Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey



Is Stress Good For Writers?

We moved house last Friday. It was … interesting. This is what I keep telling myself – that all experiences are good experiences, because as a writer I can use them to imbue my characters with more life, more authenticity. I keep telling myself this no matter what I go through in life, and I hope that one day I will start to believe it.

But seriously, it was a pretty stressful move. From the countryside to a town; from a quiet rural idyll to a new-build estate (with another 18 months of building noise to look forward to); from big rooms to small rooms; from normal and familiar to strange and uncomfortable. We all wanted this move – we all decided it was for the best – but the reality is always harder than the dream.

And so it begins. Soon I’ll need to sit back down at my desk (once I can find my desk under a pile of boxes) and start writing again. I’m hoping I can use all these intense feelings and channel them into my writing. Right now I feel anxious, sad, excited, homesick, exhausted, confused, daunted, flat, sick, nervous, guilty, panicky, and a little depressed. And that’s without delving very deep! But it’ll pass, right? Meantime, I’ll just go on telling myself that stress is good for writers, and that there’s no such thing as a bad experience. Just an experience you can use.

Summer Self-Publishing Dreams? Take Action Now

What are your writing and publishing goals for the summer months this year? At Easter I always find myself thinking forward to July and August, because these are always quiet times for book sales. Three months doesn’t seem like a long time – but you’d be surprised at what you could accomplish in that period if you really set your mind to it. Here are a couple of writer-situations, and my ideas about what you could manage in the next three months …

What is your story

Suppose you’re just finishing your first book right now, and you fancy launching it in July – the idea beach read, right? To be honest, you’ve already missed the boat for the beach read market – that ship sails around May – but that’s no reason to give up on your goals. July and August are arguably great times to launch a new book as there is less competition. Here is your three month schedule:

April – beta readers for book, line up proofreader, start blogging and platform-building, decide on marketing strategy, think about cover design after analyzing competition, approach key book bloggers.

May – final edit, send to proofreader, get cover designed, keep building that platform and buzz around new book, finalize review requests, typesetting and formatting.

June – ebook ready (and print files ready if going for paperback), send to reviewers, plan launch event, arrange key advertising e.g. Facebook, build buzz, organise blog tour.

July – Launch that book into the world!

It sounds like a lot of hard work because it is – but that’s the fun part. And if you feel you need a bit of help with any of the above, don’t forget about the Self-Publishing Success course I tutor for Writers’ Workshop – it’s not too late to sign up for April’s presentation. You can sign up here, or read a great testimonial here.

Or say you’ve already got a book published, or a couple of books, but sales have been lackluster lately and you need a bit of a boost. What could you achieve in three short months? Let’s see …

April – pick your best book and submit it to BookBub for an international promotion. Whether you get a yes or not, decide this is the book you are going to push as a summer read. Visit VistaPrint and have some fun merchandise made up – people love pens and notepads, fridge magnets, little bags, mugs. Set a date for your promotion in mid May and decide whether you’ll go free or reduced price. (Free is usually best.)

May – build up a buzz about the book by blogging on a few author-friends’ blogs in various unusual forms. ‘Day in the life of’ the main character work well, or the history and background of the location/storyline. Keep up a profile on social media, sharing interesting stuff – not just about your own books! When the promotion date arrives, push it like crazy. No, even crazier than that!!! Get it out there, everywhere, and then get it out some more.

June – on the back of the promotion success, ask for reviews from key book bloggers. Keep up the momentum by planning your next promotion. Offer the goodies as incentives, or use as prizes on your website or FB page. Consider taking out an advertising banner on a key website, like Kindle Nation Daily, or some Facebook sponsored posts, to keep your book high in the charts.

Oh my goodness, I have so many ideas! But I’d better stop now as I’ve got work to do – and a lot to pack into three short months.

