What Makes A Good Antagonist? – Plus Book Giveaway!

BB14Welcome to our cross-blog, which offers tips on writing. Every month writing mentor Sydney Smith ‘interviews’ author Kathryn Ledson and me on some aspect of the writing craft. We welcome your questions and comments. To celebrate my nomination for the Australian Writer’s Centre Best Australian Blogs 2014 (and also for reaching 30,000 views on my website!) I’m giving away a signed copy each of Wasp Season, Brumby’s Run and Currawong Creek. To go in the draw, leave a comment telling us who is your favourite fictional bad guy! (Aust & NZ residents only)

This month’s question is: What makes a good antagonist?

cross blogAccording to Wikipedia, “An antagonist is a person or group of people who oppose the main character.” But the antagonist can also be non-human. It can be a dragon, a Martian, a volcano, a disease like Parkinson’s; anything that opposes the protagonist.

Sydney:
An antagonist is a broader and more complex idea than a villain. A villain acts for purely selfish reasons and does destructive things with no consideration for the effect they will have on others. A villain is wicked. A villain is unable to change and grow.

An antagonist, on the other hand, is a character who pursues a certain goal in the story. This goal opposes that of the protagonist. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy is Elizabeth’s main antagonist until after the first proposal scene. But it is Mr Wickham who is the villain, and he doesn’t emerge in that light until after Mr Darcy sets Elizabeth straight about what really happened between him and Wickham.

Villains have a role in fiction. Crime novels use villains. A serial killer is a villain. Any character who feels entitled to murder to get what they want is a villain. But then we get into a tricky area, because some crime fiction heroes, like Lucas Davenport in John Sandford’s Prey series, feel entitled to shoot dead the killer he has been pursuing.

Jennifer:
Great antagonists make great stories, don’t they? Thwarting our hero at every turn, keeping the reader turning those pages. A compelling antagonist needs to be built with the same care as any other character. Unfortunately, I often read books where the bad guy is underdeveloped, a cardboard cut-out who is simply evil for evil’s sake. For me, an antagonist needs strong motivation and has to have something at stake, ie: needs to be trying to avoid something or gain something. They must be intelligent and adaptable – worthy adversaries. A compelling antagonist must also be flawed in some way, perhaps having a weakness that readers can relate to and even causes readers to be a little torn at times as to where their sympathies lie. I also love them to have secrets. But of course the most important thing is for the antagonist to stand fairly and squarely in the path of our hero.

the-perfect-storm 2I’m fascinated by the concept of non-human things being antagonists. I’ve just read The Perfect Storm, a creative non-fiction book by Sebastian Junger, where the weather is a spectacular villain. Literary fiction and commercial women’s fiction often don’t have a clear wrong-doer, but even so they must have someone or something opposed to the hero, or else the narrative drive just falls away. You suggested to me, Sydney, that in my book Currawong Creek the troubled four-year-old boy Jack was the antagonist, because his presence and behaviour constantly gets in the way of my hero’s plans. Whatever or whoever your antagonist may be, it’s worth investing plenty of time on them.

Sydney:
I think part of the problem is that writers think antagonists have to be bad people. This is surely connected to the common fallacy that conflict is negative. A good antagonist, like conflict, feeds the narrative. As you say, Jenny, without a strong antagonist, the story falls away. That’s because there isn’t enough for the hero to do! But an antagonist must do more than give the hero something to do. They have to be focused on what they want. They have to be prepared to do ANYTHING to get it. Stories ramp up the tension and suspense as soon as the main players are prepared to do anything to get what they’re after.

Kathryn:
Like Jennifer, I’m especially fascinated by non-human antagonists because for me their elusive non-humanness makes them even more frightening than your average axe-wielding psycho. The scraping sound in the attic. The jungle and its slithering, crawling, scuttling inhabitants. The house whose walls bleed. Christine. But human or not, one thing that gives an antagonist depth of character is his/her/its own goal, and motivation for it. I’ve learned (thank you, Sydney) that it’s vital for the author to keep this in mind and, as Jen says, just as important as the goal and motivation of the protagonist. Your antagonist’s goal and motivation should be so strong that if the story were written from his point of view, we would be barracking for him!

Jaws 2Let’s look at JAWS as a timely example, where the obvious villain has an apparent goal to eat everyone in that peaceful seaside town, selfishly snatching away and ripping apart whoever dares stick a toe in that water. However, if the story of the terrifying monster shark – let’s call him Bruce – were written from Bruce’s point of view, we’d discover his motivation for that goal. It might be to avenge all the horrible atrocities committed against his family by humans. When he was a tiny sharkling, perhaps he watched his mother being definned and tossed, alive, back into the sea where she spent hours lying on the ocean floor with baby Brucie pleading as she drowned, “Please swim, Mummy!” And she in turn warning him off, “Save yourself, my son!” Perhaps even the Horrible Human that the now fully grown and vengeful Bruce seems hell-bent on devouring is the one who murdered his mother. (Actually, I’m trying to remember the story and something like this might in fact be the case.) Anyway, if Bruce’s story were written well, we’d be standing in the aisles cheering him on! We might even go swimming that summer, knowing Bruce’s friends would be satisfied with their hero’s fine work; that the shark population was now safe from the evil doings of That Terrifying Human.

So you can see that, as a writer, knowing your antagonist’s goal and motivation can really help build its character, even if it’s never openly stated in the writing. But it will surely emerge, and the reader will sense it but possibly not understand why your antagonist is a truly terrifying one.

Sydney:
I totally get where Bruce is coming from. I feel like cheering him on – except that I’m not sure I agree with someone using violence to resolve their conflicts!

Kath has made a good point, though. Whether the non-human antagonist is a shark or a tsunami, anthropomorphising it will allow the reader to identify with it. Whatever the reader may think of this practice, it is effective. Perhaps it also shows the limits of the human imagination that we find it so hard to imagine a being whose psychology is different to our own. Even when we get back to basics – what does this creature need to survive? what does it fear? – we tend to make them human-like in their responses to these needs and dreads. I recall watching District 8, a movie out of South Africa, which uses a colony of aliens to discuss issues of refugees and asylum-seekers (and any marginalised group, really). The film-maker, who also wrote the script, was unable to imagine what it was like to be one of the aliens. His human hero was terrific, but the film fell short when it came to making the alien a riveting and complex character. Which means that the issues the film discussed were let down and undermined by this shortcoming in the movie.

In fact, now I think of it, any one of us can have trouble imagining what it is like to be someone else, human or animal or alien or force of nature, when what is really required of us is to step into the shoes of another being. Surely this is one of the great services fiction offers us all, whether it’s literary or genre: the chance to feel what it’s like to be someone else.

I love anthropomorphising! And Kathryn, you almost made me cry with your image of baby Bruce urging his poor dying, mutilated mother to swim … Readers, don’t forget to tell us your favourite bad guy for your chance to win books! Winners announced 30th March.

Kathryn Ledson is the author of Rough Diamond and Monkey Business (Penguin), part of the Erica Jewell series of romantic adventures. You can visit her website and find her blog at www.kathrynledson.com
Sydney Smith is a writing mentor, teacher and author of short stories, essays, and The Lost Woman, a memoir of survival. She is currently writing The Architecture of Narrative, a book about how to plot and structure fiction. She offers writing tips at www.threekookaburras.com. If you have a question on any aspect of writing, feel free to visit her at The Story Whisperer.

Unaccustomed As I Am To Public Speaking …

Introvert 1Are you a shy person? I am. I don’t like small talk, or parties or crowds, or my mobile phone. I do like time alone in the bush, working with horses and dogs, writing, reading … it doesn’t really matter. When I’m alone I’m at peace. One simple way to diagnose yourself is to take a free Myer Briggs personality test. I’m an INFJ which is apparently common among writers.

Public Speaking BCIntroversion generally suits a writer’s life except in one respect – public speaking. These days part of an author’s platform includes giving talks: at launches, libraries, book stores, etc. I’m even a member of a terrific group called The New Romantics, four authors (including Kathryn Ledson, Kate Belle and Margareta Osborn) who present panel discussions on different aspects of writing and reading at writer’s festivals. This sort of thing does not come naturally to a shy person, or so I thought until I read Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and other Introverts by Joanna Penn.

Joanna Penn Speaking

Joanna Penn Speaking

What a marvellous book! Joanna is an author, international speaker and entrepreneur based in London, England. She was voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. She is also an introvert. The premise of her book is that public speaking is not an act of extroversion – shy people can excel at it too. When Joanna first started speaking, she developed a stage persona, a kind of ‘extroverted shell.’ But putting on an appearance cost her in energy, authenticity and even health. It was only when she embraced her introversion that she found her true voice as a speaker. Her handbook covers psychological aspects, as well as practical things like preparing and giving a speech, all from the perspective of an inherently shy person. She also gives a disarming personal account of how she increased her own confidence and learned to cope with nerves. I wish I’d had this book years ago! Her website The Creative Penn has lots of resources for writers as well.

BB2013_Nominee

The Importance Of Author Identity

cross blogWelcome to my first joint cross-blog, which offers tips on writing, with particular emphasis on the romance genre. Every month, authors Kathryn Ledson, Sydney Smith and I will get together to discuss some aspect of the writing craft. These posts will be concise, to allow room for discussion with our readers. We welcome your questions and comments; feel free to respond on this page.

Kathryn Ledson is the author of Rough Diamond and Monkey Business (Penguin), part of the Erica Jewell series of romantic adventures. You can visit her website and find her blog at www.kathrynledson.com
Sydney Smith is a writing mentor, teacher and author of short stories, essays, and The Lost Woman, a memoir of survival. She is currently writing The Architecture of Narrative, a book about how to plot and structure fiction. She offers writing tips at www.threekookaburras.com. If you have a question on any aspect of writing, feel free to visit her at The Story Whisperer.

This month’s topic for discussion is:

Romance is a huge genre. What do you advise writers to do to get their novel noticed by editors and readers?

VoiceKathryn: VOICE gives an author’s work a unique flavour. Like a fingerprint, the writer’s voice, however similar it may sound to others, and however much others might mimic it, is pure and unique. But without the writer’s PASSION, voice alone may be weak and bland. Passion breaks through the monotony of stories built on formula and shines a spotlight on that author’s work. In novel writing, my passion for humour and action in stories emerges almost without my permission. As a young child I adored adventure stories, reading everything Enid Blyton and Elyne Mitchell could produce. Through television and film I discovered my sense of humour. Even as a child I understood that irony (for me) is the funniest form of humour. So it’s not really a surprise that adventure and irony feature in my romance stories. My character and her actions give them form, which in turn gives my voice its strength and individuality. And this ultimately gives me, the author, a distinctive identity.

Jennifer: I agree with Kathryn that a distinctive identity is important to any author, especially a genre author. There are two aspects to this – one is voice, and the other is branding. Developing a unique voice is an organic process. It’s more than style, or vocabulary choice, or the decision to write in first or third person. It’s the authentic expression of you on the page – your feelings, dreams, passions and fears showing through in the words that you write. It takes courage to write so honestly, and not hide behind a derivative mask. But it’s worth it, because a truly original voice will always attract attention.

brandBranding is more strategic, but it still evolves from who you are on the inside. An important aspect of my novels, for instance, is a passion for nature. This became my brand, my point of difference, as my editor calls it. We all have a personal brand; it’s just a matter of recognising it. Romance is a crowded marketplace. Your brand will make you stand out from the pack, help you market your writing and attract a readymade readership of people who identify with your particular sub-genre.

Sydney: It’s interesting that both of you identify passion as an essential ingredient. Passion for the story you are writing, passion for your characters, your themes, passion for the things you want to communicate to readers about your concerns as writers – Jennifer for nature, and Kathryn who loves humour and adventure, which is as legitimate a concern as anything. The writer’s passion speaks clearly to the reader and helps to get them involved in the story. Other things have to be there to hold the reader’s attention, but passion is as essential as technical skill.

What do readers think? Do you like reading about certain themes? Or a certain kind of romance (adventure, comic, mystery? They come in so many hybrids.) What attracts you to a particular novel in a genre?

BB2013_Nominee

The Writing Process Blog Hop: Writers Reveal Their Process

Writing process 1It’s great to be taking part in this blog hop on The Writing Process. Thanks to the lovely Pamela Cook for tagging me. If you missed Pamela’s post last week you can find it here. Pamela is the author of Blackwattle Lake and Essie’s Way, published by Hachette. Apart from writing, Pamela is a teacher and mother of three gorgeous daughters. She also manages a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, birds, fish and horses and her favourite pastime (after writing) is riding her handsome quarter horse, Morocco.

