@LorraineInWords is the Twitter handle for the lovely lady I shall be writing about today and it is most apt. Lorraine has featured on the blog before when I posted a playlist - a group of fabulous writers shared the songs which inspired them most (read it HERE). But life has moved on at a speedy pace for the talented Lorraine and she is now the author of the Being Me diary (more on that later) and the proprietor of a classy Italian cafe called Urban-ita, in Sheffield (again, more about that later) all whilst being a specialist in adult training and coaching and - oh yes - writing a novel. She is such an inspiration I just had to write about her.
Where to start? How about with the cafe..?
Urban-ita, Italian Coffee Shop & Bistro; 288 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, S7 1FL
I have been to the cafe and can personally attest to it’s authentic atmosphere and delicious food. I tend to shy away from anything but the plainest of food so when I nervously asked whether it was possible to have something a little ‘off menu’, Lorraine answered graciously, ‘Anything is possible!’ and I was served up the best scrambled eggs and coffee I have ever had. The cake was fantastic, too.
The decor is tasteful, lots of wood and plants and, of course, books. To the right of the counter is a wall of shelves referred to by Lorraine as the ‘little shop of goodies’ which is adorned with locally made items. She has even developed her own range of herb-infused oils. Every detail has been carefully thought out. There are no drinks served in plastic bottles, the food is homemade or from local independent bakers and the electricity is from sustainable sources. There are game nights, craft nights and it is generally a super little corner of Sheffield. It would make a lovely place to sit and read or write, I just wish I lived closer. You can find out more about Urban-Ita HERE and also at the bottom of this post. Follow the cafe on Twitter (@Urbanita288) and Instagram (Urbanita288).
Lorraine’s ‘Being Me’ Diary
In 2017, with a nod to her speciality as an adult educator and a wink to her interest in wellness, Lorraine created the ‘Being Me’ diary. It is designed to enable people to take stock and appreciate each day as it comes. In her own words, ‘We are so busy with the day to day stresses of modern living we don't take the time to think and reflect or even notice how life is changing or how we are growing as individuals.’ It is a five-year diary that can be begun at any point during the year. It provides an opportunity to record thoughts, feelings and emotions through answering one question each day. I think we all need that mental space to be calm and reflect. The diary can be purchased via her website https://www.opennarrative.co.uk/publications.php. Doesn't it look beautiful?
Lorraine the Writer
I first met Lorraine a couple of years ago at a writing course in Sheffield run by Susan Elliot Wright and Russell Thomas (both Simon & Schuster authors - great courses for all levels and very reasonably priced - see HERE). Being creative is what Lorraine loves to do and she is currently working on her first novel. It is set in gorgeous Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast where she lived for three years, but this particular story is a work of fiction. The plot concerns a young English woman who has a holiday romance and inadvertently becomes involved with the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia. It's murder and mayhem in an Italian holiday hot spot.
The book sounds exciting and I can't wait to read it. Italy is one of my absolute favourite destinations, although I can live without any Mafia entanglements!
In short, I have nothing but total admiration for Lorraine. She is one of life's 'do-ers' - if there is something she wants to do she gets on and makes it happen. I love following her Twitter and Instagram feeds to see where she pops up next and I wish her every success in her many ventures.
Urban-Ita - Additional Information
Urban-Ita is an independent Italian coffee shop and eatery in the heart of Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, located in the old Bardwell's shop.
Urban-Ita is the latest venture of husband and wife team Saverio and Lorraine. Saverio is from Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast and Lorraine is from Sheffield. Both are passionate about Italy, especially Southern Italian cuisine.
At Urban-Ita we serve a wide range of teas, coffees and soft drinks. Our cakes and desserts are homemade or from local independent bakers. Pearl Bakery and Miss Adu’s Kitchen supply our vegan, dairy/gluten-free sweet treats. Our menus have a range of English and Italian dishes and include healthy options, gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based cuisine as well as seasonal specials. Saverio ensures that the ingredients are the freshest and best available. We use local and organic produce where possible and some of it even comes from our garden. Our focaccia and flatbread are baked on the premises.
