Jennifer Bohnet is an English writer whose thirteenth novel was published earlier this month. She has sold hundreds of shorts stories to the women’s magazine market in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark. She even had her own newspaper column in a group of local Devon papers at one time. Jennifer’s latest book (impressively, number 13), Villa of Sun and Secrets , was published by Boldwood Books on 8th August.
I’m very interested to find out more as Jennifer is a long time resident of France. Not just ‘France’, but a cottage in Brittany, with family and dog and cats and ducks and chickens … It sounds like a dream come true. (What do you mean, I sound envious?!)
Welcome, Jennifer! You live in France, I believe, and have for quite a while. It sounds like it is a brilliant place to write.
Jennifer: I find it hard to believe but I’ve lived in France now for twenty years. After eleven years down on the Cote d’Azur where Richard was a guardien for a villa, we moved from the Mediterranean coast to a small quirky cottage in the depths of Brittany. A bit of a culture shock to say the least!
And your latest book is described as ‘an escapist summer read’ – it looks great. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
I write contemporary women’s fiction set in places I know well and I stay true to those settings in my books. If I mention a certain street or building by name, or an historical incident that has a bearing on the storyline, it exists or the event did take place. My characters are imaginary though.
What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
In my latest book Villa of Sun and Secrets I really enjoyed writing the scene where Josette meets Gordon for the first time. It’s winter time and Antibes, in the south of France, has had a snow storm – yes it does happen! Here’s a snippet of the scene:
Back in early January, after a disturbed night listening to a ferocious blizzard battering the coast, Josette had got up early and discovered the Riviera slumbering under a heavy and unexpected snowy duvet. Within minutes, she was dressed and stepping out into an eerily silent town, making her way through the empty streets to the nearest park, just one thing on her mind. Once in the park, she began to make a snowball, rolling it through the pristine snow and patting it together. When it was too big to move, she began to make a smaller one.
She barely registered the first snowball that hit her in the back, she was concentrating so hard, but the next one, arriving seconds later, got her full attention. Oooh – somebody wanted a snowball fight, did they? Carefully, she placed the smaller snowball on top of the first one before swiftly bending down, gathering a handful of snow and turning, throwing it expertly at the child who’d thrown the snowball. Except it wasn’t a child. It was a man. A man who smiled and threw another snowball at her, calling out, ‘Game on,’ as he did.
The image of these two people in their 70s having childish fun together brought a smile to my face as I wrote it.
That’s fabulous, I love it. You said earlier that settings and historical events in your novels are based in fact, but that your characters aren’t. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
I think Anna, the main heroine in Rendezvous in Cannes, would laugh and say, ‘I’m involved in the film world, darling. Everything in that world is a product of someone’s imagination – including me!’
She sounds delightful! Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
Oh a difficult question! I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve always read a lot. When I read Katherine by Anya Seton years ago, I longed to write historical stories – and quickly realised that wasn’t my genre when I tried. Penelope Lively’s The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden had me trying my hand at children’s books, again not my genre to write (although YA might tempt me yet). Favourite authors of the last ten years or so have included Joanna Trollop, Marcia Willett, Veronica Henry, Jill Mansell, Erica James – I suspect all have influenced me and my writing in someway.
Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
To stop worrying about the future that things would work out – and they mostly have.
Good advice! What’s next for you in the world of writing?
My next book with Boldwood Books will be out February 2020 and I’ve got two more books to write for them – as well as editing my backlist for re-publishing. It’s going to be a busy winter!
It certainly is! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I think I’d enjoy being Eloisa from my novella You Had Me at Bonjour. Half Italian, half French slim and fun, she’s a feisty lady with attitude – a good attitude I hasten to add – who grabs life and seizes the day. A true extrovert – unlike me in real life.
I’d very much like to meet her – but it has indeed been a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us on last Word of the Week. More power to your pen!
Amazon link: http://mybook.to/VillaofSun
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/@jenniewriter
Facebook Author page: goo.gl/PDKQ8D
Philippa East, writer of prize-winning short stories, was recently signed to a two-book deal by HQ/HarperCollins. Her debut novel, psychological thriller Little White Lies, will be released next February. It tells the story of a missing child who is found several years later … or is she?
Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Philippa, it’s lovely to meet you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Philippa: I work as a clinical psychologist and therapist, so people often ask if I get story ideas from my work. I have come across quite a few unusual and often extreme stories from people’s lives but I’ve never been involved a real-life case like the one in my debut book – probably because it’s a situation that is almost unheard of: a missing child being found alive after such a long time. So even for me, it was quite a leap of imagination to put myself in the shoes of the various family members and think about how this one-in-a-million event might play out.
Saying that, I still wanted to explore in the book some of the themes that I frequently come across in my psychology work. For example, the different ways in which we try to cope with guilt; how trauma affects not only victims but also those closest to them; and how powerful a simple acknowledgement of wrongdoing can be.
Psychologist, eh? *sits up straighter* What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
Oh gosh, that’s a hard question! I tend to grapple so much with writing and editing my scenes that it can be something of a love-hate relationship! Saying that, there’s a pivotal scene in Little White Lies when my two teenage characters visit a fairground and find themselves right on that thin edge between excitement and terror – a sort of borderland between childhood and adulthood. I visited funfairs a lot growing up (one used to set up just across from our house) so the scene brought back a lot of visceral memories for me.
Finding the right ending for the book was a challenge, but also a really rewarding experience. The book is written from two alternating points-of-view (that of the abducted girl’s mother and that of her teenage cousin) and so the ending had to resolve both characters’ arcs at the same time. I talked this aspect of the book through in detail with both my agent and editor, and it was so satisfying to work with them to piece together a resolution that really felt true to the story I was trying to tell.
Oh! – and I also wrote a short story called “Kraken” which featured a sea-bathing woman’s encounter with monstrous sea creature. That was a totally cathartic way to exorcise my own phobia about what lurks in the ocean’s deeps!
So interesting! I can see that quite a lot of thinking goes into the motives and resolutions of your stories. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
Hah hah! Well, my teenage protagonist Jess would probably go off in a huff. She is the cousin of the girl who went missing, and since her beloved cousin has been found and come home Jess is really struggling to make sense of this relationship and what it means for her now. Like most teenagers, she is trying to work out her place in the world, who she really is and what it means to grow up. I think if I told her she was imaginary she’d be furious at me for saying all her angst wasn’t “real”!
That kind of teenage response would be very interesting to see. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
Oh wow, where do I start? I have been such a voracious reader ever since I can remember (I grew up without a TV), and I think at some level every single book I’ve read has shaped me as an author. For a long time in my life though, I didn’t contemplate being a writer, and in fact I tried all kinds of other creative pursuits instead: pottery, photography, music, drawing – you name it. But with hindsight, it’s obvious that stories and books were going to be my thing because, for me, reading is practically on a par with eating and breathing.
If I had to pick one, I do think Gone Girl was very influential for me. Up until that point, I was reading a lot of Penguin Classics and literary works(!!) and was just not up to speed with contemporary, commercial fiction. Gone Girl showed me just how sophisticated and beautifully-written a contemporary page-turner could be. That book got me into psychological thrillers, which were the huge trend at that time. From there, I sensed a gap in the market for a story about an abducted child being found instead of being ‘gone’. So thanks, Gillian Flynn!
I’ve also been incredibly inspired by writers I’ve met along the way such as Joanna Cannon, Tor Udal, Amanda Berriman and Deborah Install who made it into the publishing world ahead of me. Seeing their hard work, persistence and success made me realise the dream was possible – and really lit the fire under me to follow in their footsteps.
Oh, thank you so much for the names here – these books look fab! And for the reflection that reading is as fundamental as eating and breathing. I like that.
Now take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Calm down, slow down, keep perspective on what really matters. Writing, editing and getting published all take huge amounts of patience; you can’t rush or force things. Also, with every success that you achieve, a parallel risk of failure will materialise alongside (finished a book, won’t get an agent; got an agent, won’t sell; sold, won’t get good reviews; got good reviews, book two will bomb – and on and on). Focus on the writing and learning your craft, which is all you can really control. And always celebrate each tiny success.
What’s next for you in the world of writing?
Well, I’m super excited (and a little bit terrified) about the release of Little White Lies which will be published by HQ/HarperCollins in early February 2020. In the meantime, I’m busy writing book two, and I already have an idea percolating for book three. I think having more than one book published would be the next big dream for me – to know this can really be my career and that I’m not just a “flash in the pan”! So I think writing, writing and more writing is the answer.
