Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Escaping from the box by Kathleen Jones

Kathleen Jones
Today's guest blogger is Kathleen Jones, author of The Centauress, A Glorious Fame and A Passionate Sisterhood. Hers is the third in this series of blogs by writers with books in Outside the Box: Women Writing Women. Here Kathleen writes about the freedom of indie writers to step outside the box of traditional publishing genres.


Escaping from the box
by Kathleen Jones

I had a very unusual childhood. Brought up on a small hill farm in the English Lake District, I drove tractors, milked cows and carried around a Spotters Guide to motor cars (probably nicked from my young brother). There was a blue German sports car that I lusted after. I wasn’t conscious of being any kind of rebel. 

When I won a prize for English at school we were all asked to choose a book. There were two piles on the staff-room table; one for girls and one for boys. The girls’ prizes all had titles like Sue Barton: Student Nurse, Anne: Air Hostess – there was even one about a girl who dreamt of becoming a secretary! I kicked up a fuss and asked if I could choose from the boys’ pile and eventually they relented. I chose a murder mystery set on an oil tanker in the Middle East. I knew nothing of feminism, but it was already obvious that I wasn’t going to conform to anyone’s idea of what I should be. So, when I began to write books, it was a safe bet that I wasn’t going to do what was expected of me there either. 

My first book was a biography of one of the pioneer women writers, living at a time when it was considered positively immoral for a woman to publish anything. In fact, in the 17th century, even getting an education was believed to injure a woman’s reproductive organs and addle her brain. The marvellous, scandalous Margaret Cavendish was only the beginning of my fascination with women who lived ‘outside the box’. The biography was picked up by Bloomsbury and it was the beginning of my life as a ‘proper author’. 

I wrote about Christina Rossetti defying Victorian conventions, and then about Catherine Cookson – an illegitimate girl who was born into one of the poorest communities in the western world, left school at thirteen and went on to become one of the best-selling (and richest) authors of the twentieth century. One of my books was published by Virago – an account of the women who lived with the stars of the Romantic movement, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey – women who wrote journals and letters and the occasional poem, living in a society that considered it off-limits for women to write anything more.

But I found myself, unexpectedly, in a box. Publishers wanted me to continue to write about women, not men. I was a woman’s author, they told me. My readers expected a certain type of book. Novels? You want to write novels? Absolutely not! You’re a biographer. One publication even categorised me as a ‘women’s literary historian’. It was a strait-jacket I had written myself into and longed to get out of.

Never despise money. It buys freedom. One of my books became a best-seller, serialised in the Mail on Sunday, and suddenly I had enough money to be independent of that terrible killer – the publisher’s advance. I could take a year or two out and write just what I wanted to write. So I wrote the novels I’d been dreaming of and scribbling bits of in my spare moments. The only problem was that my agent didn’t like them. They didn’t fit any genre and the heroines weren’t conventional. One of the plots even had a lesbian in it. Shock! Horror! Would I consider taking that character out? Stupidly I re-wrote it, but my agent still wasn’t happy.

Neither was I. But fortunately, at that moment, along came the E-book and the self-publishing revolution. Instead of a dialogue with agents and publishers (and marketing managers) I could have internet conversations directly with my readers. I joined a beta-reading site and my novel shot up into the top 5 books, competing with crime, fantasy and romantic fiction. It had ecstatic reviews. I had one last conversation with my agent and hit the self-publishing button. The novel went on to win a Kindle award for historical fiction and I carried on writing.

My next novel was even more controversial, since it dealt with a character who had been born ‘between sexes’ in the nineteen twenties. The Centauress, the novel which is included in the box-set, was inspired by a wonderful woman I met in Italy about fifteen years ago, who was very frank about her dual gender, but who had obviously suffered intensely throughout her life because of it. The other protagonist, Alessandra, is a biographer like me – paid to poke and pry into other people’s lives, fascinated by the detective aspects of research, but uncomfortable with the elements of voyeurism.

I’m fascinated by the interplay between biography and fiction because there is no real boundary between them. A novel is a fictional biography and a biography is a ‘found’ novel – you’re given the characters, the plot and some of the dialogue and you have to bring the hero/ine alive for the reader. Every novel and every short story I write is influenced by my career as a biographer, researching and analysing people’s characters and finding ways to bring them to life. 

Since I became an ‘Indie’ author my own life has changed dramatically. Instead of the cut-throat, competitive world of commercial publishing I’ve become a member of a supportive, friendly tribe. We connect with each other on social media and in groups such as ALLI, sharing advice and information. 
We’re all rebels, free to write the books we want to write without being constrained by the false categories of genre. 

