‘My next book’ – all three of them

Question: which of these statements is true?

Answer: they all are.

How can that be? Because what constitutes ‘my next book’ depends upon the context of the conversation.

  • Just for the Holidays – ‘is my next book to be published’. (18 May 2017 in ebook, paperback and audio, if you’re interested. And you can order it here.) This is also the next book to be promoted, which will involve me in writing blog posts, social media, radio interviews etc.
  • Give Me Till Christmas – ‘I’ve just sent my next book to my editor’. (9 October 2017 in ebook, 2 November paperback, audio tba. I was a little shocked to be told last week that you can order this, too.) This will be the next book to be edited. Structural edits first (ironing out all the plot lines that aren’t quite working etc.); next come line edits (minutiae and punctuation etc.); finally the proofreading.
  • The Summer of Finding Out – ‘I’m just about to begin researching and planning my next book.’ (Scheduled for Summer 2018) This will be the next book to be written, in between the promo of Just for the Holidays and the editing of Give Me Till Christmas.

In case you’re wondering, I am no special case. Many novelists work in this way. Personally, I love it. I choose to see it not as a pressure but as an affirmation that I’m a commercially published author. I don’t groan when I’m asked to do promo because whoever has asked me is helping me to sell my books. I don’t go into a huff when I receive my editorial notes, line edits or proofreading because we’re all working to produce the best book I can. (That sentence is grammatically incorrect on purpose – a team works to produce my book. How cool is that?)

Lest you think I’m polishing my halo, there are things I don’t react well to – spurious interruptions, people wasting my time unnecessarily, unreasonable people etc. etc. Here’s a recent example:

Phone rings. I answer. It’s the bank, asking to speak to another member of my household, one who is out of the house during the working day. This is the fifth time in two days that they’ve called with the same request. The first four times, I pointed out politely that the person is not here because he doesn’t work here but I do. Please, could the bank stop these calls? They’re interrupting me. On the fifth occasion, I’m half way through a difficult scene and my temper snaps along with the thread of what I’m trying to write. I find myself rising vertically from my chair. ‘Look! I keep telling you that he doesn’t work here! I DO! Look in your records for his daytime number and RING HIM THERE! It’s DAYTIME! I’ve told you and told you and told you this and you persist in interrupting me! I’m self-employed and I’m TRYING TO DO MY JOB! Why don’t you GO AWAY AND DO YOURS? And if you’re stupid enough to ring here again with the same request I’m going to take all my money out of your bank and put it somewhere else. Plus, I’m going to speak to your supervisor and tell him or her that you’re stupid! Right?’

And, you know what, she didn’t ring back and I was able to get on with my next book.

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.

 

Sharing some exciting news

A book very close to my heart.

A book very close to my heart.

I can finally let you all in on a secret I have been keeping for a little while now….

The Romantic Novelists Association has announced the shortlists for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards – and my book, Little Girl Lost, is there. And yes – I did cry when I first heard the news.

Little Girl Lost is shortlisted for the Epic Romantic Novel of the Year –that’s for a book which has a strong romance at its core, but also deals with wider issues beyond the romance.

I have been fortunate enough to be shortlisted, or won, other awards – but this one is particularly special to me.

First of all, the RNA is a wonderful organisation for which I have boundless respect and affection. I’ve been a member for many years and tried, where I can, to do my bit to help the organisation that helped me so much when I was first starting out as a writer of fiction.

I am also sharing the shortlists with writers whom I admire and, in some cases, have the honour of calling my friends. There have been some pretty wonderful books and authors on these shortlists over the years – including our own Sue Moorcroft.

Little Girl Lost holds a special place in my heart. Some of the issues it deals with have touched me personally. As I wrote it, I had my doubts about the book – but people I love and trust supported me and urged me on.

So – thank you to the RNA for this honour. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London in March. You can read more about the awards and the shortlists on the RNA website.

With such great books on the shortlists – I am not at all expecting to win…. but I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed, just in case. Wish me luck.

Research: Sue shares her methods

Research: Sue shares her methods

I love the research connected to my books. Research trips for The Christmas Promise took me repeatedly to London – Camden (including cafes that sold great cake and shops that sold incredible shoes), Balham, and an exhibition of graphic art at the British Library. My next book, due out next summer and currently bearing the working title of Just for the Holidays, necessitated (yes, truly necessitated) a four-day trip to Strasbourg and a helicopter pilot taking me up and pretending to crash (read about it here). The helicopter event is  my happiest research moment to date.

The book I’m just beginning to plan, which currently has the snappy title of My Next Book, is causing me to watch a lot of property programmes and learn about being an interior decorator. (Fun, but nothing on the helicopter.)Helicopterweb

As people frequently ask me about my research (‘You went up in a helicopter and did WHAT?’) I thought I’d share with you how I go about things.

  • Early research into a place sees me buying maps and books, plus ransacking any handy Tourist Information office for leaflets and timetables. It really helps me to read all this material and keep it to hand while the book’s being written. Nothing slows my output so much as me thinking, ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about, do you?’
  • I walk for miles around the area with my phone. NB I’d take a digital camera, too, if my phone had a small memory or didn’t take good pix.
  • I have to put a word in for technology here – a good phone makes research effective. I take photo after photo. Not just buildings or markets, but road signs (very useful to take the one near where you leave the car, by the way) and notices.
  • When a fabulous idea bursts into my imagination, I activate the voice recorder on my phone. Nobody thinks I’m nuts, talking into a phone. I chatter on about what might happen when Ava and Sam have breakfast the morning after Patrick’s party and note that the fastest way from the ‘caff’ to the station is probably across Sainsbury’s car park.
  • Back home in  Northamptonshire I download the images onto my much-loved Mac and, ta-dah! My memories made real. The images are also filed handily in the order in which I took them, which can be a huge help when I’m later writing about a character’s route home.
  • 2014-08-21 14.32.21Of course, I  do some of the nutty novelist stuff, too (helicopter!), like wandering around Camden until I find the street where Ava and Izz live (it’s just off Kentish Town Road and all the houses are different colours, like a Quality Street tin) and falling into conversation with a much-decorated Goth couple just to find how cool it really is to live in Camden Town. (Very, apparently, especially around the markets in summer.)
  • HatInvaluable to me is getting the right people to talk to me about whatever it is I need to know. I tend to look out for suitable careers for my characters and a few years ago I happened to be on a radio programme for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire with Abigail Crampton of Abigail Crampton Millinery. I said hers would be an ideal job for one of my heroines and when I finally got around to the right heroine, I emailed Abigail and asked for help. She kindly invited me to her studio and, since then, I have invited myself to her hat-making demonstrations, back to her studio, and invited her to read my manuscript twice and get involved in the promo for the book. (Truthfully, you need a certain amount of front to make strangers into friends so that you can shamelessly pick their brains and email screeds of questions for months on end, but it’s a skill well worth cultivating.)
  • I say ‘thank you!’ a lot, too.

A whole lot of romance

Take around 200 romantic novelists and what do you get? A conference, apparently! The Romantic Novelists’ Association conference at Lancaster University certainly didn’t disappoint, with an amazing buzz for the best part of three days.

The RNA is a diverse and incredibly supportive organisation. Writers of all ages, published, unpublished and self-published belong, and new writers are mentored through those painful early days towards publication. At the conference, there are talks and workshops on just about every aspect of writing a novel you can think of – but the best part of it is meeting new writers, making new friends and catching up with old friends.

Three Take Five Authors members were there enjoying the fun this year. Janet Gover and Jenny Harper and Sue Moorcroft.

A common pastime for me during the weekend. It's much better now.

A common pastime for Janet during the weekend. It’s much better now.

 

Janet says: I had a wonderful time and came back totally inspired. It wasn’t just the talks and workshops. They were full of useful information… but I learned something else this year. The night before conference, I hurt my foot, and at one stage thought I would be unable to go. I put out an SOS and so many of my RNA friends were there to help – with a lift to the venue, carrying my things, even dashing out to buy frozen peas to help my swollen foot. For me, that really sums up the friendship I find in the RNA.

 

Jenny says: The Conference is a great time for renewing old friendships and forging new ones – and I had a ball doing both. The only frustrating thing is that there are often two or more sessions running at the same time, so you simply can’t do everything. I’m delighted that I chose to attend the crime workshop. I don’t write crime, but I now know where to turn for accurate information if I ever need it – and it was fascinating. Roll on next year!

Janet and Jenny catching up at the conference.

Janet and Jenny catching up at the conference.

Sue says: I spent a lot of time catching up with my friends in the dining room, the bar and at kitchen parties (invaluable networking) but I also attended some great sessions. The two on commercial fiction were especially useful as I’m teaching a course on the subject in October and the ‘Together we stand panel’ of industry professionals was just fascinating. The conference always gives me a huge buzz!

Sue with RNA President Katie Fforde

Sue with RNA President Katie Fforde