THE RNA, CONFERENCES AND THE LOVELY JAN JONES
Not only does my next guest, Jan Jones, organise the very best annual writer’s conference in the UK, but her debut book Stage by Stage is one of the most joyous books I’ve ever read.
When I was a girl, my driving ambition was to be an actress and although common sense – and a desire to eat – led me down the shorthand/typing route and hence to foreign parts, I had some of the most fun in my entire life doing Am Dram at the Lusaka Playhouse (and met my husband while playing a saucy page boy in St Joan). It will come as no surprise, therefore, that I fell on Jan’s book the minute it was published. I was not disappointed.
Before writing this introduction, I went back to it and within minutes I fell in love again with her fabulous cast of characters, the romance, the humour. There’s not only a delightful romance between the two major characters, but the angst of the teenage crush, driving ambition and loss. The whole desperate need to pick yourself up and get on with life when it’s kicked you in the teeth.
Typically, Jan doesn’t want to tell you about her book, but about the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Believe what she tells you…
IN PRAISE OF THE RNA!
First of all, oodles of congrats to Liz for her 50 books and thank you so much for inviting me here.
I’ve known OF Liz through her books a lot longer than I’ve known her in person, so hers was one of the names I squealed with delight to recognise when I first joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association as a new writer. I still find it awesome that I’m guest-chattering on her blog.
I think it’s fair to say that the RNA has changed my life. I’ve discovered that it’s not weird to have your head in a make-believe world half the time. It’s not unbalanced to become serially involved with all your heroes. If at first you don’t succeed, it’s perfectly acceptable to keep trying for the next fifteen years. Or even longer.
And I have made so many friends! People who understand, who are always ready to help, to commiserate, to cheer. When I won the RNA Joan Hessayon Award with my debut romantic comedy Stage by Stage at the Summer Party in 2005, I didn’t emerge from the hugs and kisses and more hugs and more kisses for about half-an-hour.
I love the RNA. I love the people. I love the parties. I love the annual conference. (Actually, I love the conference so much I now organise it.)
What do you love? APART from your immediate family, what would your life be irretrievably poorer without?
A copy of Stage by Stage to a randomly-picked comment below. If you already have a copy, we’ll think of something else.
And here’s an excerpt:
Owen’s nearness and openness were doing such strange things to her senses that it was a couple of seconds before Beth caught up with what he was saying. ‘But if Luke is the lead and Seb is the juvenile and Monty is the villain, where does that leave you?’
For the first time since she’d known him, Owen’s hazel eyes failed to meet hers. Instead he stood up and looked at himself in the mirror over the mantelpiece. With a hand that wasn’t quite as assured as usual he made a bouffant gesture to his hair, then batted his eyelashes at his reflection. ‘It costs such a lot to make a girl look cheap these days, doesn’t it?’
Beth stared at him, her mind seething with unvoicable contradictions.
‘I mean,’ continued Owen, flicking his lashes with a careful fingertip, ‘never mind Hardup’s bloody mansion, it’s me Llewellyn-Bowen ought to be making over.’
‘Dame Trot? You?’ Her voice was a thread.
He met her eyes in the mirror. ‘Made my debut as Mrs Crusoe last year. The advantage of being the writer is that you get all the best lines.’
She swallowed. Whatever she said now would be crucial. ‘Was it fun?’
He turned, picked up his tea again and moved edgily over to her A-level group’s Arms And The Man essays. ‘Wonderful,’ he said, leafing through the top one, ‘except I didn’t pull. Let’s face it, who’s going to look twice at a bloke in false eyelashes who dresses up in women’s clothes for a living?’
This was it. Make or break time. Beth’s heart was beating so hard she thought it might batter its way out of her chest. ‘Me?’ she said.
Everything about Owen stilled.
She walked carefully across and removed both mug and essay from his hands. ‘Providing you don’t wear curlers in bed. Or borrow my tights. I have enough trouble with Natalie.’ She met his incredulous stare and licked dry lips. ‘You’ll have to help me here, Owen. I’m out of practice at this.’
His mobile face erupted into a dazzling smile. ‘Yes!” he yelled, and wrapped her in his arms. ‘Oh, Beth, I’ve wanted to do this for so long.’ He bent his head and kissed her long and hard. Very long. And very hard.
Bliss. More than bliss. Sensations she hadn’t realised she’d missed flooded back into her body. After an eon of ecstasy that might have equally lasted five minutes or five hours, she threaded her fingers through his hair. ‘Me too,’ she said. ‘You may have guessed.’
He kissed her again. He ran his hands around her denim-clad hips, let them linger on her inner thighs. ‘So have you got something upstairs,’ he murmured, ‘or shall we use one of your Marigolds down here?’
. . . . . . .
(Note from Liz: I’m not sure if “Marigolds” will translate. I’ll just say that they are a well known make of rubber gloves…)