Author Spotlight on Jennifer Young

My guest in the Author Spotlight this week is Jennifer Young, author of romantic fiction. Welcome to ‘My Writing Life,’ Jennifer.

Looking_For_Charlotte_by_Jennifer_Young_500

Looking for Charlotte – Jennifer Young

Divorced and lonely, Flora Wilson is distraught when she hears news of the death of little Charlotte Anderson. Charlotte’s father killed her and then himself, and although he left a letter with clues to her grave, his two-year-old daughter still hasn’t been found. Convinced that she failed her own children, now grown up and seldom at home, Flora embarks on a quest to find Charlotte’s body to give the child’s mother closure, believing that by doing so she can somehow atone for her own failings.

As she hunts in winter through the remote moors of the Scottish Highlands, her obsession comes to challenge the very fabric of her life — her job, her friendship with her colleague Philip Metcalfe, and her relationships with her three children.

Excerpt:

She walked alongside the rutted track on the springy heather. This was where Ally had driven in his hired car, alone and knowing himself to be his own daughter’s murderer. How must he have felt? Lonely, of course. Even in the best times of his life Ally was always lonely, resisting all attempts to understand him and his problems, fighting against his perceived failures, his mental weaknesses. She knew them well. She had loved Ally, for a long time. She’d dedicated years of her life to making him happy and then she’d realised that she couldn’t do it. And by then she had a baby, another helpless being, but this time one who couldn’t do anything for herself. So instead of living her life for Ally, she’d lived it for Charlie. And now she had no-one to live it for but herself.

She stopped at the edges of the digging, looked down reluctantly. The house lay a few hundred yards beyond; a dog barked, but no-one came out. She was alone. Perhaps Ally had killed Charlie because he was jealous of the attention lavished on her. Perhaps he felt emasculated by a helpless child. And if he had, then that made it her fault.

‘It wasn’t my fault,’ she said aloud. ‘I did everything I could. I won’t be blamed.’

His silence — of course he was silent, he was dead and she was glad — accused her. She clenched her hands in her pocket and looked down at the non-grave where tiny white flowers had already begun to re-colonise, reaching out into the wet earth from the overturned clods. ‘Ally, you bastard!’ she shouted. Her voice disappeared in the wind but she believed he’d hear her. ‘You selfish, murdering bastard!’

As the tears welled up, she dug a hanky out of her pocket and suppressed them. Her phone was in there, too, so she fished it out and tried again. This time there was a signal, though faint. She rang her mother, but there was no answer and she didn’t leave a message, because everything had changed and she knew she would cry.

She tried Karen, not expecting an answer, but got one. ‘Hi Sue. All right?’ ‘You’ve got your phone on.’

‘Bad form during a wedding, I know, but I thought you might ring. I switched it off during the service, though. Where are you?’

‘I’m up where they found Ally.’

‘Oh God. You poor girl. Do you feel better?

Suzanne looked around her. ‘I don’t know. I can feel Charlie. Is that silly?’

‘Oh, Sue.’

‘I don’t mean I think she’s up here. I just think she’s with me. I always think she’s with me.’

‘Sue…’

Suzanne didn’t want to talk any longer. She held the phone face down and shouted to it, ‘I’ve hardly got a signal, Kazzy. But I’m fine. I’ll ring you tomorrow, okay?’ And she ended the call and slipped the phone back in her pocket. Then she began to walk back down to the car. It was true; it was as if Charlie was with her, walking beside her with her tiny toddler’s steps, stooping to touch the flowers and reach out for the butterflies. She would have loved this place.

She reached the car, got in, pulled down the mirror again and looked at her sad, old face. Love? What was love? And where was it, buried, deep and lost forever?

*****

Please read on for more detail from Jennifer about the setting of Looking for Charlotte

Books come with standard disclaimers. “Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”

Um. I must have had my fingers crossed behind my back. The persons (living or dead) in my latest book, Looking For Charlotte, are indeed the products of my own imagination. So are the events, although I fully admit that they were inspired by things that actually happened. Those things happened, as my all-time real-life hero Christopher Marlowe put it, in “another time, another place, another country.”

Ah. Places. This is where I have my fingers crossed.

In another life I am a scientist. An Earth scientist to be correct. Facts, to me, are sacrosanct, so much so that I tiptoe round scientific near-certainties garlanding them with caveats in case some new evidence turns up or that 1% uncertainty is enough to bring the whole edifice crashing down. But the important thing is that, as a writer, I love places.

Looking For Charlotte is the story of one woman’s quest to find another woman’s dead child, lost and buried somewhere in the wilderness. The original (true) tale on which it was based came from the eastern US, a place I’ve never been and so a place my conscience won’t allow me to write about. As my heroine, Flora, tramps up and down the highland glens, in increasingly desperate weather and increasingly lonely places, she’s walking in the wilderness of my imagination.

I’m a deep hypocrite because when I read a book I like to do it with Google Earth to hand. But if you try and use Google Earth to track Flora’s progress you’ll fail. You’ll find her home town of Inverness easily enough, and you might even think you’ve found the part of town where she lives; but you won’t find her house. Nor will you find her office. And when she gets lost in the deep dark heart of the mountains and stumbles upon a friend, you won’t find that either. Because I made that whole chunk of the Highlands up.

But the broad brush picture is real. The real-life landscapes of the highlands reflect Flora’s quest just as the big themes of the book reflect the real-life themes that affect you and me — themes of loss and redemptions, of mistakes made and good deeds done in secret. Only the detail is different.

Because that’s how writing works. Even fantasy, even complete new worlds, have something in them that is real to us all and to which we can all relate. (Think of Harry Potter.) In my case, it’s the places. But I’m afraid I’m not enough of a scientist to let reality get in the way of (I hope) a good story.

Don’t judge me for that…

 

Thanks so much for being my guest this week, Jennifer and for writing such an interesting post about the inspiration and setting for Looking for Charlotte.

Looking for Charlotte is available to buy now using the following links:

Tirgearr Publishing

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Smashwords

Jennifer YoungAbout the Author I live in Edinburgh and I write romance and contemporary women’s fiction. I’ve been writing all my life and my first book was published in February 2014, though I’ve had short stories published before then. The thing that runs through all my writing is an interest in the world around me. I love travel and geography and the locations of my stories are always important to me. And of course I love reading — anything and everything.

 

Find Jennifer at:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

Expanding Distribution of your Novel

amazon-logo_blackThis weekend saw the end of the first three months of my debut being on sale on Amazon. I signed up to the exclusive KDP Select programme, partly because it was the easiest thing to do in the first instance and also because the thought of trying to get my head round uploading to other sites at that point in time filled me with dread!

By the time the end of my first three months was in sight though, I felt ready to think about expanding the distribution of my novel to other online sites. I have learnt a lot about it during those three months, mainly through the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and its members, and I decided not to sign up for another three months of KDP so that I could dip my toe in the waters elsewhere.

There are an awful lot of other online retailers but the main ones to consider are Smashwords, Kobo, Nook and Apple’s iTunes. I still feel as daunted now about uploading my book to all those sites, not to mention the time it would take when I’m desperately trying to get on with book two! Thankfully, there is a way round this.

Afterd2d-logo-dark-sm a bit of research, I came across an aggregator called Draft2Digital who will upload to all the main sites mentioned above, with the exception of Smashwords, and they will also upload your book to a whole host of other sites as well. For this, they take 10% of your sale price but only when you sell. There’s no charge for the service. It was very easy to upload to them, especially as I write using Scrivener so all I had to do was to upload the epub version of my book and they’ve done the rest. All in all, this took no longer than half an hour.

SW_Vertical_ColorSmashwords also distribute to the other three main sites but for now, I’m using Draft2Digital for that. I have managed to upload my book to Smashwords as well and I’m using them for the retailers that Draft2Digital don’t distribute to as yet. I’ll have to see what happens in terms of sales before deciding whether to leave it like this or to change. One thing I’ve noticed is that ALLi members differ in their views on what the best process is. Some feel it’s worth uploading directly to the main sites; others have used Draft2Digital and others have used Smashwords for their distribution to other sites. So, it will be an experiment, as everything is for the indie author and who knows, it may be that selling through Amazon only is the only viable option but if I don’t try it out, I’ll never know.

The other thing I’ve done since expanding the distribution is to try a new price for a while. So ‘From Here to Nashville’ is now for sale at £1.49 as an ebook. It is still only available through Amazon as a paperback, priced at £8.99. I have ordered my own paperback copies through a UK printer as well and I’ve been doing a roaring trade with those at my workplace! I’ve also been able to offer signed copies to them, as well as one of my limited edition guitar magnets because I’m selling face-to-face.

I am planning a giveaway soon through my Facebook site so if you’d like to take part, keep your eyes peeled over there. Here’s the link: Julie Stock’s Author Page.

Thanks for reading as always and look out for my next Author Spotlight feature next week!

Author Spotlight on Helen Pollard

This is the first of my Author Spotlights and my guest this week is contemporary romance author, Helen Pollard. Welcome to ‘My Writing Life,’ Helen.

HoldingBack - cover

Holding Back by Helen Pollard

The last thing they’re looking for is love …

Laura Matheson is a natural at avoiding romance, so when she is drawn to mystery guest Daniel Stone while helping out at her friends’ hotel in Portugal, she assumes all she needs is a little extra willpower.

Daniel is at the hotel on business. The demands of work and a manipulative ex-girlfriend mean he doesn’t have the time or energy for romance, but Laura is a distraction he finds hard to ignore.

As they negotiate a minefield of misunderstandings and mutual attraction, will they both continue to hold back? Or will they finally allow love into their lives?

Excerpt from Chapter One:

“Excuse me. You’ve picked up the wrong bag.”

Deep and decisive, the voice startled Laura from behind as she loaded her luggage onto her hard-won airport trolley.

“No, I don’t think so.” She swung round to confront the voice’s owner. Unnerved to find him towering over her, she took a step back, stumbling over her trolley in the process.

With lightning speed, he reached out to catch her arm, his grip strong as he helped her regain her balance. When she was upright again, she took in piercing blue eyes, thick dark brown hair, a hint of stubble on a tanned face—and felt an immediate jolt of attraction.

Laura ignored it. “I can manage, thank you,” she snapped, thinking she wouldn’t have tripped if he hadn’t surprised her like that.

He released his hold and raised an eyebrow. “As I said, you have my bag.”

Pushing away long strands of chestnut-brown hair that had dared escape their ponytail, Laura returned his gaze.

“No, this is definitely mine.” She was hot, harassed, and late. The last thing she needed was a futile argument over her own luggage!

“Would you mind if I check?”

“Help yourself.” Unable to disguise her impatience, Laura waved at it, adding, “But I am in a hurry.” She winced at the hostile tone in her voice, but she really didn’t have time for this. Tapping her foot in irritation, she waited to be proved right as he crouched over her trolley.

“Would you care to look?” he asked.

Laura’s foot stopped tapping. Recognising undisguised triumph on his face, she read the label over his shoulder with trepidation, but there it was in black and white—Daniel Stone, London Gatwick to Porto. The heat that rose in her cheeks seemed to burn right through her skin.

“But it’s the same as mine!” she blustered, watching with embarrassment as he hoisted the heavy bag from the trolley with ease.

“It’s hardly a unique design,” he commented, shrugging broad shoulders. “If you weren’t in such a tearing hurry, you might have spotted your own on the carousel.”

Laura spun around to see her bag riding forlornly around with the few that were left. Mortified, she opened her mouth to apologise.

But he spoke first. “Personally, I would advocate that old saying ‘More haste, less speed.'” His tone softened a little as he added, “I’m sorry, but you’re not the only hot, tired person whose flight was delayed, you know.” And off he strolled through the terminal, his bag flung over his shoulder, without a backward glance.

*****

And now for my interview with Helen:

1. As I write romances from around the world myself, I’m interested to know what inspired you to choose your setting for your latest novel?

I visited the area of northern Portugal where the book is set a couple of times. It was so beautiful and friendly there, it stayed with me until my imagination came up with the characters and story to go with it.

2. When choosing your setting, how important do you think it is to have been to the place yourself?

For me, it’s very important. Or put it another way – I wouldn’t have the courage to write about a place I’d never visited. I know it’s possible to research everywhere on the internet nowadays, but I like my stories to be as realistic as they can be, so if I hadn’t been somewhere, I wouldn’t have the confidence to know if I was being accurate enough. I’d always worry that I’d made some awful gaff!

Plus, it’s not just a question of describing the facts. If you’ve actually been there, you can give a real sense of the place – sights, sounds, smells, the whole experience. Your characters can convey what strikes them most about it, what they like best or least.

To be honest, it’s a good few years since I went to northern Portugal, but I wrote a rough draft of Holding Back soon after, so I knew that what I wrote back than would deliver the feel of the place. I did do a little internet research to make sure nothing I described had changed drastically, though.

3. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

At this stage, I have plenty of ideas whizzing around in my head … it’s finding the time to work on them that’s the problem! For me, a story usually starts with a singular thing, something specific that strikes me – a place or a scene – and then I weave something around that.

For the novel I’m working on at the moment, I had the opening scene in my head for years, but for some reason I couldn’t do anything with it until I came across a possible setting … and then suddenly everything clicked into place. Once I started writing that opening scene, because I could picture the setting so clearly in my mind, all the characters just seemed to come to life and do their own thing!

4. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

Like many writers, I have a day job, family, elderly parents … so I would say six to nine months for a first draft.

How many more drafts after that? Don’t ask! I’m a compulsive edit-and-polisher and can spend months honing it. It drives me mad if a sentence niggles at me because it doesn’t sound quite right. I’ll tweak and tweak until it screams for mercy! The up-side is that by the time I send it off, I know it’s in as good a shape as it was ever going to be.

5. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Getting started – the first page, the first chapter. It’s so important to get it right, because you need to hook the reader straight away.

And then knowing when to finish polishing. I need to learn to step away and leave the poor thing alone!

6. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

The unexpectedness of it. I don’t do a detailed outline at the start – I’ll have a basic premise in mind, and certain points or events that I definitely want to get to, but beyond that, I tend to allow my characters to take me where they want to go. It’s more fun and certainly more interesting that way … unless they get too out of hand!

7. Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

The two books I’ve had published so far are romances, but they are very different in season and setting, and the characters are different in personality. I wouldn’t necessarily hold myself to romance as a main theme in the future, but I suspect an element of it will always tend to creep in.

8. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, where will that one be set?

At the moment, I’m polishing up a manuscript that I actually wrote before my two published romances. It’s set in the Loire region of France (and Birmingham, but that doesn’t sound as exotic, somehow, does it?) This one isn’t a straightforward romance – I guess it’s contemporary women’s fiction with humour, and just a hint at romance … which makes it more difficult to find a home for. But I personally love it, so I’m going to keep trying.

Thanks so much to Helen for being my first guest and for answering my questions so thoughtfully 🙂

Holding Back is available to buy now using the following links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

Helen Pollard author picAbout the Author:

Helen Pollard writes contemporary romance with old-fashioned heart. She believes there will always be a place for romantic fiction, no matter how fast-paced and cynical the world becomes. Readers still want that feel-good factor – to escape from their own world for a while and see how a budding romance can blossom and overcome adversity to develop into love … and we all need a little love, right?

A Yorkshire lass, Helen is married, with two teenagers and a psychotic cat. When she’s not working or writing, it goes without saying that she loves to read. She also enjoys a good coffee in a quiet bookshop, and appreciates the company of family and close friends.

Find Helen at:

Website & Blog: http://helenpollardwrites.wordpress.com  

Facebook: http://facebook.com/pages/Helen-Pollard/372986142839624

Twitter: http://twitter.com/helenpollard147

Goodreads:  http://goodreads.com/author/show/8647878.Helen_Pollard