Have laptop, will travel

Mary Smith’s great post last week made me think a little more about where I write and when.

Study webcopy

Study

 

 

Over the past few months, I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing in places other than my favourite place – my study at home. I headed up a great writing retreat in Italy for Arte Umbria where I had the huge pleasure of writing a book set in Italy while I was actually there. (And if you’re thinking of joining one of my writing retreats there in 2018, here’s what you might like to know, along with the booking link.)

AU retreat 2017 webcopy

Arte Umbria – 2017 retreat

 

In August I was a little more local, heading off to Derbyshire and the fabulous Swanwick, The Writer’s Summer School to teach the Popular Fiction course, which ran over four morning sessions and was so well attended I was allocated the Main Conference Hall as my venue. It’s a lovely hall, light and airy, and I was happy to have such a great facility for one of my last teaching gigs in the foreseeable future, my publishing schedule being  tight at least until the end of 2108.

 

IMG_3237

Workin in my room at Swanwick

Each day, after my session, I returned to my room and I wrote. This is despite the fact that Swanwick runs a varied and imaginative programme, of which I could have taken advantage, and there were a lot of friends in attendance, old and new. I really needed to finish the first draft of next summer’s book, currently entitled The Summer of Finding Out, so I simply treated my non-teaching time as a writing retreat. Although a room in a conference centre doesn’t have the charm (or sunshine) of an Italian terrace, I was very comfortable and with no domestic duties or visits to the gym to factor into my working week, I just sat down every day with a plentiful supply of tea … and wrote. I’d go over to the main buildings for lunch and a glass of wine then return to my room and write again until dinner.

IMG_3246

The main building at Swanwick

 

And I finished my first draft! Awesome.

There’s a small sting in this tale. When I returned home I worked first on my German edits for The Little Village Christmas and then wrote a two-part story for My Weekly. When I returned to my first draft of The Summer of Finding Out the final chunk was missing! I nearly had a heart attack. I had saved a version to Dropbox but could hardly bear to look at it in case it, too, was incomplete ….

PHEW! The whole manuscript was there. It took me a further day to realise that I’d written the last chunk of the book on my laptop, which was why the full version wasn’t on my desktop! A real brain fade moment for me but it gave my heart a thorough workout.

Just before I go I’d like to share with you the lovely cover for The Little Village Christmas, which was revealed a week ago. Isn’t it gorgeous? Can’t wait to see the paperback with all its festive bling.

The Little Village Christmas

For those who have been asking me for another book set in Middledip Village – this is it! It features a few old friends such as Gabe Piercy and his contrary pony, Snobby, and head of the village hall committee, Carola, plays a pivotal role. But things have been happening. The village hall is closed! How can this be? It was the heart of the village. Good job that Alexia Kennedy heads up a rescue package for an old pub, The Angel, abandoned decades ago, to make it into The Angel Community Café. (I always thought the village lacked a coffee shop.) But when someone runs away with all the money, everything changes not just for The Angel but for Alexia herself. The Little Village Christmas also brings to the village Gabe’s nephew, Benedict Hardaker, who has suffered a couple of hard knocks and is hiding out in the woods to recover. Until he gets roped into rescuing The Angel …

 

Advertisements

Summer in Winter, Christmas in August

I’m thrilled that, finally, the announcement has been made that I’ve signed a new three-book deal with Avon Books UK (HarperCollins). Because announcements are never made until all parties have signed the contract, and the contract takes a while to prepare, the agreement was actually reached back in March – and it has nearly killed me not jumping the gun and announcing it myself! But I’m thrilled to continue working with the fantastic Avon team.

The first of the three new books is The Little Village Christmas. The next will be a summer book and the last another set at Christmas. This makes my position as an author ‘seasonal’. Every book will have a seasonal title and cover. You can see that I began exactly this way in my original contract with Avon.

TCP-and-JFTH-for-web

So, what does it involve to write books with such an overt seasonal slant? Frequently, I’m working on a book set in the ‘opposite’ season to the one I’m experiencing. I’m proofing The Little Village Christmas now, reading about snow and ice while sunlight is streaming through my window (if I’m lucky!). I’m thinking about Christmas decorations, raffles and big coats. Avon has been hard at work writing a Christmassy blurb and creating a Christmas cover. Amazon has even sent out the first promotional email (thank you all those who have preordered 🙂 ).

File 02-08-2017, 08 41 51

My paper proofs

On the plus side, the book I’m actually writing is my Summer 2018 book, working title The Summer of Finding Out. I had the huge pleasure of writing a good chunk of it while on my Arte Umbria writing retreat. (NB If you’re interested in joining me on the writing retreat next year you can find information here.) To write a book set in Italy while I was in Italy was a special experience. My hero, Levi, paints the scene I could see from the terrace and I took hundreds of research pix in Orvieto, to which ‘my’ Umbrian town of Monteliberatà will bear some resemblance. After running out my camera battery I sat down for lunch with a couple of lovely people from the course and remained after they’d gone, sipping Orvieto Classico and making notes about what I’d seen, heard and smelled as I’d walked the cobbled streets earlier.

File 02-08-2017, 08 57 24

I have to be honest, I planned my writing schedule around writing about Italy while staying in Italy. I defended it against the necessity to edit The Little Village Christmas and even asked for a couple of days extension to my deadline in case I needed it when I returned to the UK.

