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 (again) with Author Fiona Leitch

I am super excited to welcome back Fiona Leitch, the “mashup maven”. As well as adoring her, I am in awe of her incredible ability to combine my two favourite genres, Crime Fiction and Romance!

She has a new book coming out in a couple of weeks, and this is one not to miss because it’s the sequel to one of my fave books from 2019, Dead in Venice. It’s called Murder Ahoy!

Tell us about Bella Tyson, your heroine in Dead in Venice and Murder Ahoy!

Bella is a famous crime writer in her late 40s from South London. She dropped out of university and went off to have adventures, with a vague idea of writing about them. She loves chocolate, sex and travel, and her language can be pretty fruity. She’s probably my favourite character, as she’s the one most like me!

What do you love most about writing a series?

I love being able to introduce a character or a theme in one book, as maybe a sub plot or secondary character, and then expand on them in the next book. One of the main characters in Murder Ahoy! is talked about in the first novel and has had a profound effect on Bella in her past, but we don’t actually meet him until we’re onboard the cruise ship in book two.

What is the most challenging thing about writing a series?

I think the hardest thing is keeping it fresh. How many dead bodies can one woman come across without it sounding contrived?! I used to love ‘Midsummer Murders’ on the TV, but after a while it started to feel a bit daft – the murder rate in that cluster of small country villages was higher than that of New York!

You have been called the “mashup maven”. Tell us about how you bring genres together.

It all started when I tried to write something serious and it ended up being funny without me trying (if anything I was trying NOT to be funny). I can’t resist making it absurd or giving the characters witty dialogue. I’m also a sucker for romance and a happy ending. But as much as I love reading other people’s romcoms, and I adore the movies, I can’t seem to write a straight romcom. I think the frustrated filmmaker in me wants more action! So I gravitate towards writing mysteries, or romcoms with a darker edge. Readers seem to like a mash up but publishers, not so much sadly.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new series, The Nosey Parker Mysteries, set in Cornwall. Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is an ex-copper turned caterer who returns to the small Cornish seaside town she grew up in with her teenage daughter. She’s supposed to be retired from the force, but whenever there’s a crime she can’t resist sticking her nose in and helping solve it, along with hunky local CID officer Nathan, her old school friend, Tony, and a whole cast of colourful characters. The first book, Murder On The Menu, will be out in January.

Blurb for Murder Ahoy!

Famous crime writer Bella Tyson is hired to co-host a Murder Mystery cruise, on a luxury liner sailing from Southampton to New York. She’s expecting an easy ride; fun and games, surrounded by amateur sleuths and fans of her books, all the while staying in a deluxe cabin and enjoying the spa and the amazing restaurants on board, culminating in a visit to one of her favourite cities in the world – the Big Apple.

She’s NOT expecting to be stuck on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic with her two least favourite people in the world, her hot but unfaithful bastard ex-husband Joel Quigley and fellow crime writer, bitch goddess and Twitter frenemy, Louise Meyers. And when real live dead bodies start turning up – as well as fake not-really-dead bodies – Bella’s dreams of being pampered on the high seas turn sour.

Accused of a murder she would have liked to commit but didn’t, and helped (or hindered) by a gang of unlikely detectives, can Bella find out who the real murderer is before the ship reaches its destination and New York’s finest drag her off?

Buy links

Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Amazon US |

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