Monday 17 May 2021

 Guest Post With Carol Thomas

This week I'm delighted to welcome fellow Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction author, Carol Thomas, to the blog for the first time. Carol is always very supportive of other authors and she's recently become a member of our local Cariad Chapter. I met her in person at the RNA York Tea in September 2019. Her latest novel A Summer of Second Chances was published by Choc Lit on April 27th.

Carol, welcome!
Please tell us a little about yourself and your writing. 
I live on the south coast of England with my husband, four children and lively Labrador. I am a primary school teacher and have been a volunteer at my local Cancer Research UK charity shop for several years.

I write for both adults and children. My romance novels are published by Choc Lit /Ruby Fiction and have relatable heroines whose stories are layered with emotion, sprinkled with laughter and topped with irresistible male leads. My children's books are self-published and have irresistibly cute, generally furry characters young children can relate to.

This is your fourth novel. What do readers expect when they pick up a Carol Thomas book? 
My publisher advertised the release of A Summer of Second Chances by saying it was a fab new rom-com filled with my “magical ingredients: romance, friendship and four-legged friends.” That made me smile as I think it sums up my novels, and what readers can expect.  

What was the inspiration for A Summer of Second Chances
I volunteer in a charity shop and received a donation of a photo album. As I was checking the quality of it for resale, I spotted a single photograph that had been left inside. My mind began to weave plots and possibilities from that. What if that photograph held a secret? Who were the people? What was the occasion? What happened before and after that picture?  

Can you summarise your new novel in just a few sentences? 
A Summer of Second Chances is about Ava Flynn, who lives in the village of Dapplebury and feels life is slipping her by while she works in a charity shop to keep her mother's beloved wildlife rescue centre, All Critters Great and Small, going. But when Ava's first love, Henry Bramlington, returns to the village, it is not just the donation he makes to the shop that unlocks secrets and emotions related to Ava's past. 

How much planning do you do for each novel?
It depends on the novel, but as a general rule, I like to know my beginning, middle and end point (even though they might change while writing), I do character profiles and some initial research before starting. I then continue researching as I write as my questions become more focused.

Your children’s books are delightful. How do pets and four-legged friends feature in your novels for adults?
I can’t seem to help myself when it comes to including dogs in my novels; all have a Labrador in them and A Summer of Second Chances also has a springer spaniel. I think dogs add warmth to a book. They also give subtle clues about characters in they way they respond to them and vice versa. 

I’m full of admiration that you work as a teacher and have a young family at the same time as being an author. When and where do you write best? 
I like writing in cafes. I have a couple of favourite spots locally. Writing, like reading, is a form of escapism; though when you write you get to choose the journey and the destination so that adds to the fun. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer? 
When writing romantic comedy you don’t have to shy away from the darker moments in life so long as they are balanced with lighter moments. Even in a romantic comedy, life can’t be jolly all of the time; if it were it wouldn’t feel real. 

What is the biggest compliment a reader could pay you?  
Leaving a positive review and/or recommending my books to a friend. I think those are lovely things to do. Reviews are so important to authors and help get them and their work noticed. They also keep them going when the writing is tough and the words aren’t behaving.

Thank you for having me on your lovely blog, Jan.
It's been a pleasure to find out more about you, Carol. Good luck with your new novel. I hope it flies!

BLURB FOR A Summer of Second Chances.
Does first love deserve a second chance?
Ava Flynn sometimes feels like the clothes donated to her charity shop have seen more life than her, but 'maximum dedication for a minimal wage' is what keeps her mother's beloved wildlife charity, All Critters Great and Small, running -especially in the village of Dapplebury, where business is certainly not booming.

But when Ava's first love, Henry Bramlington, returns to the village, suddenly life becomes a little too eventful. Henry escaped Dappleburymany years before, but now he has the power to make or break the village he left behind - All Critters Great and Small included. Can Ava trust the boy who ran away to give bother her and her charity a second chance? 

