A week of being Jessica … Rabbit

Last Monday, I posted my new pen name of Jessica Redland. A big decision but it felt right. It’s been a whirlwind of activity since then. I moved the blog over to my new name which is quite a challenge for someone who isn’t always the best with technology. Trying to change my Gravatar was probably the trickiest bit because I thought I’d changed it all yet it still kept appearing on the page as my old one. Grr. Someone solved that. Twitter was surprisingly easy and Facebook was about setting up a brand new profile off my new email address so that was easy too.

Remembering to log on and off between names is difficult, especially for someone with a memory like a sieve. But I’m getting there.

My husband keeps calling me Jessica Rabbit which amuses me greatly. (If you don’t know who she is, click here). There are several comparisons I can make to Jessica Rabbit – the name, the red hair and the curves. Unfortunately the red hair isn’t real but out of a bottle in a desperate attempt to hide the grey and the curves are about four dress-sizes too big! I started a very, very, VERY strict diet yesterday so hopefully it won’t be long before it’s three dress-sizes too big, then two …

This name-changing thing has caught on as another fellow-Write Romantic has decided to change her writing name too. You can read about it here. Loving the new name of Harriet James. Very writer-ly! Out of the nine of us, four have pen-names and one writes in her maiden name so we’re on very common ground here.

Names aren’t the only thing that have changed for The Write Romantics. We launched a new-look blog which has received some great comments.

Have a great week 🙂

Jessica xx


Introducing a brand new writer …

Last week I posted about pen names and made the decision that I definitely wanted one. I’ve got one now. I’d like to introduce you to:


It’s probably going to take me a while to get used to this new persona but I’ve been saying the name all day and I definitely feel comfortable with it.

So why Jessica Redland?

Well, I wanted the name to mean something to me and the most pivotal moment in my writing journey so far was the moment that I got the idea for my debut novel, Searching for Steven. I’d liked the idea of writing but I’d always maintained I had no ideas for a novel. Then something happened in my personal life and it prompted that classic writing question “What if …” The concept for Searching for Steven was born. At the time, I was living and working in Reading, Berkshire and I lived on a road called Redlands Road. I liked the idea of using Redlands or perhaps dropping the ‘s’ as my surname.

As for Jessica, it’s more about loving the name than any link to writing:
1. It’s a name I’ve always loved ever since I first came across it in a really old book my mum gave me called “Jessica’s First Prayer”. No idea what happened to that book but the name has stuck with me
2. It was on my baby name list for my daughter but the hubby vetoed it because 70s-sitcom ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ saw Frank Spencer and his wife Betty have a daughter called Jessica. Frank Spencer (played brilliantly by Michael Crawford) used to say “Jessica” in a really cringe-worthy voice (befitting with the character). He couldn’t agree to naming our daughter that as he knew he’d do a Frank Spencer impression each time he said it!
3. It’s ageless. There are old and young with the name
4. It’s the same initial as my own name (Julie) and therefore not too far removed

So there we are. Jessica is born.

It would, of course, have been far easier to do this from Day One because I already have so much set up in my own name. This evening, I’ve made a start. I’ve set up an email address, changed this blog (although I haven’t quite sussed how to change the bar on the right – perhaps a task for tomorrow) and announced the name to The Write Romantics. I have my Twitter to change and a new Facebook page to set up. The only slight downside is that I think I’ll have to lose the history on my FB page because I want to keep it completely separate from my personal one and I can’t do that by just changing the name on my existing writer page because it’s still linked. 

But perhaps that’s not an 11pm job. Perhaps tomorrow!

I hope you like the new theme of the page to go with the launch of my new writing persona.

Thanks for following 🙂

Jessica xxx

We’re all going on a blog tour … Meet My Character

My lovely writing friend, Sharon Booth, has invited me on a tour. Sadly it’s not a wine-tasting tour round the Napa Valley but, for an aspiring writer like me, it’s equally (if not more) exciting. It’s a “meet my character” blog tour where I give you an insight into one of the characters in my book. Thank you, Sharon, for passing on the baton. You can hear more about one of Sharon’s characters and discover more about her writing journey on her brilliant blog, The Moongazing Hare.

1. What is the name of your character? Is s/he fictional or historical?

Her name is Sarah Louise Peterson and she’s the protagonist in my debut novel, Searching for Steven.


_MG_05212. When and where is the story set?

It’s set in the present day in the fictional North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay. I think of the setting as predominantly being Scarborough where I live but it has elements of Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay which are further up the coast. As you can see, the name is a mash-up of all three places.

For me personally, the beauty of having a fictional place is that I can take poetic licence. For example, I have some caves on the beach at Whitsborough Bay but there aren’t any in Scarborough.


3. What should we know about her?

She’s just turned thirty and called time on a two-year relationship which is a big thing for her as all she’s ever wanted is to settle down with Mr Right. Life unexpectedly changes for her when her auntie announces she wants to retire and that she’d like Sarah to leave London, move home to Whitsborough Bay and take over as the new owner/manager of her florist shop.


P10308754. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Auntie Kay’s announcement is the first conflict. She’d worked in the florists when she was younger and has kept up flower arranging as a hobby but has never considered it as her career. What if she’s no good at running a business and she wrecks everything her auntie has taken years to develop?

An even greater conflict arises when she’s packing to move home and she finds something that has been hidden for twelve years and which totally changes her outlook on life.

I can’t say much more without giving away the major plot of the book!


P10309565. What is the personal goal of the character?

To find Mr Right and get her happy ever after. This may sound a bit twee but there’s a very strong reason why Sarah wants this but explaining it would be a major spoiler!


6. Is there a working title for this novel and can we read more about it?

It’s called Searching for Steven. It’s not yet published so you can only read more about it on this blog … for the moment. That should change within the next year.


7. When can we expect the book to be published?

It will be out next Monday and available in all good book shops. Ha ha, not really but it would be amazing to be able to say that. At the moment, I am unsigned and preparing to go indie in spring 2014. Searching for Steven is the first of a trilogy so I want all three to be ready when I launch


_MG_9950Thanks for taking the time to read this. Apologies if there are a few gaps but hopefully the book will be available next year to fill those.

What’s meant to happen now is that I pass the baton on to another writer. With further apologies, I can’t do this. As an aspiring writer, I don’t have a huge number of writing pals and they’ve all either done it already or don’t have a blog. I will post a link here to fellow Write Romantic Alys West who has also joined Sharon on the tour so you can read about her protagonist, Zoe, from her debut novel Beltane.

Best wishes for a great week.

Julie xx

What’s in a name? Quite a lot!

Shakespeare famously wrote: “What’s in a name?” I say, ‘Quite a lot actually. And it’s got me confused!’ Let me tell you why …

This weekend I’ve been to the Romantic Novelists’ Association Annual Conference. Looking down the attendee list, I was struck by how many of my fellow romance writers use a pen name. Some of them were completely different names (NWS organiser Melanie Hilton writes as Louise Allen), some were same first name but different surname or vice versa, some were slight changes (e.g. Write Romantic Alex Weston writes as Alys West) and some were just a change of spelling (e.g. Lynne to Linn).

I found myself wondering why all these writers choose a pen name. Three of The Write Romantics use pen names but for different reasons. One wanted to distance her writing persona from her professional persona and have a name that felt more closely aligned to the type of book she writes, one changed hers because there’s already a writer with the same name, and another wanted to use her maiden name.

P1050384My maiden name is Williams and in the days before eBooks, I always knew I wanted to use a different surname because Williams would feature at the bottom of the bookshelf! Fortunately I married a Heslington and moved right up to a prime eye-level position. Except my book is more likely to be an eBook so the bookshelf-browsing scenario isn’t really an issue anymore.

In the early days of my writing, when I fantasised about one of the big publishers taking me on, I imagined a scenario where they asked me to change from Heslington because people couldn’t spell or pronounce it. (Personally I think it’s easy to pronounce but when it comes to spelling, we’ve had post addressed to allsorts – Heslerton, Hesletine, Hessington and even Heffalump!) I toyed with an alternative name and the one I kept coming back to was the name I’d given to the munchkin: Ashleigh Brooke. I adore that name (obviously or I wouldn’t have picked it!) But I dismissed it and decided I’d fight for my right to be myself and write as Julie Heslington. Only now I’m having doubts …

P1050385Pen names have been around for centuries. Anyone heard of Sieur Louis de Conte? No? Me neither. I bet you know his other name though: Mark Twain. But neither of them are his real name. He was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Lewis Carroll was really Charles Dodgson and George Orwell was Eric Blair. CS Lewis was his real name but he also used Clive Hamilton and NW Clark for his writing. Crikey! That’s a lot of pseudonyms floating around.

So why use a pen name? There are a stack of reasons. Many years ago, females found it difficult to be taken seriously in the publishing world so Mary Ann Adams brought her books to the world as George Eliot and all of the Bronte sisters wrote under male names. This reason hasn’t gone away today. It’s widely known that JK Rowling used her initials to make her book appeal to a wider audience as males are typically less likely to pick up a book penned by a female than they are by a male. Female crime or horror writers often go for male names or initials too for this exact same reason ☹

P1050383The “right name for the right audience” is a key one that goes beyond gender too. Names can age a writer and a woman in her mid-twenties looking for some romantic comedy is more likely to be attracted to a writer with a young-sounding name like Sophie Kinsella than an older-sounding name like Mavis Winterbottom (apologies if there is a Mavis Winterbottom out there writing rom-coms aimed at twenty-somethings!) Speaking of Sophie Kinsella, she was born as Madeleine Sophie Townley, married to a Wickham and brought out her original books as Madeleine Wickham but then changed to a lighter style of writing with her Shopaholic series and, with this, used her middle name and a new surname to launch a new identity and appeal.

So changing genre is another reason for having a pen name and why several writers such as CS Lewis have more than one. Hiding one’s identity, writing something controversial, writing as a pair or a team but presenting the work as one author identity are all other reasons. So is being such a prolific writer that not all books are released under the same name due to a worry that readers would perceive more than 1-2 books being launched in a year as being poor quality. Don’t think I’ll struggle with that one given that it took me ten years to write my first!

These are all great reasons and, until now, I thought the only reason I had to use a pen name was that my surname is a little unusual. But then it struck me that my first name ages me. I like the name Julie. I’ve always liked it. Unfortunately, it’s dying out. In the 1960s, there were 4,307 Julies for every 1 million babies born in the UK. Whilst it’s currently the number five most popular name in Belgium and Switzerland, hardly anyone in the UK names their baby Julie anymore. Which now ages me as someone in my forties or fifties. Not someone currently in their mid-late twenties experiencing the relationship traumas I write about. Hmmmm.

Something else that struck me recently is social media. I’ve had my own Facebook page for several years which, like most people, I use to share family photos, news and pictures of cats in funny poses. Linked to this is my Julie Heslington Writer page. However, (and please shout if I’m wrong here) in order for me to invite fellow writers to like my writer page, I need to friend them on my own Facebook page first which means they get to see my family photos, news and pictures of cats in funny poses. Do I want them to? Maybe not. Do they want to see these? Almost definitely not. I’ve always had a strict policy of only accepting friend requests from people I actually know well with a few exceptions of people I have encountered, find interesting, and would like to keep in touch with. I’d rather build my writing relationships elsewhere and, let’s face it, me rabbiting on about writing is probably dull as a dull thing for my family and friends who aren’t into writing so do they really want their newsfeeds filled with my writing exchanges. Solution: develop a whole new persona, have a FB author page off that for when (!!!) I get published and keep my own FB page for what I always intended it to be: a way of keeping up with family and friends who I don’t get to see very often.

P1050382The other thought floating around my head is around the idea of going indie. As readers of this blog will know, this is the way I anticipate going. I have a few more subs in although I don’t anticipate any of them leading anywhere so I’m getting myself ready. I feel that the success of being indie will be in me viewing myself (and therefore my writing) as a product that I’m taking to market rather than thinking of it being me. In my mind, I find it easier to take a business approach to the idea of marketing “Pen Name” as a product rather than trying to promote myself. Promoting myself gives me the fear. Promoting Pen Name is a little daunting but not nearly as much so – after all, I’ve worked in recruitment on and off for twenty years and have promoted many companies and graduate schemes. This would be the same principle; different scenario.

I’m there aren’t I? I want a pen name. But do I go for Ashleigh Brooke or something else. Eek! What would the something else be? Time to dig out the baby name dictionary. Any suggestions? Watch this space!!!

I’ll Make This Brief …

… are four words you won’t hear me utter very often because, whilst I’m not one of those people who will just jabber on and on for the sake of it, going round in circles and repeating themselves, I’m also not someone who will give a one-word answer if there’s an opportunity to give a little bit more detail.

This is why I write novels and not short stories.

The past month or so has therefore presented me with an interesting challenge. I’m part of a group of nine women called The Write Romantics who all met virtually through The Romantic Novelist’s Association (RNA) New Writer’s Scheme (NWS). We run a blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed together and, earlier this year, we decided to write an anthology. What started off as an interesting idea has really taken flight. We’ll all be contributing at least one short story and we’ve enlisted approximately 14 guest writers who are all published writers to contribute too. The anthology will raise money for The Teenage Cancer Trust and Cystic Fibrosis Trust, will be released in the Autumn and will feature uplifting short stories with a winter or Christmas theme.

Emphasis on the word SHORT.


The first thing that popped into my head was the title which I have to say is quite typical for me. This was quickly followed by an idea. But then the idea started to grow and suddenly a whole novel had formed. Before putting fingers to keyboard, I had to let the idea brew a bit and naturally decrease in size from the epic it wanted to become. For a few weeks now, the start of the story has been there and I’ve dabbled with the next couple of pages but I hit a bit of a block and abandoned it. Then torrential rain and thunderstorms hit North Yorkshire yesterday and, whilst the garden cried out with joy, we were miserable and trapped inside. The munchkin plonked herself down in front of a Scooby Doo film and I plonked myself down in front of my Mac and fought my way through my sticking point. It was only when I consciously stopped thinking of it as the potential start to a bigger novel that I might write at some point and focused on it purely for what it was – a short story for a charity anthology – that I finally progressed. I’m about a thousand words from finishing but I know where it’s going and how it’s going to end. Phew! Because my deadline is this weekend!

What have I learned from this experience? That I’m a novelist and a short story writer. Ok, so I knew that all along. But what else I’ve learned is that a short story may be of limited pages but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need planning. I wrote my first novel by knowing the ending and having no idea how to get there and it was a painful ten-year-long process. I learned from that and wrote my second one in about eight months by planning it out carefully. Then I went and approached my anthology story in the same way I’d approached book 1. Durr. I’ve learned. Again. The hard way!

I still have a big edit to do when I finish the story but I think it’s been good discipline for me to be focused. Hopefully the other Write Romantics and our readers will like it.

The Write Romantics need your help. Would you like to win a £20 Amazon voucher? Come up with the winning name for a winter/Christmas themed anthology to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust trust and Teenage Cancer Trust and it’s yours. Entries to thewriteromantics@hotmail.co.uk please by 31st August. Good luck!