to this existence than what can examined under a microscope — phenomena that isn’t always explainable and is somewhat magical. Because I expect more out of everyday existence, I expect the same from the books I read and write. As an author, and as a reader, I want to be transported away, not so far as to lose sight of reality altogether, but enough to make it leave me questioning if the little magical occurrences could in fact be real.

Also, magical realism romance gives me so much more scope with my imagination and the stories I can weave.

Juliet – Because it allows the ordinary to become extraordinary and explores the possibility that there might be more to our world than we know. Plus, it’s great for interesting plot ideas – anything goes, with magical realism!

Sarah–  I read it, so I write it! A touch of magic can take a story anywhere so it’s always fresh and exciting to write. When we suspend our disbelief, we expand our imaginations in much the same way as children do. It’s nice to be a kid again for a while and to believe in magical things.

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Robyn– Faith, hope and destiny themes tend to influence my books so magical realism became a new tool for me to continue to explore these themes in an entertaining way. Also, the research on creating spells was a lot of fun. I now have a nice collection of spell books and am always tempted to try casting one!


What is it about MRR that will attract new readers? 

Jacquie – I sometimes think fantasy and science fiction is too far removed for some readers who like reality-set romances. Magical realism romance is a wonderful happy medium, where a reader can escape the mundane everydayness but still be given something MORE, something the reader wouldn’t encounter, something new, exciting, and magical.

Juliet – It is the perfect combination of realistic storylines and paranormal elements. It’s not completely realistic and not completely paranormal, it puts those magical elements into a world we’re familiar with so readers can more easily immerse themselves in the story and connect with the characters.

Sarah– Magical Realism is fun, engaging and has enough twists and turns in it to keep the plot moving along. There’s never a dull moment with the magical and unexplained! It’s also a break from the every day- nice escapism.

Robyn – These books are a unique and refreshing addition to the contemporary romance genre, offering a unique twist on popular romance tropes.


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 Magical Realism Romance is quite a niche genre. What are your hopes for the future in regards to expanding this genre?

Jacquie – Magical realism romance is a niche genre, but then so was sparkly vampire romance, BDSM erotica and rural romance. But just like those other genres, it is limitless in scope for storylines. Even on the shelves of my publisher, the variations between my novels and the other authors’ novels (who write MRR) are immense. My hope is that readers pick up a couple of books in this genre and fall in love with magical realism romance, just as much as I love to write it. Then it will bring more authors and readers out of the woodwork and we will be able to see just where this genre can go.

Juliet– I hope that more readers will discover the fun that can be had by mixing magical elements into real life storylines. I would love to see more movies made with these types of stories too, those with just a touch of the magical. Maybe an increase in books like this will help boost that.

Sarah– I would love to see this genre become more mainstream. It’s such a fresh and exciting genre, and covers from romantic comedy to true romance so there’s something for everyone. If you’ve loved Freaky Friday, Drop Dead Diva, Suddenly 30, Big, then chances are that Magical Realism Romance will make you laugh, cry and everything in between.

Robyn – Magical Realism Romance is exciting because of its potential to reach many readers of romance, chick lit, and women’s fiction. I’ve received some wonderful feedback from chick lit readers who say that they enjoyed the romance element of Batter Up and are excited to read more romances that include magical elements. That’s exciting!


If you’d like to explore the world of Magical Realism Romance, you can find a great collection at Escape Publishing.

 Escape Publishing is kindly giving away one copy of any one Magical Realism Romance novel to one lucky reader. All you have to do to be in the running is leave a comment below.

This competition will be drawn on the 15th of August, 2014. The winner will be notified by email, so please be sure we can contact you!


Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Jacquie Underdown…


Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Jacquie, and congratulations on the recent release of ‘Beautiful Illusion’

Thank you very much.

How would you best describe your style of writing and genre?

My genre, loosely, is fantasy romance, or perhaps you could call it romance with a fantasy twist, or alternative romance. Anyway I call it, I write love stories fused with an element of the unreal.

I don’t believe I have a conscious style of writing. I incorporate many different styles into each novel I write – first or third person, present or past tense, but I do write from the heroine’s point-of-view usually. As for language, I write in my Australian tone—how I would hear a novel when I read, and how I myself speak. I opt for uncomplicated words and sentence structure because my main aim is understandibility in my audience. And I aim for an easy, enjoyable read because many people are too busy these days to trawl through laborious prose.

Where did the inspiration come from for ‘Beautiful Illusion’?

I wanted to write a love story that was different to anything else I had ever read. I wanted the hero to be someone my heroine could fall unequivocally in love with, but, in the end, be totally inaccessible—but not in an everyday sense, like because of distance, but in a way that seems completely insurmountable unless some touch of magic or miracle plays a part to reunite them again. (I was reading a lot about philosophy and alternative religions at the time, which may have pushed me in this direction to begin with).

So with this in mind, the story line for Beautiful Illusion drifted into my thoughts; however, to keep it firmly in the romance box, I did have to leave off the real ending my characters were begging me to write.

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You’re a mum, student and employee – how do you fit it all in? How do you manage your time effectively?

Well, that’s the question I ask myself all the time. To be honest, I struggle with the juggling act, particularly because on top of all that, my husband is usually only home 2 days out of every week and has very little capacity to help on the home front.

To start with, since I started back at work full-time, I haven’t been able to study (was attempting to complete a Master of Arts) at all. And as I have a job that is stressful and requires me to be in front of a computer most of the day, I find it difficult to keep my eyes open at night when trying to write. Then there is homework, dinner, sport to drive the kids to.

But in saying that, I attempt to write every day once the kids are in bed, or at least edit, if only for a half hour. I also use the weekend to get a couple more hours in.

What is an ‘Authoraire’?

