Is being predictable a bad thing?

My debut novel, Searching for Steven, was released three weeks ago today and my novella, Raving About Rhys, was released a few weeks before that. It’s been exciting watching the reviews come in. Some have been from friends and family, but many have been from strangers which is extra exciting. Having someone I don’t know read my work and say lovely things about it is quite an incredible feeling and I’m ever so grateful to those readers and bloggers who’ve taken the time to post a review. So far, nearly all of my Amazon reviews have been five star, with a few at four star. Eek!

_MG_0221The purpose of this blog post isn’t to witter on about my reviews, though. It’s to pick up on something I’ve read in a couple of them that I’ve also noticed in reviews of novels by other authors: a suggestion that the story is predictable. It’s something I find a little odd when relating to a romance story because surely all romances are predictable. By this I mean they follow a standard formula: girl meets boy, falls in love, and they live happily ever after. Okay, so that wouldn’t make a gripping page-turner so there needs to be an additional element. Sometimes girl loves boy, but he doesn’t know she exists … at first. Sometimes girl loves boy but he’s with someone else. Perhaps they get together, but something separates them: illness, distance, pride, a misunderstanding … the possibilities are endless. But the basic premise is that we know our hero and heroine are going to get together because that’s what a romance novel is all about.

There are several notable exceptions to the happy ever after: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and a heck of a lot of Nicholas Sparks novels where the hero doesn’t manage to make it out of the book alive and the reader needs shares in Kleenex and Galaxy to get through to the end. For the vast majority of romance novels, though, we meet the heroine, we meet the hero, and we know they’re going to get their HEA. What makes the story interesting is the HOW. How will they get together? What conflicts will they face? What obstacles will they overcome? Every author and every story has a slightly different take on this which is why avid readers of romance novels, like myself, read book after book and don’t get bored by the genre.

I suppose you could argue that crime novels are predictable too: crimes are committed and ultimately the criminal is caught and (hopefully) brought to justice. There will be challenges along the way e.g. the police get the wrong person, they’re in the wrong place and another crime/murder is committed, and so on but, ultimately, the crime is solved. Again, there are notable exceptions but, as I haven’t read quite as many crime novels, I can’t name them as easily as the romance ones! Do readers think crime novels are predictable because they also follow a formula?

_MG_0218Or am I missing the point? Are the comments about predictability not about the overall plot, but more about a specific aspect of one of the sub-plots? I’d love to know. But therein lies the cardinal rule of reviews: you can’t comment on them. On the one or two reviews of mine where the word ‘predictable’ was mentioned, I was dying to comment and ask the reviewer what aspect they felt was predictable as all feedback is good feedback and I want to learn from it, but I knew I’d unintentionally sound defensive if I asked. And it’s not the done thing to ask. Believe me, I’ve seen case studies online where people have challenged reviews and it’s not pretty. I know there are some great twists and turns in both the novel and the novella, but maybe there’s something that is a little obvious and that’s what they mean. I’m not offended in any way; just curious. What’s really lovely is that it was made very clear that the readers still loved the book and that the predictable element, whatever it was, certainly didn’t detract from their enjoyment. Phew! So perhaps I should just accept the positive comments, the great ratings, and not worry about that one little word.

What do you think? Are romance novels predictable? Does it matter? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jessica xx

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I’m so excited! I just can’t hide it …

Two weeks ago today, I was sitting at home, surrounded by soggy tissues, reeling in the news that I’d just been made redundant. Despite that little black cloud, this last two weeks has been absolutely amazing. To quote the Sister Sledge song, I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it …

_MG_5012For many years now, I’ve dreamed of becoming a published writer. I’ve dreamed of holding a paperback in my hands that I’ve written. I’ve dreamed of reading five-star reviews written by people I don’t know rather than friends and family. And all of those dreams have come true. Eek!

Other than the slight hiccup I mentioned in the last blog post where my books didn’t materialize in time for my launch party, I’ve loved every minute of the experience.

Some highlights I’d like to pick out include:

