Today we sit down with U.K. author Jane Risdon. Jane has a lifelong love of writing and has an exciting release coming out later this year. She tells us about her work, inspiration and a bit about herself in this edition of 20 Questions. Please enjoy.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think I have always wanted to be a writer. When I was little I always had my nose in a book, usually adventure stories and often Enid Blyton or Robert Louis Stevenson. I used to write lots of things out – copying – and make up little stories; I loved the physical act of using a pen and paper. Of course now I use a computer and my handwriting has deteriorated when using a biro for instance, unless I go back to using a fountain pen. The pleasure of hand-writing has gone. I had to wait until I was much older to begin writing, when my music industry career became less hectic.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Ah now, there’s a good question. When I am writing a book I usually get down to it and complete it in about six months, and short stories can be done in hours. I am like a bull in a china shop. But, and here’s the rub, it has – and is – taking me four years to write my series Ms Birdsong Investigates. The reason being I decided half way through the first book to change the whole plot and character of Ms B. I came across an event which fitted her beautifully but didn’t fit with my story and how I thought I wanted her to develop. I wrote books two and three based on the event I mentioned and have, therefore, had to go back to book one and make drastic changes. I think Ms B is going to be so much better. Hence the time taken.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I usually start early in the morning and go at it until I get hungry, fuelled by endless cups of tea. I might write into the night or until late afternoon. I write a blog – an author’s page – and run some groups on Facebook – not to do with writing – and these take some time each week as well. I’ve been taking various Forensics courses with Universities for the last 9 months and so my schedule has altered a lot and I have not written every day. The courses have made me rethink my approach to crime writing.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Wow, this is a difficult one. Quirk? In my writing I tend to be very realistic where dialogue is concerned and I write as people speak. I do tend to have some humour in my stories, even if they are dark, so perhaps that is a quirk. I really don’t know if I can identify one otherwise.
Q5) How are your books published?
I am published by Accent Press- since 2014 – and I have also appeared in many anthologies published by various publishers. I have toyed with the idea of self-publishing and doing it all myself and if my submissions to publishers had failed prior to 2014 I might well have gone that route.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I get my ideas from all sorts of sources. Sometimes a News item, an overheard conversation perhaps, but mostly I get my ideas out of the blue. I’ve worked with song-writers and I know that music and lyrics can seem to come from nowhere. This happens to me. A title will pop into my head, or a name, and then as I sit at the computer it all floods in. Just like song-writing. A lot of my stories are based – loosely – on my career within the International Music Business and I often base the crimes around something to do with a situation I may well have heard about or have experienced during my long years working with recording artists, singer-songwriters and record producers. Also, in my youth I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, and this fed my love of all things espionage and so I often have something to do with spies or the Secret Intelligence Services in my stories….Ms Birdsong is a former MI5 Officer for example.
Q7) When did you write your first book?
I started my very first book about thirty years ago. I made the mistake of letting an old school friend read the first few chapters. She told me that it ‘didn’t sound like me.’ I never touched it again and although I wrote lots of bits and pieces afterwards, I was really confused as to what she meant and whether I was just hanging on to a childhood dream. Years later a family friend – my husband’s ex fan-club secretary and rock journalist, later an award winning author – said she’d love to read my work – I’d started messing around with stories again in recent years. I sent some to her and she encouraged me. This was about eight years ago. I kept it all secret and then she asked if she could co-write with me about four years ago so we began writing a book together. I seriously got down to writing short stories back then, and I have several novels on the go now – making up for lost time, plus, she and I have our co-written book due to be published later this summer (2016). In October (2016) I have a short story being published in Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror in aid of Save the Children.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love family history and have been researching both my husband’s and mine for about thirty-five years, and I love to take photographs of the countryside, old villages, buildings and churches. I love visiting places of interest and grand homes and gardens. I blog about it all these days. I read a great deal and I love science, astronomy and stretching my brain with all sorts of nonsense. I’ve spent the past nine months studying online with three esteemed universities in the field of Forensics which I feel will help me with my crime writing. I keep very busy.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
I can’t say I really have one favorite book. I think I have several and I am adding to the list constantly. From my youth Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier was and is a favorite, as I adore her writing. I love Agatha Christie and all her books. Anything by John Le Carre. You can see where this is going…I can’t tell you one particular book. There are dozens.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
So far everyone, other than my mother, has been supportive. Especially my husband. The feedback I get is very positive and has been very flattering at times. I keep focused on trying to better myself. My mother, who is eighty-six this year, thinks it is all nonsense and dismisses everything even though she has never read a word I’ve written. But then she thinks my career in music was worthless too…I don’t mind. I write for myself.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I suppose the fact that someone else would be interested enough to bother to read anything I’ve written by purchasing a book, reading my short stories, and often keeping in touch with me, wanting to know more about me and my writing. I am really blown away by this and forever humbled by it.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
The physical act of sitting and typing. It’s a slog. I just wish I could telepathically transfer my stories out of my head and onto the page, edited, corrected and ready for my editor, proof-reader and publisher. I could do other things as this happens and not have to sit at the computer for hours.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written six books. I don’t have a favorite, but I suppose if I had to pick one, it would be the Ms Birdsong Investigates series which is still a WIP. I have written endless short stories and pieces of Flash Fiction too.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Oh gosh I don’t really think I am qualified to suggest anything to other writers. I think the only advice I can offer is write what you know and make sure you research well. I write books I’d like to read and so I put myself in the place of someone in a library or bookshop trying to find something to read; would I chose to read me?
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I do get feedback which is fabulous. I am always very appreciative of those who take time to let me know, or leave a review of my work. So far I think I’ve been fortunate in that I have not received any negative feedback, though another author told me she was fed up of reading stories with guys called Brad in them. My story was set in Hollywood and I didn’t fancy calling the character John! One reader said he thought I was a female Elmore Leonard which was a thrill. I think I am a realistic writer and people relate to that. Whatever their reasons, I am chuffed anyone reads what I write, let alone praise me. I just try my best.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I don’t really know. I suppose I should and I guess most authors must do some research in their own genre to find what floats someone’s boat. I just write what I like to read. If pushed I’d have to say that I probably write for readers like me, whatever age, gender or social class they are I think I have something for everyone. Some of my realistic language might not be suitable for younger readers, but then I often hear worse whilst waiting for the bus when the school kids get on, so I always think it a bit ripe for books to be censored on grounds of fruity language. I don’t do sex – well, not in my writing that is!
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
Oh if we knew the answer to this we could bottle it and sell it. I imagine it is having a good believable tale to tell, even if you are writing sci-fi or fantasy, and that you transport the reader into your world where they feel connected to the plot and the characters. This is where I think Daphne Du Maurier worked magic. When I read her books I was her main character, I felt everything they felt. I’ve been left in tears by her writing and always dreaded the book ending. I was really touched when someone told me once that a short story I’d written, left them in tears. I dabble from time to time outside of the crime genre and this was a Pirate story I’d written.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Oh I wanted to be a writer and a ballet dancer and an actress who could sing. I particularly fancied my chances of dancing with Fred Astaire. I thought I could turn myself into Ginger. But, then again I always wanted to be Doris Day and Cher too. Instead I married a musician and ended up managing musicians and singers. A proxy career.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
Check me out over on Accent Press or on my Amazon Author Page where you’ll find them.
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
Of course, thanks. I hope this extract will lead your readers to the book and more of my work.
This is from ‘Dreamer’ which is featured in ‘In A Word: Murder,’ published by Margot Kinberg.
In 1989 London rock band Dreamer is about to hit the big time. There are recording and publishing contracts to be signed bringing huge advances and a super-star American manager is part of the deal which will teleport them into super stardom. There’s just one problem. The American doesn’t want the lead guitarist, Jake – he wants him out or there’s no deal with him or the companies. Trouble is, Jake is the only song-writer in the band and it is his band. The rest of the band want the deals on offer at any price and things get very nasty….
No-one spoke, they couldn’t look him in the eye; instead they fidgeted and stared at the floor, the mixing desk, anywhere rather than register the hurt and shock on his face; anywhere other than confront the affect their duplicity had upon their now former band mate.
‘I formed this band, at school. I asked you to join me!’ Jake nearly choked his throat tight and dry. He stared at his three best mates in the world, his band, disbelief all over his face.
‘Why?’ He almost sobbed, ‘What the hell’s going on?’ He held his Gibson to his chest as if it would comfort him, he never felt whole without it in his hands.
‘Nothing personal mate, you gotta believe that, we can still be mates.’ Bozz, pretty-boy lead singer and last to join the band all those years ago tried to brighten his voice as if it would soften his words.
‘Nothing bloody personal, what is it then, eh? Tell me what’s not fuckin’ personal about being sacked from my own fuckin’ band?’ Jake’s voice broke and he turned away, fighting tears welling up.
‘They want someone more, well, you know, sexy.’ Rab said bashful all of a sudden. He carried on restringing his Warwick bass, determined not to see Jake’s hurt.
‘Sexy! Fuckin’ sexy? What the fuck?’ Jake couldn’t help yelling. ‘Don’t I pull enough is that it?’ He was outraged. ‘I get totty, more than plenty. What’s it gotta do with them or the friggin’ music anyway?’
‘The record company won’t sign us if you’re still in the band.’ Mickey twirled his sticks as he spoke. He was always the ambitious one and he was damned if he’d let personal allegiances get in the way of his chance to hit the big time. If the label wanted Jake to go, Jake had to go.
‘More of a showman sort of thing; the girls like that,’ whispered Bozz, ‘a proper axe-man.’
‘Won’t sign the band? Are you friggin nuts? I write the bloody songs.’ Jake towered over Mickey, the Gibson now resting against the SSL mixing desk, his fists at his sides, ready to strike. ‘Not enough of a …..? They saw the festival video; they loved it, that’s why they wanted us they said.’
‘They think you’re too static, you don’t move enough, and I think they’ve got a point,’ Mickey smirked, ‘you just ain’t sexy mate. As for pulling, well, you pull all right but you’re too scared to do anything about it, it doesn’t look good; you’re almost married, it’s not cool.’
‘I don’t fuckin’ pull…what about you then, eh Mickey? Who do you pull eh?’
Jake grabbed a nearby mic stand, swinging it at Mickey who ducked down in his seat just in time, ‘Hey, man, cool it!’
‘Seems they want us, Jake, not you,’ Rab looked up sheepishly, ‘and the video convinced them you don’t cut it live mate. They want a real axe-man, like Page or Townsend or Slash even…’
‘Yeah, sorry mate, after coming to all the gigs, that video did it,’ Bozz shrugged at his friend, glancing at the others, ‘they don’t think you’ve got it, we tried to change their minds, didn’t we?’
‘Right! I just bet you friggin’ did.’ Jake shook his long blonde curls and grabbed the mic stand again. ‘So what’s the deal then? Who’ve you got just happened to be waiting in the wings then, eh? Not that fucker from Dawn Treader?’ Jake stuck his face right into Mickey’s. ‘Yeah, that’s about right, that wanker’s always hanging around you isn’t he, Mickey, got well in has he?’
‘Cool it Jake.’ Their engineer/producer Bo Baldacci came into the studio, DAT copies of the final mixes for their label financed demo ready to hand over to the A&R manager at Gypsy Records. ‘Take that shit outside; I don’t want any aggro in here.’
‘So you’re some sort of bloody Freddie Mercury or Robert Plant, are you Bozz? That’s a friggin’ laugh! And don’t forget our ultra-sexy bass player, what a joke! Of course we’ve got Moonie on the drums, or is it John Bonham?’ Jake fumed.
‘If I’m out the band you can’t use my songs, so hand over all the mixes Bo, let them write their own fuckin’ songs, see how far they get then.’ Jake made a grab for the DATs and Mickey leapt up and smacked Jake in the face with his unopened can of Stella.
‘They’re not just your songs you pillock, we co-wrote them, you agreed; four-way splits on all the songs, so they’re not YOUR bleedin’ songs anymore!’ Mickey ducked as the mic stand headed his way again.
‘But Mickey, we never did…..’ Bozz didn’t finish as the mic stand whooshed over his head.
‘I’m taking them back; you’ll get nothing without them, nothing without me. I can prove they’re mine, you can’t.’
‘Cut it out!’ Bo shouted grabbing the mic stand as it narrowly missed his head as well. ‘Jake, haul your arse out of here, now!’
Jake held his face where Mickey had bashed him; eyes filled with hatred he grabbed his guitar case and placed his beloved Gibson inside. He took his book of lyrics off the desk and shoved it inside his back-pack. Bozz stared at the floor, totally gutted at what had just happened to his childhood mate. He really didn’t like this one bit. Rab shook his long brown hair, his face in his hands, seriously freaked by it all. But neither would rock the boat, ruin their chances, and miss out of the chance of a lifetime, however distasteful.
Only Mickey seemed to be fine with things, he glared at Jake, and then sat back down tapping out a rhythm on the arm of the sofa with his new Zildjian sticks. The band was getting sponsorship deals for their gear, arranged by the record company; lots of perks were coming their way. And not just perks; there were the advances from the record deal and the publishing to look forward to. Why should they lose out on all this because of Jake? Nope, he wasn’t going to miss out because of that stupid bastard. No way.
‘Go home Jake, I’ll get your stack to you and the rest of your gear tomorrow.’ Bo held the control room door open.
‘This isn’t the end, you bunch of shits; you’ll come crawling back when you need new material. Well screw you, screw the fuckin’ lot of you!’ Jake kicked the desk as he passed Bo.
About Jane Risdon
Jane Risdon has worked most of her adult life in the International Music Business following a spell at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and various other government departments in her youth. She married a musician and they later went into management of singers, songwriters, musicians and record producers which took them all over the world. However, Jane always hankered to write but life on the road and in recording studios didn’t allow her any spare time. Five years ago she found the time and has been writing ever since. Her main genres are a mix of crime/thrillers and espionage. However, she does venture into other genres if the story dictates. Jane also writes short stories and is featured in several anthologies. She was signed to Accent Press in 2014 and is working on a series of crime novels – Ms Birdsong Investigates. Later in 2016 her co-written novel with award-winning author Christina Jones is due to be published. Set in the late 1960s the story follows two girls in love with the same musician and embraces the music, fashions, world events and the vibe of the Swinging Sixties.
Connect with Jane
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8
Accent Press Author Page: http://www.accentpress.co.uk/jane-risdon