The one where I have a very long rant about Amazon spoiling my Christmas

analytics-3268935_640Something really scary happened to me on Monday 14th December. At 5.19pm, completely out of the blue, I received this email from Amazon:

Hello,

We are reaching out to you because we detected purchases or borrows of your book(s) originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, the sales rank on the following book(s) will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N4AO78S 

Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies you have used to promote your book(s) comply with our Terms and Conditions. We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services you have employed for promotional purposes.

Please be aware, any additional activity attempting to manipulate the Kindle services may result in account level action.

If you have any questions, please email us at kdp-sales-rank@amazon.com.

Best regards,

Amazon KDP

 

Certain key phrases leapt to me from the screen:

attempting to manipulate sales rank

sales rank will not be visible

may result in account level action

Searching for Steven NEW COVERWhat???!!!! What the heck did any of that mean?

I clicked onto the link they’d provided and it took me to my debut novel, Searching for Steven, on Amazon.com. Yes, that’s right, on Amazon.com rather than my home market of Amazon.co.uk. Weird. And even more weird is that:

  1. I had only sold ONE eBook in the USA in the past 90 days and that was nearly 2 months previously in late October. I repeat ONE copy. In 90 days
  2. I had a little over 1000 pages read in the USA in the same period. That’s the equivalent of 3 people reading the book in its entirety

There had to be a mistake, right? So I emailed the address given and nicely asked them to explain what this meant. They replied that same day with this:

 

Hello,

We do not sponsor or endorse any 3rd party marketing services. You’re welcome to promote your book through third-party websites and other services, but we encourage you to monitor the tactics they use to promote your books.  You are responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your book manipulate the Kindle publishing service and/or Kindle programs. 

We advise against using any sites that “guarantee” a return on your investment. We support our authors’ efforts to promote their books worldwide, but at the same time, we work to prevent any manipulation of the Kindle publishing service.

If you have any questions, please email us at kdp-sales-rank@amazon.com. 

Best regards,

Amazon KDP

Amazon.com

keyboard-114439_640

Did I have questions? Oh yes. I still had all the questions I’d asked in my first email that hadn’t been answered:

  • What are you talking about?
  • Have you seen my sales figures?
  • Surely if I was manipulating sales or pages read, there’d actually be some sales or pages read?

I begged them – literally begged – to explain what was going on in words that actually made sense.

So they replied in the early hours of Tuesday and, is it just me, or does this pretty much say exactly the same thing as the others i.e. nothing that makes a shred of sense? Computer-generated jargon that has ignored all of my questions:

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, your sales rank will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.

While we fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books, we take activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously. Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions.  We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.

You may email us at kdp-sales-rank@amazon.com  with any questions.

Best regards,

Amazon KDP

Amazon.com

guilty-3096217_640

So I wrote to them yet again – with questions – and they responded that evening with this even more aggressive email which basically told me I was STILL engaging in manipulative strategies but they refused to give me any information about this. There was no offer to get in touch with further questions. Case closed. Verdict: guilty…

Hello,

As we previously stated, we still detect reading or borrow activity for your books originating from accounts attempting to manipulate Kindle services. You are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions. We cannot offer advice on marketing services or details of our investigations.

Please be aware we will not be providing additional details.

Regards,

Amazon.com

 

Cue another email from me begging them for some help and I received no response.

Screenshot 2019-02-07 at 19.08.57
This is what rank-stripping looks like. There’s no information below the average customer reviews

After the first email, Searching for Steven was immediately rank-stripped across all the markets in which Amazon operates, all of which offer my eBooks. What does this mean? This means all visibility of my book was lost because I was no longer featured in any Amazon charts. It didn’t mean that Searching for Steven couldn’t be found; it just meant that someone would need to specifically search for the book by title/author as it wouldn’t come up in any other sort of search. And yes, the irony of the book title and this situation is not lost on me!

So where did this leave me? Nowhere really. Amazon had made a massive administrative mistake based on some faulty algorithm yet their aggressive, threatening emails were all computer-generated and the system was clearly set up to spit out 4 barely-different emails then shut down any correspondence after the final version.

Screenshot 2019-02-12 at 21.23.09
This is the same book without the rank-stripping. As you can see, there’s information below the star ratings showing where the book is in the overall and individual charts

I turned to the closed Facebook page of the Romantic Novelists’ Association hoping that there’d been some sort of technical glitch and loads of members were in the same boat as me but it appeared I’d been singled out for Amazon’s super special Christmas gift. I am very grateful to one member, though, for pointing me to a blog run by a writer called David Gaughran who champions and supports writers and investigated several cases well over a year ago where this has happened to other writers. The emails were exactly the same but the scenarios different. In those cases, they were all participating in promotions – absolutely legitimate ones – and the spike in sales on the back of that seems to have been what generated the scary email. Not in my case. I hadn’t promoted Searching for Steven since I participated in a blog tour to celebrate his 3-year-book birthday in June last year and, as already stated, sales were pretty much non-existent. You can read his blog post here.

fear-198932_640

David responded to a comment I posted on his blog, asking for more information, and immediately contacted Amazon on my behalf using different email addresses that should help escalate the situation. All we can do was wait. And wait. And wait.

Back in December, how had this sorry tale affected me? It was pretty horrific. On the Monday night, after the first email, I couldn’t sleep. Would you be able to if you’d been accused of a crime that you didn’t commit and the punishment was already dished out (the rank-stripping) before you had a chance to plead your case? On the Tuesday night after the final ‘we’re not giving you any info so get lost’ email, I didn’t sleep either. Or on Wednesday night. By the Thursday, completely exhausted, I couldn’t stop crying all day and I only managed to get a bit of sleep that night thanks to David stepping in and a belief that something might happen after I’d had no joy.

