Good morning to everyone on this rainy saturday morning. I’m sitting in my office watching the raindrops bounce on the patio table, while the leaves fall from the tree, all over my beautifully mowed lawn (guess what I’ll be doing later..!!)
Lynda: Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Jane Risdon, author of In a word: Murder
Lynda: Before we start, I’d like to say… “Get well soon”
Jane has recently had quite a serious operation on her shoulder and collar bone to repair the damage that she did when falling down the staircase at her sister’s house.
Lynda: I asked Jane to tell me about herself, this was her amazing reply:
Jane Risdon: I began writing at an early age but didn’t take it up seriously until about four years ago. Having spent most of my adult life working in the International Music Business, working with song-writers, singers, record producers and in music publishing and production I spent most of my time on the road, touring, in the studio recording, or making music videos, so there was little time to concentrate on writing in any serious manner. An old friend, a successful award-winning writer, read some of my work and encouraged me to make time for myself and my own dreams and asked me to co-write a book with her. This is now underway. It is a departure from my usual Crime/Mystery stories and so many of my readers may well be surprised when it’s finally published.
I’m also working on several novels and short stories – some of which have been published on-line and in anthologies, as well as being pod-cast from time to time. I also write flash fiction.
I’m married to a musician whom I met when his band came to live nearby when I was still at school. We eventually worked together travelling the world with our artists and living in many countries over the years. We have one son and three grandchildren.
Lynda: Wow Jane, that’s quite impressive. I know who to contact if ever I want a rock star hero for my novel.
Lynda: What is your favourite memory of writing?
Jane Risdon: I think it was probably when I actually managed to complete the first draft of Ms Birdsong Investigates – 100,000 words which made sense to me and looked like a ‘real’ manuscript. I was over-awed and thrilled and kept looking at it and wondering how on earth I managed to find all those words.
Jane Risdon: I get inspiration from all over the show. Sometimes I draw on past experiences – a lot of my stories are music based (but not all) and I often include an element of espionage in my stories which I guess comes from when I worked in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before I got married. I walk a lot and take photos and get inspiration from what I see – ideas for locations mainly. I find I get the title of a story pop into my head and then I have to go and write something related. The News, people I meet and conversations I over-hear – have inspired me.
Jane Risdon: I’m working on at the time. However, having said that I really love Ms Birdsong (Ms Birdsong Investigates); she is the ex MI5 Officer who is ‘retired’ prematurely from the service when a mission goes wrong. She moves to a rural Oxfordshire village, Ampney Parva in the Vale of the White Horse, and old habits die hard and she cannot resist keeping her neighbours under surveillance. Soon she finds herself investigating murder.
Lynda: Who is your perfect hero/heroine
Jane Risdon: Well, as you may have gathered by now I don’t write romance, I write crime and mystery, and so I am not sure I have any heroes in the sense you might be expecting me to have.
My heroes (heroines) would be from books such as Frenchman’s Creek (Daphne Du Maurier) and Jamaica Inn – strong female characters I suppose. I love the characters in Agatha Christie’s books –
Ms Marple is amazing and I love her intellect and powers of deduction and perception. I adore Doris Day for many reasons (not a writer of course) but mainly for her hard work and determination as an artist, and her sheer talent of course.
In general I am not one to have heroes/heroines and so I suppose I must disappoint with my response to this question; sorry.
Lynda: Not at all, it’s a good response.! I loved both Doris Day and Ms Marple.
Lynda: Would you ever used parts of your own life in a novel?
Jane Risdon: I guess the answer to this is yes. I have tried not to but with the life I’ve led and having encountered the people (characters) I’ve met over the years and worked with, it would be hard not to base some of my characters and situations on my own life experiences. As I mentioned before I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when young and coupled with an over-active imagination and a love of Spy novels and all things Espionage, I would be daft not to use this knowledge in some of my stories. The Music business in Hollywood and London and around the world in general is exciting, full of over the top and larger than life characters and spilling over with lust, greed; high-powered individuals whose reach extends further than the business of selling music. Where there is money and power there is always crime of one sort or another and the Music business is littered with shady characters; a feast for someone like me. All names changed of course as I cannot afford to be sued or wake up to find a horse’s head in my bed or to take a swim wearing concrete boots!
Lynda: I would love to know more about Espionage… I’ll go make the tea..!!
Lynda: Now we’ve had tea. (some two hours later, Jane has so many stories, I could seriously listen all day.
Lynda: Could I ask, when is your favourite time of year to write?
Jane Risdon: I don’t think I have one, although I do love the summer when the mornings are light from very early on and I can sit and write without distractions. But then, I also love the cold winter months when I can shut the world out, have a lovely cup of tea beside me and possibly a good thriller on the TV or radio for background noise as I write.
Jane Risdon: Oh dear, I fear I am going to be a pain again and say neither. Well, unless they are savoury biscuits along with a strong Stilton cheese. When I write I like to nibble on liquorice, does that count?
Lynda: Ohhhhhhhh crakers and stilton… don’t mind if I do.!!
Jane Risdon: I think you are going to regret asking this one Lynda. Where to start?
Okay, ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’. She has taken me an age to write, family things have been getting in the way and then I fell down the stairs and injured myself so typing is difficult and this has all messed with my timeline regarding my writing, especially Ms. B.
Having had to leave her alone for a while – I wanted to think about her some more and change lots of things – I came back to her this year and found that my writing has improved since I left her alone. So I am writing parts again, messing around with the story in general and generally giving her a good old spring clean. Whilst doing this I have managed to write two stand-alone Ms B. stories (novels) which I think will be part of a series involving her. So now I have Mrs. Birdsong Investigates – my first Ms B. novel, then there is ‘Murder at the Observatory,’ and recently ‘The Safe House’. I hope to publish these this year.
