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An Early Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s with Designer/Author Jane Dixon Smith

Sally Lunns Tea HouseJane_12_SMALLHi Jane and welcome to Bath and Sally Lunn’s.  It’s lovely to be able to talk to you today and the first question I always ask my guests is to tell me a little bit about themselves.  Now I know you live in the Lake District and have created some amazing book covers but that’s about all. 

Maybe you could expand a little.

As well as writing and designing I also run the writing magazine Words with JAM – it fits really well with everything that I do, each aspect of my professional life working in conjunction with the others. I also have three boys aged 7 and nearly 3-year-old twins. They definitely keep me busy, but not being tied to working certain hours in an office is amazing and allows me to spend time with them and fit work around them.

How did JD Smith Design come about?

I’ve been a graphic designer since I left school, and I’ve always had an interest in writing. So when I was made redundant in April 2012 and decided to go freelance, I naturally found my main source of work was writers wanting book cover design and formatting, and I love it, I really do.

What do you most enjoy about creating book covers for writers?

I have a passion for books generally, so being a huge part of the physical book production process is extremely rewarding. I also love being able to give authors the opportunity to have input into visualising their books that they wouldn’t get in the traditional process.

How long have you been writing yourself and what made you want to take on this new role?

I’ve been writing for nearly eight years now and have written three and a half novels and numerous short stories. I used to sub a long time ago to agents, but writing isn’t something I want or need to do full time. I don’t have that passion about publication that others have, I like writing for myself. But working closely with Triskele Books on their book design, I was really inspired, and when I was asked if I would publish Tristan and Iseult with them for their June 2013 collection, I couldn’t resist being a part of the team.

Can you tell us about your route to publication?

Triskele Books is an author collective. We each retain our own rights, royalties and have full control of our material. The only difference is that we work closely together, ensuring everything produced is high quality material, fully copyedited and proofread and we assist each other in marketing and sharing information. It’s a really great support network which keeps everyone motivated.

The legend of Tristan and Iseult is well-known and, I think, a really sad one.  What made you choose  this and how did you go about put your own Tristan and Iseult Cover MEDIUMinterpretation on it?

It is a sad one. I chose it primarily because I have a keen interesting in history and legend. Particularly when there’s a lot of fact surrounding it, and especially this one because it’s based in Britain, or Briton, as it was then. I would have rewritten the legend of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, but I think that one may be a little too ‘done’. As for my own interpretation, I’m not entirely sure I have, or not consciously. I know the basic facts of the 12th century French poetry, and the film produced by Ridley Scott, but, I don’t know, I just sort of have the characters and the basic structure from documentation then I flesh it out, and as I do I subconsciously tweak and change things to make them better. I think that’s what every writer does.

So what are you planning next?  Will you stay with the historical theme or choose a completely different subject?

Historical. I don’t think I could write anything else. I already have a series well under way documenting the rise of the third century Palmyrene Queen Zenobia, who rebelled against the Roman Empire. The first book will be released in time for Christmas.

And now for the frivolous questions – what three things would you take with you if you had to go and spend time alone on a desert island and why?

My phone because I can’t live without it. And probably a spare one just in case the first one broke. And a football called Wilson … just kidding. I’m not sure I’d be very good at being on a desert island for any great length of time. I’d start inventing all sorts of jobs to do. Within a month it would have its own economy.

And if you were hosting a dinner party, name four people you would like to invite and the reasons behind the invitation.

Other than four of my own friends? Hmm, tricky one. Sean Bean because I’ve always fancied him. Jonathan Ross because I like his sense of humour. Bernard Cornwell because he’s my favourite author. And Dave Lamb from Come Dine With Me so that he can ridicule me in person.

Many thanks for coming along and giving us a peek into your world, it was great to meet the person who has designed such fabulous covers for so many writers, including me!

To learn more about Jane and her work just click on the links below:


Triskele Books:

Words with JAM

JD Smith Design

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Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s with reviewer Shaz Goodwin

Sally Lunns Tea HouseDSCF1675Welcome Shaz to Tea and Talk, lovely to see you here and a first for me interviewing a reviewer and not a writer as I usually do.

Thank you for inviting me Jo.  I’m looking forward to this * gets comfortable *

First, to kick off, I know you live in Dorset and are near the sea, -something which I’m very envious of -but could you tell us a little about yourself, your family and of course your animals.

I was born here although I have no heritage here!  My father was a Londoner and mother originally from Devon so it was quite difficult for me as a child as my peers had families going back generations and generations.  Not that I didn’t have any friends! but we were seen as the ‘outsiders’.

