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

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

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!

Cover Reveal for Lucy Knott

Very excited to be part of the cover reveal for the next book by the fabulous Lucy Knott, The Little Barn of Dreams.

Book Cover: Woman reading a book in front of a bar on a farm; dog and stack of books in the foreground

About the book

Boy meets girl meets… happy ending? Flo has one summer to make it happen…

Quirky bookworm Florence Danver spends most of her time lost in whimsical daydreams about characters from her favourite books. Who wouldn’t rather be fighting dragons or falling in love with impossibly perfect heroes than stuck behind a computer doing boring data entry all day? But when she loses her job, Flo knows it’s time to make some changes.

Her beloved Nanna Margot encourages her to spend a week at Camp Calla Lily, but this is a place she hasn’t been since she lost her mum and dad, and her return is bittersweet… until she meets Jo Hadlee.

Fellow dreamer Jo is a writer and soon the pair are inseparable as they talk books and build castles in the air. But what happens when the fantasy bubble bursts and real life comes roaring back in? The real world is a place of pain and loss where bosses frown upon her distracted air, where people tease her, and where nothing ever has a happy ending.

If Florence wants to turn her fairy-tale summer with perfectly imperfect Jo into a happily-ever-after of her own, she will have to accept that love, like life, is best when it’s messy and very, very real.

Release date: July 8 (ebook) & October 14 (print)

Pre-order now:

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

About Lucy

Lucy Knott lives in Manchester England, just around the corner from her childhood home and less than five minutes from her twin sister Kelly and brother-in-law Chris. She loves spending time with her family in addition to writing, reading and cooking Italian food. When not buried in a book, scribbling in a notebook or having dance parties for one to Harry Styles, she works as a teaching assistant where the majority of her days are spent talking about dinosaurs and making Godzilla out of just about everything, from Blu Tac to cardboard boxes, and she loves every minute.

If she could up and move to the stunning Amalfi Coast, San Francisco or live in a cabin surrounded by fairy lights, she would, but for now she’s quite content writing about those magical places. Lucy loves to write uplifting stories that she hopes will put a smile on your face, fill your heart with joy, encourage you to embrace the awesomeness that you are and believe that any dream is possible.

Follow Lucy (and Kelly)

Twitter | Instagram | Website

Catching up with Author Kate Smith

A very happy publication day to debut author, Kate Smith, and thank you very much for having me on your blog tour for You’ve Got Mail!

Cover of You've Got Mail, a man and a woman. The woman is holding a phone,

Tell us what inspired you to write You’ve Got Mail?

It was the idea of receiving an anonymous email that sparked the premise of You’ve Got Mail. And the story blossomed from that. I love the romantic story of Cyrano de Bergerac, the writing of love letters anonymously, the pretence of being someone else. So, I toyed with the idea in my head of what would happen if, instead of wooing people anonymously, my main character dumped them instead.

When did you start writing seriously?

I was thirty, had just had my daughter and become a single mum, and I needed an outlet. I wrote a romcom that will never see the light of day (thankfully) and I found the whole process really cathartic. I could give my characters the happily ever after that I was craving in real life, I guess. I had an agent read it and say she loved my style of writing but that the story didn’t have a ‘hook’ so I went away and started on a new project that ended up being You’ve Got Mail.

I work part time as a therapist in social care, so between that and looking after my daughter there’s not a lot of time for writing. But I make sure I give it as much priority as I can.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love getting to know my characters. They tend to have a life of their own and often I find that I’m veering away from my (very loose) plan because they’re having none of it! I also love the hope and joy that writing romance brings. I know that whatever my characters have to deal with they will come out of it with their own happily ever after, and this is comforting for me.

And, especially at the moment as a front-line worker, I love being able to completely switch off from the real world and immerse myself in pure romantic fantasy.  

What are you working on now?

My deal with Orion Dash was a two-book deal, and I have just sent my second romcom manuscript to my agent and editor. So, while I wait for the feedback on that one (I’m not sure I can give you any more details yet) I am finishing up a third romcom manuscript I started during lockdown 1.0! Watch this space!

What do you hope readers will take away from You’ve Got Mail?

I would love readers to grow with Gracey, my main character. To be with her on her journey of discovery as she learns she’s more than the sum of what others think of her. But mostly, I would love readers to enjoy the book and the escape it hopefully provides; with a little laughter along the way.

This sounds fabulous. Here’s more about the book:

It’s been fun, but I think we should stop seeing each other. Thanks for a great laugh x

When Grace Wharton is dumped by email from a relationship she isn’t even in, she adds it to the list of ways her life hasn’t quite panned out: twenty-five, single, and working a dead-end job she doesn’t enjoy. She fires off an angry response to Mr Obnoxious – how dare he try to dump someone over email?! – knowing that telling off a random stranger online means she has reached an all-time low.

Everything changes when her boss asks her to go to a big sales conference to secure an important client. Her partner is Jack Lockett, company Casanova and Grace’s long-time crush. What’s more, he seems very interested… But Mr Obnoxious keeps sending her emails and Grace keeps replying. Only to make sure he doesn’t send any more heart-breaking emails, obviously.

Grace’s life has suddenly gone from stagnant to brimming with possibilities. But is it all too good to be true?

A witty, charming and all too relatable debut romcom, You’ve Got Mail is perfect for fans of Sophie Ranald, Mhairi McFarlane and Joanna Bolouri.

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Nook

More about Kate:

Kate Smith smiling woman seated in a garden

Kate Galloway Smith is a writer, editor, and an HCPC registered Occupational Therapist.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Kate can be found writing romantic comedies in Norwich, where she lives with her daughter and their cat and an increasing number of house plants.

You’ve Got Mail is her debut.

It’s Publication Day for The Christmas Swap

Cover of the book The Christmas Swap. A snowy scene at the top of the cover, with a ski lodge and a man and a woman. On the bottom of the cover is a beach image with bathing boxes and surfboards and a man and a woman sitting together.

So excited that this day is (finally) here! I started writing this book in July 2019 for Camp NaNoWriMo with the goal of writing 30K words in 31 days. I wrote 35K words, then tweaked the manuscript with help from my agent, and we pitched it (with a synopsis) to my publisher, One More Chapter.

They loved it, then it was slotted into my publication schedule and today’s the day when it is out in the world!

To mark the occasion I am sharing my acknowledgements.

Acknowledgements and a note from the author

It’s hard to believe I am writing the acknowledgements for my fourth book, but here I am. I have dedicated this book to my parents―my mum, Lee, my dad, Ray, and my step-mum, Gail. I am extremely fortunate to have parents who not only love me, but champion me and inspire me. They have also instilled in me the importance of family―including the family members we choose―as well as having a sense of adventure and following your dreams.

Family is a prominent theme in this book and as I write these acknowledgements amid the second round of COVID-19 lockdowns here in Melbourne, ‘family’ has become more important to me now than ever. And for me, a person who has lived on three continents, that word encompasses all the people I love, all the people who inspire me, lift me up, confide in me, and ease my path. Thank you, family―wherever you are. Stay safe and we will meet again someday soon.

As always, I am grateful to my two partners-in-writing, my editor, Hannah Todd, and my agent, Lina Langlee. It is wonderful having you in my corner and you are both gifted collaborators. Hannah, thank you for being my champion at One More Chapter and HarperCollins, and for your excellent feedback, which always elevates my writing. I continue to grow as an author under your guidance. Lina, I greatly appreciate your advocacy, your astute guidance, and your ongoing support of my writing career. Ever onwards and upwards―together.

Thank you to my fellow authors for supporting, championing, and inspiring me, particularly my fellow Renegades, Nina, Andie, and Fiona. Our daily catchups sustain me; they are chocolate for my soul. Thank you to Lucy Coleman (Linn B. Halton) whose quote appears on the cover of this book. I hope that one day I will be as prolific and as accomplished as you. Your books are the stuff of dreams. Thank you to all my fellow romance authors who forge and shape this genre, and to the book lovers, bloggers, and reviewers whose passion for romantic fiction lifts us all, especially my friends at UKRomChat, The Reading Corner Book Lounge, and Chick Lit and Prosecco. Thank you to the volunteers at the Romance Novelists Association and Romance Writers of Australia for your tireless efforts to sustain and elevate romantic fiction. And thank you to my fellow Aussie authors at the Australian Writer’s Centre and #AusWrites.

Lastly, dear reader, thank you. Thank you for traveling across three continents with me and enjoying some Christmassy goodness. Christmas is my favourite holiday, and over my lifetime, I’ve spent it in the US, the UK, and Australia―each Christmas special for its distinct traditions and the loved ones I’ve shared it with.

Happy Christmas, happy holidays, and stay safe.

~ Sandy Barker

Read about my inspiration for writing The Christmas Swap

Read more about the book, including where to find it

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.

18888251._SY475_

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. 😉