Welcome to NinaBell.co.uk

Welcome to my website. My books, published by Sphere, are about big family dramas, such as wills (The Inheritance), in-laws (Sisters in Law) and who you can really trust (Lovers and Liars). My latest, The Empty Nesters, asks which relationships - and friendships - can survive once the children have left home.

I'd love to hear from you via this website or Twitter and if you've been affected by any of the issues in my novels, see the Survival Guides (in the From the Author section) and my Links page.

Latest News and Updates

Adjective intolerance

September 26th, 2012

I’ve suddenly developed an allergy to adjectives. I’ve had to ingest too many during a recent thriller binge. Just as having cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for supper can make you feel sluggish and bloated, so too many adjectives can mean it’s time for a literary de-tox.

Take this. I’ve changed the actual adjectives so as not to breach anyone’s copyright (or upset anyone, we’ve all got our writing faults). ‘Mr X looked up to see a short, stocky man – mid 50s and wearing a beautifully-cut Savile row suit – coming towards  him. Below his wispy, mid-brown hair, alarm was written across his lean, pale face.’

Is anyone else feeling like a ferry in a storm, tossed between ‘short, stocky’ and ‘lean, pale’? Or think that describing height, weight and hair colour makes a story read like an item from Crimewatch?  Or is it just me? Did I get out of the wrong side of bed this morning with alot of paperback thriller adjectives coming back up the wrong way?

One of the writing blogs I picked up recently from Twitter was titled ‘Suddenly the inappropriate adjective crashed into an iron bar’. I can’t remember its source, but it was great, and may be the source of my sudden sensitivity. Adverbs have long been the white plastic high heels of literature (along with exclamation marks, which will always be considered too vulgar to be invited to a Booker prize evening), but surely the humble adjective deserves a place in our books? Or should that be the glorious adjective? Or what about the short, stocky adjective with the lean, pale face?

To be fair, I’ve just read a magnificent piece of description by John Le Carre of Perry’s first meeting with Mr Dima. It’s half a page of finely tuned adjectives linked together with the odd noun and verb. Mr Dima walked straight off the page for me. So maybe it’s not adjectives per se, but having them walk in two-by-two, like Edwardian duchesses being taken into dinner. Short, stocky. Lean, pale. Wispy, mid-brown.

Adjective misuse, like drug misuse, seems to be no respecter of class, and can be found on the snootiest bookshelves as well as up the Marks & Spencer and Topshop end of quality commercial writing. Nor is adjective overdose necessarily a female writing trait – all examples quoted here were by male writers.

If we get rid of adjectives altogether we’ll all finish up writing like Hemingway or Jack Kerouac and there is only so much of that I can take, thriller-binge or no. So has anyone got a cure for adjective intolerance?


Posted in: From the Author by Nina Bell on September 26th, 2012

Instagram for authors

May 25th, 2012

I first picked up Instagram from following author Ali McNamara on Twitter. It’s much more immediate than a camera – just download it onto your mobile phone, point & click. You can then add filters to make the pic look so much more professional, then the photo is uploaded onto your Instagram home feed – which is like a Twitter timeline. From there you can ‘share’ it with Twitter, Facebook etc. If a blog or local paper asks for a picture to accompany an interview, then you can email them something a bit different, rather than a straight cover shot.

Instagram is also a social media tool, so you can build ‘followers’ and follow people. It’s the visual version of Twitter – instead of talking, you use images.  I haven’t found this side of it particularly easy to use – there is, apparently, a ‘find friends’ option under the ‘profile’ tab, but I simply CAN’T find it. I’ve stumbled across people to follow by tapping on hashtags in the photo captions, such as #photoaday, #dogs and so on. Using hashtags in your own captions also means that people are more likely to stumble across you, and start following you.

Some of these photo interactions with people around the world are fascinating – how else would I see inside an ordinary classroom in a Chinese school or what it looks like to land on an US airbase in Afghanistan?

