#StrongRomanceHeroines, Harper Impulse, Q&A, Reading, Writing

Q&A with Jane Linfoot

I’m a fan of everything vintage, so was delighted to get a chance to interview Jane Linfoot about her HarperImpulse novel, The Vintage Cinema Club!

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The Vintage Cinema Club reflects its characters love for everything vintage.  What do you think is so appealing about old-school fashion styles?

I think people love to choose vintage because it guarantees you something individual that no one else has. Retro will often give you classic design and fabulous quality, compared to newer things. It’s also a way of embracing recycling – being green, yet doing it with style. I heard someone say that modern vintage is looking forward through a window of the past. A lot of it is about rediscovering “pretty” too, after a decade of minimalism.

Friendship is at the heart of the novel, with three women working together and fighting to save their business.  Why do you think that female friendships are so prevalent in romance novels?

Female friendships are an important feature  of current romance stories because that reflects the way real women live their lives.

In the past, settling down as half of a romantic couple was the main aspiration for a lot of people, but women today look for much more than that. Today’s women like to get out there, have their careers, and live their lives on their own terms. Female friends are a crucial part of that dynamic. For most people finding “the one” comes a long way down the line, and it’s natural that our “besties” will be around to help us when love happens.

Female friendship is a fascinating area to explore for the writer. Throwing friends into the romance mix adds interest that takes the story to a different level. I think readers enjoy and appreciate that extra depth.

You’ve got three – very different – romance heroines, in The Vintage Cinema Club.  What do you think makes a strong romance heroine

First I have to admit that floppy heroines are my pet hate.

A strong romance heroine will know her own mind, she’ll have her principles and hang on to them, and she’ll never chase the hero. If she does get close it’ll be on her own terms. And she won’t be afraid to stand up to the hero when he’s wrong, and sometimes when he isn’t.

A strong heroine has to be gutsy enough to go on in there and challenge the hero in a way they’ve never been challenged before. Standing up to these guys, surprising them, playing them at their own game or even a different one, and coming out on top is the way my heroines like to play it. If they happen to make the hero fall in love along the way, it’s entirely accidental, because love is usually the last thing on my heroines’ minds.

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Writing from one perspective can be tricky enough, but you manage to balance and capture three different voices!  How did you manage to keep each character separate and not conflate them?

Izzy, Luce and Dida in The Vintage Cinema Club are all very individual characters. As so often happens with my characters, they marched onto the page pretty much fully formed, and immediately began ordering me around. This might be because they’d been bouncing around in my head for ages before I began to write, and I guess they never got mixed up because I knew each character so well.

When I was planning the story it seemed important to bring in characters who were very different rather than similar, which meant they are coming at us from different places, and have a different view on life.

In real life people are often drawn to friends who complement their own qualities. Quiet girls hang out with extroverts, wild women will have a sensible friend to keep them grounded. The contrasts between the characters in this book were a great way of shining a spotlight on each of the individual women and their different lives. Izzy’s feisty side is tempered by Luce’s calm, but when it comes to business, Luce wishes she had a share of Izzy’s courage. And what will it take to crack Dida’s hard shell?

I loved exploring the different qualities of each of the women in the book. I like writing about strong women, and I especially enjoyed writing about their interaction, as the women both clash and collide, sometimes ganging up on each other, but always working together. Their combined strength is an awesome power. I found the different combinations of three women in the scenes, and the progress of their relationships in pairs, singly, and all together, developed in a fascinating way, as the story played out. But I have to admit that a lot of the time it felt as if they were acting completely independently, and I was simply the one recording what they did.

What’s your current project and what will we be seeing from you next?

My writing is influenced a lot by things that happen in my life, and right now country weddings are featuring very large. And I’m still enjoying mixing the romance with the friendship themes.

The Vintage Cinema Club is out now and can be found at HarperImpulse , Amazon UK , Amazon US , iTunes , Sainsburys , Nook and Google play.

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Jane Linfoot writes fun, flirty fiction, with feisty heroines and lots of heart.  She lives in a mountain kingdom in Derbyshire, England, where her family and pets are kind enough to ignore the domestic chaos – happily, they’re in walking distance of a supermarket. For her, writing is cool because she gets to wear pretty shoes instead of wellies.

Jane loves hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage, most things french. When she’s not on Facebook, and can’t find an excuse for shopping, she’ll be walking, or gardening. On days when she wants to be really scared, she rides a tandem.

To find out more about Jane, you can find her on Facebook , Twitter and Pinterest , as well as on her website.

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Harper Impulse, Q&A, Reading, Uncategorized

Q&A with D. R. Graham

I’m delighted to welcome HarperImpulse author, D. R. Graham, as we talk about her novel Rank…  The book has compelling characters, cowboys and more than a little heart.

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What was your favourite scene to write in Rank?

Billy and his brother Cole have a complicated relationship, and I enjoyed writing all of the scenes that show their reluctant loyalty to each other. My ultimate favourite scene in RANK, though, is when Billy and Shae have their first unplanned date. It is so sweet and real. I like how Shae brings out the best in Billy. Here is a sneak peek at how it starts:

I parked facing the fence that surrounded the playground area. Shae-Lynn was sitting on a bench talking to a little boy who looked as if he’d been crying. He nodded at something she said. She held his chin gently and said something else that made him smile. She tousled his hair before he got up and ran over to join some other kids who were lined up to go down the slide. After she watched him for a while, she turned her head and saw me sitting in my truck. Her expression was a mixture of surprise, confusion, and happiness.

I got out and walked over to lean my elbows on the fence. She reached for a pair of crutches resting against the bench behind her, hoisted herself up, and balanced with the crutches under her arms. She was wearing khaki shorts and a white polo shirt that had the logo for the daycare stitched on the chest. She made her way over to me and smiled in a way that made me glad Lee-Anne had sent me to pick her up.

“We discourage strange men from lurking around the outdoor play area,” she said like a teacher.

“I’m here to pick someone up.”

“Do you have some identification? We can’t release the children to just anyone.”

I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket and passed her my driver’s licence.

She nodded as she read it. “William Raymond Ryan from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. You’re a far way from home, cowboy. What is the nature of your visit? Business or personal?

“Both.”

“Do you have a criminal record?”

“Yes.”

Shocked, she looked up at my eyes to check if I was being serious. “For what?”

“Not kidnapping.”

Her expression shifted as if she just remembered something. “Did they arrest you for assaulting Tawnie’s abusive ex-boyfriend?”

Although I already assumed she would hear about that, I shook my head and pushed my hat back to pretend like I was surprised. “Did Rochelle tell you that?”

“Maybe. Don’t blame her. Tawnie’s the one who blabs everything.”

“I didn’t get arrested for that. He did.”

I could tell she was still curious about what I had been arrested for, but she let it go. “Who gave you permission to do today’s pick up?”

“Lee-Anne Roberts.”

“Why?”

“She was busy. You can call her if you don’t believe me.”

“I just might.” She stared at me for a while and smiled as if she were impressed. “Did you just get a haircut?”

“Yeah.”

“And is that a new shirt?”

“Yeah.”

Her eyes scanned down to check the rest of me out. “Nice boots.”

“Thanks. Some girl told me my other ones were ratty.”

“They were.” She smiled, happy that I took her advice again. “Wait here a minute. I have to get my bag.” She turned and pushed off the crutches to make her way over to the door of the daycare. One of the ladies she worked with said something to her and they both looked over in my direction. Shae-Lynn nodded at something that was said and the woman waved at me. I waved back to be friendly. It seemed to embarrass Shae-Lynn. She disappeared inside and came out a different door that led directly into the parking lot.

I rushed over to the passenger side of the truck and opened the door for her. She turned and handed me the crutches. The truck was too high off the ground for her to reach the seat, so I leaned the crutches against the side and lifted her by the waist to help her in. She had to use her arms to pull her legs into the cab one at a time. Once she was settled, I closed the door and laid the crutches in the back.

“Bye Shae!” a little girl shouted and waved from the back seat of her mom’s car.

