Showing posts with label Katie Fforde. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Katie Fforde. Show all posts

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The RoNA Awards - winners include Katie Fforde, Jenny Colgan and Rowan Coleman

This was the first year in ages that I didn’t get to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s RoNA awards bash - and I’m really fed up about missing it.

The RoNA awards celebrate the very best in romantic fiction and the party is always fun and ultra-glamorous. The champagne flows, you get to meet some of the best writers, publishers and agents in the business and RNA members’ shoes (from sky-high heels to leopard-print ballet pumps) are a delight to behold.

This year’s party was held at the RAF Club in London’s Piccadilly, with Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley (no mean writers themselves) on hand to announce the five category winners.

So three cheers for Katie Fforde, who won the Contemporary Romantic Novel award for the second year running – this time for Recipe for Love.

Rowan Coleman triumphed in the Epic Romantic Novel category with Dearest Rose while Jenny Colgan scooped the Romantic Comedy Novel award for Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams.

The Historical Romantic Novel winner was Charlotte Betts for The Apothecary’s Daughter and the Young Adult Romantic Novel award went to Victoria Lamb for Witchstruck.

The five winning novels now go forward to the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year award and the overall winner will be revealed at the RNA’s summer party on May 16.

RNA chair Annie Ashurst, who’s written scores of novels herself, told the 250 party guests: “… we are here to celebrate the success of our brightest stars. We are proud of their talent, tenacity and dedication to their craft.

“It is a lovely thing to write a novel and to keep on going even as doubts set in – as they do with us all. Our awards give us an opportunity to publicly recognise the enjoyment you bring to your readers.”

Hear, hear, Annie...

PS. As well as the RoNAs, Sophie Kinsella was given an Outstanding Achievement Award. The RoNA Rose Award went to Sarah Mallory.  

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Interview with Liz Fenwick - author of The Cornish House

Liz Fenwick’s path to publication sounds like a dream come true. She sent her debut novel out on a grey February day, not knowing what to expect, and by the end of the week it has been snapped up by Carole Blake, one of the top agents in the business. But as Liz explained to me, writing The Cornish House, her captivating tale of a rambling manor house and the family secrets it holds, took grit, determination and years of hard work.

The Cornish House is your debut novel. Can you tell me a little about the road to publication and how you got a publishing deal?

Liz: To make a long story short – in 2004 I promised myself I would begin to write fiction again. After writing seven books (not counting rewrites) and receiving encouraging rejections I finally felt that I had brought The Cornish House up to a level where I felt that it was as good as I could make it. So on a Monday in February, I sent it to four agents who had been encouraging me in my journey. By noon I had my first request for the full manuscript. I nearly fell over. On Saturday Carole Blake got in touch and said she loved it and would love to represent me. I was over the moon. Things moved swiftly from there. The first sale was to Holland, then the two-book deal with Orion in the UK and it went to auction in Germany. That was so exciting. Recently the book sold to Portugal. It’s all so unreal in a way – you dream about something all your life and finally you put the work in to make it happen and then it does…

How did you come up with the idea for The Cornish House?

Liz: This is the third novel I’d written (currently working on my eighth) and from the book before (August Rock) there was this rather dishy love interest named Mark and he kept pestering me for a story of his own. How could I refuse? That was part of it, but one day a few years ago several roads were closed and we detoured down a lane I hadn’t been on in ages and I saw The Cornish House. This is a house that I had always loved and been intrigued by. Then I had a discussion with a teenager going through that awful stage when they can only see their own point of view… Suddenly the story began to take shape….

Trevenen, the house at the heart of The Cornish House, sounds gorgeous. Does it actually exist?

Liz: Yes and no. The real house is different from Trevenen. In the writing of the book it grew and developed. I spent hours on the layout, which required a lot of internet searching of properties and floor plans…such a hard task. So Trevenen is my idea of the ideal house, but based on the house that captured my heart from the moment I saw it nestled into a fold in the land off a remote lane. That house is truly The Cornish House, and as such is rather special and its location is a secret…

The relationship between Maddie, the heroine of the novel, and her step-daughter Hannah, is incredibly tricky. How did you go about making it so convincing?

Liz: Probably because I’m a mother of teenagers…thankfully mine aren’t as spiky as Hannah. But I loved both these broken characters and I think that helps keep it “real” on the page because they were and are still very “real” in my head.

You divide your time between Dubai, Cornwall and London. How do you manage to write novels when you travel so much?

Liz: I can work on a plane or anywhere. Because I began writing fiction again when the kids were still fairly small, I can tune out the world and tune into my writing.