So, I was absolutely delighted when I was approached by other authors whose work I had always admired to be part of a 7-book ‘box-set’, show-casing women writers, writing about extraordinary, genre-busting heroines. We aim to give traditional publishing a run for its money and our readers a mind-blowing read! 

A movement that has freed and empowered authors is doing the same for readers. They are free to choose what they read in a vast online emporium of books that isn’t stocked by marketing managers and where best-sellers can’t be ‘engineered’ by publicists. 

Let’s hear it for the revolution!

© Kathleen Jones


Thanks, Kathleen. I'm happy to be an indie author too and to rub shoulders with such distinguished company.

Do visit the WOMEN WRITE WOMEN website where there is a form to full in to win a digital goody bag!

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Stories brimming w- passion & courage that push the boundaries. Avail 90 days only! #WomenWritingWomen #WomenFiction

Monday, 26 January 2015


Book of the Day 
26 January 2015 

I am honoured to have had Delirium chosen as 
Book of the Day

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Whose Genre Is It Anyway? by Carol Cooper

Carol Cooper
Continuing with the series of posts featuring writers whose books are included in the Women Writing Women Box Set, today's guest post is by Carol Cooper, author of One Night at the Jacaranda.


Whose Genre Is It Anyway?
Carol Cooper
If I close my eyes and think of genres, up pops a long list like this:

Thriller                        Detective fiction            Murder mystery
Action & Adventure       Psychological thriller      Science fiction
Supernatural                Western                       Horror
Steampunk                  Legal thriller                 Medical thriller
Contemporary fiction     Urban fiction                Women's Adventure
Women's Fiction           Chick-lit                       Romance
Historical romance        Domestic chiller            Women in jeopardy

And of course the big one: Literary fiction.

Most people can understand what a bodice-ripper is. But what, pray, is literary fiction? You can rely on Wikipedia to have an opinion:
Literary fiction is a term principally used for certain fictional works that hold literary merit. In other words, they are works that offer deliberate commentary on larger social issues, political issues, or focus on the individual to explore some part of the human condition.”
Ah, the human condition. There’s not much consensus on that either, but one thing is certain about the human condition. Once your publisher says you’ve reached the heart of it, you know you have arrived. With a capital A.

There may also be a big A on advance, but the book won’t necessarily earn it back. Maybe that should be in the definition? I can’t recall who told me that a literary novel is the kind that sells under 200 copies a year, but he had a point. Literary fiction appeals to a smaller audience.

I asked around, and got the following essential ingredients for literary fiction:

  • Beautiful style
  • Complex characters
  • Big ideas
  • Depth, but not necessarily action
  • Takes itself seriously, and may require years to write. 

Is it also difficult to read? So much the better.

If this is what you’re after, I’ll lend you my copy of A Brief History of Time. The most obvious snag is that it’s not fiction.

Outside the Box - Women Writing Women Box Set
I didn’t bother repeating the exercise for every other genre I could think of. Genre is a major preoccupation for publishers, agents, and writers. But how much does it bother the customers?

Talking to book clubs, I had my suspicions confirmed. Readers can’t always define their preferred genre. They don’t necessarily have one anyway. They enjoy far more than one kind of book, and it insults their intelligence to assume their tastes are narrow.

Broad categories can be useful when they assist in distinguishing, say, crime, contemporary and YA novels. 
They may help people twig that A Short History of Tractorsin Ukrainian is a novel, rather than a manual on dual diesel engines. Years ago, I proofread just such a manual. Take it from me: nobody reads it for its social comment or its riveting plot.

On the other hand, labelling books can also deter readers. I’m a fan of page-turners with vibrant writing and strong characters, so I loved IStopped Time by Jane Davis, as well as Maggie’sChild by Glynis Smy. But I nearly didn’t bother with either of them.

They’re both ‘historical,’ you see. I don’t really care for mannered speech, or for tons of period detail that weigh down the story and can sink the plot. And the sex scenes? Without running water, I’m sure everyone stank to high heaven beneath their hand-stitched bodices, basques, and bloomers. I’m a doctor. I know how people smell.

Many books don’t fit neatly into a genre anyway. My fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda was, I thought, simply a novel. But as a newbie on the fiction scene, what did I know? 

One book doctor dubbed it ‘chick-lit’, even though it tackles many darker issues. It’s not even exclusively ‘women’s fiction’, since much of it is written from a male point of view. Certainly many men have read it and reviewed it. 