Links to A Summer of Second Chances:
 Amazon| Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay | Nook |

Other books can be found via:

Blog and website:

FB Author page:


Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed finding out more about Carol and her lovely books. As a writer, do you include four-legged friends in your novels? As readers, what do animals bring to your enjoyment of a story? I'd love it if you left a comment for Carol and me. Thank you.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Monday 3 May 2021

 Two Years On

Two years ago today, I accepted and signed a contract for three books with my lovely publisher, RUBY FICTION. This time in May 2019, I was on cloud nine and delighted to be joining a group of writers whose books I have enjoyed and whose writing I admire. At the time, I had submitted one novel and was in the process of editing novel two. Then, I had no idea of author-brand and just enjoyed trying to write the kind of novels I liked reading. Little did I know then, or could ever imagine, that both those novels would be published in the middle of a global pandemic.

Her Mother's Secret (Published 21st April 2020) - Everything from working with an editor, deciding on a title, choosing cover designs, and writing blog posts about the novel to coincide with publication was a new experience and one that I loved doing. I learned so much from everyone in the Ruby Fiction team and am grateful for that. The night before my book was let out into the world, I was both excited and nervous, worrying about what the reviews would be like. Because we were in the middle of a complete lockdown last April and travel was prohibited, the novel soon appeared to become an escapist read. It was often viewed as armchair travelling to the sun and virtual Greece. Publication day was spent in the garden eating Greek-style food and in the evening, there was a surprise Zoom get-together with family and friends. We were all getting to grips with Zoom back then but by the novel's book-birthday last month, Zoom has become a way of life for many of us. Seeing the novel as Number 1 in The Amazon Hot Releases in Greek Travel for a short while as well as being nominated for the longlist of the Not-the-Booker prize and receiving votes was exciting.  

Fast forward five months and Her Sister's Secret (Published 15th September 2020) followed quite quickly. I'd been through the processes before but the nervousness of how the book would be received came back with a vengeance. I'd been thrilled with the messages and reviews received for my debut novel so this time there was the added concern of expectation. Restrictions had been lifted a little in Wales by then and we celebrated publication day by going to a Sicilian restaurant, eating al fresco, and sampling some of the food my characters would have eaten when they visited Sicily. Again I have been humbled by the messages and reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads for the novel. My publisher organised for it to be on offer on Book Bub in October and waking up to see it with an orange bestseller flag and ranked as #34 in the UK Kindle store, #14 in Australia and #27 in Canada was very special.

A huge thank you to all you readers who have downloaded the two novels and let me know how you've enjoyed them. Novel three is with the publisher now and hopefully will be published in the summer. Like the others, it's a dual narrative that explores a mother and daughter relationship and involves secrets and forbidden love. Set in 1941 and 1963, the contrasting area in this book is Normandy in Northern France and deals with a difference in social class. 

I've been reflecting on my brand and what readers may expect from reading one of my books. On October 28th, my blog post  What Readers Expect looks at this in detail. One of the features I picked out was '...the characters' emotions, their highs and lows, are shared with the readers'.  Ruby Fiction has as its strapline 'Stories that inspire emotions!' I like to think that my novels do just that. They are character-driven and the word 'emotion' or 'emotional' crops up in many of the comments.

Her Mother's Secret:
 'Reading the novel is a voyage of discovery into Elin and Alexandra's lives and is packed with emotions...'
'... She knows how to get the emotions simmering.'
'... everything is brought together in this emotional, engrossing journey.'
'... we laugh and cry with the characters.'

Her Sister's Secret
'The story of Rose and Jennifer is told with love and care, and even the most difficult parts are done with great compassion that tugs at your heartstrings.'
'... you will feel the emotion as if you were there.'
'... an emotional page-turner...once again had me captivated from start to finish.'
'... it touched on so many issues. It was heart-wrenching and beautiful at times, with a lovely ending.'

Thank you Ruby Fiction for believing in me and my stories. I hope you think they do inspire emotions and fit your remit well. I have loved working with the editor at Ruby and I hope you'll agree that the cover designer has done a wonderful job each time. 

Thank you for reading. Writers, what do readers expect when they choose to read your novels? Readers, do you select an author's book knowing what s/he will be offering you as you read the pages? I'd love it if you left a comment below. Thank you.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.