Thursday, November 16, 2017

The RNA Industry Awards 2017 Celebrate those who Champion Romantic Fiction


London: 15 November 2017 The Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) is delighted to announce the winners of its annual industry awards, which this year feature the addition of a new category, Librarian of the Year. This new award recognises the important work that librarians do in supporting the romantic fiction genre, and the Association in particular. Six awards were presented during the RNA’s Winter Party, held in the Library at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in London.

Librarian of the Year
Shirley Everall, Librarian of the Year
Shirley Everall, Librarian of the Year
The inaugural award was presented to Shirley Everall, Audience Development Officer, Hertfordshire Libraries, for hosting a great number of events for RNA members, and promoting romantic fiction in Hertfordshire Libraries.
Runner-up Rachel Gee, from Tiverton Library, was nominated for her continual support and proactivity in promoting romantic fiction.

Romantic Bookseller of the Year
Kearan Ramful, Sainsbury's
This award recognises booksellers promoting and championing romantic fiction in a positive and proactive way throughout the year. This year’s winner, Kearan Ramful, book buyer for Sainsbury’s Plc, was awarded the title for his continuing support for romantic fiction by selecting many romantic titles for Sainsbury’s stores. 

Runner-up was David Headley and team at Goldsboro Books.  

Best Adaptation of a Romantic Novel
Debbie Horsfield
The award for best adaptation of a romantic novel, whether for stage, screen (TV or movie) or radio goes to Debbie Horsfield for Poldark Series 3 (BBC TV).  The adaptation must have been broadcast/screened from September 2016 through to the end of September 2017, at any time and for any duration.  After three series, Poldark remains a fantastic series with stunning scenery, excellent casting, and still stays close to the original text. It is one of those can't-be-missed programmes, with a charismatic but flawed hero and heroine.
Runner-up was Whit Stillman and Jane Austen for Love and Friendship, a film based on Jane Austen’s novella.

Media Star of the Year
Blogger Linda Hill was awarded Media Star of the Year for her continued support for romance novels through retweeting, reviewing and blogging. Friendly and professional, even when her TBR pile is overflowing, she’ll take more books on, going above and beyond the call of duty, and all with a smile. This award recognises those who have helped raise the profile of romance writing and/or the RNA in a positive way.  
Blogger Kaisha Holloway was runner-up and was nominated for her great support for authors and her honest, detailed and reflective reviews which are constructively critical.

Agent of the Year
Broo Doherty, DHH Literary Agency
For the literary agent who has striven to support, mentor, nurture and promote their authors’ careers, the genre in general and the RNA in particular. This year’s winner, Broo Doherty, DHH Literary Agency, was nominated for her championing of romantic fiction and support for the RNA. With a list featuring several authors in the genre, she provides guidance and great support to her clients, being honest and tactful, as well as kind, supportive and savvy about romantic fiction. 

Runner-up Rebecca Ritchie, AM Heath Agency, was nominated for her dedication, warmth and genuine passion for the genre. A great editor and all-round fantastic partner, a great listener, offering wise words and sound advice.

Publisher of the Year
Charlotte Ledger, Publisher of the Year
For the publisher who embraces the genre, mentors writers to produce their best work, and is innovative, creative and visionary in the marketing and promotion of romantic fiction on every level.  This year’s award goes to Charlotte Ledger, HarperImpulse, for her tireless championing of romance novels at Harper Collins, giving many debut novelists their first break. Open and honest, she provides transparent dealings with those authors under her wing and many nominated her, citing that working with Charlotte is a team effort, and she has a real personal touch when it comes to developing writers’ careers.
Runner-up was DC Thompson, a stalwart and steady publisher of a great number of members over the years. Both The People's Friend and My Weekly magazines have pocket novel imprints and their editors have mentored and published RNA members over many years, following a long tradition of nurturing writers of romance.

The RNA Industry Awards are decided by the membership, with every member eligible to nominate within each category. The awards were presented at the RNA’s Winter Party at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Birdcage Walk, London on 15th November 2017. 

Photos from the event will be available on The Romantic Novelists' Association's website in due course.

