Wednesday 18 May 2011

Romy Gemmell - Dangerous Deceit

With a cast of spies, villains and a tangled web of deception - who could ask for more in a historical novel?
This week I'm asking author Romy Gemmell about her exciting debut novel, her writing life, her journey to publication and why she describes herself as a 'butterfly writer'.

Romy, What can you tell us about your debut novel, Dangerous Deceit?

Dangerous Deceit is a historical novel of romantic intrigue set in Regency England (1813). My spirited heroine, Lydia, is uninterested in finding a husband but her heart is soon stirred when Lord Marcus Sheldon rides into her life. Sheldon is an undercover spy for the government and the last thing he wants is complicated feelings for his friend’s sister. A cast of spies, villains and a tangled web of deception bring danger, and it is not until a traitor is unmasked that love can claim its reward.

It all takes place to the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars when Britain and France were enemies. A little sub-plot is the budding romance between Lydia’s brother, James, and her friend, Elizabeth. But they are also caught in the web of deception that gets in the way of true love. Then there is the scheming Lady Smythe and the questionable relationship she might have had with Marcus Sheldon in the past. Hopefully the intrigue adds to the romantic elements!

What was your journey to publication like?
This was the first novel I ever wrote many years ago. I submitted it to the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, where a new author can have a full length novel critiqued by a professional writer. Dangerous Deceit received a very good Reader’s Report and, once I had attended to anything I was told to check, I was advised to send it to the publisher Robert Hale. So I sent off the first three chapters and a synopsis. I was delighted when they asked for the whole manuscript soon after. Then came the thump back to earth! I received a ‘rave rejection’. They liked the book and praised most of it, but thought it just wasn’t different enough for a first novel.
So, it was left languishing on the computer for too many years while I got on with a different type of novel for the next NWS submission. Now and then, I had a look for other publishers who took Regency novels but apart from Harlequin Mills & Boon (my novel didn’t suit their length or heat level!), other British publishers required an agent and most didn’t publish Regency. Funnily enough, there are many more Regency publishers now, so historicals must be back in fashion!
After leaving it aside in favour of other writing, I decided to redraft the novel and try again. An American publisher was interested and asked for the whole book. They thought it delightful but wanted a little more ‘relationship’ between the two main characters. I made several scenes stronger, but wasn’t willing to compromise my characters too much. I wanted to keep Lydia’s innocence, although I increased the sexual tension a little! I’m glad I didn’t resubmit it to them, as I like being with a Canadian publisher. I’m also pleased Hale didn’t publish that first version, as I think it’s much stronger now.

How did you find your Canadian publisher, Champagne Books?
After redrafting it that final time, I did some more research on publishers. Then I found a site that mentioned a few overseas publishers. I checked out individual websites and liked the sound of Champagne Books, so I submitted the first three chapters and synopsis by email and waited. A few months later, I was asked to send the whole novel. I kept fairly quiet about it as I didn’t want to get my hopes up. More months went by, then I received the lovely email to say congratulations, they were going to publish Dangerous Deceit! I couldn’t have been happier. It’s a friendly publishing house and their covers are some of the best I’ve seen.

Are you a member of writers’ groups - on line or otherwise - and how important are they to you?
Yes, I’ve been a member of my local writing group, Erskine Writers, for many years. Joining them was the most important decision I made when starting to write, as members have always been so supportive and encouraging. Through that, I joined the Scottish Association of Writers, and their annual conference was where I won my first short story competition which led to publication in My Weekly. I also joined the Scottish Fellowship of Christian Writers which has a quarterly newsletter, and their day conference lets me meet others who sometimes write for the Christian market.

I then got to know other wonderful Scottish authors through a friendly, helpful and supportive online forum and many of us are now friends, as we try to meet up in various parts of Scotland a few times a year. Once I joined the RNA, I became a part of their online group. Now, I am on so many more online forums that I can’t even remember how many there are. But each one brings me closer to other writers in all parts of the world and they are a wonderful resource for information, encouragement and virtual friendship.

How have you promoted/launched your book?
With the novel coming out in e-book first from a Canadian publisher, this was a learning curve! First, I started a new blog long before the book came out, as a dedicated Regency-type platform ( I already had a reading and writing blog ( where I’d got to know many people, so I promoted Dangerous Deceit on both, and on my website (
As soon as I received the cover art, I ordered postcards from Vistaprint, with the cover and book details on them. I’ve been handing these out to lots of people in unexpected places, especially if they show any interest in what I do. I also announced publication on most of the forums and on Facebook, as did the lovely Janice! The next biggest event was my fun cyber launch on my Regency blog, during publication week. It was a huge success and I was delighted with the great response to it. My publisher also alerts a few of the American online forums to their new releases and we have a chat day on two of them where we can promote our work. But promotion is an ongoing process.
What is a typical writing day - how do you manage your time -and where do you write?
None of the days are typical as I’m not that organized! I have found the best time to do new writing is to go straight to the computer, once showered and dressed, with my breakfast cereal and tea. But I must not get distracted with emails, blogs and forums first! I prefer to write during the morning at my computer in the study/extension, with a lovely view of the back garden and hills. I like to go to the mall once a week, however, to write while having coffee and cake at Costa – surprisingly, it’s very conducive to writing!

What is your next novel about and will it be written in the Regency period?
My next novel is actually a children’s novel for the 10-14 age group called ‘Summer of the Eagles’, which has recently been accepted by another Canadian publisher for release next March (as Ros Gemmell). Another completed adult novel (contemporary women’s fiction with alternate historical chapters), is currently being considered by an agent. But I am also writing another Regency – as well as a few other genres!

You write short stories, children's fiction, articles, and also enter competitions - where do all your ideas come from?
I’m afraid I’m a complete butterfly of a writer, flitting from one type of writing and genre to another, but I’m sure that’s why I never get bored or have writer’s block. Ideas are absolutely everywhere; in fact I had an article published about all the places you can find ideas, there are so many! Personally, I’m always inspired by people, and characters are the most important thing for me in fiction. I also love music, art and history, all of which have inspired some of my published stories in the past. My problem is often in knowing which idea to develop first!

Dangerous Deceit is now available to download as an e-book directly from your publishers and from Amazon - when it is available to buy as a paperback?

It will also be available soon from Smashwords and other e-book stores. It should be available in paperback from Champagne Books in a few months time. But I will announce it on my blogs and will try to have a small real launch this time.

Based in the west coast of Scotland, Rosemary Gemmell has short stories and articles published in UK magazines, in the USA and online. She was winner of Writing Magazine’s Annual Love Story Competition in 2005, and a story was included in the fund-raising 100 Stories for Haiti collection. A recent historical short story is included in the new ‘Waterloo Collection’. Three children’s stories were published in UK anthologies and she contributes Scottish historical articles to The Highlander magazine in the USA.