RNA Summer Party and the Joan Hessayon award

The Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Party….well, as it had ‘summer’ in the title, it was of course raining! As I splashed my way from Covent Garden to the party venue at the Royal Overseas League, I was extremely glad that I’d been organised enough to bring a pair of emergency shoes for the party.

It was my first time at the RNA Summer Party, and it was all the more special as I was attending as a finalist for the Joan Hessayon Award. The Joan Hessayon Award is a prize for authors whose books have gone through the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. It is awarded in memory of the late Joan Hessayon, who was a huge supporter of the New Writers’ Scheme. This year there were eleven finalists, including myself, for the award, and I was very proud to be among their number.

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The Joan Hessayon Award 2017 nominees

We finalists arrived early for our official photo, and to have a chance to have a proper chat with each other. It was really nice to compare notes about our journeys to publication and to talk all things writing. Before long, the party was in full swing. As you can imagine at an event for romantic novelists, the room was full of interesting and lovely people. I was nearly hoarse by the end of the evening from all the chatting! I’m beginning to think this is just standard at RNA events (see my blog post after attending the RNA Winter Party.)

The Joan Hessayon Award ceremony was held early in the evening when everyone was armed with a glass of bubbly to toast the nominees. It was really wonderful to hear such nice things said about my book ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’ and I’m so honoured to have been a finalist. The overall winner was Kate Field with her novel ‘The Magic of Ramblings’, which I’m very much looking forward to reading.

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I had a thoroughly enjoyable time catching up with old friends and making new ones. Thank you so much to the RNA committee for arranging the event, and also thank you to Dr David Hessayon for kindly sponsoring the award in memory of his wife.

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A day out at Harewood House

The birds are singing, lambs are playing in the fields and the big yellow thing in the sky has actually deigned to put in an appearance. I think spring might actually be here, gasp! To celebrate that very thing, my mum and I went for a day out at the beautiful Harewood House in West Yorkshire.

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Harewood House

Harewood House has always been one of my favourite places. When I was little, I loved playing on the amazing play equipment (seriously awesome slides!) As a slightly more grown up person (well, in theory) the stunning house and grounds at Harewood have captured my imagination. Daydreaming about what it must be like to live in such a place helped inspired my debut novel, Who Does He Think He Is? Unfortunately for my heroine Lady Aurelia, her estate Leydale Park couldn’t be more different from Harewood House, as it’s more of a pile in a state, than stately pile! But Harewood House and my fictional Leydale Park do have something in common in that they are both used as TV and movie locations.
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Serious bookshelf envy!

Harewood House has most recently graced our screens as one of the major locations for the ITV drama series, Victoria. Queen Victoria herself visited Harewood House in 1835, although she was just a princess at that time, so it seems appropriate that the house is featured as a double for Buckingham Palace in the TV series about her life.
I was delighted to discover on my visit that the house is hosting an exhibition inspired by Victoria. There’s lots to learn about life at Harewood during the Victorian era, but also on display are costumes from the Victoria TV series, along with a behind the scenes look at the filming of the show. The costumes are works of art in themselves, and they look very at home in the ornate surroundings of Harewood’s State Rooms.
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Some of the beautiful costumes worn by Jenna Coleman in the title role of Victoria

Another claim to fame for Harewood House is that it has played host to the delectable Mr Darcy not once, but twice. It featured as Pemberley in ITV’s series Lost In Austen (all about a 21st century woman who gets whisked back in time and meets Mr Darcy – lucky her!) and scenes for the BBC murder mystery series based on PD James’ book Death Comes to Pemberley were also filmed there. As you can imagine, my mum and I had great fun playing spot the location on our visit!
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We also enjoyed exploring Harewood House’s beautiful gardens and parkland. They were designed by Capability Brown and I confess I filled quite a bit of my camera roll with snaps of the myriad pretty flowers.
No day out would be complete without a spot of cake, and I’m pleased to report that Harewood’s lemon drizzle is particularly scrumptious! All in all, we had a lovely visit, and I’d definitely recommend it as a great trip out for everyone.
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Something to eat and something to read!

Confessions of a book binge-buyer! 

Have you ever read a book and loved it so much that you’ve gone out and bought ever single other volume written by that author? Yes, me too. I must confess that I am a classic book binge-buyer! When I find an author whose work I really enjoy, I just can’t help going out and buying as many of their books as I can find (not great for the bank balance I can tell you, but there are definitely worse vices!)

Last year I discovered the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery series by the marvellous Laurie R.King. After reading book one while on holiday, I abandoned the beach and used the hotel wifi to order the next three volumes so they would be ready and waiting for me when I returned home. 

Another author whose work I’ve recently discovered and binge bought is Jane Thynne, the creator of the Clara Vine mystery series. Set in 1930s Berlin, the backdrop of political upheaval and rising intolerance certainly strikes a worrying chord in these times.

I love browsing in bookshops, and almost without exception browsing will turn into buying. And when they have special offers on, well, it’s a no brainer! Who am I to argue with a three-for-the-price-of-two deal?

As a consequence of my book bulk buying, I am rapidly running out of shelf space, but I’m pretty inventive when it comes to stacking so there is hope yet. Besides, my excuse is that I’m genetically pre-disposed to book binge-buying. After all, my parents had to have the floor at home strengthened because it was sagging under the weight of all their volumes.  I haven’t quite reached that stage yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long…

A fable for New Year: the story of a little tug boat named Good Will

Once upon a time in a far away land, there was a little harbour. It was nestled in a curving bay surrounded by gently undulating hills. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, the little harbour was a constant whirl of action. Fishing vessels flocked in and out as they chased their catch. Cruise ships swept into their private moorings with an air of superiority, while container ships slowly carried their cargo into port with stolid determination.

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Overseeing this activity was the harbour master’s boat. This stately vessel motored up and down between the rows of ships, making sure the harbour followed the directives of the neighbouring town. The landlubbers of the town had little idea of the reality of life on the water, but their influence over the harbour was strong.

Every time the mayor’s car drew up alongside the harbour master’s boat, the ships in the harbour would rock nervously in their moorings. They were right to be concerned. After every such meeting, the harbour master’s boat would head out, engine spluttering, and make the ships move round into new moorings because the town wanted things done in a different way.

The fishing vessels would shake their rigging but they were the easiest to move. They were so grateful just to have a mooring, they were willing to tie up anywhere the harbour master’s boat told them to. The container ships and the cruise liners were a different matter. They were big boats, tough and difficult to manoeuvre. Even if they reluctantly agreed to move, they needed help to steer to their new positions. And so they turned to a little tug boat named Good Will. Good Will was an eager, hard-working ship. He loved the harbour and was proud to call it home. And because he was proud of the harbour and cared about its reputation, whenever the harbour master’s boat delivered the town’s orders, Good Will was happy to help.

The harbour went from strength to strength, img_2353but the more it thrived, the more demands the town sent in its direction. It seemed that every day the mayor’s car would draw up on the quay with new instructions about how business in the little harbour should be conducted. But the ships could not keep up with the demands. They had to rely more and more upon their tug boat friend. Eventually Good Will didn’t even have time to undergo maintenance. His ropes grew frayed and his boards started cracking. The other boats were worried about what was happening to Good Will, but they needed him too much to be able to give him the break he so desperately needed. Although they tried to speak to the harbour master’s boat about the situation, he just revved his engine louder and spluttered off into the distance.

One day a terrible storm struck the little harbour. The waves battered the sides of boats and the wind lashed their decks. The ships shuddered by the quayside and were happy to be safely in port. But then the mayor’s car pulled up alongside the harbour master’s boat. The ships rocked in their moorings. Surely the town would not have new directives for the harbour, not during such a terrible storm?

Sure enough, as soon as the mayor’s car left, the harbour master’s boat chugged out to deliver new instructions from the town. These orders were the biggest yet. The boats bounced around on the waves. “This is madness,” they cried. “This is too much to ask. We refuse.”

“I don’t care how it happens, it has to be done,” replied the harbour master’s boat. “If you won’t move yourselves, I know I can rely on Good Will to make it happen.”

Good Will was anxious about going out in the storm. Nevertheless with the words of the harbour master’s boat echoing around his deck, he chugged out into the wind and rain.

Today the town wanted the biggest cruise ship moved to a new mooring at the opposite side of the harbour. Good Will dutifully tied the cruise ship’s weighty ropes to his deck and started the difficult journey across the water. The waves slapped over his bows and the wind rattled his rigging. As he tried to make progress forward, the combined forces of the storm and the heavy cruise ship pulled him backwards. The harbour master’s ship watched from the safety of his sheltered mooring.

“Come on, stop messing around,” he called. “If you don’t get this sorted, I’ll want to know the reason why.”

There was a dreadful cracking noise as one of Good Will’s boards snapped in half. Water started to pour in and Good Will realised he could no longer steer. He was heading for the harbour wall with the heavy cruise ship on a direct collision course behind him. Now the whole harbour was at risk.

The cruise ship shouted across at the harbour master’s boat. “This whole place works because of Good Will. You have taken advantage of Good Will and pushed him too far. Now you have destroyed everything.”

The cruise ship fired up its powerful engines. With inches to spare, it managed to reverse away from the harbour wall. It powered away from the harbour and out to sea, dragging the poor wreck of the little tug boat Good Will alongside.

That was the last the harbour saw of them. But from that day onwards, the little harbour started to decline. Boats no longer wanted to moor up there, no matter what the harbour master’s boat tried. Stories began to circulate of another port, just along the coast, somewhere safe and welcoming. Somewhere run by a little tug boat…

Publication day is here!

The day I have been waiting for with great excitement (and nerves!) has finally arrived. Drum roll please, today is publication day of my debut romantic comedy “Who Does He Think He Is?

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So what have been the highlights of my day so far? First of all, I’ve had so many lovely messages from people wishing me a happy day, which has been wonderful.

And speaking of lovely things, I switched on my laptop to read two really positive reviews of my book by The Writing Garnet and Claire Huston.

It’s a little daunting imagining my book out in the big wide world, so it was really encouraging that it’s already garnered some great reviews.

“‘Who Does He Think He Is?’ is a laugh out loud, warming tale that highlights the importance of the word ‘believe’. Emily has written such a timid main character who, thanks to path she has to walk down, learns to believe in what has been under her nose the whole time. It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel so hats off to Emily Kerr and her book full of giggles.” The Writing Garnet

“A feel-good story guaranteed to delight romance fans.” Claire Huston

Rather appropriately for book launch day, a copy of The Author magazine arrived. I definitely get a thrill being able to call myself an author!

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My parents took me out for a lovely lunch and I’ve got the Romantic Novelists’ Association Yorkshire Christmas dinner to look forward to this evening. Yay for publication day!

And if you fancy buying “Who Does He Think He Is?” just click on the picture of the book below:

image2-1Lady Aurelia Osbourne-Lloyd has long wished her bank balance was as big as her name. But her home, Leydale Park, is more of a pile in a state than stately pile, and with her father off ‘finding himself’ in Thailand, it’s up to her to turn the family fortunes around by entertaining demanding tourists.

When – thanks to her father’s interference – a Hollywood production company chooses the estate as a location for a Regency movie, a whole new level of chaos enters Aurelia’s life. Her quiet days shattered and privacy non-existent, she has no choice but to go with the flow and let them take over.

Never mind the added distraction of dishy leading man, Xander Lord, who may have an ulterior motive for wanting to get close to her…

Can Aurelia keep her cool in light of all the upheaval?

 

Countdown to publication day

Oh my, it’s only 4 days, yes that’s right, just 4 days until my debut romantic comedy ‘Who Does He Think He Is?‘ is published. Now it’s got to this stage, I confess the excitement and the fear are about level pegging. The thought of my book, which I’ve worked so hard on, going out into the big wide world seems very real and dare I say it, rather nerve-racking. Will people buy it? Will people read it? What will people think of it? Gulp!

It’s one thing writing the book, but selling it is an introduction to a whole new world. As a bit of a shy creature at heart, it’s not really in my nature to stand up and go ‘Look at what I’ve written, buy my book, buy my book!’ Obviously, that’s what I’m hoping people will do, but I’m very aware that if readers don’t know it exists, they’re not going to go out and buy it. I’ve therefore engaged Full On Courage Mode and have been bravely getting in touch with folk to try and spread the word.  I’m very grateful to all the lovely people out there who have been supporting my efforts by tweeting, Facebooking, blogging and generally chatting about my book. It means a great deal to me.

Now, moving on to some very exciting news. This week I was thrilled to find out that ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’  will be out in paperback at the same time as it’s published in e-book. I also got to hold the very first actual copy of it. (Check out my huge grin below!)

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So yes, that’s me this week. And if you want to find out more about ‘Who Does He Think He Is?‘ here’s the blurb along with some nice things that people have said about it. If you’re looking for a Christmas present for yourself or others, the answer’s below!

image2-1“An enchanting story, guaranteed to leave you with the feel-good factor. Emily Kerr writes with a light but assured touch in this heart-warming read.”
Sue Fortin, bestselling author of The Girl Who Lied and Closing In

“A classic Jane Austen love story with a twist. It feels like you’re sitting at the local coffee shop with Lady Aurelia herself telling you her story.”
Mariel Gonzalez

Lady Aurelia Osbourne-Lloyd has long wished her bank balance was as big as her name. But her home, Leydale Park, is more of a pile in a state than stately pile, and with her father off ‘finding himself’ in Thailand, it’s up to her to turn the family fortunes around by entertaining demanding tourists.

When – thanks to her father’s interference – a Hollywood production company chooses the estate as a location for a Regency movie, a whole new level of chaos enters Aurelia’s life. Her quiet days shattered and privacy non-existent, she has no choice but to go with the flow and let them take over.

Never mind the added distraction of dishy leading man, Xander Lord, who may have an ulterior motive for wanting to get close to her…

Can Aurelia keep her cool in light of all the upheaval?