Excerpt from One Night at the Jacaranda
A friend calls it a ‘multi-viewpoint ensemble novel’. That may be nearer the truth, but what a mouthful! I prefer to think of it simply as ‘contemporary fiction’. What’s the point of shoe-horning it into a genre?

Genres are a means of branding, and I’m not convinced readers find them meaningful. Think back to the last few novels that carried you away. Was it the genre that persuaded you to read them? Or did you rely more on the cover, the first page, and maybe reviews, to make your choice?

The next time I see a phrase like, “With this latest book X, author Y has pushed the boundaries of genre Z,” I know I will think, “The hell with all that! Will the book be worth my precious time?”

As their own publishers, indie authors can afford to take risks, to bend the genres a bit, and to concentrate on producing what people enjoy reading. And surely that is the mark of a good book?

Women Writing Women Box Set Authors


Thanks to Carol for an insightful post. As someone whose books never seem to fit any particular category, I am happy to see independent authors stepping outside the box.

For more information please visit the WOMEN WRITING WOMEN website (there is a form to fill in to win a digital goody bag) , watch their video and follow them on Facebook.

Link to pre-order:

USA Link to order
Outside the Box: Women Writing Women

Thursday, 15 January 2015

How many light bulbs does it take to screw in a writer?

Today I welcome Joni Rodgers, NYT bestselling author of Crazy for Trying and Bald in the Land of Big Hair as my Guest Blogger.  

Joni's novel Crazy for Trying is included in Women Writing Women box set. Just $9.99 (£7.99) for seven novels. Available 90 days only from February 20).  

See the Press Release HERE.

So here's Joni:

How many light bulbs does it take to screw in a writer?
Lack of ideas is never my problem. I have the antithesis of that: a daily hemorrhage of ideas, some of which are crap, some of which are brilliant, but the vast majority of which could go either way because writing is not about ideas, it's about delivery. Sorting and prioritizing ideas—book by book, line by line—is one of the great challenges of a long writing career.
I wake up before five most mornings, my brain clicking with ideas. Since my alarm is set for six, I sometimes try to shove the idea bulbs under the pillow so I can get back to sleep, but usually, I just give in and trudge to my office and start typing. I know I’ll sleep again when I finish the novel I'm working on. This is familiar swampland I'm slogging through.

Flannery O'Connor said, "Writing a novel is a terrible experience during which hair often falls out and teeth decay."

Maybe she was talking about writer angst, but for me it's an admittedly unhealthy disconnect, during which the alternate universe in the book occupies the vast majority of my waking thoughts and becomes more real to me than the taxes, dishes and laundry waiting to be done.

A while back, I Fed Exed galley proofs to my editor at Random House and went directly to get my roots done.

"Goodness," said Veronica, the sorceress who sees me through all my seasonal changes in foliage. "What have you been doing for the last four months?"

Every time she lifted a section to foil with bleach (I'm a non-blond attempting to have more fun) I could plainly see almost three inches of salt and pepper that have grown since last time I thought about anything other than that manuscript.

My kids used to pitch biscuits or string beans at me from across the dinner table.

"Earth to Mom?"

With both of them grown up and gone, I've been able to give myself over to the "terrible experience" without feeling guilty or neglectful. But the result is that I've been utterly neglectful of myself.

Yesterday, I came out of what my daughter calls "Book Head" and looked around to find out how many people are mad at me. There are several. Neglected friends, overdue emails, unblogged blogs and—oh, that guy I married 32 years ago. He knocks on the door every once in a while wanting me to scratch his back or feed him a sandwich or something.

Fictional people and events are not more important than real ones, but they are more immediate at times, because they are in such great peril of being forgotten before they make it to paper. Ever since menopause, my memory is about as reliable as a mosquito leg.

So what was I saying a minute ago about…

Ideas! Yes. Sorting them. Fleshing them out or flushing them. Not letting them take over the day or obscure the task at hand.

My best strategy for herding ideas: I set up an Idea Bank, a Title Bank and a Dialogue Bank. Whenever I get a flash of might-be-brilliant, I email myself one quick sentence that captures the idea and sorts it automatically into the appropriate file. That way, I’ve caught it in a butterfly net without devoting too much time to it.

You don’t want to lose a tooth unless it’s really worth it. 
Excerpt from Crazy for Trying by Joni Rodgers

Thanks, Joni - that all sounds so familiar!

For more information on the Women Writing Women box set see the Press Release.


A cast of unlikely heroines.

Seven genre-busting novels. 
A cast of unlikely heroines. 
Just 90 days. 

