Q: Why do you want to write books?
Because it beats working for a living? No, seriously, when I wrote my first novel I was living in Ireland because of my husband’s job (he was an army officer), I had three small children and going out to work was simply not really an option. Until the move to Ireland I’d been running a small publishing business from home but my partner’s husband had been posted to Alabama (she was also married to an army officer) so it was impossible to carry on and I was bored to sobs. Writing a novel seemed a good option, although at the time wrote my first book I wasn’t sure I’d be any good at it. Now I do it because I really love living in a fictional world where my characters can got to wonderful locations and in my head, I’m there too. On a wet winter’s morning, imagining you’re basking in summer sun on a deserted beach on a Greek island is a pretty good escape from real life.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Becoming an author came as a real shock as it was never something I’d ever thought about until it happened. I wasn’t the sort of kid who penned stories for her sibling or friends nor did I write anything other than what I had to for homework. Furthermore I went to the sort of blue-stocking school where we wrote essays, endless essays on mind-numbingly dull subjects – flights of fancy were definitely discouraged. Writing creatively happened entirely by accident. I left school to join the army (a ratio of 500:1 men to women and the chance of foreign travel being the big draw) and served for 8 years before getting thrown out when I began a family – which was what happened 25 years ago. A couple of years later we moved into a quarter next to a woman who edited a magazine for army wives. She asked me to help with the admin because that’s what I was really good at. One day she was short of some copy and asked me to write ‘300 words about anything and make it funny’. I’d spend 8 years obeying orders so I did as I was told and wrote a piece about my fellow army wives. Apparently it was funny, it was well received, I was asked to write more columns and then it was suggested I might like to think about producing a book. I baulked at the idea of a whole book but my neighbour said she’d write it with me. Half a book didn’t seem quite such a huge task, so Gumboots and Pearl, which is a wry look at how to be a perfect officer’s wife, was my first book. And once you’ve written one, even if it’s only half of one… well, the idea of writing another isn’t so scary.
Q: How were you able to break into the writing industry?
Gumboots and Pearls was self-published – which I suppose is a bit of a cheat. However we only took that step because we hawked the book round quite a few publishers who all really liked it but said there was no market for it. No market?! There were thousands of army wives around and lots of ways to bring the book to their attention – especially in places like Cyprus and German where they are a totally captive audience with special newspapers and radio stations just for the Forces. I mean, just how easy would it be to advertise it? But the publishers couldn’t see it so we decided to go it alone. We sold a staggering 16,000 copies and then went on to publish more books. This meant that when I came to try to sell my first novel I did have a bit of a track record to put on my CV and a readership who might be persuaded to buy something else of mine. But of course I also had the most enormous dollop of luck as my book just happened to land on the desk of an editor who was looking for new authors for a new mass market paperback venture. I have to say that ‘luck’ plays a ridiculously large part in a lot of authors’ writing careers and mine was no exception.
Q: Where do your ideas for storylines and characters come from?
If I knew I’d bottle it. The glib answer is that a deadline helps focus the mind when it comes to finding ideas but the truth is I generally think of a setting first – skiing, yachting, the movies, whatever – and then think of a character to put into that world and find a reason why she does what she does. In The Chalet Girl Millie (the heroine) needed a job where she gets fed and housed because her father has thrown her out of the family home so working as a chalet host ticks all her boxes. In Moonlighting Jess is a pole dancer, but she’s been professionally trained and dreams of dancing in Cats or the Lion King. However, when the story opens she knows that is never going to happen and she’s so utterly skint that the chance of making some real money, even if it means taking her kit off, isn’t something she can afford to turn down.
Q: What do you love about Little Black Dress books?
Apart from the fact that they pay me I love them because I think most of the heroines are in very believable situations. Mills & Boon are just fantastic for pure escapist fantasy where billionaires take up with their PAs or secretaries, where the world of the uber-glamorous is brought to life on the page, but LBD are a bit more down to earth. And they tend to have a lot of humour in them, which I also like. My favourite sort of read is one where you end up laughing AND crying and LBD can and do deliver exactly that mix.
Q: You also write romantic fiction under the name Catherine Jones. Why do you use separate names?
I wrote 6 books as Catherine Jones, all about the army and, to be totally frank, my sales were pretty poor. I thought the public would love an insight into the world of macho-men in uniform but apparently soldiers weren’t the turn-on for other women that they were for me. So I needed a change of writing style and a new publisher and when publishers are looking at taking on an author, their past sales figures (if they’ve been previously published) can influence whether or not they take you. So I decided to go via the slush pile again and when you’ve been born with a name like Catherine Lace it’s daft not to make use of it So I dumped Catherine Jones and said hello to Kate Lace. I have to say it came as a bit of a shock to the editor of LBD to discover that Catherine Jones and Kate Lace were one and the same, as we’d met quite a few times at various Romantic Novelists’ Association events. But she didn’t know that until after they’d accepted The Chalet Girl. So that’s twice I’ve made it off the slush pile, which just shows it can be done!
Q: Your latest LBD book was just released, Moonlighting. Where did the inspiration for the book come from?
My middle daughter has a friend who works as one, but she’s also a hairdresser because she knows that pole dancing is a bit like being an athlete – it’s not a job for life, only while you’re young and fit. I just really liked her down-to-earth attitude and so I built a story around a character who is in the job purely for the money. I then decided to spice it up by giving her a real conflict of interest – in that she’s a Special Constable in her free time. Once I’d got those elements in place the rest of the story sort of fell into place.
Q: How do you like to spend your free time?
When I’m not writing I love to cook, which is also quite creative, and I adore doing quizzes. In fact I love doing them so much I managed to persuade some of my fellow Romantic Novelists to form a team with me for University Challenge -the Professionals. We got to the finals which was fantastic fun! And if you’re not a politician or a student I can definitely say Jeremy Paxman is very charming.
Q: What would be your advice for aspiring writers?
To keep going, to keep writing, to get impartial advice (not from your mum or bessie-mate but from a writer’s group or critique partner), to read everything you can lay your hands on of the genre you want to write and to take any advice you might get offered by a professional and really think about it. Agents and editors don’t offer advice or suggest changes unless they really think your m/s has lots of potential. (If they don’t think that you’ll get the ‘our list is full’ standard rejection letter.) But I know loads of aspiring writers who have ignored such advice not realising how rare it is for it to be given and have shoved the rejected m/s in a drawer and started a new one. What they should have done is take the advice, re-write and try again. The chances are they might well have had a really good shot at being published but they let it slip away.
Q: Where would be your dream vacation?
Blimey – that’s a toughie… I love going off the beaten track and I love critters and so I think the idea of a walking safari in Africa is fairly high up my list but it wouldn’t be very restful, in fact it would be pretty energetic and I do like to re-charge my batteries on holiday. So for restful, I think I’d like to go to a palm-fringed island with a case of books and a snorkel. But I wouldn’t turn either down if offered.
Celine Dion is pregnant- with twins! A rep for the singer, who has undergone in-vitro fertilization multiple times, has confirmed with Usmagazine that she and husband Rene Angelil are 14 weeks along. They will find out the genders next month. These babies will join brother Rene-Charles, 9, who was also conceived via IVF.
Photo Credit: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images
In My Mailbox: Week of May 30, 2010
Title: The One That I Want
Author: Allison Winn Scott
Received: From Allison Winn Scott
Synopsis: Tilly Farmer is thirty-two years old and has the perfect life she always dreamed of: married to her high school sweetheart, working as a guidance counselor in her hometown, trying for a baby. Perfect. In fact, on the surface you might never know how tough things used to be. At seventeen, Tilly lost her mother to cancer, her father drowned his grief in alcohol, and she played parent to her two younger sisters more often than being a kid herself. Still Tilly never let tragedy overtake her belief that hard work and good cheer could solve any problem. Of course shers”s also spent a lifetime plastering a smile on her face and putting everyone elsers”s problems ahead of her own. But that relentless happiness has served her well-her sisters are grown and content, her dad is ten years sober, and shers”s helping her students achieve all their dreams while she and her husband, Tyler, start a family. A perfect life indeed. Then one sweltering afternoon at the local fair, everything changes. Tilly wanders into the fortune tellerrs”s tent and is greeted by an old childhood friend, now a psychic, who offers her more than just a reading. “Irs”m giving you the gift of clarity,” her friend says. “Itrs”s what I always thought you needed.” And soon enough, Tilly starts seeing things: her father relapsing, staggering out of a bar with his car keys in hand; Tyler uprooting their happy, stable life, a packed U-Haul in their driveway; and even more disturbing, these visions start coming true. Suddenly Tillyrs”s perfect life, so meticulously mapped out, seems to be crumbling around her. And shers”s not sure whatrs”s more frightening: that shers”s begun to see the future or what the future holds . . . As Tilly furiously races to keep up with-and hopefully change-her destiny, she faces the question: Which is the life she wants? The one shers”s carefully nursed for decades, or the one she never considered possible?
