Me and a friend went to the Choclit girls night in at Waterstones in Bury St Edmunds last night and I had a fantastic time.
I got to meet Margaret James, Christine Stovell and Christina Courtney for the first time and I also got to see Sue Moorcroft, whom I had met before. All the ladies are absolutely lovely and so friendly to talk to. They knew I am writing my first novel at the moment and all had such lovely things to say and words of encouragement for me!
The evening didn’t start as planned, unfortunately, when my friend and I got lost on the way and ended up driving past the place twice! We finally managed to park and walked in a couple of minutes late so apologies to the Choclit ladies, especially Christina Courtney whose talk we interrupted!
Each speaker spoke about their journey to becoming a writer, a little about themselves and also about their current books that are out. Unfortunately I didn’t have my notebook to make individual notes on what all the women spoke about so I will have to generalise I’m afraid.
All of the women, apart from Sue, had been to university before embarking on their writing careers. I think that this is neither help nor hindrance in becoming a writer; it is simply a different avenue to take. All of the women have been very successful with their novels and so it shows that it just takes hard work, dedication, and a love for writing to get you there. (With a measure of luck thrown in as with a lot of things in life.)
Many of the women said they had started writing, whether it was short stories, stories for magazines etc, when their children were young; which is exactly what I am doing now. I think all of them said that it had taken them many attempts at writing before becoming the published authors they are today.
We learnt a little about Choclit Publishing, and what their criteria are for their published novels. They are basically looking for a romance novel, whether it be contemporary romance, historical romance, mystery, thriller….. as long as there is a hot guy and a romantic theme in there you should be OK. They also require that some of the novel be written from the hero’s POV. They do have some other criteria that is stated on their website here.
Their process of reading manuscripts that come in is that they send them out to their reading panel (of which I am happy to say I am part of). This is split into 3 age groups and each MS is sent to each age group twice- so each MS gets read a whopping 6 times! If it is a hit with the readers, Choclit will consider publishing it.
After they had each spoken, we had a short Q & A session. I asked the question about agents and whether or not they are a necessity. The feeling across the board was pretty much the same in saying that if you were able to find a good agent then it could be helpful to you, however, the ladies themselves do not have agents and deal with Choclit directly. I think the general thought amongst us all and what we hear people say too, is that publishers will not look at work that has not come in via and agent. But Sue said that if you meet publishers at events (especially if you are a member of the RNA as they have lots of opportunities for gatherings where you can meet and mingle with writers, editors, publishers, agents etc etc) then if you ask if they would read your work, chances are if they have met you and liked you, they will. It’s all about taking the chances that are given to you and making it happen – becoming published ins’t going to miraculously fall into your lap!
Afterwards the ladies all signed copies of their books and were available for a chat. I got all my books signed from all four women and managed to have a few words with each which was lovely; especially as most of them I was meeting for the first time.
Meeting Margaret, who was my tutor at the LSJ, was brilliant. It was so nice to finally say hello in person, she is lovely, and such an amazing writer. I am about a third of my way through The Silver Locket and enjoying it immensely.
Speaking with Sue was great. I have met Sue before and as always she was full of very interesting and useful information. She is a great public speaker and very much tells you how it is. I am yet to read Want to Know A Secret, but I have read her previous novels which were published with Choclit, Starting Over and All That Mullarkey which I absolutely loved! So I am looking forward to reading her latest.
Then I met Christine Stovell – what a lovely lady! She was so nice to talk to and had such wonderful words for me and great encouragement for my work. I have read Turning The Tide and I really enjoyed it. She told me she was looking forward to reading my book one day and that made my day. To have other authors, of whom you have read and enjoyed their work, say they look forward to reading yours really is an amazing feeling. Margaret also said this to me, and Sue has my MS to read as we speak!
Finally I got to meet Christina Courtney. Unfortunately I have not yet had time to read her novel, Trade Winds, but it is definitely on my TBR pile. I will get round to it soon. But from the reviews I have read it is a very highly recommended book. She was nice to talk to and had some interesting points to make during the talks.
I wish all the ladies every success with their new books – although I don’t think I need to as they are extremely talented writers and their books can very much hold their own.
Good Luck ladies!