It took me a while to work out how to ‘share’ pictures with Twitter, Facebook etc (there are three little dots on the bottom right once your picture is ‘done’. Press those).  There’s another icon that reverses the camera, so you can take photos of yourself, which is easy to press by accident, so there are some very unattractive pictures of my nostrils and double chin that depress me every time I look at them. I won’t do a link to them if you don’t mind. In fact, I can’t work out how to link Instagram to this blog at all - am I being dim or is it sometimes a bit difficult to use?

Instagram is great for when pictures speak louder than words. When we were staying in Living Architecture’s stunning modern holiday homes, I was able to tweet Instagram pics of the interior. Rather than simply tweeting your cover you can do different things with it (click on this for some variations of The Empty Nesters’ cover I’ve done for my Facebook page) And when I got my Polish editions of The Inheritance, it was almost twice the size of the English one. It’s more fun to tweet ‘are Polish words longer than English ones?’ with a photo of the two side by side than it is just to say ‘I’ve got my Polish edition in today.’

Instagram’s alot of fun. I also think it taps into a different kind of creativity from writing, and that’s refreshing. I don’t know whether it helps authors to promote their books – there are some useful YouTube videos on this, which I should probably check out. But until I can find the ‘find friends’ tab, I’m just muddling along. So if anyone knows, please do tell me. (and don’t say ‘click on the Profile tab’ because when I do that I just get ‘edit profile.’) And if you want to follow me, I’m Ninabellbooks on Instagram.


Posted in: From the Author by Nina Bell on May 25th, 2012
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How does audioboo work for authors?

May 17th, 2012

For the next few weeks, every Friday, I’ll try out a social media app to see how it can help writers enhance our websites (and presumably sell more books!). As I still don’t know how to work my voicemail, I’m the perfect non-techie tester. If I can do it, so can you.

First up: audioboo. You can download it for free in order to make audio recordings of your work of up to three minutes, which can then be uploaded onto your website, Facebook, Twitter etcetera. Poet and novelist Sarah Salway uses them for poetry blog-tours  and every politician now seems to be ‘boo’ all their speeches ( You can also do longer recordings, for which audioboo charge, but policiticians seem to turn a 20 minute speech into 7 ‘boos’).

It was very easy to download onto my mobile phone. I then listened to the introductory ‘boo’, which was very clear. And recording  was simply press ‘record’ and speak after the 3,2,1 countdown.

After that I wanted to get creative. Three minutes is great for poetry, but it’s just over half a page of paperback novel. So you can’t expect to get your whole first chapter in. Blurbs are the right length, but I wanted to add something that wasn’t on my website already.

I started reading against ’interesting’ backgrounds, such as the sounds of a storm, waves or birdsong. This did not work. The first two just sounded like radio interference and the birdsong recording mainly picked up my own breathing, magnifying it so that I sounded like an asthmatic stalker. I listened to a few other ‘boos’ on the ‘Browse’ section – some boos ‘trend’ when people just say ‘la-la-la’. That might enhance the profile of a rap singer, but a writer…?

So I picked out a half page at the end of the first chapter of The Empty Nesters. (click on the link to listen). Once I’d finished, I just pressed ‘publish’ and ywas offered the option of adding a title, hashtags and a photograph (I used my phone to photograph the front cover, but got it upside down, so hold your phone the right way up.)

Next I wondered if it would be more effective with different voices, and wondered which of my friends might be prepared to act out the most dysfunctional character in the book, Alice. The result is here. Then we tried another fun passage from later on, when all the characters were on holiday. Judge for yourself which one, if any, would make you want to buy or read the book.

I couldn’t immediately see how to upload my boos onto my website (although I seem to have set them to automatically go out on Twitter). Then I discovered a little forwarding tick on the top right hand corner when you call up ‘My boos.’ You can email yourself with a ‘boo’, and then embed it easily from there.

You can also attract followers (probably mainly by using hashtags) and you can also message people, but my main interest was in adding value to an author’s website. I didn’t find it easy to search for other people’s boos by name, so I wasn’t able to find other authors on it. The most popular boo is called ‘This is What Heartbreak Sounds Like’, and is a girl sobbing into her phone about her husband being hit by a train. So you can find real emotion there, as well as politicians’ speeches, rap lyrics and me.

Audioboo was fun and easy. I’ll keep on using it. And if anyone ever blackmails me, I’ll rummage in my bag, turn on audioboo, and provided the threat is less than 3 minutes long, I’ll have the evidence. Next week: Instagram, a photo app.

Posted in: From the Author by Nina Bell on May 17th, 2012
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Are e-books the answer?

May 14th, 2012

My last virtual guest at the very wuthering and windy Little Blue Hut was Andrew Crofts, best known as Britain’s top ghostwriter. Andrew has written over 80 books, dozens of which have been best-sellers – it’s known as the ‘Andrew Crofts effect’ in the trade. He’s ghosted books for celebrities, misery memoirs and in business, along with The Freelance Writer’s Handbook, where he shares the secrets of his success. Andrew has also written two novels, The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride and its prequel The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer, about a young girl running away from a humdrum family in search of love and fame, and who gets caught up in the rise of celebrity culture from the 1970s onwards.

I spoke to him in the week when Fifty Shades of Grey hit number one, which, like The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer, was originally published as an e-book. E-books have created an interesting area where self-publishing, small indie publishers and ‘author collectives’ offer an additional option to traditional publishing. ‘Electronic publishing is pioneer territory’, says Andrew, ‘like the Wild West and the goldmines of California.’ He’s part of an authors collective: Do Authors Dream of Electric Books. Twenty eight writers blog and pool their experiences, which gives them all more of a presence than they would have individually. Andrew says you can find similar groups by surfing the internet .

Andrew says that when he e-published The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer, he did get an expert to help him with the practicalities of getting the book onto the two main publishing sites: Kindle and Smashwords, but he knows many authors who have done it themselves. He also went to a professional for the cover design.

Paying for expert help emerges as a key tip: when Giselle Green published her fourth novel, Falling for You, as an e-book, she paid for a professional designer and a professional editor. Falling for You sold very well, she says – probably partly because of the author platform established for her by Avon, who had published her first three novels, establishing a loyal following for her. Catherine Ryan Howard, author of Self Printed, on self publishing (her blog is also a mine of information) also says that, although there are free cover designs available for you to adapt, they’re rarely good enough. However Fifty Shades of Grey’s cover was apparently designed by the author, and it has become iconic, so perhaps every rule is made to be broken – occasionally.

Myths have sprung up about how much money some authors make through publishing their own e-books, but Andrew Crofts is more realistic:  ‘the odds on making money from an e-book are about the same as on a printed one. A growing army of competitors is out there, and you have to struggle just as much to be heard. But if you write a good story and work hard on promoting it, and enough people like it, then electronic word-of-mouth will take over…but rejection, which originally came via crushing letters from agents and publishers, may dawn more gently for some authors via disappointing sales figures.’

If the pot of gold does materialise - as with Fifty Shades of Grey  – then it looks as if few authors can actually carry on without a traditional publisher. ‘I can’t do it all myself’ is the cry of those who find themselves writing, handling the technology, marketing, finding designers and editors, staying on top of selling, trying to think up the next book….so, if e-books are the answer, they’re clearly not the whole answer.

This is my last blog from the Little Blue Hut, with thanks to Creative Canterbury for my stay there. I’m going to start posting regularly on Fridays, and for the next few weeks I’ll be focussing on apps that authors can use to promote their books, such as Instagram (and Inkstagram), Audioboo and others. I’m the least techie person in the world, so if I can use them, you’ll find them easy-peasy.

Posted in: From the Author by Nina Bell on May 14th, 2012
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