Monday, January 29, 2018

Eleanor Harkstead & Catherine Curzon: The Gay Romance Market – A Woman's Perspective

Today we welcome Eleanor Harkstead and her writing partner, Catherine Curzon, to the blog to talk about writing for the gay romance market and their recent and forthcoming publications. Over to Eleanor first...

When it comes to romance, or in fact any fiction, I love a story which has cracking characters in an interesting scenario. I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to perch on the edge of my seat in suspense. And it doesn’t bother me if the protagonists are straight or otherwise.

As a genre, gay romance is dominated by stories about same-sex male couples (known as m/m). And although plenty of gay men read and write it, a huge number of women are both fans and authors of m/m romance too. Is that an anomaly? Why should women be so interested in what gay men get up to?

Maybe, being attracted to men, straight and bi women simply want to read a story where not one but two men get saucy – and there’s nowt wrong with that. But there are gay women who enjoy m/m fiction as well. I think it’s the relationships and the characters which attract women to the genre, just as much as they might be attracted by the muscly chaps on the covers. In fiction, a woman can see an emotional moment between men but might be unlikely to in real life.

Readers of genre fiction have certain expectations, and while sweet romance with a gorgeous kiss will please some, many readers of m/m want raunch. But how can a woman write a convincing love scene between two men?

Well, if one might be frank (though not actually Frank), quite a few women writers of m/m romance have been to bed with a man at least once and have a vague idea of the male anatomy. Even so, if I’m rooting for the characters and want them to get together, I don’t really need eye-popping detail. As long as there’s enough for me to picture what’s happening, I’m happy to be taken into the minds of the lovers as they enjoy and explore their emotional connection with each other.

Bedroom action isn’t the only place where women authors of m/m might struggle with realism. When writing a character who’s a gay man, it’s best to avoid him coming across as either a shallow stereotype or, basically, a woman. Whatever sort of fiction you write, you need to be conscious of stereotyping. Making your characters living, breathing individuals is part of your job when you create realistic characters who your readers will embrace.

The gay romance market is more niche than straight romance, with fewer publishers. It has certain sub-genres, such as male pregnancy, which you either don’t find in straight romance, or are more popular with fans of m/m romance than straight. But if you’ve even been curious about reading gay romance, there are all sorts of stories out there waiting for you. And if you’re tempted to write gay romance, then why shouldn’t 2018 be the year you give it a whirl?

Thank you, Eleanor for your interesting insight into writing for this genre. Now over to you and Catherine for our interview:

Your short story, An Actor’s Guide to Romance, has just been released, congratulations and the cover is gorgeous. Where did the inspiration for using actors and the theatre come from?

Catherine: Theatre is a passion of mine and has been for as long as I can remember, so using the theatre as a setting was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. There is such a rich tradition of rivalry in the theatre too that the idea of feuding actors forced to share top billing and a love scene was irresistible. The story pretty much told itself once Adam and Thomas started bickering.
Eleanor: Pride’s covers are gorgeous, and the one for the Actors brilliantly conveys the story's atmosphere.  As for writing about Thomas and Adam, during my time in Little Theatre am-dram, I overheard – and, I am sorry to say, participated in – the occasional luvvie spat. Few performances are quite as spectacular as those staged by arguing theatricals.

In April, you have the first in a series of ‘Captivating Captains’ due out: The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper. Each book will be a stand-alone novel with new characters, set in a different time period. Does this add another element to the dynamic of co-writing or is it a challenge you both relish?
Catherine: Because each book is a completely standalone novel with a new setting and a cast of brand new characters, it’s a treat rather than a challenge. We can’t wait to introduce readers to captains of all sorts, from cricket to cavalry and beyond, from a huge range of eras. The joy of the series that we’re working on with Pride is the sheer scope it offers. We really hope readers enjoy meeting the captains as much as we have!
Eleanor: One of the great things about writing together is that we can pool our ideas and bounce them off each other. As soon as we start to discuss time period, location, what type of captain he'll be and who he'll be paired with, we're shaping ideas about character, setting and plot. We write stories together that we wouldn't come up with by writing on our own. And when you see characters talking in our stories, it really is two people talking - Catherine and me!

An Actor’s Guide to Romance is out now and available from PrideAmazon Kindle and Kobo (and every other ebook platform known to humankind as well…!)

The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper
Captain Robert Thorne is the fiercest officer in the regiment. Awaiting the command to go to the front, he has no time for simpering, comely lads. That’s until one summer day in 1917 when his dark, flashing eye falls upon the newest recruit at Chateau de Desgravier, a fresh-faced farmer’s boy with little experience of life and a wealth of poetry in his heart.

Trooper Jack Woodvine has a way with strong, difficult stallions, and whispers them to his gentle will. Yet even he has never tamed a creature like Captain Thorne.