Authoraire is a term I coined during my time struggling to become published. I always felt I wasn’t able to call myself an author because I wasn’t yet published. And if I did say I was an author, people would ask, ‘oh, where can I buy your book?’ It was kind of disheartening when I had to tell them I wasn’t at that stage yet.

So I come up with a light-hearted term, authoraire, which denotes a person who is characterised or occupied with writing a book/s. Or to put basically– a person who writes books, but is not necessarily published – yet.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve heard plenty of fantastic writing advice over the years and I threw all of it out of the window because I thought none of it was relevant to me, or completely false. Not until now, after six long years on this journey, have these pieces of advice become self-evident truths (if only I’d listened earlier).

The one piece of advice that has stuck with me from the first time I ever decided to throw in the towel, and has been my guiding light since is:

  • What      you put your energy on, you will get.’ It’s really just a different way to      say, ‘stay determined’, ‘never give up’, and ‘keep your eyes of the      prize’.

Secondly, and I’m certain I’ve read this countless times, but it is now one of those self-evident truths:

  • You      owe it to yourself and your readers to continually improve your writing      ability. And the best way to do this, I’ve found, is by writing as much as      you can.

Are there any other genres that attract you as a writer?

I would love to have a go at horror because my imagination is off the spooky charts. But, unfortunately, I also get so scared that I can’t allow myself to purposefully let my imagination wander in this direction.

Are you a plotter or a panster?

I started as a panster, but the more I write the easier I find it to have a thought-out plot and an idea of what my chapters will cover. Mind you, I’m still not incredibly thorough.

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How has being published changed you?

My major goal has been reached. Now I’ve had to revise my goals so I still have purpose with my writing. Now I’m aiming to publish a best seller.

Other than that, I don’t believe being published has changed me too much. I definitely have more confidence telling people I’m an author (hehe, no longer an authoraire). But, my life still goes on as normal. I still have to work a day job and raise the kids, etc.

Which was more challenging, publishing your first or second novel?

Definitely the first. With the second I knew what I was in for. Though, every emotion experienced with the first publication I experienced all over again with the second.


Could you please give us an excerpt from ‘Beautiful Illusion’?

This is of Leah and Brennan at the end of their first date.

He placed his hand on my thigh. A friendly gesture, but I still felt a pang of arousal shoot through my body. He followed my eyes as they came to rest on his long fingers pressed against my leg. He could feel it too; his face was a mirror. My next breath was long and deep, my only answer to the electricity arcing between us. God, what this man was doing to me.

“I should probably get going and let you get a good night’s sleep,” he said.

I nodded, but couldn’t hide my frown.

“I had an enjoyable night tonight,” he said.

“Me too.  It was great to see you again.”

Hesitantly, he withdrew his hand from my leg and I walked him to the door. Brennan inhaled and opened his mouth as though he was going to speak, but didn’t. Instead, he shook his head.

I arched an eyebrow. “What?”

He smiled. “Nothing.”

“Tell me what you were going to say.”

He tucked a few loose strands of my hair behind my ear and I fought hard to keep my eyes from closing in pleasure at such a simple gesture.

“I really want to kiss you again, Leah, but I’m afraid if I start, it won’t be so easy to stop.”

I wanted to tell him that I didn’t care if he couldn’t stop. I wanted it as badly as he did. But I lowered my eyes to the ground, unable to think of a suitable response.

“You don’t give too much away, do you?” he said with a nervous laugh.

I shook my head. “That’s not my intention. I’m just not overtly seductive.”

His eyes widened. “Leah. You are. Without saying a word you seduce the hell out of me. The way you unknowingly give me a sultry glance. How you unintentionally run your tongue along your lower lip so salaciously. And, just now, the kittenish way you peered up at me from under your eyelashes. You’re seductive alright, believe me, and it drives me absolutely crazy.”

“Crazy in a good way, I hope?”

“Crazy in the best way,” he said and kissed me, oh so gently, filling me with tingly delight. Making me forget that words have ever existed in the universe.

“And you thought you wouldn’t be desirable at thirty,” he whispered in my ear, his warm breath sending goose bumps up my arms. “You’re the sexiest woman this side of thirty. And the other side, for that matter.”

I giggled, my cheeks warm.

He shook his head. “You drive me crazy. You know that?”

“You may have told me that before.”

He brushed his lips across mine. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Definitely,” I said, and opened the door.

He slipped out of my apartment and was gone. I shut the door behind me and leaned back against it, my face dominated by a smile, my body buzzing. It had been too long since a man made me feel this way. Much too long.




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Jacquie is giving away an Amazon ecopy of both her novels, ‘Beautiful Illusion’ and ‘Paler Shade of Autumn’ to one lucky reader. All you have to do is answer the following question to be in the draw:

 Which  actor or book hero would you like to have as your own personal beautiful illusion?

This competition is open worldwide and will be drawn on Tuesday November12, 2013.  The winner will be notified by email, so please ensure that we can contact you!

A New Batch of Little Gems

The results are in for the RWA Little Gems contest, the competition to earn a place in our annual short story anthology.

Once again the Little Gems was a hard fought contest with entries requiring a score of at least 92.7% to gain a place in the Anthology. This year we were able to take 15 stories from the 69 entries with a good mix of historical, contemporary and paranormal. Something for everyone. Congratulations to:

First: Jean Versace

Second: Emmeline Lock

Third: Patsy Poppenbeek

And our other successful contributors:

Cheryl Baker
Gabrielle Battistel
Harriet Jarvis
Delwyn Jenkins
Cathryn Jones
C.A. Main
Dorothy Martin
Jennifer Rae
Ute Rozenbilds
Shayne Sands
Jacquie Underdown
Vanda Vadas

Thanks, as always to Lis Hoorweg, our volunteer judges and everyone who makes our contests possible.

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