A Fresh Start

Today I'm introducing the new projects that I'm working on, as a part of the fresh start that this brand new website is heralding!


So at the end of July I submitted my PhD proposal. Over three thousand words written, rewritten, edited and redrafted over and over again. Even my research abstract was over 300 words:

This research will examine the fictional representation of the introverted heroine, in a selection of twentieth and twenty-first century contemporary category romances from the Superromance, Modern/Presents and DARE Harlequin Mills & Boon imprints, to analyse whether this trope can be read as a feminist figure. The thesis will do so in dialogue with a piece of creative work – a popular romance novel – that explores the process of creating an introverted heroine as a feminist figure.

The thesis will engage with the idea of fictional introversion as a model of subjectivity, whilst using Franco Moretti’s ‘distant readings’ approach to quantify a unit of analysis, through which the texts will be read.

In Chapter 1, I will engage with previous research, contextualising the category romance within genre and novel studies, as well as exploring the development of the novel’s capacity to represent modern life.

The following three chapters will each focus on a different Harlequin Mills & Boon imprint. Chapter 2 will focus on the newly closing Superromance imprint, exploring a category romance from the 1980s and a category romance from the 2010s. Chapter 3 will explore the Modern/Presents imprint, the flagship of Harlequin Mills & Boon, with a novel written in the 1970s, and a novel written in the 2010s. The final imprint chapter, Chapter 4, will focus on the DARE imprint that begins in 2018. As such, the earlier novel will be selected from the Temptation imprint, the predecessor of DARE.

I expect my key findings to engage with the acceptance of the popular romance studies academic community since the mid-1990s, that these books are inherently feminist, and to apply this to my understanding of the introverted heroine trope.

My creative work will highlight textual detail that should be added to my unit of analysis for reading these texts, and will culminate in an annotated copy that will track the influences of my research, as well as tracking where my own writing has been influential to my understanding of this trope.

All my references have gone through, and now I'm waiting on an interview date. But because I'm a strange creature, who doesn't particularly like not having an academic project on the go, I've signed up to review two books for JPRS (Journal of Popular Romance Studies).

The first is Catherine M. Roach's Happily Ever After: The Story in Popular Culture. I'm glad that I'm getting to review this as it was my holiday reading in Tenerife, back in February and I loved it. Roach's take on being an "aca-fan" - an academic who is also a fan of their topic of study - was particularly significant in how I decided to approach my PhD proposal.

The second, Susan Ostrov Weisser's The Glass Slipper: Women and Love Stories, has been sat amongst my Popular Romance Studies book collection for a couple of months, but I've only really dipped in and out. I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in, especially to Chapter 7 - Feminism and Harlequin Romance: The Problem of the Love Story.

I've got a couple of months to work on them, but this is a great opportunity to write something for JPRS and would be my first appearance in an academic journal!


My freelance editing work has really taken off recently. I'm waiting on two novellas by established writers to be sent my way later this month, and I'm also working on the line edits for the first novel in an exciting new series by Trish Wylie.

And, of course, there's the monthly Pink Heart Society webzine. Out on the first Wednesday of every month, there's always a lot of preparation ahead of going live.

I'm in charge of two columns: Pink Heart Poll (where authors debate a different monthly topic) and Our Romantic Heritage (where authors focus on a romance novel that has inspired them); as well as being responsible for any conference reports and my own PhD column.

Public Speaking

I'm also preparing my paper for the Wildfire Women conference in Brighton on September 9th and 10th. It promises to be a weekend of creative inspiration, collaboration, confidence building and career clarity, with a fantastic line-up of speakers!

I'm part of a panel called A Bit of Balance, where I'll be joined by designer and entrepreneur Lola Hoad and writer, blogger and critic Roz Try-Hane.

The title of my paper is By Day and By Night: Finding Space for Creativity Part-Time and I'll be talking about how to balance a day job with personal passions and creativity. It's something that I think is hugely important, having got that balance very wrong in the past, and I'm looking forward to discussing my experiences with the panel and the conference attendees.

There's a 2-4-1 weekend deal on available now at Eventbrite that I'd recommend checking out if you're interested!


And finally there's my own creative writing. I'm currently working on a contemporary category romance novel, one that will hopefully form a part of my completed PhD, and I'm finding the whole experience incredibly enjoyable.

After years of planning out every aspect of my narratives, I'm finally just letting go and writing. No plan, no end game, just the sheer rush of letting words flow and seeing where they take me. Already my characters have turned out to have back stories that I didn't know about, and a surprise baby has popped up out of nowhere! Now I really understand what people mean when they say that their characters have a life of their own!

With so many projects on the go (I know, I'm slightly insane), it'd be easy to let writing slip by the wayside - especially as I don't actually start my PhD until October - assuming that everything goes through - and so I'm carving out solid writing time every week. I have an iTunes playlist set up (all classical music that I know inside out, so that it melts into the background) and I'm forcing myself to let issues go by unedited, which is the hardest thing for me. But I'm loving it. And it's probably the project that I'm most excited about...

How do you embark upon a fresh start? Have you got any new projects on the go? Share your experiences and projects with me in the comments!

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