Welcome to Scribbler’s Jane.
Hi Scribblers, thanks so much for the opportunity to tell you more about myself. I really appreciate it.
What would you most like your readers to know about you that they would not likely read in your official bio?
Gosh that is a hard one. Let’s see. I have so much I could put here. I’ve recorded the voice over for a United Airlines introduction to ‘in-flight’ entertainment featuring one of our recording artists whose material was played on long-haul flights from America world-wide. That was fun.
I’ve done the ‘talk-down’ for American Air Force Fighter Pilots practicing landings and take-off – barely touching the runway – from an American Air Force Base Flight Control Tower in the mid-West of the USA. We were on tour with a band we managed and our Radio station representative decided to take us on a detour to meet up with some old Air Force buddies. We went into the control tower and I was invited to take over flight control – talking directly to the pilots, guiding them down and then up again, as they went through their practice. So very exciting.
I’ve been interviewed by the (then) BBC World Service – radio - as part of their series in the 90s – Women in Rock. As a female artist manager they were interested in my take on all aspects of working in a mostly male environment, and in such a competitive industry where failure is annihilation.
Tell us Scribbler’s a bit about your story; Only One Woman and what inspired it?
This is a long story, so I will try and keep it as brief as possible. I’m married to a musician, I met him when I was 16 and he was 18, when his band came to England to record and tour. The band’s management employed a fan-club secretary who was a rock/pop journalist and short story writer for Teen magazines - Christina. Through our connection – my husband’s band - we all became great friends.
She went on to become a best-selling award-winning author and I married my musician and when he grew tired of touring, we went into international artist/record producer management.
Christina and I had always talked of writing together. It was my dream to be a crime writer – but time was always against me. Christine’ssuccessful writing career, and my constant touring internationally wasn’t conducive, andwe kept putting it off. Besides, she doesn’t write crime and I don’t write Bucolic Frolics (her genre of Romance) so eventually we decided that as we had a shared past with a love of music, fashion - all things late 1960s - we should use our experiences to write about those times. Eventually we decided to stop messing about and get on with it.
Drawing upon all our shared experience we decided that it would be great to tell a story through the POV of two young girls, caught up in the excitement and vibe that was 1968/1969, and that they would also fall in love with the same musician. That enabled us to litter the story with music and also show just what the music and fashion scene was like in England during those first heady days of what became known as the British Invasion - of music - around the world. They lived through some major events in history too and these are woven into the story too.
Is this story at all autobiographical?
It is not, but of course like most writers we use what we know to embroider our stories. There are elements of us both in the two main characters I am sure; Christina was a rock and pop journalist who wrote short stories – just as Stella does in the book. My boyfriend – later my husband – was a lead guitarist and his band came to the mainland for touring and recording and that is when we met - just they way Renza met Scott.
They say write what you know and we have done so, with lots of poetic license and imagination.
You wrote this with Christina Jones. How did it feel to write a collaborative story with another writer; did you have a lot of differences? How did you mesh your two voices together?
It has been a challenge. We don’t live near each other and everything has been done via email and Facebook…how 21st century!
We met up a few times to chat about the book generally but she was caught up in several deadlines for producing novels for her then publishers and I was very shyly writing crime stories – short stories and a couple of novels – with no real intention of anyone ever seeing them.
I moved home and whilst unpacking came across old letters, post cards, diaries and tour posters from my husband’s group days, and I began to make notes. The notes became a story with diary entries as the headings and Only One Woman began to take shape. Christina joined in and we wrote it over a period of years.
I had by this time signed with a publisher, which I later found out was publishing some of Christina’s books, and she sent the first few chapters to them – telling me afterwards. They signed the novel immediately and we had a publishing date of 2014. Due to various reasons this was changed several times and at last Only One Woman is being published November 23rd 2017.
Apart from time constraints and a lot of research we’ve both had to do regarding everything 1968/1968, it has not been difficult. I don’t know why but our ‘voices’ seemed to merge really well. I suppose our shared musical background and love of that era has shone through. We hope so. Only our readers will know and I am sure they’ll tell us.
Neither of us have ever done this before so it has been a learning curve for us both. Writing with someone who is so experienced and with such a fabulous track record was daunting to begin with but she was nothing but kind and helpful and encouraging. She was the person – other than my husband - who made me believe I could write and supported my efforts. If it hadn’t been for her reading my early stories I would never have climbed out of my hole and entertained the idea of showing my work or being published. She was very trusting of me placing her name with mine on a novel.
How much influence do your characters have on the direction the story takes?
Mostly my experience is with crime writing and I am forever surprised at the actions of my characters and where the story goes. I never have an ending planned and write by the seat of my pants. Exciting but it can get hairy. Ms. Birdsong Investigates – my series featuring a former MI5 Officer fallen from grace and going nuts in rural village until she becomes involved with Russian Mafia, Ukrainian gun and drug runners and murder - is very unpredictable. She does the most amazing things without ever asking me first. She writes her stories and I just follow obediently.
Only One Woman was a little more planned in that the diaries, cards, letters and posters were a starting point and so Renza was the main character to begin with and her voice drove the story until Christina – and Stella – took over. Writing the novel in diary format enables both characters to take the lead and to tell their own story according to a time-line.
If Only One Woman were to be made into a movie, who would you cast as Renza, Stella & Scott?