You might think it’s not something to cry over but, believe me, it is:

  1. I was losing sales and pages read. Granted, not many because (a) it was Christmas and I had 4 x Christmas books out there which were the main sellers at that time and (b) I had barely any sales of that book anyway, particularly in the USA, although I did have a trickle of them in the UK and a steady 500 average pages a day read in the UK. These sales were likely to  disappear, though
  2. Sadly, I do not sell many eBooks or have that many pages read so I cannot afford to lose this visibility
  3. I secured an audio deal for Searching for Steven and the Thursday of my horrible week was the release day. It should have been a happy day yet I didn’t see the point in doing any promotion of a title that could be removed at any moment and felt far too emotional to ‘celebrate’
  4. I felt like I’d been found guilty and locked up but nobody would tell me what my crime was or allow me to defend myself despite being completely innocent. I mean, let’s face it, if I was going to do something to manipulate sales, you’d think I’d actually trigger some sales. Going from zero to zero isn’t exactly yelling criminal mastermind, is it?
  5. The threat of having my books removed (this is what “account-level action” means) hung over me. Amazon have the power to do this whenever they want
  6. The emails take the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach with a bit of ‘and by the way, we don’t care if you’re innocent because our algorithms tell us you’re up to mischief so you’re black-listed for life and there will be consequences’ thrown in for good measure. I’m back in the playground at school being bullied again. Or work. Take your pick as bullies lurk everywhere
book-731199_640
With all this hanging over me, I couldn’t concentrate on work

This all came at the end of a dire year for me writing-wise. Sales had started to look up in late 2017/early 2018 after I released Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. From selling hardly any eBooks and having very few pages read, the Christmas books got immediate attention and, whilst sales were still very low, they were steady. Hurrah! And this had a knock-on effect on the non-Christmas books suggesting readers had enjoyed my Christmas offerings and were seeking out other titles.

Then something happened in the spring of 2018. Sales dropped through the floor and so did pages read. My income from writing – which was never particularly good anyway – plummeted and, despite bringing out 2 x Christmas books in the November, this made little impact in November although December did see some recovery (not a patch on last year, though).

I write under a pen-name and the “real” me has a Kindle. I would regularly receive emails from Amazon promoting Jessica’s books but, cninciding with this plummet in sales, these seemed to stop. I have since had one for my novella, Raving About Rhys, but none with any my Christmas books on. Something strange is happening.

Alongside the plummeting sales and lack of promo was review-gate; the much-publicised situation where Amazon went through their system over a few months and removed all of the reviews that certain readers/reviewers has placed, accusing them of creating false reviews. Some noticed, complained and had reviews reinstated. Some probably haven’t noticed. Some will have spotted it and not have the energy to fight it. I lost up to 20 reviews during that time. As a struggling indie writer, this is a massive blow, especially when they were predominantly hard-earned 5-star reviews. I completely get that there are “rogue” practices out there and there are authors who pay for reviews. It’s right for these people to be stopped … but not to the detriment of those whose reviews are honest and genuine.

Then in early October, I think it was, a very successful author threatened me with legal action. All I’ll say about the situation is that it was very upsetting, especially as I was completely innocent again. Thankfully it went away, but it left scars.

And, on top of that, I had several rejections from publishers. They’re what we call ‘positive rejections’ i.e. they love my writing, my world, my voice but the story is not for them. I got a stack of rejections when I sent Searching for Steven out into the world and none of them hurt. These ones floored me.

contact-2860030_640
It was so frustrating being told I could contact them … and getting no response

I think you can probably see why Amazon’s accusations and subsequent sanctions tipped me over the edge. As Christmas approached, I felt mentally and emotionally drained. I had never felt so low and started questioning whether any of it was worth it. As an indie writer who still works full time because the writing income is so low I can’t afford not to, I struggle to make an impact on the charts but my love for writing and the amazing reviews I get have kept me going … until last year. For a few weeks there, publishing and me are not friends. I was hoping could find my optimism over the Christmas break and rise above all the crap that 2018 presented me. Something you love doing shouldn’t be so traumatic, should it? Sadly, that didn’t work and, if I’m honest, the Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company ruined my Christmas. I smiled, I laughed and I pretended everything was okay but it really wasn’t. They’d broken me.

The New Year arrived and clearly they weren’t going to respond to David’s chase email so I emailed ‘Jeff’; a general Amazon email address. I was thrilled when Jeff responded the day after (4th January 2019):

Hello Jessica, 

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused.

I understand you have a question about Sales rank manipulation issue.

This issue requires input from another team. I’ve forwarded your email to them and someone will reply within 2 business days. 

Thanks for using Amazon KDP !!!

glasses-919071_640

Yes! At last! A human was going to deal with it. There was hope. So I waited two business days. I waited three. I waited several more. On 10th January, I chased Jeff again. And on 23rd. And on 30th. Jeff had obviously decided to blank me too.

So, on 4thFebruary, I emailed the 2 x addresses that David had used and tried a different tack; not forwarding the history on email in case fwd emails were getting kicked out the system.

On 7th February, they finally responded with this email:

 

Hello, 

We’ve restored the sales rank of your book and it will become available within the next 24 hours. 

Please review your account or any promotional services that you may have paid. You’re responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your book(s) manipulate the Kindle publishing service and/or Kindle programs. 

 

No apology. No explanation. No offer of compensation for the inconvenience and stress. Just a factual statement and another telling off. Seriously. And by compensation, I don’t mean money but it would have been nice for them to do some promotion for me or even offer me a Prime deal.

