Today on my month-long Romantic Novelists Association feature. Each day in February I will have a different author on the blog, talking to me about their books. It is to help celebrate the sixtieth birthday of the RNA and to raise awareness of how it might be a great fit for you if you are an author. I hope you enjoy the features over the next few weeks. Be sure to give the authors a follow on social media and add the books you fancy from the selection of great authors to your own TBR.
💫Romantic Novelists Association
The Romantic Novelists’ Association was founded in 1960 to both celebrate, and demand respect for, romantic fiction. Founder members included Denise Robins, Barbara Cartland, Elizabeth Goudge, Netta Muskett, Catherine Cookson and Rosamunde Pilcher. The first President of the Association, Denise Robins, noted that although romantic fiction gave great pleasure to many readers, the writers almost felt they had to apologise for what they did. The RNA was going to put a stop to those apologies and, instead, celebrate and promote romantic authorship.
In 1966, an early Vice President of the association, Elizabeth Goudge, commented that ‘As this world becomes increasingly ugly, callous and materialistic it needs to be reminded that the old fairy stories are rooted in truth, that imagination is of value, that happy endings do, in fact, occur, and that the blue spring mist that makes and ugly street look beautiful is just as real a thing as the street itself.’
Today, the RNA continues to support and champion the authorship of romantic fiction that shows the value of imagination and the possibility of a happy ending and also celebrates the broader spectrum of romantic fiction that explores the more challenging aspects of relationships and human experience.
Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.
A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.
Her debut novel, The Chery Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further eight books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently looking forward to the release of her 2020 summer title, The Secret Seaside Escape while writing her next Christmas title.
Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her family and a mischievous cat called Storm.
💫 The Secret Seaside Escape
Escape to the seaside with the brand new novel from Heidi Swain, the Sunday Times bestselling author of feel-good women’s fiction!
Tess Tyler needs a break. Weighed down by her high-pressure job and her demanding father, she’s left little time to take care of herself. But after a shocking discovery sends her spiralling, she flees to Wynmouth, the seaside town she fell in love with as a child, to escape it all.
With its sandy beaches, stunning rock pools and welcoming community, Tess feels like she can finally breathe again. And as she grows ever closer to local barman Sam, she dares to dream that she might never return to her real life. But when a familiar face returns to town, Tess realises that there are secrets in Wynmouth too, and that her own past may be about to catch up with her . . .
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey, please?
A big birthday was the kick I needed to start taking my literary ambitions seriously and after a course of local creative writing classes and sharing short stories online, I wrote my first novel before joining the RNA NWS in 2014. Once the manuscript had been critiqued, I submitted it to the Books and The City (the digital imprint for Simon and Schuster), #oneday call for submissions in 2015. Within weeks I had a 2 book deal and The Cherry Tree Café was published in 2015.
I have been writing two titles a year for Simon and Schuster ever since. All of the books are available in ebook, paperback and audio format and I became a Sunday Times Bestseller – with Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells – in 2017.
Can you tell us how you became involved with the Romantic Novelists Association and what it means for you to be part of it?
I first became involved with the RNA when I was accepted on the NWS in 2014. Since then I have attended conferences and parties, been shortlisted for a RONA, made firm friends with lots of other local authors through the Chapter lunches and chatted with even more members online.
As I’m sure any author will agree, writing can be a lonely business, but being part of the wonderful, friendly tribe that the RNA is, ensures that there is always someone to talk to and meet up with. I consider it a vital part of my social life now that I’m writing full time. It means a lot to me both personally and professionally.
What was the inspiration behind your latest release?
My next book, which publishes at the end of April but is available to order now, features a brand-new seaside setting. My readers have loved both the fictitious town of Wynbridge and Nightingale Square in Norwich, but this year I decided I wanted to take them on a bit of a holiday. Having lived in and around Norfolk for much of my life has meant that pretty coastal towns such as Wells, Cromer and Southwold in Suffolk, have been regular holiday and weekend destinations and I wanted to share the joy of such places with my readers. The Secret Seaside Escape is therefore set in fictitious Wynmouth and I am looking forward to introducing it and its wonderful characters to the world.
Do you find it hard to let your characters go when you finish writing the book?
Not really, but I think that’s mostly because my books are all linked. When I’ve finished telling one characters story, I know that they will pop up in someone else’s and therefore I never really have to say goodbye.
What was your favourite read of 2019?
That’s such a difficult question! I read lots of fabulous books during 2019 and narrowing it down to just one is impossible. Two that really stayed with me were Where The Light Gets In, by lovely Lucy Dillon and If You Were Here, by my wonderful friend Alice Peterson. There were at least a dozen more that really stood out, but you asked for just one, so I’ve pushed my luck already!
Do you read other romance authors and who would you recommend?
Yes, I read lots of other romance authors. My personal recommendations always include Trisha Ashley and Milly Johnson.
Was there a point in your life that a book helped you get through, if so which one?
Not specifically, but so many of the books I read feature strong and successful women that I can’t help thinking that some of that rubs off without me even realizing it. I’m certainly much braver than I used to be, and definitely more driven, and I think, in part, some of that comes from reading about fictional characters who have turned their lives around and made their dreams come true.
Is there anyone that you would like to mention and thank for their support of your writing?
I would like to thank my wonderful agent, Amanda Preston. I’d had quite a few books published before I even thought about looking for an agent but as soon as I signed with Amanda at LBA I knew I’d made the right decision. I have a fantastic working relationship with my publisher so there have never been niggles to iron out, (hence no agent for such a long time), but she’s such an enthusiastic champion of my work, she’s always available and she notices the little things and gives me a boost and a hug when I need one.
If you had the power to give everyone in the world one book, what would it be and why?
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. It’s a book I absolutely love (I read it twice every December) and I think it has a message which is still as relevant today as it was when Mr. Dickens wrote it.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches on The Secret Seaside Escape and writing the first draft of my 2020 Christmas book. I also have plans for two further books vying for my attention. It’s a very busy time!
Lastly, do you have any questions for your readers?
I would love to ask my readers if they could spend the day at any one of the settings I have created, which would it be and why? I would also like to thank them for taking my books to their hearts and loving reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.
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💫 Final Thoughts
Thank you to Heidi for taking part in my special feature.
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