Monday, 31 January 2011

Deleted scenes (but no author's commentary)

Every good DVD has extra features, doesn’t it? I feel positively short-changed if there’s not a commentary to listen to once I’ve seen the film all the way through. I also enjoy watching the deleted scenes. Quite often I agree with the director, and can see why they didn’t make it into the final cut, but it’s still interesting to have a window on someone else’s story building.

Well, quite a few of my book have deleted scenes. Most of the time they just quietly die a death in the recycle bin, but I thought I’d share one from Three Weddings And A Baby with you.

Why these scenes? See here for an explanation. (I did type a longer one out here, but I was boring myself repeating it all, so I thought I’d just cut the waffle and get to the point!)

Josie from English Lord, Ordinary Lady is one of my very favourite heroines, and I really enjoyed meeting up with her after a few years and seeing how she was doing with her new family. I thought I’d post my deleted scene so that anyone else who had a soft spot for Josie (or Will!) could catch up with her.

Jennie has snuck into the little church next door to Elmhurst Hall to think...

"She was disturbed by the dull clink of a door latch, and peered around the pillar just enough to see a girl with a pink coat and sparkly silver plastic crown on her head enter. She was pulled up like a ballet dancer and walked with a regal, solemn step, her hands clasped in front of her.

Jennie wondered what on earth she was doing at first, but then she thought about where they were, and where the girl was heading, and she laughed softly inside her head. She remembered being that age, full of daydreams and fairytales… Although, she’d probably never looked as serene as the dark-haired girl proceeding down the aisle.

Then she heard more footsteps. She didn’t exactly hide behind her pillar, but she didn’t do anything to draw attention to herself, either. For once in her life she wasn’t feeling very sociable.

A blonde-haired toddler scooted up the aisle after his sister, followed swiftly by his mother.

‘Billy,’ whispered the girl through clenched teeth, chin still high, ‘you’re not supposed to run in church! You’re ruining it!’

The woman looked over her shoulder, looking a little weary. ‘Hattie?’ Do we have to do wedding rehearsals right now?’ She grabbed the toddler’s hand and started shuffling along one of the pews near the front. ‘Where exactly did you leave your gloves?’

But Hattie just kept going. Step, together. Step, together.

Then a tall man in a coat appeared at the door. He walked swiftly down the aisle behind the little girl and scooped her up and over his shoulder in one fluid movement.

‘Will!’ the girl shrieked. ‘Brides don’t do fireman’s lifts!’ But she was laughing as she told him off, squirming in his arms as he tickled her.

‘They do if they’re eloping,’ he said dryly.

The woman giggled. ‘That could have been fun,’ she said, and gave him a soft look.

Jennie smiled to herself. It had been fun, eloping with Alex. Thrilling.

‘Loping?’ said the girl. ‘What’s that?’

‘What we should have done.’ her mother said, as the little boy slipped her grip and sprinted away from her as fast as his chubby legs could take him.

‘Running away,’ the man said, and caught the racing toddler deftly with his free hand and turned to face the entrance. ‘To get married. So you can avoid all the fuss.’

The girl—Hattie?—slumped on his shoulder. ‘But if you and mummy had ‘loped, I wouldn’t have been able to wear my lovely pink dress with the bow, and have flowers in my hair, and…’

The rest of the her speech was lost as they disappeared out the church doors.

‘And that was why we didn’t elope,’ her mother muttered to herself. Jennie couldn’t see her, because she was behind another pillar. ‘Because we’d have never lived it down!’ The woman reached the end of the pew and came into sight again.

‘Got them!’

Jennie almost jumped out of her skin at the triumphant shout. The woman held a pair of bright pink gloves aloft and smiled to herself, and then she side-stepped to the end of the pew and started walking back up towards the doors but, because she had chosen the side aisle as her exit route, Jennie was now in full view, no longer hidden by her pillar. She felt like a spy.

After a few steps the woman spotted her. ‘Oh, hello,’ she said, and smiled again.

Jennie wanted to crawl away but she smiled back—mostly teeth and gums. From this distance she could see the woman had purple steaks in the front of her hair.

She gave Jennie a curious look. ‘Are you new in the village?’


Jennie didn’t know what to say. That was exactly what she’d come here to mull over.

‘Sort of…’

The woman pulled her hand out of a multi-coloured woolly mitten. ‘Josie,’ she said, and Jennie stood and shook her hand.


And right there was the other thing she’d come to think about. What was she? Who was she?

‘Dangerfield,’ she finally added, not sounding very convincing.

The woman raised her eyebrows. ‘Then you must be related to Alex. We’ve crossed paths once or twice…’

Jennie nodded. ‘I’m his wife.’

There she’d said it. Told someone. Some of the heaviness in her chest lifted.

Josie looked shocked, but she covered it well. Jennie realised that it must look a bit odd, her sitting in a draughty old church on a Sunday lunchtime, when she should be stuffing chickens or roasting parsnips, like a good little wife.

Josie looked at her hands, stuffed the bare one back inside its mitten. ‘Well… nice to have met you,’ she said.

Jennie just nodded, tried to smile again, and Josie went out of the church to join her family.

Now she was on her own again, Jennie collapsed back against the pillar, a hand to her forehead. No doubt, had her father seen her do that, he’d have said she was being overly dramatic, but truly, the last twenty-four hours had been utterly exhausting.

While she was draped against the cool stone she thought about the family that had just left, how ordinary they had seemed, but also how happy. Comfortable with each other. A million miles from where she and Alex were."

The church scene remains but, sadly, this scene with Josie and Will and Hattie is gone - changes at the revisions stage meant it just wasn't needed any more, and I was dangerously over my word count, so it just had to go. Sob.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Three Weddings And A Baby/Millionaire's Baby Bombshell - story inspiration 2

I don’t normally use pictures as inspiration for my hero and heroine. They are who they are in my head – not exactly like anyone else – but I can normally find a picture or two that remind me of them, and here are my Jennie and Alex 'look-a-like' pictures:

I saw Jennie as having shorter hair than this, but these pictures of Romala Garai have just the right sense of fun and spirit that my pampered princess has. Jennie might think she’s shallow, but she discovers she’s got a lot more to give than she ever realised.

Alex, I saw as lean, dark and slightly severe-looking. If there was one thing that marked him out from other heroes I’ve written, it was his ability to be still. That might sound weird, but it fit his personality. He’s very contained and sure of himself. He doesn’t flap in a crisis. That stillness he had reminded me of a predatory animal – a big cat of some kind – one that doesn't have to rush around during the hunt because it knows it’s going home with dinner.

As for the scenery: once Alice and Cameron’s wedding was over I set a lot of the rest of the book in the fictional Kent village of Elmhurst, a location I first used in English Lord, Ordinary Lady. It's a frosty new year and Jennie find the crisp, white fields and meadering lanes very different from the city life she's used to.

Jennie ends up in the village church, which starred in a scene of Will and Josie’s story, quite a few times when she needs time and space to think. In fact, Josie, Will and even little Hattie made a couple of appearances in the first draft of the book but, unfortunately, they got lost in the first round of revisions. I may even have a special ‘deleted scenes’ post in a couple of days, just because I was very fond of those characters and it was nice from a writer’s point of view to be able to peer a little into their happy ever after.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A very glam field trip

One of the things Mills & Boon has cooked up to announce the launch of their brand new RIVA line is to partner with Selfridges, the famous London department store. On the ground floor, near the Marble Arch end of Selfridges, is the Wonder Room – a section of the store full of bright and sparkly things, like Tiffany jewellery, fine perfumes and designer handbags.

Right in the front corner of the Wonder Room is a new ‘pop-up’ shop called the Together Shop, which be around for six weeks, until just after Valentine’s Day.
As the perfect place to find a gift for your valentine, the Together Shop showcases products that go in pairs or are meant to be shared, like salt and pepper pots or tandem bicycles and iPod speakers, but there is also exclusive jewellery and tableware.

Of course, as soon as we mention the word “romance” in the UK, we think of Mills & Boon – and it’s only fitting that there should be tables and shelves of M&B books, displayed against a backdrop of vintage book covers. There are even some of the vintage books themselves in glass display cases.

The Together Shop is selling the new RIVA line from M&B, and Three Weddings And A Baby – even though it won’t be available for a while in high street shops – is sitting there amongst the other January and February Riva releases.
Of course, I had to take a little field trip, just to go and have a nose…

Here are some of my pics:

The wall of vintage M&B covers, with RIVA books strategically placed as part of the display.
(Many people have asked if they can buy the posters, apparently!)

All the display tables in the Together Shop are made up of mirrored jigsaw pieces, and here's the little jigsaw-themed label on the M&B table.

A stack of RIVAs, waiting for some stylish shoppers to nab them.

Another section of the display wall.

And if you head off to the Together Shop in Valentines week, Mills & Boon author Heidi Rice will in residence, working on one of her books and giving some advice on how to write your own love story! More about that nearer the time...

Monday, 17 January 2011

Three Weddings And A Baby/Millionaire's Baby Bombshell - story inspiration

If you’re an author one question you get asked a heck of a lot is: “Where do you get your ideas from?” In fact, I’m always fascinated about the kernel of thought that germinated a story I liked too. My inspiration normally falls into one of three camps – either I get an idea for a character, or an idea for a conflict or situation, or I get an idea for where the story should be set (either a location or the story ‘world’).

Quite often that idea on its own isn’t enough. If I can pair that great character up with an interesting dilemma or put her in an exciting place, then I feel the story’s got legs and I can run with it. So, although I have tons of ideas scribbled down in my notebook for possible stories, the ones that tend to make it onto the page are the ones that have snowballed, where one idea has linked and merged with another.

Three Weddings And A Baby started with a situation. The heroine, Jennie, was a secondary character in Invitation To The Boss’s Ball, and she’d eloped to Las Vegas. I loved the idea of a whirlwind wedding, but before I commit to an idea I like to mess with its head, flip it about a little. What if, I thought, Jennie came home alone and she didn’t tell anyone she’d got married in
a rush? Interesting. What could have happened to blast a marriage apart so quickly? And who would the hero be? Would he be the jilted husband or someone else? Since Jennie had appeared in a previous book, I already knew a little bit about her story world. The idea had legs! Yay! All I needed to do was pick up my pen and get going, right?

Well, that’s what I did. But I discovered having a pre-created story world
for Jennie was actually more of a curse than a blessing. If I’d been writing the story from scratch, I’d probably have started it mere days after she’d done a runner from her honeymoon, but I was stuck with the timetable I’d given her in Invitation To The Boss’s Ball. I knew she’d been away for at least three weeks before she’d returned home to her family and that I wanted to start the story at her stepbrother’s wedding on New Year’s Day. This meant that the fight that had sent Jennie scampering from her honeymoon had to be a lot more than a ‘heat of the moment’ spat, and the hero had to have a really good reason for not coming after her immediately. Hmm.

The first version of the story involved an ex-wife who’d abducted the hero’s eight-year-old daughter and fled the country. I did acres of research on how this affected parents and children, both when they’d been separated and when they were reunited. I handed the book in and waited for my editor’s verdict. She loved the story but felt the child abduction storyline was a bit too gritty and the wrangling between the child’s parents took focus off the central romance at the end of the book. As much as I saw great potential in the subject matter, I realised she was right. It wasn’t that the story wasn’t a good idea, it was just that it wasn’t quite right for M&B in its present state. Cue revisions. Lots of them.

I kept some of the plot events, but the emotional undertones of every scene had to be either tweaked or completely changed. The finished story is quite different in places from the original, but I’m pleased with the result. It wasn’t the easiest book to write, however.

I think I learn something new and important with each book I write. This time round, I saw the dangers of investing in a gripping story idea that had limitations I’d already created for it. I like to tailor-make my plot and characters so they’re a perfect fit, but when linking books using secondary characters there isn’t always the same freedom to play God without upsetting the story physics of the world you’ve already created. I’m not saying I won’t do it again. Just that, next time, I’ll walk in with my eyes open!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Riva Launch Month

I'm really excited, because the launch month for Mills & Boon's new series - Riva - is here!

I blogged last week at the Pink Heart Society about the first four Riva books. Click here if you want to know more or check out Liz Fielding's blog, as she's interviewing all the launch month authors and giving away books! very first Riva, Three Weddings And A Baby is available online now! If you were a fan of my vintage fashion Cinderella story, Invitation To The Boss's Ball, then you won't want to miss this book, as it is the story of one of Alice's friends - Jennie.

Jennie was the spoiled socialite step-sister of Invitation To The Boss's Ball's hero, Cameron. She upped and eloped in the middle of planning a ball for him, leaving the heroine, Alice, to fill her shoes. As I was writing Alice and Cameron's story I kept thinking about what a juicy story idea that was, and by the time I was writing a happy ever after for Cameron and Alice, I was messing things up nicely for Jennie!

What if...? That's a writer's favourite question, isn't it? What if Jennie came home from honeymoon alone? What on earth could have happened to her whirlwind romance to blow it to smithereens - and how on earth could it be put back together again? Could it? Should it? I just couldn't leave the idea alone.

If you've read the beginning of Invitation To The Boss's Ball, you might remember that in the opening paragraphs Alice is admiring an oyster silk cocktail dress that Jennie falls in love with and buys:

The old oyster-coloured satin had the most wonderful texture—smooth but not slippery, like modern imitations, stiff and reassuringly heavy. Anyone who saw the cocktail dress would just have itched to touch it, and this is what Alice did, letting her fingertips explore it fully, lingering on the crease of the sash as it folded into a bow just under the bust line. This wasn’t just a dress. It was a piece of history, a work of art.

Well, I decided that Jennie should be wearing the very same dress in the opening chapters of Three Weddings And A Baby. It's Alice and Cameron's wedding, and Alice has decreed that Jennie must wear that dress. Jennie, however, has reasons for wanting to turn said dress into a very elegant bonfire! She's kept her whirlwind nuptials a secret, and no one knows it was her wedding dress, and she'd rather wear anything else than glorious oyster-coloured vintage satin. She'd also rather see anyone in the world than the one man who is crashing the wedding to confront her...

Want to know a bit more? Then you read the first chapter! See below for instructions.