If you follow me on social media or have ever read this blog before, you’ll know that books, chocolate and adventures with squirrels (and yes, Squizzey, especially one in particular) are three of my favourite things. Luckily, I caught a Facebook post by Evonne Wareham earlier last week advertising an event that combined all three. On Thursday lunchtime, Squizzey and I ventured over to the neighbouring valley to check out the newly refurbished Ystrad Mynach library. It’s bright and welcoming – as are the library staff – and even stocks squirrel-friendly book titles. (Although Squizz was a little wary of the purple dragon guarding them!)
As part of the re-opening celebrations, three author friends – Christine Stovell, Evonne Wareham and Christina Courtenay – were there to talk about Heroes, Heroines and Happy Endings. All three are all published by ChocLit; a publisher of a wide selection of stories, told from both the hero and heroine’s point of view, which all have romance at the heart of them.
All three authors were generous with their time – and the chocolates they handed round to everyone – and open to questions from the audience throughout the afternoon session. They covered the type of books they write, which range from contemporary romance to young adult and historical to thrillers and suspense, and why, showing how the fiction they write stems from their other interests, a desire to combine one or more of those and create a hybrid work, places they had lived or visited, and/or a need to make sense of the world we live in.
Chris, Evonne and Christina talked about the starting points for stories: a character, a place, a situation or a premise. They all seemed to be pantsters rather than planners, although Evonne did admit that she was academic in her approach thanks to her background, and they all keep some record of the timeline they’re working to, so that this doesn’t cause continuity issues. Christina also said that it was useful for her to colour-code characters’ points of view, to ensure that her stories achieved the right balance, and didn’t favour one character more than any other to the detriment of the whole story. This was especially important to her when writing time slips, where both stories have to carry the same weight.
While both Chris and Christina write straight onto a computer, Evonne still prefers to write long-hand and showed us the manuscript of her current work-in-progress, complete with her own red pen edits. Respect to Evonne for not only writing in longhand and also leaving the house with a handwritten manuscript. I would only do this, if I could clutch it to my chest for the whole time I was away from the house. Not doing regular enough back-ups makes me break out in a cold sweat, as it is!
Next up, the authors talked about research and it was time to use some props to demonstrate how much fun this can be. Chris has written two novels – Turning the Tide and Follow a Star – about a small seaside town called Little Spitmarsh, combining her interest in places on the edgelands with her sailing experiences. Chris admitted that before she actually started sailing with her husband, Tom, she had envisaged it as slightly more romantic and sexy than it turned out to be.
I don’t think I was alone in being relieved that Evonne, who writes romantic suspense novels and thrillers – Never Coming Home and Out of Sight, Out of Mind – hadn’t brought along any of her research
weapons tools but she did tell us about the forensic course she attended in Cardiff and that was more than sufficient for active imaginations…
So, next up was Christina, who has written a trilogy of historical novels set in Japan, as well as others set in Sweden and Scotland, and time slips inspired by visits to stately homes. She had kindly made Squizz a kimono of his own which he wore along to the library but Christina had brought a wedding kimono with her, which was absolutely stunning. In the pictures, you can see one of the librarians modelling the heavy but beautifully-embroidered red silk kimono and Christina showing us what the various footwear was like. (Surprisingly light after feeling the weight of the kimono.)
It was great to see how much fun you can have doing your story research – and to find out what strange places it sometimes takes you to and the things you get to do in the name of research. It reminds me of some of the experiments I got involved in when putting together a case for trial!
All too soon, the afternoon was over and after securing a couple of signed copies of books and Squizz having his photo taken, it was time to say goodbye. Thanks to Chris, Evonne and Christina for giving up your time and being so generous with your advice and tips, and chocs! And a big thank you to Ystrad Mynach Library for putting on such a great event, and letting us sneak in from the next valley.
To find out more about the authors and their books, visit ChocLit’s Website, or their Author websites and/or blogs:
Alternatively, you can find them on Facebook and/or Twitter: