Welcome … Kate Field

I’m delighted to welcome romance author and fellow Romantic Novelists’ Association member Kate Field to the blog this week. I’ve met Kate a couple of times over lunch with local writers, and she is as delightful as her books. The last time we met, I told her off because I was reading her first book, The Magic of Ramblings, and it was so magical that I couldn’t put it down when I had other things to do!

With her second novel, The Truth About You, Me and Us, recently released, I had plenty of questions to ask her here on the blog, but first, here’s the lovely cover and blurb …

Sometimes the hardest person to be honest with is yourself…

Five years ago Helen Walters walked out on her ‘perfect’ life with the ‘perfect’ man. Wealthy, glamorous and bored, she longed for something more.

Now a talented artist with a small business, Helen creates crazy patchwork crafts to support her young daughter, Megan. Penniless, content and single, she is almost unrecognisable.

But when her past unexpectedly collides with her new life, Helen finds herself torn. She knows what the easiest choice is, but is it what she wants?

And now, onto the interview to find out more about Kate and her writing …

Kate, what drew you to write romantic fiction? Are you a die-hard romantic in ‘real’ life?

I’ve loved reading romantic fiction ever since studying Pride and Prejudice for my GCSE exams. That book renewed my enthusiasm for reading after it had waned through a succession of dull but worthy set texts, and I then went on to discover the Brontës, Victoria Holt, Georgette Heyer… I haven’t stopped reading since!

I’d found the style of book I loved best, so it never crossed my mind to write anything else. Some people criticise romance books for being predictable, but that’s one of the things I love about them. I like to pick up a book and know that although there may be twists and turns, I’ll be guaranteed a happy ending.

I don’t lead a very romantic life – perhaps that’s another reason why I like to read and write about it!

Your previous novel, The Magic of Ramblings, led you to win the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers 2017. How did that feel? Can you tell us something about how you were shortlisted and ultimately won?

It was an amazing experience, and I’m still pinching myself that it actually happened!

The Romantic Novelists’ Association run a New Writers’ Scheme, where unpublished authors can join and submit a manuscript each year for critique. Books that go through the NWS and are subsequently published are eligible for the Joan Hessayon Award.

The award was given out at the RNA’s summer party in London, so it was a lovely opportunity to head ‘down south’ and get dressed up! I didn’t think for a second that I would win, as there were some great books on the shortlist, several written by good writing friends, so it was a genuine shock when my name was called out as the winner. My favourite photograph of the night captured that moment, and shows how surprised I was!

I love that photo! It really does capture that moment so well!

You’re a northern girl – Lancashire to be precise. Do you feel that some elements of that come through in your writing?

I’m Lancashire born and bred, and both the books that have been published are set in fictional Lancashire villages. I think it’s inevitable that my northern roots show through my writing, particularly in the characters and the dialogue. I’m told there’s some northern grit in there too!

Lancashire doesn’t have the best climate, so inevitably the weather plays a part in the novels. The Magic of Ramblings features a bad storm which is a turning point in the story. It was an easy scene to write, as living on a remote hill, it’s the type of weather I experience quite often!

I loved the setting for The Magic of Ramblings – lovely, but subject to the elements.

What did you enjoy most when writing your latest book, The Truth About You, Me and Us? (And was there anything that drove you mad?!)

The Truth About You, Me and Us has had a troubled history!

I first started writing it about 14 years ago, and knew the basic scenario, the main characters, and how it was going to end. I reached Chapter 3 and realised that the characters I had created didn’t fit with the ending I had in mind. I abandoned the book at that point, and it was many years later that I looked at it again and with more writing experience behind me, it was obvious what I needed to do to fix it.

Once I’d finished the book, I started submitting it. Although it was shortlisted and a runner-up in various competitions, it was repeatedly rejected by agents and publishers. It’s great to see it published at last!

