How Not To Do A TV Interview

Last week I appeared on morning television. It could have been a wonderful experience. A chance to sell my book and build my profile. But it wasn’t so wonderful, not really.

Let me backtrack a little. When my novel was released at the beginning of March, I was due to appear on Weekend Sunrise on Channel 7,  – the same network that screens Home and Away – here in Sydney. It’s one of those newsy, chat shows with desks and couches and very happy, smiling presenters. However, a couple of days before I was to make my TV debut, Schapelle Corby (enter young, attractive, Australian drug smuggler who may or not be mentally ill depending which press you read) was released from prison in Bali. So me and my book were ditched for Schapelle. Then the following week, the tragedy of the Malaysian Aircraft disappearance began to unfold and understandably, I was once again bumped.

For five weeks I was put on standby for the weekend only to be replaced by something or someone else.

So, I took my book to another network, Channel 10 – who screens rival soap opera, Neighbours. It was a risky strategy. I was guaranteed a soft, friendly interview on Channel 7, but probably not so soft or friendly on Channel 10. I should also confess that I happen to know a senior someone at Channel 10 who opened the door for me to step through.

If you are reading my blog for the first time, let me explain that my novel is based on the 5 years I spent working on Home and Away, one of Australia’s most popular TV shows. I always knew this would provide ‘the hook’ for any publicity and also for many readers, so I was prepared to be asked lots of questions about the cast of the show. I wasn’t disappointed. Nearly every interview I’ve given has turned on the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspect and most have tried to push me to reveal gossip or scandal, which is fine, as long as they accept the fact that I won’t answer those questions!

Unlike press or radio interviews, you do get some warning about the angle of a TV interview when the producer calls and asks lots of questions. And I was left in no doubt with the Channel 10 producer –  ‘we want you to dish the dirt’. Of course you do, but I won’t talk about gossip, scandal or dish any dirt. I was pretty clear, so I thought.

Given my experience with Channel 7, I fully anticipated being dumped before my appearance, particularly when I was moved form the Thursday to the Wednesday. But Wednesday morning came around and there in my Tweeter feed was one from Studio 10 mentioning my name. WooHoo! It’s going to happen.

I was immediately terrified. In fact, I was so nervous part of me hoped I’d get cancelled at the last minute! Of course that wasn’t going to happen.

The lovely Kirsty Noffke, my PR rep at Random House met me at the studio and we were ushered through to the Green Room and before I even sat down, I was taken straight through to make-up. After fifteen soothing minutes in make-up, I was bustled through sound to get ‘miked up’ and then through the studios doors to the chaotic backstage area. A tangle of cables, bodies and staging equipment. After a quick set change during a commercial break, I was plonked on a couch between Ita Buttrose, a legend of Australian media and publishing, and journalist, Jessica Rowe on one side; on the other side sat, journalists Joe Hildebrande and Sarah Harris.

Yes, my first  TV interview was with four seasoned veterans of the profession. What could possibly go wrong?

Sarah Harris introduced me, The Wardrobe Girl, and the theme of the interview -‘dishing the dirt on Home and Away.’ The next four minutes and forty-two seconds consisted of me not answering questions, whilst smiling, laughing and pretending to enjoy myself with four people who, up until that morning, had never heard of me or my book. Excellent.

My mind had decided that it would stop working during these few minutes. All the anecdotes I could have said vanished when I was put under pressure to reveal secrets, dirt, scandals. I didn’t even think to say, ‘Well, you’ll need to read my book to find that out.’ Or, ‘In my book, there’s a scene where ….’

So rehearse, practise answering questions in a way that isn’t rehearsed and sounds spontaneous. Never expect the interviewer/s to respect that there are questions you won’t want to answer, in fact they’re the very ones they’ll want answered!

They say all publicity is good publicity. I’m not so sure about that, but I did learn a lot from my experience and if I’m ever asked to go on TV again, I hope I won’t be such a startled rabbit in the headlights!

Here for your entertainment and education is the link Studio 10 Interview !

The Business of Writing

Congratulations! You’ve written your book. You’ve been accepted by an agent, secured your publishing deal, all the editing and rewriting is finished and your book is off at the printers. Phew. Time for  a quick break,  put your feet up before launching into your next writing project. Right?

Wrong.

