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.


A new book and a new me.

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

I’m really pleased to at last be able to reveal some exciting news. I’ve been keeping this secret for what seems like forever… but now I can announce that I have new book coming out soon – in a new genre, with a new name and a writing partner.

The Heights is a modern adaptation of the classic story of Heathcliff and Cathy – set in the late 20th century, against the backdrop of the miners’ strike and the decline of a once proud mining community in Yorkshire.

Juliet Bell is the pen name for my writing partnership with Alison May. It all started at a conference a couple of years ago. We each led a workshop, and both used Wuthering Heights to illustrate very different points.

This is a book I have wanted to write for years. I am a huge fan of the original. I have often heard people talk of Heathcliff as a romantic hero and Wuthering Heights as a great love story. In my mind, that’s just not true. Heathcliff is a fascinating character… but he’s no hero. It’s not really a story about love, it’s a story about obsession and the destruction it can cause.

As a journalist, I have read and written about the period from the winter of discontent, through the Thatcher years up until the global financial crash in 2008. This time of great social change and discord seemed a perfect setting for the book – but as an Australian, I really didn’t feel I had the cultural background to do it justice. Research can only go so far.

Back to the writing conference.. and Alison who is not only a fabulous writer, but also grew up in just the right part of England at just the right time. She too loves the work of the Bronte’s – and like me tends to think of Wuthering Heights as something other than the romance of popular belief.

At the conference we joked that between us we could write that book – and get it done in time to mark the 200 anniversary of Emily Bronte’s birth in 2018. A couple of weeks later, we decided we weren’t joking, and The Heights is the result.

I thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative process. You can go and meet Alison on her website … and there will soon be a Juliet Bell website, because The Heights is not her only work. Alison and I are part of the way through another book – but shhh … I can’t say anything about that one yet.

I am incredibly proud of The Heights, and will be talking about it on Juliet Bell’s twitter account @julietbellbooks  and facebook page too. And I probably also should mention it’s now available for pre-order.


Deadlines – from a traditional author’s perspective

Even if it doesn’t actually tick – the clock is always there.

Flowing on from last weeks post about deadlines from an indie author’s viewpoint, here are some thoughts from the other side of the spectrum.

I am a traditionally published author… and I love a deadline. I mean, seriously love them.

Maybe it dates back to my years as a TV journalist. The nightly news went on air at five or six or seven o’clock, according to where I was working. And whatever story I was preparing for that show, if it wasn’t ready on time, it didn’t go on air. The next day, there would be more news. Yesterday’s story would simply be forgotten and all that work would be for nothing. So I very quickly learned the importance of a deadline and in 20 years, I only missed one (and that wasn’t my fault – but that’s a different story).

So – a deadline is a good thing.

Two deadlines? That’s a bit harder, but still do-able with a bit of planning. A lot of publishers these days like at least one full novel and one novella from every author in a year.

Three overlapping deadlines? That’s really, really hard work and likely to induce stress and much need for chocolate or red wine – or possibly both.

And anyone who accepts four deadlines is a crazy person. Seriously crazy. This is usually linked to writing in more than one genre of novel under more than one name. (Guilty as charged Your Honour.)

When I look at my writing schedule, this is what I see:

  1. New Australian novel to be go my agent by September 30th
  2. September or October – edits for book number 10, due to be released in January 2017 (under another pen name).
  3. Something called “the New York Novel”, which I have promised my agent I will start writing before Christmas and finish by next summer. The END of next summer (she says loudly, hoping that’s true)
  4. A follow up to book 10, due for release in January 2019, which must be started in September/October and be in the publisher’s hands by June next year, with edits for that probably around the end of summer (see point 3).

(Did you notice how I combined a couple of deadlines in the last two? If I hadn’t, that would be five/six deadlines. And no-one their right mind ever takes on five/six deadlines, because that’s just impossible.)

So – how am I going to do all this?

Research can leave you a bit overloaded.

I usually write a minimum of 1,000 words a day. 1,500 words is normally a good day. That’s about 8,000 words in a week. It might not sound like a lot – after all there are more than 600 words in this post. But there’s research and planning and thinking through plot possibilities. Plus of course there is real life, which often includes a day job.

In the past few weeks, I have been inspired by all these deadlines. Yes. Definitely inspired. It sounds so much better than terrified.

I have been writing as much as 3,000 words per day. Sometimes more. And as always when the words are flowing that easily, they are pretty good words. Of course they will still need reworking and polishing and editing, but they are right there on the page. There is also the small matter of going back and changing ‘loko’ into ‘look’ and trying to figure out what ‘naviess’ is supposed to be. I don’t type well when I type quickly.

When I’m this terrified  inspired, a few things have to give way to make those deadlines. These include ironing, laundry (except in dire emergencies), gardening, exercise and being social. As for tidying the house… well, best not think about that.

In about three days, I expect to finish the new Australian novel – with the working title of The Homestead. At that point, my level of terror will subside just a little. But the funny thing about all of this is that I love it. I cannot think of anything else I would rather be doing. Maybe this is the writer’s equivalent of the adrenaline rush that sportsmen and actors and surgeons and stock traders get when things go well and fear is replaced by a sense of accomplishment.

In three or four weeks, I will be able to cross off the first deadline in my list, so maybe I could think about adding that Christmas novella….. after all, I wouldn’t like to run out of deadlines – and inspiration.