Perfect 10: What makes Christine Stovell smile when she writes?

1. Bill Blythe. Bill’s the hero of Follow a Star, coming out next year; strong, dependable and, to my surprise, red-haired; I have to say I absolutely adore Bill.

2. Harry Watling. Harry was my first heroine, the girl sitting by a sleepy creek in Turning the Tide. She was so grumpy in her first incarnation that my husband said he wished she’d sail off in her little boat and drown. I toned her down a bit!

3. Location. Penmorfa and Little Spitmarsh both feel like real places to me. It was lovely returning to Little Spitmarsh in Follow a Star.

4. Dogs and Cats. I can’t help it – at least one always sneaks into the story.

5. Laughing at my own jokes – sorry –especially if I know something will tickle one of my daughters.

6. My covers; the internet doesn’t do justice to the cover of Move Over Darling which is a gorgeous colour and beautifully embossed.

7. Research. My hero at home’s a sexy artist, like Gethin in Move Over Darling. Go figure.

8. Playing with Pinterest and now Animoto.

9. Putting the world to right. There are dark themes in my novels, but in general I always want to make life better for my characters. George, for example, Harry’s bad-tempered handyman in Turning the Tide is a recovering alcoholic. In real life he’d probably be lonely and homeless, but Harry loves him and gives him a purpose in life.

10. Happy ever afters. It’s romance and I love it when my heroine and hero finally overcome all their obstacles and set off into the future together. Gethin, in Move Over Darling, for example, was a hard man to pin down, but Coralie did it!

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Move Over Darling and Turning the Tide are available now in paperback and all e-book formats.

Christine’s third Choc Lit novel Follow a Star will be available in 2014. Keep an eye on the Choc Lit website for more information 🙂

And why not follow Christine on Twitter: @chrisstovell for news and updates?

 

Christine Stovell: Love is in the Air (and on Kindle!)

a-bed-of-roses-2 Hopeful lovers everywhere will be anticipating the giving or receiving of a token of love on February 14th. A Valentine’s Day engagement can be the ultimate in romantic celebrations or an easy substitute for a more original proposal depending on your point of view, but jewellery remains a popular gift and, if my husband’s reading this, I for one would never turn down a huge sparkly ring just because I was a bit sniffy about the date!

Rings symbolize love that never ends… although if you have any doubts, choose a sapphire; legend has it that a dark blue sapphire will turn pale blue if the loved one is, er, playing away from home! Blue flowers, too, symbolise true devotion, perhaps because the colour was associated with the goddess Hera, the guardian of marriage and fidelity.

Blue roses? Well, maybe not. Red roses have come to be synonymous with love representing both the happiness and – watch those thorns! – the pain. White roses symbolize pure spiritual love whilst black ones, which fortunately don’t exist in nature, mean the end of the affair.

Perhaps Harry, my heroine in Turning the Tide, already knows that anchors are a symbol of constancy, holding the heart safe against the storms of love, but I wonder what she’d make of a bungee jump? Yes, I see that this year you can make your loved one’s heart beat a little faster with the gift of a lovers’ leap tandem bungee jump, but if that’s the only way that love will be in the air, I’ll keep my feet firmly on the ground!

Of course, you don’t need a significant other to take advantage of this year’s very special Valentine’s offer from Choc Lit. From now until Valentine’s Day, there’s a whole selection of Choc Lit Kindle ebooks available from Amazon HERE – some as low as £2.14! Go on, treat someone you love; your lover, your mother, your best friend or yourself!

Christine Stovell: Meeting the Readers

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I was so busy being nervous about my first book signing last week at the Carmarthen branch of Waterstone’s that it never occurred to me that other people might be apprehensive too. Once I was seated at The Signing Table, with its big black cloth and a stack of Turning the Tide, looking as if I was about to perform a magic trick, I realised that people were as wary of approaching me as I was of being approached!

I didn’t have any tricks up my sleeves, but I did have a big tin of chocolates, free bookmarks and a wodge of postcards so shamelessly worked the room bribing browsers to talk to me. A small boy was the first to break the ice, coming over to discuss his own writing ambitions and methods of work… and that’s when I really started to enjoy myself! I was very fortunate that a number of writing and blogging friends were kind enough to turn up and support me on the day, but it was hugely enjoyable meeting new readers, people who didn’t know anything about me. It was a great pleasure to discuss books and reading generally and to hear what readers looked for in a good story.

I may have started my book signing with my knees shaking, but I left smiling and now I’m really looking forwards to our Choc Lit ‘Girls Night In’ at Waterstone’s, The Arc, Bury St Edmunds at 7pm on 21October.

