Reading my own books

When you are writing a series over many years, there comes a time when you need to re-read the first few books before you launch into a later book. And by ‘re-read’, I mean ‘read for the first time as an actual reader’.

Because by the time my books go to print, I’ve already read them a dozen times, each through a different lens – there’s all the editing and tweaking that occurs before I send them off to early readers, including my agent, then addressing feedback and final style edits and proofreads. Then they go to the publisher – I receive structural editorial requests and make those. I receive copy edits and address those. I even sign off on the proofread. By the time it hits a reader’s hands, I know each book inside and out, but not as a reader.

So, for the past few weeks I have been reading my first three books as a reader. This is necessitated because I’ve written 3 books outside the series since 2019 and I really want to immerse myself in the Holiday Romance series world. I want to remind myself of the character nuances that make those books special, to tease out little nuggets (Easter eggs for readers) that I can put into Book 5. And it is tricky to do that well without going back to the beginning.

I started writing the Holiday Romance series in 2015 with the book that was first self-published as You Might Meet Someone and then became One Summer in Santorini (published in mid-2019 by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins UK). After self-publishing Book 1, I moved swiftly onto I Think I Met Someone , the sequel to Book 1, then Someone Unexpected, which was in the same series but about a supporting character from Books 1 & 2, Cat. By the end of 2018 (my year on sabbatical) I had written three books in the series, was about to self-publish the third, and was querying madly.

Then a miracle happened!

I got a publication deal!!! And as a result …

You Might Meet Someone became One Summer in Santorini (still Book 1)

Someone Unexpected (never self-published) became That Night in Paris (becoming Book 2)

and I Think I Met Someone became A Sunset in Sydney (becoming Book 3)

Did you follow all that?

Early 2020, right after I finished writing The Christmas Swap, my 4th book and a standalone (not in the series), I started writing Under Bali Skies, the 4th book in the series. Bali is about Jaelee, one of the supporting characters from That Night in Paris and I re-read Paris before I started writing it. I wanted to ensure that I had the right cadence and style for the series and to refresh my understanding of Jaelee’s character.

Well now, a year after finishing Bali, I am starting Book 5, A Wedding in Tuscany. This book will bring together all the fave characters from Books 1-4 so I needed to get reacquainted with Sarah, Cat, and the gang before I whisk them all off to Tuscany!

And how has it been reading my books as a reader, one who reads voraciously in the Romance genre?

Santorini was a little tricky for me. It was my first ever book (obvs) so I was a little green as an author and I have found dozens of tweaks I’d like to make if I ever get the chance. Paris was fun – and I’d read it most recently, so it was a quick read. But Sydney was the most fun. Even though it was the second book I ever wrote, by the time I was tasked with editing it, I was a lot more confident in my authorial voice and in it there are so many passages that make me laugh out loud – or cry.

Actually, all my books still make me cry. Ben found me the other day, forlorn with a tear-stained face. I confessed that one of my heroines was ‘so awful’ and ‘had really hurt him’ and ‘why did she do that?????’ He hugged me, somehow understanding that these characters are real to me, that they have their own thoughts and feelings and desires and fears – that it is not me who creates them, but it’s them who let me tell their stories.

So, on the whole, reading my first three books has been … well … just lovely, really.

Next up in the world of Sandy Barker books is The Single Girl’s Guide to Hunting (in August! Huzzah!). It’s a stand-alone and I consider it my funniest ever book. Bali comes out early next year followed by Tuscany.

The ‘Someone’ series cover art by the very talented Jane Dunnet (Jane on Insta)

The ‘Holiday Romance’ series cover art by the (also) very talented Lucy Bennett (Lucy on Insta)

Catching up with Author @Karen_King

To mark the publication of her next novel, One Summer in Cornwall, I am thrilled to have the wonderful (and prolific) Karen King on Off the Beaten Track today, as the next stop on her book blog tour.

Book Blog Tour Banner
Book cover and dates and names of contributors
Sandy Barker May 2

Congratulations, Karen, and welcome!

Tell us what inspired you to write One Summer in Cornwall.

I love Cornwall, and have set several books there. The first romance novel I set in Cornwall, The Cornish Hotel by the Sea, was set in the fictional town of Port Medden, and became a Kindle bestseller both in the UK and Australia. As it was very popular I thought it would be nice to write a sequel. One Summer in Cornwall features some of the much-loved characters from The Cornish Hotel by the Sea. Marcus the chef at Gwel Teg, was named in the Cornish Hotel but never featured, so I thought it would be lovely to give him his own story. Then Hattie came roaring into my head on her electric blue Harley Davidson and I had my hero and heroine. My friends have a cheeky Amazon parrot, who is the inspiration for Buddy. Then I threw in a fisherman’s cottage left to Hattie and her father and my story was born.