With the shadow of the Great War and the scheming of enemies closer to home threatening their fleeting chance at happiness, can the Captain and the Cavalry Trooper make it home safely? More importantly, will they see peacetime together?

Available to pre-order from 20th February.

About the Authors

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian of the 18th century. She has written extensively for publications including, the official website of BBC History Magazine, Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austen’s Regency World. 

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

Eleanor Harkstead likes to dash about in nineteenth-century costume, in bonnet or cravat as the mood takes her. She knows rather a lot about poisons, and can occasionally be found wandering old graveyards. Eleanor is very fond of chocolate, wine, tweed waistcoats and nice pens. Her large collection of vintage hats would rival Hedda Hopper's. 

Originally from the south-east of England, Eleanor now lives somewhere in the Midlands with a large ginger cat who resembles a Viking.




Lisa writes contemporary romance with a light-hearted tone.  What interests her most is people, their interactions, emotions and relationships.  It’s probably why her career to date has been based in property; she confesses herself that she is ‘naturally curious’. Her first encounter with a romance author was chats over the garden wall between her father, Godfrey, and Mrs Cooper from the neighbouring village of Bisley.  It came as quite a surprise in later life to find that Mrs Cooper was in fact Jilly Cooper!  Lisa’s writing inspiration now comes from other Cotswolds' authors including Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde. 

Lisa is a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme and attributes this supportive and informative scheme to her winning the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition 2016 with her debut novel Meet Me at Number Five.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The RNA's 2018 Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year Awards Ceremony - Judging Panel and Celebrity Guest Presenter Announced

The Romantic Novelists' Association has announced the judges who will decide the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year, and the celebrity guest presenter for the 2018 Awards ceremony.

The judging panel comprises: Matt Bates, the Fiction Buyer for WH Smith Travel, editor Alex Hammond, writer Elizabeth Buchan and Liz Robinson, book reviewer for 

The Reverend Richard Coles will present the winner of the award with a trophy and a cheque for £5,000 on Monday 5th March at The Gladstone Library in London. Richard Coles first found fame in the 80s with chart-topping bands Bronski Beat and The Communards, before becoming a Church of England priest. He is a popular media figure, and recently enjoyed a stint on Strictly Come Dancing.

RNA Chair Nicola Cornick said:  ‘We are thrilled to have such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable panel of judges with such a commitment to the romantic fiction genre, and a guest presenter who will ensure the evening is enormous fun.”

There are seven Romantic Novel Awards: Contemporary, Epic, Historical, Paranormal or Speculative Fiction, Romantic Comedy, Young Adult and the RoNA Rose for a shorter romantic novel. The winners of these categories are chosen by a panel of readers.

The four independent judges read each of the category winners to decide the overall winner of the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year award.

Matt Bates is the Fiction Buyer for WH Smith Travel. He has been rated in the Evening Standard as one of the Top 1000 most influential Londoners, and has contributed to book-related articles in The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, and The Bookseller. In 2013 he judged the Historical Novelists' Society International Award, in 2015 he was named Bookseller of the Year by the RNA and in 2016 was one of the judges for both The Costa Book Prize (Novel) and The Booksellers' Association Debut Fiction Category Prize. In 2017 he was named as one of The Bookseller's 100 list.

Elizabeth Buchan worked in publishing before she became a full time writer. Her novel Consider the Lily won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 1994, and a subsequent novel, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, became an international bestseller and was made into a CBS Primetime Drama. She is a former Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes and was a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and the 2014 Costa Novel Award. She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and co-founder of the Clapham Book Festival.

Alex Hammond holds a BA (Hons) in American Literature with Creative Writing, an MA in Creative Writing, and is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing. He worked for the literary agency Rogers, Coleridge & White, with authors such as Zadie Smith, Philip Hensher, Nick Hornby, Sandi Toksvig and Joe Dunthorne. He joined Cornerstones Literary Consultancy in 2014, and is now an editor, mentor, and scout. He works directly with authors at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Conferences, and the A Chapter Away writers’ retreats.

Liz Robinson has been on the editorial team writing expert reviews for since the beginning of 2014. Reading is her passion, and she enjoys all genres, from crime, mysteries and thrillers to romance, family drama and relationship tales.

A total of 300 books were entered for this year’s Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. The shortlisted books will be announced on 8th February, 2018 and the RoNA Awards will be
presented in London on 5th March, 2018.

For more information about the awards, please go to our website.

Monday, January 22, 2018

January's Competition Monthly

A new year, a new start. Francesca hopes you'll find something familiar, or even better, something outside your comfort zone in this latest selection of competitions.

When I first attended Adult Education creative writing classes I'd written several short stories and poems, but not a lot else. Our tutor (author Elaine Everest), encouraged us to try our hand at all sorts of different writing. We had a go at scripts, several forms of poetry, articles, flash fiction, tips and fillers, leaflets, non-fiction books, novels and a few more things besides.

One of the most valuable aspects of these classes was that we were also encouraged to submit to all sorts of markets. Between us, we've ended up with a whole heap of different genres and types of writing published in different arenas. This success is largely due to us being pushed to write and submit outside of our comfort zone. Today, now running her own classes, Elaine still encourages us to try new things, giving us challenges that we might not normally tackle.

It's a new year, so why not try a competition outside of your comfort zone? Or dig out work you've abandoned in order to write something else. The selection this month includes short stories, novels for adults and children, script writing, poetry, flash fiction and two humour competitions. Perhaps you fancy yourself as a Ben Elton or Carla Lane? Perhaps the new Mike Leigh? Have a go and see what new doors you can open.

Good luck to you all, and don't forget to let us know of any successes you have.

Kelpies Prize 2018
Theme: Children's novel set in Scotland for either 8-10 or 12-15 year olds.
Prize: Winning author, £2,000
Closing date: 28 February 2018
Entry: Free

Bridgend Writers' Circle Short Story Competition
Theme: Open. 1,500 – 1,800 words
Prize: £200 / £50 / £30
Closing date: 1st March 2018
Entry: £5 / £7.50 for 2

The International Windsor Fringe Award for New Drama Writing
Theme: Plays of 30 minutes max, 6 actors max. Only amateur playwrights.
Prize: 3 winners selected for stage performance.
Closing date: 5 March 2018
Entry: £10

Brittle Star Short Story Fiction Competition (also poetry)
Theme: Open, 2,000 words max.
Prize: £250 per genre / £50 pg / £25 pg
Closing date: 14 March 2018
Entry: £5 / £3.50 each subsequent

Writing Magazine Humour Short Story Competition
Theme: Humorous short story, 1,500 – 1,700 words.
Prize: £200 plus publication in magazine / £50 plus publication online
Closing date: 15 March 2018
Entry: £5 / £3 for subscriberss

Edge Hill Short Story Prize
Theme: Single author collection of short stories, published between 1st Jan & 31 Dec 2017 (not self published)
Prize: £10,000 / £1,000 reader's choice.
Closing date: 23 March 2018
Entry: Free

Retreat West Flash Fiction
Theme: 'Forgetting'. 500 words max. No children's stories
Prize: £200 / 2 x £75
Closing date: 25 March 2018
Entry: £8

The International Rubery Book Award
Theme: For international and self published books.
Prize: £1,500 plus read by top literary agent. Catergory winners £150 each. No publication date restriction. All genres.
Closing date: 31 March 2018
Entry: £36

Twisted Mysteries Writing Competition
Theme: Read the brief, but basically what lies beneath the surface in 1933.
Prize: £100 / £50 / £25 plus all winners published in an eBook anthology.
Closing date: 30 March 2018
Entry: £5

Scottish Arts Club Short Story Award
Theme: Open. Max 1,500 words. Unpublished writers only (novel and short story)
Prize: £1,000 / 2 x 100 / Scottish prize £500
Closing date: 31 March 2018
Entry: £10

Writers Bureau Short Story Competition
Theme: Open. 2,000 words max.
Prize: £300 / £200 / £100 / £50 plus a WB course for all winners
Closing date: 31 March 2018
Entry: £5

Writers' Forum Fiction Competition (also poetry)
Theme: Open. 1,000 – 3,000 words
Prize: £300 / £150 / £100
Closing date: Rolling.
Entry: £6 / £3 for subscribers
(Writers' Forum also have a flash fiction competition each month, but the duration for each is short and you'll need to look for the current theme)

Bristol Poetry Prize
Theme: Open. Up to 100 lines.
Prize: £600 / £300 / £100
Closing date: 31 March 2008
Entry: £6
Details  (scroll down)

Wergel Flump Humor Poetry Contest
Theme: Humorous poem up to 250 lines
Prize: £1,000 / £250 / 10 x £100
Closing date: 1st April 2018
Entry: Free

Looking Ahead:

First Novel Prize
Theme: Novels over 50,000 words
Prize: £1,000 / £250 / £100
Closing date: Open February 1st - 31 May 2018
Entry: £25

Francesca Capaldi Burgess has been placed or shortlisted in a number of competitions including Winchester Writers' Conference, Twyford Writers, Chorley & District Writer's Circle, Retreat West,, Meridian Writing, Flash a Famous Phrase, Wells Festival and Writing Magazine. She's had stories and a serial published in magazines worldwide and in three anthologies, including Diamonds and Pearls and 100 Stories for Haiti  plus a few articles and a poem. She is a member of the RNA New Writers' Scheme and the Society for Women Writers and Journalists. Francesca runs a writing blog along with RNA member Elaine Roberts called Write Minds.