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.



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.


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 🙂 ).

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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.

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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!


‘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.



Cover reveal and the London Book Fair

Drrrrrum rrrrroll please! It’s my pleasure this Sunday evening to share my new book cover!

JFTH Ebook cover small


Avon Books UK has given me another fabulous cover, one I’m proud to have on my book. Paperback, ebook and audio book will all be released on 18 May 2017 and you can get your preorder in hereJust for the Holidays is about Leah Beaumont who, having made a decision not to marry or have children, finds herself stuck in France looking after her sister’s husband and kids. But, hey, it’s just for the holidays, right? Well, whether you’re headed for an exotic beach or prefer something closer to home, Leah’s holiday is probably going to make your summer feel pretty good.

Apart from getting excited about that pretty cover, I spent three days last week enjoying the delights of the London Book Fair. It’s a giant trade fair where agents, publishers and those who provide services or products to them, can meet to do business. There are two massive halls and two big galleries filled with stands from all over the world.

So, what is an author doing there? I treat it rather like a conference and go along to absorb information. As well as an opportunity to see what publishers are publishing this year, there are many talks/panels/presentations taking place. Many of them aren’t aimed at me but I’m interested, so in I go. My personal highlights were a debate on whether Brexit will be good for publishing; a talk by Michael Morpurgo, children’s author; and meeting face-to-face for the first time Karen Byrom, the fiction editor of My Weekly. Expect to see a short story and Just for the Holidays giveaway in My Weekly in May, a Christmas two-parter in December, and a little promo idea Karen and I cooked up that I’m sitting on for now.

I also use the Fair as a place to meet other authors and friends for a cuppa, a chat, lunch or dinner. It’s tiring; I walked an average of seven miles a day, but I love it. To share the love, I put together a bit of a pin board for you below.


LBF 17 pastiche

Top row, L-R: Michael Morpurgo, the view from the gallery, the audience gathers ahead of Mr Morpurgo’s talk, spring hits London Olympia, the HarperCollins stand.

Bottom row, L-R: pity they didn’t have my size, London and the Thames in the sunshine (no, this isn’t close to Olympia), Christina Courtenay and I are not afraid of some big shark, the Independent Publishers’ Guild stands, decorative rather than for reading.




Discovering a lovely review, written by a total stranger, of one of my books on Amazon fills me with a warm glow. That someone has found my book out of the many millions out there, read it, ‘got’ it, liked my characters – and taken the time to post a review – is hugely satisfying and uplifting. I want to hug this discerning reader but, as I don’t know them, I celebrate with a little happy dance at my desk.

best way to thank an author

I am sure most authors feel much the same level of delight when someone leaves a good review on Amazon – and probably the same level of pain when they suddenly come across a nasty little 2*.

I admit I’m not good at putting reviews on Amazon even though I want other readers to find and enjoy books I’ve read and loved. It’s partly because I don’t feel confident about writing a review, finding it difficult to precis a plot in a couple of sentences. I worry someone will look at what I’ve written and sneer at it or someone will buy the book I’ve raved about and hate it.

At the end of July, Rosie Amber, one of my favourite book review bloggers (though she and her team of reviewers cost me a fortune!) put up a post urging readers to post reviews on Goodreads or Amazon.  She gives short shrift to my excuses – seems I’m by no means the only reluctant reviewer – and gave tips on how to write a review.

A couple of days later, author and blogger Terry Tyler, came up with an idea to encourage readers – and surely all authors are readers? – to write a review on Amazon. Her blog post is here.

When someone  puts a review on Amazon this month they can tweet it and, if the hashtag #AugustReviews is used Terry then lists those on her blog.

As for my worries about not being good at writing reviews I found something Terry wrote reassuring. She says: “Remember, this isn’t the Times Literary Supplement, it’s Amazon, where ordinary people go to choose their next £1.99 Kindle book.  No one expects you to write a thousand word, in-depth critique; I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to read one short paragraph or a couple of lines saying what an average reader thought of a book, than a long-winded essay about the pros and cons of the various literary techniques used.”

I like that ‘ordinary people’ and I’m further encouraging myself with the reminder that a review is my opinion – so it can’t be right or wrong.

I think reviews do help people decide whether or not to buy a book. I certainly have a quick read through before I make a decision and hit the buy button. If I have enjoyed a book, I do want to let other people know about so I’ve started to take part in #AugustReviews. I’ve only done three or four but it’s a start.

How about others? Do you put reviews on Amazon for books you’ve enjoyed reading?  If not, why not?

Does a good review for one of your books make you happy? If you have enjoyed a book, how about making another author feel as happy as you?

There are still a few days left in August – why not make an author smile (unless it’s a dead author, obviously) and tell other readers about a book you enjoyed? And don’t stop in September – carry on sharing the love.


PS This is NOT about giving your writer friends 5* reviews, which can make for uncomfortable feelings all round.