Natasha Oakley - British Romance Author

Writer of tug-at-the-heartstrings, feel-good romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not so guilty pleasure

Did you listen to Radio 4's programme?

I'm breathing a sigh of relief. All told I think it was a fair and balanced programme. Within the first minute or so I was laughing as my fellow PHS editor, Nicola Marsh, had her book, 'Two Week Mistress', picked off the stand in the foyer and the blurb read out. Nice that the inclusion of a wombat made it sound fun.

Presents/Modern author Sharon Kendrick did a great job countering some very silly arguments. As did the editors. And really what's to defend? M&B is a global brand and our books sell in millions. One look at the figures should surely silence most critics.

I listened politely to Mary Evans criticisms of the genre and my considered response is that she has a staggeringly low opinion of the intelligence of women. She's just rude. We know, of course we know, that our lives will not be perfect ever more if we only meet the right man. For a start there just aren't enough 6ft 2" Greek billionaires going around! (Incidentally I have never written a hero like that although I thoroughly enjoy reading them when other authors do. And if you'd like to buy my latest release, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride' you'll discover a disfigured hero. Just thought I'd mention that since the implication was you wouldn't find him.) That's the point though. It's fantasy. It's life as we wish it was.

The year I've just lived through has been my bleakest yet. My mum died of ovarian cancer. My husband was rediagnosed with his cancer and we are currently mid chemo. Horrendous timing because he's also been made redundant. And I have five dependent children who are firmly looking at me to keep things steady for them. It's not fun.

The thing is I know I'm not alone. I know there'll be people reading this who are experiencing similar life issues. Some of you will be coming out of dark times and others of you slipping into them. That's life. Real life. And I don't want to write about that. I don't want to read it either. Nor do I want to see movies, however clever, that make me feel miserable.

Other people are welcome to read and write what they like but I'm tired of apologising for wanting a happy ending. I want to escape into something 'safe'. I want to believe my life can change for the better in a moment.

Does that make me a 'rather miserable, rather disappointed, rather jaundiced' person? According to Mary Evans it would seem it does. But I disagree. You know, I'm standing upright, I'm holding things together, I'm managing to do all that without medication AND I enjoy what I'm writing. Most days. :) What's more my books have hit the Waldenbook Bestseller Lists.

I think I'm going to go have a coffee and get back to work. If you missed the programme, and it's really entertaining listening, you can catch it here. It's called Guilty Pleasure.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Guilty Pleasure

It's all beginning. With Mills and Boon turning 100 years old in 2008 there will undoubtedly be an upsurge of media attention. Here's a programme not to miss if you've got access to BBC Radio 4 at 11.30am UK time. (

Guilty Pleasure: a Hundred Years of Mills and Boon.

Here's what Jane Anderson says about the programme in the Radio Times:

"Comedian Lucy Porter admits to feeling a sense of shame in being caught reading a Mills and Boon romance on public transport. But, as she finds out on visiting Romance HQ, aka the Mills and Boon offices in the aptly named Paradise Road in Surrey, these works of fiction shift 200 million copies each year. There's a strong feminist contention that Mills and Boon encourages women to settle for less than they're worth, but Fay Weldon argues back that we should let writers write what they want and readers read what they want."

Chris Campling writes:

"Someone you know has read, possibly even written, a Mills and Boon romantic novel. There is no shame in this. In fact, so little shame is there that people pour out of the woodwork to talk to comedian Lucy Porter for Guilty Pleasure - a Hundred Years of Mills and Boon (Radio 4, Thursday, 11.30am).

Some of them are successful M and B writers, including Roger Sanderson, the imprint's only male novelist. The only one to admit to it, perhaps. Others are not so fortunate. One failed contributor to the oeuvre tells Porter that having her contribution, the intriguingly titled Fires of Zanzibar, knocked back so damaged her confidence that she was put off writing for six years. Luckily when Helen Fielding did get her nerve back she came up with Bridget Jones, so it all worked out in the end.

Porter's programme is full of nuggets like that, as she talks to editors and executives and roots through the company's enormous archives - 100 years of slim volumes full of bursting bodices takes up a lot of space.

In the interests of balance, though, she also talks to those critics who argue that the novels are formulaic, badly written, sexist and for people who are unhappy. One can see the truth of the first three gripes, but the fourth? What's wrong with writing and publishing books that make unhappy people happy?"

Okay, I'm braced. I have no doubt parts of the programme will irritate me greatly - as has some of the above. We'll see ......

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Glamorous Life of an Author

No, really! Sometimes, not so often I admit, but sometimes it really is glamorous. Wednesday saw me don my best clothes and take the train to beautiful Richmond where the Harlequin M&B editorial team are based. It's always a little dangerous because you emerge from Richmond Station and are immediately plunged into shopping paradise. I suspect it's a cunning plan by the editors to keep up all so in debt that we're truly motivated to write another book!

