Romantic fiction rocks, judging by the enthusiastic turn out at this year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards. Roars of delight, from the home team (publishers, friends, fellow writers-in-the-genre) greeted every winner’s name. Celebration was definitely the key word of the night.
Romance even made it into The Economist last week, (11th March 2023, p23). Although I have a couple of issues with the piece, it’s mostly good news. They report that sales of romance and saga fiction in Britain have risen by 110% in three years, to £53mn annually, their highest figure for a decade, according to Nielsen BookData.
print courtesy of 2023 Award Winner Louise Allen
Publishers, they say, “are starting to take notice.”
Well, some of them were cheering their lungs out the Monday before this article was published (see above) so that’s fair enough far as it goes.
Only – call me picky if you will – but even in my experience, they’ve been doing that for a good twenty-five years before the pandemic shut down the RNA annual thrash. Started to take notice? Continue reading →
After Joanna’s mind-bending jaunt through French and Female Language last week, I’ve been pondering Female Power and the Would-be Regency novelist. Or pretty much any sort of historical novelist, I suppose.
Today’s assumptions are different from those of the past, any past, and never more so than on the issue of female agency. In general we assume that such women of the past as are now largely invisible to history were also invisible in their own time, at least outside the domestic sphere. Basically men had cornered the market in how the world was run and women had no alternative but to do what they were told.
I suppose it was inevitable that February should become Romance Reading Month. There’s St Valentine doing his bit on the 14th to remind the world that romantic love is a) universal b) important and c) can be awkward. The material of good stories, in fact.
It seems to me that Valentine’s Day gets increasing attention every year. Partly this is because Bloggins’ Aniversary And Activity Day has long been the jobbing editor’s lifeline to fill an blank column or an empty four minutes on broadcast magazine programmes.
Clearly there’s even more and more slots to fill these days, what with social media ‘n’ all. And, frankly, St Valentine doesn’t face many candidates for rival celebration attention in the shortest month. Ground Hog Day anyone?
This Christmas a writer friend has given me a fascinating little book called What Writers Read. It’s one of those charity collections – in this case to support the National Literary Trust – in which a bunch of supporters get together to produce something to promote the cause and raise funds.
This time it is 35 essays by various writers, some of whom I have been reading most of my life, some I’ve never heard of, about their experience of reading their favourite book. And most of the pieces I have read so far are genuinely about the experience.
What Writers Read – Discovery
Oh, they talk about their chosen book, of course they do. But these are not puffs for the beloved tome. Even less are they weighty reviews, weighing plot, character and impact.
For instance, William Boyd on Catch 22 assumes we will already know the book. And on that basis, he gives us a chilling insight into his teenage self going home to a war zone. I sat up straighter in the chair, gripped by anxiety, as he described going round the book store at Heathrow. Continue reading →
A very happy New Year to all our visitors. May 2023 bring you health, wealth and happiness and, for the authors among us, booming sales.
As we said in our Christmas blog, the hive is on holiday until next weekend. But we don’t want to leave you with nothing, so we’re repeating the Christmas and New Year serial that Sophie wrote a year or two back.
The first episode is below. The link to subsequent episodes is at the end of each. It’s like binging on box sets of Downton or Bridgerton. Feel free to read all the episodes at a sitting. You know you want to!
CHRISTMAS MYSTERY SERIAL by Sophie Weston: EPISODE 1
There was fog over the rooftops when Liv looked out from her bedroom window for the last time. She kind of loved this view of her bit of London. Like Mary Poppins and her sweep, she saw Victorian chimneys, with a distant church tower and, even further away, a block of Edwardian apartments. Continue reading →
I have always found researching the back ground for my stories to be the greatest fun. But it is not all joy. Worse, it can be counter-productive.
As this year is on the brink of turning, I have been taking stock of my writing habits and also my output. Well, a little. Not the full audit, you understand. Just a gentle canter through those things that I have done, and those that I have left undone. And why.
And the reason, I fear, is often Research.
So I thought some people might be interested in my conclusions on research, its pitfalls and pleasures.
Constable published Georgette Heyer’s debut novel, The Black Moth, in September 1921. Houghton Miflin brought it out in the USA. Last year I celebrated its centenary with a blog on Who made Georgette Georgian.
Initially, the book attracted perfunctory but largely friendly reviews. Indeed, a cracker in the Boston Evening Transcripts of 23 November even took a stab at imitating the book’s faux Georgian narrative style. Interestingly, Heyer is a whole lot better at it than the reviewer. His delight in his own efforts cannot quite disguise several errors in his account of the story. We forgive him for the entertainment value. And he does make it sound like a good fun read. So it probably wasn’t bad for sales.
Anyway, the book was a commercial success pretty much immediately.
The Chinese curse of May You Live in Interesting Times well and truly struck this week, didn’t it? I have tried to keep away from news media, I really have. But the appalling tragicomedy that is our current government just wouldn’t leave me alone. And then I re-encountered Rupert Bear.
I was really grateful to my friend and fellow writer Lesley Cookman for spending a happy few hours in the Rupert Bear Centenary Exhibition at the Beaney (House of Art and Knowledge) in Canterbury. She came back and told our Zoom Circle all about it. Continue reading →
I used to think that only historical novelists needed to write a timeline for a novel. Someone like me, writing contemporary fiction set pretty close to the real world, didn’t have any use for it. I read Joanna’s excellent (and detailed) account on this blog of the timeline she constructed for her Regency-set Lady in Lace. And thanked my lucky stars that this was so. (It’s a lovely book, by the way.)
Only, of course, she is not just talking about setting her characters into a sequence of historically documented events. She is talking about the timeline of the whole novel, including the stuff she’d made up. Scene by scene Joanna records what her characters do and feel as well as well as facts of place and history.
But I still thought I didn’t need that sort of hassle in a contemporary story.
Last week the Libertà Hive and several fellow authors were on a writing retreat in the north. It was a great shock, when I came down to raid the fridge for lunch on Thursday, to find four of them, very serious, sitting round the table looking at the news feed on various laptops. “It’s over,” said one. “The Queen is going.” They had heard the announcement made by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
At first, I didn’t believe it. I may even have said, “Going where?” But then someone else said, “Of course it’s been coming for a long time.” And I realised what they meant.
It was like that moment on a staircase, when you trip and think you’ve righted yourself, only then to find you’re still falling. All the way to the bottom. (I’ve done it twice.)