My favourite parts of the book are the scenes between Helen and her young daughter, Megan. I borrowed heavily from my own daughter – and as she’s now a teenager, it was lovely to remember the peaceful early years!

I think it’s great when you can go back to something you wrote a while ago that just wasn’t working, and this time make it all come together. 🙂

Where do you write … and what would be your dream writing location? 

I write the first draft by hand, so I can and do write anywhere. My dream location would be somewhere by the sea or by a river, as I love to look out onto water. The only water I see at home is the frequent rain lashing the windows!

Ha! Mmm, I would love to overlook the sea, too – but I suspect I might not get much work done! 😀

Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on next?

I’ve recently started the first in what I hope will be a series of novels set around a fictional town in the lovely part of north Lancashire that sits between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. I’m only on chapter 7, so it’s at that tricky stage where I’m still not sure if the story is going to work out or not. This is the moment when I wish I was a plotter not a pantster!

I know what you mean – I’m rather a pantser myself – but it’s so lovely to let the characters do their own thing, isn’t it? (As long as they do something that makes the book workable!)

Thanks for visiting, Kate – it’s lovely to find out more about you and your writing 🙂

 

You can buy Kate’s books at these links:

Amazon UK          Amazon US

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and hyperactive cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers in 2017.

You can find Kate at these links:

Twitter           Facebook

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A (half)day out at East Riddlesden Hall, West Yorkshire

Taking advantage of our newly-acquired National Trust membership, we finally got round to visiting East Riddlesden Hall near Keighley, West Yorkshire. I say “finally got round to” because it’s only half an hour’s drive from us, and my father used to volunteer there as a room steward for a few years once he retired, so we had no excuse not to have done it before now!

It was rather a dull day, so the photographs don’t show it in its best light, but here goes …

A manor has existed on the site since the 7th century, but the earliest remains that can now be seen are the ruined wing of a medieval hall built in the  1300s. These are the ruins, to the left of the photograph …

In the 1400s, a house was built next to it and gradually extended over the next century or so.

In the 17th century, it was turned into a manor house by a wealthy cloth industrialist who bought the estate for around £6,000 (which would be £6,000,000 today!) His many and ostentatious renovations are apparently no longer evident in what can be seen now …

The house passed between various families over the next three centuries. Finally, after years of neglect, it was due to be demolished in the 1930s, but the Mayor of Keighley and his brother stepped in to save it and some of its land, and they donated it to the National Trust.

The mish-mash of the history of the place does reflect in your visit. Many of the original features, fixtures and furnishings were sold off over the years, although I presume these fabulous windows are original …

The National Trust have fitted the Hall out with furniture in keeping with the property to give an ideas of what it might have been like … 
… and the room stewards do their best to impart what is known about the property over the centuries. The lady in the kitchen area was particularly knowledgeable.
As much of the land was also sold off before the NT obtained the property, the gardens are not extensive, but they are pleasant for a stroll and on a nice day would be a lovely place to sit …

We took a walk along a path that leads you around the edge of the meadows and back to the Hall, which gives a sense of how the Hall and its grounds are an oasis in the midst of the urbanisation around it.

The cafe is situated in an oak-beamed outbuilding and was a lovely place for a cuppa.

My thoughts? We would have struggled to spend more than a half-day to do and see what we wanted to here, but with our entry fee covered by our NT membership, it was a pleasant place to while away two to three hours. And apparently they put on extra activities for kids in school holidays.

A day out at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire

It’s a been a busy summer, what with the release of Summer at the Little French Guesthouse and welcoming guest authors to the blog with their lovely summer releases, too … and so, as ever, I’m rather behind with my ‘places visited’ posts!

In mid-June, hubby and I finally took the plunge and joined the National Trust. We planned to head off to Cornwall for a holiday (no doubt I’ll post about that at some later date!) and as many of the car parks down there seemed to be NT-owned and there are plenty of NT places to visit there, too, it seemed a good time to go ahead.

