Sunday, 25 May 2014

Step back in time

Last week I went to the RNA Summer Party for the presentation of the Joan Hessayon award. This is awarded every year to a writer whose debut novel went through the New Writers' Scheme - and there were a record breaking seventeen contenders this year!
I didn't win - the lovely Jo Thomas did with her novel The Oystercatchers - but it was still fun to catch up with writerly friends, drink some prosecco and get a certificate.
It was also an opportunity to fulfil a lifetime's wish and stay in a London Club. Not a gentleman's club a la Bertie Wooster for hopefully obvious reasons, nor the kind of posh, media club frequented by artists and journalists and full of scandal and debauchery (possibly), not when I had to pick my daughter up from school the day after, anyway. No, I always wanted to stay in the kind of club Agatha Christie heroines and other nineteen thirties literary ladies stayed in when they went 'up to town'.
The RNA had associate membership of the New Cavendish. It's central (near Mayfair), reasonably priced (for London), has excellent pedigree (born out of the First World War as a club for VADS), does a hearty breakfast and is situated in a beautiful building right in the heart of Georgette Heyer territory. Perfect. Sadly, as London gets richer and richer, places like the New Cavendish are squeezed out and it shuts its doors for the final time this week.
So next time I go to an RNA event I can stay in one of the many anonymous budget chains. It will be comfortable and hopefully reasonable. But there will be no sense of history, no link with the past. No personal touch. I'm just glad I got to stay there once before the end.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Spring fever

US & Canada cover
Yesterday Minty showed up on the M&B and Harlequin sites as available to pre-order. You may think this isn't quite so momentous an occasion second time round but you would be totally wrong: The Book of a Thousand Rewrites, The Book with Many Sacrificed Secondary Characters, The Book with Six Different First Chapters and The Book in Which I Slaughtered My Darlings has made it! Minty - and lovely Luca of course - are all grown up and ready to face the world on their own just as Lawrie and Jonas have done *wipes away tears*.

Luckily I have been far too busy to spend my time obsessively checking Amazon rankings and Goodreads reviews (note, this may not be strictly true). Final edits and copy edits are in for book 3, now formally known as His Reluctant Cinderella and it will be out in October, I am working on book 4 which is linked to book 3 (heroine, Polly, is twin sister to His Reluctant Cinderella's hero, Raff. This is new for me and it's great fun to expand a setting through more than one book), and I am planning for a super sekrit project so it is all a teeny bit hectic.

It's not all been chained-to-a-keyboard (or feeling guilty about not being chained) though. Last weekend I travelled down to the very pretty town of Chipping Norton to take part in their fabulous literary festival and gave a talk on writing Mills & Boon to a wonderful group who laughed in all the right places and asked loads of questions. The talk was followed by a literary quiz which we mistakenly thought we might win but sadly other teams were better - the Cheerleaders of Doom (myself, lovely editor Flo, fellow M&B writer India Grey and gorgeous twitter writer friends Amanda Jennings, Rachael Lucas and Claire Dyer) had to settle for respectable mid table mediocrity.

And finally I have been nominated for an award! On May 22nd the RNA will be holding their Summer Party and announcing the winner of the Joan Hessayon  award. This is a prize for new novelists and this year there are a stonking seventeen of us so I am busy practicing my Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars face. I haven't read all seventeen books but nominees include my amazing crit partner Jane O'Reilly and first RNA conference flatmate Alison May. I have read and loved both their nominated books so the standard is scarily high. Good luck to all my fellow contenders and see you there.