Essie's Way coverPamela lives in the southern suburbs of Sydney and spends as much time as possible at her “other” home in Milton on the south coast of NSW. Being a country girl at heart and spending so much of her time around horses enticed Pamela to “write what you know” and she’s more than happy to now be a writer of Rural Fiction. Connect with Pamela via her Website, Twitter or Facebook.

And now for my own responses to The Writing Process questions:
1)   What am I working on?
I’m finishing copyedits for Billabong Bend, a star-crossed love story set in the riverlands. It will be released by Penguin in May of this year. My current work-in-progress is a novel set in cane country, near the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. See my early attempt at a blurb below.

cane fieldsUnlucky-in-love zoologist Zoe King has given up on men. Moving from Sydney to the small sugar town of Kiawa means a fresh start and she is charmed by the region’s beauty – by its rivers and rainforests. By its vast cane fields, sweeping from the foothills down to the rocky coral coast.  And by its people – its farmers and fishermen, unhurried and down to earth, proud of their traditions.

Her work at the Sea-Life Centre provides all the passion she needs and Zoe finds a friend in Bridget, the centre’s director. So the last thing she expects is to fall for her boss’s boyfriend, sugar cane king Quinn Cooper. When animals on the reef begin to sicken and die, Zoe’s personal and professional worlds collide. She faces a terrible choice. To protect the reef must she betray the man she loves?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Like Pamela Cook I write rural fiction, currently a very popular genre. The main point of difference with my novels is a passion for the plants, animals and birds of the bush. This shines through in authentic stories set in Australia’s magnificent wild places, with various environmental themes at their heart.

3)   Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always enjoyed a deep affinity with nature, and I channel my passion for the environment into my books. The natural world is full of drama, risk and exquisite beauty – perfect fodder for a novelist! I also enjoy an old-fashioned love story. For me, a good romance is not just about two people falling for each other. The original, medieval concept of a romance always involved a quest, and I think a modern one should too – it is the heroine’s search for herself. For until a character discovers her authentic core, she can’t genuinely connect with another person. So I like to show a woman coming into her strength and fullness as a human being.

4Save the Cat 2)   How does my writing process work?
I’ve written six novels now, and am beginning my seventh. My first manuscript took more than two years to write. Of course you don’t know quite what you’re doing with a first novel, but you learn a lot about the craft along the way. Once I was published I had to be more practical about my process in order to meet deadlines. Although I’m a pantster at heart, I now plan a lot more, using a loose, three act structure. This plan is flexible however, and doesn’t prevent the story from evolving organically. With my new novel I plan to write 1,000 words a day, five days a week. Let’s see how I go!

Next week three wonderful writers share their thoughts on the writing process:

Kate Belle is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter and a menagerie of neurotic pets. Her first book, The Yearning, was released in 2013 to rave reviews. Her second, Being Jade is due for release in June 2014 (Simon & Schuster Australia). She blogs regularly at The Ecstasy Files and as a guest to whoever will have her.
Blog/website: http://www.ecstasyfiles.com
Facebook:      http://www.facebook.com/katebelle.x
Twitter:  @ecstasyfiles https://twitter.com/ecstasyfiles
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6572571.Kate_Belle
The Reading Room: http://www.thereadingroom.com/kate-belle/ap/2394119

Kathryn Ledson has worked as a PA in the corporate world, for Hayman Island’s PR team, and as Peter Ustinov’s PA during his Australian tour. She has also been on the road with rock bands Dire Straits and AC/DC. She now works as a freelance editor, but her passion is writing popular fiction for Penguin. She is the author of Rough Diamond and the newly released Monkey Business. Connect with Kathryn via her Website , Facebook or Twitter

A.C. Flory is an Australian indie science fiction writer who is a master of world building. The questions she asks most are why and why not? I love that her writing is not human-centric. In her first published novel Vokhtah, the characters are entirely alien, deeply observed and intriguing. It is the first book of a trilogy and I look forward to the rest of the series. She has also published a fabulous collection of short stories set at the end of the 21st century called The Vintage Egg (Postcards From Tomorrow). Connect with A.C. Flory via her website, Facebook or Twitter.

Congratulations to Karen Stalker for winning a signed copy of Currawong Creek in the Australia Day prize draw, and thanks to everybody else for entering! Karen, I’ll send you an email shortly.

BB2013_Nominee

The New Romantics

The New Romantics

L-R Kate Belle, Me, Jan Bull, Kathryn Ledson and Margareta Osborn

I’ve joined forces with authors Kate Belle, Kathryn Ledson and Margareta Osborn to form a panel called The New Romantics. Together we present a fresh and modern take on Aussie love stories. Though none of us write traditional ‘romance’, we all have strong romantic elements in our books.

 

 

CC 1 003Yesterday was our very first gig. It was in celebration of National Bookshop Day, and we were warmly welcomed and entertained by the gorgeous people of Foster and South Gippsland. Many thanks to Jan and Bob of Foster’s Little Bookshop, for organising and hosting the event!

 

Rough Diamond Front Cover FinalI talked about how a modern romance may be all about passion, but it’s not just about the passion between two people falling in love. The medieval concept of romance always involved some sort of a quest, and so does a modern love story – it is a character’s search for herself. I also talked about how my passion for the environment is channelled into my stories.

 

 

Hope's RoadMargareta (author of Bella’s Run and Hope’s Road) talked about her own, marvellous brand of rural fiction. As a fifth-generation farmer, her ties to the land are very strong and her books convey a sense of place, community and belonging. Kathryn (author of Rough Diamond) gave us her hilarious take on romantic comedy. Kate (author of The Yearning) discussed whether or not that happy-ever-after ending is an essential element of a modern romance novel, and much, much more.

Yearning lo resAll in all it was a fabulous day, and an encouraging beginning to our life together as an author panel. We are available for events and festivals! Contact the lovely Kate Belle (ecstasyfiles at gmail dot com), who has become our de facto organiser. I look forward to many more stimulating authorly discussions and would love for you all to join us sometime in the future!

BB2013_Nominee

Rough Diamond

Kathryn LedsonNow for a real treat – a guest blog by author Kathryn Ledson, talking about Rough Diamond, her debut release with Penguin Books. Kath and I have been mates for years, so I’ve been privy to the development of this marvellous new series, starring reluctant heroine, Erica Jewell. Now it’s over to Kath.

“Thanks Jen. Rough Diamond came to me in a flood of romantic scenes starring Erica Jewell and Jack Jones. By the seat of my pants and on the edge of my seat I poured love onto the page. And that, I thought, was all I had to do. I finished my manuscript – almost 120,000 words – and submitted it. Only then did I discover that something called a PLOT wouldn’t go astray.

Rough Diamond Front Cover FinalI’d already done a writing course; a pretty good one, in fact. But when I enrolled it hadn’t occurred to me that I might one day write a novel. I was a corporate gal. Surely I’d return to that world and carry on in a different career, one that involved writing?

At the end of 2008, when Erica Jewell announced herself and demanded my full attention, I felt I had no choice but to give her space to exist. That seems crazy – I understand that – but it’s true. Her desire to be was so powerful, so all-consuming, I rejected other writing opportunities in favour of getting this novel out of my head. The problem was that I hadn’t taken “How to Write a Novel” as part of that writing course. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing!

Rough Diamond was already a seed that had been planted back in the early ‘80s by a television show called Scarecrow and Mrs King starring Kate Jackson, fresh from Charlie’s Angels. Is anyone out there old enough to remember it? I recently bought Series One and started watching it again. It was really very corny as so many shows were in the ‘70s and ‘80s and I only watched one episode. But back then I’d loved it! It was my weekly escape. I’d imagine being (the widowed or divorced – can’t remember) Mrs King and having a dreamy looking (well, I thought so) tough guy whisk me into an exotic, sexy world of spies and espionage. Poor Mrs King was so daggy, turning up at black tie events in her cardy and sensible shoes, but the spy fell in love anyway and rescued Mrs King from the shelf by marrying her (which is what all women wanted). Of course, the wedding – the happily-ever-after – meant the death of the series, as it usually does.

Erica Jewell is a bit more fashionable than Mrs King, but no more competent in her efforts to assist Jack Jones and his team of vigilantes save Melbourne from terrorists. She does quite fancy Jack – he’s gorgeous of course – but she was put off men when her lying-cheating-bastard husband took off with some bimbo in a sports car (that’s Erica saying that, not me). And Jack himself is commitment phobic since he lost his wife and parents in New York on that fateful day in 2001. He is drawn to Erica – probably confused as to why – and there’s an ongoing dance of attraction between the two that I plan on drawing out for many books to come!

So far, so good. Emerald Island (no. 2) is well under way with Erica finding herself on dangerous turf in a war-ravaged land trying to find the missing-in-action Jones. He doesn’t want to be rescued by a woman, but she reckons she’s not leaving there without him. I’m not sure how it’ll all end up – surely there’ll be tears, spiders, some romance and … book 3?

NB: I’ve since had so many teachers – official and unofficial including great talents like Jen Scoullar – I finally kind of worked it out and managed to score a two-book deal with Penguin. I’m still learning today, though. I don’t think we should ever stop.”

ROUGH DIAMOND

Rough Diamond Front Cover Final“What I want in life makes a very short list: no debt, no surprises and definitely NO men. Except the ones at work and the mechanic and the ones who get the spiders out of your car.” Erica Jewell, Rough Diamond.

The shock ending to Erica Jewell’s marriage has left a huge hole in her bank balance and a bigger one in her heart. So now her life goals include no more men! That is, until she finds one bleeding to death in her Melbourne garden one stormy Friday night.

Jack Jones is a man whose emotional wounds are more life-threatening than the bullet in his shoulder. Under orders, he recruits Erica to his secret team of vigilantes, and Erica suspects her safe, predictable world is about to be turned upside down.  And she’s absolutely right.

Funny, romantic, and action-packed, Rough Diamond introduces Australia’s own Stephanie Plum – the unforgettable Erica Jewell.

Well thank you Kath, for telling us about the process that led you to write Rough Diamond. I’m always fascinated to hear these stories. Thanks also for the shout-out, but you didn’t need help from me. You’re a natural at this romantic comedy stuff! Looking forward to the rest of the series. If you’re after an entertaining summer read, I highly recommend Kathryn’s books. e-Rough Diamond was released by Penguin on 20 December. The physical book will be in store on 30 January 2013. Feel free to contact Kathryn via her new website: www.kathrynledson.com.

Finally, I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas, and thanks so much for the support you’ve shown me. See you in the New Year!

Brumby’s Run – Melbourne Writer’s Festival Launch

Yesterday saw Brumby’s Run launched by Andrea Goldsmith at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. For me, the day was the culmination of a fraught and fascinating journey. What a marvellous moment – to achieve my dream of mainstream publication, and to celebrate it with my readers, friends and family. And not only that, to do so at such an important festival, deep in the heart of Melbourne, a Unesco City of Literature. Melbourne’s literary heritage and culture is internationally recognised, and I am proud to be part of it. I am also proud to be out with Penguin, so thanks to my lovely publisher, Belinda Byrne.

Andrea Goldsmith has published six novels. Her seventh book, The Memory Trap, will  be released by Harper Collins next year. Rich in ideas and characterisation, her novels tell of contemporary life in all its diversity. Narratives of ambition, love, family, art, music and relationships abound in her books. But for me, Andrea is more than an acclaimed and gifted author – she has been my friend and mentor for years. So it was doubly delicious to have her stand up for me yesterday.

Andrea Goldsmith and MC Troy Hunter

As always, Andrea was bright, erudite and charming. Her generous praise of Brumby’s Run impressed me so much, I wanted to buy it myself! Rather than go with the tired old speech-then-reading format, Andrea proposed a Q&A session instead. This lifted the launch, making it far more dynamic and entertaining. Thanks for that suggestion Andrea, and also of course, for your longstanding support and wisdom.

 

Andrea and the Little Lonsdale group

My friend Troy Hunter (from the Little Lonsdale Group, aka LLG), was MC for the event and what an inspired performance it was too! The Little Lonsdale Group is my talented writing group. We all completed an advanced Year of the Novel with Andrea a few years ago, and have since gone from strength to strength. Mine is the second launch from our group so far. First was Margareta Osborn (Bella’s Run) in March. Next will be Kate Rizzetti and Kathryn Ledson, and it won’t stop there. We can look forward to many marvellous writing achievements from this group in the months and years to come.

So thank you for to everybody who either came along yesterday, or who sent me their kind wishes. I appreciate each and every one of you! Now it’s time to concentrate on finishing my new novel, Firewater, due out with Penguin next year.