Ten quirky habits of a romance author

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To celebrate release day for her Choc Lit debut Little Pink Taxi, Marie Laval is sharing her ‘ten quirky habits of a romance author’. But that’s not all. Read right until the end of the post for details of an exclusive competition too! 

Today is the day I waited so long for – the day my romantic comedy Little Pink Taxi is released. I have been talking nonstop to friends, family and colleagues about it, and have been inundated with questions regarding my writing process. How I get my ideas? How do I pick the setting for the story, or choose my characters’ names? Do I have a routine? And so on … So I thought I would try and answer some of them today.

1)   The notepad

This may seem terribly mundane, but the first thing I do when I start a new story is to buy a notepad, but not just any notepad. It has to be a French Clairefontaine exercise book. I am addicted to them, probably because they are smooth and shiny, and remind me of being at school in France. Once I have my new notepad, I carry it in my handbag, and fill it with everything and anything I can think of about the setting, the characters’ background, their feelings and motivations. I jot down random thoughts, dialogues, quotes or even poems and songs.

2)   The map

I absolutely love maps, so the next thing I do after buying a notepad is to purchase a good road map of the area where the story is set. I now have an extensive collection, including maps of Algeria, the Highlands of Scotland, Provence, Paris and Bordeaux, where my next two novels are set. I like to refer to existing landmarks but the actual setting is always fictitious. In Little Pink Taxi, Raventhorn castle and the village of Irlwick are made up, but most of the other places mentioned are real.

 3)   The hero

How strange that I always know exactly what my heroine looks like, but that I need to search the internet and flick through countless adventure, sailing, mountaineering or car racing magazines for inspiration about the hero! This is however time pleasantly spent, and undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable aspects of my research. For Marc, my inspiration was Daniel Craig …

4)   The characters’ names

Sometimes names spring into my mind even before I get an idea about the storyline, but in some cases it can take a little longer. Rosalie Heart’s name was an obvious choice as soon as I figured out her personality – kind and bubbly – and her occupation as the driver of a pink taxi. Marc Petersen’s name took a little longer to click. In fact, he was called Magnus at first – a reference to his Danish ancestry – then I decided to make his name sound more French, since he is after all half French too. The names of the hero and heroine have to fit well together, and as Marc and Rosalie sounded like a good match, I was happy with my choice.

5)   The setting

Several years ago there was a television series I liked very much which was called Monarch of the Glen and which featured a beautiful castle called Glenbogle Castle. I loved it so much that I have wanted to set a story in a castle just like it ever since. In my mind, Raventhorn – the fictitious castle in Little Pink Taxi – is identical to Glenbogle castle, and like in the series, there is a loch and a forest, and of course, the dramatic backdrop of Cairngorms.

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A castle that looks similar to Glenbogle.

Unfortunately, having never stayed in a beautiful Scottish castle, I had to rely on research to get a feel for the place. That’s where the Internet is so useful. You can take virtual tours of hotels and stately homes, visit estate agents websites, watch documentaries or use Google Earth. When I have collected lots of photos, I like to create Pinterest board. You can look at the one I made for Little Pink Taxi here.

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Cairngorms National Park

6)   The playlist

I couldn’t write romance without having a soundtrack for my story. Rosalie Heart loves pop music and always sings to her favourite radio station, Happy Baby Radio, when she is driving. Unfortunately she can’t sing and her choice of music drives Marc crazy. So, which songs were in the Little Pink Taxi‘s playlist? Being French, I could have included Joe Le Taxi, but I chose old favourites such as ‘Don’t Speak’ by No Doubt, ‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight’ by Leanne Rimes, Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose’, and songs by Sade, The Lighthouse Family and Gabrielle.

7)   The facts

I love research and could happily spend weeks reading articles, books and journals. For Little Pink Taxi, I learnt a lot about Norse mythology, got sidetracked into researching the meaning of tattoos in the Russian mafia (which I didn’t use in the end!), and of course, I read about taxi driving.

8)    The dark moments

There are days when words flow and the characters talk to me, but there are also lots of dark moments when I despair that everything I write is rubbish. When that happens, I go for a walk to clear my head or I talk the problems over with my daughter Clémence at our favourite local café. As she is only twelve, she is far too young to read my books, but talking to her usually does the trick and helps me find solutions to the problems. That’s why Little Pink Taxi is especially dedicated to her!

9)   The gift

When I come to the end of a novel I buy myself something that reminds me of the story or the characters, and this time I treated myself with a lovely scarf and tweed handbag from a Scottish brand – both pink, of course!

10) The inspirational quotes

And lastly, in times of doubt or when I have so much on I don’t know how on earth I’ll manage, I remember my mother telling me to stop moaning and ‘Take the bull by the horns’. My own favourite inspirational quote is from French author Paul Valery: ‘The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.’

Little Pink Taxi is out now and available to purchase on all eBook platforms. Click the banner below for purchasing options. 

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COMPETITION TIME! 

To celebrate the release of Little Pink Taxi, which is set in the Scottish Highlands, Marie Laval is giving away FOUR fabulous tweed corsages from Ness Clothing  to four lucky winners!

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To be in with a chance of winning, simply make sure you have read the above blog post carefully and then answer these four questions. Enter by sending your answers to info@choc-lit.co.uk:

1. What nationality is Marc Petersen (the hero from Little Pink Taxi)?
2. What real-life castle was the inspiration for Raventhorn Castle in the book?
3. Which TV series inspired Marie Laval to write Little Pink Taxi?
4. What is the name of Rosalie Heart’s favourite radio station?

About the Author:

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for a number of years. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, she writes contemporary and historical romance. Her native France very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!

You can get in touch with Marie on Facebook and Twitter, and why not check the beautiful photos of Scotland and Denmark on the special Little Pink Taxi Page on Pinterest?

Lynda Stacey’s Top 10 tips for becoming an author!

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Yesterday we celebrated the paperback release of Tell Me No Secrets by Lynda Stacey and today we have Lynda on the blog sharing her top 10 tips for becoming an author! Aspiring authors, take note! 

When I began writing Tell Me No Secrets, it was a very different book. The whole story was different, it had totally different characters and a whole other plot going on. But the more I wrote, the more Kate Duggan screamed to become the heroine of the book. She just stood out, her personality was huge and after months and months of writing the initial story, I literally deleted it all and brought Kate Duggan forward to take the lead role … and now I’m so happy that I did. The story is now better for the changes and I’m really excited to have this book released as a paperback.

Kate is quite a complex heroine but I love her. Her back story is extensive and we join her at a time in her life when things really should be getting easier … not more difficult. She’s in a relationship with Rob, her fiancé. She’s about to start a new job, the first she’s had since being involved in a massive car accident that not only killed her only brother, but paralysed her sister and left her, Kate with the most horrendous red, puckered scar that had carved itself across her jawline. This whole event has left Kate with OCD, and I found this a really useful tool in the crafting of her character.

And with this in mind, here are my Top 10 tips for becoming an author…!

  1. Read as much as you can. Read widely, and read multiple genres. Look at how other writers construct their books. I’ve read for years and years. You could say I’ve been in training for being an author since I was around 4 years old.
  2. Write about something you are passionate about …!
  3. Don’t be afraid to start again. I’d written around 20,000 words when I decided that Kate Duggan just had to be the main character and no, I don’t regret the deletions.
  4. Stop talking about writing a book … sit down … and write. It isn’t going to write itself.
  5. Don’t show your writing to anyone else until you at least have a beginning, a middle and an end. I can guarantee that by the time you get even close to the end, you’ll have altered parts of the beginning and middle at least three or four times.
  6. Don’t send that first novel off the moment you’ve typed ‘THE END’. My advice is to put it away, start writing something new and come back to it after a couple of months with fresh eyes.
  7. Get a professional critique. I really can’t stress this enough. I had my work critiqued by the lovely Jane Lovering, who was amazing. I can honestly say that her critique gave me all the tips I needed to move my novel forward.
  8. Exercise patience. It takes months for agents or publishers to make decisions. Unfortunately, your work is not the only manuscript on their desk. Take the time to write something else.
  9. Build your social media profile. Follow people on twitter, create a professional author page on Facebook and above all else, keep your tweets/posts professional. Don’t get involved in politics or controversial subjects.
  10. Finally, DON’T ever give up. If you get rejected, write something else and try again. The first novel I ever wrote was rejected … it’s now been rewritten and is the second novel that I had published… Its title: Tell Me No Secrets

About Tell Me No Secrets: 

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Can a secret be worse than a lie?
Every time Kate Duggan looks in a mirror she is confronted by her guilt; a long, red scar reminding her that she was ‘the one to walk away’ from the car accident. Not everyone was so lucky …
On the surface her fiancé Rob is supportive – but the reality is different. He’s controlling, manipulative and, if the phone call Kate overhears is anything to go by, he has a secret. But just how dangerous is that secret?
When Kate begins work at a firm of private investigators, she meets Ben Parker. His strong and silent persona is intriguing but it’s also a cover – because something devastating happened to Ben, something he can’t get over.
As Kate and Ben begin their first assignment, they become close. But, what they don’t realise is how close to home the investigation will bring them, or who will be hurt in the process …

Buying links: 

Amazon UK: https://goo.gl/1c6q9r
Wordery: https://goo.gl/7vj3en

For more on Lynda Stacey:
Follow her on Twitter @LyndaStacey
Like her on Facebook Lynda Stacey Author
Vist her website www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Sarah Tranter – What am I working on now … and a tip or two

I consider myself to be a very lucky girl at the mo. I’m spending rather a lot of time with Nate. Anyone who has read No Such Thing as Immortality will know exactly who I mean. Nathaniel Gray, the former Earl of Ridings, but now a two-hundred year old vampire.

copy-of-nstai_packshotI’m working on book 2 of the No Such Thing series. As this book continues Nate’s story, and is written from his perspective, the two of us are finding ourselves engaged in an awful lot of one-to-one time. It’s at times like these I ask myself why I ever became a writer. It’s such a very very hard life :)

He’s intense, too. Seriously intense. And has been leading me astray no end. All he has to do is look at me with those eyes of his and raise a brow. Plot line? There was one once upon a time, but now I have not a clue where he’s leading me. I know where I want him to end up, but he’s presently got other ideas. But it’s his prerogative. It’s his story after all. And I am so enjoying the ride.

I’ve yet to decide on a title for this second book. No such thing as […..]? There are currently four possible blank-fillers, although the count is growing daily rather than shrinking. We will see.

So there you go. What I am presently working on. If you can of course, call it work. And to all those who have contacted me to find out when book two is out ― soon I hope  :)

Edits also loom for Romancing the Soul, due out in January 2014. This one is ratherrts_small different – not a vampire or faerie in sight. Mainstream but with perhaps a twist as two soul mates deal with the consequences of meeting during a past life regresssion.  I adore the cover for this one, too – thank you so much Berni Stevens and Choc Lit!

And a couple of writing tips for those that way inclined. I’m not at all sure I’m qualified to give them. I kind of make things up as I go along. And no doubt I will not be asked to provide them again. But on the basis of recent weeks, I would suggest:

Not letting your characters go into a kitchen when you are on a diet (see – I so won’t be asked again). You might think you have your cravings under control, but your characters will likely prove otherwise. You will end up with a scene incorporating all of your favourite comfort foods. In my case, quite an accomplishment with so many of the cast being vampires, not at all interested in hot toasted bagels with marmite or macaroni cheese. You may be able to make use of some of it. You may not. But it’s safe to say it can rather take you off course.

The second ― I’m actually chuffed to bits with. In my case, it has allowed me dedicated early morning romps with Nate. The advice? If you seem to be struggling to get words down on the page, try making a dramatic change to your writing routine. I’m not a morning person at all. No Such Thing as Immortality was written very late at night and right through it on occasions. But with my boys’ bedtime getting later and later and with that, the point at which I can recommence writing (I am knackered at 9.30pm) I’ve had to take desperate measures. I’ve been setting my alarm clock to go off at 5am. And for me, sitting in front of my laptop in a freezing cold kitchen at 5.10am, kitted out in extreme weather gear, has proved an amazing incentive to write. I am only out of my warm cosy bed to write. If I don’t write, I’ve wasted that huge effort that was getting up. Previously, that pre-feeding the boys 5―7am slot was spent asleep so I now only associate that time with writing. I find I don’t get distracted with washing and cleaning because I simply wouldn’t climb out of my bed at that time in the morning to do that stuff. It may not work for everyone. In fact, it may only work for me (generally work ― kids!) ― but it’s a great sensation to know you’ve words under your belt before the day starts proper. In my case, that sensation, obviously, has absolutely nothing to do with having a bit of extra time with Nate :)

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