Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Accidental Historical

Earlier this month one of my all time favourite authors, Leigh Michaels, proposed a new category of books: the Accidental Historical.

She has  coined it to cover republished books which she wrote some years ago. Back then, they were correctly described as contemporary romantic fiction. But we have had a digital, social and media revolution since then.

After pondering this for a bit, I think Amazon, other online stores and ALL publishers of ebooks in general would do well to adopt it.

Leigh Michaels

cover of novel, Brittany's Castle, showing a welcoming room with a tall Christmas tree, ablaze with lights and beautifully packed presents at its foot. Leigh Michaels is a multi-award winning author of contemporary and historical fiction, mostly romantic. She’s published in more than 25 languages and 120 countries the last time I looked. She is also a teacher and mentor for other writers. For a while we shared the inspiring editor Jacqui Bianchi, whom I have quoted here before.

And I have loved her books ever since Jacqui recommended them to me. Several of the books are on, not just my Keeper Shelf, but my Never to be Taken Out of This House Under Any Circumstances shelf.

I have had to wrench my copy of A New Desire  out of the hands of a departing guest. “If you want to read it, fine. But you have to come back here and read it in situ.” She did. She was 25.

And this is the nub of the matter. The book my visitor was so determined to read was first published in 1989. It was ten years older than she was.

Enter the Accidental Historical. Continue reading

That Unfinished Book

e-reader stop micro-editingI’ve always imagined that most writers have that unfinished book in their files somewhere.

Often, I imagine, it would be one that came to a halt because of external circumstances. The day job gets frantic for three months and when you go back to the book you read the first chapter and think: who are these people? Yes, that happened to me.

Or you get ill. Or there is a sudden family crisis.

woman in grey blouse, long sleeves, hands on laptop keyboard

Image by Bartek Zakrzewski from Pixabay

Sometimes it is to do with the book itself — a publisher changes their mind, for instance. And yes, I have one or two of those. (One I was very glad to stop, to be honest. I’d really gone off the hero.)

I still have a 40K word file of a book I really liked. It was a sequel that the publisher decided, mid-creation, they didn’t want after all. Please could they have a romance  based on a (then) popular reality television show instead?

My reply was 1) ouch and 2) no. Continue reading

Pen Names

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about pen names. An aspiring writer (friend of a friend) sought my advice on whether she needed one. She knew that most of my books had been published under a pen name. Indeed, I use it on this website. Understandably, she asked why.

I could only answer part of the question. I’m Sophie Weston on this website because, after fiftyish novels and 11 million+ copies sold, mostly by Harlequin Mills & Boon, that is how readers know me.

Dirty Draft 1st bookBut taking a pen name was never my idea. And the only choice I got was to decide on a name.

I went for Sophie Weston mainly at my mother’s suggestion. We’d seen the movie of Tom Jones and she thought that Sophie, played by Susanna York, looked as a romantic novelist ought to look. Still makes me smile when I remember that conversation.

My agent told me that I had to have a pen name. She implied very strongly that the publisher required it.

Was she right? I can’t say, because I didn’t ask. Certainly most Mills and Boon authors about whom I know anything, including many friends, did and do have pen names.

Romance Author pen names

The late great Mary Burchell, President of the Romantic Novelists’ Association from 1966, was Ida Cook in real life. All the RNA’s papers of the time that I have seen use her pen name. When she died (in harness) very suddenly, there was an outpouring of genuine affection for her in the Newsletter. And every single one called her Mary. Continue reading

Off-Putting Endings — how not to finish a book?

Inspforget the starsired by Joanna’s recent blog on ways to put a reader off at the start of a book, I thought it would be interesting to discuss a few pet peeves about off-putting endings.

Call it book-ending Joanna’s post 😉

For me, there is nothing more disappointing than settling down with a book, enjoying the story and investing in the plot and characters. You read to the last page…  And then it leaves you flat.

I have to confess to a vested interest here – a book I read recently which turned out to be one of a series.
Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say.

Female climber clinging to the edge.No, only the cliff-hanger ending left so many loose ends in the main romance and the plot that I felt thoroughly let down. I also felt I was being hustled into buying the next.

I didn’t.

Having invested quite heavily in the story so far, I wasn’t prepared to have it happen again.

Solutions to off-putting endings

Continue reading

Points of View

I’ve called this blog Points of View because that is what I’ve been thinking about, off and on, since the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference two weeks ago.

Not just in a relation to writing, either, as you will see.

I admit, however, that I have been struggling for some time with POV issues. I’m in the process of an Absolutely Last Edit of a book that, when I first imagined it, had a first person vibe. It didn’t last and it has much improved as a result. But in some places the “I voice” has left an uncomfortable shadow.

At least, I think that’s the answer. Especially after a really excellent workshop on Psychic Distance from Emma Darwin.

RNA Conference

Continue reading

Conversation on the Page

Man and woman sit cross legged on the ground in front of a body of water, and deep in conversation.

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

Conversation on the page fascinates me.

Even when I’m writing an email, describing a recent meeting to a mutual friend, for instance, I find myself overtaken by the desire to report the real words one or both of us spoke.

I hear it, of course, as I’m transposing it. Or at least, I am hearing what I remember. But does my reader hear it? And hear it in the same way?

Conversation off the Page

Apple orchard in sunlight

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Unwritten conversation very often kicks off a story of mine. I will be elsewhere, not even be thinking about writing, and my imagination will pluck something out of the whirlwind and give it to me. And I know there is more —and the more is a story.

It’s almost like eavesdropping. Even a bit spooky sometimes.

For instance – I was once dozing gently in someone else’s garden. We’d had a good lunch and lot of laughter and she had gone inside to make tea. The other two were talking and I was looking at a couple of apple trees and not paying attention to anything much.

And a voice in my head said, “I can never forget it.” Continue reading

Regency food and characters

fabulous hotel foodRegency food is really interesting and characters’ preferences tell us a lot about them. Their preferences for drink do too, as I tried to show in my earlier blog about what characters (Regency and modern) drank.

But this week, I’m blogging about food in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Sometimes, food in glamorous surroundings, too…

Where Regency food came from…? Meat, fish, game

Mr Darcy and Lizzie Bennet at the danceThere isn’t much detail of food and drink in Pride and Prejudice, but Mrs Bennet does mention preparations being made for dinners to fête Mr Bingley’s return to Netherfield.

“Mrs Nicholls…was going to the butcher’s, she told me, on purpose to order in some meat on Wednesday, and she had got three couple of ducks, just fit to be killed.”

That shows that meat wasn’t instantly available from a butcher’s as it is now. And a hostess knew and accepted that providing meat entailed killing animals. Continue reading

Seeking the Invisible Genre

shortlist for Liberta Books shorter romantic novel award 2021Slightly to my surprise, this week I find myself in search of an allegedly invisible genre. Romantic fiction! I was a little surprised. Libertà has sponsored a Romantic Novelists’ Association prize for books in this non genre.

Of course, romantic fiction has not shown its face in the pages of so-called respectable newspapers and magazines, or even on the shelves of major bookshops, for some years now.

But I was taken aback to see a tweet two days ago from Andrew Holgate, Literary editor of The Sunday Times casting existential doubt on the genre in which I have been writing and reading for most of my life. Continue reading

Space Breaking Up Text, the Reader’s Friend

Punctuation was invented to help the Reader. And the very first invention was space breaking up text — so you could tell one word from the next. Seriously.

A couple of months ago I was putting the final touches to an online course on punctuation. Not a subject to rock them in the aisles, I thought. Mind you, I love the stuff. But I have learned that, as a subject of conversation, it doesn’t generally draw children from play and old men from the chimney corner.

exclamation mark in fireSo when I was preparing the course, I thought I’d throw in a bit of history for context.

Only then, of course, I had to check online whether what I remembered was a) accurate and b) still received wisdom. And found something new to me: Aristophanes, Head Librarian of Alexandria aged sixty. He was sitting there, receiving rolls in Greek, the language of the prevailing empire.

Most people then, of course, would be illiterate. So the purpose of these scrolls was to provide a text for someone else to deliver in the market place or to perform as an entertainment.

BUT they arrived with all the letters in a continuous line. Presumably to save papyrus and possibly time, as they were being hand-copied by scribes.

So Aristophanes thought of a way of marking up copies of the text to help the Poor Bloody Orator who had to read them out loud. Continue reading

Historical costume pics: gowns, petticoats, dolls, even men

Woman businesswoman working, files, clockThis past couple of weeks, I’ve been editing, nose to grindstone, so there hasn’t been much time to think about anything else. So today, Saturday, faced with a blank screen (and editing finished last night, yippee) I’m a bit short of blog ideas.

What, I ask myself, would Libertà visitors like to read about? What can I produce before midnight? And answer came there—pictures, specifically, costume pics. I know you like our costume blogs, because they get lots of hits. So today, I’m going to give you mostly costume pics. To let you drool a bit. What’s not to like?

The Regency Gown: really see-through?

Continue reading