We don't have an alcohol licence but you are welcome to BYO for a small corkage fee.
We try to be as environmentally friendly as possible so we don't stock drinks in plastic bottles. Please feel free to bring your own cup if you want your coffee to take-away.
We recycle what we can and our electricity supplier assures us that it is from 100% sustainable sources.
We have a small deli and bookshop where you can buy a range of products including reusable bamboo cups and products from local suppliers and makers, plus our own herb infused oils. In our ‘Little Book Shop’ we have Lorraine’s Being Me Diary as well as a range of second-hand books that can be purchased or perused.
Works of art in the café are thanks to local artists, Illustrations by Molly and Stephanie Briggs We hope you enjoy your visit to Urban-Ita.
Urban-Ita is available to hire Wednesday to Saturday evenings for private parties, celebrations, meetings and events. Please ask for details.
So it’s nearly time to say goodbye to my posts showcasing the work of the Wentworth Writers but not before I share the work of three lovely ladies. (I’m tempted to rewrite that, actually, as one of the pieces is mine...) A big ‘thank you’ to Jacqueline Woods for waiting patiently while Hester and myself got ourselves together. So, here we are - three letters written in the style of Robert Pirosh’s famous Hollywood letter of application.
I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have loved putting it together. I think after this one has gone live I will revisit the first and read them all once again, together. If you would like to join us at Wentworth next year, details of how to book will be posted on NAWG’s shiny new website in due course. In the meantime, why not have a look at what else the organisation has to offer? Visit www.nawg.co.uk.
Our Letters (Part 3)
I like making things. I like sticky, gluey, messy things which leave crusty globs on the carpet and a skin-like film on my hands. I like delicate, intricate things which rest perfectly in my palm and come into existence slowly, reverently, without regard for the pressing demands of the day. I like childish things with vibrant colours and shapes as bold as the young faces which inspire me.
Above all, I like working with my hands and my mind aligned; harmonious in my quiet and gentle rhythm of creativity.
Please may I make something for you?
I have written and self-published a book of which I am very proud but hardly anyone has read..! (available HERE). It's only 99p on Kindle.
I’m still writing bits and pieces but my free time recently has been spent trying to build up two Etsy shops. One is aimed at writers and lovers of literature: Candelabracrafts.Etsy.com and the other at families with young kids: CandelabraFamily.Etsy.com. It’s hard going getting the views so do drop by for a browse...
If you have read this far then I can’t thank you enough. Goodbye for now from the Wentworth Writers.
Next time: - something with an Italian flavour...
[I’m now stressing that I haven’t put the word ‘parody’ to its correct use. Apparently a parody is ‘a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of writing’. The Pirosh letter is not at all serious but never mind. (It’s honestly really stressful writing about writers. I’m now fretting about the square brackets...)]
Anyway, read on and enjoy. First up is Yvonne. Make sure you read all the way down to Henry; he doesn't deserve to be at the bottom of anything other than a long drink!
Our Letters (Part 2)
I like eating. I like large squashy things like gateaux, trifles and fruit jellies. I like savoury aperitifs such as olives, small nibbles of pastry rich pates of game and mushroom, sharp compotes, of exotic fare on the tongue. I like Sunday dinners; roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, lamb with mint and rosemary, and pork with crisp salty crackling. All of which is served with roast potatoes; crispy crunchy outside but soft inside, and beautiful meat juice gravies.
I like cheese, butter, and full cream. Whipped, churned, goats, cow or alpaca. But most of all I like preparing quality food at the right price so that I can eat it; savouring each bite of my tasty platefuls.
Madam I am here, having eaten in fine restaurants, tavernas, cafes in Italy, France and Wales; to offer myself to you as the school cook. May I come over and offer you some of my temptations?
Frances A. Flint
I like trees. I especially like Willows as they hug the Earth around them and dip their leafy fingers in a passing stream. I like when I can snuggle in to their raised roots and curl up like a resident, gazing up through myriad branches and rest my eyes in cool green.
I also like upright trees, huggable trunks and spiral branches that invite me up in to the canopy, stepping high, past nests and tiny caves, a nod to my neighbours as I reach for the highest thinnest branch.
I like to walk in Forests, breathing with the Earth’s lungs.
I can see the wood for the trees.
May I take a walk in the woods for you?
I do love trees! I also love people and have spent most of my working life in mental health and wellbeing, learning about the myriad ways in which we all mess things up, push through the trouble, and come out the other side more resilient than before…then go and do the same thing again!!
I have a memory of being praised for a story I had written in my English class at school, which sparked a love of creating other worlds in my head, some of which I wrote down, some which have stayed as little escape planets for me to visit when needed. Over the years I have written lots of short stories, some shorter that they should be, or as they are known, unfinished.
I really enjoyed my weekend at Wentworth and never cease to be inspired by the tutors and fellow students, it is thrilling to hear the many different styles and imaginings.
Back home in Coventry I belong to the Writers Hub, run by our wonderful inspiration Jo Roberts, who never fails to encourage and enlighten.
I continue to dream and plot and plant the roots of stories that one day will bare fruit.
I am presently developing a freelance Mindfulness training business, and plan to use my Facebook page to write about wellbeing and story telling.
It’s just a baby now, so a fairly clean slate, but you can contact me at @franflint55
Frances A. Flint
[Date as postmark]
I like flying and aeroplanes. I like oily, wiry, stringy, canvassy, deafening, gale-force,
shiny, metallic, aerofoils. I like being windblown, smelling leather, being goggled, in cloud-torn
skies, winged, floating, banking, zooming, turning, soaring and diving. I like roaring, lifting,
sailing, thrusting, looping, making contrails, through cumulus, reaching the stratosphere. I also quite
like landing, safely.
May I be a pilot with your airline ?
(Name and address withheld)
As a child I was fascinated by insects, dinosaurs, books, aeroplanes, poetry and steam engines. Nothing changes! But since the 1990s I've had a passion for dragonflies, especially photographing them. I was involved in the Dragonfly Sanctuary, the Dragonfly Museum and the Dragonfly Project at Wicken Fen prior to joining the Board of Trustees of the British Dragonfly Society in 2006.
My paid career took me into telecomms and project management, but after 45 years I figured it was time to throw in the towel, so I retired in 2015 and started to renew my interest in writing, among other things. After taking a creative writing course in 2016 I now dabble in short stories and poetry and hope to self-publish my first book soon. Peterborough Writers’ Group and The National Association of Writers’ Groups are a great support and I have made many new friends, especially at Wentworth and the Festival at Warwick Uni.
Note from Editor: I really hope you’ve enjoyed this batch of letters and also finding out a little about the people behind the words. A hearty thank you to those who have participated so far. The next post will be the final one in this series so I suppose I had better dig out my letter. It will appear alongside the fabulous contribution by Jacky Pemberton and I am also hoping for Hester to pull her finger out (nudge, nudge).
In the meantime I am always hoping for new subscribers to my list for blog updates so please do fill out the box on the upper right hand side if you are interested. Each new subscriber keeps me going. I can be found on Facebook under many different guises but my writing page is @bmkeeling and my literary gift shop is @candelabracrafts.
Thanks for coming back to my blog. How are you?
I’m great, thank you. It’s lovely to be back!
My last chat with you was in November 2015, I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Back then you had self-published a number of books but had just signed a contract with Carina (now rebranded as HQ Digital) for two books. I know that you have lovely paperbacks out in the world now and I was wondering how that came about?
After self-publishing A Beginner’s Guide To Salad and Everything Changes But You (and free short story A Beginner’s Guide To Christmas), I wrote a festive book (The Mince Pie Mix-Up) and was planning to self-publish again. But I thought I’d submit it to Carina on the off chance they’d want to publish it. I didn’t expect anything but a rejection, but they loved it and I was offered a two-book deal. I’ve since published four ebooks with them, with two more on the way next year, and my latest, The Little Bed & Breakfast by the Sea, was released as a paperback too.
I see that ‘The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea’ has over 100 Amazon reviews (click here). That is amazing. You must be pleased?
I’m amazed! It’s been so exciting seeing the number of reviews rising – especially as most people have enjoyed the book!
And is ‘The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts’ a sequel?
Although the books have similar titles, they aren’t connected at all – they take place in different locations and follow completely separate sets of characters.
Yes, it’s the second book in the Beginner’s Guide series, following Ruth and her friends during the next stage of their lives. I wrote the first draft around the time I signed with HQ Digital, but it took a bit of a backseat as publisher deadlines kicked in. As with the first book in the series, I self-published A Beginner’s Guide To Saying I Do.
Now that you are signed up with a publisher, what level of involvement do you have with designing the cover? I know you used to like playing around with them when you were designing your own!
I’m not very involved at all, so the reveal is always exciting and I can’t wait to share them with everybody! I do like playing around with images and graphics, so I like having my toe in both camps as I get full control over my self-published designs.
What is your writing routine? Do you write every day?
I write Monday to Friday while my daughters are at school. If I’m nearing a deadline or I’m falling way behind schedule, I’ll write for a good chunk of Sundays too. In the school holidays, I’ll squeeze in bits of writing when I can and catch up in the evenings.
Do you have or are you seeking an agent?
I don’t have an agent at the moment, but it’s something I would definitely like to pursue again in the future!
So, after all this excitement, what’s next??
I’m currently in the planning stages of Book 9 while I wait for the edits of Book 8. Both books will be published by HQ Digital next year.
Thanks so much for coming, Jennifer. Maybe we can do this again in another couple of years? Who knows, there might be a movie to talk about by then!
That would be awesome – both chatting books again and movie talk!
Jennifer has a lovely website at jenniferjoycewrites.co.uk. Why not check it out?
Three women. Three weddings. But who will say I do – and who will say I don’t?
Ruth can’t quite believe she’s managed to snag The One but when he proposes, she can finally accept that she’s found her happily ever after. But when Ruth finds herself booking her dream church for just six weeks away, she starts to panic. You can’t plan a whole wedding at such short notice. Can you?
Trina has only just walked down the aisle, but she’s already starting to question whether they can make their marriage work. Will they survive the honeymoon period, or have they just made a very big – and very expensive – mistake?
Erin has somehow found herself agreeing to be a bridesmaid for the tackiest wedding known to man. With drunk hens, ridiculous outfits and a terrifying wedding planner, just what has Erin signed up for?
Available from Amazon (click on picture for link).
This blog post is just for fun! I asked six other writers to name a song which got them in the creative mood and to tell me why. These are their responses...
A big 'thank-you' to everyone who responded.
Number 1 - B.M Keeling (Me).
I'll start this off with a song that I discovered at the end of a movie. It's simple but raw and motivational and, if played loudly, always gets me wanting to create something new. I hope you like it.
My collection of supernatural short stories is available via Amazon ('Into Dust And Other Strange Tales'). I am currently working on a collection of fantasy shorts and a novel for children.
Number 2 - Philippa Ronan
I've chosen this song by Eminem as it makes me want to get on with whatever I am working on. I could have also picked Love is a Losing Game or Tears Dry on Their Own by Amy Winehouse.
I'm currently writing a novel about the death of an artist set on a fictitious Scottish island.
Number 3 - Karen Wynn
Although I prefer quiet when scribbling, I can't deny the enormous pull I feel towards music, particularly Springsteen's, and the wonderful imagery he conjures up with all of his songs. In the deeply intimate "Brilliant Disguise" our own identity is placed under scrutiny - a story of a man struggling with the weight of his own doubts alongside a crumbling relationship.
As my current story is centred around love, I have turned to his relationships album, "The Tunnel of Love" for inspiration. It's almost thirty years old now, yet still so fresh. So many aspects of love can be found in his pared down, poetic tales of new love, broken relationships or yearning for love lost.
Number 4 - Marvin Close
This track is two minutes of beautiful noise guaranteed to wake up the writerly mind!