Why Every Story Needs A Touch Of Romance


Thrilled to be part of the indieBRAG bloghop this week – there’s a list of the other blog stops at the end – and if you haven’t heard of indieBRAG before, now is the time to get better acquainted. The team over at bragmedallion work super-hard for indie authors, and they’ve just unveiled a gorgeous new website, as well as a new rating system for books. But now, on with my special post …

Brag BlogHop

Why Every Story Needs A Touch Of Romance

It’s funny how the romance genre is one of the biggest selling genres in the world, and yet romantic novels are often looked down upon. They’re rarely taken seriously as literature – despite the fact that many of the classics were romances – and romance readers are frequently derided, often in quite subtle ways. But if you take another look, romance is actually EVERYWHERE in fiction. There is no such thing as a genre that does not have a romantic element.

No Such Thing As No Romance

You don’t believe me? It’s true. Take any popular genre and you’ll find romance running through it. Crime fiction? Absolutely. The sub-plot of most crime novels focuses on the love life (or lack of) of the crime-solving hero. Thrillers? Often the romance takes centre stage, with the thriller action revolving around saving the love interest of the hero, or connected in some way to, or affected by, an emotional entanglement. Science fiction … would be meaningless without a good romance to act as a counterpoint to the action. Mysteries, westerns, young adult, fantasy, military, etc – each and every type of novel is improved by having some kind of romantic element.

Does It Have To Be Love?

Of course, the type of romance – and the development of the romance itself – will change depending upon the type of story. It doesn’t have to be love. It can be desire, or unrequited love, or passion, or friendship, or deep mutual regard. It can be fireworks, sizzling hot, or it can be relegated to the sidelines of sub-plot, something to tick over in the background, keeping us interested, wondering what if …? It can be lost love, a maybe-love, forbidden love, marital disharmony, wishing-for-love, never-to-be-found-love. Quiet love over a cup of tea, or the kind of pairing that makes planets collide and saves worlds from destruction. It doesn’t matter what kind of love it is – it just has to be there.

Pure Romance

So do ‘pure romance novelists’ have it easy? I’ve read that the definition of a romance novel is that it is a novel where the plot is driven purely by the romance – by the hero and heroine pursuing their love-relationship – and not by any other plot line. This, of course, is debatable, but most pure romances do follow this fairly loosely. In other genres, even most women’s fiction, the romance is secondary – albeit a close second – to the main plot action. The Romantic Novelists’ Association (of which I am now a proud Independent Member) says: “The trouble with trying to define a romantic novel is that there are so many sub-genres. The words romantic novel cover an amazing variety.” I agree 100%.

So if love makes the world go round, do romance novelists have it easy? Well, it’s not easy – but we sure do have a lot of fun!


February 13  VL Thurman– Delilah Dunnfield the Valentine’s Vamp

February 14  C.L. Talmadge   A Touch of Romance

February 15  Janet Leigh   -Where art thou?

February 16 Lucinda Brant – Autumn Duchess

February 17   Anna Belfrage –The Consequences of eloping with your cousin

February 18      Joanne Phillips-Why Every Story Needs A Touch Of Romance

February 19      K.J. Farnham – Be Still My Heart

Prize & Giveaway

To win a copy of Can’t Live Without simply leave a comment below and I’ll pick a winner on February 29th and email you to arrange posting out your prize.

Can't Live Without cover final

Click on the indieBRAG Website to enter your chance to win a $20.00 Amazon Gift Card!

Each author is providing a print copy or e-book in the book giveaways, so be sure to visit their websites and comment on their post to enter a chance to win a copy of their book.


  • The chance to enter for the Prize and Giveaways ends February 26. The winner will be given a gift card from Amazon. The prize will be announced on the indieBRAG Website on February 29th. And each author will announce the winner for their giveaways on their sites on February 29.
  • You must be 18 years or Older to participate in the prize & Giveaway.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize and giveaway or a new winner is chosen.





Superstar Interview – Terry Tyler and The House of York

This weekend I’m really excited to welcome Terry Tyler to the blog! Terry has agreed to let me interview her following the release of her latest novel, The House of York. (You can read my review of Terry’s book at the end of the post.) This is an intriguing book, not least of all because it uses – albeit loosely – the characters and plot line from a major historical event. It’s not a historical novel, however – this is bang up-to-date contemporary fiction, and is currently riding high in the charts. Let’s find out a bit more about why and how Terry did it …

The House of York

So, Terry, The House of York, which I loved so much, is a contemporary novel with more than a passing link to historical events. What gave you the idea for linking it to the Wars of the Roses in this way, and can you think of any other novels that have taken up this idea? I can’t.

