My first of a series of Author interviews is with an old friend – Ros Rendle.
Ros writes both historical sagas and contemporary romance. Like me, she is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novelists’ Society.
Her latest book, Flowers of Resistance, is set in war-time France; there is a link to the Amazon page at the foot of this entry.
Note: I have tried to find questions away from those most commonly seen. I hope I have succeeded – at least in part.
So over to Ros.
- What makes a good story?
In my view, apart from the obvious beginning, middle and end of a piece of prose, this is something that engages the reader so that they don’t want to stop reading. Thrillers are the classic example, but for romance writers, it’s more difficult, and certain skills are essential. Identifying clear areas of conflict are critical and the pathway to solving those needs to twist, turn and climb as the plot develops. While the ending might seem obvious, a voyage of discovery in getting there is the intrigue that maintains engagement for the reader.
- How have you become a better writer?
My first big move in the right direction was to join the RNA and be accepted into the New Writers’ Scheme. Not only did I meet and pick up titbits of information from others, but the two reviews I received while on the scheme were packed full of support and advice. Then I joined the Leicester Chapter of the RNA. Chapters are the backbone of the organisation, and the people are friendly and helpful. Again, every time we meet I pick up useful tips. Since then I have been on residential and day courses and read a lot of books about the necessary skills and techniques. I’m still learning.
- What inspires you?
Is this similar to ‘from where do I get my ideas’? The first book I wrote was the one I needed to write and had festered for about twenty-five years or more. Having completed that, I enjoyed the process, and since I took early retirement and we went to live in France, I had plenty of time on my hands. Many of my books, both contemporary and those with a 20th-century setting, reflect the place in which I lived, eg. Sense and French Ability, Flowers of Flanders and the latest, Flowers of Resistance. Now that we have relocated back to the UK after 10 years away, I’m enjoying using a UK setting, namely Cornwall. This is an area with which I am very familiar. However, while setting has been important to me, it’s the characters that inspire the plot. I really grow to like my character . . . a lot.
- What does your family think of your writing?
My mother was a published writer of novels, many times over. I should like to think she’d be very proud of what I have achieved. I have two daughters who have read my books and say they enjoy them. The four granddaughters aren’t quite old enough yet but hey, future readers, I hope. My husband has been very supportive and helped with research for the historical novels. Visiting the records office at Kew has been a great activity for us both.
- What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself in creating my books?
Completing a whole book is a lonely activity, and usually, I have preferred company, finding my own rather dull. However, I become so wrapped up in my characters and their story that I’m not lonely at all. I itch to get back to my room and write and write some more. I’m also very persistent about ensuring all the research is absolutely accurate for both the contemporaries and the historical novels. I have been praised for this in several reviews, so it’s paying off.
- If you could have written any book, what would it have been and why?
James Hilton of Mr Chips and Lost Horizons fame, in 1941, also wrote a book called Random Harvest. It was a love story with a difference and about a man who lost his memory. It has a marvellous twist at the end which I didn’t see coming at all when I first read it aged about eighteen. I adored it and still have an original copy that belonged to my granny.
- How much research do you do?
As I indicated in no. 5, I’m almost obsessive about accuracy, so I do a huge amount. For the historicals I have visited the battlefield sites on many occasions and using War Diaries from the time, gained from Kew, we have walked in the footsteps taken by the protagonist over 100 years ago, matching landmarks and activities of the time. It’s very much easier, generally, with the internet although for my most recent book, not so. It’s set in Vichy France. It was a sensitive time for the French and information much more difficult to come by, although living in the region helped to get first-hand particulars. Even for the contemporaries, I have done a lot, including finding out about technical aspects of French water management engineering. I know . . . Saying nothing more.
- How do you relax?
Ballroom and Latin dancing is a regular activity of ours. We go at least twice a week, having a regular lesson, and often more if there are social dances to go to. We’ve done that for two and a half years now. We also have dogs and walk them every day, too.
- Do you have any writing quirks? (and if so, what?)
I don’t think I do. I write in short bursts with frequent stops to make a cup of tea. I also have a failing for eating sweets. OH is diabetic so I do this in secret, upstairs in my workroom.
- Why write in your genre?
I started writing contemporary women’s romance because it was the book I needed to write. I’ll say no more about that. However, I’ve branched out because the 20th century is so fascinating. These books are a series of three sisters and three periods of major conflict. I’ve already mentioned the first two, and the third will feature the Cold War. My last book had elements of a thriller, and I’d love to write a contemporary thriller, but that’s for the future.
- How is your writing different now from when you started?
I don’t know. I hope it’s more skillfully executed. Maybe others can say. I get the usual mix of reviews.
- What do people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that they don’t?
When I said to someone what I write, she replied, “Oh It’s not too Mills and Boon is it?” She’d never read one, so it made me angry. People sometimes see that as light and not so skilful which is absolute nonsense. I did put her straight on her opinion of that publisher. My books have a little bit of ‘bite’ but are love stories, in the main.
- Your 3 favourite authors?
Apart from the obvious Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, in no particular order:
James Hilton – pathos and reality of characters and reasons mentioned above
Emma Davies – a new writer with such warmth in her characters
PD James – skill in weaving a cast of characters and plot twists that keep me turning the page.
Ah but then there’s . . . So many. I could name from my childhood Alison Uttley, and teen years, and . . . and. This question is too cruel.
- In what way do you service or support your books?
I use social media – mainly Twitter and Facebook. I just cannot get on with Goodreads. I need to sit down with someone and go through it. I’ve tried so many times and end up wandering around its pages for ages. I use the Canva app to make posters and short movie clips. I utilise the KDP facility to reduce my book prices which can boost sales and therefore rankings. I have a website – www.rosrendleauthor.co.uk
I know I don’t do enough, but I don’t enjoy that side of things.
- What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
I’m frustrated that they carry so much weight. My Strong Sisters series has won more than one award and has several 4 and 5 stars reviews. Then someone gives it a 1 star and it drags the whole profile down. Even 3 stars on Amazon is considered adverse and yet I had very supportive and lovely comments from someone who then only gave it 3 stars. People have such diverse opinions that, in effect, they mean little. Yet, I hate to receive a poor review! It’s hard to switch off from those.
- What makes your book(s) stand out from the crowd?
Marketing is critical in this competitive area so a tagline that captures peoples’ imagination and images that sock them between the eyes are important. Apart from that, this is the 24,000 dollar question. Most authors would say their books have strong characters, good plot, realistic setting, good research etc. etc. I hope my books also demonstrate a unique voice and a storyline that is a combination of all this plus inimitable reality to which readers can relate.
- Tell us something about your road to being published
Following comprehensive reports from a reader with the RNA NWS, and consequent revision, my contemporary books were accepted by Endeavour Press. I am un-agented and currently have a genuine dilemma whether I wish to go down that route for financial reasons. I’m also unsure whether I want the pressure of having to produce books to someone else’s timescale.
I have produced the historical series through indie publishing with Amazon KDP. I really do like the power over decision making this gives me. I went on a Photoshop course, and have produced the last two covers myself, having researched the approach book cover designers in my genre take. They seem to be doing as well as the books with a publisher, but I get more royalties.
- Plotter or Pantser?
I veer towards the latter. I usually have a couple of sides of A4 with a rough chapter plan. This includes the main plot points at the required % points of progress. As I go along, I have a little notebook where I write main characteristics of people in the story so that I avoid mistakes such as changes of eye colour, but this is only to save me time in back-tracking to find out. Sometimes a sub-plot character will ‘grow’ and become more important. This happened in Flowers of Resistance and changed the ‘traitor’ aspect of the story.
- Your main character, what makes him or her so special?
These people are important to me, and so far, have been the starting point for a story whether it’s a contemporary or historical. They are utterly in my imagination, but they are very real, and I hope I can paint them onto the page, so they become just as tangible to readers. They have their faults and weaknesses but the circumstances in which they find themselves help them to grow and modify. Like members of the family, I love them for all their foibles.
- What question do you wish that someone would ask about you or your book, but nobody has?
Can’t think of one, so thanks for asking all the correct ones. 😊
Ros’s latest book, “Flowers of Resitance” is available from Amazon at: