It’s that Awards time of year again –
The Romantic Novelist Association has released its shortlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards and I am delighted to be amongst the finalists, along with fellow author and long time friend, Louise Allen.
Earlier I caught up Louise for a natter and I thought you might like to listen in….
SM It came as a most delightful shock to me when I discovered I had been nominated for the RNA Awards this year. To be honest, I have been so involved in my latest book that I had forgotten all about submitting Cinderella and the Scarred Viscount. How did you feel when you heard the news? Something like this, perhaps…?
LA Stunned, to be honest! I’d forgotten too, having agreed to a very tight deadline on the book I’ve just delivered. It came as a shock, but also a huge boost because I had just reached that ghastly stage with the current book when everything seemed to be wrong with it. It was such a joy to realise that sometimes I can write things people enjoy.
SM I think most authors get to that stage in a book when you think it’s never going to work, I know I do. I have found the best thing is to slog on through it. Once I get to the end I can polish up the writing and the story, but as someone once said, you can’t edit an empty page.
LA That’s so true. It’s one of the “rules” of writing that I entirely agree with – get something down, whatever it is and however painful the process. Editing that (always assuming there is the occasional nugget of useable writing in there somewhere!) is the part I really enjoy.
SM You and I have both won this category in the past, but the thrill of being on the shortlist was just as great for me this time. How about you?
LA Yes – just as much of a thrill. I don’t think being shortlisted for an award like this ever gets ordinary.
LA It’s the fifth in a series of linked books, The Liberated Ladies, about five friends all of whom are slightly unconventional and certainly don’t fit into the mould of a conventional young lady. My heroine, Melissa, wants a career as a writer and is determined to remain an independent spinster. When she meets Lord Henry Cary she thinks he’s simply the typical diplomat he appears to be and that they can be friends. When it turns out he’s rather more than that, life becomes complicated – so complicated in fact that the only way out appears to be marriage, whether they like it or not.
SM I love the premise there, Louise. Don’t you just love making life complicated for your characters?
SM Cinderella has always been my favourite fairytale, not just because she meets her Prince Charming, but the way she holds fast against the ugly sisters and doesn’t descend to their level. My character, Carenza, is different from her half-sisters: she is dark where they are fair; curvaceous while they are tall and thin; but they try to turn this difference against her. Thankfully she is strong enough to resist their taunts. But it does erode her confidence, and she needs her Prince Charming (i.e. Ross, the scarred Viscount) to help her see her own worth. In helping him, she helps herself.
Writing is more than Awards, especially in lockdown
LA Now we’re emerging (warily) from lockdown, do you feel the past two years have affected your writing? I certainly didn’t find it made coming up with ideas more difficult, but it certainly made concentrating harder. I was much more easily distracted, which seems strange, given that I had so much extra time.
SM I agree. I thought with everything closed – no clubs, no meetings etc – that as a writer I would be able get more work done. I certainly spent more time at my desk, but the writing didn’t flow so naturally. Thank heavens for zoom and the internet to keep in touch with friends.
SM At this point I’d like to say how much it helped being part of the Quayistas. (That’s the name we came up with after meeting up for a short retreat at the fabulous Hartland Quay in Devon.) As a Quayista yourself, Louise, you will know how much it helped when lockdown started and we moved that year’s cancelled retreat online. That was the beginning of regular Zoom meetings, which kept us all in touch, through some pretty tough times. We shared problems and looked out for one another but always, every week, we supported and encouraged each other to keep writing.
LA Absolutely – that connection with writers going through the same challenges was a life-saver. I think it helped that we write in a mix of styles and genres. There is always a different slant on whatever issue we have to tackle. So, thank goodness for Lesley Cookman, Sophie Weston, Janet Gover and Joanna Maitland I say!
After the Awards, what next?
LA Have you any plans for your next book? Or are you head-down and thinking of nothing but the one you are working on at the moment? I’ve got two, both trying to write themselves in my head, which isn’t very helpful. I’m taking a week off, pretending to get to grips with the housework. And then I’m going to begin a new time-travel Regency romantic mystery with all the fun of plotting both a mystery and a romance.
SM Haha, it is a curse and a blessing, isn’t it? We have this writer’s brain that can be triggered at any moment into thinking up another story. Taking time off from writing does help, giving yourself permission NOT to worry about the story (or in your case, stories) to get your thinking straight before settling down to write a new book. It often results in some housework getting done, too!
LA Yes, I took a week off, did some spring cleaning and revealed some long-hidden flat surfaces in the study. I knew it was time to start again when I found myself sketching family trees, house plans and town maps.
SM I love your time travel stories. Is this latest one going to be another in the Earl Out Of Time series or are you starting something completely new?
LA This will be the second in my new series of time travel following on from Love’s Vengeance. No title yet, but it revolves around a young woman who discovers she is not who she always thought she was and the shockwaves that ripple out from that revelation. Oh, and the developing relationship between my 21st century heroine and my 1810 hero, of course!
Any clues you can drop about your next book? Or will I be able to gather some hints when we meet in London for the Awards? I can’t wait to see everyone and experience the buzz and warmth that a gathering of romantic novelists always generates!
SM I am half way through writing my next book and so far it is going well (touches wood frantically). The only clue I am willing to give is that it’s a lost heir story – well, a found heir, actually – and culminates in Christmas. Of course Christmas in the Regency was a little different from the all singing and dancing Dickensian version. But expect holly, snow and a happy ending.
It’s been lovely talking with you, Louise. The next time we meet up will be at the awards on 7th March. It’s going to be a magical event and I am so looking forward to it. Lots of glitz, glamour and of course, bubbly!
So, a final word from both of us —
Sending good wishes to all the authors shortlisted for this year’s RNA Awards . No matter who wins, let’s hope we all enjoy ourselves to the max!