“What, you mean apart from my earlier novels, Kings and Queens and Last Child, that mirror the Tudor period?!  Aha, you unwittingly provided such a book-plugging opportunity, Jo 😉

But seriously…. I have to admit that the idea stemmed from Susan Howatch’s wonderful Cashelmara (a 19th century retelling of the story of Edwards I and II), and The Wheel of Fortune (The Black Prince, Richard II and Henry IV).  I first read these books about 25 years ago and, thus, my interest in the Plantagenets began, as I wanted to find out the real stories behind her novels.  I’ve had a bit of a thing for the Wars of the Roses since reading Phillipa Gregory’s The Red Queen (about Margaret Beaufort, a fascinating woman; she inspired Megan in The House of York).  But these three of my books are, essentially, just contemporary dramas; no historical knowledge necessary!  For my two test readers, I have one history lover and one who knows nothing about it and cares even less, to get a good balance.”

I thought the combination of different first person viewpoints was masterful – and this is something a lot of writers find it very hard to pull off. What advice can you give to other novelists who would like to try this technique but have been warned off, or put off, by reports that readers don’t like it/find it confusing?

“Only use this structure if you feel confident doing so.  I think to pull it off successfully you have to become the person you’re writing; I remember when I was writing the prissy Jenny (Jane Seymour) in Kings and Queens, I suddenly realised I was sitting like she might, with a Jenny-type expression on my face!  The ‘voice’ has to change: the vocabulary, the mood, everything.  You need to be aware of the differences in how men and women think, the ways in which people express themselves according to levels of education, and the effect of upbringing, experience and social class on their attitudes.  Having read The House of York, you may have noticed how bookish, middle class Megan ‘speaks’ very differently from working class single mum Lisa!  Several times I had to stop and think, no, that word is in Megan’s and my vocabulary, but it wouldn’t be in Lisa’s.

This structure might not be within every writer’s repertoire (as, indeed, some styles are outside mine) and, as you say, it won’t appeal to every reader, but I can only write the book I want to write.  Again, it was Susan Howatch who gave me the idea.  If done well (and I would never flatter myself that I have her skill!), it gives the reader knowledge that the other characters do not possess.  Often, this can give the story a new and surprising perspective; perhaps Person C isn’t quite as confident/cold/sincere as Persons A and B might have led you to believe…”

You’ve now published an astonishing eleven books on Amazon, and I get the feeling you’re only just getting into your stride. I’m sure I’m not the only person who wants to know the following:

            Where do you get your energy from???

            How do you keep the tone and voice of each novel so fresh?

            How do you find time to write, edit and publish quality novels and still have … a life?

“Jo, I just love writing, I can’t imagine not doing so!  I wrote nine (or it might be ten, I can’t remember) novels back in the 1990s, before Amazon self-publishing.  As for energy and time, you ought to see the state of my house!!!  I don’t go out to work and don’t have children, which immediately gives me more hours in the day than many people.  I don’t cook much, only watch television after 9pm when I’m done with everything else for the day, and rarely go out in the evenings.  In fact, I don’t go out much at all; my husband is a homebird so I’ve got used to that, and he’s very laid back; being creative himself, he understands that I need time to write.  It’s just what I do, I suppose.  Two years ago, I actually spent Christmas afternoon editing Kings and Queens.  We don’t really do Christmas, either!

As for the tone and voice being fresh – thank you, it’s something I always worry about.  A lot!  If this is so, I think maybe it’s by not doing the ‘expected’ … for instance, in Dream On, the reader first meets Janice, a mum with a wannabe rockstar boyfriend, Dave, who she suspects is still in love with his beautiful ex.  Okay, so everyone likes and sympathises with Janice; she is no wimp, and is someone many women can relate to.  Then along comes Ariel, the beautiful ex – and, surprise surprise, she’s not a self-obsessed, conniving bitch, but a really great girl!  Quite a lot of the reviews said ‘I was surprised to find myself liking Ariel’.  And in What It Takes, I took a risk by making my main character not very likable at all.  I try to do the unguessable with plot twists; I am not sure if I will be able to beat the one at the end of The House of York, though, what do you think? :)”

Your books are, I think, only available on Amazon in ebook format. Do you intend to branch out to other eretailers, and if not why? And what about paperback?

