I could not be happier today than to welcome fellow blogger and friend Anne Williams to Linda’s Book Bag. Anne is a fabulous blogger at Being Anne and a huge supporter of romantic fiction – to the extent that, as a previous winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Media Star Award, she has been nominated again and has made it through to the final for 2022. I’m delighted Anne agreed to be interviewed today.
An Interview with Anne Williams
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Anne and congratulations on your RNA Media Star Award nomination.
This isn’t the first time you’ve been nominated and you’ve won the award in the past. How does that make you feel?
Thank you Linda! This is the third time I’ve been a finalist, and it feels every bit as special this time as it did when I walked away with that lovely trophy back in 2019. I started blogging nearly ten years ago, and all I ever really wanted to do was share my love of the books I’ve enjoyed – I’m delighted that people enjoy reading my reviews, and even more so that I’m able to support a large group of very talented authors and help (in my small way!) to bring their books some of the extra attention they deserve. Romance has always been my first love – and to be recognised by the RNA (their members are my rock stars…) feels particularly special.
I bet! What was it like when you won previously?
Do you know, the night itself is still a bit of a blur – and not only because of the wine consumed! I was so surprised when my name was called and I had to get up onto that stage to accept the award – and, I have to say, totally terrified because I hadn’t even thought what I was going to say when in front of the microphone. In the end though, it was much easier than I thought it would be – I said a heartfelt thank you, told everyone how much I loved romantic fiction, and about how it had given me an escape and kept me going through a few particularly difficult years. The warmth from everyone in the room was something I’ll always remember – and I think my smile probably says everything else…
I think it does. I was there that night and remember it well. I was thrilled for you that you’d had all your support for your ‘rock stars’ recognised.
So, what do you think is so special about romantic fiction?
My goodness, where can I start? I might be getting on a little now, but I have had my moments – and I’m sure there can’t be many of us who haven’t had the wonderful experience of being in love. I particularly like to see (maybe that should say “feel”) a special chemistry between the book’s main characters – when they become real people, striving to overcome any obstacles that cross their paths on the way to the happy ending I know will be coming. But it’s often about more than just the central romance – I like all the characters and the relationships between them to be believable, for individuals to have some faults and failings, some depth in their back story, a few surprises. But I also love a vividly drawn setting, a strong supporting cast, a community I enjoy being part of. And the writing and storytelling really must be as good as it could possibly be – I like to be wrapped up in the pages of a book when I’m reading and for the rest of the world to disappear, and that’s something I’ve unfailingly found in the world of romantic fiction.
I agree completely. And if there’s a happy ending too, so much the better. What would you say to those who never read romantic fiction?
Just try it – it might surprise you. I sometimes think that those who avoid it don’t realise the immense range that the genre covers, or the sheer quality of so much of the writing. Ok, I’ll accept that if your first love is serial murder, you might not be attracted to a romantic comedy or Regency romance – but romantic suspense might give you a lot of what you might be looking for. And how will you know if you never try? Choose carefully, read with an open mind… you might find you’ve found something you’ll love as much as I do.
Sage advice. I think only reading one genre is like only eating the same meal every day! What qualities to you look for in a romantic protagonist, male or female?
I have very eclectic tastes – but I do need to either be able to identify with, or at least empathise with, a book’s main characters. I think that’s all about depth – people don’t simply exist in the present, they have pasts, they have friends and families, life sometimes gets complicated. And people are rarely perfect – a few flaws and a bit of behaving badly are something I’m always happy to see.
Is there anything you’d like to see more or less of in romantic fiction?
I’ve already seen a lot of changes over the years I’ve been reading and reviewing. Perhaps the most significant one for me has been the age of the characters – it used to be so difficult to find a heroine who was out of her twenties, but nowadays they’re increasingly in their 40s, 50s or beyond. It’s something I’ve particularly welcomed – and I’m certainly not the only reader past the first flush who enjoys being able to identify more readily with a book’s protagonists. And that’s something that’s carried through into the supporting casts too – older characters just aren’t cardboard cut outs or (even worse) cuddly grandmothers any more. More please!
Yes indeed. We 60+ women still have life in us!
Is there a ‘go to’ romantic author whose books you never miss?
Now, you don’t really expect me to answer that one, do you?
Actually, no not really, but I thought I’d ask…
I do have my firm favourites (I have an ever-growing list) but I’m very rarely able to read and review every book they produce when they seem to write books even faster than I can read them. And there’s always the chance I’ll come across a new favourite, so I do like to mix things up a little and read books from new-to-me authors.
Which romantic novelist do you think is too much under the radar and deserves more recognition?
There really are more than I could begin to mention – especially those without a mainstream publisher, who have to work so hard to be seen. There are some real gems to be found in the self and independently published world, and I really do enjoy helping bring them the attention they so richly deserve.
I agree. Self published authors or those from small independent publishers don’t have the big budgets behind them for promotion and there are so many brilliant writers out there. I think the work you do in supporting them is amazing.
Is there a romantic book you haven’t read that you’re itching to get to?
I’m acutely aware of the fact that there are a few authors – loved by many – whose books I’ve never been able to get round to reading and reviewing. I read three or four books a week – sometimes more – but even if I read ten times as many I still wouldn’t be doing more than scratching the surface.
So many books and so little time – the curse of the blogger!
Which has been your favourite romantic read this year so far?
Again, I’m not going to answer that one – I do pull together a “books of the year” list at the end of every year, and it’s one of the most difficult things I ever do. Romance covers such a wide spectrum – books become favourites at different times for differing reasons. But I will say that this year might just have been one of the best in a very long time… but I think I might say that every year.
What other genres do you enjoy?
I am pretty faithful to contemporary romantic fiction – and to the broader genre of what used to be called “women’s fiction”, but might perhaps be better described as book club fiction, contemporary fiction or “up lit”. But I also enjoy historical fiction – far more than I used to, when I rarely used to venture outside time slip or a well-handled dual timeline. I do visit the dark side from time to time – psychological thrillers preferred, but not too regularly, and often as an audiobook. And I’m never quite sure what makes a book “literary fiction”, but I do sometimes read that too.
You’re a blogger so could you tell us a bit about your blog and what blogging entails for you please?
My blog is called Being Anne – it’s almost ten years old now, and started almost by accident just as a place to keep all my reviews in one place, a nice little hobby. I was surprised when I found people starting to follow it – by 2016, my posts had an astonishing almost quarter of a million views. After retiring, I decided to develop it a bit further – I’d already started adding interviews, guest posts and features – moved everything over to WordPress, and began to post daily.
I now have almost 12,000 followers (with almost 1,000 also following my linked Facebook page) and my daily views rarely fall below 200. You’ll find me on Twitter too (@Williams13Anne) – sharing other bloggers’ and authors’ posts as well as my own, and where others share mine in greater volume than I can say thank you for.
I will admit that producing daily posts did begin to feel a little bit like another full-time job – I’ve scaled back a little recently, but still try to post four or five times a week. And these days, my posts are mainly reviews – it’s what I enjoy doing the most, I think it’s what people like to read, and it’s certainly the kind of support most appreciated by the authors. And I still love doing it – and really can’t see a time when I’ll want to stop!
I can’t either. And long may Being Anne continue! Huge congratulations again Anne on your third nomination for the RNA Media Star Award and thanks so much for being on Linda’s Book Bag today.
About Anne Williams
Anne Williams is a book blogger and reviewer, sharing her reviews of the romance and women’s fiction she loves in all the most important places, including on her website Being Anne; the blog is now approaching ten years old, and has almost 12,000 followers. She lives in Wetherby in Yorkshire, and took early retirement a decade ago intending to spend her time doing everything she enjoyed, including reading and reviewing as many books as she possibly could, and indulging herself with exotic holidays. Life didn’t quite work out as expected, when she became carer for her late mother; the travelling might have had to stop for a while, but nothing could possibly come between Anne and her reading. In recent years, Anne has developed a passion for Nordic walking, and can often be found exploring the Yorkshire countryside with her poles in hand. Her blog won the Best Pal award at the Annual Bloggers’ Bash for three years running, and she was delighted to win the RNA’s Media Star of the Year award in 2019.