I’m delighted to announce that my short story “Out of Office” is going to be included in “The Word for Freedom” anthology, a collection of stories of women’s suffrage published by Retreat West Books to raise money for the charity Hestia. It’s due to be published at the beginning of November to coincide with the Hundred Years March, when a group of women living and working in East London will march to honour and celebrate what has been achieved in women’s suffrage, but with a clear manifesto and voice that women’s rights still need fighting for.
Picture the scene. It’s a rainy day in July and a group of strangers have met in a hotel to plot murder…Don’t worry, this was murder of the strictly fictional variety! The day in question was Creative Thursday at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2017. The Festival takes place at the Old Swan Hotel which is famous for being where Agatha Christie hid away during her 10 day disappearance in 1926. What better location to host a crime writing festival?
Creative Thursday is a day devoted to the craft of crime writing, covering everything from creating a believable detective to plotting a plausible murder. And plot we did!
We went straight in at the deep end with the morning session, “Plotting the Perfect Murder: How to Create an Engaging Crime Story” led by Lesley Thomson and Elly Griffiths. We were divided into groups of six and had just five minutes to come up with a character to be our detective. We presented our characters to the other groups and everyone voted who should be the ultimate detective in our crime story, then who should be the murderer, the victim and finally, the suspects. It was amazing how in the space of just a couple of hours a group of complete strangers were transformed into a creative collective with the bones of a murder mystery story between them.
In our next session, we were introduced to the Book Doctor, aka Philippa Pride, writing guru and Stephen King’s British editor. Philippa helped us to unlock our creativity. She’s a big fan of using prompts such as music and pictures to help writers get into their flow. She also encouraged us to think of the five senses when we’re writing. To that end, on each of our chairs were two tiny glass bottles filled with scent. Halfway through the session, she asked us to open the bottles and smell them. Of course, in a classic murder mystery story, one of these bottles would have contained poisonous vapour! Thankfully, in real life, they contained a variety of scents such as citrus, lavender etc which we used as writing prompts to help us evoke a scene in a different way.
After lunch it was time to look at “How to Create Pace and Suspense” with Louise Welsh and Henry Sutton. They talked about how crime writing encourages us to look beneath the surface of people and places, and see what really lies beneath. In terms of creating pace and suspense, they advised starting the story as near to the end as you can, ie getting rid of any extraneous limbering up. Everything should be there for a reason and every scene should enhance characterisation, or move the plot forward, preferably both. They said it’s important for our characters to really want something, but of course as writers, we need to throw obstacles in their way. As the formula goes:
Story + Conflict = Plot
The final event of the day was the terrifying-sounding “Dragons’ Pen” where writers were picked out of a hat and given the opportunity to pitch their stories to a panel of agents and editors. The Dragons were actually very supportive, as was the audience, and I’m full of admiration for those who were chosen to pitch. It was really exciting to hear their stories and I’m looking forward to reading them, as I have no doubt some of them will be appearing in the bookshops before too long.
Aside from Creative Thursday, the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival also offers dozens of other events for fans of crime fiction, including author panels and signings, quizzes, award ceremonies and interactive forensics puzzles. I went along to the Grantchester TV panel which featured author James Runcie and actor Robson Green. It was absolutely jam-packed, but they had the whole audience in stitches. It was fascinating to hear about what goes into adapting a book into a TV series.
My only regret is that I didn’t buy a weekend rover ticket so I could attend all the events of the Festival. Maybe next year! Basically, the moral of the story is the Festival is amazing, and as the banners around the hotel said, “The only crime would be to miss it!”
When my romantic comedy “Who Does He Think He Is?” was published back in December 2016, I had no idea that just over six months later I would be appearing as a bona fide author at the Bradford Literature Festival. I was invited to be a member of the panel at the Magic of Romance event alongside Sunday Times bestseller Milly Johnson and fellow debut author Sonya Lalli (look out for her romcom “The Arrangement”, out in August – I loved it!)
The Bradford Literature Festival started in 2014, and in just a few years it has grown into a huge annual celebration of all things reading and writing, with over 50,000 people attending this year’s Festival. With events covering everything from comedy to crime, Manga to mythology, there is genuinely something to suit everyone. If you’ve not visited, what are you waiting for?!
Events take place in venues throughout the city, and you only have to be in Bradford for 30 seconds to realise how much support there is for the Festival. There were banners everywhere, people wandering around with books in their hands, and a pop up book shop right in the heart of Bradford City Park was doing a roaring trade.
I have to admit I was rather nervous about appearing at my first literature festival. I’ve been to plenty as an audience member, but it’s rather different being up there on the stage! Fortunately my nerves disappeared when I met my fellow authors and our wonderful event chair Jodie Matthews. After all, what could be better than talking about romance and writing with other enthusiasts!
The event took the form of a panel discussion, with lots of input from the audience as well. We talked about our writing influences, what makes a good hero (there was definitely some swooning over Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth) and how we set about writing a book.
It was really interesting to hear from my fellow panellists and to compare our different approaches to our work. It definitely made me think in a more analytical way about the genre as we discussed what factors make romance magic for us. We also laughed over how being a writer can sometimes make you seem rather crazy, for example when a character you’ve created does something completely unexpected and takes you by surprise!
The hour just flew by and I thoroughly enjoyed every second. And the icing on the cake was to see my books for sale alongside Milly Johnson’s and doing a book-signing at the end of the event. Thank you so much to the Bradford Literature Festival for inviting me along.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!
“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.”
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?
Oh my goodness, it’s December! How did that happen? I know the shops have been full of Christmassy stuff for ages, but now they seem to be playing the Christmas tunes and shoving the tinsel in people’s face with serious intent. I’ve got the advent calendar out (you’re never too old for an advent calendar, right?) It’s made me realise that actually there’s not all that much time before the big day to get in all the shopping, card writing and sorting of stuff that I need to do, gulp. I’m starting to have to make lists of my ‘to-do’ lists!
However, I don’t mind as I love this time of year. There’s always something magical in the air, and the glittering lights and sparkling decorations make even the most ordinary scene special. My own tree and decorations are somewhat on the modest side at the moment, but they’re work in progress, and at least I don’t have a huge sprawling mansion to decorate, unlike the main character in my book ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’ The lovely Aurelia lives in a manor house called Leydale Park. It’s a grand Regency home, but it’s more of a pile in a state than a stately pile. The poor girl is at the end of her tether trying to keep the place from falling apart, but I do like to imagine that at this time of the year she might get the chance to put her feet up for a little bit. After all, Christmas decorations can hide all kinds of cracks in the floors and damp patches on the walls. Alas, chaos has a habit of following Aurelia around…