Shae-Lynn waved back as I hopped behind the wheel. The adoring way she was smiling made her look so beautiful. I was still staring at her when she turned her head to look at me. “What?”

“You seem good at your job.”

She shrugged modestly. “It’s just babysitting. It’s not that hard.”

“You make them feel special. I can tell by the way they look at you.”

Her cheeks turned pink and she stared down at her hands folded in her lap. “Thank you.” She snuck a glance at me. “What are you really doing here?”

“Kidnapping you. You should have followed through on that criminal record check.” I backed the truck out of the parking spot and turned right onto Clark to head to the strip mall…

 

Rank is classed as a New Adult novel – what do you think the definition of the New Adult romance-subgenre is?

For me, New Adult is only a term used to describe an age category of 18-25 year olds. Even before it was a marketing term used in publishing, I wrote stories with characters transitioning out of youth into the independence of adulthood. The late teens and early twenties are such a pivotal time in a person’s development, and although books with protagonists aged 18-25 years have always existed, only in the last few years someone decided to call that age category and life stage New Adult.

Then someone else decided New Adult meant erotic or 18+, which of course isn’t true. There are New Adult books in all genres — historical, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, horror, etc. Book stores and libraries don’t typically have a section specifically for New Adult, so books with characters aged 18-25 years will usually be shelved in the adult section. In my case, because of the crossover appeal to a Young Adult audience, my books tend to be shelved in both teen and adult sections. As a result, I prefer to say I write cross-over stories about young people in love, transition, or crisis.

Your heroine, Shae-Lynn, is described as “the sweet good-girl-next-door”, but there’s a strength to her which is really impressive.  What do you think makes a strong romance heroine?

What makes Shae-Lynn special is her self-assurance. She is grounded in a strong sense of self and values. She’s sweet and sees the good in others, but isn’t a pushover. Very often strong female characters are defined by physical strength and male-like toughness. Although there is nothing wrong with a kickass female character, Shae’s strength is more subtle. She’s unwaveringly patient and quietly determined. She is the perfect person to gentle someone wild like Billy.

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Critics often deride romance as being a light and fluffy, but you deal with any number of darker issues in Rank, including the effect that one event can have on a family, and gambling addiction.  Why do you think it’s important to address these issues within a romance narrative?

When I’m not writing, I’m a therapist in private practice, so my books always have a slightly edgy psychological angle. I like to explore anything that has a strong emotion tied to it — grief, family conflict, personal struggles, and, of course, love. I don’t actually write true romances that follow the traditional arc. I write love stories, and love isn’t only about a partner. Sometimes it’s about your family, your siblings, your self.

In RANK, the brothers struggle to cope in the aftermath of their father’s traumatic death, which is complicated by the fact that Cole has a mental health condition. Billy’s struggles to be a good man and take care of his family make RANK a New Adult contemporary family drama. Finding out whether Billy can earn the love of someone as special as Shae-Lynn is what makes RANK romantic. And I love having both elements in the books I write.

What’s your current project and what will we be seeing from you next?

My current project is a Young Adult horror titled Hitching. The projects releasing next are a three-book Young Adult Action Romance series titled Brampton Beach (HarperCollins) and a WWII Historical Romance titled Interned.

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Rank is out now and can be found at Apple iBooksAmazonKobo and Barnes and Noble.

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D.R. Graham is an author for HarperCollins and Entangled Publishing. She worked as a social worker with at-risk youth before becoming a therapist in private practice. The clients she works with are children and teenagers, and her novels deal with issues relevant to young and new adults in love, transition, or crisis. She is also an award winning columnist for the Richmond News. She currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband.

To find out more about Danielle, you can find her on her website, her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Goodreads.  Her street team can be found here

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Guestpost, Harper Impulse

Guestpost – Jules Wake and a Question of Inspiration

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As a writer I’m often asked where I get my ideas from and is it difficult to come up with them.

I’m rather fortunate in that I always have lots of ideas but I have to admit the best ones come that moment of inspiration.  My favourite source of inspiration is the radio.  Because you’re listening to something without visual aid, what your hear on the radio often allows your imagination to fill in the gaps.