I am looking forward to reading it. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
Maybe George from The Famous Five? I loved all that kind of adventuring when I was a kid. Personality-wise, I’m probably most like Monica from Friends (if TV characters are allowed?) – you know, kind of neurotic and obsessional. Maybe you have to be that way to actually write and finish a novel (and then edit it 39 times)!
Indeed, I think you do! Thank you so much fro speaking with me today, Philippa, and all the best with your writing, writing, writing!
You can follow Philippa on twitter @philippa_east
Writer Stephen Edger hails from the north-east of England, but now lives in Southampton. That’s where most of his *quite scary* psychological and crime novels are set. Stephen uses his insider knowledge to deliver realistic and unsettling suspense on every page. I’m particularly chilled by the hook for his latest book Till Death Us Do Part: ‘The wedding vows are exchanged, now the NIGHTMARE begins…’ Yikes.
Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Stephen. It’s great to meet you.
Thanks for having me!
Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your books really ought to know?
I’m not as sick and twisted as the characters in my books. In fact, I’m quite a normal guy. I’m married with two fabulous children and two West Highland Terriers. That said, I’m a huge fan of dark and twisting thrillers, whether books or in film. To date I’ve published 18 books, a mixture of series and standalone stories, psychological suspense and crime thrillers.
Phew, that’s good to know. You look like a normal guy, but so do some of your villains! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
The opening to my tenth novel Fragments appears to be a romantic scene with a man making his partner a candle-light supper, but by the end of the scene it’s apparent that she is in fact being held against her will. I love how the reader’s lens changes so swiftly, and that it clearly sets up the tone of the story.
Oooh, scary. That’s going straight to my TBR list. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
I was an avid reader of James Elroy and John Grisham as a teenager, but it was when I first read Relentless by Simon Kernick that I decided I wanted to write something that kept me turning the pages as much as that did. When I did start writing, I contacted Simon through his website and he was kind enough to answer my questions about writing and encouraged me to give it a go. I think had he not responded I never would have completed my first novel.
Since I started writing, I’ve now made so many friends within the writing and blogging community, and all are so supportive of one another.
That’s a great story. It’s wonderful how supportive the writing community can be. I definitely agree – it’s always worth asking. Now, take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
I didn’t know I wanted to write ten years ago (I started my first novel in September 2010), so I would probably tell myself to start. I’m still a youngish man (37), but my biggest regret is not realising I had a talent for writing sooner. I’d also tell myself to read lots and lots of different writers to determine how I wanted to write.
Ahem. Very young indeed! What’s next for you in the world of writing?
The paperback of my latest novel Till Death Do Us Part was published in July 2019. I am currently working on a new psychological thriller for my publishers Harper Collins, which should be released in 2020. I can’t say too much about it yet, but it’s a typically dark and twisting psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the end.
It sounds terrifying! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
If I could be any fictional character it would absolutely be James Bond! I’ve loved the films from an early age, and have more recently read the original Fleming novels. I love Bond’s ability to stay calm in the face of such adversity, which is in stark contrast to my own flapping the moment stress rises a fraction above the norm.
Excellent choice! A cool character of elegance, style and action. Perfect choice to face the perils of dark thrillers! Thanks so much for sharing the Last Word with me, James, I mean, Stephen.
All Stephen’s novels are available in ebook and paperback formats through Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, etc.
I’m thrilled to have The Pale (Chronicles of the Pale #1) reviewed by esteemed author and reviewer Isobel Blackthorn.
Here’s a snippet: a classy read with an important moral message, making the reader question where we are heading and whose side we are on and what it means to be fully human. Add to this an elegant writing style which makes The Pale accessible to teens and adults alike, and I imagine it won’t be too long before this novel catches on big time – Isobel Blackthorn, author of A Perfect Square and many other great books
And here’s the link to the full review: https://isobelblackthorn.com/2019/07/21/book-review-the-pale-by-clare-rhoden/
And remember The Pale is still on GIVEAWAY for the rest of the month. Grab it and read it before Book #3 arrives!
Prime Day on the big Zon: just a heads-up that there is a whole day left to make the most of Prime and grab some fabulous books at special rates. Here’s a link to some book recommendations from a few of us authors at Odyssey Books. We’re a well-read bunch and if ever you want to know about ‘more books like X’, we are your go-to folk!
Spoodle picture for attention.
Dawn Reno Langley – writer, traveller, blogger, teacher – provides today’s fascinating Last Word of the Week. Dawn has a PhD and loves gardening, and is a natural-born writer. Immediate connections! I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Dawn and find out a bit more about her. All those mysterious writing aliases, for example…
LWOTW: Welcome, Dawn, great to meet you. When did you first realise that you are a writer?
Dawn: It was so long ago! My first article was published in the local newspaper when I was 9, and I knew even then that I wanted to be a writer. I’d already read everything in my little local library, and my imagination had already begun creating my own stories. So, I guess I could say I realized I was a writer around the time I started putting sentences together.
That makes sense! As a writer, do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
You know, I was thinking about this just the other day. I’m a planner. I create outlines and know where the story is going, but I add to that with the dreams/imagination and keep me awake at night. When I’m writing fiction, I can rip into the story and totally take it apart, then put it back together again in a very different manner. Usually my imagination is more likely to be employed at the beginning of the process of writing (to birth the story) and during the rewrite process. That’s the time for long walks in the woods where I can’t get connectivity . . . .
I know what you mean about staying awake at night with ideas! The bane of writers. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
There are two, actually. One, during the peak of my nonfiction career, I wrote the first book on African American art and collectibles, and when my book Collecting Black Americana was introduced in Washington, D.C., I had the front page of the Living Section of the Washington Post – and when the doors were opened to the antiques show where I had a tableful of books, people ran to the table. Ran! I still can’t get over that.
The second one is when I introduced my last novel, The Mourning Parade. I travelled across the United States via Amtrak, stopping at 18 different cities and visiting friends, family, and old students of mine along the way. I started the trip in my hometown, a small city near Boston, and I invited all of my family and friends to a local art gallery for a big launch party. It was the first real launch party I’d had in my career (and by that time, I’d been making a living as a writer for about 30 years and had written more than 30 books), and it was simply amazing. Almost everyone from my graduating class gathered to celebrate with me, and it gave me wings to do my cross-country trip.
What fabulous experiences! How wonderful. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on a rewrite of a novel that had its genesis when I was doing my PhD. My agent has suggested some changes that gave me the impetus to find a lot more depth to the story and exploded the main character. I’m excited about working on it and can’t wait to finish it. What I’m looking forward to most is my agent’s response to the changes I’m making.
That sounds very exciting. Now, you’ve made a career out of writing, among other things. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Read the best writers. Gain experience. LISTEN to other writers, editors, and readers. Read. (Did I say that already?) Take classes, go to free readings, write things that make you uncomfortable. Read poetry if you’re a fiction writer. Read memoir if you write poetry. Read novels if you’re a memoirist.
That’s more than one thing, huh? Okay, the most important is to read.
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
This one’s easy. Sherlock Holmes. He’s got a distinctive character, is amazingly complex, and has equal parts humour and drama. Besides, I think brains are sexy, don’t you?
Brains are very sexy. Thank you so much Dawn, it was a pleasure speaking with you.
Dawn’s important links:
About The Stars in the Night Harry Fletcher is a confident young man. Harry’s sure that he will marry Nora MacTiernan, no matter what their families say. He’s certain that he will always be there to protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide. Only the War to End All […]
A great initiative with interesting guidelines
On December 1, my WWI novel will be released.
The Stars in the Night is the product of my many years of research into Australian WWI literature, and of course my love of narrative.
History is a story, when all is said and done.
Like the Southern Cross constellation, Australia at the time of the Great War was a significant and enduring feature of the southern hemisphere, but was relatively unknown in the northern hemisphere.
The Anzacs changed that. They became better known than our southern bright stars.
My book is dedicated to their sacrifice, endeavor, and legacy. They were a mixed bunch of fellows, ranging from godly teetotallers and idealistic heroes to raffish no-hopers and irreverent likely lads. In between was the majority of ordinary, decent, naive and complacent everyday blokes, every one of whom volunteered to serve. Among the many reasons they signed up, one stands clear: they wanted to participate in the war which would ‘end all wars’.
A century on, we’re still searching for a way to do just that.