Thursday, 22 November 2012

A Helluva Do!

The Romantic Novelists Association threw its annual winter party last night. I don't belong to the RNA any more. I did for a long while.  People come and go but good organisations go on without them. The RNA gave me so much - fun, friends, contacts, a place to be me as a writer, a haven from the stresses of my job and when I'm an old lady, as I hope to be in time, I will sit at home on winter nights and remember the lunches and the dinners and the people and the committees and how damned generous people within my industry can be.

(left to right, Elizabeth Gill, Trisha Ashley, Leah Fleming)

The party was held at the Mechanics Institute on Birdcage Walk. It's been at various places over the years, we disagree about which was the best. I liked Westminster College where the students used to cater for us and fill us full of gorgeous concoctions involving sweet pastry, strawberries and cream and I liked the ones at the New Cavendish Club especially the year where the weather was so bad that we couldn't go outside on to the rooftop. I can't remember now why it was so good, just that it was the best and we were all together.
June Tate and Lizzie Lamb

We used to have award ceremonies at the Cafe Royale and then at the Savoy. There is nothing like pulling up in a taxi at the Savoy for making you feel as if you're really having a good day.
London is always business for me. I wouldn't dream of going there for pleasure but that's just because every time I go there for work I have such a good time, I couldn't imagine how it might be better. For the last eighteen years I've been going up and down to King's Cross in good weather and bad. I hadn't been for some time before I went this week and it was no different. It's so reassuring to know that always there are such good organisations waiting for us and the Romantic Novelists Association is as it always has been, one of the best.

Catherine King and Norma CurtisMary de Laszlo with Leah
Diane Allen on the right has just had her first novel published. It's with Macmillan and it's called For the Sake of Her Family.

Norma's lovely shoes!!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Diane Allen - A Woman for All Time

Diane Allen comes from the Yorkshire Dales. Her family has lived and farmed there for generations. She is proud of her heritage and can trace her lineage back beyond Cromwellian times.
When I first met her, it must be fifteen years ago, she was working at Magna Books in Long Preston. She then took over, with her associate, Helen Bibby, the running of the company.
Magna is like no other publisher and it is because of Diane and Helen and their warmth, generosity and integrity that you would go a long way before you would find anyone who has not basked in the experience of the Magna fun. If you go anywhere within hitting distance of Long Preston you are immediately invited to coffee, to lunch, to dinner and to a walk around the works there. It smells of paper and its atmosphere is like sinking into a duvet.

Diane has a family, children and grandchildren and a husband who supports not only Blackpool but Darlington football teams, which says a lot about his generosity too.
Of late she has found a new outlet for her talents and this week is publishing her first novel. I always thought she would do so, every time you talk to  her she has wonderful tales to tell. She writes about her passions, the people and the land she loves.
Last weekend she launched her first book at a place called Taitlands, Stainforth which is just outside Settle. It's a Georgian mansion with another building which upstairs has a huge tea room and it was there at 3p.m. on Saturday that her friends and family gathered, to eat scones with cream and jam, drink huge pots of tea and listen to the music of the Moonbeams, a Yorkshire folk group.
Diane spoke about her book, signed copies at the back of the room and dispensed her own lovely brand of joy.
Diane, second left with Leah Fleming on the left, Julia Stagg next to Diane and Elizabeth Gill on the right. Leah Fleming is the author of The Captain's Daughter and her next book coming out on January 17th is The Girl Under the Olive Tree. Julia Stagg's latest book is The Parisian's Return. She is working on the next which is called  The French Postmistress. Elizabeth Gill's book, Miss Appleby's Academy is published on Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

My writing friend Leah Fleming encouraged me to do this, to take part in a blog chain which authors pass on to one another to flag up their latest work. Her wonderful book, The Captain's Daughter was published this year to great acclaim. Her next book is The Girl Under the Olive Tree. 

What is the working title of your book?
It's finished and is coming out in February. Miss Appleby's Academy, published by Quercus Books.

Where did the idea come from?
Partly from Leah Fleming when I went to stay and she suggested that since I had been at school in New England many years ago I might write something about America and the North East of England .

What genre does your book fall under?
It's a saga, a historical novel set partly in New England and mostly here in the North.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I think Gywnneth Paltrow would make a lovely Miss Appleby, she's just about the right age!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
It's about a woman of forty who runs away when her family tries to marry her off to an older man, comes to a pit village in the North East and sets up a dame school.

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?
My agent is Judith Murdoch.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I don't do first drafts, I just go round and round and round like a dog trying to make a bed and somehow from the mess I get a book.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I don't know. It's different.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My love of the village where I was brought up, my interest in education and my firm feminist beliefs.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
I like dealing with big issues like failing relationships, how medicine has improved people's lives, addiction, obsession and class.

Next week  my friends, Sylvia Broady  who writes for Hale  and Janet Warburton, whose latest novel is Joanna  will be writing in the new slot on Tuesday. Look out for these.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Library visits

The joy of writing comes for me when I meet people and see that they read, not just my books but all kinds of books and when I do talks at libraries and other places it makes me feel so good. I did a talk at Hartlepool library last week. It's a wonderful building, open to the second storey ceiling and the librarians had put aside a lovely big room, decorated the tables with flowers, made tea and coffee and offered lemon or chocolate muffins. I love lemon muffins.
The first person to come in started chatting and she didn't realize I was the author and she said,
'I'm only here for the muffins.'  I didn't let her get away with it and referred to this in my talk which made her laugh.
The people who were there came and kissed me at the end and even the librarians did. I don't think I have such a lovely kissed afternoon. It meant everything to me.
My daughter was at home that morning and she said, wasn't I going to prepare and though I don't write anything down I sort of scoop up the day, the library, the people as they come in and the feeling that the librarians give me during the half hour or so before the talk. I went into the library while people gathered and just waffled about. All those books and the people sitting in little groups, that's what makes it.
I try to tell funny stories because it's important to me to make people laugh. My grandma used to do it with style, my sister can and so can my daughter. Making people feel good is just great.
I told them that one of my earliest memories was of a pony ride on the beach at Seaton Carew. The pony was called Twinkle.  I hadn't thought about this for years but somehow as I drove to Hartlepool it came back to me. I tell them I am their author, I belong to them. My stories are of them and of me and of the North East which I hold so dearly.
Writer Freda Lightfoot tells a story about how a Yorkshire man asked her ( I think this is how it goes ) about her parents and she said her mother was from Yorkshire and her father was from Lancashire and he looked at her pityingly and said, 'Eh, that were a shame.'
It's a nice story and illustrates how I feel about people who aren't born in the north-east. I suppose I should feel ashamed of it in a way but it categorizes me nicely because I think writers have to feel like that about the places they love. Peter Robinson in Richmond and the dales, Rankin in Edinburgh, Donna Leon in Venice, we love and nurture the places we call home. My books are about people coming home and in  my new book Miss  Emma Appleby comes back to the place where she was born, up on the moors where the wind howls freely and the snow falls sometimes even in July.