Your work is just beginning. You’re about to enter a new phase and it may be one that won’t come naturally. This is the selling phase; the getting your book into the hand of the book-buying public phase. Sound harsh? Maybe, but your readers are firstly buyers who need to be persuaded that your book is worth handing over some of their hard-earned cash for. And there is a lot of competition for their dollars.

Competing for bookshelf position

Competing for bookshelf position

 

Every month, thousands of books are published through the established publishing houses, not to mention the small independent companies and those writers who choose to self-publish. Amongst all those thousands will be your book and you need to 1. draw attention to its existence and 2. convince book-buyers that they want to read it.

It’s called PR, marketing and sales. It’s time-consuming, but vital work.

My novel, The Wardrobe Girl, was published 3 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve done numerous radio interviews, press articles, guest blog posts, library talks and book signings. there have been times when I thought my head was spinning and it’s certainly taken some adjusting on my part. I’m not a ‘spotlight’ kind of person, I’m very happy with my own company, my own space and writing. I like silence and often long for solitude. (Oh, my poor long-suffering family!). But I’ve needed to create a persona, become a performance artist for my PR campaign and given the nature of my novel, it needed to be upbeat, witty & personable. I also needed to learn to flick the switch and be present immediately the interview begins and to make sure that I’m getting my message across.

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Gone are the days of the large marketing budgets. Now, as a debut author, you may be lucky to have any budget at all. there’s very little handholding – I had no media training. although Kirsty Noffke, my Random House PR colleague, organised my itinerary and was always just a phone call away. But it’s pretty much sink or swim.

In the local paper.

In the local paper.

Of course before you even reach this stage, you’ll be on Twitter, have your own Author page on Facebook and a blog. (Even if it is terribly neglected like this blog!). You’ll be working on establishing a profile, developing your platform, so by the time your book is published, you’ll have an existing marketing base to draw on.

You can’t afford to ignore this part of the deal. it’s the business of being a writer. the difference between ‘aspiring’ and ‘arrived’. If you’re hoping to be picked up for books 2 and 3 and so on, then you’ll need to embrace this aspect as part of the publishing process.

People often liken publishing a book to giving birth and if that’s true, then is the reality of the first 6 weeks. Your life as a writer has changed and even though you were warned, it may be nothing like you expected.

How Many Words Does It Take To Write A Book?

IMG_6794The Words that Formed The Wardrobe Girl

 

Word count. Writers are addicted to their word count. That little self-help tool that ticks over in the tool bar of your document pushing you towards that much sought after sign off – The End.

But when is enough, enough and how will you know?

There are no easy answers to those questions (sorry if I was holding out false hope there). There are lots of ifs, buts, maybes and how long is a piece of string kind of responses. Sometimes it’s dependent on genre, so if you’re writing a picture book, 400 crisply chosen, precise words maybe all you need, but a Scifi or Fantasy epic may need 120,000 words to paint the world and tell the story.

My book, The Wardrobe Girl, is just 94,000 words, but I’d say I probably wrote at least 200,00 to achieve the 94,000 words that made it into the published copy. My first draft came in at 105,000 words, but there were many rewrites and scrunched up sheets of paper on the way. Most of those words were handwritten (I’m an old-fashioned pencil/pen and paper girl) before they made it onto a word document. Although, I have allowed myself some artistic license there – I never scrunch up my sheets of paper and I’ve never had an overflowing waste paper basket, the Hollywood shorthand for writer at work, trying to breakthrough writer’s block. Oh no, we have blogs for that these days!

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My words are kept, usually between the covers of a Moleskine. I carry a notepad with me ready to write down any conversational gems I overhear or to take note of someone’s outfit, or idiosyncracy. The journals are my starting point for the writing, although, for some reason book 2 is currently being written on a blank foolscap pad – I’m not sure if this working for me, I’ll let you know. Sometimes my words are retrieved or used elsewhere. It might just be a phrase I’ve highlighted or a whole paragraph. Sometimes a whole scene has been resurrected. I know there’s all kinds of software that does it for you, but 1, I’d have to learn how to use it and 2, I like to have physical access to them.

But, how did I know when enough was enough?

I didn’t really. I reached a point where I knew it still needed work, but wasn’t sure how to quite go about it. With the encouragement of a friend, the wonderful writer A.D. Scott, I submitted my manuscript to her agent, and now mine, Sheila Drummond. The word count was sitting at about 96,500 at this stage, but I couldn’t see where to lose those 6,500 words to hit the magical 90,000 word mark for my genre – contemporary women’s fiction (aka – chick lit). Sheila reassured me that when a publisher got hold of it I would have all the guidance I needed.

And she was right.

Although the rewriting isn’t necessarily any easier during the editing process, at least you have some guidance and all those tracking changes down the side. You know where to cut, massage and completely rewrite. But without any words, you can’t do any of those things.

So how many words? As many as it takes. Listen to your intuition, because those gut instincts are you usually right. Don’t be scared to write it big and write it ugly, those words can be refined. In the end, the answer always comes down to the same thing. Write. Put one word down after another and you will form a sentence and the sentences will eventually a become your book.

Move Over Bridget Jones: The Wardrobe Girl Is Coming Soon

Originally posted on Spilling Ink:

The Wardrobe Girl

TheWardrobe Girl, byJennifer Smart

(Random House Australia, 2014) ISBN:9780857982513

Publication Date: 3 March 2014

**4 Stars**

Bye-bye Bridget Jones. The long-standing queen of the unlucky-in-love set is about to be bumbled out of limelight. Enter Tess Appleby, a loveable, relatable, thirty-something darling, whose track record in the romance department would make even Bridget blanch.

What does Tess have that Bridget didn’t? How about a seat at the A-List’s table, a behind-the-scenes job in television, a dad who can write nice fat cheques, and views of the Sydney Harbour no matter where she’s bedding down?

Dumped by a big-shot English boyfriend, hunted down by paparazzi, and humiliated in the headlines of the UK’s sleaziest tabloids, Tess retreats to her home in Bronte, hoping for a fresh start a world away from the train wreck of her past. A low-key wardrobe job on the set of…

View original 270 more words

The Soundtrack to The Wardrobe Girl

I usually write in silence. Except for the occasional cafe scribble with it’s hum of voices, clatter of cutlery and the whoosh, gurgle of the coffee machine.

Silence is my preferred accompaniment when I’m writing. I have tried listening to music, especially if it’s a song that’s mentioned in the text, but it’s too intrusive. More than intrusive, it takes over the mood and the rhythm of my words. I find myself listening to the lyrics instead of the words I’m trying to find or the voices I’m trying to hear. Oh yes, us writers are that weird, we hear voices.

Music is important for my characters, they have their own tastes, which sometimes I find quite surprising. So, I thought I would give you a taste of what would be playing on Tess (The Wardrobe Girl) Appleby’s iPod.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

The Final Pages, My Work is Done

 

The Readers' Copy

The Readers’ Copy

I have finally finished.

After years of writing, rewriting and editing, my book is typeset and will head off to the printers on Friday.

I feel such a strange mix of emotions. Relief, excitement, anticipation and, strangely, sadness.

I’ve put so much into the writing of this book that letting go, waiting to hand it over to the public is almost with a sense of loss. Everything I could do is done and now my characters and the world they inhabit will face the reality of bookshop shelves, bedside tables, coffee stains, dog-eared corners and critics. But isn’t that what I wanted? Absolutely!

To reach this final stage, I’ve travelled a funnel-shaped journey. It started with the big picture, a splashing of colour and movement in big, bold strokes. Each draft or version – there were 47 before it went to my agent, Sheila Drummond and then onto Beverley Cousins at Random House – was a process of refinement, of whittling down and narrowing my focus. By the time I reached the final pages, I was assessing the worth of an individual phrase or word, correcting punctuation with a brush of sable-like fineness. I know it’s a better book for the process and I am sure I have learnt much along the way, although I feel too close still to articulate it all.

But I will say this. Trust your gut instincts. If it feels wrong, whether it’s a word, an action, a whole passage or plot line, it probably is. Write it big and and ugly in the first draft. If you have words on a page you can begin to edit, without words you have nothing. Let yourself fall in love with your characters and then listen to what they are telling you, let them off your leash so they can roam. Listen to your editor, agent, publisher, they all want the best for your book. they won’t give advice that will make it worse or destroy the integrity of your work. But, if you really disagree and can justify why, then stick to your guns.

