Author interview- John Jackson

 

 

John it’s great to hear that your book  “A Heart of Stone” is to be published by Crooked Cat Books, in Oct/Nov this year. Thanks for coming on my blog to talk about it.

What was the inspiration behind the book?www.PicturesbyRob.co.uk York Photographer Rob Cook FBIPP FMPA QEP covers weddings portraits and commercial assignments across Yorkshire and the North East in Leeds Harrogate Selby Malton Tadcaster

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Some years ago, I came across an amazing story about my great-great-great-great-great parents. He was a young Irish peer, and he married the daughter of another Irish peer. After several years, their story took a tragic turn. While the story was fascinating, I could see that the real events were too tragic to make a book as it was. NOBODY ended up with a happy ending from this one!

That being said, the story provided a series of hooks that couldn’t be ignored. What I hope I have written is the story of “what should have happened.” The hero and heroine deserve it, after all these years.

How did you come to write your genre of choice? 

I have always been a fan of historic fiction and historical romances. My father used to get each new Georgette Heyer novel as she wrote them, and he passed his love of them on to me. Once I started to write, I never thought of writing in any other genre.

How does it feel to one of the few males in the predominantly female world of romance writing?

Absolutely great! I have been astounded by the support and goodwill I have received from my writing friends, and members of the RNA. It’s thanks to them that I am writing at all. They gave me the confidence to try and write.

Have you experienced any difficulties breaking into this world?

I have come into the industry at a time of great change. As I found, most agents are extremely risk-averse. Unless you have Cornwall, Café, or Cupcakes in your title you are really going to struggle (and I did). Being a man in a mainly female genre, probably also told against me.

What has been especially good about your journey to publication in this genre?

Self-publication is ridiculously easy in this day and age. It would have been far simpler for me to publish on Kindle or Smashwords, but, by getting the MS taken by a publisher, this represents “Peer Approval”. Someone else, apart from family and friends, thinks it worthy of publication. Being taken on by Crooked Cat was massively encouraging.

When did you start writing and why?

I started writing stories for our daughters when I was away from home on long sea voyages. Simple animal tales, and unfortunately, now lost.

I eventually moved into the world of documentation for ships, covering laws, compliance and safety, etc. This has been handy, at least in making me familiar with the process of writing and producing documents. Of course, these were all non-fiction, but I had the job of trying to explain policy and procedures, in English, to non-native English speakers, mostly from Eastern Europe and the Philippines. I soon learned, clarity was everything.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become an author in this genre?

Read, read, read, and then write, write and write again. Recognise your limitations, and learn that the people you meet have been doing it longer and generally better than you, so learn from them.

About ‘A Heart of Stone.’ 

A Heart of Stone, a tale of love, power, jealousy, starvation and prison, set in 1740s Ireland.

What happens when a young, beautiful girl is made to marry the worst man in Ireland?

But he has a brother, and they will risk everything to be together. Her husband doesn’t take this well.

Thank you John, it’s been great talking to you. Thanks for coming on my blog today. Tell us a little bit about yourself before you go.

Author bio: 

After a lifetime in shipping, I am now retired and living in York. An avid genealogist, I found a rich vein of ancestors going back many generations. My forebears included Irish peers, country parsons, and both naval and military men.

A chance meeting with some authors both historical and contemporary, led me to try my hand at writing. I am a keen member of both the Romantic Novelists Association and the Historic Novel Association.

I was brought up on Georgette Heyer from an early age, and, like many of my age devoured R L Stevenson, Jane Austen, R M Ballantyne, and the like. Favorite modern authors include Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Liz Fenwick, Jenny Barden, Carol McGrath, Lindsey Davis and Kate Mosse.

“A Heart of Stone”, to be published by Crooked Cat  in October / November 2017

Contact John:

Twitter @jjackson42

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/johnjacksonauthor/ 

Blog: john42hhh.blogspot.co.uk

 

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Author interview- Angela Wren

With summer coming (yes I know, it does still feel a long way off but it is on its way, I promise) I thought we might turn out eyes to a somewhat warmer place. Today Angela Wren is here to talk about France and what it is that inspired her to write her French set crime novel Messandrierre.

