Thursday, 24 May 2012

#Romcom4all - The Big Secret

In keeping with the recent campaign #Romcom4all - which calls for men who love reading romance novels to ‘man up’ and admit to it and for publisher's and book stores to refrain from tagging Relationship Novels as gender specific - I asked internationally bestselling romance novel author Kenneth Rosenberg to tell us all his ‘Big Secret’!

Take it away Kenneth!
I’ve always loved ships.  Big or small, old or new, there is something about the romance of the sea that I always found irresistible.  When I see a ship I have to wonder, where has it been?  Where is it headed?  What adventures await whoever steps on board?

At one point in my life, I decided to finally put these questions to the test.  Like Hermann Melville and Joseph Conrad before me, I opted to sign on as a deckhand and go to sea.  My first big voyage was on a ship laying fibre optic cables across the Pacific.  I took two books with me.  Moby Dick and…  Bridget Jones’ Diary.
The first book was an obvious choice.  I was partly inspired to embark on the journey by Melville after all.  I took the second book because, well, I’ve always had a soft spot for romantic fiction.  I just can’t help it.  I suppose I’m a born romantic at heart.
The problem in this particular case was that the cover consisted of a woman’s giant red lips.  There was no question that this was a book for women, not for deckhands on a ship in the middle of the ocean.
Now I will assume that most of the readers of this blog have not been fortunate enough to work in the merchant marines, but you can probably imagine that by and large the other sailors were manly men.  Not the type who would read fiction in general, and definitely not women’s fiction in particular.
Every time I went to the lounge at the end of the day to read a little bit, I found myself doing my very best to hide the cover from anyone else’s eyes.  I loved the book, but I was embarrassed.  The last thing I wanted was for any of these sailors to see me reading a chic-lit novel!  I might never hear the end of it…
Now years later, I struggle with a similar dilemma.  I’ve written not one but two romantic novels myself.  One of these even has hearts all over the cover.  I can only guess what the deckhands might think of that.
When people ask me what types of novels I write, I still have to pause sometimes before saying romance, but I’m getting used to it.  I guess my point is; I can understand men being a little embarrassed to admit that they like romantic fiction.  I’m a little embarrassed and I write it!  But just because I still struggle sometimes to admit it, that doesn’t mean I enjoy romantic novels any less.
Perhaps the stigma will never disappear.  Men in our society are supposed to be tough and unemotional, but the truth is that everyone wants to fall in love, no matter your gender.
I have been fortunate enough to receive e-mail messages from some of my readers telling me that they enjoyed my books and several of those have actually come from men.  It always surprises me when I do hear from a man, first that they read the book and second that they bothered to tell me they liked it.
One came from a retired postal worker in a small English village, half a world away from me.  That one made my day, and I figure if he can admit he liked a romantic novel, perhaps the rest of us men should take a lesson from him!  And if not, then maybe keeping romance novels as a secret, guilty pleasure, isn’t so bad either.

Kenneth Rosenberg is a California writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Surfer Magazine and other publications. When he is not writing, Kenneth spends his time surfing, snowboarding and traveling the world on a shoestring. His next hotly anticipated novel 'Natalia' is available soon!

Buy Kenneth’s books on:
Thank you Kenneth!
I'm really looking forward to reading everyone's comments on this post - so please do leave one before you go!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mandy Baggot - A Rising Star on Tour!

Mandy Baggot has just been announced by Romantic Fiction Online as one of the rising stars of 2012. Mandy has just launched her fifth novel Taking Charge and I'm delighted to be hosting her as as part of her month long blog tour. Mandy is also one of the featured authors at and will be taking part at the Summer Audience Event in Tetbury Glos on the 16th June. Mandy has been previously self-published but signed with exciting Sapphire Star Publishing in January this year. Go Mandy!

Food Glorious Food

Hi Janice, thank you for taking part in the Taking Charge blog tour and for having me on your wonderful website! Now, as Janice has written a novel about a celebrity chef and because food plays quite an important role in Taking Charge I am going to be talking about all things eating!

My lead female Robyn Matthers is slightly obsessed with food and none of it is healthy. Her idea of food Heaven is opening up a large bag of kettle chips and devouring the whole lot with a dip to accompany it. She also has a love of gherkins (pickles), barbecue and ice cream. So now, DRUM ROLL PLEASE, I am going to reveal to you my top five favourite foods in DESERT ISLAND FOODS!

5. Roast Dinner
You know what I’m talking about. Nice breast of chicken, broccoli, carrots, swede (rutabaga LOL), peas, stuffing and a plate overflowing with thick gravy! Yum!

4. Greek salad
Not just for holidays! Lettuce, tomato, onion, olives and feta cheese, drizzled in olive oil.

3. Indian
A nice chicken Bombay on a bed of mushroom rice with a tarka dal and a garlic naan. It may not be that healthy but it’s LOVELY.

2. Chinese
Now most of you know that I ADORE food from my home village Chinese takeaway Pearl River. I cannot get enough of their sweet and sour chicken balls! We try and limit these to once a month but it would be a must for me to survive on a desert island.

1. Packet mashed potato
Yes! I had to have it as my number one desert island food. I could not survive without packet mashed potato. It’s quick to make, all you need is hot water and a fork and there’s a low fat hearty meal. I do really take a packet with me whenever I go away anywhere!

So there are my five desert island foods! Now we want to hear what you would take with you to that desert island. What food could you not live without? Leave a comment!

Mandy’s novel Taking Charge was released on 3 May 2012

Click here to buy on Amazon UK

Click here tobuy on

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Romcom for All…!

This week I’ve been completely bowled over by a fabulous independent review of my contemporary romance novel ‘Reaching for the Stars’ on Amazon UK. Why bowled over, you might ask?

Well, as I explained on Nicky Wells ‘Centrestage’ blog this week - it was because it was by a man!
Okay – he confessed to downloading my book by accident and then reading it anyway – but the fact remains that he enjoyed it, took the time to write a fabulous review, and then to download my previous book ‘Bagpipes & Bullshot’.

All of this made me wonder why bookshops, both on the high street and online, continue to label Relationship Novels as ‘Women’s Fiction’ as if men should have nothing to do with them?

It’s stereotyping in the extreme. Yet the market for relationship novels continues to expand and men and women are breaking the stereotypical role image every day in real life. So why do publishers insist that the covers of Chicklit genre novels are routinely pastel colours with swirly-girly illustrations rather than designing innovative covers with a wider appeal?
They would say they are ‘target marketing’ of course - and it’s an undeniable fact that women read more than men do and that women buy more books - but that is hardly forward thinking. It is being narrow minded. How are we ever going to encourage men to read romantic contemporary fiction if we alienate them?

Romcom for All!

Nicky’s Centrestage blog post attracted some interesting comments and stirred up some passions on the subject of genre gender divide. Nicky Wells said: “Men do read romance.  Yes, they do.  I know that for a fact. They just don’t talk about it, they don’t like to admit it, and they certainly wouldn’t want to be seen holding a romantic novel in their hands while travelling on the Tube. If you think about it, it’s kind of obvious.  Everyone loves a happy ending.  Everyone wants to be loved.  Everyone is looking for that special someone in their life.  Why should men not enjoy a romantic novel?  In fact, the clever man will read romance as a ‘how to’ manual!”

So do men have a lot to learn from a romantic relationship novel?
And are men more likely to read romance on an ereader?
What do YOU think?
As a woman – how do YOU feel about the segregation of ‘Women’s Fiction’
As a man – are YOU man enough to read a romance novel?

Fellow author Nicky Wells and I are calling for a campaign to bring ‘Romcom for All’
We will be tweeting using the hashtag #romcom4all.
Please join the debate and share your views!

Please do feel free to leave a comment before you go, share this post on Facebook or your other social networks, tag this blog with your own blog post so that we can follow YOU – and don’t forget to and tweet YOUR thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag  #romcom4all.
About my fellow author Nicky Wells:  Nicky Wells writes fun and glamorous contemporary romance featuring a rock star and the girl next door that rocks your world!  Nicky is signed to Sapphire Star Publishing and loves rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters.  When she’s not writing, she is a wife, mother, and teaching assistant.  Nicky is also a featured author with the innovative reader/author project, Visit Nicky on her blog where you can find articles, interviews, radio interviews and, of course, an ongoing update on her work in progress, the second and third parts of the Rock Star Romance Trilogy.  You can also follow Nicky on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Behind the Scenes…. Research

This is the first in a series of ‘Behind the Scenes’ posts that I’d like to do for writers and readers alike. It’s an account of how one writer constructs a novel from concept to completion and this first post is very much about concept. It’s actually the part I love the most. You see, for me, one of the best things about the whole writing process is all the fun research I do beforehand!

Some writers claim to do very little in the way of research but most I know do some in advance and more as they write the story. This is all very much on a ‘need to know’ basis. Many say they do research afterwards, in order to authenticate or flesh out already written scenes. I can see how this would be a time efficient way of working - but my approach to research is quite different as I advocate something I like to call ‘the total immersion method’.
You’ll know from previous posts about plotting that I don’t ever plan a storyline before I sit down to write, but that doesn’t mean that I’m at all unprepared. I start with two main characters and (as I write stories with a strong romantic thread) I will have already identified the conflicts, both physical and emotional, that will stand in the way of them falling deeply in love.
Once these conflicts are resolved of course, over the length of the entire story, we are led to an emotionally satisfying conclusion for both the characters and for the reader. But is it enough to simply write a ‘satisfying’ story? Fiction is all about living in another world for a while - and I’m not just talking about Sci-Fi or Fantasy genre here – but the importance of creating a realistic three dimensional setting with authentic real-life problems which relate to that setting.
I believe the best way for a writer to achieve this realism in fiction is through immersive research.
The Total Immersion Method.
I discovered this method entirely by accident while writing my first novel. I was at the penultimate chapter and my hero was in court and facing a jury. He was about to discover not only his fate but which of the two women in his life was going to stand by him. Suddenly, to my frustration, I realised that the scene wasn’t working and it was because I had no experience of actually being in a courtroom. Then something amazing happened: I was called up for jury service.
For a whole week I listened to the evidence presented and observed the formality of the setting, the tension in the room, the mannerisms of the judge, the lawyers and the barristers. It was the richest source of study for my novel I could have wished for and it taught me the true value of research. I went on to finish my scene, complete the novel, and have it immediately accepted by a publisher.
For my second novel, Bagpipes & Bullshot, I needed to know about Scottish country estate farming in order to get real perspective on what might work in my plot and what wouldn’t. So I donned my wellies and wax jacket and went out to explore the countryside and to interview farmers, gamekeepers and country estate staff. Getting out there and fully immersing myself in a real setting made my fictional one immediately come to life and revealed to me scenes and plotlines that I would never have imagined without the benefit of first-hand experience.
My third novel Reaching for the Stars is set in the world of top chefs and steamy kitchens and was, as I’m sure you can imagine, great fun to research! Interviewing Michelin starred chefs and those who cook for VIP’s and celebrities in real life gave me inside perspective and a fantastic but realistic setting for my entirely fictional novel about a gorgeous but lonely media-hounded celebrity chef with anxiety issues. Readers have said in reviews for Reaching for the Stars that they felt they were ‘transported to the scene’. All, I’m sure, not just down to this author’s overactive imagination but through her meticulous and immersive research.
Me with top chef Colin Masson

For my current work in progress, an exciting romance story about an eco-lawyer and an industrialist, my extensive research is done and the hard work of writing has now begun. But as work on this novel progresses, I’m also researching for the next book, which will be set in the wonderful world of horticulture. You see, in order to totally immerse myself in this research, I’m currently working part time hours in a fabulous independently owned garden centre - and just from my day to day real life experiences, I can already tell you that the plot ideas are flowing - and I can’t wait to get started on writing this next one too!
I’d love your thoughts on this post from the perspective of a reader, a writer, or both - so please do leave a comment and feel free to share on Twitter, Facebook etc etc.
See you next Friday!
Janice xx