I should have felt relieved but I was actually really angry that day because this is not how businesses should be run yet it happens all the time. I get that I am insignificant to Amazon. My limited sales make little financial impact on my life so they’re certainly not going to make an impact on Amazon’s billions but imagine if thousands of ‘little people’ are being treated in this way, with automated threats and no explanation. How many people are feeling low and have nowhere to turn?

cat-3171124_640
I was very grumpy that day. And if I was a cat, this is how I’d have looked!

The ranks have remained in the week that has followed and I’ve had no more threatening emails but I know it could happen again any time and that’s very scary. If anyone else is in this situation, please leave a comment. If you’re struggling, I’ll give you the email addresses I finally got a reply from. If you found a better way of resolving this, please let me know in case it happens again.

That’s the end of my story. It’s not a happy ever after. It’s not happy at all but it is an end … for now.

As an independent author, I am eternally grateful that Amazon exists. It has meant I can get my books out there without a publishing deal but a company that is so enormous that it has to operate on algorithms and automated responses scares me. There surely needs to be a ‘human’ way to have contact and get mistakes rectified without putting someone through what I’ve been through.

Jessica xx

Advertisements

The one where I’m a bit pleased to say goodbye to 2018

I wasn’t sure whether to do an end-of-year round-up but I read a couple of posts from writing friends of mine today and really enjoyed reading them so I decided to go ahead and do mine.

I wondered how to approach this: month by month, season by season, highs v lows, the good/bad/ugly … then I decided to approach it in a slightly different way, taking inspiration from my absolute favourite film of the year which hurled itself into the number two slot on my most favourite films ever (Shawshank Redemption is still my very favourite): The Greatest Showman. Have you seen it? If you haven’t, you really must, even if you’re not usually a fan of musicals. Hugh Jackman. Zac Efron. Need I say more?

Screenshot 2019-01-01 at 09.43.16

Please note that the songs aren’t presented in the same order as they appear in the film. Ooh, and on that subject, I must add that the soundtrack is my favourite movie soundtrack of all time. I play it every single day and was delighted to add the reimagined version to my CD collection (yes, I’m old school and still like to own CDs) this Christmas. I can even play A Million Dreams on the piano. Well, part of it. Badly. But it’s getting there.

The Greatest Show

Being an author is an amazing thing. For me, it really is ‘the greatest show’. Thinking up plot ideas, developing characters, and having their stories unfold is like creating a show for people to read, as opposed to watch. Sometimes the show receives a standing ovation, but sometimes things don’t quite go to plan …

A Million Dreams

Chill Logo READERS' AWARD 2018A few writing-related dreams came true this year and a few special things happened:

  • I passed Year 1 of my MA in Creative Writing with distinction
  • I received not one but two awards for Bear With Me: A Chill With a Book Readers’ Award and a Cover of the Month Award
  • Several of my books achieved that little orange bestseller tag for achieving the number 1 position in a category on Amazon. For some, this lasted days and, for others, it was only an hour or two but each was still a proud moment
  • Searching for Steven secured an audio deal and so did Bear With Me. I had to walk away from the one for Bear With Me as it had been shortlisted by a major publisher on a non-agented submissions day and I didn’t want to blow my chances of a publishing deal with them by tying it up in an audio deal. Unfortunately, it became a no from the publisher too so I could have had the audio deal after all, but it was one of those decisions I had to make. In the meantime, Searching for Steven is out now on audio format which is very exciting. You can get it here
  • Cover of the Month Award. MAYI completed 5 x blog tours organised by the fabulous Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources. Rachel makes me laugh because she talks about the ‘fans’ I have in the blogger community who can’t wait to read my work. Fans? My fans? I still find that a little astonishing
  • At the point of writing, three separate books have appeared in ‘Best of 2018’ Top 20 lists (actually a Top 18, Top 20 and Top 21) which wasn’t even a dream I’d had but would have been on my wish list if I’d dared to hope such a thing could happen
  • Blue LogoI joined forces with my very good friend, Sharon Booth, to create the Yorkshire Rose Writers, building on our brand as Yorkshire-based writers who write about Yorkshire
  • I attended some great writing-related events: the RNA Conference, the RNA’s York Tea, a bloggers/writers event in York, a social media workshop run my Anita Chapman and a Writer’s Retreat in Bronte country run by author Rowan Coleman. Through these, I met some very special and talented individuals and am very grateful for this

Come Alive

8. Callies Christmas Wish COVERThree books came alive for me this year. I released Callie’s Christmas Wish in October and Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Cafe in November.

I also wrote another novel which will be released in 2019 (see ‘The Other Side’). I’m very proud of all three of them. Callie and Choc Pot both went on blog tours and received some amazing reviews which came at a time when I really needed the encouragement to keep going because giving up was becoming very tempting (see ‘Tightrope’).

Choc Pot v1

The Other Side

IMG_5346.jpegI took another foray into ‘the other side’ this year: exploring traditional publishing. I wrote a novel called ‘Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye’. Told from three perspectives, it was a challenge to write and I was very excited about the story. My beta readers told me it was the best thing I’d ever written and I used various chapters for my MA in Creative Writing, securing a distinction each time. I pitched it at the RNA Conference and 4 publishers were eager to see the full MS. They all turned me down. I’ve had rejections before, when I sent my debut novel out for publication, but these rejections – and a few others – completely floored me. There were tears, there was massive self-doubt and, yes, there was a lot of consolation cake eaten.

Rewrite The Stars

Amazon decided to ‘rewrite the star’ ratings for a lot of authors this year. In spring/summer, there was an outcry on social media when Amazon’s algorithms were altered, resulting in a lot of individuals having all their reviews unceremoniously removed because they allegedly knew the authors. For a very successful writer who has hundreds of reviews for each book, this is annoying but for a struggling indie writer who doesn’t have anywhere near that number, this is pretty devastating. I don’t have an exact figure but I lost approaching 20 reviews and, typically, they were nearly all 5-star ones. Why couldn’t Amazon take one 2-star one? Meanies!

2

Tightrope

During the later part of the year, I feel like I’ve been balancing on a ‘tightrope’ when it comes to my writing, with no safety net, no bar to balance me, and a long way to fall. The ‘stolen’ reviews were the start of it and, at about the same time, sales massively dipped and so did pages read on Kindle Unlimited, pretty much overnight. I stopped receiving emails promoting my books too. It felt as though Amazon’s changing algorithms weren’t favouring me. I reached out to them for some guidance on why I never got promoted anymore or selected for a Prime deal. They responded … with a standard email suggesting I might like to promote myself by setting up a Facebook profile, a website, a blog, Twitter and so on. Really? Wish I’d thought of all that!!!

Then I lost my footing on my tightrope. I woke up one Monday morning to a Facebook message from a very successful author telling me that her publishers were threatening legal action against me because one of my book covers was too similar to hers and I needed to change it. Turns out her designer and mine had used the same Shutterstock image; something that happens all the time and is a risk that all designers know they face when using stock images. The case was dropped when we shared Shutterstock’s stance on this but it was a horrible and scary experience and I’m still licking my wounds.

I clambered back on that tightrope and sent my MS out to be considered for traditional publication (see ‘The Other Side’) but the ‘audience’ didn’t like what I did and pelted me with rejections.

Searching for Steven NEW COVERPulling myself together, I tried to cross that tightrope once more and this time it was Amazon determined to make me fall. An email came out of the blue a week before Christmas accusing me of engaging in activities designed to manipulate sales of Searching for Steven in the USA. They rank-stripped me for that book in all markets (which means it can’t be found unless someone specifically searches for the title or for books by me) and have threatened further action. I have a separate blog post prepared about this which I’ll release when – if – the matter gets resolved.

On top of everything else that had happened in the second half of 2018, this left me emotionally and mentally defeated. I’ve never felt so low and, sadly, it ruined my Christmas.

Never Enough

As I continue on my writing journey, I’m a bit like Barnum in The Greatest Showman because each goal achieved just leaves me wanting more. I wrote a poem about it earlier this year which you can read here.

I am very lucky to be part of two writing collectives. The incredibly talented Sharon Booth and I have started a partnership as the Yorkshire Rose Writers, but I’ve also been part of the ten-strong Write Romantics for 5.5 years.

Being surrounded by writers is a double-edged sword because on the one hand it is such a joy to have regular dialogue with like-minded individuals who understand the highs and lows of being a writer and can support you through the lows, as well as it being inspiring to observe their successes and live vicariously through those. On the other hand, it’s very hard not to compare your success (or otherwise) with those around you, especially when everyone else seems to be doing so much better (more sales, higher chart positions, Prime deals, Amazon bonuses etc) and I’m the one with the weakest sales, being threatened with legal action, and being rank-stripped.

 

And so we move into 2019 and I turn to the final two songs in this amazing film.

This Is Me

Throughout my writing journey, I’ve always remained true to myself, writing the stories that I want to write and that my readers seem to want to read. When I sent my debut novel out to publishers, I was fortunate enough (after many rejections) to have two publishing offers on the table. The first, which I’d verbally accepted, wanted to make a lot of changes to the trilogy: more heat, shorter, focus on the romance and not the friendships. I was on the verge of walking away from it and going indie because it was no longer going to be the story I wanted to write, when the other offer came through. Sadly, that publisher ceased trading so it didn’t work out but it was still the right decision for me at the time to have chosen them.

IMG_5466This year, I have had publishers and other authors advising me to take my writing in a particular more cosy direction if I want to secure a new publishing deal … but that style isn’t me. It was when I started but my writing has changed over time. I would have called myself a romcom writer but I now write contemporary women’s fiction where the romance is not always the central thread. THIS IS ME! It’s my style and my voice and I don’t want to change it. I wouldn’t hesitate to do so if readers and bloggers didn’t rate it but they do … I just don’t reach enough of them as an indie writer.

I’m not giving up on the hope of securing a traditional publishing deal again because I do feel I need that step to get greater exposure. However, I’m not going to change the type of book I write just to secure a publishing deal. If it’s meant to be, the right publisher will like my approach. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I can’t learn from a publisher and don’t want my work editing because I think I’m perfect. Far from it. What I’m saying is that I write a certain type of emotional story and I get a buzz from that so that’s what I’ll continue to do, even if that means I remain an indie writer because it’s not what publishers are seeking.

From Now On

IMG_5716From now on, I need to re-focus and, just like Barnum in the film, remember the important things in life: my family, my health, and why I started writing in the first place. This year has taken its toll on me in more ways than a loss of confidence. I’ve worked too many long hours trying to fit writing and studying alongside my day job as an HR Tutor. This has meant that my lardy backside has been pretty much welded to my office chair from rise til bedtime. I’ve not slept well for most of the year because I’ve not given myself any time to switch-off, which means I’m permanently tired and feel pretty grumpy. My diet has always been bad (I’ve battled with my weight since I was 10) but its been the worst ever this year and I don’t exercise at all. I daren’t get on the scales. I know I returned to my heaviest ever earlier this year, but my clothes still fit so, if I’ve gone over that, it can only be by a couple of lb. Lack of daylight has left me with a vitamin D deficiency (I’m turning into a vampire!) and bad diet has left me with a lack of iron and folic acid so I’m on medication for those as well as high blood pressure. When I returned from my holidays during the October half term, I started having heart palpitations but various tests and an ECG revealed (perhaps surprisingly given my weight) there’s nothing wrong with my heart and the palpitations were actually stress-related anxiety attacks. Eek!

IMG_5766Nobody starts a diet at Christmas but, by mid-January, I need to be back at the gym, eating healthily and spending some time each day outside instead of permanently sealed in my office. I need to organise my time better so that I get more writing done but also have more time with my family. And I need to shut down the computer and read or watch TV on an evening to give myself time to switch-off and hopefully get a good nights’ sleep.

And I need to be kinder to myself, accepting that everyone is on a different path towards their writing goals and mine appears to be the one that meanders, backtracks, and has a few dead ends along the way rather than being a direct route. But quite often a path that meanders has really stunning views so I need to stop and take those in.

From now on, it will be different. From now on, this is me, balancing on a tightrope where it may feel like what I do is never enough but I still have a million dreams and can rewrite the stars to achieve each one. 2018 was a tough year but I made it out the other side and will come alive again in 2019 because writing really is THE GREATEST SHOW!

Happy New Year to you all. I hope 2019 is kind to you and that you’re kind to yourself too. I’m going to try to be.

Jessica xx

49074613_1219768454848655_7277368212402995200_n

It’s time to start Getting Over Gary

I’m very excited to announce that my second full-length novel, Getting Over Gary, is now available for pre-order on Kindle! (Just click the title to take you straight through to Amazon).

Set in the fictional North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay (a fictional version of Scarborough), this is a sequel to Searching for Steven. Steven was Sarah’s story and introduced her two best friends, Elise and Clare. Gary picks up where Steven left off but is Elise’s story (and book 3 which is out in summer 2016 is Clare’s story).

I’m thrilled to be able to reveal Gary’s cover and would like to thank all the lovely readers who’ve already pre-ordered him. He’ll be on your Kindles on 3rd March 2016.

Screenshot 2015-12-16 18.08.14

Here’s the blurb:

It was supposed to be the perfect fairy-tale. Elise married her childhood sweetheart, Gary, straight out of college, and they’ve been happy together for over twelve years. Elise is now desperate to start a family, but Gary doesn’t seem to share her enthusiasm anymore. Arriving home early from a party, she discovers why: Gary’s been keeping a secret from her. A very big secret. 

While her own marriage appears to be falling apart, being a supportive bridesmaid for her best friend, Sarah, isn’t easy. Especially not when Clare, her nemesis from day one, is one of the other bridesmaids. If she’s going to get through it, she needs to put her own feelings aside, find herself again, and get over Gary. Fast. 

Could recently-divorced Daniel be the tonic Elise needs, or is he full of secrets and lies too? Is his hostile, but strangely attractive brother, Michael, the genuine article instead? And why do the good guys like Stevie turn her down? 

But then Elise discovers she has a secret of her own and getting over Gary suddenly becomes the least of her worries…

Two words. Eight letters. Huge meaning

Thank you. Two little words. Eight letters. But they can make such an incredible difference.

As a child, I was always taught to say please and thank you. I’ve always appreciated the politeness and good manners of using these words, but as I’ve moved through my career, I’ve found that the phrase “thank you” carries another meaning. It’s not just politeness. Instead, it’s a phrase that can make an employee feel valued, motivated, and a crucial part of the team. And the absence of it can have the opposite effect.

1459660_10153764816734073_906436907602077622_nSadly, I’ve worked for far too many managers and in far too many companies where the simple thank you is a phrase rarely uttered and employees – myself included – have been left feeling undervalued, demotivated, and totally worthless. After unexpectedly being made redundant from the day job in June, I was fortunate enough to walk into another role as a recruitment consultant for a local company called Castle. Although I struggled at first because the work was quite different to anything I’ve done before, I’ve now fully settled in and have to say that it’s the most refreshing place I’ve ever worked. Why? Because support, appreciation, and recognition are part of the culture at Castle. So far, I’ve been out for two delicious meals at our quarterly team meetings, I’ve been on a hilarious team-building afternoon followed by another meal to celebrate the team smashing their targets for the first half of the year (and I wasn’t even an employee during that time!), I’ve met my first set of targets and will be rewarded with lunch out and a day’s holiday, and I was voted as employee of the month for September. The result? A very happy, motivated employee who wants to work even harder to thank the company for how they treat me!

Converting this to writing, I’ve picked up another few reviews in the past week bringing my total number of reviews for my debut novel, Searching for Steven up to 54, 45 of which are 5-star and the rest 4-star. I can’t quite believe I have such great reviews. At the end of one of the recent ones, Anon writes: “Many thanks Jessica Redland, I look forward to reading more of your books in the future.” An earlier review from Mrs Rosalyn Leach states: “Some books arrive at just the right time in your life. Searching for Steven did for me. I really enjoyed the journey and the final twist to the story. Thank you Jessica.” Thank you. Those two special words. How amazing that these lovely readers are actually thanking me for writing my novel when it’s me who owes them my thanks for buying Steven, taking the time to review it, and absolutely making my day. The actual words “thank you” appear in other reviews but, even where they don’t, the very act of writing a review is effectively thanking me and it has the exact same affect that my employer has had on me: a happy, motivated author who wants to write more books, with fabulous characters and exciting plots to thank the readers for supporting me.

Two words. Eight letters. But oh so valuable.

An Author-ly Good Couple of Days

11312759_890004877705480_5647299591566996495_o

Happy weekend! I’ve had an incredible end to the week, thanks to three amazing things that have happened.

1. My Very First Author Talk!

I’ve received wonderful support from my local libraries. A year ago, before I knew I had a publishing contract, I met a woman called Sharon at a works careers fair. She works for North Yorkshire Libraries. We got chatting between conversations with job-seekers and I told her I was a writer. I also explained that I was a Brown Owl and that I’d be interested in bringing my Brownie Pack to our local library (her base) at some point to complete our Booklover Badge. Earlier this year, I was able to get in touch to organise the Brownie night … and to tell her that I had a publishing deal. Sharon was thrilled to bits about this. My husband also has a contact at the library through his photography and, between both contacts, we organised for me to talk at Scarborough Library and also a smaller library on the outskirts of the town. The latter one isn’t until September, but Scarborough Library was on Thursday night. Eek!

10945679_10153485965344073_4084184173099668412_nI was a little nervous about it. A lot of writer friends are very nervous about the idea of speaking to an audience but I’ve been a Trainer for years so this doesn’t phase me at all, although it’s a little different presenting about me instead of work-based subjects. What made me nervous was the thought of nobody turning up. Or, even worse, a couple of people turning up, realising I’m a romantic comedy writer, turning round and walking out in disgust! I was stunned and delighted when I had an audience of twelve, plus Sharon, and the presentation was incredibly well received. I really enjoyed delivering it and got some great questions afterwards. Four attendees even bought a copy of my book and a couple said they’d download it onto their Kindles.

Thank you so much to Scarborough Library for hosting the event. Sharon also confirmed a great piece of news. I submitted Steven to be considered for the library stock and she was able to confirm that they’ll definitely be stocking it at all the libraries in North Yorkshire. Wow! Not only that but, as a local author, I’ll appear twice: in the main section and in the local author section. Very excited about this. I love the idea that my writing can be enjoyed by more and more people by being available in so many different places.

2. Riding High in the Charts

11401501_432174206971006_984189043329891591_nSearching for Steven was selected for a BookBub promotion on Thursday. BookBub are a US company who promote quality books when they’re at significantly reduced prices. Publishers have to apply to appear on this and they’re very selective about who they pick so I was thrilled when my publisher’s application for Steven was accepted. People join mailing lists, picking their preferred genres of books, and BookBub email them with the books they’ve accepted for promo each day. This can boost sales but nothing quite prepared me for how significantly it boosted mine. There are over 400,000 books registered on the UK Amazon charts and, today, I reached number 399! I also peaked at number 25 in the romantic comedy chart which is an incredibly competitive one.

With being a US promotion, Steven has also shot up the Amazon.com chart to number 143,990. I have no idea how many books are registered on there but, if there are over 400,000 on .co.uk, we’re probably talking millions on .com!

To participate in the promotion, Steven was reduced to a 99p download and is going to be available at that price for a short time longer so, if you haven’t already bagged yourself a bargain, now’s your chance!

3. Local Support

Spurred on by the success of Steven today, I decided to visit Waterstones to see if they’ll stock my book. I spoke to a lovely manager and she was exceedingly complimentary about Steven, telling me it was the most professional cover she’d ever seen on one of the local author books they’d stocked and that it would likely sell very well as romcoms are very popular, especially one that’s set in a fictional version of Scarborough like mine is.  I would imagine that it will take a while before they go through their process and obtain the stock, but I’m so thrilled that they’re going to stock it.

Thank you so much to everyone who came along to my talk, to everyone who has downloaded Steven whilst on promotion, and to Waterstones for being so lovely today. And thank you to my lovely hubby for a couple more amazing promo photos 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone xxx

11696357_889939894378645_1207795002331336368_o

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

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 🙂

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

Three more sleeps till launch day. Eek!

PhotoFunia-6aa56c2

I’m watching the final of Britain’s Got Talent as I’m writing this. It’s one of the few TV programmes I watch as limiting my time in front of the TV is the only way I can fit in writing alongside my full-time day job. The thing I love about BGT is that it’s all about dreams coming true and that’s something I can personally relate to right now because I’ve achieved my dream of being a published author.

3

CoversMy debut novella Raving About Rhys has been available on eBook for a few weeks now and my debut novel Searching for Steven comes out on Wednesday. As my protagonist Sarah would say: EEEEEKKKKKK!!!!

I couldn’t stop grinning on the day that Rhys was released. I’ve started to get reviews through for it as well as messages on Facebook from friends and family which have been incredibly touching. I’ve got 9 x 5-star and 3 x 4-star reviews already which I’m absolutely thrilled about, including some from book reviewers and bloggers. These individuals read constantly so to get a four or five star review from them is incredibly flattering.

Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESI’m at work tomorrow, but I have the rest of the week off. I haven’t decided how I’m going to spend Steven’s launch day (Wednesday). For me, just having the day off work is exciting enough! I think I’d quite like to go out for lunch with the hubby but I haven’t mentioned that yet so we’ll see. I’d actually be just as happy spending the day writing! I’m having a launch party on Saturday afternoon/evening for family and close friends and I’m really excited about that. Time off this week will give me a chance to prepare for that. I need to sort out a playlist for the background music, bake some cakes/biscuits etc. and various other party-related activities.

What feels completely surreal is having so many people asking for signed copies of my book. I can’t believe it! My mum has been incredible, bless her. She’s drummed up business in the village where she lives and has lined up 10 requests for signed copies amongst her friends and a few more have downloaded it or ordered it from their local Waterstones instead. I think I might need to give her commission! What feels extra special about her village friends wanting a copy is that I lived in her village for a month and sang in the choir for months after that when I moved back to the north, opened my own business, and started writing Steven.

11154996_865249320181036_5952108081538780600_oMy sister-in-law, Clare, is using it as her choice for her book group and so is a friend from bootcamp, Leigh. I’m so incredibly touched and flattered by this. How amazing to think that people will be discussing my book and hopefully loving it. My ears may be burning those evenings!

10402456_808549962517639_1313868131826001955_nHubby has been incredibly supportive, Tweeting about it and sharing links with all his Linked In connections and work contacts. He’s also made my fabulous promotion photos as well as taking some new author pictures which I absolutely love.

I’ll come back on Wednesday and talk about launch day so watch this space. In the meantime, you can download Raving About Rhys here and Searching for Steven can be ordered via Amazon here or direct from my publisher here. Thank you sooooo very much 🙂 xxx

10155841_377340975787663_6719274560878209934_n

Sharon Booth is my very first guest. Eek!

Welcome along to my very first guest slot! I’m very excited to welcome my good writing friend, Sharon Booth. I met Sharon about two years ago after my writing friend, Alys, connected with her on Twitter. We’ve met up regularly to eat cake and talk about all things writing-related. We invited her to join The Write Romantics last year and have been very excited to be part of her writing journey.

It’s been two months since she released her debut novel, ‘There Must Be An Angel’ so it seemed like a great time to invite her onto the blog and explore what’s been going on since her launch, and a whole lot more.

Over to Sharon …

Thank you very much for having me as the first guest on your blog, Jessica. I’m honoured to be here!

picture of mag for Jessica's blogIt’s been two months since There Must Be An Angel was launched. What’s happened during that time?

Quite a lot! I’ve been very lucky to attract some really positive reviews, which have boosted my confidence and made it all worthwhile. I’ve had messages posted on my Facebook wall, and my writer’s page, from people thanking me for writing the book and telling me how much they loved it. I really wasn’t expecting total strangers to go to all that trouble. It’s amazing. My work colleagues have been really supportive, buying the book and talking about it in the office, and one of the bosses is always asking how it’s going and congratulating me. My mother actually said she was proud of me. I never thought I’d hear her say that! I had a mention in the food and drink supplement of the May edition of Yorkshire Life, as there was a feature about Art of Mallow, the gourmet marshmallow company who inspired me when I was writing Angel. I’d got in touch with the owner, Philippa Quayle, and asked if she minded me mentioning that her company was the inspiration for Eliza’s mallow-making venture, and she was lovely. She even donated bags of marshmallows as prizes for my Facebook launch party, and then she talked about Angel in her feature for Yorkshire Life. I gave Angel away for free for five days and over seven hundred copies were downloaded in that time. Since publication day, I’ve been getting the second Kearton Bay novel, A Kiss from a Rose, ready for editing, written a novella, and started work on book three in the series.

What’s the nicest thing that anyone has said about Angel?

I’ve been very lucky, as I’ve only heard nice things about it! I’ve had people say that it made them want to visit the area that Angel is set in, as I’d really brought the place to life in their imaginations, which is lovely. People have said that the characters and dialogue are realistic and that they really warmed to Eliza and were rooting for her. One said she wanted to climb into the pages of the book and punch Harry! Another said I’d gone straight on her list of favourite authors. I’ve been really touched and surprised by how involved people have got in the story. It’s a wonderful feeling. I have to say, though, that the nicest thing was said by my daughter. She doesn’t read books as she always insists she just can’t get into them and can’t concentrate long enough. She read Angel from cover to cover in less than a day, and was so full of enthusiasm about it afterwards, wanting to know more about the characters and what was going to happen next, that it made me quite tearful!

Angel cover for Jessica's blogWhat’s been the most unexpected or challenging thing to happen since the launch?

Waiting for the first reviews was absolutely terrifying. I was so scared that people would hate it. I also got quite obsessed with sales and Amazon rankings. I quickly got over all that, though. There’s no point worrying about it, as the book can be riding high one day and plummeting the next. Besides, I never expected to sell a lot of books first time out. I’m in this for the long haul. It’s quite a shock to learn that, just because you’ve had a book published, the world doesn’t change. When you’re dreaming of seeing your book in print, you think it will be the biggest thing to ever happen to you. It’s surprising how quickly you realise that life goes on and not many people really know or care that you’re a published author. You still have to go to work and trail round the shops for something for dinner. No lounging on a chaise longue, eating luxury chocolates, dictating the next book to a willing secretary, after all.

Do you tell people you’re an author or do you, like so many writers out there, struggle to admit that you write?

I never say I’m an author, though we had a new lady start at work and she asked me what I would be doing at the weekend and I replied, as usual, working. She asked me where I worked at the weekends and one of our colleagues called, ‘She’ll be writing. Sharon’s an author!’ I went very red, I can tell you. I still feel uncomfortable saying I’m a writer. I don’t know why.

rhb for jessica's blogYou describe Kearton Bay beautifully. It’s a fictional version of North Yorkshire’s Robin Hood’s Bay. Would you like to live there?

Kearton Bay or Robin Hood’s Bay? I love the inhabitants of Kearton Bay and would absolutely love to live there in an ideal world. I don’t actually know anyone in Robin Hood’s Bay, although I have joined some Bay Facebook groups and one of the residents very kindly gave me permission to use his wonderful photographs of the village, which I’ve shared on Pinterest. I’ve visited Robin Hood’s Bay several times now, and it’s stunningly beautiful, and absolutely full of character. However, it’s packed with tourists in peak season and I’m not sure I could cope with that! It’s also extremely hilly, and, with my dodgy knees, it’s quite challenging. The area is gorgeous, though, and there are several coastal villages that aren’t as busy as RHB that would make a more comfortable alternative. Maybe if I win the lottery…
How did you come up with the idea for Angel?

I wanted to write about a woman who was forced out of her comfort zone. Someone who’d been sleep-walking through her life, accepting second best for so long that she’d stopped noticing, until she was jolted awake and made to look at the reality. I wanted to know how she would cope. Would she sink or swim? How would she deal with starting again? How would she manage if she had to leave behind her home and family, and everything that was comfortable, to go to a strange place, and meet new people? Would she be thrown into panic? Or would she find a strength she never knew she had, and rebuild her life? The book centres on Eliza’s search for her father, but, initially, Eliza went to Kearton Bay for a different reason entirely. As the theme of fathers and daughters grew, with Harry and Amy’s failing relationship, and the strength of the bond between Gabriel and Lexi, I began to realise that what was missing was Eliza’s own relationship with her father. So I rewrote the beginning and the book quickly took shape from there. In searching for her father, Eliza is also searching for herself, trying to discover who she really is and what she wants from her life. Of course, being me, I saw the funny side of things, too, so, although there’s a bit of soul-searching and some sadness, there’s a lot of laughter and a good sprinkling of humour to ease Eliza’s journey.

Angel contains a wonderful cast of characters. Who would you snog, marry, avoid?

What a fabulous question! It’s very tricky, though, as I think my answers would be different if you were talking about the characters across the whole series. I’ll stick to the characters who feature in Angel. I’d snog Will because he’s kind, sweet, a really, really good kisser, and I’m terribly fond of him. He’s got a lot of growing up to do, but by the end of the series he’ll be a serious contender for marriage. I’d avoid Harry, because, in spite of his twinkling eyes and good looks he’s an absolute rogue and best kept away from. I’d probably marry Gabriel, because he’s gorgeous, sincere, decent, and has a passionate streak behind that cool façade. Ask me again when the series ends and you’ll probably find I’ve chosen to marry someone else, because, although I’m a little bit in love with all my heroes, one of them is extra special to me…

If you could be best friends with any of the female characters, who would it be and why?

I have to admit, I love all my female characters and could happily be friends with any of them. Well, perhaps not Melody Bird or the awful Michelle…Eliza is a girl after my own heart, especially with her love for Maltesers and her complete inability to iron clothes. Rose is down-to-earth, funny and warm-hearted, and you know exactly where you stand with her. Lexi is lovely but she’s too young for me, and is far too leggy and gorgeous to be around, without losing what little confidence I have left. Sophie is kind, but a bit interfering, and always thinks she knows best. Then there’s Rhiannon, who is certainly interesting and very good with the advice. Although I’d have to watch her around my husband…Hmm, maybe not, then. I’ll go with Rose, because she’s good for a laugh, but always on your side and great with practical advice as well as tea and sympathy.

Harry presents a property programme. What’s your favourite property programme and why?

I watch loads of property programmes. I have a guilty addiction to Escape to the Country because of the locations of the houses, but I have to confess to getting a bit irritated by the constant whines of “Oh, the kitchen’s a bit small” when it’s the size of my entire house! I’ve been watching a lot of Country House Rescue for research purposes lately, and find that strangely addictive. I’m not sure it counts as a property programme, though? I loved the Sarah Beeny programme, Restoration Nightmare, as Rise Hall is only a few miles from where I live, and I really like Sarah’s presenting style and admire what she’s done to the house. I also love A Place in the Sun: Home or Away. I always root for the UK location, and my heart always sinks when I see how fabulous the houses abroad are! I probably like Location, Location, Location best, mainly because Phil and Kirstie’s relationship is so funny and they’re both so likeable. Also, the budgets are a bit more realistic in a lot of cases.

Rose for Jessica's blogAngel is the first book in a series. What else can we expect, and when?

You can expect three more books. The second in the series, A Kiss from a Rose, will be out in September. Here’s the blurb:

In spite of managing to get a black eye at her best friend’s wedding, Rose MacLean knows she’s never had it so good.

As a partner in a thriving business, her financial problems are easing, and her eldest daughter has finally found employment, while her youngest is doing well at school.

But Rose’s life never seems to run smoothly for long, and, sure enough, her eldest daughter has soon walked out of her job, while her youngest appears to have had a personality transplant. To make matters worse, her mother is back on the scene, and she seems to be reliving her misspent youth with her oily-haired, horse-faced ex, Alec Thoroughgood.

With her best friend preoccupied with the arduous task of baby-making, Rose finds herself relying more and more on the quiet Flynn Pennington-Rhys, who seems to be everyone’s hero. But Flynn has his own problems, and as events take an unexpected turn, Rose realises that she may not always be able to rely on him.

Will the quiet man come through for her? Will her daughters ever sort themselves out? And will Rose ever get her bedroom back from her mother, or is she destined for a life on the sofa?

I’m hoping that the third and fourth books will be out next year. There will be lots of excitement ahead for some familiar characters, some new characters will arrive at Kearton Bay, stirring passions and causing mayhem, and there’ll be weddings, births, village events, surprising relationships, redemption, a legend, a mystery, and just a touch of magic!

You can see pictures of Robin Hood’s Bay, the inspiration for Kearton Bay, and other things which inspired Sharon while writing There Must Be An Angel here:

https://uk.pinterest.com/sharonbooth1/there-must-be-an-angel/

Find out more about Sharon at http://sharonbooth.co.uk/

Follow her on Twitter as @Sharon_Booth1

Or like her Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/sharonbooth.writer