What are the best things about living in Cornwall?

Liz: The people, the scenery, the fresh fish, and my house…

Do you have any tips for writers working on their debut novels right now?

Liz: Be professional, be persistent and write the book of your heart.  It’s so tempting when you want your words to be read to follow the latest trend, but trends change as soon as you are aware of them. Write the book of your heart and with luck it will hit the right trend and you will have been true to yourself.

What is your own favourite novel? And are there any particular novelists who have inspired you?

Liz: This is such a tough question…there are so many favourites. I love Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer. It was the first one of hers that I read and her books were where I escaped to during my teenage years. A more recent favourite was Leo the African by Amin Maalouf. This showed me the history of an area through a very personal story and has the best opening line ever. In a way all writers who have completed a book inspire me. That is the toughest thing – to complete a book and then accept that you will have to rewrite it in some way at least once or in my case many many more times. But during my “apprenticeship” in the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme I was lucky enough to watch Katie Fforde in action. She is my inspiration. She is such a professional in how she goes about all aspects of her work as a writer. She makes it look easy and I’m now learning how hard it all is…

Can you tell us a little bit about your second novel – August Rock? And when will it be published?

Liz: August Rock existed before The Cornish House. I’m now on my 27th rewrite and it’s a story I still love. It’s about Jude, who suddenly wakes up to the fact that she is following life by other people’s design and not her own. She flees her wedding and ends up taking a position as a research assistant to a garden historian on a Cornish estate. When the historian dies and his son arrives to sell the estate, she finds out that she has fallen in love for the first time - not with a person but a place. She has to save Pengarrock and find out who she really is and what she really wants. And oh, there’s a wonderful thirteen year old Victorian boy called Toby. I can’t seem to keep away from teenagers… It will be out in the spring of 2013.

The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick (Orion, £12.99)

Monday, 23 April 2012

Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Veronica Henry and Fiona Walker at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival

Hail, sunshine, a myriad of the nation’s top authors and some delicious cakes – the inaugural Chipping Norton Literary Festival had all these things, and much, much more.

Held in one of Oxfordshire’s prettiest towns, this was one of the best literary festivals I’ve been to. Fun, inspiring, friendly, and superbly organised by Emily Carlisle (who only had the idea for the event last August) and her team. 

I booked for two events, one on Contemporary Women’s Fiction and the other on Discipline, Displacement and Dipsomania (great title), so I’m going to write about them both this week.

The Contemporary Women’s Fiction panel kicked off bright and early on Saturday morning and featured four of our bestselling novelists – Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Veronica Henry and Fiona Walker. They know each other well and for a riveting hour the conversation, chaired by writer Jane Wenham-Jones, flowed. The quartet, who have written more than 70 books between them, covered everything from how many words a day they turn out to where and when they write.

Jane began the discussion by asking the secret of their “phenomenal success.” “I have no idea,” said Jill candidly. “I love spending time with my characters because I love them and I think the readers love them as well. After all, if you’re reading a book and you don’t care about the characters why would you carry on reading the book?” Katie said she wouldn’t want to write about unpleasant characters – “life is quite tough and our books are like time off from real life.” Veronica revealed she writes “from the heart” and about the life “I want to lead,” while Fiona declared that “if I don’t have that desperate urge to get back to my imaginery characters, then why would anyone else?”

Next it was on to the thorny question of how they all write. Katie likes to start writing before anyone else is up and about and before the phone starts ringing. She also pointed out the importance of “thinking time” and said 2,000 words a day is her “absolute maximum.” But conversely, Jill Mansell said she “couldn’t begin to write first thing.” Unlike the others, she writes all her books by hand in fountain pen and her daughter types up her manuscripts for her. She writes in bed or sitting on the sofa with the TV on and does 1,000 words a day.

The whole audience sat up in astonishment when Fiona said she sometimes manages 5,000 words a day. One day she even wrote 10,000 (wow!) The reason is that she works “in binges.” She writes very long books and sets herself three or four months a year to write her first draft. She avoids the radio and TV and doesn’t like any distractions, apart from her two small children, who peer through the glass door of her office and come dashing in to talk to her. 

Meanwhile Veronica works in her north Devon dining room, looking out across the sea. She writes 1,000 to 2,000 words a day – “1,000 is satisfactory, 2,000 is fantastic,” she said. “But writers can be working all the time. You can be thinking about your characters as you walk round Sainsbury’s.”
It was fascinating to hear how they all began their writing careers – a question that elicited four very different answers. After working in a hospital for 18 years, Jill Mansell picked up a magazine and read an interview with a woman whose life had been transformed by writing a string of bestselling novels. She tried her hand at writing a Mills & Boon novel – “but they kept saying there wasn’t enough romance and too much humour.” She astutely decided to carry on in that vein and has now written 23 novels.

Katie took eight years to get published (now look at her - she's written 19 bestsellers and Summer of Love recently won this year’s Contemporary Romantic Novel award). Veronica began her career at The Archers before becoming a scriptwriter for TV series like Heartbeat and Holby City. And Fiona wrote her first novel straight out of university. She moved back home to her parents’ house in Berkshire, worked part-time in a saddlery and, when she’d finished her book, sent it to five agents. The agent who snapped her up sold her novel in three days.

Last of all, Jane Wenham-Jones asked them for their top tips for wannabe novelists.

Veronica Henry – “Get on with it – it’s no good just keeping it in your head.”
Fiona Walker – “Finish it. There are so many half-finished novels languishing in drawers.”
Jill Mansell – “Use a timeline – it works brilliantly for me. And I don’t write in chapters. It’s far easier to write your story and then look for the natural breaks afterwards.”
Katie Fforde – “Read a lot – and persevere. If you want something enough you’ll achieve it.”

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The RNA Awards - winners include Katie Fforde and Rosie Thomas

The Romantic Novelists’ Association sure knows how to throw a party. I was thrilled when my invitation to the RNA’s RoNA annual awards dropped into my inbox. For a start, the awards celebrate the very best in romantic fiction, but secondly, the RNA’s bashes are brilliant fun and ultra-glamorous. The (pink) champagne flows, waiters whizz round with elegant canapés and you get to meet some of the best writers, publishers and agents in the business.

This year’s party was held at One Whitehall Place in Westminster. Author Jane Wenham-Jones, resplendent in a sparkling silver dress and pink hair, hosted the awards ceremony, while bestselling crime writer Peter James (he’s sold 11 million books and been translated into 33 languages – wow) presented the prizes. As Jane told the packed audience, Peter’s books are “not so much ‘then he kissed her,’ more ‘then he bashed her head with a blunt instrument.’”

Peter James declared right at the outset that he was very fond of the RNA. An RNA awards judge 20 years ago, he’d been struck by the “terrifically compelling” stories he came across then and had been hooked ever since. He also pointed that romantic fiction and crime fiction account for more than half the book sales in the UK today. And not only that, he reckoned most of the great writers of the past wrote books that would now be classed either as romantic novels or crime novels – War and Peace, Madame Bovary, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca, The Great Gatsby and more.

Then came the big moment – the awards themselves. To tumultuous applause, Katie Fforde stepped up to receive the Contemporary Romantic Novel award for Summer of Love. Katie saw off stiff competition from fellow big hitters Jill Mansell, Freya North, Miranda Dickinson, Karen Swan and Kate Johnson.

The Epic Romantic Novel award was won by Rosie Thomas for The Kashmir Shawl, reviewed on House With No Name last month. She beat Michael Arditti (the only man on the RoNAs shortlist), Betsy Tobin, Deborah Lawrenson and Ruth Hamilton.

The Historical Romantic Novel award went to Christina Courtenay, for Highland Storms, while Jane Lovering scooped the Romantic Comedy category for Please Don’t Stop the Music. When Jane climbed onstage to receive her award, she gave hope to budding writers everywhere. “It’s taken me 25 years of writing to publish a book,” she told the audience. “If I can do it, anybody can. So go for it, girls!”

Finally, the first-ever Young Adult Romantic Novel award went to Caroline Green for Dark Ride. “I’m completely in shock,” she admitted.

The excitement isn’t over yet though. All five winners now go forward to the prized Romantic Novel of the Year award, which will be announced on May 17.

Judging by yesterday’s ceremony, romantic fiction is in very good heart right now. As RNA chair Annie Ashurst (aka highly successful Mills and Boon author Sara Craven) said: “In the big sky of romantic fiction today’s winners are among the brightest stars. Their talent, diversity and commitment are awe-inspiring and we congratulate them all on their success.”

We certainly do.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Romantic novelists Katie Fforde and Kate Lace at the Chiswick Book Festival

I adore literary festivals. So I was over the moon when the organisers of the Chiswick Book Festival asked me to chair a talk on romantic fiction by bestselling writers Katie Fforde and Kate Lace. The session was called My Big Fat Summer of Love (an amalgam of their two latest titles – Summer of Love by Katie Fforde and Gypsy Wedding by Kate Lace) and covered everything from how they began their illustrious careers to their own favourite romantic novels.