My latest book From Italy with Love was inspired when I was listening to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2.  It was during the annual drive and dine event, in which listeners bid for the chance to drive one of a collection of very expensive vintage cars.

I was driving to work and had stopped at the traffic lights, when I heard the throaty roar of one of a vintage Ferrari, the California Spyder GT250.  I know very little about cars but I was immediately taken with the thought of what it would be like to be a very ordinary person who owns an extraordinary car and the whole story was born.

 © Leerobin | Dreamstime.com Copyright Lee Robin Dreamstime.
© Leerobin | Dreamstime.com

From Italy with Love follows the story of Laurie Brown who’s lived her live in the shadows afraid to take any risks and as a result has started to accept second best.  When she inherits a vintage Ferrari and the challenge to drive it across Europe, it starts a chain of events leading to a journey of self-discovery.

I spent many a happy hour researching vintage cars and planning the journey across Europe.  Many of the stopping points on Laurie’s trip were inspired by some of my favourite places including Paris and parts of Italy.  I even included some very specific places such as the Musée Marmottan in Paris, which is one of my favourite museums and home to a magnificent collection of Monet paintings.

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Although all of the settings are real towns and areas, I created the hotels and chateaus from my imagination, taking all the best bits from true life experiences I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy.   When I’m writing I have a very clear picture in my head and it’s rather like running my own personal film in my head which I then have to try and capture on paper, often easier said than done!

I’ve just finished the follow up novel based on the story of Laurie’s sister, From Paris With Love At Christmas, and once again I’m taking Paris as my inspiration for several scenes in the book.

With a recent trip to New York and the Hamptons fresh in my mind, I’m sure there’s plenty of inspiration there for a new story.

Word wrangler, jelly herder, fuelled on wine,  chocolate and marmite, Jules Wake shares her house with husband, teenagers and dust bunnies.  Allergic to cleaning, writing is therefore ideal displacement activity.

Connect online with her on her  WebsiteTwitterFacebook.

Editing, Harper Impulse

A Day in the Life of a Romance Editor: HarperImpulse’s Charlotte Ledger

One of the best things about being a book blogger – aside from the chance to chat to some of my favourite authors – are the opportunities that you get.

This summer I was lucky enough to be given the chance to spend a day at the HarperImpulse offices in London.

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HarperImpulse is a digital and POD (publish on demand) romance imprint from HarperCollins and their editor, Charlotte Ledger, was lovely enough to invite me to spend the day with her, so I could get a better idea of what it is that goes on behind the scenes in the romance publishing world.

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All in all, it’s fairly busy in the offices.  As HarperCollins (and therefore HarperImpulse) is owned by News Corp, this meant heading up to The News Building, opposite London Bridge, previously called the Baby Shard.  It’s seventeen floors of sleek glass and publishing royalty, with the offices for newspapers including The Wall Street Journal and The Times, as well as HarperCollins and more recently Mills & Boon looking out of stunning views of the capital.

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I was lucky enough to get my very own guided tour of HC’s offices, and boy are they a delight!  Each conference meeting room is themed, with quotes from authors decorating the walls.

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And below them, on the fourteenth floor are two of the most important things any office can have – a sprawling canteen with multiple food stations, and its very own bookshop!

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My day was split between chatting with Charlotte about all the hard work that goes into creating a HarperImpulse book, shadowing her as she attended meetings, and getting involved with helping out with some of the day to day jobs!

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As an imprint, HarperImpulse publishes varying subgenres of romance:

–  Contemporary Romance (eg. Carmel Harrington and Michelle Betham)

–  Erotic Romance (eg. Nicola Jane and Zara Stoneley)

–  Historical (eg. Jane Lark and Georgia Hill)

–  New Adult (eg. D. R. Graham and Rachel K. Burke)

–  Paranormal (eg. A. J. Nuest and Corinna Rogers)

–  Romantic Suspense (eg. Angela Campbell and Angel Nicholas)

–  RomCom (eg. Erin Lawless and Charlotte Phillips)

–  Short Stories (eg. Brigid Coady and Aimee Duffy)

–  Non-Fiction (eg. Jenne Davis and Samantha Birch)

There’s huge variety of writing styles and there’s such a range of books that there’s something to suit every romantic inclination!