My latest project, working with Hope Powell on 'Hope: My Life in Football', is now available from Bloomsbury.
Number 5 - Lorraine Dixon
I listen to Enigma when I'm writing. The album is an hour long so enables me to write for an hour solid before I have a break or change what I'm doing.
I am currently working on a novel set in Italy. I think it's really important to visit the places you are writing about because it's not just the sights but also the sounds, smells and the atmosphere that feed into the characters and the storyline. Maybe my next novel will be set on a ranch in the wild west or a chateau in the south of France.
Number 6 - Marian Dillon
My three great loves are reading, writing and music but I don't always listen to music when writing. Too distracting! I've written two novels and am now on my third. Songs feature in them all and are on a playlist on my iPod. It was hard to choose one track but I chose this one by the Arctic Monkeys as it has it all for me: a quirky
way of expressing love for someone with a great slow beat and lots of dry Sheffield wit.
Number 7 - Emma Finlayson-Palmer
My selection ties in with my MG magical adventure story, 'A Witch in Time', both in its lyrics and fast paced music which keeps me motivated to write.
I nearly chose 'Cheer Up London' by Slaves which inspired me to start my current WIP ('Love Bites', a story about a 16 year old who has to rescue her ex, battle her way home to save her family and defeat the head vampire). I love the fast paced catchy music.
Review of 'Wintercraft' and Interview with Jenna Burtenshaw
You know when you read a book and love it so much that you want to tell everyone about it? That's how I felt about 'Wintercraft' when I first read it around 3 years ago. This was before my blog, before I joined Facebook and just about the time I ventured on to Twitter. Therefore I have never really shouted about it, except to people I know.
Time to put that straight...
'Wintercraft' is the first book in a fantasy trilogy. I suppose it would be described as 'young adult', though I am still getting to grips with these labels. The stories follow the adventures of Kate, a young girl living in Albion who discovers that she is one of the 'Skilled' - those with the ability to see through the veil between life and death. She becomes caught up in a chase to locate the lost book of Wintercraft before it falls into the wrong hands. The subsequent books are 'Blackwatch' and 'Legacy' and continue with Kate as she is pulled deeper and deeper into a dark and complex world.
The writer of this trilogy is Jenna Burtenshaw and I am beyond thrilled that she joins me today on the blog.
Thank you for agreeing to be part of this piece, Jenna. I've been wanting to ask you loads of questions since reading your books so I guess this is my big chance...
Hi, Bernie. Thank you for inviting me! Writing has been part of my life in different forms for a long time. When I was nine I realised that writing stories, creating books, was something anyone could do. Writers weren’t these mythical beings, a ‘precious few’, who made up stories and sent them out into the world. I realised I could have a go at it myself. I started off writing poetry in little notebooks right through my teens (I still have some of them) but only really got into writing full length books in my twenties. Someone told me writing a full fantasy novel would be too difficult, so - of course - I had to give it a go!
Who are your influences?
This is a tricky one. I love Marcus Sedgwick’s books. I had the chance to meet him at a signing a few years ago at the Edinburgh Book Festival, which was very exciting. (I was a little bit starstruck, and I’m sure I babbled like an idiot at the signing table.) I am a huge fan of dark, gothic stories. There’s a touch of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in Silas Dane, and his crow owes a lot to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘The Raven’.
Was 'Wintercraft' your first completed novel?
No, it was my fourth. I finished two books in a planned trilogy in the early 2000s, the first of which attracted interest from a couple of agents, but it wasn’t good enough to get me representation. My third story was about a girl haunted by a sinister presence (which was when I started experimenting with darker themes) and the world in that book became a starting point for what would become the Wintercraft series. Looking back, I think of the first three as practice books. I learned so much from writing them, but they’ll never exist in the world outside my manuscript drawer.
And something all unpublished writers are interested in... how did you secure representation and then a publishing contract?