When I’ve finished the first draft of The Summer of Finding Out I’ll be returning to The Little Village Christmas in order to perform a few more edits for the German publisher. Then I’ll write a two-part Christmas story for My Weekly, due in by the end of August, and return to The Summer of Finding Out to write the second draft.

All this time, of course, I’m promoting Just for the Holidays, which is my Summer 2017 book! And in the interests of such promotion you might like to know that Just for the Holidays is only 99p on Kindle and Kobo right now …

Whatever books you love and whenever you like them – Happy Reading!

 

Writing in Italy … about Italy

I’m feeling fond of Italy this week. There are two reasons:

  1. I’m travelling to Italy on Wednesday to lead the one-week Great Writing course for Arte Umbria. Then I’m staying a second week to lead their writing retreat.
  2. The book I’m writing, currently entitled The Summer of Finding Out and scheduled for publication in May 2018, is set in Umbria, too. In fact, the rear of a small hotel my heroine, Sofia, lives in, bears an uncanny resemblance to the gorgeous terrace, gardens and pool of Arte Umbria‘s venue, Tenuta di Poggiolame, complete with its panoramic view.

Sue Moorcroft at Arte Umbria webThis will be the fifth year I’ve led a course for Arte Umbria and naturally, I’m looking forward to it. Who wouldn’t, when their ‘classroom’ is a sunny terrace?

But I’m also excited about the retreat because I’ll actually be in the book’s setting as I write. I can go into an Italian town to do my research; chat to people who live the Italian way of life; immerse myself in the culture, sounds, smells and sights. I’ve long wanted this experience. When I wrote The Wedding Proposal, set in Malta, the temptation was enormous to go there for a week to write. If I hadn’t been travelling so much that summer anyway, I would have done it, but there were just too many things against the idea at the time. If I recall correctly I attended the RT Booklovers’ Convention in America and taught in France and Italy.Sue working on terrace web

But this time … this time it’s different. I’ve been able to bring my writing schedule and teaching schedule together beautifully. It also marks a change in my life as next year my publishing schedule is so tight that I won’t be teaching anywhere (unless somebody invites me to a great country to do so). But two writing retreats are scheduled for Arte Umbria and I will be there … I wonder if I can pull off being in the midst of a book set in Italy again?

Photo 06-07-2013 14 24 14 (1) web

PS The first booking has already been taken for Arte Umbria‘s writing retreats in 2018. If you’d like to know more or even make your booking, click here for my page on the Arte Umbria website and here for the booking form.

 

Sharing with you the excitement of launch week

Hello!

 

Helen with JFTH RNA Summer P

Editor Helen Huthwaite from Avon Books UK with JFTH at the RNA Summer Party on publication day

After a saturated end to last week in Northamptonshire, when I was soaked to the skin dashing through Northampton to get to BBC Radio Northampton for my interview on the Bernie Keith Show, by Monday summer had arrived! Before my BBC Radio Cambridgeshire spot with Jeremy Sallis I was able to sit outside at a nearby pub to eat my lunch. (I only drank water and tea, honestly.) It was glorious!

 

The week has continued in the same vein. Yesterday I met friends in London and then went on to Romance in the Court, hosted by Goldsboro Books of Cecil Court. Standing outside the shop, drinking fizz and chatting to many author friends plus quite a few readers, it felt as if we were in the Mediterranean. (I had a chocolate brownie before the event and half a pizza after, in case you were worried that I had nothing to soak up those lovely bubbles!)

Just for the Holidays has enjoyed encouraging sales figures for its first week (or part week, in the case of the paperback) so I plan to give myself time to relax this weekend and watch the Formula 1 from Monaco.

I’ll finish with a bit of a gallery to go with the excitement of launch week, working on the principle of a picture being worth a thousand words (even if, as a writer, I seldom agree.)

 

 

 

Jeremy Sallis

Jeremy Sallis at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

 

Publication day flowers

Publication Day flowers

 

W Bernie Keith & JFTH copy

With Bernie Keith and Riley, BBC Radio Northampton

 

Champagne lunch

Champagne lunch with my agent, who is, indeed, lovely

Nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. Until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple and a very unexpected pregnancy.

 

 

 

‘Just for the Holidays’ hits the shelves!

JFTH Ebook cover smallPublication day!

Yes, today Just for the Holidays will be hitting shelves, shopping trolleys and e-readers. It’s the culmination of a lot of work, not just for me but for my agent, editor, publicists, assistants, sales team, cover artist and everybody else who’s involved in the publication of a book. Huge thank yous to every single one of them.

Thanks also to all the lovely readers who buy my novels and make my life as an author possible. Every book’s special to me and it fills me with joy when you contact me on social media to tell me what you thought.

So what’s Just for the Holidays about? It’s about Leah, who’s mad on cars and chocolate but not mad on the idea of a husband and children. She gets roped into looking after her sister’s husband and children with only a Porsche and a pilot to cheer her up.

What else can you expect to find within the pages? France, teenagers, more chocolate food technology, lovely sunshine, a Goth, furry creatures, an unexpected guest and a helicopter.JFTH Blog tour small

If you’d like to follow the blog tour, here’s the schedule.