For further information please contact:
Or Katrina Power 07 963 962 538 or 

About the Romantic Novelists' Association

The RNA was formed in 1960 to promote romantic fiction and encourage good writing and now represents more than 900 writers, agents, editors and other publishing professionals.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ask the Industry Expert: Literary Agent Rebecca Ritchie

Tonight the winners of the Romantic Novelists' Association Industry Awards 2017 will be announced at the RNA Winter Party. It's a special pleasure to welcome Rebecca Ritchie of the AM Heath Agency to the RNA blog today, because Rebecca has been shortlisted for the literary agent of the year award for her work "supporting, mentoring and nurturing authors' careers and promoting the romance genre and the RNA in particular".
Many congratulations on your nomination, Rebecca, and thank you for taking the time to come and talk to us!

Please tell us a little about the AM Heath Agency, how long it’s been established, and how you came to join.

AM Heath was founded in 1919, which makes it one of the UK’s oldest literary agencies. It represents established contemporary authors like Hilary Mantel, Maggie O’Farrell and Conn Iggulden, iconic literary estates, such as those of George Orwell and Winston Graham, and of course the RNA’s very own, wonderful Katie Fforde. I joined AM Heath in April 2017, after over six years at Curtis Brown where I worked alongside Sheila Crowley and had the pleasure of working on some of my favourite authors – Jojo Moyes, Santa Montefiore and Jane Costello, to name just a few – and also started building my own list. The first author I took on was Iona Grey – who I met at a RNA event! – and her debut novel Letters to the Lost went on to be published by Simon and Schuster and won the overall Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year award in 2016. I joined AM Heath to build up the commercial women’s fiction side of the list, which is an area that the other agents here don’t tend to focus on hugely.

What genres do you represent?
Commercial fiction across the board: contemporary women’s fiction, historical, reading group, crime, thriller and psychological suspense.

What is it you are looking for when a manuscript lands on your desk? Are there any specific plots or themes you’d like to see?
The first thing, of course, is the writing. As an agent, when you open a submission and can tell immediately that someone can truly write – that you’re in the hands of a genuine storyteller – you can relax and let the story transport you with it. Of course the plot and the characters have to be great too, but excellent writing is first and foremost. When it comes to commercial women’s fiction specifically, character is paramount: as a reader you want to really get your teeth into a protagonist’s character, to really root for them or to love to hate them. In terms of specific plots/themes, I’d never want to be too prescriptive, but I’d love to find a really moving love story (heartbreaking, heart-warming, I don’t mind), and while I’m always partial to some gripping psychological suspense I do think the genre is saturated and there are enough horrors to read about in the news, so I’d also love to find something at the opposite end of the spectrum: some uplifting, life-affirming fiction.
Your agency recently put out a call for pitches on Twitter, under the hashtag #TellAMH. How successful was this? Did you have any interesting pitches, and what made them stand out? Is something your agency will be repeating often? (Lots of questions in one here…!)
This was a fun week! We invited debut writers to pitch their novels to us on Twitter (so their pitches had to be concise, 140 characters – not an easy feat), with each day focusing on a different genre. We received hundreds of pitches and invited our favourites to submit directly to us, and I thought the commercial women’s fiction day was particularly strong. The pitches that stood out most were the ones where the novel had a clear, intriguing hook that made you want to read on, or where they asked a question that you just had to know the answer to.

You attended the recent Frankfurt Book Fair. What was your role at the Book Fair and how important is this event for you and your agency?
At the Frankfurt Book Fair (and at the London Book Fair in the Spring) we meet with editors from around the world, pitch our authors’ books and hear what editors are looking to acquire and find out what’s working in their markets. While of course we correspond by phone and email throughout the year, it’s always wonderful to meet with editors face to face and foster those relationships (and of course there are plenty of parties to attend too!) I met with editors from the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Israel and more, and pitched books by my own and also my colleagues’ clients.

What advice would you give someone submitting to you?
Really know your novel: be able to sum up the hook of your novel at the start of your covering letter in an immediately memorable way that just compels me to read on. I always think it’s a good exercise to be able to complete the sentence: “My novel is about a woman/man who…” – it really makes you distil the essence of your novel and what’s unique about it into a single punchy line.

What’s your favourite romance novel of all time?
I can’t pick one! Sense and Sensibility (my absolute favourite Austen), I Capture the Castle (a more perfect coming-of-age love story there isn’t), The Time Traveller’s Wife, Love Story (small but perfectly formed), Me Before You for starters. But there are so many more.

Apart from your own authors, which book have you enjoyed the most in the past twelve months, and why?
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – quirky, sweet, heart-breaking, funny and moving, I loved it.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Tennis, cooking, travelling.

If you could describe your working-day in just three words, what would they be?

Frenetic, fun, fulfilling.

Thanks so much for dropping in, Rebecca, and for your thoughtful answers. Wishing you all the best  and we hope everyone at the Winter Party has a great evening!

* * *

Helena Fairfax writes heartwarming contemporary romances, except when she's in the mood for danger, when she writes romantic suspense. Her novel A Year of Light and Shadows tells the story of how plain Lizzie Smith is plunged into a year of mystery involving a missing princess, a false diamond, and a handsome bodyguard.
You can find out more about Helena's books and her editing services on her website

Monday, November 13, 2017

Wendy Clarke & Donna Douglas: From short story to novel, and novel to short story

Today we're joined on the blog by Wendy Clarke and Donna Douglas sharing their experiences of moving from short story writing to novels, and vice versa.

Wendy Clarke is a writer of women's fiction. Her work regularly appears in national women's magazines such as The People's Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman's Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.
Wendy has published three collections of short stories, Room in Your Heart, The Last Rose and Silent Night and has just finished writing her second novel.
Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

You can find out more about Wendy on her website, on facebook at, or by following her on twitter @WendyClarke99

Donna Douglas is the Sunday Times bestselling author of the Nightingale novels, et in an East End hospital in 1930s. She has recently published the second in the Steeple Street series, about a district nurse in 1920s Yorkshire. A born Londoner, Donna now lives in York with her husband and family. In her spare time she enjoys reading, going out for coffee and cocktails, and binge-watching TV box sets.

You can find out more about Donna on her website at
on facebook at or by following her on twitter @DonnaAuthor or on Instagram: donnaauthor.

Wendy Clarke - From Short Story to Novel

I sat down in front of the computer and looked at the blank screen. How hard can this be? I thought. I’ve written two hundred short stories so writing a novel will be the same... just longer.
How wrong could I be! The difference between a short story and a novel is as great as between a puddle and an ocean or my corner shop and the supermarket on the outskirts of town. The clue is in the name – a short story is, well, short. The other isn’t and that, I soon realised, was the whole problem.
When I write my magazine stories, I start off with the seed of an idea and see where it will take me. Sometimes I know how the story will end but often I don’t. Whichever it is, the journey between beginning and end is a short one and it’s never long before l know where my characters are taking me and the finishing line is always in sight. In contrast, it soon became clear to me when I started the novel, that muddling through with a vague idea in my head was not going to work. I would need to plan – at least a bit. The word sent shivers down my spine but, with two interweaving timeframes, I was going to need all the help I could get. So I wrote down some chapter headings and scribbled a few notes under each one. It gave me a basic framework to work from and made it easier when it came to write the dreaded synopsis.
Once I got started, I found another big difference was to do with my characters. Most short stories have at least two main characters. That means a minimum of 400 characters have paid me a short visit over the last few years. They often stay a day or two and if they bore me, I know I can throw them out and invite someone else. With the novel, a whole cast of characters turned up with their suitcases, expecting to live with me for several months if not years! What if I grew tired of them? What if they wouldn’t do what I wanted? I needn’t have worried. I quickly grew very fond of my little family and was sad when I had to eventually say goodbye to them.
The biggest problem I had when moving from short story to novel, however, was that I’m used to rewards. In a normal short story year, I have the satisfaction of writing ‘The End’ scores of times and sales to celebrate. The novel was more like a marathon with no guarantee of a medal at the end of it. Believe me – it was hard! I’ve learnt that writing a novel requires stamina and determination. You have to love both your story and your characters and want to share time with them even if there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
Luckily for me, I did.

Donna Douglas - From Novel to Short Story

My new novel, The Nightingale Christmas Show, is out this week. It’s my ninth Nightingale book, and the fourth set during the festive season, so this year I decided to try something different. Rather than writing one novel, I thought it might be fun to put together a collection of themed short stories.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. And in my naivete, I thought six separate stories might actually be easier than writing a lengthy novel. I mean, short stories are quick and easy to do, aren’t they?
Well, no. As I found out, each short story was like a mini novel in itself, needing its own narrative arc, theme, voice, etc. And since each of the stories was around 10,000 words long, they weren’t that short, either!
Just to make things even more difficult for myself, I decided to interlink the stories. Each of the six tales recounts the same event – an amateur show at a hospital during the first Christmas after the war – from a different viewpoint. There’s the war-weary Matron, Kathleen Fox, and her ambitious new Assistant Matron Charlotte Davis (a young woman with a dreadful secret). Then there are two ward sisters, warm-hearted Violet and fiercely competitive Miriam Trott. Finally we have two nurses, scatty, man-mad Daisy and Peggy, who struggles to reconcile her own desires with those of her controlling husband.  
Since the six characters interact with each other, and drop in and out of each other’s stories, this proved to be quite a logistical challenge, involving a lot of wall space and great deal of colour-coded Post-its. So, for instance, when ward sister Violet Tanner receives some bad news just before the show’s first rehearsal during her own story, I had to make sure she was suitably preoccupied when I recounted the same event in the Assistant Matron’s story.
Donna's helpful post-its

As you can imagine, it was a bit hair-tearing at times, but I got there in the end. And the process actually proved really interesting. The finished result is not so much a collection of short stories as a deconstructed novel, with all the viewpoints that are general woven together pulled apart into separate strands. This meant I could give each story its own unique tone, from Daisy’s fun quest to bag herself a handsome young doctor, to Charlotte’s secret heartache over her dark past. So whether you’re looking for a laugh or something tear-jerking, hopefully there’s a short story for every mood!
I had a great deal of fun writing it (I guess I can say that now it’s all over!) and I hope you enjoy reading it. 

Thank you Wendy and Donna. It's fascinating her hear how different writers approach writing in different forms. 

Wendy's collection, Silent Night, is available now

Their first Christmas without Paula. The thought made his heart ache. He didn’t know how he was going to do it, but he had made up his mind that, whatever happened, he would try and make it the same as it had always been. For the children’s sake... for all their sakes.
Silent Night, is a collection of short stories with a Christmas theme. All thirteen stories have previously been published in national magazines. If you like stories with emotional depth and a satisfying ending, then these stories will not fail to leave you unmoved.
 Andrew and his children are grieving. Can he make this a Christmas his late wife would have been proud of?
Bella needs to get away from it all but her Christmas cottage by the sea holds more than a few surprises.
Christmas Eve, a starry night and two young men who have more in common than they realise.
The stories in this collection are a window into the lives of ordinary people at this special time of year. They offer hope, comfort and the knowledge that the spirit of Christmas is often found within ourselves.

And The Nightingale Christmas Show from Donna Douglas is also available now

It’s Christmas 1945, and Matron Kathleen Fox is faced with the daunting task of putting the Nightingale Hospital back together after six long years of war. In an effort to restore morale, she decides the staff should put on a Christmas show for the patients. She hands the task over to her ambitious Assistant Matron, Charlotte Davis. But it isn’t long before Charlotte is ruffling feathers among the rest of the staff…Can the nurses of the Nightingale overcome the shadows of the past and pull together in time to save the show?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Caroline Bell Foster: Interview with an author

Today we welcome Caroline Bell Foster to the blog. 

Caroline  is an internationally bestselling, multi award-winning British author of diverse romantic fiction and named as one of the most influential people in culture & entertainment in the East Midlands, England by the Nottingham Post

Born in Derby, with her family, the author went on a six week holiday to Jamaica where she stayed for 18 years!