Title: Fabulously Fashionable
Author: Holly McQueen
Received: From Holly McQueen
Synopsis: Twenty-eight-year-old Isabel Bookbinder has figured some things out:she’s moved in with her loving lawyer boyfriend, and despite her mother’s adoration of all things matching, she’s finally discovered her true callingfashion design. After all, she knows her Manolos from her Louboutin, her Pucci from her Prada, and she’s always poring over fashion magazines (the celebrity pages of fashion magazines, that is). She’s even landed a position with Nancy Tavistock, editor at top fashion magazine Atelier, and creative muse to hot designer Lucien Black.So learning from the very best, the future’s looking bright for Isabel Bookbinder: Top International Fashion Designer. Within days she’s putting the final touches on her debut collection, has dreamed up a perfume line (Isabelissimo), and is very nearly a friend of John Galliano. Yet nothing ever runs smoothly for Isabel, and fabulously fashionable as her life may be, it soon seems to be spiraling a little out of her control.With her characteristic humor, charm, and tendency to stumble into sticky situations, Isabel Bookbinder is an irresistible heroine you’re sure to fall in love with.
Title: Two Years, No Rain
Author: Shawn Klomparens
Received: From Catherine McKenzie
Synopsis: An earnest journey from heartache to heartthrob and all the emotions along the way; at once an old-fashioned love story and a cautionary tale of self-reinvention. In San Diego County, it hasn’t rained in 580 days. But for weatherman Andy Dunne, everything else is changing fast…Only a few weeks ago, he was a newly divorced, slightly overweight meteorologist for an obscure satellite radio station, hiding his secret love for a colleague, the beautifuland very much marriedHillary Hsing. But nearly overnight, Andy has landed a new gig, flying a magic carpet in a bizarre live-action children’s TV show. So what is affable, basically decent Andy Dunne going to do now that he can do practically anything he wants? With a parade of hot moms begging for his autograph and a family that needs his help more than ever, Andy has a lot of choices. First, though, there’s this thing with Hillary, their heated text messages, a long-awaited forecast for rain and a few other surprises he never saw coming…
Title: Muffins & Mayhem
Author: Suzanne Beecher
Received: From Suzanne Beecher for Review & Giveaway
Synopsis: “While it’s well known that food and stories make for a great combination, Muffins & Mayhem takes their relationship to a whole new level. Brimming over with the stuff of life, this is a book to curl up with and devour.” JOEL BEN IZZY, storyteller and author of The Beggar King and The Secret of HappinessSuzanne Beecher’s happy, loving voice has brought more than 350,000 people to her online book club at DearReader.com, where her daily column offers her candid, thought-provoking reflections on life, inspiring countless readers to look at their “ordinary” lives in a new way. By turns funny and poignant, Suzanne is the reassuring friend across the kitchen table with a refreshing, jaunty attitude about life, even in the face of whatever difficulties it may bring.Suzanne has had her own share of troubles to overcome. Left home alone at an early age, she struggled with difficult and distant parents, dealt with heartbreak, became a hard-working single mom, and overcame two substance addictions and a physical impairment. But along the way, she found comfort in baking and sharing food with her friends and family. She learned to take the good with the bad, and her life is now inspiring proof that faith and persistence are the keys to success.This beautifully written celebration of food, friends, and family will nourish Suzanne’s numerous fans and those who have yet to discover her simple, homespun magic.
Title: The Cougar Club
Author: Susan McBride
Received: From Susan McBride for Review & Giveaway
Synopsis: Meet three women who aren’t about to run and hide just because the world says they should be on the shelf and out of circulation.
Her life seems perfect until she loses her high-powered advertising job “and” catches her live-in lover in a compromising position–with his “computer”!
This sexy TV news anchor is in danger of being replaced by a twentysomething blond bimbo. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was the up-and-coming star?
A married dermatologist, Elise thinks her plastic surgeon husband is playing doctor with someone else.
Kat firmly believes that aging gracefully isn’t about giving up; it’s about living life with your engine on overdrive. So this unofficial “Cougar Club” quickly learns three things about survival of the fittest in today’s youth-obsessed society: True friendship never dies, the only way to live is real, and you’re never too old to follow your heart.
