Day five on my month-long Romantic Novelists Association feature. Each day in February I will have a different author on the blog, talking to me about their books. It is to help celebrate the sixtieth birthday of the RNA and to raise awareness of how it might be a great fit for you if you are an author. I hope you enjoy the features over the next few weeks. Be sure to give the authors a follow on social media and add the books you fancy from the selection of great authors to your own TBR.
💫Romantic Novelists Association
The Romantic Novelists’ Association was founded in 1960 to both celebrate, and demand respect for, romantic fiction. Founder members included Denise Robins, Barbara Cartland, Elizabeth Goudge, Netta Muskett, Catherine Cookson and Rosamunde Pilcher. The first President of the Association, Denise Robins, noted that although romantic fiction gave great pleasure to many readers, the writers almost felt they had to apologise for what they did. The RNA was going to put a stop to those apologies and, instead, celebrate and promote romantic authorship.
In 1966, an early Vice President of the association, Elizabeth Goudge, commented that ‘As this world becomes increasingly ugly, callous and materialistic it needs to be reminded that the old fairy stories are rooted in truth, that imagination is of value, that happy endings do, in fact, occur, and that the blue spring mist that makes and ugly street look beautiful is just as real a thing as the street itself.’
Today, the RNA continues to support and champion the authorship of romantic fiction that shows the value of imagination and the possibility of a happy ending and also celebrates the broader spectrum of romantic fiction that explores the more challenging aspects of relationships and human experience.
I write romance with a twist of mystery under the overall banner of ‘the past is never dead’. I’ve been a member of the RNA since late 2016 and am published by Sapere Books. Although I’m Welsh I live in Cornwall, with my husband of almost twenty-five years.
💫 Another You: A haunting love story reaching back to the Second World War
Sometimes the hardest person to save is yourself…
Marie Johnson fell in love with The Smugglers pub when she first moved to Dorset with her husband, Stephen.
But when Stephen’s wandering eye caused the breakdown of their marriage, and the costs of running the pub started to mount, Marie felt her dreams crashing down around her.
With local celebrations planned for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Marie is hopeful things will turn around.
But she could never have predicted the ways her life will soon be changed forever.
A charming American soldier walks into Marie’s life, but it becomes clear nothing is really as it seems…
Why is Marie suddenly plagued by headaches? Is her American soldier everything he seems to be?
Or could the D-Day re-enactments be stirring up something from the past…?
ANOTHER YOU is a moving saga of family life in the 21st century which draws on the horrors of combat, both in modern times and the Second World War. It is a heart-warming tale of one woman’s fight to reclaim her identity and discover what really matters to her.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey, please?
A series of ups, downs and sideways moves! My first book, The Cheesemaker’s House, was a finalist in a national TV show’s search for a novelist, but even so I ended up publishing it independently because most publishers seem scared of ghosts… at least where romantic fiction is concerned. However the book went on to win another award and through that I was signed to Endeavour Press (who went into liquidation) before finally finding a home at Sapere Books.
Can you tell us how you became involved with the Romantic Novelists Association and what it means for you to be part of it?
The first thing I did once I had a publishing contract in my hand was join the RNA. At that point they didn’t accept indie authors (even ones who, like me, had sold thousands of books) and that put me off a bit, but everyone told me I should join so I did. I’ve never looked back. I’ve made so many friends and it’s brilliant to have a warm blanket of support behind you. In order to give something back I’m part of the team running the RNA’s new Facebook group for authors, bloggers and readers, The Romantic Fiction Book Club.
What was the inspiration behind your latest release?
Studland Bay in Dorset. It is a beautiful place, almost magical in the way it feels cut off from the world. Another You started life as a short story based around a local ghost but turned into something completely different. It really took off when I began to work on the character of Marie, a chef in her early forties stuck in an abusive marriage, whose life begins to change when she meets a mysterious soldier on the cliffs.
Do you find it hard to let your characters go when you finish writing the book?
Yes. When you’re writing you live and breathe them, becoming emotionally caught up in their lives. I don’t feel a character is really working for me until I begin to do this and it can be something of a rollercoaster. Very often their stories continue in my head, long after the final chapter of the book until I can slowly let them go.
What was your favourite read of 2019?
It was a very close call between Julie Cohen’s Louis and Louise and Elizabeth Buchan’s The Museum of Broken Promises, but in the end the latter won out. It’s set in present day Paris and Prague in the 1980s and Buchan’s writing creates a tapestry of detail so rich and wonderful I found myself holding my breath as the story tipped into second, third and fourth gears and became unputdownable.
Do you read other romance authors and who would you recommend?
Yes, I do. I think it’s important to read within your genre and it helps I’m a total sucker for a great love story. What I’m not so keen on are books that seem formulaic, where the famous man and the ordinary woman get together after falling out half a dozen times. While I understand the need to escape I prefer my fiction to be relatable so for readers who agree with me I’d recommend Tracy Rees, Claire Dyer, Elizabeth Buchan and Liz Fenwick.
Was there a point in your life that a book helped you get through, if so which one?
When things are tough I tend to turn to writing rather than reading.
Is there anyone that you would like to mention and thank for their support of your writing?
If I did it would probably read like an overlong Oscar list because different people have helped at different times. However my mother was my biggest encouragement and support although she didn’t live long enough to see me land a publishing deal. And my husband has always been there quietly in the background, making sure I have the space and time I need to write.
If you had the power to give everyone in the world one book, what would it be and why?
Good question, and not an easy one to answer, because so few books are genuinely relevant across cultures. Perhaps one about the power of kindness, because that’s so important and pretty universal.
What are you working on now?
I have just finished the first draft of what will be my third book for Sapere. It’s a dual timeline set in Cornwall in 1815 and 2015 and strongly features a man who talks to ghosts, although it is in no way a conventional spooky story. The idea came to me when I met someone who does claim to have this gift and I’m writing the novel with his blessing.
Lastly, do you have any questions for your readers?
Most of my books have some sort of ghostly element, although almost always there is more than one way of interpreting events, so I’d love to know how much belief in life beyond the veil my readers actually have.
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💫 Final Thoughts
Thank you to Jane for taking part in my special feature.