My first author spotlight of the year is on contemporary women’s fiction author, Jenny Harper. Jenny’s latest book is Between Friends.
Between Friends – Jenny Harper
They thought he belonged safely in the past. His return threatens everything.
Marta, Carrie and Jane have been friends since they were at school. Now one is bringing up her family, another is desperately trying for children of her own, and the third is focused on her career – and each takes the support of the others as a given.
But when generous Marta offers out-of-luck actor Tom temporary shelter, her act of kindness sets in motion a tsunami of destruction. Marta’s marriage comes under threat. Timid Jane is haunted by the secret she has been hiding since she last saw Tom. And ambitious Carrie finds herself at the mercy of a man who can ruin her career.
Only by pulling together can the friends rid themselves of this menace. But is Tom too clever at sowing mistrust?
Excerpt from Between Friends (the beginning):
Sometimes Marta wondered how different her days might be if they were a family rather than a couple. If, instead of putting on a business suit at the sound of the alarm, she were to wake to the snuffling cries of a baby and pad across the carpet in the bedroom she shared with Jake to a cot in the corner. She imagined the feeling of picking it up, this squalling infant, of holding it to her breast and hushing it with love and milk.
She picked up her coffee from the counter of the small café, filled with a disappointment so profound that for a moment she thought it might set her weeping. This morning, again, her hopes had been dashed.
Still – she placed the cup on the table in the window and dropped her briefcase on the floor – it was a day of rare promise. She could see it in the slant of the morning light hitting the chiselled stone of the Georgian tenements across the road, and feel it in the warmth of the sun already beating through the window. It was going to be hot, a day for walking the beaches from Silverknowes to Cramond Island or strolling up the Pentland Hills with a flask of tea and a pack of sandwiches. A day not to be wasted.
By nature cheerful, she allowed her spirits to lift.
Across the road, sun hit glass as a door opened, reflecting low rays of light sharply into her eyes. A man emerged and stood, undecided, as the door swung to behind him. Was he a celebrity? It was August, and Edinburgh was teeming with personalities and stars, real and wannabe. Authors were here for the Book Festival, jazz musicians were opening their souls for the world’s inspection, dancers, actors, comedians and television personalities were vying with each other for attention and audiences.
She watched as the lights changed and the man crossed the road. He was tall and slim, stylishly dressed with well-cut jeans, brown loafers, a crisp white shirt and a grey sweater tied loosely round his neck. A battered brown fedora sat jauntily on his head and he carried a brown leather holdall over one shoulder. He was heading straight towards her.
Surely she knew him? …
And now for my interview with Jenny:
Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?
My first four novels with Accent Press were set in a fictional town in East Lothian called Hailesbank. They are grouped together as the Heartlands series. I loved dreaming up a world entirely of my own – though set in a recognisable context – but Edinburgh is where I live and work. It’s a stunning city and I know it well – so I could not think of anywhere better to set a novel. I’m not the first author to think of this, of course!
Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?
When I’ve cleared my mind ready for a new venture, I turn first to my cuttings file. I tend to cut out and keep stories I see in newspapers and magazines that catch my imagination. They may be about interesting people or about weird things that have happened. They might be quirky, or funny or sad. Sometimes I try placing two or three very different scenarios/people/settings together and see if any magic happens. Occasionally I spot something that immediately sparks an idea. That’s what happened with the novel I’m writing at the moment – but sorry, I don’t want to talk about it yet!
How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?
I’m really slow at getting started. I can think the idea through and get a one or two page synopsis down quite quickly, but as I get deeper into it and get to know my characters, I have to adjust my notes all the time. I also like layers and depth in my stories (even though I like them to be page-turners!). Adding this should look seamless, but planning how it will work can do my head in sometimes! Once I get over half way, I can write very, very quickly. I once wrote 34,000 words in five days! I was mentally and physically a wreck by the end of it, but I didn’t have to rewrite much of it. If I were working just on the writing, it would probably take three or four months. However, I enjoy so many other things (walking, swimming, golfing, travel, seeing friends, playing bridge) everything takes much longer. I can comfortably write a full-length novel a year. I tend to rewrite and rewrite the early parts, but the work becomes more and more fluid and needs less and less editing as I progress.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Getting the first half of the book written. I sometimes think I must be very stupid!
What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
I’m an editor by training (I worked for Collins and Cassells as a non fiction editor) and I really love this part of the process. I revel in cutting and polishing and buffing everything up so that it shines and sparkles.
Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?
I say that I write about ‘strong women under pressure’ and I guess that just about sums it up. My heroines have challenging jobs (which they tend to be good at), and we meet them when both work and home life (or their relationships) are showing signs of cracks. Other than that, they are all completely different! I have written about a wind farm engineer, a newspaper photographer, a politician and an artist. My last book, People We Love, was about an artist whose promising career has been put on hold after the tragic death of her brother. There’s a mystery at the heart of it, and a love triangle, and some pretty dotty characters. The next one, Mistakes We Make, is the first of the Heartlands series that carries on with some of the same characters.
However, Accent decided to release Between Friends in February as a kind of anti Valentine novel. It features three friends who all live in Edinburgh and a superficially charming but deeply malevolent man from their past whose return to their lives threatens everything…
Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?
I mentioned Mistakes We Make, scheduled for release later this year. The novel I am currently writing is still very much under wraps, though I can tell you it is another standalone set in Edinburgh. I’m just beginning to emerge from the head-banging phase and I’m getting really excited about it!
Thank you so much for hosting me today.
Jenny Harper lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, though she was born in India and grew up in England. She has been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and has written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland, as well as four full length novels and a novella in The Heartlands series (set in Hailesbank), and two short stories that have appeared in anthologies. Between Friends is her fifth full length novel.
Find Jenny at: