Romance, writing & lovely cyclist’s legs…

It’s my weekend version of sex, drugs and rock & roll!

If you read my blog last week about escaping to Wales then you’ll know I went to the Romantic Novelists Association conference this weekend and I can report I had the most amazing time.  But before I get down to the nitty gritty of how invaluable the sessions were and the essence of what I learnt, I have to tell you I’ve fulfilled one of my life time ambitions – LOOK!

I met Jill Mansell!

And she signed my most treasured copy!

And if you didn’t already know, Jill is my writing inspiration.  Her books distracted me through my A-levels, went on holiday with me (in a bygone era when I vaguely remember flying on a plane to a holiday destination and lying beside a pool without cries of, ‘Mummy, what are we doing now?’) and most fondly, keeping me awake in the wee small hours when I was on breastfeeding duty time and time again.  Lots of other factors led me to the point of formulating a plot for a novel but without falling in love with her heroes every-time, wanting to be like her heroines and always desperately wanting to know what happened to hero and heroine once the story ended, I certainly wouldn’t have put bum-on-seat and fingers-to-keyboard.

And what better way to start an inspiring conference than with Jill Mansell being interviewed as part of the RNA Award Winners Panel along with Louise Allen and Elizabeth Chadwick.  The session, entitled ‘How Do You Do It?’ was hosted by the very enthusiastic and entertaining, Jane Wenham-Jones who teased out the processes all three authors go through to produce their brilliant, page-turning, novels.  What struck me most is how differently all three authors approached the task of novel writing and the message I took away is that there is no formula to writing a novel, it really is down to the individual.  Part of me got ridiculously over-excited to find Jill Mansell uses post-it notes to create a time-line for her plot and characters, a similar method to what I use, although I have to give credit to Julie Cohen for that idea so it appears I’ve learnt from two masters!  But there seemed to be a common thread approach to keep in the forefront of your mind when novel writing: always keep WHY in the close at hand when dealing with characters.  WHY are they doing that?  WHY are they feeling that way?  If they go off in a direction you hadn’t expected them to then ask yourself WHY???

I went to some hilariously funny and insightful sessions over the three days I was at conference, too much of which to detail here.  But my recommendation would be to start following Liz Fielding (@lizfielding) on Twitter and her blog because I felt of all the sessions hers was the most valuable.  She spoke about Blending Humour with Emotion, a subject that I’ve seen precious little direction in before now.  Perhaps that’s because we, as writers, either have the ability to make people laugh one minute and cry the next or we don’t, I’m not sure…  I like to think I have!  But the focus seemed to be that in terms of romance, you can have humour without romance but you can’t have romance without emotion so it is vital to strike a balance.  Humour and emotion should intermingle, both heightening the other, without making it obvious or over-egged for the reader.

The main message I took away from this conference – apart from the need to network, socialise and that an RNA conference can’t successfully survive without the support of many, many bottles of Pinot Grigio – is that the publishing industry is teetering on the brink of a revolution at the moment,  one that hasn’t been seen like since the introduction of the pocket paperback by Penguin in the 1930’s.  Simon Petherick from Beautiful Books gave a session on the Future of Publishing and it was no surprise to find that most of the audience own a Kindle.  At present 15% of BB’s turnover is digital (of which 90% comes via Kindle), however, he forecasts that will increase to 50% within 18 months.  But it’s not all bad news; Simon spoke of the rise of the independent book publisher again as the majority of people will buy ebooks, leaving the independents to charge a fair price again for a hardcopy unlike the prices driven down by competition with Supermarkets.  All weekend I found myself involved with discussion on epublishing and the liberating thought that anyone can publish this way…

But for now, my spirits lifted from catching up with old writer pals and making new ones, I shall focus on getting this bl**dy re-write into shape and off to the New Writers’ Scheme before the deadline at the end of August.  So if you don’t see me here much, you’ll know why!

L-R: Penny, Me, AJ & Debbie all glammed-up for the Gala Dinner

L x

PS – oh & the cyclists, I almost forgot!!  Well, 160 women descend on the University of Wales and what do you know?  An equal amount of men, in tight lycra, competing in some sort of cycling challenge.  What it was exactly escapes me, I was a bit too distracted by the legs… Sadly I don’t have any pics so here’s one of the lovely Richard Armitage which Kate Johnson & I were drooling over until 2am on Saturday night 🙂 x


3 thoughts on “Romance, writing & lovely cyclist’s legs…

  1. Hi Lisa – When I spotted your name on the RNA participants list I was hoping we might bump into each other – we emailed a few times last year re the Cirencester Writers’ Group. Maybe one day!

    I could only make it to the Saturday, and couldn’t quite believe it when my husband (who had been minding our 3-month-old baby during the day and bringing her in for feeds) told me that he’d ‘met Jill Mansell’ while waiting for me. Needless to say, I didn’t.

    I was rather green on the way home.


  2. Hi Felicia!

    Thanks for leaving a comment and, oh, how typical your husband met Jill and you didn’t! I am sure you’ll get the opportunity again 🙂

    Congratulations on the new edition to your family and I hope we will meet soon – Penny & AJ were very persuasive about me getting along to the group so I’m awaiting details of your next meeting.

    Best wishes & Happy Writing!

    Lisa xx


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