When did you start writing seriously?

Well over thirty five years ago now. I was first published in the 1980’s, writing for Jackie Magazine, but it was writing for children’s magazines such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Postman Pat, Barbie and Winnie the Pooh that gave me my ‘big break’ and enabled me to earn a living by writing. I also wrote children’s books. My first romance novel, Never Say Forever, was published as a People’s Friend Pocket Novel in 2009, and is now republished by Headline. One Summer in Cornwall is my ninth romance novels and I’m contracted to write two more for Headline. I also had my first psychological thriller, The Stranger in my Bed published by Bookouture in November 2020 and a second one, The Perfect Stepmother, will be published in June this year.

What do you love most about being an author?

Making up stories! My mind is always bursting with ideas and I love it when a story finally starts to come right. Getting good feedback from readers is a lovely bonus too. When I was writing children’s books I enjoyed visiting schools to encourage children to read and write. Children have such an incredible imagination and we had a lot of fun making up stories as a class.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a Christmas romance for Headline, the second book in my three book contract. The third one will be out next summer. It seems odd to be writing a Christmas story in the summer, especially as this one is set in a little village in Devon, complete with snow and an outdoor carol service. I’m feeling very nostalgic as I write.

What do you hope readers will take away from One Summer in Cornwall?

I hope they enjoy the read and it leaves them feeling a little happier. We live in strange and worrying times so it’s nice to lose yourself in a feelgood, heart-warming book sometimes.

More about One Summer in Cornwall

Cover of the book, One Summer in Cornwall. Woman painting outside of a thatched cottage by the seaside. A boat is sailing offshore.


Escape to Cornwall this summer…

When Hattie is made redundant and evicted from her flat in one horrible week, she needs time to rethink. Her Uncle Albert left her and her father each half of Fisherman’s Rest, his home in the Cornish town of Port Medden, so this seems the perfect place to escape to until she can figure things out.

As Hattie stays in the cottage, clearing it out, tidying it up and getting it ready to sell, she starts to find her feet in Port Medden and making a new home here begins to feel right. If only her dad didn’t need a quick sale and things weren’t complicated by her unwelcoming neighbour Marcus…

A gorgeous feel-good read, perfect for fans of CATHY BRAMLEY and PHILLIPA ASHLEY.

Where you can buy it

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo | Nook | Waterstones (UK) | Foyles (UK) | Booktopia (AU) | Dymocks (AU)

More about Karen

Karen King author photo - a smiling with blue eyes and red hair wearing a floral top

Karen King is a multi-published author of both adult and children’s books. She has had eight romantic novels published, one psychological thriller with another one out later this year, 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, and several short stories for women’s magazines. Her romantic novel The Cornish Hotel by the Sea became an international bestseller, reaching the top one hundred in the Kindle charts in both the UK and Australia. Karen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. Karen now lives in Spain where she loves to spend her non-writing time exploring the quaint local towns with her husband, Dave, when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is.

Follow Karen

Website | Amazon | Facebook | BookBub | Twitter

Thank you for sharing with us, Karen, and all the best for publication day!

Thank you so much for inviting me over to your blog, Sandy!

Romance Tropes Part 2: The Love Triangle

Earlier this year I wrote about the ‘Enemies to Lovers‘ trope in romcoms and today I’m tackling a trope that, for some readers, is a HUGE turn-off. How do I know that some readers vehemently dislike the love triangle trope? Because I’ve written a love triangle and have learnt* that for some readers, a love triangle equates to cheating―regardless of the circumstances.

Also, this is the most popular post defining ‘love triangle’ from the Urban Dictionary:

Love Triangle

So, let’s dig in.

Simply, as the Urban Dictionary’s indicates, a love triangle is when the main character has genuine romantic feelings for two other characters.

Where I think a good love triangle diverges from this definition is that it is possible for 2 out of 3 people to end up happy. As I write romcoms, this is critical―readers want a ‘happily ever after’ at the end of the main character’s journey.

Another key ingredient to a good love triangle is when each love interest brings out something special in the main character―that both relationships lead to that character’s growth.

One of my favourite love triangles (ever) is from Bridget Jones’s Diary (book and film series).

BJD

Daniel Cleaver is the sexy bad boy who awakens Bridget’s sexuality, sassiness and grit―a downturn in their relationship prompts her to quit her ho-hum job and get into television. And, of course, Mark D’Arcy is the curmudgeon, who despite all outward appearances tells Bridget he likes her ‘just the way you are’ (swoon). Bridget is transformed by her relationships by both men, gaining both confidence and self-acceptance.

Aside: the third book in the trilogy is extremely different from the 3rd film and (I think) vastly better.

In Sweet Home Alabama, which also explores the enemies to lovers trope, Melanie is engaged to Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) and returns home to Alabama to secure a divorce from Jake (Josh Lucas), who she married when they were just out of high school.

SHA

[SPOILER] Melanie learns that she’s her truest self when she’s with her soon to be ex-husband and, yes, she shares a kiss with him while still engaged to Andrew, but her ‘cheating’ is far from malicious. She realises that she has genuine feelings for each man and must decide what ‘happily ever after’ means to her.

The television show Younger explores a love triangle over multiple seasons (currently 6 and soon to be 7).

the-everygirl-younger-triangle-fictional-love-triangles

Liza, 40, masquerades as a 20-something to get a job in publishing and has a relationship with the much younger Josh, who knows her real age and doesn’t care about the age difference, and the age-appropriate Charles, who thinks she is 20-something and is, ironically, concerned about the age difference.

Liza oscillates between these two relationships over the multiple seasons, only rarely ‘cheating’ on one when she is officially with the other. It’s a moral dilemma for her as well as a romantic one, because she loves them both and doesn’t want to hurt either man―though, of course she does. This is a love triangle and someone always gets hurt in a love triangle.

In the 1st book of The Holiday Romance series, One Summer in Santorini, Sarah meets and falls for 2 very different men.

Each brings out something different in her. With the older James, she sees herself in a new light―that her ‘heart on her sleeve’ approach to life and the hopeful way she enjoys simple pleasures, make her immensely lovable, something she has never quite believed about herself.

With the younger Josh, she sees how ‘stuck’ she is in her own life and she learns that she has the power to transform it. She needs to stop feeling sorry for herself and participate fully in her own life.

Sarah has genuine feeling for them both and wants to figure out which man―if either―is the right man for her, and in A Sunset in Sydney [NO SPOILERS], we find out.

But along the way, she is in a relationship with both men. This is the core of the love triangle I’ve written and while some readers balk at Sarah’s ‘cheating’, it is never malicious, and being duplicitous about her two relationships makes her uneasy. It should also be said that there is no commitment to either man until the end of Sarah’s love triangle story.

Lastly, I wanted to share my fave love triangle romcom series by Lindsey Kelk, the Tess Brookes series, in which Tess’s love pendulum swings between Charlie, her longtime crush, and Nick, the brooding journalist.

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Fair warning, it does take 3 books to find out who, if either, she ends up with but it’s a fabulous ride!

‘Til next time, happy reading and if you have a fave fictitious love triangle, drop in in the comments.

*By ‘learnt’ I mean that I’ve read some ‘passionate’ reviews of my books saying just this.**

**Maybe if you hate a trope so passionately, don’t read books based on that trope. 😉

Publication Day for A Sunset in Sydney

Updated ASIS

It’s publication day for my third novel, A Sunset in Sydney, the direct sequel to my first novel, One Summer in Santorini. To mark the occasion, I wanted to share an excerpt from the Acknowledgements:

I wrote this book while living in Bali. It was Spring 2018, and I was on a year-long sabbatical with my partner and love, Ben. Often I wrote poolside or perched on a sun lounger―yes, really. I also wrote at the beach, in our outdoor workspace, and at my favourite cafe.

The sabbatical was Ben’s idea. And after some cajoling and reassurance from him that it would be amazing, I put on my big-girl knickers and we quit our jobs, gave away a lot of our stuff, packed the rest into a storage cage, and bought a one-way ticket to the rest of the world, first stop Bali.

If it wasn’t for Ben’s bravery, support, and intrepid spirit I would not have gone on sabbatical and I wouldn’t have written this book or That Night in Paris. You see, while on sabbatical I gave myself “permission” to be an author, to throw myself into writing, editing, and querying, and to seek out writing as a career.

So, as my third book is published, and I have just sent across structural edits for my fourth book and am finishing the draft of my fifth, a huge thank you to Ben.

I hope you enjoy this latest instalment of The Holiday Romance series and the conclusion to Sarah’s story.

What other authors have to say about A Sunset in Sydney.

“Guaranteed to have you holding your breath to the very last page.” Julie Houston

“I’m such a fan of this series.” Ella Allbright

Lose yourself in this perfect, escapist read.” Samantha Tonge

“Sandy Barker blends romance and travel to make the perfect summer read.” Lynne Shelby

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US

Also available on all other ebook platforms. Print books available from September 17.