“Other retailers: I haven’t got any plans to do so, partly out of laziness but mostly because people who do publish across many sites say that the lion’s share of their sales still come from Amazon.

Paperbacks: yes, I keep saying I will, but it doesn’t happen … I sway between ‘I really ought to’ and ‘but perhaps it’s not worth it, everyone says nearly all their sales come from ebooks’.  I’m not one of those who are desperate to see my name on a paperback, although yes, I suppose it would be nice to be able to give books to friends who don’t use ereaders (not to mention seeing them in book shops, I imagine that’s quite a kick!), but I prefer reading on Kindle myself, anyway.  It’s the words on the page that matter, not the medium.  I think the truth about me and paperbacks is simply this: I haven’t got round to it :)”

Finally, you are the Twitter queen – 64.7K followers – count them! I’m guessing this has taken a fair amount of time and effort to build, but in terms of reader engagement and book promotion, do you feel that Twitter is the place to be, even for those of us with a more modest following? What other forms of promotion have you tried, and what would you recommend to other writers just starting out?

“I’m not very astute about all this stuff, to be honest; I could do more, and better.   Different things work for different people.  I’ve never heard good reports from anyone who’s paid for advertising or promotion via book marketers.  I enjoy Twitter, otherwise I wouldn’t use it so much, but these days the market is so overflowing that just tweeting your book and retweeting a few others is unlikely to produce sales, unless your readership is already established.  You have to invest a bit more time in it; network with others who write your type of book, get involved with the bloggers who promote and review them, add as friends and interact with likely readers.  Be generous, don’t only promote your own stuff, but be sincere too; don’t rave about books you haven’t read or didn’t like.  Oh, and getting into 5* review swaps with other writers is a seriously bad idea; it’s already put the whole Amazon reviewing system into disrepute.

I’ve been using Twitter for over four years, and after 10k followers it just grew of its own accord; I don’t actively pursue them.  If you’re active on the site, you appear in lots of ‘who to follow’ lists.  The best promotion tool is, of course, a really good book; competition is much, much stronger these days, and if your book is only mediocre, readers will not review it or buy another one, however many tweets and Facebook posts you do, however sharp your marketing skills.  One of the biggest problem non-traditionally-published writers face is getting someone to try their book in the first place; with jam-packed Kindles everywhere, if I knew the answer to that one I expect I’d sell a lot more than I do!  I think you’d be a better person to consult about that, Jo, than me.

Many, many thanks for inviting me onto your blog, and may your own success continue :)”

Thanks for coming on, Terry – it’s been really interesting finding out all about your process and I always love picking your brains about writing and publishing. I’m sure readers will carry on enjoying your books for a long time to come. Guys, you can connect with and find out more about Terry and her books below, and carry on down the page to read my review of The House of York. 

Terry Tyler


Amazon UK


Book Review Blog

I was intrigued by the blurb for The House of York – love and loss, murderous intent, abduction, a compelling saga – and having read quite a few of Terry’s previous books I knew I was in safe hands before I started reading. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how astonishingly good this book actually is. Very few authors could carry off multiple first person viewpoints, but Terry Tyler not only carries it off, she makes it into an art form.

The story pivots around Lisa, widowed single mum who falls for wealthy businessman Elias York and finds herself plunged headlong into his complicated family life where nothing is as it seems. Throughout the book we meet other key characters, such as Elias’s sister Megan (my personal favourite), and his brothers Gabriel and Richard. Each section has its own distinct voice, and each chapter will have you riveted to your seat, eager to find out more.

Tyler is the master of the unnerving story line, and this book is no exception – just when you think you know where it’s heading, you are thrust down another ally, and it is the twists and turns as well as the incredibly well-drawn characters that make this book a joy. At times, while reading The House of York, I lost myself completely and the world of the York family became entirely real to me. I did not want this book to end, and I know it’s one I will read again in the future. Highly recommended, five stars.

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