Meet a cast of characters you will never forget:  

A woman accused of killing her tyrannical father who is determined to reveal the truth. 

A bookish and freshly orphaned young woman seeks to escape the shadow of her infamous mother—a radical lesbian poet—by fleeing her hometown. 

A bereaved biographer who travels to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist. 

A gifted musician who is forced by injury to stop playing the piano and fears her life may be over. 

An undercover journalist after a by-line, not a boyfriend, who unexpectedly has to choose between her comfortable life and a bumpy road that could lead to happiness. 

A former ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter, and 

The wife of a drug lord who attempts to relinquish her lust for sharp objects and blood to raise a respectable son.

Outsidethe Box: Women Writing Women, brings these unlikely heroines together in a limited edition box-set. Published in e-book format on February 20 (pre-orders from January 12) and available for just 90 days, this treasure house of books is the brain-child of Jessica Bell, who approached some of the most prominent self-published women authors and asked them to each contribute a novel that best represented the theme: 

Orna Ross (founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors, named by The Bookseller as one of the 100 most influential people in publishing) selected Blue Mercy, a complex tale of betrayal, revenge, suspense, murder mystery—and surprise.

Joni Rodgers (NYT bestselling author) returned to her debut Crazy for Trying, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a Discover Award finalist.

Roz Morris (ghost writer and teacher of creative writing master classes for The Guardian newspaper in London) presented My Memories of a Future Life, the haunting story of how one lost soul searches for where she now belongs.

Kathleen Jones, best-selling award winning author, whose work has been broadcast by the BBC, Royal Literary Fund Fellow, contributed The Centauress, a compelling tale of family conflict over a disputed inheritance.

Jane Davis (a British writer whose debut won the Daily Mail First Novel Award) nominated An Unchoreographed Life, an unflinching and painfully honest portrayal of flawed humanity.

Carol Cooper (author, doctor, British journalist and president of the Guild of Health Writers) provided One Night at the Jacaranda, a gripping story about a group of people searching for love, sex and everything in between.

For Jessica Bell (Australian novelist, singer/songwriter, Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and whose award-winning poetry has been broadcast on ABC National Radio), her latest novel White Lady was the obvious choice, an intense, suspenseful ride rife with mystery. 

Jane Davis said, ‘This set of thought-provoking novels showcases genre-busting fiction across the full spectrum from light (although never frothy) to darker, more haunting reads that delve into deeper psychological territory.’

Speaking about her reason for taking part, Roz Morris added, ‘For me, these writers are the real superstars of self-publishing. They're storytellers dedicated to their craft, who have proved their worth with awards, fellowships and, of course, commercial success.’


‘Beautiful, poetic, imaginative, passionate, thoughtful, witty, sensual and intelligent, Outside the Box is a feast. Unforgettable books by exceptional writers.’ JJ Marsh, author of the Beatrice Stubbs series and founder member of Triskele Books

The authors of these books are at the forefront of a strong cohort of ground-breaking, boundary-pushing women writing and self-publishing literary fiction. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.’ Dan Holloway, columnist for the Guardian books pages and publisher

'The optimism and confidence in this new collection is palpable.’ Alison Baverstock, lecturer in publishing and self-publishing at Kingston University 

image of box set

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7 unforgettable books by award-winning #WomenInLiterature. Only $9.99! Avail. Only 90 days! #WomenWritingWomen

7 genre-busting #novels in a limited edition box-set. Avail. Just 90 days! #WomenWritingWomen #creativewomen

7 #novels by 7 prominent #womenauthors in a limited edition box-set: Outside the Box: #WomenWritingWomen Check it out

Varied in style, united in quality, #indiepublishing is a treasure trove for#readers’ ~@JJMarsh1 #WomenWritingWomen

Boundary-pushing #womenwriting& #selfpublishing...cannot recmnd this enough.’ @agnieszkasshoes #WomenWritingWomen

The optimism & confidence in this new collection is palpable.’ ~Alison Baverstock #WomenWritingWomen #womenempowered

Beautiful—passionate—witty—sensual—intelligent, w- dry humour & raw heartbreak. #WomenWritingWomen #womeninliterature

Stories brimming w- passion & courage that push the boundaries. Avail 90 days only! #WomenWritingWomen #WomenFiction

Information for editors:

Just $9.99 for seven novels. Available 90 days only from February 20.

Review copies available from

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Monday, 12 January 2015


 12 January 2015 
I will be featuring at
  1pm - 2pm. 

Do visit the Facebook page for a chance 
to win some of my ebooks.