Harvesting: Johanna Grassick and the Sophie King competition

Johanna Grassick

Johanna Grassick

Johanna Grassick is my guest today. Johanna and I met on a writing course and have kept in touch. We both joined the RNA new writers’ scheme and often attend the conference in July. Johanna writes contemporary romance and has recently reaped an exciting success in the Sophie King short story competition. Johanna came third with her story, Rum Truffle. A really worthwhile way to fill in while waiting for the reader’s report or response from a house. Congratulations, Johanna.



I asked Johanna a few questions. To begin, I wanted to know what attracted her to short stories.

Johanna says, when I first started writing more than ten years ago, I began with short stories. I used to attend a writing class once a week and our teacher would set us homework which we could interpret into poetry, plays, novels – anything. For me, it was always a short story (I had a one year-old baby at the time, and could only snatch an hour or two a day to write while he was napping) and I’d bring it the following week for feedback from the group.

Since then a lot has changed: my writing has evolved and novels have been my preferred genre for a good while now. However, I still enjoy writing shorter pieces and, more importantly, entering competitions. These give me deadlines (so important when you’re unpublished), inspiration for new ideas, and the satisfaction of completing something quickly – in contrast with a novel, which is such a long-term project.

I also read more short stories than ever because I have the Kindle app on my phone. I find that if I arrive early for an appointment and have ten minutes to spare, they’re the perfect length for dipping into, and I get through a lot of anthologies.

Question What are you working on at the moment, Johanna?
My current NWS submission is called Her Forget-Me-Not Ex, and it’s a contemporary romance set on a vineyard in Provence. I really enjoyed writing that one because it reminded me of my own childhood and summer holidays spent with my mother’s family in France (though we didn’t have a vineyard!).
Question What else are you writing at the moment?
I’m about to revisit a women’s fiction novel which I began last year. I’m also dabbling with other ideas, including some shorter pieces.

Question How easy is it to move in and out of different disciplines?

Generally, I stick to novel-length work. However, I really enjoy writing shorter pieces because they give such instant gratification. The whole process of drafting, editing and polishing is complete in a matter of days, and that gives me a real rush of satisfaction. I can switch between the different disciplines, but I find that this period in between finishing one book and starting another is the perfect time for experimenting with short stories.

The Love is All You Need  anthology of ten winning short stories from the Sophie King competition can be bought for kindle here. It will be available in paperback in August.



http://goo.gl/pASdjp Mariah’s Marriage amazon US
http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage UK
http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal US
http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal UK







Susie Medwell tagged me in her post, The Next Big Thing. The Next Big Thing invites writers to answer ten questions about their next project. Thanks, Susie. Susie’s post is here:http://susiemedwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-next-big-thing-blog-hop-text-me.html

I am tagging Pamela Kelt, Mary Smith and Audrey Reimann.

Here are my takes on the questions posed.

Qu One: What is the title of your next novel? MARIAH’S MARRIAGE. It’s also my first novel.    Mariahs Marriage

Qu Two: Where did you get the idea for the story? There’s a sort of mist of ideas in my head and occasionally things distil out. I suspect the idea for Mariah came from a visit to a large country house in Scotland called Fasque. They had an integral schoolroom on display where the estate children were taught. Then the questions come. Who taught them? And that’s where Mariah gets her cue.

Qu Three: What genre is your book? It’s historical romance with a lot of dialogue and a lot of humour.

Qu Four: Who would play your hero and heroine in a film of the book? Oh, that’s hard, but can I have Ashley Jensen and Richard Armstrong please?

Qu Five: Give a one sentence synopsis of the story. When Mariah is knocked over by a pig her world of service to education collides with the privileged world of aristocrat, Tobias, and nothing is the same thereafter.

Qu Six: Are you self-published or represented by an agent? Neither. I sent Mariah out with her visiting cards and she was invited into the MuseItUp drawing room. She’s been made very welcome there by editors Judy B Roth and Greta Gunselman who were both incredibly patient and helpful with this newbie.

Qu Seven: How long did it take you to write the first draft? That’s really hard to answer because there are so many things happening at once and when you’re still seeking publication, you’re spread very thinly. I wrote the first chapter for New Voices although it has changed so much even I struggle to recognise it. I finished the book for the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA. There was a lot of lie time. Maybe 12-14 months.

Qu Eight: What other books would you compare this story to in your genre? I think it comes out of the Jane Austen, Susan Ferrier, Georgette Heyer, Louise Allen tradition. Lots of story, humour and dialogue.

Qu Nine: Who or what inspired you to write this book? All those young women who struggled as assistant teachers in the early days of education for the masses. It must have been so hard to secure recognition for themselves and to educate children who were hungry and whose parents wanted them to be out earning.

Qu Ten: What else would pique readers interest about your story? Well, he does the chasing.

Mariah’s Marriage is e-published by MuseItUp of Canada on 3rd May. There’s a Notify me button here:https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore1


Scarlet Wilson

Scarlet Wilson

Novels Now is pleased to have a visit from the RONA nominated medical writer

Scarlet Wilson

Scarlet is a fellow Scottish based writer beavering away at parenting, the day job and writing first class Medicals for HM&B. I was very impressed by Scarlet’s two nominations in the short category, but having heard her speak at the Penrith RNA conference last year, not surprised. I asked Scarlet a few questions and here’s what she said in reply:

I first met Anne as part of the Scottish contingent at the RNA conference in London in 2010. It was my first time at a RNA conference and I was terrified. I didn’t know anyone and had travelled down on the train from Scotland by myself in the hope of meeting some like-minded individuals. Some wise person had decided to put all the Scottish ladies in one corridor and boy, did we have fun. I’ve never seen so many women consume so much wine in such a short space of time. I knew I’d found some kindred spirits!

Qu 1) Congratulations on your places in the Shortlist, Scarlet. I’m sure you’re too modest to bring it up, but it must be unusual to secure two places on the same shortlist, isn’t it?

I’d love to pretend it’s only ever happened to me, but actually one of my fellow nominees – Fiona Harper was nominated twice in 2009. I’m just so glad to see medicals on the shortlist, because the line I write for isn’t quite as popular as some of the other lines. Last year Kate Hardy was shortlisted with another medical, so it’s great to see recognition for the line that I love.

Qu 2) How long were you writing full length before you were contracted by HM&B? Do you have any insights for the aspiring HM&B writer?

I wrote my first really awful Mills and Boon when I was 17. It was called Hidden Love and got a form rejection. I didn’t start writing again until 2009. I joined the New Writers Scheme via the RNA and got myself two critique partners via the Harlequin boards. The story I sold was my second attempt at the New Writers Scheme, and by that point I’d been writing for 18 months. (My first attempt has since been rewritten and is released in February – An Inescapable Temptation a.k.a. the cruise ship story!)

Qu 3) How has your life changed since you were contracted to write a specific number of novels a year, rather than writing as and when?

I’m fairly disiplined and write 1000 words every day – usually at lunch time. If I keep doing that it keeps me on track. I’m not the type of girl to pull an all-nighter to meet a deadline. So far, I’ve always submitted my contracted books early. 1000 words isn’t actually that much and it’s manageable along with working fulltime and having two sons who have actitivities on every night of the week. I enjoy writing, I don’t think I’ll be able to manage any more than 4 books a year in amongst other things, so I’m quite happy crawling along here like a tortoise!

Qu 4) Is it more or less fraught to be under contract? Do the ideas flow, or does the deadline freeze?

I haven’t had brain freeze yet. And if I get it now I’ll blame you!! I always know what the next story is going to be. Sometimes I get a little stuck around the middle. I always know how my story will start and how it will end. How I get there is sometimes a little fuzzy. If I’m stuck I brainstorm with my critique partner Rachael. If she gives me a few sentences or thoughts that’s all I need. I also pitch things back and forth to my editor Carly. She always knows the general story idea and looks at a partial, giving me a few suggestions, before I complete the full book.

Qu 5) Has your new career impacted on relations with your colleagues in the day job? Do they worry about appearing, heavily disguised of course, in the next opus? (As fellow writers, we all know individuals are unlikely to be sufficiently interesting to secure imortality in our prose, but it is a preoccupation some encounter. )

The trouble with working in the health service is that everyone thinks they should be in your next book. And claiming all the profits! My colleagues are supportive and also know their secrets are safe with me! I actually have a much more vivid imagination, their stories are tame in comparison to what I put in my books. I’ve also yet to meet a George Clooney or Patrick Dempsey in my workplace – that’s why I write fiction!

Thank you so much for sharing these insights, Scarlet. Fingers still crossed until the results.

Scarlet’s blog is here http://rosieringlet.blogspot.co.uk/

Scarlet’s nominated books are Her Christmas Eve Diamond and From West Wing to Maternity Wing