Posted in Writing

Me & My Mini #3: Audrey Harrison

photo of Audrey Harrison
Audrey Harrison being feted at the Kindle Storyteller Awards in 2018

In my last blog post of each month, I interview an author friend on a fun topic that’s currently caught my imagination.

When I featured a magical Mini car in my recent novella Mrs Morris Changes Lanes, many author friends remarked that they’d also owned (and mostly loved) Minis.

Today I’m pleased to welcome the bestselling Regency romance novelist Audrey Harrison, a previous finalist in the prestigious Kindle Storyteller Award, to reminisce about her Mini.

Hello, Audrey, and welcome! Please kick off by telling us why and when you bought your first Mini.

I came late to life with my Mini, both my brothers had enjoyed their Minis when they were far younger and although I took advantage of joining them on ‘Mini adventures’, it wasn’t the same. When my children had grown, I spied my opportunity and found myself a PURPLE mini! Perfect. She was purchased.

Hurrah! The same colour as Mrs Morris’s Mini in my story – great choice! How much did it cost and how much did you sell it for?

She was second-hand and only cost £3,500. I sold her for £1,500 as a trade-in. Broke my heart.

How long did you keep it and why did you sell it?

Connie was basically falling apart and costing too much to justify keeping her. It was a very sad day and I haven’t felt the same about any other car since.

Sorry, I should have said “her”, not “it”! I love the way so many Mini owners feel compelled to name them!

Yes! I chose the name Connie for my Mini. She was a sassy – fast – lady and completely had her own personality.

Some days things would not work on her (front seats refusing to move forward) but it always felt like me and her against the world. We were a team.

Would you like to describe her in more detail?

Purple Mini Cooper, purple, white roof, purple, spotlights, purple, leather seats, purple.

photo of Audrey's Mini
Yep, Connie’s definitely purple!

Although I loved writing about Mrs Morris’s Mini, I’ve never owned or driven one. (I may have to rectify that with my next car!) What is it about Minis that makes most owners feel so attached to them?

They are like the Spitfire of the road, fast, nippy and a whole heap of soul!

What did you most love about your Mini? What drove you nuts about it?

She was purple!! The speed, the nipping in and out.

My mother said I started to drive like a rally driver or as if I was on a go-kart as soon as I got behind Connie’s wheel.

Not bad for a woman rapidly approaching 50 (as I was then)

The two doors drove me bananas because of all the moaning that passengers did.

Where did your longest journey in your Mini take you?

As a writer of Regency Romance, Connie and myself took ourselves off to the Alton Regency Festival a few times. That was great having Connie parked in front of Jane Austen’s house.

I have always thought Jane Austen was a woman with spark and life and I am sure she would have loved Connie.

What was your most exciting trip?

Any day out in Connie put a smile on your face.

What most surprised you about your Mini?

What a pleasurable experience it was driving her and how I haven’t been able to replicate it with any other car – still looking.

Did you ever have any accidents or any scary trips in your Mini?

I volunteered with the National Trust, dressing up as a 1913 cook. I used to travel to and fro in my costume and one day someone hit me side on (their fault). When I got out of the car, the other driver thought I was a vicar! Made for an interesting conversation.

Who was your favourite/most interesting/most difficult passenger and why?

The funniest was one of my cousins who was slightly (!) drunk and although managed to get into the rear seat could not get out of it when I was dropping her off. You probably had to be there to appreciate the moment, but we all ended up crying laughing.

Was your first Mini a one-off buy or did you stay brand loyal and buy more Minis later?

Sadly because of the two door situation I won’t be going back to a Mini, but that doesn’t stop me longing – I just don’t like the more modern versions, they aren’t Mini and they don’t have the same personality.

What car do you drive now?

Skoda Citigo (or Shitigo as I call it) – just about to change to a hybrid.

What do you miss about your Mini?

Everything apart from the two doors!

What would be your dream car if money were no object?

A baby Bentley, but I’d need a driver to go with it, they are still huge! I like my little nippy cars but the baby Bentley has got class.

If you’ve read Mrs Morris Changes Lanes, what did you think of her Mini and of her adventure?

I loved it!

I think everyone at some point thinks what if, it is completely believable that a Mini would have some magic attached to it.

I hope it turns into a series, or that it had been longer.

book cover with backdrop of country lane
Mrs Morris Changes Lanes is available in paperback and ebook for Kindle – click the image to buy it from Amazon, or ask your local bookshop to order in the paperback for you

Thank you so much for joining me today, Audrey, that was great fun! 

cover of The Spinster's Second Chance by Audrey Harrison
Audrey Harrison’s latest Regency Romance novel

To find out more about Audrey Harrison and her highly acclaimed Regency Romance novels, hop across to her website here:

Previous posts in the Me & My Mini series:

Me & My Mini #1: Anita Davison

Me & My Mini #2: Amie McCracken

Posted in Self-publishing, Writing

Romancing the Romantic Novelists

Selfie of Debbie Young and Katie Fforde
Selfie with RNA President Katie Fforde

A post about my recent talk at the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual conference.

A couple of weekends ago, I had what you might call a novel experience: I went to give a talk to the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

How It Came About

The invitation arose from a chance meeting last autumn with the lovely Katie Fforde, the bestselling romantic novelist who happens to live not far from me. As local authors, we were both invited to join a discussion panel, broadcast last autumn from the Green Room of the Cheltenham Literature Festival by BBC Radio Gloucestershire. (You can listen to the broadcast here, if you like.)

BBC Radio Gloucestershire panel guests with DJ
Cheltenham Festival broadcast with Katie

With oodles of hugely popular titles to her credit, Katie is the current President of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The panel’s wide-ranging conversation touched on the subject of self-publishing, for which I’m an enthusiastic advocate. Afterwards Katie suggested I speak at the RNA’s annual conference to give them the low-down on what self-publishing has to offer romantic novelists and to explain how the Alliance of Independent Authors, of which I’m a member, could offer them.

Fast forward to 13th July, and there I was, addressing the RNA’s members in a lecture theatre that took me back to my university days.

Great Setting

Debbie Young speaking at the front of the lecture theatre
Caught in mid-flow by my friend the alternative history thriller writer Alison Morton

The setting was no ordinary university (not that I’d call my alma mater, the University of York, ordinary), but Harper Adams University.

Harper Adams is an agricultural college in rural Shropshire, complete with its own farm, in a pretty mock-Tudor complex not far from Newtown, a beguiling small market town with at least two bookshops. (Note to self: must take a trip there in our camper van one day.)

So far, so romantic, you might think – until I checked out the lunch menu and discovered that we were eating the animals raised by the farm. I dare not confess to my vegetarian daughter that the catering, by the way, was excellent.

Fun Talk

Selfie of Debbie Young with Alison Morton
I enjoyed Alison Morton’s talk about writing alternative history

My brief was to speak to the title “You Need Never Walk Alone”, identifying the misnomer that is the world of self-publishing: a more caring, sharing community than I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with before. My speech explained to them that the “self” in self-publishing was misplaced, because these days, any indie author worth reading employs professional-level tactics to ensure their books are the best they can be, from having their covers designed by a specialist to engaging editors and proofreaders on a par with those used by traditional publishing houses (very often the same people, in fact, operating as freelances).

I was unsure what to expect when I agreed to speak. Would the room be filled with women of a certain age in floral frocks? Would they lob rotten tomatoes at me for daring to speak of authors acting as their own publishers?

Selfie with Talli Roland and Joanne Phillips
With bestselling romantic novelists Talli Roland and Joanne Phillips

I’m pleased to report I was warmly welcomed and quickly made to feel at home, and that my talk was well received by all who attended. Self-publishing certainly offers many opportunities even for those who are comfortably ensconced with trade publishers, such as the chance to revive their out-of-print backlist and earn a much greater royalty than previously. (I was all wrong about the floral frocks too, by the way – not least because there were quite a few male writers in attendance.)

Welcoming Atmosphere

I also discovered a very sharing bunch of writers, enjoying the stimulus of each other’s company and of an impressively varied programme, covering everything from writing craft to yoga for writers (boy, I could do with some of that!)

RNA conference goody bag
Oh goody, a conference!

Summing up for me the generous spirit of the group was the nature of the goody bag. Well, don’t we all love conference goody bags? I’d been told in advance by author friends who are members of the RNA that the conference goody bag was not to be missed, and they were right. Not only did the bag itself look very pretty, sporting the RNA’s attractive log and smart strapline “Love Writing”, it was filled with all sorts of, er, goodies:

  • a fine collection of brand new paperbacks
  • practical items such as a manilla folder and an A4 notepad
  • sustaining treats in biscuit form
  • some super correspondence cards on the theme of romantic novels
  • some slick promotional freebies for specific novels: a smartly packaged teabag promising “the perfect cup of tea” to promote the novel Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons, a gorgeous metal bookmark attached to a bookmark for Victoria Howard’s Ring of Lies; a foil-wrapped chocolate coin promoting another book and a bag of chocolate buttons stapled to a business card (sorry, my daughter’s eaten the evidence for both of those)

Great Souvenirs

Bookmark shaped like a fan
Fabulous bookmark is enough to make me a fan of Christina Courtenay

My favourites were, by chance, two items promoting books by the RNA’s current chairman, Christina Courtenay: a tiny bookmark in the shape of a fan (book title: The Gilded Fan), which was actively useful on that very hot weekend, and an ingenious dolls’-house sized crystal ball (in fact a glass marble stuck to a silver ring), as featured on the cover of The Secret Kiss of Darkness.The latter now has pride of place in my daughter’s dolls’ house.


Promotional card showing cover of novel with tiny crystal ball attached
So simple, yet so clever – Christina Courtenay’s crystal ball made from a marble (top left)

I may only have been at the conference for the last day (it ran Friday to Sunday), but I enjoyed it so much that I’m rather hoping I’ll be invited back next year. It was almost enough to make me want to write a romantic novel – something that hadn’t as yet been on my to-do list. But, as my author friend Orna Ross said to me the other day, “Never say never.” And if I ever do, it won’t just be because of the goody bag, honest.

For more information about the RNA, which welcomes aspiring writers as well as already-published authors, visit their website: 

Or follow them on Twitter at @RNATweets.

NB The RNA doesn’t yet admit self-published authors other than as associate members, but they’re actively reviewing that situation, which is greatly to their credit.