I am working on various projects for Charity anthologies – I am proud to have had stories included in three anthologies to date: In A Word: Murder, I Am Woman Vol. 1 and Telling Tales. Another anthology is on the cards for Christmas this year. The short story I have written for this is so far is called ‘The Stalker,’ and I am working on another story which for the moment is called ‘Dying to Meet You’.
In addition to the short stories and flash fiction I often write – and really enjoy – I am working on a series of what I call Observational Humour short stories, ‘God’s Waiting Room,’ which is based on my experiences staying in a rural village and having to take the bus into town. The same characters often waited for the bus with me and gave me such an entertaining time with their stories and experiences during the War and other events in their lives….I had to write about them.
My life and times in Music have inspired my novel – called ‘La La Land,’ for now – it features two rock musicians from England auditioning for a Super Star’s touring band in Hollywood and what happens to them; all based on fact. It is about half way completed.
Having researched Family History for almost four decades I’ve written a novel called ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,’ about an English family discovering Southern Irish relations and their visit to meet them for the first time, and what happens; highlighting the differences between the English and the Irish. This is almost completed.
I have been working on a novel set in Bollywood, the Mumbai movie business, featuring two Englishmen stranded in the city after the Mumbai bombings and their encounter with the underworld there. This is about a quarter of the way through.
So you see I am busy and although it must seem chaotic going from one book to another, I find it stops me getting bored or too bogged down. I relate the process to writing and recording songs in that it is all done in stages and sometimes one part is started but cannot be completed until another part is worked upon, and I guess it is a habit I’ve got myself into. It works for me. Whether any of my work is worth the effort will only become apparent if/when people buy my books.
Lynda: That’s amazing Jane, I find that I can only work on one project at a time. So credit where credit is due. Keep spinning those plates..!!
Lynda: Could I ask, other than having major operations. What’s happening next?
Jane Risdon: Throughout the summer of 2014 I’ve been submitting to Publishers, for the first time, just testing the water and gaining experience in just how to go about it all. I didn’t submit any of my novels (still WIP anyway) but put together a collection of my Short Stories (mainly crime/mystery) as a collection which I thought some might be interested in. In fact, some publisher websites asked specifically for collections and detailed genre, word count and so forth, but when I submitted I was told many don’t accept one single author’s collections as they are not always easy to sell, and that I should submit just the one story of a given length. I know, why ask for them and then say they don’t publish them any longer!
I am still waiting to hear back from several who are not giving decisions until early October, but I was also asked to send more stories to various companies – which I did – who were interested in publishing novelettes and novellas from 3,000-10,000 words. I await the outcome with baited breath. However, I did receive an offer from one company which turned out to be a Vanity Publisher, which I passed on. Last year I had an offer from a publisher where a friend had put a good word in for me – but I didn’t give them a decision due to the amount of work and time required as I was not able to undertake such a mammoth task due to my physical condition at that time. I believe the door is still open so when I complete Ms Birdsong Investigates, and if I am in need of another publisher by then, I shall consider them.
In July I submitted to Accent Press Ltd and after two months got a reply. They don’t publish single author collections but wanted to know if I’d be interested in submitting a short story towards their Halloween anthology, and also one for their Christmas anthology. I said I’d give it a go – having looked them up I thought they had a good track record and I know some of the authors they publish.
I’ve not really written a Ghost story before – unless you count The Ghost in the Privy – which is part of a series I’ve been writing, for a while, called God’s Waiting Room. This story is a comedy, and has been published in Telling Tales, an anthology published by Moonworks in 2012. I didn’t think it suited this publisher’s requirements, so I sat down and contemplated the blank screen for a while and then out popped The Haunting of Anne Chambers.
Last year I got really good feed-back from readers and writers about my two flash fiction pieces called The Secret of Willow Cottage: the Tale of the Reluctant Bride, and the prequel called The Secret of Willow Cottage: The Tale of the Jilted Lover, which is a love story-cum-pirate story. My inspiration came from my research into Piracy for these stories. Hence, The Haunting of Anne Chambers.
I was offered a contract by Accent Press Ltd for my story with options on my others and it has now been signed and editing is almost completed. The title of the collection it is included in is called Shiver and features best-selling authors: Andrea Frazer, Bill Kitson, Caroline Dunford, Christina Jones, Helena Fairfax, Tricia Maw, Marie Laval, Cara Cooper and David Rogers – and me!
Publication date is early October.
My Christmas story, awaiting a decision about being published in their anthology, is called Merry Christmas Everybody. It is based on a true story – my own experiences when working in a recording studio one Christmas soon after the death of a rock super-star. It was the time of the Lockerbie disaster over Scotland (plane blown up), and I shall never forget it. If anyone read and liked my stories, Dreamer or Hollywood Cover Up (In A Word: Murder anthology), they’ll know what to expect from this story – there are some four-letter words. If you’ve ever worked with rock bands or in the Movie/TV business in Los Angeles, you’ll be used to it. Be warned.
Lynda: How can people hear more about your work?
Jane Risdon: Links to SHIVER and where to buy it will be posted on my author blog http://wp.me/2dg55 when I know the publication date. It will also be posted on my Facebook authorpage http://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2 at that time.
Lynda: Thank you so much for joining me today. Really enjoyed chatting to you, and loved the tea, cakes, crackers and stilton. Shall we open the wine?