Before my first book was published, romance author, Jane Jackson, was incredibly generous with her time by answering some questions I had about the publishing industry. A professional writer for thirty years, three times shortlisted for major Awards, today is the launch date for Jane’s 29th published novel, The Consul’s Daughter. Married with a growing family, she has lived in Cornwall all her life where wonderful scenery, fascinating history and pioneering inventors provide inspiration for both her historical adventure romances and her new Polvellan Cornish Mystery series. I am, understandably, delighted such an experienced and successful author has agreed to be my first guest.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today, Jane, as I understand 2015 has been a busy year for you so far. Are you able to tell us a little about what you have been up to?
I’ve been working on a sequel to The Consul’s Daughter but took a break to write the third of my Polvellan Cornish Mysteries, The Loner, which I hope to finish by the end of July. Then it’s back to complete The Master’s Wife. After that I’ll begin research for a trilogy of historical thrillers. I also have outlines drafted for four more Polvellan Mysteries. Because these are present-day and at 25,000 words much shorter, writing them makes a lovely change even though they need just as much research!
You have enjoyed a very successful career as a writer, was there a particular moment, incident or book that inspired you to write your first novel?
There was. It came about through a combination of circumstances. I was a single parent with two small children and an ulcer which meant my life revolved around playschool and domestic life. I’d loved reading since I was four, so I decided to have a go at writing something. I finished a Correspondence Course in Writing that my mother had abandoned. I enjoyed the challenge and learning something new, but realised that journalism and writing for TV weren’t for me. Then I had a nightmare. In my dream I ‘saw’ a bar in an old Cornish pub, and a group of fishermen who were members of the village male voice choir. One of the men started laughing. At first everyone was amused. But he didn’t – couldn’t – stop and he laughed himself to death. It was still vivid in my mind next morning. I wondered if such a thing could actually happen (it could, and had) and discovered the joys of research. Deadly Feast took three years to research and write. It was accepted by Robert Hale and I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
How long does it take to write a book now and do you have any writing quirks or habits that help with the writing process?
The length of time varies depending on the length of book. I always get drawn along unexpected paths of research and end up doing far more than I need. But of what I learn, 90% remains under the surface supporting the 10% that appears in the story. My longer novels take between 8-10 months to write. One quirk I have is to begin researching the next when I’m ¾ of the way through the current one. This means that though I still suffer end-of-book-blues, they can’t last long as the next one is demanding to be written. My Polvellan stories take 2-3 months each. Another habit is to do a rolling edit – re-reading the previous day’s work as soon as I sit down. This gets me tuned into the story and raring to move it along. When the book is finished it gets another careful read-through so it’s as good as I can get it before it goes to my editor for his input.
As an experienced author, is there anything you have learnt during your writing career that has surprised you?
The way the characters in my books become absolutely real to me. They are a product of my imagination, yet it’s as if they actually exist in another dimension and I’ve found a way from my world into theirs allowing me to live the events and emotions. Though I plan my stories in detail, the characters make choices and take actions I hadn’t foreseen. These have consequences which add further layers to the story.
I can certainly relate to that. If you had to choose a career that had nothing to do with writing, what would it be and why?
When I was at school I wanted to work in a pathology lab. What appealed to me were the research and discovery aspects of the work. But I failed maths – twice. So though my potential medical career fell at the first hurdle, my love of research was already in place, waiting to be developed.
So now you use your love of research in your writing career. If your “significant other” had to choose a career for you, what would they choose and why?
I’ve just asked him and his answer made me laugh because he said ‘a pathology lab.’ (I was a fan of the original CSI series, and I also enjoy NCIS and Kathy Reichs’ books.) ‘Or maybe a Records office or archive. Definitely a job where you’d be involved in research.’ He knows me well!
I’d be delighted! Caseley is the 21-year-old daughter of Teuder Bonython, successful shipyard owner and consul for Mexico. When he falls ill, and her brother refuses to be involved, Caseley takes responsibility for the shipyard, the consulate, and her father’s health. Not conventionally beautiful, Caseley also resigns herself to a life without love … until she encounters Jago Barata, half-Spanish captain of a Bonython ship. Jago is fearless, determined, a brilliant sailor – he’s also impudent, arrogant, and unnaturally perceptive. Love is the last thing on Caseley’s mind as their every encounter sets her and Jago at each other’s throats.
But just when she thinks Jago is out of her life for good, Caseley must deliver a letter to Spain on behalf of her father – a letter containing information that could seal the fate of Spain one way or another. It will be a journey filled with doubt, intrigue and danger – and the only ship leaving in time is Jago’s…
It sounds really exciting, what inspired the plot/setting for this latest novel?
In a biography of Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick I read that he spent time in Mexico, installing huge pumping engines at silver mines. I thought that sounded interesting. Then I read that when silver is extracted from copper, lead or zinc ores, the process requires mercury – which was shipped out to Mexico from Spain. But in 1874, the middle of the Victorian era and a favourite period of mine, Spain was gripped by civil war and ships were trapped by a blockade in the port of Bilbao. My historical romances always have a connection to Cornwall. So once I know the background and period (usually inter-dependent) I think ‘what if?’ What if the owner of a ship repair yard also owns and charters ships? What if one of his captains is half-Spanish? What if, being a respected businessman from a long-established family, the yard owner is also a consul? What if he is sent documents from Mexico vital to Spain’s future but he’s too ill to take them himself? What if he has a daughter? What if, a crippled foot caused by the accident that killed her mother has left her with a limp? Unable to dance – an important social skill in young women – she was taught Spanish by a sympathetic teacher? For me, plot grows out of character, and character choices influence development of the plot.
Do you think the names of the main characters in a book are important and why did you choose the names in this latest novel?
Yes, I do think names are important. They need to be right for the period of the story and for the location. They also need to ‘fit’ the characters so you can’t imagine them being called anything else. I chose Caseley, which is actually a Cornish surname, partly because it was different but authentic and I liked the sound of it, partly because at that time children were often named for grandparents, godparents or to flatter someone from whom the family might have ‘expectations.’ Bonython is an old Cornish surname. Caseley Bonython works well. The same applied to giving her father the first name ‘Teuder.’ You have to admit ‘Teuder Bonython’ does have a certain ring to it! My hero is half-Cornish half-Spanish. Jago is Cornish for James. His surname, Barata, is Spanish from his father. But he also has a middle name from his Cornish mother’s family, Lansallos.
Where and when can readers purchase The Consul’s Daughter?
Ebook edition available 2nd July price £2.99
Paperback edition available 30th July price £12.99
Finally, is there anything specific you would like to say to your readers?
Thank you, BD, for inviting me onto your blog. If anyone has further questions I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you, Jane, I’ve really enjoyed our chat today and I wish you all the best for The Consul’s Daughter.