Sunday, January 29, 2017

Guestopia: Pia Fenton

Welcome back to Guestopia 2017! Yes, this is the second Guestopia of January, you are not mistaken. But, you see, we love authors so much here and we want to help spread the word about as many different and diverse books as possible.

Today, please join us in welcoming the very lovely...

Pia Fenton

Pia Fenton writes historical romance and time slip as Christina Courtenay (published by Choc Lit), and self-publishes YA under her real name.  She is half Swedish and during her teens she moved to Japan where she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East.  She's a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association.  Her novels Highland Storms and The Gilded Fan both won the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel of the Year (in 2012/2014 respectively).  Her latest novels are The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight (time slip) and New England Dreams (YA contemporary romance).

Is this your first published book?

No, I’ve had ten historical/timeslip novels and five Regency novellas (all for adults) published under the name Christina Courtenay, and self-published three other YA novels.

What’s it called?

New England Dreams

Which genre?

t’s a contemporary YA romance with a US high school setting, but with British heroines

Which age group?

The books are suitable for teens from age 13 up

Is it a series or standalone?

It’s the fourth book in a series (the Northbrooke High series), but they can all be read as standalones

Are you an agented author?

No, I don’t have an agent – I don’t think it’s really necessary when you’re with a small independent publisher and/or self-publish

Which publisher snapped up your book?

This one was self-published.  The first book in the series was published by Choc Lit (an independent UK publisher), but they subsequently decided not to continue with their YA imprint and as I’d already written the sequels I decided to publish them myself

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book?

Very – I’ve done it all apart from the editing and cover design (although I had a lot of input in that too).  I like having control over all aspects of the publishing process

Do you have another job?

Yes, my husband and I run a holiday cottage lettings business which takes up some of my time but luckily also leaves lots of time for writing

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

Prior to having my first adult book published in 2010 I had received countless rejections, but I was always told never to give up if I really wanted to be an author and although it’s annoying to hear that when you’re feeling down, it is good advice.  I found myself a couple of writing buddies who were at the same stage as me and we supported each other until we got there

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?

I was thinking back to some of the stupid/crazy things I did as a teenager and the first scene in this book is based on something I did myself so that is what triggered the idea for the book (kissing a stranger on an airplane)

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

For this book, not very long.  Because it’s the fourth book in a series, I already had the setting and most of the secondary characters, so it was just a question of figuring out what was going to happen and when, and getting to know the hero and heroine

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

Thankfully, it was one of those stories that just sort of came pouring out of me and I wrote the first draft very quickly.  After that, of course, I had to do a lot of polishing and editing, but that’s just part of the process.  It’s so nice when you don’t have to wrestle with it though, isn’t it? 

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

I think I did two drafts before sending it to some of my writing buddies.  I started on my self-publishing venture together with three other YA authors (Gill-Marie Stewart, Katy Haye and Claire Watts) because we were all a bit unsure about the whole thing and needed each others’ support.  We formed a group and called ourselves Paisley Piranhas (website/blog at ) and have gone on this journey together ever since.  That means we help out by critiquing and proof-reading each others’ stories and we also do promo together, which is great.  I’m very untechie so I’m not sure I would have tried self-publishing without the encouragement of the others.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

Both.  As I said, the Piranhas do the critique and later the proof-reading, but I always employ a proper editor for a structural edit to make sure the story is working and there aren’t any major holes in the plot

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

Not sure, five or six maybe?

How many drafts until it was published?


Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

No, this one stayed more or less intact with just a few minor tweaks

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

I try never to read my books once I’ve published them because I know there will always be things I’ll want to tinker with or change.

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

The writing itself

What part do you find hardest

Self-promotion is extremely difficult, which is why I love doing it together with my friends

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

If I’m having a hard time with a story I usually leave it alone for a while.  Then if I read it through again later, I might come up with a solution.  Or if I get stuck in the middle of a manuscript, I go back and make an outline in bullet points so it’s easier to see what may be missing. But I don’t walk away from a book completely, they just get put on hold until I can see a way forward

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

Usually at least two, one historical or time slip story (adult), and one YA.  That way, if I’m stuck on one of them I can work on the other.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

I think the craft of writing can be learned – the basic rules like no head-hopping etc – but you probably need to be born with a good imagination and like to tell/make up stories.  I never wanted to be a writer when I was younger, but I did a lot of day-dreaming and making up stories in my head, so perhaps that helped?

How many future novels do you have planned?

I have lots of ideas for future stories (and have made a start on a couple), but they’re not fully formed yet

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I write blog posts whenever I’m asked to be a guest (and if I have something to say that might be of interest), but I don’t write very many short stories.  Only if I have to – I don’t like to stop after a thousand words, that’s too short for me!

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

Holding a new book with my name on it in my hand is great, but the best thing is when readers say they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written.  That’s a wonderful feeling!  Being shortlisted for, and occasionally winning, an award is also fantastic.

Give me one writing tip that work for you.

Having a writing/critique buddy, someone I trust completely and who will tell me the truth, but never be mean.  This is invaluable as it’s sometimes really difficult to see where you are going wrong in a story.

And one that doesn't.

Writing a detailed synopsis and outline before starting to write – I can’t do that as I’m a “pantser”, I just have to sit down and write.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

It’s a fantasy YA novel loosely based on the old Norse gods and sagas, Odin in particular.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?

“Please can we make your book into a film/TV adaptation starring your favourite actor?” – “Yes, absolutely, as long as I can go on set and meet the cast!"

Thank you so much for joining us today, Pia! We've loved having you on the blog and wish you tremendous luck with New England Dreams as well as all your past and future novels!

Here are some handy links for you guys to find out more about Pia and her books.


  1. Lovely to read this Pia. Even though I know you I still learnt something new!

  2. I'm jealous of your misspent youth, Pia - I've never once snogged a stranger on a plane! (It makes for a great story opener, though...)

    1. LOL - yes I guess there are some advantages to a misspent youth when you're an author! xxx

  3. Interested to discover you're a pantser, Pia. I can't manage without a thorough plan!

    1. I really wish I wasn't! It must be so much easier to write if you know exactly where you're going. But then again, I like it when the story just flows by itself (although that doesn't always happen). xxx