Title: Jessica Z
Author: Shawn Klomparens
Received: From Catherine McKenzie
Synopsis: Welcome to Jessica’s world…
When Jessica Zorich met a tall, charismatic artist at a San Francisco party, her life had been all about coping: with a baffling and dangerous world, with a mostly inane job, and with a sweet but meandering relationship with her upstairs neighbor. But Josh Hadden doesn’t cope: he’s a man of action, of big visions, and of relationships that span the globe; a man certain of his passions, politics, art, and desire. And what Josh desires most is Jessica—at a time when being desired might be the most desirable thing of all.
In this daring, mesmerizing debut, a novel that brilliantly captures the angst of a generation, Jessica gives herself over to an erotic, reckless relationship with a man guarding deep secrets—and to a perfect storm of lust, doubt, joy, and fear. Now, against her better judgment, she is following Josh into his mystifying life and brilliant, dizzying work—where she will find out how much she has been missing, how far she has yet to go, and what the price of this intoxicating adventure will be.…
Congratulations are in order for Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz. Not only are the couple now engaged- they are expecting a child! The couple, who have been together since the fall of 2008, plan to tie the knot at the end of the year in a private ceremony, according to People.com. This will be the first child for the couple and Alicia, and the third for rapper Swizz Beatz. He has two children, Kasseem Jr., 3, and son Prince Nasir, 9, both from previous relationships.
Photo Credit: Dave Alloca/Startraks
Gary Coleman passed away Friday at 12:05 pm after suffering a brain hemorrhage. The actor, best known for his role on Diff’rent Strokes, was 42. Coleman had suffered an intracranial hemorrhage at his Utah home on Wednesday night, and was put on life support at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah. People.com reports his manager, John Alcantar, as saying, “He was removed from life support; soon thereafter, he passed quickly and peacefully. By Gary’s bedside were his wife and other close family members.”
Photo Credit: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage
During the summertime, I enjoy using mineral makeup over liquid. In the winter months, I am all for Almay’s Smart Shade liquid foundation, but I like to have a lighter feel for the warmer months. I already made my switch over to Bare Minerals foundation, but Fitnessmag.com has listed more great mineral makeup beyond simply foundation.
Avon Smooth Minerals Eyeliner. This pencil eyeliner is only $6 through Avon, and one tester said just one application can last all day.
E.l.f. Mineral Lip Gloss. This lip shiner is not only inexpensive ($3 at eyeslipsface.com) but also gives lips a dose of vitamins A&E.
CoverGirl TruBlend Microminerals Blush. This blush is a bit pricey compared to the other products, $10.99 at drugstores, but one tester said her skin that was prone to breakouts stayed clear while using it.
Femme Couture Mineral Effects Baked Eye Color. These eyes lights come in vibrant colors that will make eyes pop. Pick up at sallybeauty.com for $6.99.
Mineral Fusion Lengthening Mascara. According to Fitnessmag.com, this mascara contains mica, a sweat-proof, oil-absorbing mineral, and one tester praised how the mascara would not flake after extended wear. Available for $16 at Whole Foods Market.
Lancome Oscillation Powerfoundation. This is one of the more expensive foundations, running at $48 through lacome-usa.com, but is equipped with a vibrating applicator that buffs particles including aloe, vitamin E, and SPF 21 into the skin.
Author Allison Winn Scott is offering such a fabulous offer, it’s just too good to be true for aspiring writers. For me personally, I have just finished putting the final touches on the novel I wrote, and am working on my query letter for agents. Thanks to Allison, I now have a sure way that a great agent will actually read my query letter AND the first chapter of my manuscript. How can that be? Allison’s agent, Elisabeth Weed, has offered to read each and every query letter and first chapter for writers that purchase a copy of The One That I Want between now and June 5th. Just send a copy of your receipt to the email address email@example.com., along with your query letter and first chapter, and have the chance of securing an agent. Even if you aren’t quite ready to turn your manuscript in, you can still purchase the book and let Elisabeth know you need a little more time, and that is no problem. I have yet to hear of an opportunity like this, and even though I already have a copy of The One That I Want, well I’m sure going to purchase another! I have provided the Amazon link below- and please note that all submissions need to be fiction or a memoir- do not submit genre fiction. Good luck to all!
