What Readers Want – Lynne Drew’s View on the Trends in Women’s Fiction

The brilliant Lynne Drew, publisher of amazing women’s fiction, is here to give us her view on the hottest trends in commercial fiction at the moment.  #Romance15 

Lynne Drew

OH if only I had a pound for every time someone asks about industry trends. And if only it were that simple – pick what everyone wants and you’d have a bestseller. However, here are a few thoughts …

  1. Gone Girl keeps running and running. There’s no let-up in appetite for the domestic thriller – the novel that peers behind the net curtain of married life to see what’s really going on. These novels aren’t traditional crime novels, hinging on detection or motive, and nor do they always feature police investigations. They’re psychological and the appeal lies in the suspense, the building menace that comes, usually, from unreliable narrators and unpredictable characters; characters who are drawn to look just like people we know, in marriages we recognise, and jobs we find familiar. The tension lies in who you can ever really know – or trust…and how easily any of us might find ourselves in that situation. Girl on the Train, which has just shot straight to the hardback number 1 slot, is a prime example of this. It makes a change from women being the raped, beaten victims of male psychopaths and reflects a female appetite for novels that inhabit the complex psychological worlds of marriage, work and friendship.
  1. There’s a continued appetite for historical fiction in all its guises. This isn’t just the big Wolf Hall variety – it’s an appetite for rich, layered novels, sometimes with two strands, that take us back to a very different or difficult time and let us experience it. The twentieth-century continues to throw up rich pickings here, whether it’s Isabel Wolff memorably evoking the Indonesian prisoner of war camps that many of us knew nothing about, or Rosie Thomas re-creating Kashmir during the Second World War and depicting the isolation and unrest of that time. Downton and Mr Selfridge continue to draw huge audiences and prove how thirsty we are to have a different period illuminated through the characters we engage with. Perhaps too, as we move ever faster into a tech age, the past century seems so very different.
  1. Darker, sadder fiction- perhaps because of the times we live in, perhaps as a reaction to austerity, we all seem to be loving a good tearjerker or a story that looks inwards. These are novels with more introspective themes; novels that deal with tough subjects and sometimes with death, but ultimately give us a feeling of hope for the future, and deliver emotional reward for the reader. The amazing word-of-mouth sales of Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer’s stunning debut about mental illness, loss, and brotherly love, just go to show how strongly we’re all responding.
  1. But, as with last year, for the times when you don’t want any of the above, just help yourself to a cupcake in a cute setting. I’m not sure this trend has much further to run – but I probably said that last year, and 2014 was full to bursting with cake-y, cutesy, beach-based vintage teashop books, most performing best on Kindle and feeding an apparently insatiable appetite for entertaining escapism at a low entry price.
  1. My wildcard prediction for the year ahead is that we’ll see more novels set in different universes or different places – timeslip or post-apocalypse in some way; not sci-fi or fantasy in the true sense, but a very slightly different world to where we are now, tipped just slightly from the one we recognise. As the speed of the technological revolution hastens, so we become fascinated by how closely worlds similar to our – but in vastly different landscapes, or remote, inaccessible corners of the globe, tipped over by one small thing – might be what lies ahead.

How we read is changing and there are more distractions for readers than ever before – so above all, the power of strong original voices telling stories you can’t put down has to prevail. We all share our thoughts more than ever before, making it easier to pick out a great read. And that has to be a good thing for all of us who love to curl up with a good book.

Introducing The Secret Diarists

We are thrilled to announce the exciting 101 Erotic Nights: The Sheherazade Diaries written by a group of  anonymous authors known as The Secret Diarists.

Exclusively for the blog, we have one of the members here today to talk about the how the group was formed  and maybe even reveal a few of the groups own secrets…

 101 Erotic NightsTinker, tailor, soldier, writer…

 It all started with the Short Story Club, a website launched in 2012 by author Louise Doughty to run in conjunction with the  Telegraph’s monthly short story competition. The SSC was a forum open to anyone with a passion for words who enjoyed the  challenge of the creative writing exercises we were set and the stimulation of lively discussion (and, boy, could it get lively!).  We were only identifiable by our online avatars and whatever personal information we chose to share along the way; even our  pseudonyms were not reliable indicators of our true nationalities, ages or genders.

 Then, one day, the germ of an exciting idea began to form… In the wake of all the furore surrounding a certain recently  published novel, we had inevitably been discussing eroticism in literature. Could it be written convincingly, unselfconsciously  and well by either sex? What distinguished it from pornography? Was it something a lot of writers might like to explore but  were too inhibited to try? In the August of 2012 “Gorgeousmouse” (GM) issued an online invitation: Who would be interested  in joining a unique collaborative writing project, independent of the SSC, with a view to producing a publishable work where  all authors were assured complete anonymity? The premise was to create a rich selection box of imaginative, provocative, sexy  stories within a gripping romantic narrative about a couple seeking to revive their love life. It would be called The  Scheherazade Diaries.

 The response was immediate and positive and we soon had a final, committed group of seven signing into the new website one  of us had created and starting work. The sheer logistics of seven individuals depending entirely on a relationship of trust,  conducted over the (sometimes unreliable) internet were staggeringly complex. There were misunderstandings, heated  debates over plot direction and all the frustrations you might expect within any creative group – all of which were magnified by  the limitations of our cyber communication, the personal privacy we maintained and the demands of the Real Lives we were all  still living.

 But the words flowed astonishingly quickly; both stimulated and protected by the secrecy of our project we could give full rein  to imaginations, indulge fantasies and bounce ideas off each other. Our diversity of personalities, experience and writing styles  ensured variety; we hoped there would be something for everyone within our collection and the prospect of a future beyond  this first volume because the possibilities seemed limitless.

 Submitting The Diaries to Harper Impulse and being told they wanted to publish us was, quite simply, thrilling. Perhaps some  of us have been published before; maybe for some of us it is the unexpected achievement of a long held dream. Whether we  have been scribbling away in candlelit garret or sunlit palace makes no difference: publication is the validation of our own faith  in the project and in each other. We hope to share our novel with a wide audience – a readership as diverse and thirsty for original writing as we ourselves were when the Dairies first began.

GM and The Secret Diarists.

The Hottest Ticket In Town

Not a Fairy Tale cover Romy Summer

The joy of creating your own world is that you don’t have to do much research. When I wrote my first three Westerwald novels, if I wrote ‘the castle overlooked the winding river’ no one could say “but it doesn’t. I’ve been there, and the castle actually overlooks the vineyards.”

But my fourth novel, Not a Fairy Tale, is set in a very real place, and the characters have very real jobs, so I had to do a vast amount of research to make sure I got it right (at least, I hope I did!). It turned out to be the best part of writing this book.

I learned about a huge variety of subjects, from Academy Awards after parties to Californian surfing conditions. I spent hours on Tripadvisor and Google Earth checking out restaurants and beaches. I house hunted in Venice Beach, learned about firearms training, and watched documentaries on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And in the process I fell in love with Research. (In fact, if you don’t see me around for the next few months, it’s because I’m researching!)

I’ve learned enough to fill ten blog posts, but since we’re approaching the weekend of the Academy Awards, I’ll start at the very beginning.

VANITY FAIR OSCAR PARTY 2012 - Red Carpet ArrivalsNot a Fairy Tale opens on Oscar night. The heroine, Nina Alexander, has been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award – which she doesn’t win. She’s already feeling pretty bad about that when her night gets even worse. A botched, very public proposal and a wardrobe malfunction leave her wanting to disappear – and stuntman Dominic Kelly is on hand to help her do just that.

This entire opening scene takes place at the party to end all parties: Vanity Fair’s Academy Awards after party.

Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair’s editor-in-chief, hosted his first ever Academy Awards after party in 1994 at Morton’s Restaurant in Beverly Hills. It rapidly became THE party for celebrities, even hotter than the official Governor’s Ball bash at the awards venue.

The hierarchy on the red carpet at the party entrance is more than just a Who’s Who of the world’s beautiful and famous – it’s a precision engineered ranking system. Guests are allocated specific time slots in which they must arrive. If you time slot is in the early hours of the morning, you haven’t arrived.

You would think an event that gets so much press coverage would be easy to research, right? Wrong! Security at the VF party is almost tighter than White House security, social media is banned, and the event takes place at a purpose-built venue that is kept top secret until mere weeks before. The only insider article I was able to find was from a paparazzi reporter who sneaked past a couple of security checkpoints a few years ago – and then was thrown out before he had a chance to get as much as a glimpse of the famed ‘carnival of glitter’!

After many years at Sunset Tower, in 2014 the party moved to a custom venue in a parking lot on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Here at last, I lucked out, when I stumbled across this wonderful YouTube video on the preparations for the event:

After that it was easy to snoop…um, research. Because this being Hollywood, everyone wants their moment of fame, from the caterer sharing the menu, to the supplier sharing the quantity of champagne consumed, to the star who leaks her invitation

This then is the setting where I’ve based my opening scene, the party at which Dominic, the Knight in Shining Armor, rides in to rescue damsel-in-distress Nina.

The venue for the 2015 Vanity Fair after party has been revealed – a little late for me to rewrite this scene, but I look forward to ‘researching’ it nevertheless.

If you’re just as fascinated by the red carpet parade, then pop back here on Monday, when my lovely editor Charlotte Ledger will be bringing you all the action from the Academy Awards right here on this blog. In the meantime, why not get yourself a copy of Not a Fairy Tale and enjoy your own inside glimpse into Hollywood’s hottest ticket in town?

Vanity Fair 2


Not a Fairy Tale by Romy Sommer

And the award goes to…

Not Nina Alexander that’s for sure.

With her best gracious loser face firmly in place, Hollywood’s hottest starlet is hoping to end her evening of disappointment with a graceful exit stage left. Only an unexpected proposal and an awkward wardrobe malfunction mean that this is certainly going to be a night to remember… for all the wrong reasons! So what girl would resist the gorgeous Dominic Kelly coming to her rescue?!  Especially when he’s whisking her out of the paparazzi’s prying eyes on the back of his motorbike – and wearing a tux to rival James Bond!

Nina soon realizes that the only way to recover from such a scandal is to toughen up and snag the role of the decade in the year’s hottest YA screen adaptation. Who better to train her than her very own professional stuntman? Getting up close and personal with Dom will take Nina well out of her comfort zone – both professionally and in her closely scrutinized private life.  But this A-list couple know only too well that’s it not all happy ever afters in Hollywood…

Not a Fairy Tale is published by Harper Impulse and is available from the following online retailers:

Amazon Smart URL
Barnes & Noble
eBooks by Sainsburys
All Romance eBooks

About the Author:
I’ve always written stories for myself, but didn’t even think of being an author until I realised that being over thirty and living in a fantasy world was a little odd. Writing those same stories for other people makes it a lot more acceptable!

By day I dress in cargo pants and boots for my not-so-glamorous job of making movies but at night I come home to my two little Princesses, in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I live, and I get to write Happy Ever Afters. Since I believe every girl is a princess, and every princess deserves a happy ending, what could be more perfect?

You can follow Romy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Tsu or on her website/blog.


Have You Met Bella Osborne Yet?

Bella Osborne


Bella Osborne is the latest author to join the HarperImpulse family and her debut novel, It Started at Sunset Cottage, is out now - just in time for Valentine’s Day!

We sat the lovely Bella down for a virtual cup of tea and chat and asked her the essential questions…


1. Have you always wanted to be an author? If not, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

I didn’t know you could be a writer, that definitely wasn’t on the list that the careers advice lady had. I always wanted to be a vet until I realised I had a severe allergic reaction to horses… I swell up like the Michelin man it’s quite a party trick!

2. What inspired you to start writing?

I have always been scribbling stuff down ever since my primary school teacher typed out my story and pinned it on the wall, but it was an accidental session with a life coach that made me set the goal to make 2013 the year I actually finished a novel.

3. What was the inspiration for your novel?

It’s simply a concept I dreamed up just like my other novel ideas. I’m not entirely sure where they come from but they usually march into my brain in the dead of night and over time I throw a few ‘what if?’ scenarios at the characters, they act it out so all I have to do is write it down.

4. What is the best advice anyone has given you about writing?

Keep going until you type THE END.

5. Aside from writing, what is your favourite thing to do?

Snuggling up with my daughter to watch a film and eat chocolate.

6. If you could ride off into the sunset with a fictional character, who would you choose and why?

Indiana Jones – there is something about an intelligent man that can fight off the bad guys and still look sexy that does it for me every time.



Cover reveal: The Half Truth

It’s time for an exclusive cover reveal! Today we have THE HALF TRUTH by Sue Fortin, which is out in ebook on 19th March. Read on to find out more….




Every marriage has its secrets…

Tina Bolotnikov, widowed after her husband, Sasha, is killed in a car accident, relocates back to her hometown on the south coast of the UK, to bring up her young son. Her life back in London with her adored husband is now nothing but a memory; a history to pass onto her son.

DS John Nightingale saw his partner killed in the line of duty and has made it his personal and professional quest to bring to justice the Russian gang responsible. Five years on and the killer is still free but as reports come in of Sasha Bolotnikov’s brother returning to the UK, John is tasked with tracking him down and following him to the seaside town of Littlehampton.

Tina finds herself an unwitting connection to a world she knew nothing about. She thought she knew her husband. She thought their past was the truth. But now as the investigation draws her closer to DS Nightingale, professional lines are blurred and crossed, and only he holds the key to her future.

Watch the trailer for The Half Truth here:

the half truth youtube

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