Pia Fenton – who writes under the name of Christina Courtenay – is the Chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK. I met up with award-winning author Pia to talk about the RNA and her own writing journey – look out for the interview with Pia, here on October 2nd, 2013.
Pia, when was the RNA set up and how does it help authors? As you can see from our website http://www.rna-uk.org/ the Romantic Novelists’ Association was formed over fifty years ago in order to ‘raise the prestige of romantic authorship and generally to encourage and foster the writing of romantic works’. Our members number more than 700 authors, editors, agents and other industry professionals and we try to promote quality romantic fiction of all types – it is a very broad church indeed. There is romance or love of one kind or another in most works of fiction and I think you can safely say it’s the one thing most people are looking for in life. So whether an author has had books published with lots of romance in them or only a little bit, everyone is welcome!
Romance has suffered in the past from a ‘pink and fluffy’ label, but we are doing our best to dispel that myth. Among other things, we entered a team in ‘University Challenge – the Professionals’ and came second overall, and my predecessor as Chair, Annie Ashurst, is a former winner of Mastermind. In any case, some sub-genres of romance are decidedly gritty with nothing remotely ‘fluffy’ about them. And writing romance is far from the easy formulaic job some journalists accuse us of having – in fact, it requires great skill!
Right: Photo courtesy of Marte Lundby Rekaa
The RNA is obviously a professional organisation for traditionally published authors and new writers, what does it offer? We offer support and encouragement to all our members, both on a national level and through our local chapters. Every year we organise events such as talks, workshops, parties, awards and a three-day conference. The main benefit of these are the networking opportunities and the friendships forged with other writers. To me, personally, these have been invaluable, and I’m sure it’s the same for most of the other members.
The yearly conference, in particular, is a fantastic opportunity to meet and mingle with people who understand exactly what it’s like to be an author. It can be very lonely throughout the rest of the year, but for this one weekend you’re with like-minded people who don’t mind you ‘talking shop’ from morning till night. Most of us go home refreshed and eager to write and you always learn something new, which is great.
The New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) is unique to the RNA (although I think other organisations are now looking into doing something similar). Whilst our full members are all traditionally published, we welcome unpublished and self-published only authors as members via the NWS and invite applications in January. Each year 250 of them are accepted and their fee includes one critique of a full manuscript per year by a published author. The scheme is extremely popular and is usually filled literally within minutes, but unfortunately we can’t take more than 250 ‘not yet published’ authors per year. I came through this scheme myself and found it extremely useful. I learned so much from the critiques I received and I don’t think I’d be published without it. Just the fact that someone is taking you seriously as a writer is a huge help – you feel you are no longer on your own.
Where is the RNA going in the future, given that the publishing industry is changing rapidly at the moment? Within the last few years there has been great upheaval, with ebook sales soaring and self-publishing increasing at a phenomenal rate. The RNA is always looking ahead and the committee is at present discussing how these changes will affect us as an organisation and what, if anything, we need to do to keep up to date. It’s not an easy task, but we are doing our best!
In recent years we have updated our awards and it may be that they will evolve even further soon. Originally there was only one award per year – the Romantic Novel of the Year – but with so many sub-genres, we found that having for example the light-hearted novels competing with the more literary or serious and issue-led ones didn’t allow each sub-genre to be valued individually. We therefore created five categories of awards – the RoNA’s – to enable each book to be judged against others in its sub-genre. The winners of each category then go forward to compete for the overall prize. This seems to work much better. There is a separate award, the RoNA Rose, for category romances which have a shorter shelf-life.
We have also revamped our ‘brand’ with a new website and professional looking magazine. We are reaching out to libraries all over the country, trying to work with them to spread the word about our members’ work, and we are working with readers who help judge our awards.
Romantic novels have a long tradition here in the UK – from Samuel Richardson’s Pamela through Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe,George Eliot, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters to the present day, romance has always been popular. According to research we commissioned, it is still the best-selling genre overall and I don’t think that will change. People need romance and love in their lives and they like reading about it. Long may that last!
RNA website: http://www.rna-uk.org/
RNA Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Romantic.Novelists.Association?fref=ts
RNA Twitter: https://twitter.com/RNAtweets
Find out more about Pia -
Website – http://christinacourtenay.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/christinacourtenayauthor?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter – https://twitter.com/PiaCCourtenay
and come back on October 2nd, 2013 when I talk to Pia about her award-winning career!