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But creating a book – even after it’s been edited and written – still takes a huge amount of hard work.

Firstly, there’s the cover itself.  There are so many books to buy, online and in shops, that a cover needs to be eye-catching and engaging, even if it’s on a webpage with thirty other books.  HarperImpulse covers range from illustrated, (both hand-drawn sketch-style and outlined images) to using photos to illustrate characters and themes.

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The next step after this, is to create the ebook itself.  All HI books have two release dates – a digital released date and a POD release date.  POD, or print on demand, means that books are printed according to orders made through websites, or requests from bookshops.  But the book will always be released digitally first, and so it’s this ebook that needs to be created.

Charlotte showed me how to pull the publishing information, including all the metadata (the keywords attached to a book, that make it easier to search for on shopping websites) from the IT system that HarperCollins uses, so that it can be attached tho the ebook.

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And then I got to have a go at updating an actual book!  I did the title page and the acknowledgements page for Katherine Garbera’s Eye Candy – all under Charlotte’s watchful eye, of course!

After that, we looked at the cover and blurb for Linn B. Halton’s upcoming A Cottage in the Country.  It’s partly a matter of proofreading, and also of making any changes that need doing.  I worked with Charlotte on the blurb – cutting, pasting and tweaking it so it wasn’t too long, and yet didn’t lose the sense of the book itself.

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Meetings-wise, there’s always plenty going on.  I attended a meeting about deadlines, covers and release dates with Charlotte and the rest of the HarperFiction team, and I also got to tag along to a cover meeting about Michelle Betham’s upcoming Shirley Valentine Goes to Vegas.

But publishing isn’t all meetings, editing and creating the books themselves – Charlotte also oversees the HarperImpulse blog and updates their Twitter account.

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I got to write a piece for the blog – an introductory “this is me” post as I’ll be writing a monthly piece going forward (look for my piece on Erin Lawless’ recent launch party later this week) – and even wrote some copy about Michelle Betham’s Striker series for a promotional giveaway for The Sun.

I suppose what I’ve taken away from the day is that being a romance editor is an all-encompassing job.  Charlotte’s passion for her work, and her dedication (she was still working, long after I left at four thirty) is infectious, and you just know that her authors are in good hands.

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Guestpost, Harper Impulse, Release Post, Writing

Release Post – Nikki Moore’s Picnics in Hyde Park

Everyone knows that I’m more than a little bit in love with books set in London – I think it’s because we’ve moved out to West Sussex and I miss the hustle and bustle of the city at times.

Therefore, it seems perfect that the final book in Nikki Moore’s #LoveLondon series is released tomorrow, just in time for some summer reading…

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Picnics in Hyde Park

The last story in the fun & flirty #LoveLondon series from exciting new chick lit author Nikki Moore! The perfect novel for reading in the sunshine… and falling in love with London.

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A summer to remember… or forget?

When Zoe Harper returns to the UK after five long years in New York, the last thing she expects is to find her younger sister Melody jobless, homeless, broke and dumped. Unfortunately, life has a way of delivering the unexpected. She should know that, given her ex-fiancé Greg’s faithless behaviour.

Filled with rage and determined to get revenge on the infamous Reilly brothers for her sister’s heartbreak, as well as get some answers, Zoe hatches plan Nannygate. Unfortunately that means moving in with the gorgeous but uncaring music producer Matt Reilly to be nanny to his two adorable, complicated children. But something isn’t adding up, and over the course of the hot London summer, she starts to think that perhaps Matt isn’t so bad after all.

Let down by his last nanny and weighed down with guilt about his wife’s death three years before, wealthy but camera-shy Matt has spent a long time pushing people away, including his own kids. His stunning new nanny challenges him every single day in completely different ways, but maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

But what happens when you open your heart, and someone isn’t who you thought they were? And can it really be true love when it’s on the rebound, and starts off with a plan for revenge?

Out at Amazon UKKobo and Nook now…

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Nikki Moore’s an author from beautiful Dorset and live not far from the sea. Apart from the writing, she has kids, friends, family and a day job to keep me busy! Her ancestry – she has English, French and Italian blood – is a bit of a mixed bag but she’s a local girl at heart, love the area and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

She reads a lot and writes captivating short stories and pacy, sexy novels about love and life. She’s compelled to create stories and excited to share them. She really enjoys writing and can’t imagine not doing so.

Visit her blog and website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.

 

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Guestpost, Harper Impulse

Guestpost – #StrongRomanceHeroines with Zara Stoneley

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Throw out the smelling salts, rip off the corsets, the days of the swooning romance heroine are over. These days we might still read for escapism, but we want to be able to relate to, and empathise with, our characters. We’re in this together!

If my heroine swooned she’d fall off her horse. And believe me, she wouldn’t want to. It hurts. The first lesson any horsey girl learns is not to fall off. If there’s no other option, then lesson 2 is to hang onto the reins as you hit the floor. Let go and you’ve lost. At worst you get trampled, at best you could spend the rest of your life (well afternoon) trying to catch the damned horse again. And you need those reins, for lesson 3, which is to get right back into the saddle, however battered and bruised you feel.

Now there is always the risk that when you’re hanging on to those reins you get dragged along a bumpy path (ouch), so you do need to recognize that occasionally it’s better to let go. But you also need to know that there are times when it’s worth risking a few bruises and go for it – whatever the odds.

Okay, so I’ve come over a bit metaphorical, but you know what I mean. These days girls aren’t brought up to faint and swoon, but were they ever? Overtight corsets might have caused the odd topple, but in fiction strong romance heroines have always existed. Did the fainting and swooning cliché of a romance heroine emerge in the early days of Mills & Boon (which was founded by two men) when it was not deemed ‘nice’ to expose women to the nastier side of life? Let’s face it though, things have changed a lot since the 1930’s, even if that particular perception hasn’t been updated in the popular press. Girls are now expected to get a grip and take responsibility for their own futures.

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I love writing strong heroines like Lottie (star of Stable Mates and Country Affairs), because I love HER. She can be scatty and daft, open and big-hearted, wavering between insecure one day and determined the next… but although she might shed a tear, she doesn’t crumble. She doesn’t swoon – she bounces back. She might want to have everybody on board, to please the world – but she knows that sometimes you have to be tough and draw a line. Steer the bolting horse onto a new path rather than just shutting the stable door after its gone and admitting defeat. And through it all she’s funny and loveable.

And life for her isn’t about big gestures, it’s about what’s in her heart. At times she’s worried she’ll fail, scared she might lose the man she loves, petrified of letting her family down – but strong enough to take a risk, learn from her mistakes, listen to her friends and at the end of the day trust her own convictions. Strong enough to go for it, even when it looks like she could lose everything along the way. And it’s not always about head over heart, sometimes real strength comes from being prepared to dig deep enough into your heart to discover what you really desire. Falling in lust can be easy, fighting attraction in the search for true love can take real guts – and Lottie has them.

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Lottie gets back on her horse when she falls off, kicks on and dares to go for it. Riding into the unknown is never easy, literally or metaphorically, but isn’t it what we wish we had the guts to do? Strong girls don’t ride roughshod over other people, they take their friends with them along for the ride. The adventure doesn’t have to be big, in terms of distance, but it is always a huge emotional journey whether it’s about daring to be different, daring to trust, daring to believe in yourself, or daring to fall in love. The strength is there in all of us, but sometimes we aren’t ready to acknowledge it, but our strong romance heroines lead the way.

I reckon that although we’ve always liked to read about girls that have backbone, how they’re portrayed has changed. We’ve matured and grown more self-confident. There’s no need for the strident feminist, or a girl with the physique of Lara Croft. You don’t have to be different to be strong. Our romance heroine can be geek, girl-next-door, body-builder, or body-beautiful – she just needs to be real. A girl with heart. A girl we can relate to, believe in. And she’s not being strong just for her man, or her family, she’s doing it for herself (cue a song title), even though she may turn slightly squishy on the inside and wobbly on the outside when the man of her dreams finally kisses her. Because strong doesn’t mean you can’t be soft as well. And that’s my Lottie.