That gave us the perfect excuse to visit Fountains Abbey to get our membership sorted and then spend the day!

We usually visit this area in the winter, for a walk around Studley park and lake and beyond (you can read about that here) but becoming National Trust members meant that we could walk through the grounds of the abbey itself, something I’ve done as a child and also when our children were younger, but that was quite a while ago!

The abbey was founded in the 1100s by Benedictine monks from York, evolving into the Cistercian Order, and it became wealthy via wool , lead mining, cattle, and stone quarrying.
But the 14th-century didn’t go well for the monks, with bad harvests and raids by the Scots, let alone the Black Death,  and then of course there was the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.
After that, the estate was sold to a merchant and stayed in private hands right up until the 1960s, and finally the National Trust bought it the 1980s.
After wandering through the impressive ruins of the abbey, we meandered along the Studley Royal Water Garden …

This was landscaped and developed in Georgian times and is dotted with classical statuary and small temples …
It was a glorious day and we thoroughly enjoyed the views, stopping for a much-needed cuppa at the Studley tearoom, overlooking the lake, before finally heading back to the abbey.

It’s wonderful to have such a beautiful place just an hour or so’s drive away.

My thoughts? You could easily spend a full day here in good weather, so bring a picnic!

 

Five on Friday with Helen Pollard @helenpollard147

Jill’s Book Cafe has a great new feature, Five on Friday , and I was kindly invited to take part a couple of weeks ago. The questions really made me think! If you want to find out some unusual things about me in an interview with a difference, check this out … 🙂

Jill's Book Cafe

Helen Pollard_author portrait_ cropped

Helen Pollard will be known to many of you as the author of the popular, feel good La Cour des Roses trilogy.  Today she has Kindly agreed to take part in Five on Friday a regular post aimed at getting a little glimpse of the person behind the name.

Author bio:

As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.

She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.

When she’s not writing, Helen enjoys reading, scrapbooking and watching old seventies and eighties TV shows.

Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

So let’s dig a bit deeper and find out a bit more with Helen’s responses to Five on…

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On not giving up the day job – a guest post by Mary Jayne Baker

I have a great guest post for you today from Mary Jayne Baker, ‘On not giving up the day job’. I’ve enjoyed chatting to Mary Jayne at a couple of writerly lunches recently, and I can tell you that she is as prolific as her post suggests! I get exhausted just thinking about it!

But first, take a look at the cover and blurb for her latest release, Meet Me at the Lighthouse, available both as an e-book and now as a paperback. I finished reading Meet Me at the Lighthouse this week, and it’s both funny and romantic – perfect for these rainy days we’ve been having recently. I thoroughly enjoyed it! 

‘One of my top books of 2017… side-splittingly hilarious’ – The Writing Garnet

‘The day I turned 28, I bought a lighthouse and met the love of my life.’

Bobbie Hannigan’s life in a cottage by the sea with her dog and her twin sister is perfectly fine … until she decides the logical thing is to buy a lighthouse and open a music venue with Ross Mason, the first boy she ever kissed. Bobbie tries to be professional with Ross, but the happily-ever-after they’re working toward is too good to resist. That is until someone from his past crawls back to cause trouble. Can Bobbie look past the secrets Ross has been keeping from her? Or will the boy, the lighthouse and the dream all slip away?

Escape to the Yorkshire coast this summer with this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy from Mary Jayne Baker!

 

And now over to Mary Jayne herself …

On not giving up the day job

We all have dreams. Authors, who spend so much time in made-up worlds populated by imaginary friends, might even be called professional dreamers.

These are some of our favourite dreams:

  1. Make Sunday Times Bestseller list
  2. Sleep
  3. Become full-time writer
  4. Richard Ayoade

Well, maybe that last one’s just me. I do love Richard Ayoade.

Of these, 1 is, I admit, pretty unlikely. 2’s pretty unlikely most days too. And 4’s still not answering my letters. So that just leaves 3.

Most writers, I think, dream of one day being in a position to do that full-time. We all come to writing as a hobby first of all, something we do because we love it, for catharsis, and because we just can’t not do it. Making something we feel that passionate about our main source of income sounds wonderful, but for most of us, at least when we’re starting out, it simply isn’t an option.

In my day job, I’m a graphic designer for a magazine and book publisher, which I love. I work nine to five, five days a week, with a long and disjointed daily commute, and I frequently get asked how I ever managed to write a book, let alone more than one.

That was my excuse for years. I’d love to write a book, but I just don’t have time. I might have a book in me, and just as soon as I’m retired I’ll get right on it. I’m too sleep-deprived to be creative… etc etc.

In the end, it was the combination of a dare and an event called NaNoWriMo – an abbreviation for National Novel-Writing Month – that finally spurred me to write what became my debut novel, The Honey Trap. A casual comment to a colleague that I’d tried on a couple of occasions to write a romance and always ended up abandoning it a few thousand words in led to him challenging me to truly dedicate myself to giving it a go. Searching for an online writing community that might help kick my backside into gear and make a start, I discovered the NaNoWriMo website, which informed me the event took place every year in November. This was in October 2015, so I was just in time.

For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo is an international event that anyone can take part in, challenging writers to create a novel – that is, a minimum of 50,000 words – in a month. That sounded like a mammoth task on day one. And on day two, and three, and four… but, by setting myself a strict target of 2000 words minimum per day, I eventually ended up writing 83,000 words for my first NaNo. The NaNoWriMo website has a selection of fabulous tools to help with this: a thriving virtual community, a daily word counter with graphs and statistics, and the chance to earn badges as you write, which is more satisfying than it really ought to be for a thirtysomething.

I’d love to say writing a novel was easier than I expected. Certainly it got easier as I went along to hit my daily word count target, but I don’t think writing is ever what you’d call easy. I think ultimately, it was the camaraderie of NaNoWriMo that pushed me on. I wanted to “win” at NaNo, and so many encouraging voices told me I could do it, challenged me to word sprints, praised and critiqued what I was writing, that I did. I actually wrote a book! A book that, just months later, a real live publisher – HarperImpulse, an imprint of HarperCollins UK – told me they wanted to send out into the world. But more importantly than that, I taught myself a discipline that’s allowed me to combine my day job and my night job ever since.

NaNoWriMo taught me that minimum daily word targets and “pushing on into the white space” are what work for me as a writer. I’ve now got six completed manuscripts under my belt, two published: The Honey Trap, which came out last August, and Meet Me at the Lighthouse, published this year in June.

Two of my completed manuscripts were written for NaNo events, but I follow the same pattern whenever I’m on a project: 2000 words a day, come rain, come shine. No worrying about quality. No stopping to read back and edit what I’ve written. I just keep wading through the quagmire of my story (trust me, that’s exactly what it feels like), 2000 words at a time, until it’s told, and worry about quality for the second draft.

Everyone’s writing speed varies but I find I can do 2000 words in about two to three hours, depending on the scene to be written, and if I use my lunch hour and commute, it doesn’t eat up my whole evening. I used to find it hard to write without complete quiet, but I’ve now managed to train myself to filter out the noise of fellow commuters and co-workers, reminding myself that the more I get done during the day, the more time I’ll have to relax with a glass of wine in the evening (you may have gathered from all this that no, I don’t have kids…).

I know other writers who aim for 1000 words a day, or 500, or even fewer. The number doesn’t matter: it’s setting a target and sticking to it that I find works. On 2000 words a day, I find I can finish a first draft in around six weeks, usually at least 20,000 words too long on completion. Then comes the editing process, which is a whole different kettle of fun…

Of course it helps that I have a supportive partner and understanding friends and relatives, who know a closed door and the sound of tapping keys means “don’t talk to MJ, just send coffee”. And there are some great tools that have made my writing life easier too.