Next up for me is the publicity and that is going to something else again!

Hitting Your Mark - the first draft

Hitting Your Mark – the first draft

The Copy -Edit Blues

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You’ll grow to love your copy-editor. It may take a little time as you work through the corrections and comments tracked down the side of your manuscript, but eventually you will realise how important they are.

It is rather deflating to open a document and notice a page of red tracking changes on the right hand side. A glaring pointer to misplaced commas, typos that had slipped through and comments pointing out continuity errors and suggestions to improve the understanding or readability of a sentence. And then the joy of discovering a page of pristine black and white text, free of the red errata markers.

I decided to tackle the least daunting task first. Clicking my way through, accepting the punctuation corrections and then going back through to address the comments. (Can you imagine how long this would have taken before the computer??) It certainly started out as a fairly straightforward process, but as I moved through my manuscript, I became quite emotional, and a little defensive. I’d spent so long writing this book. I’d listened to Tess, my main character talking to me, telling me about her life, her feelings and here was a copy-editor changing and commenting on my work? Arrgh! But I wrestled myself back into a box, talked myself down from the tree and spoke to my editor, Anne Reilly.

‘Do I have to accept all the comments and changes?’ I asked nervously.

‘No, of course not. It’s your name on the cover,’ she replied.

‘That’s right.’ I reminded myself. My name on the cover. Arrrgh!! Again. But a different Arrrgh! this time. This was the realisation that yes, this was actually happening. I am having my book published. I’d finally moved from beyond the surreal, is this actually happening to me stage?,  to the wow, this is actually happening, bring on stress-inducing terror of making it as perfect as I could, stage.

So, I moved through the comments, paring back, rewriting where necessary and rejecting what I felt I needed to. Now, with the benefit of some sleep and a few days distance, it wasn’t a huge amount of work, but there was one scene I rewrote completely. Perhaps a few pages doesn’t sound so much, but at this stage it took some courage to take a deep breath, admit I could do better and start it again.

It was a fortnight of stress. Of working through my emotional reactions to the process, of bringing objectivity and new inspiration to a project I’ve been working on for a few years. That’s not so easy. Not for me.

I made my deadline with an A++ for reliability and delivery from my editor. And now I’m back in waiting mode. there’s a lot of waiting in the publishing process. There is other work to do and the pleasure and responsibility of writing my Acknowledgements and an Author’s note.  I haven’t heard any screams of torment reverberating across Sydney Harbour from my publisher’s office – I’ll let you know if I do!

Next up, the copy is sent to the typesetter and my next delivery will be the pages. And then off to the printers.

I’m nearly there. The Wardrobe Girl will be available from the beginning of March in bookstores and as an e-book.

You can also follow me here on Facebook.

There’s more to being published than writing a book.

So, you’ve written a book. You’ve done the editing and the rewriting. It’s in the hands of a publisher. Job done. Right? Wrong.

No, your job is about to take on whole new world. Welcome to marketing and publicity, the business end of the publishing industry. Perhaps in some Publishing Utopia you can just focus on your creativity, your artistic endeavour, but here on Planet Earth, it doesn’t work that way. Not if you do actually want to be published. I’m not going to get involved in self=publishing here, because I know nothing about it, but I suspect it’s no different.

For the last few weeks I have been busy finessing the cover of my novel, The Wardrobe Girl. The artwork and ‘look’ was done in-house by Random Books Australia, briefed by my publisher, Bev Cousins. This included writing the back cover copy, my bio and finding the best filmic image to place the book in its world of a TV soap opera.

The Front Cover was a very pleasant surprise, once I got my head around the pink typeface, I was delighted. If you’ve ever spoken to an author, or listened to an author at a writers’ festival, you may have heard the horror stories about covers they hate being imposed on them. But I loved that the girl in the image has an intelligent, curious, slightly cheeky expression and I loved the film set paraphernalia. It has the visual quality and feel of a film poster, which is perfect. Be ready, for a strange experience here – you will see your name on the cover of the book. It’s the most wonderful feeling of surreal disbelief and butterflies of joy.