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The hot horseman of my fictional town of Tippermere work hard and play hard, and so do the girls. And they’d prefer to cheer on the kick-ass heroine, than pass the smelling salts – real men like a challenge, and real women like real men. Not that my ladies actually need to get out there and raise a boot to the very attractive, toned derrieres that are definitely part of my romantic heroes (nobody likes a soggy bottom, do they Mary Berry?). No, being strong has always been about far more than that.

Country Affairs is now out in paperback! Needless to say I’m thrilled. My lovely heroine Lottie is out there on the shelves, being as strong and determined as she’s fun and scatty. She’s growing up, finding out just how deep her reserves are and how great she really is.  And if you’re in the Cheshire area on August 15th, pop into Waterstone’s Knutsford to have a chat (and get a signed copy), or sidle along to the Cheshire Polo on August 16th where I will be presenting prizes and you can meet some really strong girls and guys.

Zara Stoneley spent the first 10 years of her career as an IT consultant, before following her heart to work with animals and write. For several years she ran a dog grooming business in the day, and wrote short stories and articles for pet magazines in the evenings, and is now a full time author, and columnist for Loveahappyending Lifestyle eMagazine.

Zara writes contemporary fiction for HarperCollins. Her latest novels, ‘Stable Mates’, and ‘Country Affairs’ are set in the Cheshire countryside and combine some of her greatest loves – horses, dogs, hot men and strong women (and not forgetting champagne and fast cars)!  Her time is split between a cottage in the Cheshire countryside and an apartment in Barcelona.

Connect online with her on her  WebsiteTwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle+.

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Guestpost, Harper Impulse, Q&A, Reading, Writing

Q&A with Alexandra Brown

Today is the day that Alexandra Brown’s latest book, The Great Village Show, is released in paperback.  The book is a delightful blend of village community and hilarious exploits, with local school teacher Meg at its heart.

I was lucky enough to interview Alex about her book and her take on #StrongRomanceHeroines…

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1)  What does a romance heroine look like to you?
Pretty much any woman, I like my romance heroines to be typical and relatable.
2)  What is the key thing that makes an “Alexandra Brown” heroine?
A reader once told me that she loves my heroines because they are flawed and don’t make her feel inadequate, they are women that other women want to be friends with.
3)  In your latest novel, The Great Village Show, Meg is a very determined heroine who takes on numerous challenges throughout the novel, most notably the dwindling numbers of applications to  the local primary school for which she is acting head.  There’s a very real sense of place, and also sense of frustration when Meg is faced with what seems like an insurmountable problem.  What is it about Meg as a character, that you feel helps her decide to tackle the problem head on?
Meg is a fighter, she’s also very passionate and loves Tindledale, her home, the village where she has brought up her son on her own in addition to building a career for herself. I think when you’ve previously triumphed over adversity, it’s very hard to let a problem defeat you.
4)  It’s also important to note that Meg isn’t a twenty-something – her son, Jack is away at university – what do you think has caused the growth of novels with older heroines in recent years?
Older authors? Seriously though, I’m not a twenty-something woman without any responsibilities anymore, so it doesn’t really feel authentic for me to be writing about heroines that are.
5)  Strength of character is something that permeates all of your books.  What is it that you think makes a strong romance heroine?
A woman with hope! Without hope there really is no point to living or doing anything very much. Hope spurs us on, it propels us and gives us strength.
The Great Village Show is out now!
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Growing up in Brighton, Alexandra Brown left school at sixteen to run away to London with dreams of being a writer. On realising that she needed a proper job too, she went to work in an office. Throughout her fifteen year corporate career, Alex survived many dull meetings by writing a cheeky scene or two, until she could bear it no longer, collapsed in a heap and then lounged on a chaise waiting for the muse to arrive.

She now lives in a rural village on the Kent and Sussex border in England, with her husband, utterly adorable daughter (fondly known as QT) and one very shiny black Labrador called Puppy Oscar.

Visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.