As I mentioned, my first trilogy drew a couple of nibbles from literary agents. Some said they liked my style, and one agent wrote me a very encouraging letter, which gave me hope that I was on the right track. Charged with fresh determination, I set aside the first trilogy, and decided to take what I’d learned and start again. I would write something I would love to read. I’d send it out to agents, and if this book didn’t attract any interest, at least I’d given it a good shot.
Kate and Silas’s story began that day. I worked on Wintercraft, polished it up, and submitted the early chapters to agents I thought might be interested. After weeks of rejection letters dropping through the letterbox, a few agents requested the full manuscript, and soon after, one agent invited me for a meeting. I travelled down to London on the train, had lunch and a chat, and signed a contract with her that day.
My agent started submitting Wintercraft to publishers and within weeks the book went to auction. That was a tense day! I waited at home for the call that told me Headline had won the UK rights, and the rollercoaster started all over again from there. My agency sold the US rights to Greenwillow/HarperCollins a few months later.
Have you always been drawn to fantasy? Have you/will you write outside that genre?
Fantasy is my first love. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility of it, but I’ve experimented with sci-fi ideas recently, so I’m open to different things.
Do you write full time? What's next?
Yes, I’m lucky to be able to write full time. I have a messy desk, a cat that likes to sit on my keyboard, and a good supply of Yorkshire Gold tea, so I’m very happy. As for what’s next: I’ve written two new stories since Wintercraft: Legacy was published - one sci-fi, one fantasy - but they still need some work. I’m looking forward to seeing where this next year takes me.
What advice would you give to unpublished writers, especially those with an eye on the young adult fantasy market?
Read everything you can. Walk around your local area and search for inspiration in places you think you know. There’s always something new to discover that might click something in your imagination. And most important of all, turn off your internet. If you’re writing, don’t have the internet chattering away in the back of your screen tempting you in. It’s a time killer. Block out thirty minutes, an hour, however long you fancy, turn off that wi-fi and claim your writing time. Just you and the words.
And finally, we've heard all about Jenna the Writer, can you share with me a little about what you get up to when you are not writing? Am I right in thinking that nature and animals feature heavily?
Ah, yes! I do share a lot of photos of my dogs and cats online, don’t I? I have two dogs, an ex-feral cat, and a calico cat who moved into my writing hut three years ago and set up home. Add to them the goldfish, the garden birds, and the odd injured pigeon, and they all keep me busy. Meanwhile, I’m teaching myself to crochet (slowly), I love walking in my local area, and whenever I’m feeling stressed, I bake. I’m also a bit of a gamer. World of Warcraft and the Elder Scrolls series are my personal favourites, so if I’m not reading or spending time in one of my written worlds, you’ll often find me adventuring through one of theirs.
Thanks so much for sharing with me, Jenna. I can't wait to read your next books and, in the meantime, I hope others discover the world of Wintercraft.
'Wintercraft' Book 1 can be viewed on Amazon HERE.
Hi Astrid, thanks so much for joining me on the blog today. I know you a little through the Twitterverse but shall we start off with an introduction for readers who are not yet familiar with you or your work?
That would be great.
So your debut novel A Cunning Plan was released in the UK by Crooked Cat Publishing on 23rd May. Tell me a little about it.
A Cunning Plan is a romantic mystery with a strong element of comedy. It’s a light summer read, perfect for the holidays.
Sloane lives in London with her two daughters. She’s shy, insecure, but incredibly stubborn. Determined to put her family back together, she fights to get her ex husband back, even after the divorce is settled. When she meets sexy IRS agent, Ethan Cunning, her life takes an unforeseen detour – for the better, or the worse…
A Cunning Plan is my second completed manuscript, but the first one that I felt strongly enough about to take on the cutthroat publishing scene. It took me three months to write it, following the 90 Day Novel’s method, than about the same time to edit. I used my mom and my cousin as beta readers. I also sent it out to be professionally edited, figuring I needed to make the best first impression possible. I then queried agents as well as small independent publishers. After a few full manuscript requests and many rejections, my publisher, Crooked Cat Publishing, contacted me with a proposal. And here I am, more than a year later.
