In this month's column, our PHS Partner introduces us to another new team member, Lucy Keeling, and Eilidh K. Lawrence takes us behind the scenes @UKRomChat
Welcome. We're so excited! And we just can't hide it! We have a brand new @UKRomChat team member. We've been joined by the talented, encouraging and lovely Lucy Keeling, long-term member of The #UKRomChat Family and newly-signed Choc Lit author. (Being called Lucy isn't in the job description, but it does seem to help.) Lucy will introduce herself in just a moment, but first we have some thank yous.
As I write (in May) we are celebrating @UKRomChat's first birthday. We want to thank every guest, participant and follower who has supported us along the way. Without you guys it would just be us talking to ourselves on a Monday night (and we pretty much do that every other day). We never could have predicted the extent to which the romance-writing community would get behind #UKRomChat and we truly are thankful. And of course we are grateful to the team right here at The PHS for joining us as guests and inviting us to write this column. Now over to Lucy K...
Lucy Keeling - Yes, another Lucy!
Hi there, I am Lucy Keeling and I have very recently joined the @UKRomChat team. I've been an active #UKRomChat Family Member since the very beginning and as well as all of the amazing chats with guest authors, editors, sensitivity readers, agents, etc. there’s also a wider community, one that sits neatly with The PHS.
When @UKRomChat asked for new team members, I stuck my hand in the air because I wanted to give something back in return for all the writing community has done for me.
Writing is like running a race where your finish line is invisible and there are no markers telling you how much further you need to push. My own personal finishing line was a professional acknowledgment. That my writing meant something to somebody. That was all. After entering competitions and sending to agents, my thighs were burning and I wasn’t sure my lungs could take anymore. So, I paused to catch my breath. And to my astonishment, I heard the voices and I saw the banners from my writing communities, calling me to keep moving forward. Thanks to them, I entered one more competition, not realizing just how close my invisible finishing line was. When I found out I had been shortlisted, alongside the amazing Jeanna Skinner, I threw myself across the tape, grabbed a flag and began my lap of honor, my writing community now cheering and dancing alongside me.
The shortlisting turned into a three-book deal, and I will one day write more about that, but for now, I’m still pinching myself, because without the #UKRomchat-ters and Pink Hearters, I would’ve given up. So, I’m Lucy Keeling, and I’m delighted to have joined the @UKRomChat team because you better believe, I make amazing banners, I can shout really loudly and I have all the jelly babies to get you through your writing race to your own personal finishing line.
Eilidh K. Lawrence - Behind the Scenes at @UKRomChat
This month, I'll be telling you a little about what goes on behind the scenes to make each #UKRomChat happen.
When Jeanna set up the chat, she took inspiration from #RWChat, a now-closed weekly chat for romance writers and #ukteenchat, a chat for writers of teen fiction which features guests. We've had a few open chats, but practically every #UKRomChat starts its life with the booking of a guest. We feature author guests and industry guests. Sometimes we approach a guest and sometimes the guest approaches us. We put out calls too.
This is how we booked sensitivity reader Elisa Winthers and we were thrilled when that call worked. Promoting diversity and accurate representation of marginalised people in romantic fiction is one of our passions. We all suggest guests or occasionally types of guests, for example Jeanna contacted Mills &Boon to ask if a M&B/Harlequin editor would like to join us and that's how we booked Laurie Johnson. I suggested we approach a Gothic Romance author – Gothic was cropping up on a lot of MSWLs – and with that agreed, I did some research and got in touch with Eve Silver, who's at the top of that genre and graciously agreed to join us. We also liaise with the PHS to book in guests from their team, who talk to us about their PHS roles as well as their own projects.
Once a guest agrees to join us, we send them a Guest Information Sheet, which explains how the chat works, and make ourselves available to answer any questions. We ask our author guests if there is anything they would like us to read and have gladly received many, many novels. We also ask for an author pic and a book cover pic, if applicable.
Reading the books and writing ten questions per chat are our biggest tasks. The questions are a mix of book- or industry/service-related questions, craft/time-management questions and bio questions. And of course, we ask every author guest to tell us what, for them, is the best thing about writing Happy Every Afters. Sometimes we all contribute to the questions, while other times someone drafts up questions and we brainstorm till we get to the final ten. Guests are always given the questions in advance which gives them time to draft their answers beforehand, should they want to.
We announce our guests at the end of the preceding week's chat and we promote each chat across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We use Canva to create our graphics, using the pictures the guests have sent us. On the Monday night, one person will run the @UKRomChat Twitter account and post the questions while the others interact from their own accounts.
Our diary books up quite far in advance and there is always something to be getting on with. We have a wonderful team who carry out all these tasks, all of whom volunteer their time. We're certainly kept busy!
May at @UKRomChat
Our first May guest was Harper Collins author Sue Fortin, who joined us to chat Romantic Suspense. Sue is a #1 ebook bestseller and USA Today bestseller. Sue talked about using different POVs in her novel ‘The Girl Who Lied,’ including the antagonist's, which allowed Sue to show why that character feels and acts the way she does. She explained that although she writes in different genres, family relationships are her main theme. Sue gave a shout out to the RNA New Writers' Scheme, which we are big fans of. She told us that she had forged lasting friendships and a support network through connections she made via the Scheme. Sue closed with a suggestion that a happy ending can sometimes be the 'antidote' we need to the bad stuff in the world. We couldn't agree more..
As we write this article, we are looking forward to our next chat, the last of the month, with bestselling Avon Book author Sue Moorcroft. (Lots of bank holidays in May.) We'll be chatting about her latest book, ‘A Summer to Remember' and its fun job vacancy-style cover blurb. The story is set in fictional Norfolk coastal village, Nelson's Bar. We'll be asking Sue all about how she created such a detailed imagined location. We're also interested in the Society of Authors, of which Sue is a member, so we’ll be inviting her to share the benefits of membership. And I'll be letting Sue know I'm listening to the audiobook of her novel 'Starting Over' right now on holiday, which is a fun coincidence.
Join us in July’s issue when we’ll be talking about being brave and joining a writers' group.!
You can find the #UKRomChat team on Twitter as @UKRomChat, and get information about upcoming guests on their Facebook page and Instagram feed.