What Agents, Editors and Publishers Ask Writers…

It can be quite nerve wracking speaking to agents, editors and publishers no matter what stage of the writing ladder you’re at, but especially so, I remember, when I was unagented and unpublished.

Looking back, there seemed to be several questions which cropped up regularly. I thought I’d share them as, even though I am now agented and have a publisher, they still came up at a recent meeting.

blog picture pen

What genre do you write in?

I found just saying ‘romance’, didn’t really pin down my style of writing very well. Romance is a very broad genre and includes, historical, suspense, contemporary, paranormal, Christian and so on. By defining it as mystery, suspense and romance worked far better and helped to expand the conversation.

Which author would you compare your work to?

I hate this type of question. If I answer no-one, will it make me sound ignorant of other writers? If I come out with an international best-selling author, will I sound too full of myself? I find a good way to deflect it, is by saying which authors I like to read and to say whether they have influenced my writing at all.

Can you sum up your novel in a couple of sentences?

This is actually a really useful exercise and can help no matter who asks you about your book, whether it be an agent, a publisher or a friend. If you can include the theme of your book, how you address this and the genre in just three sentences, then this shows that you really know your book and your market. It also helps to avoid those awkward silences or the false starts that start off, ‘Well, it’s about a woman. Well, two women. No. Actually, it’s about this man …’ Nailing it right down to three concise sentences will not only help to inspire confidence and professionalism in you from their point of view, but it will do exactly the same for you.

Where do you see yourself in 3/4/5 years’ time?

If you can outline your next book in a couple of sentences, this goes a long way to showing that you are serious about being an author. It shows that you have more than one book in you and you are worth investing in. If you can also have a general idea of where you are heading with your writing career, again, this all helps to show your professionalism and ambition.

Why did you want to speak to me?

This can be a tricky one, saying you’re working your way through the Writers Yearbook, probably isn’t going to go down too well. Explain, why you wanted to see them, maybe they have other authors similar to your style, yet you still have something fresh and new to offer. Perhaps, the publisher has a wide reaching audience or it might be because they are a small independent publisher and the family feel appeals to you. If you can come up with two or three reasons, then this will show the agent/publisher that you have done your research and, again, promote your professionalism to being a writer.

Of course, these aren’t hard and fast questions, they may vary and there will, no doubt, be plenty of other questions but I found these formed a good solid foundation to go into a meeting with.

Writing news!

I’m delighted to announce that last week I officially signed with Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency!

I have known Kate in a professional capacity for several years now and, in the past, she has given me some great feedback and sound advice. They say to find an agent who loves your manuscript as much as you do and one that you can foresee a good working relationship with and for those reasons, amongst others, I am very much looking forward to working with Kate in the future.

Although Kate and I had agreed everything before Christmas, it wasn’t until last week that we were able to meet up. We had a great afternoon in London, chatting over afternoon tea on a Thames River cruise – the time went so quickly we had to head to a pub afterwards to complete the formalities.

shard by the Thames 3

I am pleased to say that my next book is to be published by HarperCollins’ imprint HarperImpulse on 21 April 2016. We are working on the cover and a new title which I hope to share with you soon.

So, now the glamourous bit is over, it’s time for me to head back into the editing cave …







Book 4 Finished!

Today I was finally able to type THE END  – book 4 has now been written. Yay!

Of course, when I say written, I just mean my final draft version. It’s yet to be seen by the publishers and editorial team but I will deal with that in due course, for now, I want to revel in the fact that I’ve completed what I set out to do about four years ago.

Book 4 began life as part of a writing course I undertook through the London School of Journalism and the lovely tutor, Margaret James. I completed about fourteen chapters while doing the course and Margaret’s advice was invaluable but, in the end, I couldn’t finish it – not then, anyway. I clearly remember Margaret’s comment that it was all very nice but nothing much was happening. Ouch.  But she was right and I didn’t know how to fix it. I had, however, fallen in love with my hero (an Irish bike mechanic) and wasn’t prepared to end my relationship with him. Instead, we went on a break. A long one, granted but the three years in between did us the power of good. When I reacquainted myself with my hero and book 4, I knew what needed fixing. This was probably down to the experience I had gained over time as I developed the craft or writing and having three published books under my  belt.

So, since March, I’ve been spending a lot of time with book 4 and my hero and I’m delighted we’ve got to The End in one piece.  I’d like to say I’ll have a glass of wine to celebrate but having just checked the cupboards, I’m out of luck. Diet Coke it is!


Pets in Books

Living in rural Cambridgeshire as a child for several years, while my parents sampled the ‘Good Life’, we had lots of pets and animals – dogs, farm cats, chickens, ferrets and a pony.  But it’s the dogs in particular that deserve a mention. My eldest brother had a tendency to rescue, adopt or foster any four legged canine that needed looking after. Fortunately, we had plenty of land and outbuildings for our guests, which included, a Jack Russell, a Greyhound, an Old English Sheepdog, a Doberman and a German Pointer – although not all at the same time. My mum might have been easy going, but she would have drawn the line at that, I’m sure.

At the time, we also had our own family pet dog, Tramp, so it’s no surprise that I’ve grown up to be something of a dog lover and enjoy it when pets pop up in a novel. They can be a great tool for showing another side to the characters in a book.  Despite my dog bias, it’s cats who have appeared in my last two novels. Okay, the first time in Closing In, Scruffs only had a cameo role but in that one paragraph, he allowed the reader see the not quite so nice side of one of the characters. Don’t worry, no harm came to Scruffs.

rascal 2
Snoozing Rascal

In The Half Truth, my heroine, Tina Bolotnikov had a pet cat called Rascal who wasn’t there to show another side to Tina, but he helped her solve a couple of mysterious happenings in the house. Rascal in the book was directly taken from a real life Rascal, belonging to my friend and Romaniac pal, Laura E. James. When I visited Laura last  year, Rascal and I became firm friends so it was a natural choice for my character’s pet.


My current WIP has a dog in it – he’s a terrier, although I haven’t made up my mind what breed of terrier, so far he’s been a Jack Russell, a Highland Terrier and an Airedale. He’s been really useful as my hero confides in him and tells him a few things that he wouldn’t necessarily want anyone else to know.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few photos of my own pets, past and present.


Sue Fortin’s Lovely Blog Hop

I’ve been nominated by Mark West for the Lovely Blog Hop where I share some of the things that have shaped my life. Thanks for the nomination, Mark.  🙂

First Memory

I’m not entirely sure which is my first memory as I have several around the time I was four years old and we had just moved to St Neots in Cambridgeshire. The one that I remember the clearest is going with my dad and two older brothers to see my mum in hospital. My younger sister had just been born and children weren’t allowed on the ward so my mum, who fortunately was on the ground floor of the local maternity hospital, brought my sister over to the window so we could see her.

us 4
me, my brothers and sister, June 1972



I’ve always been a huge bookworm. My first love being Enid Blyton, especially the mystery series. I went on to devour Agatha Christie and anything with a murder or a mystery to be solved.  Thrillers and mysteries were my first book love with romance being my second. I covered this in more detail on a recent post here.


When I was a teenager my family moved to West Sussex and I had to start a new secondary school in Year 10 (that’s 4th year in old money). Although I never had any real issues with school, I neither loved it nor loathed it, I found myself often skiving days off school, or bunking as it was called in West Sussex. I would seek refuge at the local library and hide myself away in the upstairs Reference Rooms. Rather ironically, it was there I would actually do my school work. I liked the solitude, the autonomy and the silence. I’m not sure what drove me to take days off school and, Mum, if you’re reading this … sorry for all the times you asked me how school was and I said it was great. I actually meant the library was great. 🙂

What’s Your Passion

Other than my family and writing, I suppose it has to be sewing. My nan was a seamstress and pattern cutter in London, I think I inherited my love of fabric and creating things from her.


My day job sees me in an educational environment with 16+ year olds, I have school and college aged children and I have, in the past, undertaken studies through Adult Education and the Open University – I’m surrounded by conventional education and I do really enjoy learning. In fact, I am currently on an 18 month course through my work so, perhaps, I’m making up for all those days I sat in the library when I should have been learning at school or maybe the solitude in the libraries and self-educating was the forerunner to my independent distance learning with the Open University?


Having always wanted to write, one of my first collection of stories was when I was 10 years old. It was all about twin sisters and their adventures – I used to love free writing at school, aka, teacher needs to get on with other stuff. I continued to dip in and out of writing, beginning lots of things but never finishing them. It wasn’t until I had my youngest child and I had time at home that I actually completed a full length novel.  Of course, that manuscript will NEVER see the light of day and I know I’ve improved since then, but then writing is all about learning – the two themes compliment each other in a continual circule. Write – learn/develop – write – learn/develop.


I’m passing the Lovely Blog Hop baton onto

Laura E. James

Celia J Anderson

Jan Brigden

Carmel Harrington



2015 Writing News

As 2014 closes, what a great way to end with CLOSING IN hitting the number 1 spot on Kobo for Romantic Suspense.

I’m looking forward to 2015. My new novel THE HALF TRUTH is due out in the spring and I have a four part mini mystery series being published throughout the year. More details of that later. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some covers soon.

Thank you for all your support – Happy New Year and I hope that 2015 is fantastic for everyone!

closing in kobo number 1


Closing_inEveryone knows that when you’ve written something, try as you might, you can’t always spot your own mistakes, typos, sentence construction issues or general grammar problems. When I finished my first draft of Closing In, I needed someone with a keen eye to look over it for me before I sent it to my editor at Harper Impulse. I knew just the person to ask – my friend and fellow Romaniac girl, Jan Brigden.

