Back Story #1: Characters have their say

‘A sob story?’ I heard Matt say. He hitched an eyebrow. ‘You’ve got to be joking. You don’t write serious stories.’
I ignored him. After all, who did he think was writing this story?

By Teena Raffa

I didn’t plan on writing a light and fluffy romance for the Serenity Press romance anthology, A Bouquet of Love. My contribution to their previous anthology, Rocky Romance had been a light-hearted story about how a dog called Cat and a cat called Shakespeare brought together a gorgeous Irishman and a best-selling romance author who didn’t believe in true love and happy ever after.

And while I’d had fun writing Perhaps Love, this time I’d decided to aim for reader tears instead of smiles. I wanted to touch hearts, not funny bones.
What I had in mind was a moving story about a grieving brother choosing a wedding dress for his sister to wear in her coffin. I had a title – For Jasmine – and a love interest, because of course Matt would need someone to help him select the right wedding gown for the sister who’d been tragically killed with her fiancé in a road accident on their way to check out a reception venue.

My characters, however, had other ideas.

‘A sob story?’ I heard Matt say. He hitched an eyebrow. ‘You’ve got to be joking. You don’t write serious stories.’
I ignored him. After all, who did he think was writing this story?
Then Dani – the love interest Matt encounters at Serendipity Bridal Boutique – took charge. ‘Sorry, you’ve got it wrong,’ she announced and rewrote my introduction in an entirely new style.

I gave in and let my characters drive the story. They wanted to be heard, and I listened. I could have ignored their voices. I’m glad I didn’t.
Grooming the Bride wasn’t the story I intended to write. Sometimes as authors we have to set aside our fixed ideas of what we want to write and let our characters take the lead. A different direction can be just what our story needs.

A Bouquet of Love
A Serenity Press Anthology

Ten couples not looking for love find something unexpected when they visit Serendipity Bridal Boutique, Kate Peron’s vintage-styled salon. Love is in the air and it’s about to blow into their lives, bringing fortunate accidents of the heartfelt variety to those lucky enough to walk through Serendipity’s doors.
A man comes to Eagle Point to stop a wedding. A magazine editor finds herself in a cheesy situation. A different kind of bride takes to the catwalk. Readers will be swept away by this bouquet of stories from ten Australian authors – stories of healing and second chances, of opening hearts and minds, of souls connecting and remembering, of temptation and desire. Life and love in Eagle Point has never been more challenging … or fun!
From cupcake wielding assassins to hilarious blind date set-ups, there’s something for everyone in this delightfully romantic collection that proves there can never be too much ado about love.

The paperback is available here from Serenity Press.
Buy the e-book from Amazon here.

Authors! Share the Back Story behind your publications in this new series of posts. Email teenawriter@gmail.com for details.

Romancing short fiction

Small traditional West Australian publisher Serenity Press is romancing short fiction with a series of anthologies, novellas and novelettes featuring love swept stories for romantics at heart. This week I chat with editorial director Monique Mulligan about the selection process for their newest anthology, A Bouquet of Love, and the challenges of producing a selection of 10 themed stories.

Photo: Neil Mulligan

ITOW: Authors were invited to submit short romances that featured Serendipity Bridal Boutique, its manager and staff. Why did you decide to link the stories in this way rather than following a more general romantic theme?

MM: Aside from liking the idea of linked stories, we wanted to challenge both authors and ourselves with something a little different. So, we brainstormed and came up with the idea of the bridal boutique, then its name (we both love the word serendipity) and from there I wrote a submission brief.

ITOW: What did you look for when making your selection of which stories to include?

MM: It was a combination of things – a great story with solid writing, plenty of romantic “feels”, a happy ending, and we wanted the links to the salon to be more than passing mentions.

ITOW: What was the most challenging aspect of producing this anthology?

MM: The editing – firstly, making sure each story shone in its own right (no, that wasn’t an intentional pun), but also making sure all the stories connected consistently. Was Kyle a fashion designer or stylist? Was the boutique manager Kate’s characterisation consistent?

ITOW: What did you enjoy most about working on this title?

MM: The enthusiasm and support of the authors has been fantastic. But also, seeing the stories come together as a whole in the final product – that was a special moment.

ITOW: Will there be another Bouquet of Love anthology featuring Serendipity Bridal Boutique?

MM: What a great idea! I definitely think we should keep it in mind.

ITOW: Individual stories from Serenity Press’s debut anthology, Rocky Romance, have been released as novelettes. Can we expect to see some of the stories from A Bouquet of Love also becoming available in this format?

MM: Yes, our plan is to release some of the stories as standalone novelettes in the year following its release.

ITOW: Is your focus on romantic fiction or do you publish other genres?

MM: We also publish children’s fiction for younger readers and middle grades. Next year we are venturing into new territory with a fairy tale collection aimed at young adults, and our intention is to build upon that niche.

ITOW: Serenity Press is a small independent boutique publisher. What is the advantage for authors of working with such a small press?

MM: Lots! We work closely with our authors and give each book special attention. We value authors’ input on covers and illustrations. And we have high standards for our finished products. Also, we offer higher royalties than bigger publishers.

ITOW: What’s your top tip for aspiring romance authors?

MM: That’s hard! Read a variety of romances – immerse yourself in the world of romance so you know what readers expect. If you hate reading romances, how can you write a romance that sends readers into a swoon, or wiping tears from their eyes, or just sighing with contentment?

A Bouquet of Love

Contributors: Claire Boston, Barbara Gurney, PL Harris, Ilona Krueger, Monique Mulligan, Glennys Marsdon, Teena Raffa, Bree Verity, Louisa West, Carolyn Wren.

 

Ten couples not looking for love find something unexpected when they visit Serendipity Bridal Boutique, Kate Peron’s vintage-styled salon. Love is in the air and it’s about to blow into their lives, bringing fortunate accidents of the heartfelt variety to those lucky enough to walk through Serendipity’s doors.

A man comes to Eagle Point to stop a wedding. A magazine editor finds herself in a cheesy situation. A different kind of bride takes to the catwalk. Readers will be swept away by this bouquet of stories from ten Australian authors – stories of healing and second chances, of opening hearts and minds, of souls connecting and remembering, of temptation and desire. Life and love in Eagle Point has never been more challenging … or fun!

From cupcake wielding assassins to hilarious blind date set-ups, there’s something for everyone in this delightfully romantic collection that proves there can never be too much ado about love.

Buy the paper back here.

Buy the e-book here.

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Glennys Marsdon

Glennys’s top tip for aspiring authors: While it’s nice, and helps, to be professionally published and win awards, there are plenty of books out there that haven’t been, and yet they’ve gone on to make a huge impact on people’s lives. It’s more important to just enjoy the process of writing regardless of the outcome, and if your writing has an impact on you, chances are it will impact others too. So grab a coffee, a packet of Tim Tams, open a Word document and just start typing. Then rinse and repeat. And when doubt creeps in, as it will, seek out other writers for support.

gmIt’s my great pleasure today to introduce the inspirational Glennys Marsdon, owner of consumer psychology consultancy The Customers’ Voice, who has more than 20 years’ experience researching human behaviour. This has resulted in marketing campaigns for clients like HBF and ECU, plus investigation into social issues including domestic violence and drug/alcohol abuse. In 2012 she was nominated for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards and she now sits on several Boards. Her writing life began in the ‘90s as editor of the Australian Red Cross Youth News Magazine. Her first short story won the Stirling Literary Award and her first book, 50 Ways To Grieve Your Lover, received international success after being used in the NZ Pike Mine Disaster. The book also resulted in her being profiled in marketing guru Seth Godin’s worldwide search for people making a difference. Her second book Me Time: 100 Strategies For Guilt Free Me Time won a People’s Choice Award and her blog The Ponder Room was read in more than 60 countries within the first six months. She has a monthly column in a local magazine, regularly writes for the City of Perth and contributes to a number of other outlets. Two years ago she started Personal Branding workshops which apply her business knowledge to uncovering the essence of a person’s brand.

Follow Glennys on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? For the past 20 years I’ve been writing business reports on anything from ice cream to domestic violence and sewerage pumps. Apart from helping bring new products to market, or ads to the television, the main reason for writing these reports was to ensure my pantry was never bereft of tins of tuna. In the fast paced consulting world, it wasn’t uncommon to have 12 large projects on the go at the same time. In the past as the deadlines accumulated my mind would escape into silly stories which I used to email off to a handful of colleagues who were also working through the night. The stories worked as a kind of release valve from all the heavy thinking. Years on, the advent of blogging has proved an ideal portal for my chattering monkey mind. I love getting caught up in the rhythm of the words and the surprise journeys they take me on, especially when they reward me with a giggle at the end.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? At five foot five and with a middle age spread I guess modelling is out of the question. My genetic composition also rules out artist, musician or sports star and, thanks to an aversion to embarrassment, acting. The ability to feel seasick in the bath limits any water based activities, and the bombardment of ideas constantly penetrating my brain renders mindful Yogi unlikely. Since I draw the line at academia, I guess that leaves me with the corporate world, and spending more time on my consumer psychology work, which brings me back to research and business writing … doh! So short answer, no idea.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? A deep lack of confidence, (spawned out of a high school teacher declaring that I couldn’t read, and a university professor saying I couldn’t write), that made pushing the send button unbearable. That was until I stumbled upon an editor prepared to take a chance. So confidence and the ability to get your work seen.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover/illustrations? My first book was in part a tribute to my artist partner Michael Collins who passed away, so it was important to keep control over how his images were used. As a result, I chose to go down the self-publishing route, which also allowed me to avoid the soul destroying pile of rejection letters. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and learnt a lot about what goes on behind the scenes, so have continued to self-publish.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? For fiction it’s about getting lost in the rhythm of the words and being entertained by where they take you. For non-fiction it’s realising that a few squiggles on a blank page can have immense power. They can even help people get through the most difficult of times.

—the worst? The perception, among some, that writers can sustain a life when writing or speaking for free; they wouldn’t expect the same from their plumber. That and the endless but necessary editing.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Read more. Reading teaches you all the essentials, like character, structure, language, tone, setting and more importantly how your writing compares to those who get published. I’d also get out from behind the computer more and meet other writers earlier on in the journey. Trying to work it out yourself is exhausting, especially when there are writing groups out there that teach you the craft, show that you’re not alone, and that published authors aren’t any different to you, although I suspect they eat less tuna.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Don’t worry about what people think, not everyone will like what you write, some might hate it, and you only need a few loyal readers to start you on your way.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? When the first editor who paid me for my writing retired, I told her that I’d enjoyed working with her and would like to get similar work with other editors, but was too scared to approach them. She pointed out that I’d managed to contact her and added, ‘I wasn’t scary, most of the time.’

BOOK BYTE

50 ways50 ways to grieve your lover

Glennys Marsdon

‘For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off.’ Johnny Carson.

After the loss of a loved one, be it the death of a partner, child, pet, or divorce, people experience a 12 month fog, not knowing what to expect. This is not helped by the fact that as a society we avoid talking about death. At 43 Glennys Marsdon suddenly found she was a widow. As a qualified psychologist she drew on more than two decades of experience researching human behaviour to investigate what was ahead of her. A year later when a good friend asked for advice she fired off an email titled ’10 Things I’ve Learnt’. The 10 things grew to 50 and when more people called for advice she realised the emails had to be shared. Written as a series of 50 short light-hearted emails to a friend, the book focuses on the first 12 months after loss. It contains 100 tips, 85 quotes and cartoons from her partner Michael Collins (dec.)

Other books include: Me Time: 100 Strategies For Guilt Free Me Time; Freelance Life: An Action Plan To Become a Successful Six Figure Freelancer; Pondering Life Series

The books are available from www.glennysmarsdon.com

The 50 Ways  E book version can be purchased on Amazon