Autumn News

Here I am, back again – I really have to get a grip and start writing this blog more often. Although there’s something very Miss Havisham about the place at the moment. I think it’s the spiders’ webs.

In my defence, I have been busy writing for most of this year. And I am incredibly excited that the end of the year is getting closer, because it means the first Star and Sixpence novella is almost here! I’ve had so much fun writing about Sam and Nessie and the village of Little Monkham over the last nine months and I hope you’re going to love them as much as I do. The fun starts here!

There’s going to be some big news on Monday 28th September so keep your eyes peeled for that. And in the meantime, you can pre-order Snowdrops at The Star and Sixpence here for just 99p!

Looking Bookily Forwards and Looking Bookily Back

It’s traditional to look back at this time of year, to see where you’ve been over the last twelve months, and to look ahead to see where you’re going. I’m doing that for books, because books are brilliant benchmarks, right? So here are some of my 2014 highlights – not all published in 2014 but first discovered by me this year. In random order, they are:

1) The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

Well, I say in random order but actually I called this as my book of the year back in January 2014 and it has never lost the top spot. A gorgeous, heartbreaking, life-affirming tale that made me cry and smile and stayed with me for the whole year.

2) Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

I know, I know, I was really late to this but once I started I could not stop. A fantastic page-turner with a brilliant twist.

3) The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I imagine this will be on a lot of people’s lists this year. Who knew doll’s houses could be so gripping?

4) The Accident by CL Taylor

An edge-of-your-seat psychological suspense that kept me awake when I should have been sleeping. Nail-biting and heart-stopping in equal measure.

5) The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I adored the magical, lyrical quality of this book and have read it a few times this year, which is testament to how much I loved it. ‘Nuff said.

6) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Yes, late to this as well and it was a bit of a grower but I was swept up by the twisting, turning plot. A triumph and I hear the film is pretty amazing too.

7) I’ll Take New York by Miranda Dickinson

A delicious slice of New York romance featuring two wonderful main characters and a few I already knew from Fairytale of New York – I didn’t want it to end.

8.) The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

An accomplished debut that was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Looking forward to more from Hannah!

9) Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

Another one that made me cry and smile -really beautiful writing combined with complex characterisation made this a stand out novel for me.

10) The Story of You by Katy Regan

Nostalgic and gorgeous and funny and sad, this book defied my expectations and that’s no mean feat – I loved being kept on my toes as the story unfolded.

So having looked back, here are my treasures-yet-to-be-uncovered for 2015:

1) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (out January)

I read a sample of this at Harrogate Crime Festival in July this year and can’t wait to read the rest.

2) The Last Letter by Rowan Coleman (out May)

Obviously, I want to read this, having loved The Memory Book so much. I think it will be Rowan’s best book yet, and that’s saying something.

3) The Lie by CL Taylor (out April)

Again, this is fuelled by having loved her previous book but I think The Lie will be even better.

4) Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey (out April)

I have a proof copy of this so it will be one of my very first 2015 reads (along with The Lie) and I can’t wait to lose myself inside its pages. Looks gorgeous.

5) Where Love Lies by Julie Cohen (paperback out February)

I’m looking forward to adding this to my growing Julie Cohen collection. I love the sound of this delicately spun story of a woman who doesn’t know if what she is feeling is love or something a lot more sinister.

6) A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson

I’ve been following Miranda’s vlogs as she writes this book (while also caring for a new baby!) and I can’t wait to see what Anna’s aprcels hold for her. It’s bound to be amazing.

 

So there we are – my books that have been and my books yet to come. What makes your list and what are you looking forward to in 2015?

Big News…Huge!

Today is a…WOW, it’s dusty in here! Is that a normal spider’s web hanging from that chandelier or has some kind of dino-spider moved in? Seriously, I need to get busy with the feather duster, don’t I?

Anyway, what I came in here to say was…today is a momentous day and not just because I have remembered my password for this blog. No, today is momentous because it is the day I can finally tick off a long-term goal on my bucket list – to get a publishing deal for my adult writing. I am proud and excited to reveal that my novella series, The Star and Sixpence, is going to be a Digital First title with the very fabulous Simon and Schuster!

You can read all about it over at the brilliant Books and the City. I am completely over the moon because back when I was a tiny Holly, dreaming of becoming a writer, women’s fiction was what drew me in and I cut my teeth on reading fabulously funny titles by Jill Mansell, Chris Manby and Jane Costello (among many many other fantastic writers). It was always my dream to write the kind of books I loved to read and now here I am at the start of an amazing journey to seeing my name next to the writers I really admire.

There will be lots more details to come, including extracts and giveaways as we get nearer to November 2015, when Snowdrops at The Star and Sixpence will be published. But for now, let me hand you a glass of virtual fizz and raise a toast to a glittering 2015, when this little dream of mine will come true.

 

Tracy Bloom on Being a Bestseller

I’m delighted to welcome the lovely Tracy Bloom as my guest on the blog today  – over to you, Tracy!

The day NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY become a Best Seller!

I thought you might like the low-down on what happens the first day you become a best selling writer.  Is it champagne filled glamour or just another day at the office? Read on to find out how it went for me.

Daughter climbed in bed at 2am waking me up. Couldn’t resist a quick check of my Amazon rankings. #6!!! Spent next hour gazing at Best Seller screen on Kindle.

Woke at 6am. Looked again at rankings. #4!! Sent text to husband who is away with work. He called immediately waking daughter and son up. A bit cross with him!!

Spoke to husband who was on speaker phone whilst he shaved. First time he has ever multi-tasked. This is turning out to be an amazing day.

Show son Best Seller screen on Amazon. He asks when am I going to get ahead of that ‘David Brown’ and said he prefers the cover of the ‘Bolero’ book to mine.

Have Froot Loops in celebration for breakfast rather than Special K. Success is already no good for my diet!

Still only 7.30am so pace the house waiting to be able to call someone…..anyone!

Build some Lego for sons Harry Potter assault course. One of Harry’s challenges is now to do Karaoke with daughters Lego Friends.

Mop the kitchen floor.

Speak to agent just after 9am. Unable to with-hold emotion. Have a little cry.

Finally get mother on the phone. She is openly proud. That’s a first.

Strip the beds and put sheets in the wash (it’s a good drying day) whilst children pretend to be slugs in the empty duvet covers.

Console wailing children who have banged heads whilst pretending to be slugs in empty duvet covers.

Tell kids we’ll go out for a celebratory lunch. They choose to go to a Carvery! (they are so eighties retro)

Eat too much roast beef. Feel a bit sick.

Play tag in the pub garden. Feel really sick.

Go to visit the in-laws so they can play tag and I can sit down.

Iron ten thousand white shirts in preparation for kids going back to school the next day. Kids watch TV for too long but it’s Horrible Histories so I’m educating them.

Inevitable shouting match at bedtime as we are all tired and irritable but eventually kids settle down.

Do 30 mins on the exercise bike. Success is good for my diet.

Drink half a bottle of wine to toast my success.

Send texts to anyone who knows me….some replied….some told me to just calm down!!

So there you have it. A day in the life of a best selling author! NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY actually went on to hit the number 1 spot  at which point the champagne did make an appearance as I did a Formula 1 style spraying all over the garden. Kids now ask loudly outside school “When are we doing that champagne thing again mummy?” which means the other mothers no-longer speak to me for my poor parenting habits!

Thanks, Tracy! I think I’m most impressed at the exercise bike part…

Never has a one-night stand led to such chaos!

Childhood sweethearts Matthew and Katy agree they must never see each other again after they end up in bed together following a school re-union.
So all is forgotten… until eight months later when a shock meeting at an antenatal class forces them to confront the fact that Matthew could be the father of Katy’s baby. Oblivious to the mayhem unfolding, Matthew’s highly-strung wife frets over giving birth to twins and Katy’s much younger boyfriend refuses to take fatherhood seriously.

Love and life are messy but Katy and Matthew take things to a whole new level as deep emotions begin to resurface and hormones run riot.

How will they navigate their way through this almighty cock-up?

Catch up with Tracy on Twitter at @TracyBBloom and buy her brilliant book here

Live From The RNA Conference Again!

There were a few tired faces this morning over breakfast following last night’s Gala Dinner, where Kate Johnson won the Elizabeth Goudge prize for her first two thousand words of a novel.

Highlights of yesterday include the fabulous Julie Cohen’s workshop on Using Theme in your Novel, which I found hugely useful and came away reassured that I’m doing a few things right. It’s still super hot and the air conditioning is still broken but we are soldiering on. Today, I’ve attended Janet Gover’s session on Dos and Don’ts of TV and Radio Interviews (fascinating and v useful) and Freda Lightfoot’s very inspiring talk on her success as an indie author (she published her entire thirty-five book backlist and has had spectacular sales). I’ve chatted to Kate Harrison and Rowan Coleman, plus the lovely Miranda Dickinson and my conference vlog will be up on her website soon.

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The conference is drawing to a close soon and I’m already looking forward to next year in Shropshire. I might have got over my hangover by then…

Live From The RNA Conference 2013!

This year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference is hot stuff, and not only because the air conditioning at the Sheffield conference centre has broken down. We kicked off yesterday with a celebration of Associate members’ successes in the last year – as you can imagine the list was quite long! Then we were treated to a panel event including Bernardine Kennedy and Rowan Coleman.

Our accommodation is very nice – we’re in clusters six flats centred around a small kitchen. In our kitchen last night, we decorated our own wine glasses with pictures of gorgeous men – can you guess who they are?

Overall, the line-up of speakers looks brilliant, the company is fabulous and the wine is flowing (or it was last night, this morning it’s probably a little early, even for romantic novelists). I’m looking forward to catching up with friends (and making some new ones – last night I chatted to Milly Johnson and Tracy Bloom, who is guest blogging on here next week, and learning a lot – today’s sessions include workshops from seasoned romantic superstars like Julie Cohen, Sue Moorcroft and Catherine King, plus agent extraordinaire, Carole Blake. Then there’s the Gala Dinner tonight, where the winner of the Elizabeth Goudge prize (a competition open to all full members of the RNA – the winner gets a trophy which is passed on from year to year) will be announced.

But I can’t sit around here all day, breakfast is waiting. More photos and another report tomorrow!

This is Holly Hepburn, in Sheffield.

This Is My Jam – Midsummer Magic by Julia Williams

I should start this review with a disclaimer: I am a huge fan of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I have been ever since I saw Russ Abbot’s* Bottom in Regent’s Park some years ago. So I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy Julia Williams modern take on the familiar story. It’s one of Shakespeare’s most complicated plays (and that is saying something) – how would that translate into a twenty-first century romantic comedy?

Of course, I needn’t have worried; Midsummer Magic glitters with moonlit mischief and mystery. Set in Cornwall, the action stays true to the original story; we have four mixed-up lovers, a band of actors in a production of a certain play and a meddler who isn’t quite who he seems to be. The ingredients are all there for a perfect mix of summer delight and Julia whips them into the best kind of frothy pudding, with lashings of fun along the way.

I adored the way the plot twisted and turned – these characters are not in for an easy ride. It was a little like watching a master illusionist playing an extremely complex version of the three cup shuffle, except with people instead of cups. Keeping track of who was where, and with whom, was a mental workout worthy of my Brain Training game. I particularly enjoyed spotting all the clever references to the original  within the text – a little treat for Shakespeare geeks.

Of all the characters, the one who intrigued me the most was Freddie Puck, and I would have loved to have had more of his back story. But there was more than enough to get my teeth into with the interwoven stories of the others and I finished with the kind of whoosh you get from having been on a magical, exhilarating journey. Midsummer Magic is a joy from start to finish – I defy you not to love it.

And if you want to sample the book for yourself, I have one copy of Midsummer Magic to give away to a UK reader – simply leave a comment below to enter. I’ll pick a winner at random at 5pm on Sunday 7th July. Someone is about to get Pucky!

 

*Note for anyone born after 1980: Russ Abbot is a TV comedian who had a popular sketch show in the early 80s and who has gone on to become a brilliant character actor. He was very, very funny when I saw him, much funnier than on TV and I came away quite transfixed. As you would by seeing someone’s Bottom. Have I exhausted that joke yet?

LIFE BEGINS at 22

At twenty-two, I was still a baby. I had no idea who I was , or what I wanted to do with my life. I’d just finished university and was killing time working in a London estate agency, drinking too much and trying to figure out what I was supposed to do now that I’d finished learning stuff. What I didn’t get, of course, was that my education had just begun.

The year I turned twenty-two was the year I realised that the love of my life would never love me back (sob), although we were building a friendship that would last a long time. It was the year I decided my degree had been fun but it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue further. And it was the year I finally read Pride and Prejudice (OK, I may have watched it first) and decided that I wanted to be Jane Austen when I grew up. So I started writing (a thriller about some animal rights warriors who broke into a laboratory and unwittingly unleashed infected baboons on the world – sound familiar? They totally stole my idea for 28 Days Later) and faffed about with improbable Mills and Boon plots about sexy archaeologists. Then I found Jill Mansell and had the kind of epiphany that starts religions – I would write a romance and, lo, it would be good. It took me several years to do it, but I did finally finish writing that book.

So twenty-two really was the age that everything began. It was exciting, terrifying and sometimes fun. Would I want to be twenty-two again? Hell, no!

 

LIFE BEGINS AT 22 is a blorgy of sharing to celebrate the launch of BROOKLYN GIRLS by Gemma Burgess. Find out more about the book here and read more LIFE BEGINS AT 22 entries here.

This Is My Jam – Save The Date by Allie Spencer

 

Ailsa Stuart is abandoning the dreary UK for a week in Tuscany to attend the wedding of her flighty cousin, Jess. On paper, it seems like a no-brainer; it’s half-term so she has time off from her job as Deputy Head in a primary school, she gets to spend a week all expenses paid in a luxury hotel and her family will be there. The problem is that her ex, Nick might also be going. And all her family will be there.

From the moment Ailsa arrives, things start to go wrong and it soon becomes apparent that the week is going to be anything but relaxing. As the days go by, the dramas pile up and Ailsa finds herself with the unenviable task of ensuring that the wedding happens at all, which would be much easier if she didn’t have to deal with Nick and all the tumbled emotions he stirs up in her. Did she do the right thing in ending their relationship or has she made a terrible mistake?

Save The Date has all the delights of a creamy gelato and it’s set in one of my favourite places. Actually, this is the second book in a week I’ve read where the heroine runs off to Italy to escape a failed relationship so there must be something about the place. I loved Ailsa from the very start; she was funny and sweet and hilariously disaster prone – I was rooting for her from her spectacular party entrance at the Hotel Santa Lucia. I could totally identify with her cringe-making, squabbling family, too – we’ve all got relatives we’re embarrassed to admit to but Ailsa has more than most. The underlying mystery gave the story an added dimension but the loveliest thing about this book is the way that the characters all pulled together in the end.

This is a brilliant holiday read, which mixes the craziness of a family wedding with the essence of an Italian summer and throws in an irresistible dollop of amore. It gets a big thumbs up from me!

Cupid’s Postbag

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Cupid is overwhelmed with letters from the lovelorn and has asked me if I can help out. So here’s one I picked out – totally at random – and I thought maybe you might like to have a go at answering it:

Dear Cupid
 
Can you help? I met this guy at a party and we really hit it off. He’s totally hot – like a young Leonardo DiCaprio and I think he fancied me, too. After the party, he tracked me down on Facebook and we had this mind-blowing conversation messaging back and forth all night.

The problem is our families – they don’t get on, some sort of ridiculous feud after his dad cut three feet of the hedge at the back of our garden or something. I know my dad would seriously flip out if he knew I was messaging this guy but we really had a connection.
 
So what should I do? Block him and forget about it? Or should I take a chance and get to know him better?
 
Love
 
Jules x

Send your suggestions for Jules to me by Sunday 30th June (at hollyhauthor at gmail.com) and I’ll pass them onto Cupid. The best one will be published on the site on Monday 1st July, with links and bragging rights on Twitter, and you’ll earn the title of Cupid’s Little Helper, plus his undying gratitude (which, you don’t need me to tell you, could come in really handy sometime).

So what are you waiting for? Get thinking!

Holly xx

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