RoNAs – Result!

Monday was the Big Day – the annual RNA Awards now called the RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) – and as you may have heard already once or twice (or maybe more?), Choc Lit had a triumphant afternoon!

Kate, Christina and Jane

Kate, Christina and Jane

Jane Lovering won the Romantic Comedy category with Please Don’t Stop the Music, Christina Courtenay won the Historical Romantic novel category with Highland Storms and Kate Johnson only just missed out in the Contemporary novel category with her wonderful The Untied Kingdom.  As she lost to Katie Fforde, the RNA’s lovely President, we didn’t mind too much, and two out of three is a pretty good ratio any day!  And as Peter James, the chairman of the Crimewriters’ Association said before he handed out the prizes, all the shortlistees were winners – we totally agree with that.

Rather than boring you with endless trumpet-blowing though, we thought we’d give you Jane’s, Christina’s and Kate’s take on some other aspects of the awards ceremony.  Here is what they had to say and please let us know if you agree with them:-

awjane-with-awardsmallThere were some fabulous outfits on display, which was your favourite?

Jane – Well I was lusting ever so slightly over Katie Fforde’s full-length coat/dress thing.  I’d have looked like a bag of elderly onions in it, but she looked gorgeous.

Kate – There were so many lovely outfits, it’s hard to choose! Christina’s own lovely mauve jacket and boots – ooh, those gorgeous boots! – probably take the prize for me. Marina Fiorato gets Best Hair, Katie Fforde wins Best Cape, and of course our host, Jane Wenham Jones, for her platinum frock, gets Best Dress.

Christina – I was very taken with Jean Fullerton’s emerald green suit as I love bright colours, but I also coveted Liz Fenwick’s fabulous purple jacket.

awchristina-with-awardsmallAnd then there are the shoes – not counting your own, which ones did you wish you’d been wearing?

Jane – Um.  Is it wrong of me to say that I wasn’t looking at people’s feet?  Although, Christina, I did notice your rather lovely lilac boots…

Kate – I’m not sucking up here, but when I invited my mum her first thought was which shoes to wear. I covet her gold sandals terribly; it’s probably just as well we don’t take the same size!

Christina – My feet wished they’d been wearing Jane’s boots, but Bex Leith’s black shoes were wonderful so I’d probably have thrown caution to the wind and picked those.

The ‘bubbly’ was flowing, do you prefer it pink or normal?

Jane – As long as it keeps flowing I am really not bothered. Give it fizz and keep it coming!

Kate – Well, if there’s bubbly going I’m not picky about the colour. Although I will say that the first time I tasted Bollinger was the first time I “got” champagne!

Christina – Neither – hate the stuff!  Unless you put peach juice or Kir in to make it ultra sweet.

Which was your favourite canape?

Jane – I didn’t eat any.  I was too terrified and then too shocked.  And ever so slightly too busy drinking…

Kate – I’m not large on the canapés, being that it’s often hard to tell whats in them (I don’t eat meat or shellfish). But the salmon ones were nice. And matched the champagne.

Christina – Salmon, definitely, although I was in such a state of shock I can’t actually tell you what the others were!

awardauthorssmallMost amusing comment of the afternoon (either in a speech or normal conversation)?

Jane – Hazel Osmond and I had a discussion about weeing in handbags in extremis. It amused us and probably disgusted onlookers, particularly when I did the actions.  Not the real actions, I hasten to add.  Although it was a long way to the toilets and I feel that no-one would have blamed me.  Except Hazel, obviously.

Kate – Should I drop Jane in it for her split crotch/handbag comments? [Looks like she’d done it herself, Kate!] No, okay. I heard someone say that the Ladies bathroom was bigger than the Blue Banana. (It was. It really was.)

Christina – The whole of Peter James’s speech was great, but I can’t recall the specifics – fortunately Emma Lee Potter has mentioned it on her blog.

Finally, we heard Kate’s hero Harker mentioned quite a few times during the event (in fact, if there had been a ‘best hero’ award, we reckon he would have won it hands down!) – who was your favourite hero out of the ones in the shortlisted books?  (If you can’t choose, we’ll allow you two)

Jane –Nope, sorry, I refuse to acknowledge that any hero exists except for Harker.  Apart from maybe Gus, from Katie Fforde’s Summer of Love.  He’s cute too.  And my Ben… in fact, all of them are pretty phwoooaaar-worthy, now I come to think of it.

Kate – Aw, yes, Harker is grumpy he didn’t win anything. He’s not used to losing: where he comes from you win, or you die. I do recall Jan Jones’ Hugo from The Kydd Inheritance being rather heroic when it came to highwaymen, and of course, the lovely Brice Kinross in all his intelligent, brave, kind and handsome glory. Now … which book was he from, Christina?

Christina – Apart from Harker?  Well, Ben in Please Don’t Stop the Music is definitely my kind of guy – former rock star, slightly moody, handsome in a grungy kind of way.  And I loved Riccardo in Marina Fiorato’s Daughter of Siena – wow, gorgeous Italian with an amazing sense of honour, and also very kind and considerate!

So there you have it, our brief take on the RoNAs.  Now comes a nail-biting wait to see who of the five category winners will take home the overall “Romantic Novel of the Year” title – if you’d like to help vote for any of them, please go to the Awards Website.

A sign, it is a sign! (with apologies to Monty Python) by Jane Lovering

Saturday found me (not that I was lost, you understand) in the York branch of Waterstones, with a large tin of Quality Street and a hopeful expression. I realise this is a fairly normal position for an author, but on this occasion I was officially sanctioned by Waterstones, to sit in the store and sign copies of the newly released Please Don’t Stop the Music, and the chocolates were merely to lure…I mean bribe..errr…persuade passers by to slow down and talk to me.

I am pleased to report that all went well, and my most noteworthy sale was to two ladies having a schoolgirl reunion meet up in York, who bought copies to remind them of their day together. I’d like to leave you with a photo, just to prove that I really was there and it wasn’t all a figment of my imagination caused by eating all the green triangles but the blog won’t play ball at the moment. However, pictures are available on my blog at, should you choose to peruse them. Not Safe For Work, if you work with cheeses or any other dairy-based consumable.Jane we've added your pic for you - loovely!

Please Don’t Stop the Music – release day. By Jane Lovering, proud mama

So today is the day Please Don’t Stop the Music is allowed out on its own. No more handholding, no more careful cossetting and making sure that it has a clean handkerchief and an apple in its lunchbox – today it stands tall and proud on a bookshelf near you. All right, I might be fussing in the background and trying to wipe an imaginary smear off its cover with a spat-on hanky, but I have to come to terms with the fact that my little baby is all grown up and out in the wide world alone.

My baby.  Sniff.

My baby. Sniff.

So, if you see it anywhere, on a shelf or simply lurking around a bookshop, please give it a little smile and a wave. Tell it that the wide world isn’t such a bad place to be.

Or you could buy it and rescue it from falling into a life of debauchery, it’s up to you.

Fly free, little book. I shall watch your future escapades with interest and a fond smile. And possibly a spat on hanky.

Jane Lovering – a Cover Story

All right, I know you’ve all heard me banging on about my lovely covers, and now you’ve seen Margaret and Kate’s lovely covers too, but yesterday I received my Lovely Cover in person! Advance copies of my books were sitting on my doorstep when I arrived home from a tedious visit to my daughter’s orthodontist. (Oh, it’s all right, my daughter was with me, it wasn’t like a personal call or anything). But having to visit a hospital with your teeth is a pretty awful way of spending the day before Christmas Eve, and the arrival of the books made everything better.

Shiny! Stars! Colours!

And now I am really even more looking forward to February the First (release date, for anyone not keeping up)!.

And now I shall leave you with a picture of my face after unpacking said books, and my very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

I'm not usually this pink.  It was cold.  But look at the lovely book!

I'm not usually this pink. It was cold. But look at the lovely book!

Jane Lovering: I’m a writer – weird s**t as standard

It comes as something of a surprise to me, when I’m sitting trying to work out the perfect way of killing someone, or whether or not acetylene gas smells, that not everyone spends their days as I do. As a writer I can wander around asking random people if they know a really good poison, or the symptoms of accidental ingestion of mercury or how many reasons there might be for someone being unconscious and naked, and nobody turns a hair. In fact, in my day job, my co-workers are all quite keen on helping me research, for example, whether you can send messages using Pringles. They expect it. I’m a writer. It can be a little sad, of course, watching a bunch of qualified teachers trying to cut crisps into letters of the alphabet, or attempting to write on potato-related products with crayon, but it keeps them happy.

In fact I think they’d be disappointed if I didn’t voice random questions and opinions. Writers are supposed to be slightly strange, aren’t they? Wandering around muttering and scribbling and suddenly announcing out loud ‘I wonder where the dead pigeons go?’ It’s part of the job description. Oh, hang on, that might just be me. Although most of the writers I know are a bit odd too.

So, what’s the oddest thing you’ve ever done and managed to explain away as ‘research’? (Even if it wasn’t. Don’t worry, I won’t tell…)

Coded message - have you stocked up for Christmas yet?  You see, you CAN send messages with Pringles!

Coded message - have you stocked up for Christmas yet? You see, you CAN send messages with Pringles!

We’re all talk – by Jane Lovering

It’s going to be hard to get a word in edgewise around us Choc Litters this week. A bunch of us are in Bury St Edmunds on Thursday, talking about all things ‘book’, and I’m doing some readings on Sunday in Malton. Now, because I am of theatrical inclination (which actually means I tend to lean over during plays), I shall be performing my readings complete with voices, accents and, probably, lightening costume changes. It’s all right, there’s a cream tea afterwards and people will sit through a lot if there’s a bunch of scones and a cup of Darjeeling in it for them.

So, here is my thought. When you hear a reading from a novel, do you like the reader to read it ‘straight’ or to do the voices/accents/sound effects? I must say that I like a little ‘character insertion’ (and you can stop giggling at the back), but when the reader lapses into the land of funny voices and face pulling in order to conjure up individual people I rather lose interest. Unless it’s Tom Baker, of course.

Anyway, if you’re in North Yorkshire on Sunday with nothing on (oh, for heaven’s sake, you and your mucky minds!), then pop along to Malton, to the Hidden Monkey Tea Rooms and come and watch me do my thing.

It’s a fairly large and impressive thing, by the way.

I probably won't be wearing this, but I make no promises.

I probably won't be wearing this, but I make no promises.

Jane Lovering on Covering Up

dressesChoosing a cover for Please Don’t Stop the Music has been rather like trying to choose myself the perfect party dress. I want to advertise what’s inside without giving too much away, whilst looking tastefully eye-catching. After all, no one wants a cover which is the allegorical equivalent of a tank top, do they?

This is all proving very difficult. Choc Lit have provided me with lots of lovely images and choosing between them has been harder than making a single selection from designer rails on a 50% off day. I want to be daring, yet discreet, give little hints as to what lies within and yet not have my entire metaphorical chest hanging out. The colours must be right too, not too gaudy and not too plain, eye-catching, but without giving the impression that style has triumphed over substance.

dressWe’re nearly there. I’ve riffled through the hangers and we’ve got the selection down to a mere handful of images, any one of which I would be proud to display, and now comes the hard bit – coming up with the one that will strut up the shelf-catwalks, turning heads as it goes …

Jane Lovering on Doing Your Best

Right. Gather round because I’m going to tell you a story. Oh, it’s all right, it’s not like one of the ones I tell on my blog where I just go on and on and on and…oh. Right. Get to the point. Yes.

I had five children in seven years. Well, to be accurate I’ve still got them, but you know what I mean. Five. Good grief. Anyway. When my first child was born I tried to do absolutely everything right, he only watched TV for an hour a day (not as a newborn, obviously, but later), ate only home-cooked food, drank only water – no squash or processed foods for him! I devoted many hours a day to reading with him, playing with him, stimulating his development…

And, over time, with each new arrival, my dedication to being A Perfect Mother declined. By the time my youngest child was born I would quite cheerfully sit her in front of the washing machine for ages in lieu of entertainment (I’ll have you know that my washing machine is extremely stimulating to watch). She ate whatever I could find that came in a tin, drank anything that the others were drinking. She was probably weaned on Jammy Dodgers, now I come to think of it.

And my point? She is exactly as intelligent, clever, funny, attractive and creative as her eldest brother. In fact, all the kids are (well, obviously, they’re MY children after all). So. Stop worrying about being perfect. If you’re writing, stop leaving your manuscript for four months while you seek the perfect synonym for ‘damp’. Just get on with things, do your best, and everything will turn out all right in the end.

That’s my motto. ‘Do Your Best and don’t beat yourself up’. That and ‘I’m Next for Johnny Depp’. Actually, now I come to think of it, I’ve got lots of mottos. Remind me to tell you about them some time….

Music in the key of love – Confessions of Jane Lovering – Emo

I find it impossible to listen to music while I’m writing; I sit here surrounded by birdsong and cows, with the occasional insane sheep chorus, it’s so bucolic it would make The Archers feel a bit outclassed. So when I do feel the need for some music to stir me up a bit, I go for the indie rock variety. In my upcoming novel ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’, my hero Ben is actually an ex indie rock guitarist, complete with the whole ‘skinny, long-haired, tight jeans’ thing and I half-imagine him as fronting a band like Fall Out Boy (who I luuuuurrrve), or Bullet for my Valentine. Only prettier than either Pete Wentz (tricky) or Matt Tuck. So, as you can imagine, I had to watch a lot of rock bands for research purposes and, oh, it was tough. However, my eldest son is a guitarist, and he gave me some useful tips on fronting a band and general guitarist stuff, which I hope all went to helping make Ben a very ‘real’ hero. It also meant I had to listen to a lot of my son’s favourite bands, all of which seem to have names which are variations on ‘Rip Off my Head and Watch me Die’, although I did come to love Gallows and Paramour. And I recently got into Hadouken (very shouty music, best saved for driving fast to). But I am still a sucker for the surprisingly lyrical stuff that everyone nowadays calls ’emo’. Emotional heroes? Oh, yes.

On My Workspace by Jane Lovering

This is where all my genius hits the page.

This is where all my genius hits the page.

As you can probably tell, I am banished to a tiny corner of the bedroom, to a space I share with my lovely husband. On the desk I keep my earphones (industrial), to block out the sound of children fighting, pretzels and Maltesers (to block out the misery of writer’s block), and any other bits and pieces that happen to find themselves temporarily displaced. Oh, and a stuffed monkey. Above my desk is the noticeboard. Theoretically this is for inspirational pictures, cuttings, letters, etc, but in reality tends to be where we keep the bills until they’re paid, school notices and other pieces of paper we need to lose quickly. The best thing about this desk is the view from beside it. I live on the top of a hill, and the views are amazing. When the windows are clean, anyway.

Actually, I usually write sitting on the bed, but a picture of that would make Tracey Emin look like a very tidy lady.  Instead, here is a picture of the view I ignore daily!

Sometimes I look outside and just imagine myself running and running...

Sometimes I look outside and just imagine myself running and running...