Wednesday, 25 March 2015


They say don’t judge a book by its cover. And that’s often good advice. But we do judge that way, don’t we? And not just books, but people, houses, all sorts of things. I know I’ve been wrong in the snap judgements I’ve made in the past – but that doesn’t stop me making them.

So yes, I do judge a book by its cover, and I do really love a good cover, which is why I’m delighted with this cover for my forthcoming book from Accent Press - see right!

I do also wonder if a cover has quite the same importance these days as it used to. Up to half of fiction is now read on an e-reader, where you rarely see the cover of the book you’re reading and even if you do see it, it is in black and white (on my aged Kindle at least). Is the e-reader influencing not only how we read, but what we read? True, the covers are still displayed on Amazon and other e-stores, but I for one don’t seem to look as long at a cover on screen, and rarely look at the blurb.

So what are the things that really do influence our choices of books? These are the things which influence me:
       -          Having read and liked a previous book by this author
       -          The book being recommended by a friend whose taste I trust
       -          The book been given a good review by a review-site I trust (reviews can be tricky – I’ve read some awful reviews of books I’ve loved, and read ones that raved so much I bought the book and couldn’t even read it)
       -          Price. Yes, I have to admit being a sucker for a ‘bargain’
       -          And, finally, the cover. I do like a good cover. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but it definitely helps.

For some reason I definitely don’t follow the advice of Amazon etc when they say ‘people who bought … also bought …’ I immediately think, ‘don’t you tell me what I like!’ But that might just be me not liking to be told what to do by a computer.

What influences your choice of the next book to read?

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Trouble With Sequels

One location...many stories
For the very first time, I find myself writing a sequel.

I never meant to. I intended to write a romantic suspense novel set in a small Italian town where I’d just spent a holiday and with which I’d fallen immediately in love. (I’m afraid my books are holiday romances in more ways than one.) I had the outline plotted by the end of the holiday, drafted up within a couple more weeks and written up by the end of October. I can work fast when I’m on a roll.

Unfortunately, during the process of writing, something went badly wrong. Although the main plot worked fine and my hero and heroine proved unusually biddable, two of my minor characters did not. They fell in love, without realising it, and at the end of the book they were left separated and not on speaking terms. Which would have been fine if I (and I hope the reader) didn’t know they were deeply attracted to one another and that their story was not over.

Because they were meant be together, no matter how difficult their path, plotting their story was fairly straightforward too. But that was I ran into another problem. In a series of books about the same people — such as Jenny Harper’s current Heartland series — it’s tricky enough to keep everyone’s stories straight. Jenny does it brilliantly. But with a sequel, where the plot driver of Book Two (in this case the relationship between the two protagonists) hinges on actions which they took in Book One…how do you tell the story?

I can’t assume a reader has read Book One first, thought it would help if they had, and even if they had it might be a while before they get to Book Two. How much of the back story do I introduce? How soon? How much do I say about he characters, the relationships which have been introduced? If Leona is determined to go back to Italy to get Nico to apologise, though obviously she won’t acknowledge she’s in love with him (if she even knows) then how much do I have to put in about what their row was about — and how soon?

I haven’t resolved the issue yet. I’ve chopped and I’ve changed the opening several chapters. I’ve taken some sound advice thanks to which (you know who you are) it feels a whole lot better. But getting in the backstory without too much telling is proving harder than I anticipated.

I’m taking more advice, and any tips are welcome. Answers on a postcard, please!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Party Invitation from Mary Smith

As many of you know (I’ve blogged about it before) I’m a member of a fantastic, pay-it-forward group of writers called ENovel Authors atWork. We are having a party from March 11 to March 13 – and you are all invited.

It is being thrown as a thank you to our readers, to all our wonderful reviewers and the many bloggers out there in the blogosphere who support us, not to mention the Twitters who tweet about our books to their followers. 

The party is on Facebook so you don’t need to travel, you can drink as much virtual Guinness (or champagne) and not have a hangover and eat as much Irish stew without gaining an ounce in weight. If are wondering about the Irish references, this is because our party, the Lucky Leprechaun Reader Appreciation party, takes place in the run up to St Patrick’s Day. 

And to show our appreciation there’s going to be lots of chances to win some wonderful prizes – a Kindle, Amazon gift cards, paperback, ebooks, cash.

Jenny Harper, a co-blogger on Novel Points of View is also a member of ENovelAuthors at Work so she will be there as will a host of other authors from around the world whose books span every genre from crime to romance (sometimes both in the one book) from historical fiction to paranormal. 

So come along and enjoy the fun at the party and let us say thank you. Here’s the link:
See you there.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

What makes a good story a good story?

People We Love starts by inviting readers
to an art exhibition...
I'm in awe of authors who can construct a full length novel from what is, basically, a very slender plot – and make it compelling. That skill comes down to amazing insights into character and a first class way with words.

I, on the other hand, over complicate everything. I run multiple points of view and a number of storylines, and weave them in and out across 90,000 words like a mad tapestry. I wish I could keep things simpler!

While I was in India in January, I pretty much wrote a whole novella – 20,000 words. What a joy it was to write! Because of the length, I could only focus on one central couple, though there was a fair bit of back story too.

My new novel, People We Love, is probably the most complex I have written yet. It started with two major ideas. The first was triggered by a series of photographs I saw in a colour supplement, of shoes. Sad, battered, brave shoes, all of which had been worn by women fleeing the Blue Nile area in Sudan. Those images were so powerful that I wanted to use the emotion they provoked and, like my heroine, Lexie Gordon, I realised that 'shoes tell stories'.

The second was a memory of an incident my parents once told me, about an elderly neighbour with dementia who had been put into care in a town some twelve miles away. One day this lady walked the whole way back – along a busy main road – and climbed in the kitchen window of the house where she used to live. Why? What powerful instinct had propelled her back there?

As always, I am also interested in the effect of big incidents on families. In People We Love, it's the fallout of grief on the Gordon family from brother/son Jamie's death a year earlier. He was drunk driving – which was completely out of character. Why? This mystery runs through the book, and my characters can't move on until it's resolved.

My central character, Alexa Gordon, is also at the heart of a love triangle. And there are other characters with stories that need to be told as well.

Complicated? Oh yes.

For me, getting all this in to my story and still managing to make the book a page turner – as well as persuading my readers to invest their time and interest in my characters – is an enormous challenge. It's what makes the whole business of writing a novel so challenging, of course.

But why, oh why, can't I keep it simple?