This year my editor and I took a short stroll to the newly opened Fishworks.

Over the most incredible seafood I think I've ever eaten we discussed my career to date and what's planned for next year. I've come home very fired up with ideas swirling about in my head.

Yesterday it was back to London again. This year Mills & Boon held their 'Celebratory Toast' at The Oriental Club in Stratford Place. I love seeing inside all these amazing places. The Oriental Club is tucked behind Oxford Circus. How amazing is that!

Apart from it being nice to catch up with author friends it wt was wonderful to hear how well Niroli is selling. Everyone seems to be very excited about it. The box sets have been the biggest seller on the M&B site EVER. My 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride' will hit the selves at the beginning of October.

Trish Wylie has to fly back to Ireland today so that's all the blogging I intend to do. We are going to make the most of the last of the summer sunshine, sit in a quiet cafe and put the world to rights.

But before I sign off I have to give my gift to the little jumping man.

The Pink Heart Society is celebrating the first anniversary of its launch this month and to mark the occasion we're giving away the largest bundle of goodies ever. Writer of fiction I might be but there isn't a word of exaggeration when I tell you the prize is absolutely fantastic. To be in with a chance of winning you have to follow the Treasure Hunt and make a note of all the presents given to our birthday boy.

So here's mine:

He's been a bit over-excited with all the attention so I'm going to settle him down with something soothing.

A Hot Pink Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Tequila Rose
Hot Chocolate
Whipped Cream

Fill with hot chocolate and top with whipped cream. Serve in coffee cup.

And don't worry about the alcohol content because pink hearts age differently from the rest of us!

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Time to Vote

Having just found this on Liz Fielding's blog I make absoslutely no apologies for copying it over here. I'm fairly certain she won't sue me! :)

It's time to vote for your favourite book from the following list at the North-West Libraries TIME TO READ -- PURE PASSION website. This is a wonderful initiative from a very supportive library region with romances from every genre and for every taste on the list. Just click on the link at the bottom of the list, then on the VOTE HERE button at the top right hand corner.

A Step In The Dark by Judith Lennox

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Brown Owl’s Guide To Life by Kate Harrison

Deceived by Nicola Cornick

Decent Exposure by Phillipa Ashley

Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard

Gardens of Delight by Erica James

Going Dutch by Katie Fforde

His ’n’ Hers by Mike Gayle

Home Truths by Freya North

Love Potions by Christina Jones

Mounting Desire by Nina Killham

PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

Rainbow’s End by Eileen Ramsay

Reunited:Marriage in a Million by Liz Fielding

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Tall, Dark and Handsome by Nisha Minhas

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson

Okay, that's the list. Now click
here and VOTE

If you're not in the UK I'm afraid you'll have to cheer from the sidelines because they do seem to be asking for a UK postcode.

I know many of these authors from the Romantic Novelists' Association and have loved their books but Liz writes for Harlequin Romance, as do I, and that swings my vote.

It's between you and the ballot box!!

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Look what I found!

I just want you all to know it's 5.23 am and here I am. A little bleary eyed but I've had that oh-so-important first shot of caffeine and I'm about to get down to some work.

But, during that coffee, look what I found - Romance Novel TV. How completely brilliant is that. I've spent far too long author spotting at the RITA awards and must stop now!

I'm not allowed to blog anymore today either. This quiet will be punctured far too quickly and I've got a book to write.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chemo Day and writing anyway

Today is my husband's fifth chemo session. They happen every three weeks and they take the entire day. Five or six hours of slow dripping. I've nipped back home ready to do the school run and then I'll return to the hospital, pick him up and bring him back to sleep.

This really has been THE most grotty year. But we've had some good news so despite it all I have to say I'm feeling bouyant. The latest scans show it's working better than expected. Just another three sessions to go after this one.

Meanwhile I've still got to finish my copy edits on 'Wanted: White Wedding'. I'm finding them so irritating to do because my head is busy with another story and I'd like to be able to get on with it.

This is just one of many images I've found of my fictional Amrah. If I tell you it's even more beautiful in my head you'll understand why I'd prefer to be there than conscientiously going through copy edits.

I'm so pleased to want to write again. For such a long time it's felt like a huge effort. Over on eHarlequin there's a wonderful blog on what keeps authors writing. I've loved reading it. You'll find it here.

There have definitely been weeks where I wondered whether I'd ever flick my laptop open again. The time I spent at the keyboard was time wasted, to be honest. And then suddenly I'm back. It's a europhic feeling.

I suppose all artists, whatever their sphere, have to accept that creating anything is not the work of an automaton. It's all about personal investment. I think I'm really lucky to have had an editor who believed in me and kept me going. Painfully slowly but still at the 'typeface'.

And, of course, my fellow Pink Heart Society editors - particularly Trish who nagged shamefully. Don't forget to keep looking at the PHS blog this month. You need to follow the Treasure Hunt to be in with a chance of winning this months fantastic hamper.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

And the Winner .......

The Pink Heart Society annual Hugh Jackman tour was great fun. If you missed the main event pop over here and find all the links posted for some wonderful pictures. Much though it pains me to say it I think this is my favourite:

I reckon the honours for that have to be shared between Michelle Styles, who found it, and Julie Cohen, who posted it. I suppose some credit also ought to go to the photographer ... and maybe a bit to Hugh's parents. :)

Today at the Pink Heart Society we're beginning the massive Birthday Treasure Hunt. The hamper prize is utterly droolworthy. Time to go play!

Well, for you. I'm not allowed to win it and I must make myself sit down to my copy-edits. So far I've discovered my delinquent teenager is no longer allowed to say 'It's pissing down out here'. Gone with a flick of the editorial pen and replaced by 'pouring'. Accurate but not particularly mouthy is it? Is 'pissing' particularly offensive????

Anyway, 'tis gone. Ever onwards ...

PS - For Trish who appears to have entered into a war of the Jackman YouTubes. I see yours and I up you with this!

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Monday, September 03, 2007

PHS Hugh Jackman Tour 2007

Fortunately it's effortless to find pictures of this man on the web. I've used up a fair few on my PHS blog this morning but I've still got one or two more! If you've absolutely no idea what I'm talking about you need to pop over to the Pink Heart Society and read all about the annual Hugh Jackman Tour!!

I've narrowed my personal selection down to two.

Hugh Jackman - the family man.

I'm still not sure about his beard but this is a lovely, natural photo of Hugh with his wife Deborra-Lee and their daughter Ava Eliot Jackman.

Only then I came across this one of Hugh Jackman in front of BOOKS. That has to be about perfect! You choose.

And here, as promised on my PHS blog today, is Sandra Garcia-Myers review of my Niroli book, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride', for the Romantic Times Magazine.

Princess Isabella Fierezza wants reclusive Domenic Vincini to build a resort she hopes will increase tourism to Niroli. A scarred burn victim who tried, but ultimately failed, to rescue his family from a fire, Domenic senses something in his soul awaken when he meets Isabella. But he's afraid of caring too deeply for someone, so he rejects her. But Isabella doesn't give up that easily. Will he realize, before it's too late, how lucky he would be to have a second chance at love? Natasha Oakley's beautifully crafted story shimmers with emotion. The Tycoon's Princess Bride (4.5), the newest addition to the Royal House of Niroli series, is a terrifically poignant tale about looking beneath the surface to the soul and recognizing your soul mate.

Reviews honestly don't come lovelier than that! And it was a TOP PICK which is just pure icing on the cake.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Anniversaries and new beginnings ...

Missed me???

I'm just about holding my head up out of the water now. My husband is now halfway through his chemo and coping well. Hopefully it's working well. We'll find that out at the next scan which is looming close. Meanwhile I'm getting used to having him about the house. Love him as I do it's still an adjustment. He's sooooooo noisy. It seems wherever he's been he leaves a radio on, the TV, something! Has anyone else got one like that???

So things are settling into some kind of a pattern. Not great but ... doable. I reckon that's the best word to describe what's going on with us. And the children are fantastic. Messy but fantastic. (I actually found a used yoghurt pot beside the sofa this morning. Mothers everywhere please join me in a corporate howl of outrage!)

I've decided this is the day to re-start my blog. The 1st of September seemed an auspicous choice because this was the day we launched The Pink Heart Society - a blog in praise of category fiction. We being Trish Wylie, Ally Blake and Nicola Marsh. It's been such fun and hugely successful. So much so, in fact, we had to find ourselves another editor to share the workload. We four became five with the addition of Jenna Bayley-Burke.

Can you believe The Pink Heart Society has been going a whole year?

We begin our second year with the addition of some columnists. We've been so snowed under of late. So Annie West, Anne McAllister, Kate Walker, Samantha Hunter and Fiona Harper have come to help. Should be fun shouldn't it!

The whole of September is given over to celebrations and you should just see the hamper we're putting together. It's droolworthy.

Come and play.

Right now I've got copy edits I should be doing for 'Wanted: White Wedding', a Sheikh story to finish but I'm not doing either. Instead I'm about to hunt around for the perfect Hugh Jackman picture. There's a reason for that but you'll have to come back on Monday to find out what it was.

It's nice to be back!