It’s TV, but not as I knew it

Reporting the old fashioned way – I was so very young!

I started my writing career as a TV journalist at Channel 7 in Brisbane, Australia in 19… umm. Let’s not go there. Let’s just say I was a teenager and leave it at that. My first TV interview involved a big camera and a large hand-held microphone. There were lights and sometimes a person whose job it was just to check the sound. For those interviews, I was behind the microphone asking questions.

A few days ago, for my most recent interview, I was in front of the camera answering questions. As for the way it was done, it was so far from those early TV jobs that it was like being in another world.

We were in the offices of my publisher, Harper Collins in London talking about The Heights. I wrote this book (or rather half of it) with my friend and fellow writer Alison May. We set up for the interview with – a phone and a lap top. The phone was attached to a tiny tripod that sat on a coffee table. Our ‘studio crew’ of two manned the laptops to live stream the interview on the Harper Collins Facebook Page and feed back questions from the live audience.

I remember my first live broadcast back in my TV days – it involved half a day of setting up, a large truck with a satellite dish on the roof. There was at least one technician with me and my camera crew, and many more back at the TV station. How things have changed.

With editor Clio Cornish, Alison May and my new red hair just before the interview started.

I loved doing this Facebook live. We talked about how to write together, about books and the Bronte sisters. There was some discussion of actors who might play our characters, and pizza got several mentions. The star of the show was undoubtedly the point of view spreadsheet that guided the writing of The Heights.

The famous POV spreadsheet.

The Interview still available to view here. Pop over if you have a second. Alison and I are still answering questions left in the comments.

Regular readers know I am a bit of a geek – and I just love how much technology has changed over the years. It makes it so much easier to talk with readers and other writers and you gotta love that.

We laughed a lot during the interview – another thing that was new to the serious journalist in me.



Cause for celebration

There’s been some very good news for the Take Five Authors team – Janet and Sue are both shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the year awards, presented by the Romantic Novelists’ association here in the UK.

Both are very pleased to finally be able to talk about it here…

Janet says:

I’m not ashamed to say I got more than a little misty when I got the email saying that Wedding Bells By The Creek was shortlisted for the RoNA Rose Award. Keeping it under my hat all this time has been really tough. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Last year, my novel Little Girl Lost won the Epic Romantic Novel of the Year award and to have this novella that follows it also shortlisted (in a different category) is just more than I could ever have hoped for.

There are some of my favourite authors on this year’s shortlists, and luckily Sue and I are in different categories. Please keep your fingers crossed for both of us please. But whoever takes home the award, I already feel like a winner.

Here is the full shortlist for the RoNA ROSE Award

RONA Rose for shorter romantic novels

  • The Convenient Felstone Marriage, Jenni Fletcher, Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical
  • Wedding Bells by the Creek, Janet Gover, independently published
  • Their Double Baby Gift, Louisa Heaton, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical
  • Christmas at the Little Village School, Jane Lovering, Choc Lit
  • The Mysterious Italian Houseguest, Scarlet Wilson, Harlequin Mills & Boon

And Sue says:

I can’t tell you how pleased and proud I am to see Just for the Holidays shortlisted in the Contemporary category of the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. I’ve known since November, under strict embargo, and I’ve wanted to explode with joy ever since. Now I’ve seen the formidable competition on the shortlist I’m thrilled to be included … but I’m also feeling realistic about my chances of winning and going through to the overall prize of £5000.

The award ceremony will take place on the 5th of March in London at the Gladstone Library so I have the perfect excuse for a new dress to go with the frivolous boots and handbag I bought late last year to celebrate becoming a Sunday Times best-selling author. You can see a theme developing here, can’t you? Good news equals pretty clothes or accessories! This is only the second time one of my books has been shortlisted for a ‘RoNA’, so I’m making the most of it.

Here is the full Contemporary shortlist:

  • Together, Julie Cohen, Orion
  • The Picture House by the Sea, Holly Hepburn, Simon & Schuster
  • The Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan, Two Roads, John Murray Press
  • The Dangers of Family Secrets, Debby Holt, Accent Press
  • The Queen of Wishful Thinking, Milly Johnson, Simon & Schuster
  • Just For The Holidays, Sue Moorcroft, Avon Books
  • My Summer of Magic Moments, Caroline Roberts, HarperImpulse
  • Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage, Heidi-Jo Swain, Simon & Schuster

You can read more about the RoNA Awards on the Romantic Novelists’ Association website.


Publication Day!

The Heights – a beautiful cover from the team at HQDigital.

Today is the best day of a writer’s calendar… it’s publication day for a new book.

It’s also the birthday of a new writing identity… Juliet Bell.

The book is The Heights – a book I’ve been wanting to write for a very long time. It’s an adaptation of Wuthering Heights, which is one of my all-time favourite books.

Wuthering Heights is one of those books that people tend to either love or hate. It’s dark and disturbing and the characters tend to also be dark and not particularly likeable. Many, many people die in Wuthering Heights and it doesn’t exactly have a happy ending. While it’s often referred to as romantic novel, I don’t think it is. It’s a look at the darker side of relationships, and for me is totally compelling. I’ve read it many times, and no matter how familiar the story is, it always captivates me.

Wuthering Heights is also one of those books that everybody ‘knows’. Even people who have never read it know it’s about the relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy, and a lot of people have seen film and TV adaptations that focus on that relationship, quite often painting it as love, when I think it’s really a dark obsession that destroys everyone it touches. That’s what I always wanted to draw out – the tragedy in the novel. But I hesitated to try and that’s where Juliet Bell comes in.

I wanted to set this exploration of the story in the same place as the original and I wanted to set the story of isolation and alienation and obsession against the turmoil of the Thatcher years and the miners’ strike. Being Australian, I didn’t think any amount of research could give me the right voice for Yorkshire and that time of great social upheaval. But a casual conversation at a writer’s conference led to a more serious lunchtime conversation and a collaboration with Alison May. Alison is a friend, a fine writer and a northerner. She also loves Wuthering Heights and is interested in heroes who are not that heroic.

It took several months, a lot of lunches and some cloud storage but The Heights was born. We’re both very proud of the book and there is another Juliet Bell novel already underway.

We chose Bell for our collaborative name as a tribute to Emily Brontë, of course.

That’s Juliet’s story – and here’s The Heights…

The searchers took several hours to find the body, even though they knew roughly where to look. The whole hillside had collapsed, and there was water running off the moors and over the slick black rubble. The boy, they knew, was beyond their help. This was a recovery, not a rescue.

A grim discovery brings DCI Lockwood to Gimmerton’s Heights Estate – a bleak patch of Yorkshire he thought he’d left behind for good. There, he must do the unthinkable, and ask questions about the notorious Earnshaw family.

Decades may have passed since Maggie closed the pits and the Earnshaws ran riot – but old wounds remain raw. And, against his better judgement, DCI Lockwood is soon drawn into a story of an untameable boy, terrible rage, and two families ripped apart.

A story of passion, obsession, and dark acts of revenge. And of beautiful Cathy Earnshaw – who now lies buried under cold white marble in the shadow of the moors.

Today the book goes out into the world – and I’m sitting here hoping the world will think we’ve done the original justice.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni only 99p on Kindle Countdown

drunk chickens - web ready99p spent on Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni will bring hours of reading pleasure as you journey through Afghanistan becoming caught up in the day-to-day lives of women like Sharifa, Latifa and Marzia, sharing their problems, dramas, the tears and the laughter: whether enjoying a good gossip over tea and fresh nan, dealing with a husband’s desertion or battling to save the life of a one-year-old opium addict. You can buy the book here.

The short excerpt below is from the journey and arrival at the clinic where I spent the following months establish a health volunteer programme with village women.

“The dramatic, rugged mountains of the HiDSCF1048ndu Kush formed a constantly changing backdrop – their kaleidoscopic colours varying from slate grey through earthy brown to rosy pink – as we travelled towards Bamiyan, the capital of Hazara Jat. This small, nondescript town and its surrounding areas, is steeped in history. Once, it was part of the ancient silk road, covering the route that led between Balkh and Tashkurghan, to Taxila, far away in Pakistan’s province of Punjab. Caravans laden with luxuries stopped to rest in Bamiyan’s fertile valley before continuing their arduous journeys.

We arrived at the clinic shortly before dusk DSCF1071on the fourth day of travelling. … It was utter bliss to stretch out after dinner, glass of tea in hand, relishing the fact that I would not, at four o’clock next morning, have to clamber, bleary eyed, into my corner of the jeep for another bone shaking twelve hour journey. The prospect of being able to sleep for as long as I wanted next morning was wonderful. I had forgotten that two year olds have much more efficient recuperative powers, and next morning David, thoroughly refreshed and ready for action, woke at dawn. Excited about seeing cows and calves, sheep, goats and donkeys – all within reach – he couldn’t wait to be out exploring his new world.

Iqbal’s clinic was a small, dilapidascan0002ted building on the edge of the village. The mud walls were a foot and a half thick, while the flat roof was constructed of straight, poplar tree trunks, interwoven with branches, topped by several layers of mud. The tiny windows were designed more for keeping out the bitter cold in winter, than for allowing in light. A large room where we gathered to eat, drink tea and entertain guests doubled as sleeping quarters for the staff – driver Abdul Ali, cook Ibrahim, field assistant Hassan, and Iqbal.

DSCF1061After a few days, I stopped reaching for a light switch when it grew dark, waiting instead for someone to light the pressure lamp, known as the gaz. To my shame, I never learned the knack of lighting these temperamental things and I was useless at keeping them alight when the pressure began to fall. If the light dimmed, furious pumping was required to raise the pressure, followed by some mysterious twiddling of a red knob. Whenever pushed, by necessity, to attempt any of this myself, I invariably plunged the room into darkness, or set the entire contraption alight.

In time, too, I remembered the pit latrine, a hundred yards from thscan0001e clinic, had no flush. It had no door, either. A curtain made of old sackcloth – full of holes – suspended over the entrance gave only the illusion of privacy. The occupier was expected to cough loudly at the approach of another party.

When I was in occupation, no amount of coughing prevented women – who, amongst themselves, had none of the men’s sense of modesty – from joining me. Many a medical consultation was conducted while I squatted, flushed with embarrassment, over the hole.

‘Go and see Dr. Iqbal,’ I’d plead, but in vain. The women who followed me to the loo did so because they were too shy to mention gynaecological problems to a man. They would be clutching little packets of paracetamol, prescribed because, overcome by horror at discussing such personal matters, they had instead complained to Iqbal of headaches.”

And if you are wondering about those drunk chickens – well, you can find out by buying the book here.