Good morning Jan and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Perhaps I should start with my son who has a birthday today – on May 10th – and I can’t believe he’s 29! I also have two adult step-children in New Zealand and two step-grandchildren.
I live in an extremely beautiful, rugged area of North Wales; perfect for walking the hills, horse-riding (still a passion, although at 58 I no longer ride nutty thoroughbreds) and of course the endless inspiration is right on my doorstep.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? How did your journey begin?
The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. I failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day struggle to make sense of anything numerical!
What gives you the inspiration for your books?
I think there are two major considerations for me. The first is simply Snowdonia and the landscape; plus personal experiences. Some years ago we moved from Cheshire to North Wales. Although Cheshire has its history and pretty rural surroundings aplenty, Wales is far more extreme in both aspects. The castles and the rugged hillsides strewn with stone settlements, druid circles and Roman roads bring out the historical muse in me. To think that I am treading the same path as someone who lived in the Iron Age, is both fascinating and humbling. Snowdonia kick-started my stalled obsession with writing in a very positive way. All this whimsical talk of the past makes me sound as if I write historical-based fiction. Far from it. Much as I admire many other genres I tend to be very much rooted in current times and my work reflects a lot of my own life experiences. But this is where I find the two ideas merge a little because I am most certainly inspired by this Ice Age landscape. What has gone before certainly shapes what we see today, but does it shape what we feel, too?
Are you a plotter or a panster?
I never plot anything. I begin with an idea, usually a strong emotional message and from there the characters must find their own way.
Who are your favourite authors? Have they had any influence on your own writing?
I think the teenage years were my most impressionable and I was a voracious reader: Jilly Cooper, Dick Francis and Winston Graham.
If money was no object what would be your ultimate travel destination?
No where! I don’t really enjoy travel. I’ve done several long-haul flights to Australia, New Zealand, America, Singapore. I don’t especially hanker to go anywhere these days. I think if I had to choose and money was no object it would have to be a luxurious tour of Europe, perhaps taking in the Spanish Riding School of Vienna to get a horse-fix. I enjoy photography, history, good food and wine. I’m not a sun-lover and I can’t sit still for long.
Name four books which are special to you and your reasons for choosing them.
Us, by David Nicholls. I adored everything about this book, such a witty observation of fatherhood and marriage and how we deal with change. Funny, and intensely readable. The Misremembered Man, by Christina McKenna. A strong setting in Ireland and flashbacks to Jamie’s life in an orphanage, and then the present day search for who he is. Poignant, full of powerful authenticity but told with wit and humour too, and the ending was a complete surprise. Mist, by Mary Fitzgerald. This one gave me goosebumps. Set in Snowdonia, it’s a blend of legend and contemporary rural life. I think this novel is a first-class example of why some books might appeal to one person, and leave the next reader cold. Because of the Welsh background I devoured every word. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the landscape, spiritual almost. Me Before You, JoJo Moyes. I’m including this one for sheer originality. A light read, covering an intensely dark subject.
MORE ABOUT JAN
My first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.
Many years later my second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.
Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. I went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections and after a brief partnership with Access Press in 2015, I’ve returned to the freedom of independent publishing.
Fiction which does not fall neatly into a pigeon hole has always been the most difficult to define. In the old days such books wouldn’t be allowed shelf space if they didn’t slot immediately into a commercial list.
As an author I have been described as a combination of literary-contemporary-romantic-comedy-rural-realism-family-saga; oh, and with an occasional criminal twist and a lot of the time, written from the male viewpoint.
No question my books are Contemporary. Family and Realism; these two must surely go hand-in-hand, yes? So, although you’ll discover plenty of escapism, I hope you’ll also be able to relate to my characters as they stumble through a minefield of relationships.
I hesitate to use the word romance. It’s a misunderstood and mistreated word and despite the huge part it plays in the market, attracts an element of disdain. If romance says young, fluffy and something to avoid, maybe my novels will change your mind since many of my central characters are in their forties and fifties. Grown-up love is rather different, and this is where I try to bring that sense of realism into play without compromising the escapism.
(Part Three of Wild Water)
The tragedy and comedy that is Jack’s life; a dangerous web of lies concludes a bitter-sweet end.
Jack Redman, estate agent to the Cheshire set and someone who’s broken all the rules. An unlikely hero or a misguided fool?
In this sequel to Dark Water Jack and Anna must face the consequences of their actions. As the police close in and Patsy’s manipulative ways hamper the investigations, will Jack escape unscathed?
With her career in tatters and an uncertain future, Anna has serious decisions to make. Her silence could mean freedom for Jack, but an emotional prison for herself. Is silence the ultimate test of faith, or is it end of the line for Jack and Anna?
His turn to stare ahead. He started the engine, pulled the seatbelt across and erased everything he’d seen from his mind.
They had dinner in a pub full of roaring fires with real ales and a traditional fish menu, or at least Anna did. Once the food had arrived, the idea of eating anything seemed beyond comprehension and the second she went to the ladies, Jack threw his cutlery aside and deftly removed the huge piece of fish from his plate. Was it unlawful entry if the door in question had been unlocked? Was it forgery if you were doing it for love? Was it normal to hide a battered cod in a coal shuttle? Was it normal if you no longer cared either way?
The evening wore on. At Lottie’s school he managed to drop the letter onto the reception desk while Anna was studying a wall frieze and the end-of-year-photographs. Once in the impressive school hall, they took their seats in the middle of a row of chairs, piling coats and bags onto the empty seat which should have been occupied by James. Hargreaves and Nash made themselves known, nodding at notable parents in the audience and Jack received a tight smile. Then the lights dimmed, an explosion of orchestral music came out of nowhere and the curtain went up to reveal a child’s bedroom, the only light emulated by a street lamp shining through a pretend window. Jesus. Immediately the place felt too warm, full to the rafters with proud parents, grandparents, and younger siblings. Lottie was the Bad Elf and Jack was aware of Anna occasionally laughing and nudging his arm but on the whole his mind was focused elsewhere, mostly in the front bedroom at 19 Church House Way.
Due for release May/June 2016:
10 thoughts on “TUESDAY TALK: Today we welcome author Jan Ruth who tells us about her writing journey and the inspiration she finds in the Snowdonian landscape…”
Loved every one to these books – great interview ladies and to learn where Jan gets her inspiration from.
Thank you Shani!
Thank you for hosting me! (Great timing as today is not only my son’s 29th birthday but the Wild Water box-set is now live in the Amazon store). Well ahead of the original release date.
A pleasure Jan, wishing your son a very Happy Birthday and good luck with sales of the Boxed Set
Sounds a compelling read and interesting author. One to look out for. Thank you, ladies, for bringing to my attention.
Thank you, Kit.
Wonderful Jan, wishing you much success and happy days in your gorgeous part of the world. 🙂