I am the definition of a multi-tasker. I read while I eat, I always have at least two browser windows pulled up when on the web, and I watch TV while working out. It’s the last one of my list that has began to worry me. The thought came to me last night while I was watching the season finale of Dancing With the Stars while trying to complete a high intensity cardio workout along with Billy Blanks. I actually have two TV’s in my living room, one for watching regular television and one that is hooked up to the Wii and DVD player. This way, I can watch my favorite shows while feeling the burn. Great idea right? Well lately I’m not sure how great that really is. While trying to watch Nicole jive her way to the mirror ball trophy, I realized my workout was seriously slacking, I couldn’t take my eyes off the TV long enough to listen to Billy’s instructions, and I kept messing up moves that I normally would be able to hit. And I would never move my head away from the TV screen to really get into the cardio set or stretch I was to be performing.
So that got me thinking, even though I feel great that I can watch my favorite TV shows and get in a workout at the same time, am I really benefiting? Since I am not putting my full concentration into each punch and kick, am I better off shutting the tube off while working out? I know I enjoy watching TV while walking on the treadmill or elliptical machine, but that is different from having to pay attention to what an instructor is telling me. I couldn’t find anything in my research to support or advise against working out while watching TV, but I think I will break my habit of watching TV while trying to complete workout videos.
Anyone else have an opinion on this topic?
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Sandra Bullock is stepping out. While her crumbling marriage is still fresh, the actress has been confirmed to be in attendance at the MTV Movie Awards on June 6th. People.com has reported that she will not being doing any interviews at the ceremony, but will be accepting her MTV Generation Award.
Do you think it is too soon for Sandra?
Photo Credit: Times-Piccayune/Landov
Q: Why do you love writing?
To be a little poetical – I love the feel of words in symbiosis under my pen. Translation: it’s just kind of cool to be able to write about experiences or make characters in my head come alive. When someone tells me that they have a crush on Henry (the romantic lead in Spin) it makes me smile – that means I made him real enough to evoke feelings in other people – how awesome is that?
Q: What do you want readers to take away from your books?
Mostly I want them to laugh, enjoy, just get engrossed in the story. In Spin I was also trying to poke fun a little at our obsession with celebrities and their life styles. There’s also a lot of music in the book and it’s nice when readers tell me they discovered a new song or band because of it.
Q: What was the hardest part about finding an agent?
Just the amount of time and the lack of general response. I sent out 8-10 query letters a day for months and didn’t hear anything from most of them (not even a no-thank you). You have to grow a thick skin pretty fast, because, hey, more rejection is coming!
Q: Was there anything that really surprised you about the writing industry or being an author?
I think it’s that there are so many resources out there for the first part of the writing process – how to write a novel, how to find an agent etc. But there is almost nothing, nothing I’ve found anyway, about how to negotiate your way through the process once you’ve got a book deal. There’s a big learning curve. You go from being a writer to a marketer overnight – not the easiest transition.
Q: Have you ever suffered from writers block? Any tips on how to work through it?
I don’t think I’ve ever been totally blocked. I think I’ve more had periods where I’m gestating or thinking about where to go next. I think the trick is to find time to write every day and write even if you are not feeling inspired. Also find thing to inspire you – good music or going for a run or whatever makes you feel creative.
Q: How did you celebrate your first publishing deal?
After I finished my happy dance, I called everyone I knew and then went for a nice dinner with my husband.
Q: How do you think social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook help support authors?
I still haven’t totally figured that out yet. I think Facebook is a great place for fans to go and leave messages for authors of support – the feedback I’ve gotten there has been so nice and encouraging. Twitter is harder to pin down. It can be a big time suck (as people say), but I know it also provides support for those that feel alone while they are writing. I’m also hoping Facebook and Twitter can be a place to bring some attention to some authors who deserve it (check out my I bet we can make these books bestsellers group on Facebook and Goodreads). I have also connected with some authors and readers on Twitter – and sold a few books that way too – hard to say how many.
Q: How do you enjoy any down-time?
I run, I read, I watch TV, hang with my friends. I think it’s important to stay connected with the world so the characters in your books stay realistic.
Q: What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Keep at it if it brings you joy. Be reader to have a lot of rejection. Don’t give up on traditional publication too early – I don’t think self-publishing is a satisfying experience for most people.
Q: Where would be your dream vacation?
A cottage on the ocean.