To be honest I never took the rejections at heart. It’s just part of the game, one where submissions exceed demands. Plus, reading is subjective - you can’t expect everyone to love your book.
If I could do one thing differently, I would have kept writing while waiting to be published. I was so focused on querying, then on promoting my book, I put my writing on hold. But at the end of the day, I’m an author, writing is what I love and I’m so happy to reconnect with my characters now. Getting published isn’t the ultimate goal. Producing more great books to form a long lasting readership is.
I bet it felt amazing when you were offered a contract. Fair to say it was a dream come true? Take us through that moment.
It was such a dream come true that I think it still hasn’t registered yet. As in, too good to be true. Publication is an on-going process. Even after the book is out, you can hardly expect it to be an overnight success. I’m planning to have a belated launch party later this year - a chance to thank my readers and to acknowledge this achievement to myself. Maybe get drunk!
And now for a question close to my heart (our baby boys were born about a week apart), how are you finding time to promote your first book and work on your second whilst caring for a young family?
I’m lucky enough to have help during the day. My housekeeper/nanny comes for a few hours every day, giving me the time I need to work. With my daughter I had no help, but countless sleepless nights to imagine the world of my story. As soon as she started nursery, a few mornings a weeks at first, I dropped her to school and dashed to the closest café to write. Funny how efficient you become once your time is counted. I never was as focused and productive as I was then. I really made the most of that precious me time.
Honestly, it’s going very slowly. Most sales came from family and friends. Connecting with your readership is a very long process, one that can be tedious or enjoyable depending on how you approach it. I had a great time on Twitter at first, before my book was published. Chatting with other aspiring authors was both enlightening and inspirational and I feel I made true friends on the Twitter sphere (obviously you’re number 1!). Later though, when I started promoting my novel, I realized my Twitter followers weren’t potential readers so I’m trying other routes.
I did a few promotions on BookGorilla and Bargain Booksy. I fared better with the latter but maybe it’s just me. These are pretty costly and I didn’t make back my initial investment but I’m trying not to think in terms of sales and revenue right now, just new readers.
I have a Facebook author page, mostly visited by friends at this point. I did try to advertise on Facebook but my heart wasn’t into it. I need to think my next ad through before trying it again.
I’ve just signed up on three blog tours, all starting between August and September. These cost about the same as the promotions but are more personal and hopefully will have more impact on readers. I'm hoping to garner a maximum of reviews from professional book bloggers as they do make a difference, in terms of recognition as well as on Amazon’s algorithm.
I also did a Goodreads Giveaway. This has been fantastic. 1300 people signed up for it and 600 added me to their to-read list. Makes me hopeful for the future of A Cunning Plan…
Thanks so much, Astrid, for an honest and interesting interview. I find it inspiring and I am sure others will too. Wishing you all the best x
Determined to put her family back together, Sloane Harper stalks her ex husband and his annoyingly stunning mistress, Kate. But she’s not the only one. Handsome IRS agent Ethan Cunning is surveying them too, but not for the same reasons. He is attempting to nail Kate’s playboy boss.
Ethan and Sloane decide to help each other, which sends Sloane’s wobbly life spinning out of control. She’ll have to face danger, humiliation, and scariest of all, the dating scene, to lure her daughters’ father home.
Losing control was the best thing to happen to Sloane… until it turned lethal.
Astrid Arditi was born from a French father and Swedish mother. She lived in Paris and Rome before moving to London with her husband and daughter back in 2013.
After dabbling in journalism, interning at Glamour magazine, and teaching kindergarten, Astrid returned to her first love: writing.
She now splits her time between raising her kids (a brand new baby boy just joined the family) and making up stories.
A Cunning Plan is Astrid's first published work.
Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Plan-Astrid-Arditi-ebook/dp/B01D7H7O42/
Hi Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog! It’s great to have you here.
Hello and thank you for having me!
We first ‘met’ on Twitter last year and I have been delighted to follow your progression from self-published author to your recent deal with Carina (Congratulations, by the way!). I was going to do a piece on you as a ‘spotlight on a self-published author’ but as you are now a fully-fledged traditionally published writer, I will have to change the title! As someone who has been involved with both publishing routes, your experiences will be of interest to many of us writers. Shall we start from the beginning and work our way to The Mince Pie Mix-Up?
Thank you! And yes, that sounds like a good plan to me.
Can you tell me when you started writing?
I’ve always made up stories, scribbling them down on bits of paper and filling up notebooks when I was younger. When I was around ten, a teacher took us to our local library where a children’s author was doing a talk and I remember sitting there thinking this is what I want to do when I’m older. It hadn’t occurred to me before that I could write actual books.
You have self-published two novels, A Beginner’s Guide To Salad and Everything Changes But You.Tell me a little about the experience with those two books. Did you seek a traditional publisher or did you fancy going it alone from the beginning?
I’ve always wanted to go down the traditionally published route and I’d never planned to self-publish. But when I wrote and submitted A Beginner’s Guide To Salad to agents and received rejections (some were lovely, encouraging rejections but rejections all the same), I knew I couldn’t give up on it. I loved writing the book and I adore my main character, Ruth. I couldn’t shelve her so that’s when I decided to look into self-publishing. Ruth was going out into the world one way or another! As I’d already self-published my first novel, I did the same with Everything Changes But You.
I know you designed your own covers, how have you found doing everything yourself? What lessons have you learned and what have you enjoyed most about it?
I’ve had to learn everything from scratch as I had no idea how to design a cover. There was quite a bit of head-scratching when I first opened the program as it looks so complicated. Even the ‘helpful’ guide had me baffled! So I decided to jump in feet first and learn as I go. It seems that every time I open the program (I use Gimp, a free program that’s a lot like Photoshop) I learn something new! Although it can be frustrating at times when I can’t figure out how to get what’s in my head on the screen, I loved making the covers and even make them for the short stories I write for fun on my blog. I love playing around with images, colours and fonts until I find the one that fits.
I’m not sure I want to even think about the monstrosities I wrote (and submitted) before A Beginner’s Guide To Salad. They were awful and won’t be seeing the light of day as they are far beyond rescue!
I see you have some short stories on your website, did these come before the books or were they something that you did later?
I wrote my first short story for my blog for Christmas 2011, when I was still writing and submitting to agents. It was just for fun but pressing submit on that first one was nerve-wracking! I like to put short stories on my blog at Halloween and Christmas as I love these times of year so it’s great to write about them.
Can you give me 5 bullet point tips for self-published writers?
- Believe in yourself and your book(s). It can be daunting but it’s worth it!
- Editing is important. Just because you’re self-publishing doesn’t mean your work shouldn’t be as professional as a traditionally published book.
- Take the lead from what works for other authors (self-published or traditionally published). If they’re having blog tours, why not set up one of your own?
- Social media is your friend. It’s your way of spreading the word about your book, especially if you don’t have physical books in shops.
- But don’t be spammy. There’s little more off-putting than three million ‘buy my book’ posts on Twitter.
How did the deal with Carina come about? You must be absolutely delighted!
I am stupidly delighted! I started writing The Mince Pie Mix-Up last November and was planning to self-publish it as I had with A Beginner’s Guide To Salad and Everything Changes But You but decided to take a chance and submit it to Carina as you don’t need to have an agent. I was stunned when I was offered a two-book deal with them.
Can you tell us a little about the book, without any spoilers of course!
The Mince Pie Mix-Up is a bit like a festive Freaky Friday. Judy and Calvin both think their other half has an easier life. Calvin works full-time for a mean-spirited boss who is constantly breathing down his neck while Judy ‘only’ works part-time at the local village tearoom. Judy bears the brunt of the childcare and wishes Calvin would help out more around the house. One night, they’re given the opportunity to swap lives over the festive period and they take it!
So, what’s next??
Carina will be publishing another romantic comedy early(ish) next year. The story revolves around Delilah James as she tries to find a date to take her oldest friend’s wedding.
Thanks Jennifer. The best of luck with all your books and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next!
Thank you so much for having me on your blog!
I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
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