A project management website called Pacemaker allows me to do something similar to the NaNoWriMo website, which is sadly only active in November, in tracking daily word counts and setting targets.

The writing software Scrivener, which I’ve got on both my laptop and iPad so I can work on the train, I’ve also found to be life-changing. And I’m part of a wonderful community of writers, both in real life and online, whose support is invaluable.

Will I ever be able to give up the day job and write full-time? Maybe one day. But for now, I’ve found a writing method that works for me and fits into my life. And if I can do it, anyone can!

Thank you, Mary Jayne – an inspiring post for anyone thinking they could do it if they could only get around to it! There’s certainly no substitute for getting fingers on the keyboard and words onto the screen, and I can imagine that doing a ‘sprint’ like NaNoWriMo could work wonders. I’ve never tried it due to other commitments, but my daughter has and enjoyed it. I certainly try to stick to a daily word count when I have a deadline coming up, though! 😀

 

You can buy Meet Me at the Lighthouse at these links:

Amazon UK          Amazon US          Kobo          Google Play          iBooks

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mary Jayne Baker grew up in rural West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country… and she’s still there. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature in 2003, she dallied with living in cities including London, but eventually came back with her own romantic hero in tow to her beloved Dales.

She lives with him in a little house with four little cats and a little rabbit, writing stories about girls with flaws and the men who love them. You can usually find her there with either a pen, some knitting needles or a glass of wine in hand. She goes to work every day as a graphic designer for a magazine publisher, but secretly dreams of being a lighthouse keeper.

More information can be found about MJ on her website at www.maryjaynebaker.co.uk.

You can also follow her on Twitter, @MaryJayneBaker, or like her Facebook page by going to Facebook.com/MaryJayneWrites.

 

Review (quick and dirty #5 FINALLY): Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard 

A lovely review for ‘Summer at the Little Guesthouse’ …

Random Book Muses

I’m all caught up! Here’s the fifth and final Friday night quick and dirty book review:

I love this series set in the French countryside! Emmy is a wonderful Jane-of-all-trades at Rupert’s lovely inn, and there’s no shortage of chick-lit drama. “Interesting” guests, crazy ex-wives, and family secrets drive the plot forward fast and furiously. I like that Emmy is soft-hearted yet doesn’t stand for any nonsense… and the other characters appreciate that about her as well. What most impresses me is how Pollard writes about real life issues with lightness and whimsy. GUESTHOUSE is so fun that you don’t even realize you’ve read about divorce, grief, mortality, trauma, and tolerance. All you feel is love, laughter and friendship — which are balms for all of life’s messy parts. C’est bon.

-calliope

Buy SUMMER AT THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE

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Some Strange Rules about Food in the Tudor Court – a guest post by Helena Fairfax

I’m delighted to welcome Helena Fairfax back to the blog with with a fascinating post about food in the Tudor Court!

But before I hand you over, I must show you the cover and blurb of Helena’s latest release – absolutely gorgeous 🙂

A romantic hotel in the Lake District. The Cross Hotel is the perfect getaway. Or is it?
Felicity Everdene needs a break from the family business. Driving through the Lake District to the Cross Hotel, past the shining lake and the mountains, everything seems perfect. But Felicity soon discovers all is not well at the Cross Hotel …
Patrick Cross left the village of Emmside years ago never intending to return, but his father has left him the family’s hotel in his will, and now he’s forced to come back. With a missing barmaid, a grumpy chef, and the hotel losing money, the arrival of Felicity Everdene from the notorious Everdene family only adds to Patrick’s troubles.

With so much to overcome, can Felicity and Patrick bring happiness to the Cross Hotel … and find happiness for themselves?

And now over to Helena to find out how a Tudor feast ties in with her book … !

 

Some Strange Rules about Food in the Tudor Court

 My latest release – a feel good romance called Felicity at the Cross Hotel – is set in an old Tudor hotel high up in the fells of the Lake District. The Cross Hotel is going through a difficult time and Felicity – the heroine – comes up with the idea of holding a Tudor feast in order to relaunch the hotel.