Ever the adventurer, Caroline bought her first pair of high heels in Toronto and traded her pink sunglasses for a bus ride in the Rift Valley at 18 years old.
A need to ‘take off her sunglasses’ was the impetus to return to England with her husband and two young children. She has been ‘back’ and living in Nottingham for 17 years. However, only returning to writing these past few years when the characters were demanding to be written, her fingers were itching and her children had become less dependant.

With themes of substance, Caroline's latest novels defy convention and celebrate modern day Britain with several titles set primarily in the East Midlands, where she shares her love for the three main cities and the surrounding ‘shires’ with her readers. 

Caroline, how did you initially get started as a writer? 
I consider myself to be one of those interesting people who, never really knew what they wanted to do in life, except to see as much of the world as possible.
I’d never set out to be a writer, but of course looking back the writing was, excuse the pun, on the wall.
Someone once said, whatever it was you were doing before the age of ten was what you were destined to be before the noise of the world intrudes.
I have two distinct memories.
The first, was seeing my name in print. It was under a photograph of myself in the Derby Telegraph celebrating Victorian Week when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I remember looking at my name, seeing the black fuzzy script and liking the feeling.
The second memory, was when I was around 11 years old. I had this crush on a boy and wrote him a love letter. In that cruel way of kids, he’d posted it on the wall for everyone to see! But to me, I was really proud my romantic words were actually being read!
Unofficially, that love letter was my first ‘public’ works.
But I knew I really had something, when, living in Jamaica, within the space of a few months I lost two cousins and an uncle. In my grief I wrote. I worked as a travel consultant during the day, but at night I scribbled away. Four months later I had a massive 140,00 word manuscript and a healed heart.
It was several months later, that I re-read what I wrote and sent it off to a publisher. I’m surprised it actually got read as I’d printed it off in single lines and spent a fortune on binding!
They called me in, told me I had a gift, sent me off to take a creative writing course and the rest, as they say, is history. I was 21 years old and the youngest author signed.

You describe your work as 'multicultural romantic fiction.' Why is showing diverse cultures so important in your fiction?
To me, writing isn’t just about ensuring my readers enjoy my story, it’s about sharing a culture, even if it isn’t my own.
At least one of my main characters will be from a BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) background. I recognise the need for more diversity in fiction, especially commercial fiction.
My kudos is simple. I want my daughter and her friends and their friends, to be able to walk into a book shop and have a choice, where growing up I had none. I like to think I am a champion of the under-represented.
My characters are not only culturally diverse, but real people with disabilities. I have characters who are wheelchair bound, blind or with hearing difficulties. I also like to highlight medical issues within communities.
My novels not only entertain, they teach.

C. Hub Magazine recently named you as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Creatives of 2017. What did that mean to you?
I cried. I had no idea I was even considered for the list and that makes it all the more special.
C-Hub is one of the biggest African/Caribbean magazines and to be listed and recognised for the work I do quietly is wonderful.
The Chief Editor said: “What is so fascinating about these individuals is their capacity to touch boundaries, and against all odds, they create a better world not just for themselves but for others.”
Those words alone will keep me writing.

Thank you Caroline. And now can you tell us a bit about your latest book?

In a world where division and displacement are becoming prevalent, myself, alongside nine other international bestselling authors, felt a need to publish a culturally diverse boxed set as nothing brings people together more than love. Shadesof Love was released November 7th

My contribution to the anthology is Small Town Boy, which is set in the Midlands and Georgia, USA.

Three months wasn’t enough time to tie posh, British girl Kerry, to him for ever and small town Georgia boy Noah becomes desperate. But he finds a way. Only before he can secure his plan, Kerry is ripped from his life and sent home early. Now, years later and a successful country music artist, Noah travels to England to close that chapter on his life. But seeing Kerry, now a politician, brings back a wealth of feelings and he realizes he still wants her. But how to keep her? And why does she distrust him so much? All this with the world watching.

You can find out more about Caroline though her website:, on Facebook:, on Twitter @cbellfoster, or on Goodreads: or Pinterest: