Thursday, July 19, 2007

Great Big Blog Party 39 Elizabeth Oldfield

Back in 1995 - I think ! - the late great Charlotte Lamb had started the Association of Mills & Boon Authors so that we could all meet up and talk. In those days we met at other authors' houses, all opver the contry. And so I ended up as a not very well established author, nervous and unsure, at Jessica Steele's beautiful home. I knew only one person - my editor - and she was very busy talking to lots of people. But after a few minutes a new arrival came to sit beside me on the settee where I was. She was blonde and elegant with a wonderful smile and she introduced herself to me.

Her name was Elizabeth Oldfield and I remember that my very first words to her were 'Oh I'm a fan!'

It was nothing less than the truth. In my reading to find out the best of Mils & Boon romance - and to learn how to write them myself, the name Elizabeth Oldfield on a cover was guaranteed to make me grab at the book, no matter what the title or the cover art looked like. I devoured books like Flawed Hero, Love's Prisoner, The Price of Passion and loved and admired them all. And having met their author, I came to love and admire her very much too.

Elizabeth was always warm and welcoming to newcomers to the M&B 'family' . Over on her blog, Liz Fielding has a very similar story to mine about the way she and Elizabeth met. And after that very first meeting, she kept in touch with me by letter (no email then!) or in person at the twice yearly lunches whenever we were both there. Over the years she gave me lots of advice - including some of the very best advice I've ever had on how to work with an editor on revisions.

She did half the revisions exactly as asked, she said, to prove that she was professional and cooperative, and the other half she did just her own way - to demonstrate that she was the creative person in this process! Prefect - I've passed that advice along to many others since.

About 8 years ago, Elizabeth retired from writing romance, and oh how I missed her books. But now Elizabeth Oldfield the author is back. Her first book for some years - Vintage Babes - is published by Accent Press this month. It's not a straight Romance but - well, here's the 'blurb'

Divorced, fifty-plus and a reporter on a small-town newspaper, Carol has just one grumble – the way friends and family will try to fix her up with a Mr Wonderful. No thanks! She’s perfectly content on her own. Then life shifts into the kick-ass mode. Steve, a tyrannical new editor, arrives: her elderly father morphs into a babe magnet: her daughter and granddaughter land on her doorstep, and black hairs sprout from Carol’s chin.

Jenny, Carol’s meek plump housewife friend, is eager to find herself a job, but her husband disapproves. Tina, a glamorous recently-widowed gold-digger, has one major problem – she hates getting older.

When the three women workout together with Max, an erotic personal trainer, all their lives are changed.

I have my own copy of Vintage Babes on my TBR pile - all I need now is the time to read it. I can't wait. I've already dipped into it and had to force myself to put it down - but I have a week in Wales coming up . . . . I'm so glad that one of my favourite authors - and people - of all time - is back! I've missed you, Elizabeth!

So it's wonderful to be able to say that here, at the Blog Party is Elizabeth Oldfield.

To write fifty books demands dedication, determination, inspiration and a heck of a lot of hard work. It's a wonderful achievement, Kate. Many congratulations.

As my first Mills & Boon novel came out in 1982 and yours appeared a couple of years later, we go back a long way - meeting at Mills & Boon author get-togethers, summer writing schools and other 'romantic' venues. It was fun and I value your friendship, and the friendships of other M&B mates.

However, eight years' ago, when I had completed my fortieth book, I decided to retire from romantic fiction. I wanted time to relax, go travelling with my husband and, finally, to attempt my long-term ambition of writing a mainstream book.

Whilst a proliferation of chick-lit caters for the younger female, there're few books about women of 'a certain age.' Yet the majority of women readers are fifty-plus. I wanted to explore the joys and pitfalls of getting older - it happens to all of us - and VINTAGE BABES is the result.
GIVEAWAY: There's a signed copy of Vintage Babes on offer today - all you have to do is post an answer to the question in the comments section and Elizabeth will pick a winner.

GIVEAWAY QUESTION: Which of the 'Vintage Babes' of romance writing do you remember? Who was your favourite author to read in the past and why?
(I'm looking forward to a lovely wander down memory lane)


Kate Hardy said...

Can I be greedy and suggest several?

I think the first has to be Mazo de la Roche - I loved her Whiteoaks of Jalna series. My mum had about half of them (the others she'd lent out to friends while she was a student nurse and never got them back). Knowing she enjoyed them (and being a voracious reader), I asked if I could read them. 'No, you're too young.'

So I was very naughty. I used to sneak one out of the bookcase on my way to bed, and read a chapter a night by torchlight under the blankets. (This is why I can't strictly tell off my own kids for reading late.) One of the first heroes I can remember falling in love with was Renny Whiteoak.

Then there's Victoria Holt. I loved her Gothic romances. (Ditto Mary Stewart. And Jean Plaidy's historicals.)

Mary Wibberley is another I really enjoyed - I remember her description of a ladder to the moon from a Scots island and it fascinated me. (I've since discussed this with Trish Morey re her Broome book.)

And Sara Craven - whose books I enjoyed so much that they inspired me to write my first M&B, aged 13. (That's a long story - one I've shared with her since!)

There's another 'vintage' author who's also new to me; a couple of years ago I decided it was about time I read Kathleen Winsor's 'Forever Amber' - my best friend bought it for me for Christmas, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thanks, Elizbeth, for stirring some truly lovely memories!

juliemt said...

What a difficult question! I am going to be greedy and suggest several as well.

Georgette Heyer is, in my opinion, one of the best romance novelists ever to be published. I've read her books to ragged shreds and never tire of reading them.

Victoria Holt in all her incarnations is another huge favourite of mine. Who can forget books like Menfreya, The Devil on Horseback or The Time of the Hunter's Moon? And her superb Plaidy books sparked off my love of history and my fascination with the Tudors.

The wonderful Mary Stewart with books like The Gabriel Hounds, Touch Not the Cat and Rose Cottage - creepyingly suspenseful and highly romantic.

In M&B, my list is endless. How I loved the books of Elizabeth, Charlotte Lamb, Sally Wibberley and the wonderful Betty Neels. The books by Penny Jordan (love her M&Bs, women's fiction and sagas), Carole Mortimer, Jessica Steele, Sara Craven, Margaret Mayo, Margaret Way and the wonderful Anne Mather continue to captivate me to this very day.

Thanks for the Mazo de la Roche tip, Kate! I'll definitly give them a try now.

Anne McAllister said...

How glad I am that Elizabeth is back! Looking forward to Vintage Babes!

As for my own choices, can I step away from romance to say my first choice would be K M Peyton? I have loved her books ever since my kids were tiny and I'd stick them in story hour at the library, then be stuck in the kids and young adults room anyway, and which is where I found Peyton. She writes for all ages and is still writing, I believe, though not as prolifically as she did.

Of the earliest romances I read, it would have to be Jane Donnelly, hands down. She wrote so many wonderful books. The first I read was Behind a Closed Door. Loved it. Set out to find every other book she'd ever written. I think I finally got them all -- at least all the M&Bs.

Quite agree on Georgette Heyer. She's such a delight.

Others in romance, I always looked for were Mary Wibberley, Charlotte Lamb,Anne Mather, Essie Summers, and Robyn Donald, whose books still delight me.

Welcome back, Elizabeth!

robynl said...

HI and welcome Elizabeth

For me it was LaVyrle Spencer; loved her books and some of them were made into movies that I enjoyed. She was my first, LOL.

ilona said...

My vintage authors would have to include Betty Neals - I loved the fact that there was medical knowledge in romance books and that her heroinnes were always such down to earth types.
Also included would be Georgette Heyer for her humour and Barbara Cartland because I loved regency romance and she was the best at that time in writing it.
Finally my M&B favourites were Charlotte Lamb. Kate Walker, Liz Fielding and Emma Darcy (or should that be Emma and Darcy?!).

lidia said...

Of course I can't pick just one!

I'll list some: Georgette Heyer, Daphne Du Maurier, Charlotte Bronte, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart,

As for HP authors: Violet Winspear, Charlotte Lamb, Sally Wentworth, Carole Mortimer, Anne Mather, Robyn Donald -- just to name a few.

Growing up I took piano lessons. I would practice pieces one hand at a time and in my other hand I'd have a book and read at the same time. Lucky for me I was never caught!!!

Jan Jones said...

Mary Stewart for me. Also Georgette Heyer. Oh, and there's this author called Jane Austen...

YvonneLindsay said...

Elizabeth, Vintage Babes sounds like a wonderful story!

Hmmm, in answer to your challenge, if I had to name only one author Mary Wibberley is the name that first comes to mind. I would read every single release she had. I loved her style of writing.

When I started to think seriously about learning the craft of writing (instead of just filling page after page of notebooks with scribble) it was her 'To Writers With Love' that I devoured again and again (along with listening to the tape that M&B used to send out to prospective authors way back when.)

And then, if I'm allowed a few more, I have my kiwi favourites--Susan Napier, Robyn Donald and Daphne Clair.

Now you've opened the floodgates I have so many names spilling through. Far too many to list. Suffice to say, I think, that the imagination and skill of the 'vintage babes' provided many hours of delight and escapism for me since my early teens.

Amanda Ashby said...

Oh, I'm actually re-reading a Georgette Heyer right now and they still make me smile everytime! My other two firm favs are Essie Summers and Betty Neels - Essie because I lived in Dunedin and spent a lot of time in Central Otago and the way she captured the countryside and the spirit of the people there was amazing, and Betty because, well, I guess I have a secret thing for rich Dutch doctors!!!

Virginia said...

I am at the 50 plus age the authors that I remember is Rebecca York and Constance O'Banyon I started reading her books back in the early eighties and still to this day I watch for a book by Constance O'Banyon and still buy them. I still love her books.

Nell said...

Oh, I have such a big list. Violet Winspear, Betty Neels, Robyn Donald, Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, Janet Dailey and one of my big faves because she combined sci fi/fantasy with romance, Andre Norton. Her Witch World books are amazing.

Ayla said...

Im 18!!! what i read in the past was "watch spot run" or whatever =D

I have to say one of my old favourites has to be Jean M Auel (who i get my name from - thanks mum)but she's not romance. =(

If i was going to say romance it would be Skypirate by Justine Davis as it was the first romance i ever read =)But i dont think she's a vintage babe ( i could be wrong though )


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