Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Jayne: My pen name is Jayne Davis, but that is based on my real name (my middle name and the first part of my original surname). I use a pen name because I also write non-fiction, but I’m Jayne to all the people I’ve encountered during the writing and production of my fiction.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Jayne: I live in Gloucestershire, in the UK, in a village just beyond the western slope of the Cotswolds. Sadly, it isn’t a ‘pretty’ village, but there are some of those not far away. I chose this area for the setting of my first published novel.
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e.your education, family life, etc.).
Jayne: I grew in up in England, Singapore, and Malta – the last two because my father was a teacher who did two tours in Service Children’s Schools. I qualified as an engineer, and worked at that for ten years before leaving to become a teacher, then a publisher (of school textbooks), and finally a freelance writer (of school textbooks). I live with my partner.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Jayne: My first fiction book, The Mrs MacKinnons was published in January this year (2018), I haven’t done any big advertising campaigns for it, so sales are slow, but the reviews are lovely! I’m working on several more stories, that will form part of a series, and I’m aiming to do a proper launch for these at the end of this year. Well, it will probably turn into 2019, realistically, but I can hope!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Jayne: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was very young – my poor English teachers had to put up with long rambling stories with little structure! I’ve tried writing fiction off and on over the years, and once even got the courage to send a manuscript off to an editor who did assessments. Her verdict – I could write well, but the plot needed a lot of work. I was in a full-time job then, so I just put the manuscript in the loft and forgot about it. (It’s still forgotten, justifiably!).
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Jayne: When I left my full-time job in publishing, and started earning doing freelance writing – but this was still my school textbook writing, so is probably not the kind of ‘writer’ you mean by this question.
I first considered myself as a fiction writer when I started getting more ideas for plots than I have time to write, and also when some of my characters seemed to start doing their own thing, and forcing their way into having a greater part in the story. If the last sounds nutty, it is! But it’s what seems to happen.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Jayne: I’m going to take this as the first book I published, not the abortive efforts that are still stashed away somewhere. I always enjoyed Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, so I wanted to write historical romance set in the Regency period, or thereabouts.
For The Mrs MacKinnons, I had this vague idea of a couple falling in love while she helps him to renovate an old house. Weird, I know! Then I started to think about how that might come about, and why he’d need the help in the first place, then all sorts of other complications occurred to me, until I came up with a soldier returning to England from India to take up an unexpected inheritance, complete with the required dilapidated house. I gave Matthew a horrible step-mother and half-brother as well, and some traumatic experiences in India, just to make him suffer more (authors are horrible to their heroes at times!).
Then I had to think, why would a well brought up young woman need or want to help someone like that, so I made Charlotte a widow with a young son, struggling to make ends meet in a small village nearby. The rest developed from there.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Jayne: I came across the name MacKinnon, and it just seemed to roll off the tongue. The title is plural, because Charlotte MacKinnon is an army widow, and lives with Mary MacKinnon, who is the widow of her husband’s sergeant. Having many men with the surname is not uncommon in Scottish and Welsh regiments, where men were recruited from the same area.
I also wanted to avoid the common titles that all seem to involve Dukes or Earls (just how many of these were there in Britain at the time, let alone attractive, unmarried ones of a suitable age?).
So, I called it The Mrs MacKinnons. This phrase does play a small part in the story, as well.
Avoiding Dukes etc may be a mistake from a marketing point of view, but I’m hoping some of my titles may make people think. Having said that, I’ll be breaking my own rule with a future story, currently with the working title of The Fourth Marchioness.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Jayne: I’m not really sure about the first. For the second, the challenging part about writing in any historical genre is getting the historical facts correct, including the behaviours and ways of thinking of the time, not just describing the clothing. Quite a few ‘historical’ romances seem to be modern stories, but with the heroines wearing long dresses – I don’t want to write those.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Jayne: The descriptions of the location are based on where I live, the rest is made up, but I hope my imagination (and some research) have provided believable characters, and situations that could have happened.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Jayne: These days, a lot of location research can be done via Google Maps! My books will be mostly set in England, and I travel for other reasons anyway.
Having said that, I have been fascinated by the Peninsular War (from 1809 to 1814, where Sir Arthur Wellesley eventually became the Duke of Wellington due to his successful campaigns against the French). I have an idea or two for stories set there, and some of my heroes will have fought there, so I have booked a ‘battlefield’ holiday this September to be shown around some of the sites, with a military historian leading the trip.I’ll be posting about it on my blog. (http://www.jaynedavisromance.co.uk/historical-romance-blog/ )
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Jayne:I hired a design company based in the UK. I wanted something a bit different to the standard ‘woman in a long dress standing in front of something vaguely historical’, and also my book is not steamy, so the ‘couple with wardrobe malfunctions’ style wasn’t suitable either.
I loved the cover for The Mrs MacKinnons (after a bit of toing and froing to amend it), but I’m not at all happy with their first attempt at the cover for my next book, so I’m not going to name them. They did agree to start again after a, shall we say, ‘terse’ email, so they may yet redeem themselves.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Jayne: It’s not really a message, but ‘talk to each other’. There are a couple of misunderstandings between Matthew and Charlotte, but they sort them out (rather than spending half the book thinking the wrong thing because they didn’t just talk to each other!).
Fiona: Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Jayne: This is difficult! I’m not sure I have one. Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer have influenced my fiction writing – subtle humour, and believable characters. Among current Regency/Victorian romance writers, Courtney Milan writes gripping stories with ‘real’ characters – there are believable reasons for the way they act, which sadly is not always the case.
For yet-to-be-famous authors, several I have met on Facebook and elsewhere are good – Josanna Thompson has written a fascinating tale about a clash of cultures, Catherine Kullman writes Regencies in the Georgette Heyer mould, and Riana Everly writes Pride & Prejudice variations. I’ve also come across several authors in my critique group who will be excellent – they just need to get on and finish their novels!
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Jayne:I’m going to name two:
– the first is the website Scribophile, which is for authors to critique each other’s work. Using this both hugely improved my manuscript, and gave me the confidence that it was good enough to publish.
– the second is The Bestseller Experiment – this is a podcast by a couple of guys who decided to see if they could write a bestseller in a year (spoiler – they did!), and the podcasts included a mine of information about publishing, and experiences from other newbies. There are loads of other podcasts I could mention, but that was the one that started me off.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Jayne:Yes – but at the moment it is still my non-fiction writing that pays.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Jayne:I might plan it from the start, instead of it growing as I wrote – it ended up rather long, but people who’ve read it haven’t complained about the length!
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Jayne:Richard Armitage for Matthew – like he was in North and South (although my story is set over 50 years earlier than that).
Perhaps Emma Watson for Charlotte.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Jayne:Keep writing. Join a critique site. Editing is worth paying for.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Jayne:Buy my book and sign up to my mailing list!
But also – if you like a book, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews (whether good or bad) really help the author to get noticed. It doesn’t have to be much – even ‘Enjoyed this book’ will do!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Jayne:I’m reading mostly non-fiction at the moment, for research. The current one is about smuggling in Britain.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Jayne:The first thing I remember reading is the school reading scheme.
This is Janet.
This is John.
(A great work of literature!)
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Jayne:Laugh – mainly witty comments, Cry – disappointed hopes, injustice (almost anything if I’ve had too much wine)
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Jayne:Too many to mention – and in practice, I would probably be too tongue-tied to ask them anything!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Jayne:Reading, gardening, hill walking, cycling
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Jayne:I watch very little TV, I prefer to read fiction rather than watch it, so I don’t have to wait for the next bit!
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Blue – the deep blue of a summer sky, the pale blue of a dawn, the blue-green of the sea
Music – mainly classical
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Jayne:Read, go for long walks, go on holiday…
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Jayne:Assuming I could order the weather – sit on a beach or a hilltop in the sun with my partner, cuddling and looking at the view.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Jayne:I’m not bothered about having a headstone. I’d rather have my ashes scattered in the Scottish mountains somewhere, or at sea.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website: www.jaynedavisromance.co.uk
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Jayne-Davis/e/B078WTF3DP/