Q: I know you spend a lot of time in France – what is it that is so attractive to you about the country?

Angela: That’s a big question, Viki and I’m not sure I can answer it in anything less than a rather large book!  So, France is 6 times the size of GB but only has about the same population size.  That means there are vast tracts of land that are open and genuinely wild.

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Lac de St Croix, Provence

And when you think about the green and rolling countryside of the Limousin, the ruggedness of the coast of Normandie, the vast forests of Aquitaine and the mountains of Rhône-Alpes and Pyrénées, you quickly realise that it is a country of contrasts and extremes.  As I travel around it seems as if there’s a whole world of scenery within its borders.

Add to that the sunshine, the pace of life – I swear rural French clocks run more slowly than English ones – that quintessentially French attitude to everything and the culture and you have, what is to me, a fascinating and intriguing place to be.  I feel very relaxed and very much at home there.  In addition, the place never fails to amaze me, because there is always something new around the corner:  a different nuance to a word or phrase to remember, a missed bit of history to discover, a new village or town to visit and explore properly.  I don’t think I will ever be bored with France.

Q: I see why France is the influence for your books, but why the Cévennes and where exactly is this?

Angela: The Cévennes is a mountainous area that centres around Monts Aigoual and Lozère in central southern France and sits on the south-eastern flank of the Massif Central.  It’s part of the Languedoc-Rousillon region, to be precise.  It’s a vast untamed area with tiny hamlets and rugged, wild uplands in between.

It was whilst I was there in 2007 that I had the idea for using the area as a backdrop to my novel Messandrierre.  I’d been following Robert Louis Stevenson’s trail through the area and I had his book, Travels with a Donkey, with me as my guide.

It was September, and overnight the weather changed dramatically, and I awoke to find snow on the ground.  What had been a sparse, richly coloured autumnal expanse interrupted by the dark green inkiness of the dense pines was suddenly a wide and bright white vista that seemed to stretch on forever.  As I took a few moments to watch the snow and gaze at the mountain tops, the thought that misdeeds could be so easily hidden here floated across my mind and the first few lines of the book were born.

‘I died beneath a clear autumn sky in September, late in September when warm cévenol afternoons drift into cooler than usual evenings before winter steals down from the summit of Mont Aigoual.

My shallow grave lies in a field behind an old farmhouse. There was no ceremony to mark my death and no mourners, just a stranger in the darkness spading soil over my body. Only the midnight clouds cried for me as they brought their first sprinkling of snow to the tiny village of Messandrierre.’

Q: Does that mean there are real places in your books?

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Old City of Mendes

Angela: My village is fictional, as are all the characters with which it is populated, but it is modelled in size and detail on the real village where I always stay.  For the book, I had to move the chateau and turn it into ruins, fell a few trees and build some hunting chalets so that Messandrierre would properly support the story I wanted to tell.

Mende, the principle city of the département of Lozère, is referenced in the book several times and a specific incident occurred there that relates to the disappearances that my hero, Jacques Forêt, investigates.  It also features in the second book in the series which is called, Merle.  That is the name I’ve given to a fictitious suburb in Mende where a murder takes place.  Mende, in reality, is a fascinating place with a rich and varied history, and during the 1939/45 war, it was part of Vichy France.  It is well worth a visit for anyone in the area.

Q: Using a 19th century journal as a travel guide rather than a modern guide is different… But why? Very little can be the same surely?

Angela: Stevenson, like me had a great interest in history and as he moves from place to place he comments on what he finds there and how that matches with, or not, his expectations as a result of the history.  He also dismisses some places and items of interest unfairly, in my view.  He travelled through the Cévennes in late September and into October, but I think the best time to be there is in June and July.  For me, the book was like having an old and trusted friend with me.  As I visited Luc, or crossed the bridge into Langogne, or sat eating my lunch by the bridge in Pont de Montvert, I could debate with, or challenge, RLS in my thoughts.  For example, the bridge across the Tarn at Montvert dates from the 17th century.  Just think about that for a minute.  Not only did Stevenson cross that single bridge, so did any number of others, a knight perhaps, merchants and drovers, maybe a troubadour or two, who knows, but it’s sometimes good to just speculate about history.

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The colours of Cevennes

Of course, the best part of making such journeys is to write about them afterwards and my last trip to the Cévennes provided enough material for a series of blogposts about the area. Following Stevenson

 

 

Q:  What are your plans for your next book and your next trip to France?

Angela: The second book, Merle, is with the publisher for editing and should be out later this year.  The third book, Montbel, is my current work in progress and is at an early stage but hopefully will be available sometime next year.

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Bridge across the tarn at Pont-de-Montvert

As for France, I’ve been poring over my maps and I will be heading out there pretty soon.  I’m planning on meandering across the Vivarais plateau in search of WWII history and I will have a very interesting book with me as my guide too!

Thank you Angela! That’s been a fascinating chat. Tell us a bit more about you and your latest release.

My first novel, Messandrierre, is set in France, where I like to spend as much time as possible each year and was published in December 2015.  The follow-up, Merle, is with the publisher for editing and will be available later in the year. I am also working on an anthology of alternative fairy tales which I intend to self-publish.

About the Book… Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman. Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

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Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

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Contact an author : Angela Wren

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Dickens and The Crash cover reveal and how one led to the other.

Today I’m super pleased to host Stephanie Cage who has recently started blogging her novel, The Crash.

For the first time today she’ll be revealing her cover for The Crash and telling us why and how she was inspired to write it.

How Dickens helped me complete National Novel Writing Month

Once a year a huge number of people challenge themselves to write 50,000 words as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It sounds like a ridiculous amount to write in a month, but if you’re willing to write fast and not worry about rambling it’s actually not too hard.  Problem is, you then end up with a sprawling mess of a novel which needs a vast amount of work to make readable.  (Well, I did!)  My first novella, Desperate Bid, began as a NaNoWriMo novel but by the time I’d taken out all the detours it was a much more manageable 35,000 words.  So when I set out to write The Crash a few NaNoWriMos later, I decided to take a few lessons from a master storyteller to make sure I ended up with a story I’d want to keep.

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Tada!              Stephanie’s awesome cover.

Dickens was the master of serialisation and every chapter he would help his audience by giving them a clue what was to come.  Each chapter begins with ‘In which…’ and then a brief summary of the events of the chapter.  This acts as a taster for the audience to intrigue them with the content of the chapter but when I started drafting my chapter headings they also helped me as author to clarify what I was going to write.  With a few sentences summarising the content of the chapter it was easy to ensure that I didn’t become distracted as I wrote my scene at my speed using ‘write or die’ software (OK, Dickens didn’t have that, so maybe I cheated a bit!)

Dickens also needed to make sure that every week his audience would come back, which meant ending the chapter with a strong hook.  Regardless of what had happened in the chapter, the ending sentence had to raise a question in the audience’s mind which would bring them back next week to find out the answer.  Sometimes when I wrote the question I wouldn’t know what the answer was going to be but by the time I came back the next day to write that day’s instalment I would have figured it out.

Using these two techniques I was able to complete my 50,000 words novel with only a very rough outline and still develop a plot which constantly kept the reader moving forwards with the story.  Of course some rewriting was required but for the first time I had a story with no dead ends or major digressions.  I have continued to use variations of this technique ever since.

You can follow Stephanie and read her posts, including previous episodes of The Crash here: Stephanie Cage -Writer

Twitter: @StephanieWriter

Choosing a new WIP (or Work in Progress)

Windfalls and mushrooms

Windfalls and mushrooms

I’ve just sent my anthology of four short erotic romance stories for a final edit, to sort out punctuation and other errors, and to try and make it as good as I can prior to launching it on Amazon. (In case you’re thinking of looking out for it, it’ll be published under a different name, I’ll let you know what it is at the end of the post.).

Anyway, to get back to the point, since that project is now nearly complete I am looking for another one. I have several in mind, some quite well thought out, some just tiny kernels of half formed ideas.

Doing chores helps me think, so I went outside to collect apples (mostly new windfalls that came down in the rain we had yesterday)  and think about my WIP. This reminded me of picking a pomegranate off the tree just last week in Greece.

Then it struck me that, like fruit, a story idea has to be at the right point exactly to be capable of maturing into a decent read.

This was the only decent pomegranate left on the tree after the neighbours stripped it. We were too late although with a lot of jumping we managed to reach this last one.

This was the only decent pomegranate left on the tree after the neighbours stripped it. We were too late although with a lot of jumping we managed to reach this last one.

Pretty much like an apple or a pomegranate really. Getting to them in time is crucial. They need to be just ripe; ripe enough to drop into your hand but not so ripe that they drop to the floor before you get there. Once they hit the floor they bruise and rot sets in very quickly or creatures nibble on them. They don’t seem to last as long as those picked off the tree and they seem to be just past the point where they are at their best.

Like fruit, the new project idea I pick has to be  fresh, ripe, and capable of going the distance. For best results it has to go from ‘tree’ to either mouth or pot.

There’s something very satisfying about collecting fruit and then eating it just as there is in selecting a new WIP and then getting on with it. In the end, whichever WIP I decide to follow through with has to fill me with enthusiasm and curiosity and make me, the writer (or the cook) keen to reach the final product.

So for the next couple of days I’ll be gently twisting each potential WIP idea to see if it drops off into my palm,  I’ll be deciding if it looks as if it might ripen too far if I leave it on the tree which would make it a priority to deal with. I’ll be tentatively checking it for mileage with lots of ‘what if’ questions and checking out the characters to see if they can develop.

I love this point. Whether I’m looking at the apples and deciding what delicious dish they’re going to become or whether I’m sifting through all the ideas in my mind, and deciding which one is going to be my next romance – it is one of the parts of writing that for me is full of potential and  joy.

Here they are, glowing in the sunlight just waiting to fall into my hand and be turned into pie. Yum.

Here they are, glowing in the sunlight just waiting to fall into my hand and be turned into pie. Yum.

Btw- the other name I mentioned above? Queenie Black.

Thanks for reading this far. 🙂

Life moves on

Kosta and me. :)

Kosta and me. 🙂

Apologies for not posting for so long. As some of you might know I lost my son who was fighting in Syria with forces opposed to ISIS. It’s taken me some time to get back any desire to live let alone resume normality. I won’t mention anything else about it here except to say that if you want to look into it just google Konstandinos Erik Scurfield. There’ll be plenty around.

My biggest fear was that in the face of such a terrible tragedy I would lose the will, and ability, to write. Of course at first there was no space for writing on any front; emotional, mental or physical.

Now I find that rather than lose the will to write it burns even stronger. Is this linked to the knowledge that life is ephemeral? Perhaps to a degree but mostly it’s because Kosta supported my writing. Even when I occasionally tried to embarrass him by asking if he and his Royal Marine mates would be prepared to pose for covers (in case I went down the self publishing route) he retained his equanimity. The answer was no for him by the way but he did think some of his mates would be up for it.

Or when I suggested I would write really ‘out there’ erotic romance and tell all his friends when I met them, he would get his characteristic, funny ‘Kosta’ look and then say, ‘Go for it, Mum.’ He wanted me to write. He was all about being the person you need to be, being true to yourself and doing rather than talking. He lived and, in the end, died by that ethic.

So the very least I can do is write.

Kosta while supporting the Kurds against ISIS

Kosta while supporting the Kurds against ISIS