Christine Stovell on Plotting and Planning

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Many years ago I sent a typescript to Mills & Boon. I concluded, quite wrongly, that the hard work had been done for me. With a formula of boy plus girl divided by GOW (Glamorous Other Woman) I decided I didn’t need to worry about little things like plot. Not surprisingly that script was rejected, although it did come back with a ‘try again’ letter and commemorative M&B tea towel, which my then husband said was a sign I should give up writing and stay in the kitchen. Reader, I divorced him.

My early efforts at contemporary women’s fiction also fell at the plot hurdle. I’d start with the spark of an idea, do 20,000 words of manic writing and run out of steam. There are plenty of writers who make it up as they go along, but, for me, relying on something in the ether to do the plotting only produced box-files of false starts!

I finally set up two spreadsheets; one to take care of the characters, their dates of birth, main events in their lives etc, a step-by-step plot outline and a timetable of plot events, the other to crunch numbers and give me a simple progress report to keep me on track. Seven months later I’d finished Turning the Tide and look what happened to that!

Mapping out my novel works for me is because it gives me confidence to move around the story, writing the scenes which are working that day, leaving the ones that don’t. Just because I’ve sketched it out, it doesn’t mean I have to stick to the plan in fact, some of my better ideas do come in the writing, but the framework’s there to give me support. For some writers this approach may seem a bit clinical, but it works for me – and if you’ve ever fallen at plot hurdle, it might just work for you.

Now Playing…

I’ve mentioned in a previous post how songs weave their way into the fabric of my novels, but I never know quite what’s going to surface, so this is a first post in an occasional series about how music and writing.

Today’s track is Groove Armada’s ‘Shameless’ featuring Bryan Ferry from their album, ‘Black Light’. I’m currently training for the Cardiff Half Marathon in October and I’d loaded this album on to my MP3 player in a conscious effort to slow the pace on my long runs (I tend to go like a bat out of hell to hardcore most of the time – tragic but true). Anyway, everything was ticking along nicely when Bryan Ferry started singing and threw me right off course. I’ve always had a bit of soft spot for Bryan, there’s a reference to one of his album covers in Turning the Tide, but I also like the way his voice has matured. This is his him at his most seductive and I’ve a feeling it’s going to help certain scenes in my work in progress no end!

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Put the cigarette down, Bryan!


Songs in the Key of Love: Christine Stovell

The soundtrack of Turning the Tide ranged from Scissors Sisters to South Pacific via sea shanties, Stereophonics and a little dash of Elvis. That was the mood music playing in my head, although I can’t listen to anything with lyrics when I actually write because I find it too distracting.

I’ve mentioned before that voice is important to me when it comes to creating a hero; Sterephonics’ Kelly Jones, singing a slow ballad like ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ which is filled with loss and yearning gets me every time! Apart from that, there’s nothing like a good old Misery Fest to inspire me; a complete and utter wallow in Nick Drake, John Martyn, Tim Buckley and Radiohead does the trick nicely. And if the rest of my family aren’t climbing the walls by then I’ll often round it off with big, wild blast of my all time fave Nick Cave!

Once the spark of inspiration catches and I’ve got to know my characters, what’s interesting to me is that I start to become familiar with their music too and notice what they’re listening to or singing. Fortunately, my current characters have far more cheerful tastes than I do… which is probably just as well.

Why can't you be inspired by happy music? begged her family

Why can't you be inspired by happy music? begged her family

Christine Stovell: ‘Welcome to my world…’

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Built with me in mind, my workspace is designed with everything (except, perhaps, a Velcro chair) to keep my backside stuck firmly at my seat and therefore at my workstation. Above me is a framed painting given to me by my husband at a very tough time. To the right there’s a Rothko-a-like painted by him too, because I love Rothko and this is even better than the real thing.

Looking closely, you will also see my ego board, which again is there to bolster me when I’m feeling a bit fragile. It’s full of nonsense like my running medals (note the plural – well, it is an ego board), a VIP invitation to Hay (about time I had another), a note telling me that it’s champagne o’clock, photos of my beautiful daughters and a cardboard bar of chocolate which was sent to me by a dear friend when I signed my Choc Lit contract. What you can’t see is an emergency bottle of Talisker in a glass case, which was a present from my stepson and his girlfriend – but I know it’s there!

The thing under my keyboard is a pet food mat from IKEA which cushions the noise when I’m typing. As for the printer – it’s lucky to be alive as it destroys more pages than it prints. For someone who doesn’t do mumbo-jumbo there are an awful lot of lucky charms on my desk. And a knitted monkey. Sigh.

Turning the Tide

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Look what the postman just delivered!  For someone who’s supposed to be able to tell you about these things in words, I’m really struggling to describe the feeling of seeing everything I’ve worked and hoped for come together.  Choc Lit produce the most beautiful covers; this photo doesn’t really do it justice – you can’t see how gorgeous the title looks in its matt silver livery.  I’m utterly thrilled and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hold a copy of Turning the Tide in my hands at last.