The Tudor court of Henry VIII was renowned for its sumptuous banquets, and it was good fun researching the sorts of dishes they’d eat. My fictional chef – the grumpy Tomasz – threw himself into the idea of cooking a Tudor banquet, and came up with a delicious-sounding menu, including “Leg of lamb with gallandine sauce, Chicken stuffed with leek, Whole baked halibut with lemon and herbs. Wild rabbit and morel stew,” along with a selection of tarts and pastries, and some beautifully crafted marchpane (marzipan) decorations to serve as gifts.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

While I was researching what to serve for an authentic Tudor banquet, I came across a bizarre set of rules regarding food in Tudor times that I hadn’t heard of before. I knew that the Tudors fasted on Fridays – although their idea of fasting isn’t quite the same as ours. They gave up meat, but since they could still eat as much fish, butter, cheese and dessert as they wanted, this was hardly a hardship.

Besides the fasting, I didn’t know the Tudors were allowed to eat certain foods only according to their social status, and that there were strict laws about it. Your social status in those days was seen to be God-given, and so if you were a labourer that was the position God intended for you. The Tudors invented “Sumptuary Laws” to keep the nobles, clergy, peasants and labourers in their God-given places, and these laws related to dress as well as food. Only the King and royal family could wear purple or gold, for example. You weren’t allowed to wear velvet, satin or damask unless you owned land yielding £20 or more per year. The list of arbitrary rules on clothing goes on, including who could wear imported wool, and who could wear the colour blue. Not surprisingly, most people got away with wearing what they wanted, as there just weren’t enough of the fashion police to check if the wool in your stockings had been imported or not.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Regarding food, the rules were also quite strict and bizarrely arbitrary according to social hierarchy. The king could eat as much as he liked, and he proceeded to do so – tucking in to a vast range of all sorts of meats, from venison to robins and buzzards. A cardinal could eat slightly less – a mere nine courses – the major aristocracy could have seven courses, with lesser lords restricted to six. Only the higher aristocracy could eat swans or peacocks, and wafers (a sort of biscuit made by pressing batter between two hot irons) were strictly for the highest ranks only. I expect all these different rules made no difference at all to the labourers, since they rarely could afford anything more than pottage (a sort of cabbage soup with the odd bit of bacon), turnips and bread.

The vast amount of meat eaten at the Tudor court is excessive and completely unhealthy, but it signified wealth. Personally I don’t think I could have stomached it, and would much prefer the simpler labourers’ diet. One thing I would have loved to see at court, though, is the “subtleties”. These were sculptures of marzipan or spun sugar, made into wonderful objects such as castles and churches, animals and knights, birds on the wing, and once an entire chess set.

My fictional Tudor feast at the Cross Hotel was a fabulous occasion, and a video taken by one of the guests went viral. If only photos existed of Henry VIII’s banquets. I’d absolutely love to have seen them!

Thank you, Helena – I honestly read that with my mouth gaping. I love reading historical facts I’ve never heard before. And I agree that the ‘subtleties’ sound like they would have been a wonderful sight. Thanks for a great post!

 

 

Felicity at the Cross Hotel is on promotion for Bank Holiday weekend, and is just 99p/99c until 1st September!

Amazon UK          Amazon US

 

 

LINKS FOR HELENA:

I have a newsletter that readers can subscribe to, and I love it when people reply. I reply to every email I receive. I’m giving away a free story to all new subscribers at the moment, and you can subscribe here:

http://eepurl.com/cR_m71

If you are interested in my editing services, I have a website here: www.helenafairfax.com

Besides the above, I also post photos of the moors and other places I’ve visited on social media.

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HelenaFairfax/

Twitter https://twitter.com/HelenaFairfax

Pinterest https://uk.pinterest.com/helenafairfax/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/helenafairfax/