Jan really does have an eye for detail. She meticulously went through my manuscript and found all the little, and not so little, errors I had made. She was able to give me solid feedback and advice on how to improve my manuscript, not just technically but she also spotted a few plot holes and continuity issues. I was so grateful, her proofreading really gave my manuscript a boost, making it so much more professional and polished.

Jan has also proofread other manuscripts and I know everyone has been delighted with her work. I would whole-heartedly recommend Jan to anyone who is looking for a proofreader. Over at The Romaniac blog, Jan has now put together a page, please pop over to have a look in more detail at her proofreading service and testimonials from previous clients. Click HERE.

Jan Proofreading ecard



A Busy Few Weeks Ahead

NoNoWriMo crestAfter several good intentions over the past 3 or 4 years, I’ve finally signed up for NaNoWriMo.   I’m a complete novice at it so if anyone wants to hold my hand along the way here’s the link for my profile.

I’m going to use NaNoWriMo to finish my novel Where It All Began. I’m 60k words in and think another 50k should do it for the first draft, then I will be able to edit it down to around 90k. That’s the plan anyway.

I’ve also have an Open University short course starting with their FutureLearn programme. I’m doing the Start oulogo-56Writing Fiction one. I know it seems a bit mad seeing as I’ve already written two novels, but I’d like to complete my degree which I started with the OU many years ago and this is a nice way to get back into studying.

I’m hoping that edits for my third novel, The Half Truth, don’t pop back into my in-box for a few weeks. Although, I am looking forward to seeing the cover which is being worked on at the moment. I might even be able to give you a sneak preview soon.

Good luck to everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo this year.

Three Things I Write and Three Things I Don’t

I’ve been invited by horror writer, Mark West (click on Mark’s name to see his post), to take part in this blog hop – the title pretty much explains what it’s about. So here’s my contribution.

Three Things I Do Write

1. Romance

All my books so far have had romance in them, but to varying degrees. United States of Love is a full on romance but Closing In, although it does have a romance, it isn’t the overriding story. I’m working on book 3 at the moment and, again, the romance is there but not pivotal.  Why do I write romance? It’s all about feelings and emotions which make us human.

2. Mysteryinspector calls

I always enjoy reading books where there is some mystery or secret to solve. Something that keeps you guessing again and again. I like a good crime story and have enjoyed weaving mini-mysteries into the plots of my books. It gives it another dimension.

3.  Themes

When I wrote my first novel, I had no idea what the theme was, I just knew I wanted to write a romance which, I suppose, is quite a broad theme itself.  I attended a workshop run by Julie Cohen and the subject of theme came up. It was a light bulb moment for me, I realised if I knew my theme and kept that at the front of my mind when writing, it would keep the story tight and on track. So now, I always identify my theme before I begin, it’s the starting block for me.


Three Things I Don’t Write

1. Horror

the fogI don’t think I could ever come up with anything that was scary. I’ve read some horror books in the past – I distinctly remember reading a James Herbert book when I was about 14 and it scared me so much, I was literally checking the air vents before I went to bed. I just don’t think I could create anything that frightening. It’s a lot to live up to.

2. Historical

I haven’t written anything historical … yet. I would like to but I’m painfully aware of the huge amount of research that I would need to undertake and, currently, I just haven’t got the time. It would do historical writing a great injustice if I didn’t get the facts as right as possible. One day, when I have more time, I do plan to start gathering together information that will allow me to write in this genre but, for now, it’s a bit of a way off.

3. Fantasy

I know there are some great books and films out there, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter – the list is endless, but, it’s just not my thing. I wouldn’t know where to start writing some alternative world, I prefer to write what I know in the real world. However, as with historical writing, I can’t rule it out for ever. I may suddenly wake up one morning with a whole new world in my head with a story desperate to be told but, until then, fantasy is not for me.


It’s been an interesting exercise and wasn’t as easy as I thought. I’m ‘nominating’ Nic Tatano and Anneli Purchase to take part next.


French Friday


I’m a big lover of France and all things French,  I even managed to get myself a French surname. 🙂


I am planning to write a book set partially in France, so I have begun to gather bits and pieces together to inspire and inform me.  I thought I would share some of my French research each month.

Serent is a lovely rural town in Southern Brittany. This will be the location for the part of my book which is set in the early 40’s during the German occupation.

church serent 2
Serent, Morbihan

Our holiday cottage is approximately 2 miles from Serent and we have spent many a happy holiday there.  It is still very much a rural and farming area. The cottage is over 150 years old and would probably have belonged to a local farm worker.  Originally, there would have been an earth floor so livestock could be brought in at night for shelter. The iron rings used for tethering the animals to are still embedded in the interior wall of the cottage. I’m pleased to report that a travertine stone floor now replaces the earth one and there is not a goat in sight! I am using the cottage in my book but may employ my artistic licence and change it slightly – I need an attic which the real one doesn’t have.

christmas hayley 088
This rustic red is very typical of the area

A le mois prochain!