I’ve been asked this before and my answer is always the same. I have no idea. If we were in the late 1960s I could name several actors/actresses to play the leads but having worked in Hollywood and been involved with movies and television series, I know that the whole story would end up being changed to fit ‘Hollywood,’ and the leads would all be American so what we’d end up with as a movie would be ions away from what we’ve written. They’d put an American lead in to ‘sell’ the movie to American audiences - that is how things work. If someone says they want to make a movie, I am sure we can swallow our pride…
How do you normally begin your stories – with a phrase, a character?
I get ideas from over-heard conversations, news items, or from my own experiences more often than not. I try to write the same way I’d make a record. Start with a good hook and draw the reader in as fast as possible. Writing for me is just like creating a piece of recorded music. The highs and lows – action - and constant theme (chorus and melody) which embeds itself (one hopes) in the mind of the reader (listener) ending with a climax leaving the reader/listener wanting more…well that is the plan anyway.
Only One Woman begins with Renza’s thoughts as she rushes home from the Top Rank where she and her friends have seen The Equals playing.
‘…What a flipping nightmare of an evening. I really thought I’d never get home inone piece.Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Someone up there hates me I’m sure…’
What is your opinion on self-publishing vs traditional publishing?
My knowledge of self-publishing is zilch. I have not gone that route so far. I’ve contributed to anthologies which have been published by groups of authors but I have never been involved in the publication side.
I know I’m always comparing writing with music but there are so many similarities. Take a large record company signing new artists, they are enthusiastic about the artist, and often really push the boat out for them with money thrown into PR and marketing, making sure the record has the best producers working on it and that they spend a lot of money on videos and radio exposure and possibly touring. The artist receives an advance (or not) to pay for all this and if there is anything left over, they get some cash to spend on what they like. It is all recoupable from future sales. So the artist is in debt from day one.
If the artist is lucky the record sells and everyone is happy and recoupable advances are paid off and the next record advance is paid and the process begins again. Any un-recouped advance is rolled over to the next album(s) and added to additional advances and so on. If the artist never recoups by the time they split from the label the money is written off. This is why so many artists are actually broke.
However, typically a record company allows so many weeks for the record to do well – to sell and chart. If it is not charting, sales are not happening fast enough and everything is taking too long, well, they don’t actually stop working the record they tell you, but in actual fact they are concentrating on the other artists releasing at that time. They concentrate all their efforts on their ‘star’ artists anyway, so until they ‘break’ an act, it is a case of sink or swim.
I see this with book publishing.
Back in the late 1980s and 1990s the music business was in the doldrums and frustration with the way the business operated saw the birth of the Indie record labels, and home recording. There weren’t any advances, and the artists had to survive the best they could. The live scene died due to lack of financial input by the established record labels – pay to play became common in most venues where new bands cut their teeth. Major record companies became lazy and they began to trawl the Indie labels for artists who had created a ‘buzz,’ developed their own ‘following’ and had something the bigger companies could move in on and benefit from – all the hard work having been done for them.Some of those artists became successful and others didn’t. The major record labels dropped those who took too long to make money – the accountants had begun running the music business.
I can see similarities with book publishing, as I said. There is a lot to be said for control of your output, about keeping money you earn without paying the middle man. But, hit the jackpot with a major player with their resources and contacts, with a big push – well, one could find oneself as a New York Times best-seller and a major book prize recipient. In my opinion it doesn’t hurt to try either route as a writer. Whatever feels right.
Do you write to a specific word count daily or write to the inspiration of your muse?
I have no idea about muses – I don’t think I have one. I thought painters had those. I write whatever comes to mind and I write until I am done. It may take a week and it may take a few years, but I please myself in the main unless I am meeting deadlines set for me.
I often have to write to deadlines and word counts for projects. It doesn’t worry me to have to do so. As I’ve said, I can relate book writing to record production and song-writing too. Discipline kicks in. One has a time-line for release and one has to provide so many songs per album to get written and produced within that time. One has approximately 3minutes to about 3.5 minutes per song to write – so one gets on with it. If I have been told to write 90,000 words in a month I will do it.
If I set myself goals for my own non-publisher projects, I’d never reach them, however. I write when I feel like it and the story dictates the length of the piece. It is done when it is done.
There wasn’t a word count for Only One Woman. The story is about 160,000 words long – it is as long as it needed to be to tell the story.
If you were going to give only one tip to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Go for it. You have no idea what you can achieve until you try.
What books or other projects do you have coming out in the near future?
Book one in my series, Ms. Birdsong Investigates: Murder at Ampney Parva is in with my publisher. I hope they’ll take it. I’ve part written books two and three so far.
I’ve started part two of Only One Woman – name to be decided – which follows Renza on her adventures beyond 1969. Our editor thought it was a good idea to begin it, just in case there is a demand to know what happened next. It is quite a tale. Stella appears later on. So part two is mainly about Renza. There may well be a book three…
I’m always writing short stories and contributing towards anthologies – often for Charity.
I’m part way thorough a novel based in Bollywood following two English men and their fortunes following the Mumbai bombings in 2008.
I have enough work to keep me out of mischief for years to come.
Thanks once more for this fab opportunity to share my story with you all. Much appreciated. Jane x
Only One Woman is published on 23rd November 2017: e-book and POD paperback
The Paperback for stores and Audio-book will be published 24th May 2018.
Only one Woman is on pre-order on Amazon in UK/USA/Australia:
Only One Woman Playlists for Renza and Stella:
Only One Woman Facebook Page:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8