The back cover copy is so important too. Once the reader/buyer picks up your book because the cover is so wonderful, this could be their first introduction to your book and once they’re holding it you want them to keep a tight hold of it until they part with their cash and take it home to read. It needs to intrigue, pique the interest and reflect the tone/style of the novel. You don’t want them putting back on the shelf because they’ve decided it sounds to highbrow when a holiday read is what they’re after and vice-versa. This is surprisingly tricky to pull off, so be prepared and practise!

I was lucky that the ‘shoutout line’ on the cover was perfect, so I didn’t need to worry about that. But again, be prepared. Your publisher may send through something you hate, or may need a bit of tweaking.

And of course the most psychologically damaging part of the whole exercise – the author shot. My book is very much a genre novel – chick-lit, to be precise. so my brief was ‘warm and inviting, friendly, big smile. I confess, I pulled out the big guns. I employed a professional photographer, the talented Angela Pelizzari, and make-up artist to the stars of TV, Trinity Raine. It was so worth it. they made the whole experience relaxing and comfortable. Don’t try to scrimp by here – your mugshot will be on the back cover of your book forever! And you don’t want to scare the punters away either.

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I sent off about half a dozen shots for Bev to choose and within a couple of days the finalised cover appeared in my inbox. there on the back cover was my photo! If I was excited seeing my name, it pales in comparison to the overwhelming reality check of me looking out from the back cover of the book. My book. It was about now I became a little teary.

But that’s just the cover. I have created a Facebook Author Page and the hashtag #TheWardrobeGirl on Twitter and I’m helping design the Chapter Openers with my in-house editor, Anne Reilly.

But the writing goes on. By the end of this month the copy edit will arrive and I’ll have a couple of weeks to work through that, before it’s returned for a final copy edit. And then it’s off to the printers by the end of December.

Stay tuned, as they say, the next few months could be pretty hectic!

PS this blog post is also a shameless piece of self-promotion for my book!

Revising The Revisions: Learning How To Edit.

Novellist, Toni Jordan* describes writers as ‘Knitters or Quilters.’ There are the writers, like me who ‘cast on’ their story at Chapter 1 and then knit/write their way to the end, ‘casting off’ only when they have finished the last chapter. Conversely, the ‘quilters’, write/quilt pieces and then sew/write the pieces to form blocks and then piece together again to form a whole. The editing process is mostly a quilting process.

I quite like a bit of nanna technology and can often have a couple of knitting or quilting projects on the go, so this analogy made perfect sense to me. I realised, that for me, the art of editing was going be learning how to quilt as a writer. How to move pieces/passages around the manuscript, creating new pieces and then pulling it all together.

But let’s go back a step. My publisher, Beverley Cousins at Random House, sent me through some very comprehensive notes about the manuscript – some general observations, detailed notes on particular scenes and points that needed clarification. She had also picked up typos, spelling and punctuation errors. This was all on a hard copy of the manuscript, marked up line by line, with an explanation of the squiggles she uses as shorthand.

For the next 6 weeks or so, these documents were my Bible.

I had a road map to follow and follow I did. Although I didn’t take on every suggestion, because there were some things I felt needed to stay. Now I could finally look at my work with fresh eyes. After the long process of writing, then rewriting and revising before I even submitted the manuscript, I’d reached a point where I’d fallen out of love with writing, my writing, my manuscript.  I was re-energised. Yes, I was worried I might ruin the whole story, destroy all that work, but understand this: there is no rational basis for the terror that may descend at this point. all you can do is write through it. I know, it’s not fair.

Some pages look like this.

Some pages look like this.

Other pages look more like this.

Other pages look more like this.

The revisions bring tough decisions. Some ‘darlings’ are killed off. Lines you’d waited for, hunted for, scrawled out, rewritten and fought for, are sent to the editing room floor. Characters must earn their place in the story and if they don’t, so long. Other characters begin to play a role you never anticipated for them, or become more sympathetic. It’s hard to change your characters, even their names (one of my supporting cast had his name changed 3 times). I love all my characters, even the ones I disliked. They all talked to me and gave me ideas, when I was quiet enough to listen.

Of course, some of the revision was ‘mechanical’. Correcting typos, punctuation, etc and that’s where I chose to start. I could do this straight onto the computer and it didn’t require a great deal of creative thought, but it did put me back in touch with the story. It allowed ideas to form and percolate.

Eventually, you have to do the writing! I wish there was a secret formula for that, but I’m still searching. And perhaps this is another example of my love of nanna technology, now I reach for my pen and paper, or my Moleskine books.  I head off to The State Library of NSW and I write.

Writing - Stage 1 the nanna technology

Writing – Stage 1 the nanna technology

And then I rewrite the revisions. But there’s more. The next step is entering it into the computer and there’s always some tweaking and tinkering done there. That’s printed off, and a final edit with pen and paper is done.

Eventually, I make it this far.

Eventually, I make it this far.

It’s not a quick process, but as Michael Crichton** says, ‘Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten’.

There is one final step, the most terrifying. You email your revisions back to your publisher and wait…

Actually, I’m wrong. The most terrifying moment is opening the return email from your publisher. Fortunately, Bev loved my revisions. Now my manuscript is off to the copy-editor. I’ll let you know how that goes.

*Toni Jordan is an Australian author of intelligent, funny, novels that some might call chick-lit. Click here for her Official Website

**Michael Crichton was a best-selling author extaordinaire, Jurassic Park is just one of his many books and creator of one my all time favourite TV shows, ERClick here for his official Website.

When Bridget Jones crash lands on the set of Home and Away…

If you’re reading this, then let me tell you some amazing news. No, no, come closer I want to be sure you hear. Sitting comfortably? Good.

 

My book has been picked up by Beverley Cousins of Random House Australia and is going to published next April!!!

Hitting Your Mark - the first draft

Hitting Your Mark – the first draft

Sorry, I didn’t mean to squeal with delight quite so loudly into your ear. But you did hear, didn’t you?

Unbelievable. It really does happen. All that scratching away in the State Library of NSW, removed from the distractions of Facebook, Twitter,  the internet, the washing, ironing and assorted other household tasks I hate doing but just screamed for attention when I should’ve been writing. The editing, the rewriting, the frustration, the tears, the staring out of windows waiting for the right word, the rewriting, the workshops, writing groups – did I mention the rewriting? And lets not forget the self doubt which was almost paralysing sometimes. It’s all come to fruition.

'Pretty Beach'

‘Pretty Beach’

And unlike you, I wasn’t sitting comfortably, reading my computer screen, oh no. I had spent half a day travelling from Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand and was waiting at Brisbane Domestic Airport for the flight home to Sydney when my 6 year old announced she was desperate for the toilet. I was on the phone to my 23 year old daughter who was accessing my emails for me as I stood in the cubicle wondering if my gorgeous agent, Sheila Drummond had sent The Message. So, I discovered my dream had become a reality standing in a toilet cubicle, with my young daughter demanding that I pass the toilet paper she couldn’t reach! Oh yes, life’s all glamour for us soon-to-be- published authors.

Details? Yes, okay, I’m getting there – I was just basking in the glow of my dream. My book will be published by Random House Australia, next April – 2014, just in time for Mothers Day. It will be found in the Commercial Women’s Fiction section of your local bookstore. At the moment it’s titled ‘Pretty Beach Rescued‘ but that’s bound to change. The elevator pitch for my novel is just the same as this blog post – when Bridget Jones crash lands on the set of Home and Away.

Palm Beach aka Pretty Beach

Palm Beach aka Pretty Beach

Before I had my youngest daughter (I have 3 altogether 25, 23 and 6), I worked in the film and TV industry, including 5½ years on the long-running Australian soap opera, Home and Away and my inspiration for my novel comes from my time at Home and Away.  And as the opening paragraph of my synopsis explains:-

Pretty Beach Rescued has all the elements that make chick-lit ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the media industry novels, such as Bridget Jones Diary and The Devil Wears Prada resonate with the reader: men, gossip, complications, family drama, embarrassing predicaments and, of course, an inside look into the production of the media piece in question – in this case the TV show Pretty Beach Rescue, which is recognisably modelled on Home and Away. The novel is a fun, easy, sink-you-nails-into read with refreshing wit, vivid and aptly filmic descriptions.

"Pretty Beach Again"

“Pretty Beach Again”

But as they say, stay tuned, I’ll be writing about my experiences in the world of publishing and the process from contract to publication, which is still a bit of mystery to me! And I’ll also give you some inside gossip about my characters, particularly the gorgeous, if somewhat clumsy,  Tess Appleby, my heroine.