My OH is from Berkshire so when I offered to move there (gulp) I was extremely glad he wanted to move here!  Next year it’s our 25th wedding anniversary (seriously, where does time go?) and I’m hoping we’ll go back to Fowey, where we spent the first week of our honeymoon.

My eldest son is off to Uni this September (we don’t see very much of him now so I think we will probably see more of him when he moves out!) and youngest son is going into his second year of college.  Both boys have chosen to study media, animations, 3D graphics etc.  I am quite jealous truth to be told …

At the moment we have another addition to the household in the form of youngest son’s friend.  He’s had rather a stormy family background in the past, recently kicked out of home, he’s staying with us.  He’s no trouble at all.

We still have one of our cats, Baggins, with us.  He’s recently had his 16th birthday and he’s been with us since 6 weeks old.  We had to say goodbye to his half-brother, Barney, just before Christmas and I was devastated.  He was my shadow and I still miss him.  Taz is our cross-breed rescue dog and entertains us on most days … he is such a character!  It’s thanks to him that we have to get out in all weathers.  We’re living a much healthier lifestyle.

How long have you been a reviewer and what exactly made you take this up?

I’ve been reviewing since February 2011.  Having always been an avid reader, when I realised that such things as book blogs existed I couldn’t believe that this opportunity to share my love of the written word existed!  I started with reviewing books and Jera’s Jamboree has grown to encompass other features too.

I know you review a wide variety of books but have you a favourite genre?

I always find this question really difficult to answer because honestly, I don’t.  As long as the plot and characters take me on a journey that leaves the outside world behind, that I can be completely engrossed in, the story can be any genre.  The one genre I am quite ‘picky’ about is erotica.  It has to have a strong plot at the foundation for me to want to pick it up.

Is there any one book which has been a special favourite?

I’m going back to my childhood to answer this question Jo.  It has to be Enid Blyton’s The   Faraway Tree.  All of those magical journeys to different lands to be found at the top of the tree!  Always a new ‘moral’ to ponder on and such fab names too – Moonface and Saucepan Man!   Adventures that have stayed in my memory.

Yes I remember The Faraway Tree, we used to have it read to us when I was in junior school!  You have a website – Jera’s Jamboree – besides your reviewing is there anything else which features there?

I also host guest posts, interviews, book news, promotional posts, writing news, giveaways and my popular ‘Stationery Love’ feature.  Once a year I post my top reads.  I also enjoy being creative so once in a while you’ll see my blog’s theme and icons change.

Do you have a typical day?

During term-time, I’ll be up just after 6.  There’s not such a thing as a typical day in school as everything I do meets the needs of the school community so although I may have blocked time in my schedule to do certain tasks, it often gets rearranged.  As soon as I’m home, the laptop goes on and I catch up with social media.  Often my OH will come home from work and I haven’t even thought about a meal.  He’ll often start the cooking …  I’ll check in to my work emails and then after dinner it’s a dog walk which has more value than anything else for relaxing and bringing peace and being centred.  This marks the time between the end of the working day and the start of my leisure day.

During half-term/end of term holidays it’s totally different!  I wake up when my body is ready, potter around, meet up with friends, have pampering sessions, read when I want, log on to the laptop when I want, dog walks at lunch etc.  I love the freedom of not being ruled by time!

If you were marooned on a desert island, what would be the essential three things you would want to have with you and why?

I’ve been pondering this question for an age and all I have in my head is ‘On The Island’ by Tracey Garvis Graves!   So with this in mind I would have to take a companion and my choice is Ed Westwick = for keeping me sane, gorgeous eye candy for uplifting the spirits (essential) oh and doing the macho things and keeping me safe (and of course he’s much younger than me).   A Porta Potty (reducing the chances of getting my bum bitten) with an endless supply of aloe vera leaves which grow in abundance on my island!  My last choice has to be ripstop nylon, very versatile ie tent, clothing but I’m thinking of making a kite with driftwood for the spars and skis …

If you could invite four guests to dinner who would they be and why would you choose them?

Well Jo, I’m fascinated with DNA and research so …Brian Sykes (The Seven Daughters and Adam’s Curse), Paramahansa Yogananda to tie the DNA in with ancient wisdom – and maybe learn a little spiritual wisdom myself.  Next on my list would be biologist Toby J Gibson – he could put his research of molecular biology (including DNA finds) to the group.  Finally, the late Douglas Adams.  He could give everything a quirky and fun twist.  I’m sure the discussions would be mind-blowing!

Many thanks Shaz for taking the time to drop in to Tea and Talk, it’s been a really enjoyable chat!  If you would like to learn more about Shaz and her work just click on the links below –

Jera’s Jamboree

Facebook Jera’s Jamboree

Twitter @shazjera



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