The pair, who are great friends, were fun, informative and inspiring. They’ve both chaired the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the past (indeed, Katie is now president), and several members of the audience were so enthused that they came up at the end and asked how they could join.

The writers began the afternoon by telling the audience about their roads to publication. Kate Fforde said that when her children were little she had a “serious Mills & Boon addiction" – one book a day in fact – and decided to have a go at writing one herself. In the end she wasn’t published by Mills & Boon but it was a fantastic way to learn her craft. She hasn’t looked back since her first novel, Living Dangerously, was published in 1995. She also praised the “hugely supportive” RNA. Meanwhile Kate Lace began writing as a young army wife with three small children, first writing for an magazine for army wives, then non-fiction, including Gumboots and Pearls about life as an army wife, before turning to fiction.

They also discussed exactly what makes a good romantic novel. Katie reckons that the key is to create “a believable love story,” and stressed that the happy ending must be “credible,” while Kate said that there must be some “grit in the oyster.” When it comes to planning novels, Kate said she knows where her books are going to start and finish, but doesn’t tend to plot everything in advance. Katie reckoned that if you plan too much, you’ve already told the story and “sort of lose interest.”

They both start work early – Katie is on Twitter at the crack of dawn but then concentrates on writing for the rest of the day. Kate works from 9am till The Archers starts at five past seven. Kate said that “scary deadlines” keep her nose to the grindstone, but Katie emphasised that it's important to take time to think about her characters and where they are going. Sometimes her best ideas emerge when she’s gardening or cooking.

They’re both voracious readers, but asked about their own favourite romantic novels, chose utterly different titles. Katie adores Georgette Heyer while Kate reckons Tolstoy’s War and Peace is the “absolute best love story” she’s ever read.

Finally, the two writers gave us a tantalising hint of the treats we’ve got in store. Katie’s next book is called Recipe for Love and is set in a TV cookery competition (it will be out next year) and she’s currently researching another one set in the world of antiques. Meanwhile Kate is busy writing about the glamorous world of rowing. Watching handsome, Lycra-clad rowers in action, she added, is no hardship at all.

PS: Actress Isla Blair is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever interviewed. I spent a day at her house years ago with a stylist and photographer for a Country Homes & Interiors profile. The following session at the Chiswick Book Festival featured Isla talking to her son Jamie Glover, the actor and director, about her new book. A Tiger’s Wedding tells of her childhood in India during the last days of the Raj and I can’t wait to read it.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The fabulous RNA

Romantic fiction often gets slated – largely due, as Joanna Trollope once said, to snobbery and the genre’s pink covers, embossed lettering and “cartoon drawings of cocktail glasses and handbags and ditsy girls falling off their designer heels.”

But so much of the criticism is downright unfair. A total of 25 million romantic novels are bought by readers in the UK every year and romantic fiction boasts some of the most talented writers around. Marian Keyes, for instance, is a wonderful novelist and has covered everything from domestic violence and depression to alcoholism and dementia in her ten bestselling books. If you haven’t read Last Chance Saloon or The Other Side of the Story by the way, you are in for a treat.

But I digress. I had to write this blog after reading Claudia Connell’s sneery piece about the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s summer party in today’s Daily Mail. She claimed it made her feel as though she’d “accidentally stumbled into the Annual General Meeting of the Jam Makers and Knitted Toy Association” and described the guests as “the kind of ladies you’d find working in charity shops or arranging the church flowers.”

RNA members were outraged by her remarks. And I’m not surprised. I’m not an RNA member but I’ve been to lots of their parties and they’re a fabulous group of novelists, not at all the type she describes.

They’re impossible to pigeon-hole either. They range from young to old, from ultra-glam to not-so-glam and from writers just starting out to novelists whose books fly into the bestseller lists the minute they’re published.

New chair Annie Ashurst, for instance, is not only a highly successful Mills and Boon author (she writes as Sara Craven) but also a former Mastermind champion and member of the RNA team that stormed through to the final of University Challenge – the Professionals a few years back. Outgoing chair Katie Fforde has just had her 16th novel, Summer of Love, published to great acclaim while press officer Catherine Jones, aka Kate Lace, will see her 15th book, Gypsy Wedding, hit the book shops in August. Between them they’ve shifted loads of books over the years – and helped countless RNA members along the tricky road to publication too.

The image shows the cover of Fabulous at Fifty, a history of the RNA's first 50 years.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...