  • My 8-year-old walking into my bedroom on launch day and singing “Happy Launch Day to you …” (to the tune of Happy Birthday to You). She’s been so proud and excited, it’s quite touching to observe
  • My novella, Raving About Rhys, peaking at number 249 in the free Kindle chart and number 34 in romantic comedy. I never imagined getting that high. I know it was down to a free promotion, but it was still an exciting moment
  • The amazing messages of support I received from friends and family on Facebook when I was really upset about my books not being sent in time for the launch party, reassuring me that they were just so thrilled and excited for me and didn’t mind the lack of book. I’m so grateful to each and every one of them
  • _MG_4988Some amazing four and five star reviews from people I don’t know. Here’s a selection of quotes from Searching for Steven reviews:
    • “I am now officially a fan of Jessica Redland and can compare her with authors like Sophie Kinsella, Jenny Colgan and Claudia Carroll. Here’s to another great women’s fiction writer on the block…” Bleachhouselibrary. Wow! To be compared to some of my favourite authors … I’m lost for words!
    • “This book has a narrative that flows and keeps the reader intrigued, you feel for the characters in a way that they feel like your family and your there beside there with them. Fantastic Debut” Em
    • “I liked this book so much. It’s a wonderful, heartwarming story … Searching for Steven is a book that will put a smile on your face and happiness in your heart. It’s a definite must-read, because of the original story, the sympathetic characters, the beautiful setting and most of all the magical feeling of true love. I liked the creative aspect and the quest to find the one. This is a lovely feel-good book and one of the best romantic stories I’ve read in quite a while. It’s a light, cheerful quality read that I enjoyed very much” Suzanne Lavender
    • “Perfect for the beach of for fans of a Jill Mansell style” Miss S A Coles. Jill Mansell was my inspiration for writing romantic comedy as she was the first romcom writer whose work I read. Again, wow!
  • Raving About Rhys has gathered a phenomenal seventeen five-star reviews and three four-star ones which makes me smile so much. Here’s one of my favourites by Nic, although there are loads of other wonderful ones I could easily have chosen: “Loved this! Loved the style of writing and can easily relate to the characters. I couldn’t put it down. I ordered the next book Searching for Steven and I’m loving that too! Can’t wait for the next one! I’m thinking I have a new favourite authoress 🙂 Thank you Jessica!” Awwww. That’s just so lovely! I’m so thrilled that people I don’t know are reading my writing and loving it. And they care enough about it to take the time to write a review. It really is touching.
  • Having my box of books arrive a couple of days ago. Hubby is a talented photographer and he set up a little photo shoot in the conservatory which was fun. What an amazing feeling to be surrounded by piles of my books!

_MG_5008The one thing that has surprised me about the whole experience is how relaxed I am about sales figures and chart positions. I check on Amazon every day or so, out of curiosity, to see my chart positions but I’m not obsessed with it. I know from other writing friends that it can be easy to get fixated on them, but I’ve realised there’s no point. Sometimes a book can be at position number 12,000 and, the next day, it’s dropped 35,000 places. One bit of advice from my lovely writing pal, Jo Bartlett, has really stuck with me throughout the process and I think this is what makes me so calm about it: It’s long-haul. Those who appear to become an overnight success probably aren’t really an overnight success and they’re few and far between. For most of us, it will take several books and several years before we can make a full-time career out of writing … if at all. And that’s fine. Why? Because I write for the love of it; not because I want to be rich and famous. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a bestseller (or several!) but I write because I love it and I have stories I want to share. I couldn’t imagine life without writing. As far as sales figures go, I can’t obsess about these because I don’t have direct access to that information. This is probably a good thing.

It’s my last day in the day job tomorrow as my company have granted me gardening leave. I’m looking forward to having a couple of weeks off to edit book 2, work a bit more on book 3, and probably do some gardening too as there’s a serious dandelion situation going on out there! I’m expecting positive job news so I’m not worried about the loss of the day job so I’m in a good place work-wise. I’m in an even better place book-wise. I really am living the dream and want to enjoy every single moment of this. I read an interesting article the other day about how it’s really easy for writers to forget to celebrate their successes under the pressure of sales figures, chart positions, editing and so on and we should really take a moment to celebrate the many little successes, whether that be writing a great scene, finishing a chapter, getting a great review, or writing a well-structured blog post. Raise that metaphorical glass of champers and smile because, fellow writers, you’ve achieved your dreams and that’s a truly amazing thing 🙂

My Crazy Week of Job Loss & Book Launch

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Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESOh my goodness, what a roller coaster of a week I’ve had full of highs and lows, twists and turns!

Morning of Monday 1st June – LOW – I work flexible hours in the day job and normally take a Monday off, working the rest of my full time hours across longer days for the rest of the week. As I had Wed-Fri booked off as holiday to enjoy my book launch, my manager suggested I came in on Monday instead and took my flex day on the Tuesday, giving me four days off on the trot. I’d been out the previous week running a training workshop and she’d been on holiday so I was expecting our 10am meeting to be a catch-up and handover while I had the rest of the week off. Instead, I got made redundant! I completely and utterly had not seen that one coming! Last year, there’d been a bit of a cost savings and restructuring exercise and we’d been assured that HR weren’t being looked at and there’d been no redundancies. Hmm. I got really upset in the meeting because of the shock of it. Thankfully I was allowed to go home to come to terms with the news.

P1060369Afternoon of Monday 1st June – HIGH – Hubby picked me up from work and took me into town to collect a parcel we’d missed. I expected this to be my box of books which seemed very ‘one door closes and another opens’ but it wasn’t books. It was something equally fabulous, though – my very own Steven Bear from lovely writing friends Jo, Sharon and Alys. I love him.

Evening of Monday 1st June – HIGH – I’m a Brown Owl and, to celebrate the launch, we’d decided to complete our Booklover and Writer badges as a pack this term. I’d pulled together a short PowerPoint presentation for the Brownies followed by a creative writing workshop. I wasn’t sure how well this would work but it went down a storm with lots of questions and the creative juices flowing.

Tuesday 2nd June – LOW – Reality hit that I was out of work yet again and I felt so hurt at the timing. It was meant to be the week of my life and my employer had started it by making me redundant. I’d wanted to spend the Tuesday feeling all excited as it was, after all, book launch eve. Instead, I was job hunting.

CoversWednesday 3rd June – HIGH – Searching for Steven was launched (buy it here)! What an incredibly exciting day. I seemed to spend it solidly on social media, thanking people for supporting me, and grinning from ear to ear. I had a well attended Facebook launch party on the evening and I went to bed very, very happy

Thursday 4th June – HIGH – The high continued with more excitement around Steven but also around my novella. To celebrate Steven‘s launch, Raving About Rhys (buy it here) went on a three-day free promotion and was climbing the charts as well as gathering some amazing reviews. By the end of the promotion, I’d got to number 203 in the free Kindle chart on Amazon and number 26 in the romantic comedy chart. I was thrilled about it.

P1060374Another fabulous thing that happened that day was that hubby disappeared out and then returned with a set of three canvasses for me – the cover of each book, and a dedication canvas including a quote he’d recently seen in a film: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why” by Mark Twain. It feels so apt for me and my writing. It made me cry!

Friday 5th June – LOW – I received the devastating news that our printers had let us down. Despite expecting a box of books earlier in the week, it turns out they’d had problems with their binding equipment and hadn’t even printed my books. I was having a launch party the next day with nearly 100 guests, many of whom would have travelled long distances, and they weren’t going to get a copy of my book. I have to say, I was absolutely distraught. At one point, I even wanted to cancel the party, but my lovely hubby gave me lots of hugs and encouragement. I posted a private message on Facebook to  friends and family explaining what had happened and the outpouring of support and understanding was really quite overwhelming. I was genuinely touched at how proud people were of me and how excited they were to be coming to the book launch, with or without the inclusion of books!

11401385_10206847816496801_2560504648333263427_nSaturday 6th June – HIGH – Launch party day had arrived and what an amazing day it was. My publisher had managed to send me their two sample books by special delivery. These had a page missing and a few errors but it was a thrilling moment opening the box and putting my paws on a copy of my paperback for the first time. I’d have captured it on film but I was still in my PJs with no make-up on so that wouldn’t have been a good look!

The party was fabulous. The only downside is that I needed it to go on about ten times as long as I tried my best but it was impossible to get round everyone. I had family, old friends, new friends, former work colleagues, writing friends and it was so lovely to have everyone together to celebrate this unique occasion.

I have so many people to thank for making the day so special: hubby and munchkin, my sister-in-law Vanessa for the amazing cupcakes and cake (which I completely forgot to cut and hand out!), my mum for the scones, biscuits and caramel shortbread (nom nom), The Scarborough Anglers Social Club for such a friendly/flexible venue, Jon Mancrief for a delicious buffet, and everyone for coming. I got cards, flowers and gifts which was very unexpected. And people paid for books too! I really appreciate all your support and your positive comments. You’ve helped make a horrendous start to the week with a few dips along the way, end on a high xxx

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NEWS FLASH! Raving About Rhys is FREE!!!

CoversSearching for Steven was launched on Wednesday this week (buy him here) and it’s been an amazing couple of days having my dream come true. I’m going to blog about that in the next few days, but I wanted to write a quick post today to promote my novella, Raving About Rhys.

11411854_873568086015826_6774707983694355485_oTo celebrate Steven‘s launch, we’re offering Raving About Rhys for Kindle download absolutely free. Yes, you read that right … FREE! Wow! That means you can buy two large bars of chocolate or a couple of huge bags of Maltesers to eat while you read it and still have change left over from a fiver! You can find him here.

My husband, bless him, has become very excited and perhaps a little obsessed with watching Rhys climb the charts on Amazon today. The peak so far has been to reach number 249 in the free Kindle chart and number 34 in the romantic comedy chart which is apparently a really tough chart to move up so I’m absolutely thrilled at that.

Rhys will only be on promotion for a short time so please bag a bargain (is it still called a bargain if it’s free?), enjoy a read that’s been gathering lots of amazing 5-star reviews, and please spread the word to anyone you know who has an eReader or a smart phone with a Kindle App! My mission is to get into the Top 100 overall chart and Top 10 romantic comedy before the promo ends. Can you help me do it?

Thank you to everyone who has downloaded Rhys, and  particularly thank you to friends, family and the lovely Write Romantics who’ve shared Facebook posts and Tweeted about it. I really appreciate the support 🙂 xx