My author in the spotlight this month is contemporary romance author, Jackie Ladbury. Jackie recently published her debut romance novel, Air Guitar and Caviar. Welcome to the blog, Jackie!
Air Guitar and Caviar – Jackie Ladbury
Busker Dylan spends his days pulling pints in the local pub and singing on the high street, waiting for fame to call. That suits him fine, until beautiful, but frosty, air stewardess, Scarlett, tosses some coins into his hat but ignores his killer smile and his offer of pizza.
He sets out to get the girl, but Scarlett isn’t in the right frame of mind to date anyone, let alone a penniless, if charming, busker boy.
Dylan’s desperate for his big break, but will it bring him the happiness he longs for? And with Scarlett’s past threatening to ruin her future, will Dylan be left to make sweet music all on his own?
Scarlett glanced over toward the bar, hoping to catch Dylan’s eye, but he turned away from her, his eyebrows drawing together, his lips set in a hard line. She had made a huge mistake. She’d humiliated Dylan, who thought she’d wanted to see him, and Todd thought she’d accepted his offer of dinner for the same reason. She needed to focus on Todd, though—after all, her diplomacy could be the difference between keeping her job, or not.
She managed to avoid answering his direct question, as Dylan took to the makeshift stage and started to strum his guitar. ‘Hi there, all.’ The room fell silent as he spoke, and he gave a little wave that made Scarlett’s stomach flip with nerves on his behalf. She prayed he was as good as he seemed to think he was.
‘If I’m too loud, or too annoying, just let me know, and I’ll tone it down, or even, if you’d rather, I can shut up completely—I’m cool with that, too.’ As he grinned at his audience, they all looked as if they were metaphorically egging him on, willing him to be fantastic.
After strumming a few chords, concentrating on his guitar, he raised his eyes and scanned the crowd, his gaze settling briefly on Scarlett who smiled encouragingly. He didn’t acknowledge her but gave a rueful grin to the pub-goers, as if to say here I go, then. He started singing, melodic and soulful, his songs gentle and sweet.
Scarlett found herself both astonished and mesmerised. His guitar playing was brilliant, and so was his voice. She also noticed that he looked rather gorgeous in a pale blue linen shirt, unbuttoned just enough to show a smattering of curly chest hair. Okay, so the jeans had seen better days, but ripped knees were fashionable and at least they looked clean. How had she not spotted how hot he was sooner? Okay, she had clocked his long legs before and his wide smile, but suddenly the whole Dylan thing was as if she was seeing him for the first time.
He was relaxed and funny when he spoke in between songs, and when he finished his last song, he was greeted with thunderous applause. Some of the women even standing up to clap, and he beamed as he left the stage.
Feeling pride she hadn’t earned, Scarlett wished Todd wasn’t sitting opposite her, his prim mouth in a moue of disapproval.
Her heart stumbled a little, as Dylan caught her eye, heading for the bar, but his smile died on his lips, his eyes sliding away from hers.
She felt cold at the thought that she had hurt him so thoughtlessly. ‘Todd, I must congratulate Dylan, I won’t be a minute.’
‘Must you?’ Todd snapped, his lips setting in a hard line, but Scarlett ignored him and walked over to Dylan.
She put her hand out to congratulate him, but he walked straight past her and behind the bar. ‘You were brilliant, Dylan. Fantastic.’ She sounded patronising, even to her own ears, but she smiled wider, hoping he’d forgive her for bringing Todd.
He looked brooding and angry, as he helped himself to another drink, pushing a small glass up to the dispenser, concentrating on the clear liquid splashing out. He raised the glass. ‘Cheers.’ He downed it in one and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
‘Just don’t, okay?’ His voice was so low, he almost growled, his eyes flinty and hooded.
She didn’t know what he meant, but she knew quiet anger when she saw it. ‘Don’t what?’
‘Don’t bother doing this artificial congratulatory thing, as if you care.’
‘I do care.’
Dylan’s smile twisted into something resembling a sneer. ‘I think we’re about done here, don’t you?’
‘What … What do you mean?’ she stammered, as he glowered at her.
‘You didn’t need to ram it home, you know. I might not wear a city boy suit, or a posh uniform with stripes on my shoulders, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid.’ He thrust his chin out in Todd’s direction. ‘Oh, I don’t date, you know.’ He mimicked her voice, falsetto.
‘Oh, you mean …?’ She glanced over at Todd, who was stabbing out a message on his mobile with his forefinger. ‘No, he’s a work colleague.’
‘You let them all touch you in that way, do you?’
‘No, and that’s not fair.’
‘I should have realised you were a flirt as soon as you said you were a stewardess.’
Scarlett felt her jaw drop. ‘How dare you pigeon hole me like that? You know nothing about me.’
‘And, Scarlett, the corporate air stewardess…’ He pushed the glass up against the dispenser once more and scowled. ‘I think it would be best if we leave it that way.’
His words hung in the air, as she took in his meaning, and she let out a breath. ‘Fine by me!’ Her mouth tightened as she glared at him. She wanted to stomp off, but couldn’t seem to move, wondering how they’d managed to argue when they barely knew each other. ‘You were the one who started this,’ she threw at him, her own anger rising at the unfairness of his attitude. She didn’t know what her point was, but she knew the anger she directed at him was misplaced.
‘And I’m calling it in.’ Dylan ran his fingers through his hair.
Their eyes locked, both firing a mixture of anger and regret.
‘Is this chap bothering you?’
Scarlett raised her eyes, forced to break eye contact, as Todd placed himself between herself and Dylan.
‘No, he isn’t, and he won’t bother her again.’ Dylan’s gaze raked over her face, the stark anger already replaced by sadness that belied his words.
‘Let’s go, then. I’ve paid the bill.’ Todd put his hand on Scarlett’s arm and threw Dylan a dirty look, while Dylan glanced at Scarlett as if to say Really? He’s your sort of man?
Scarlett didn’t want to leave with Todd, and she didn’t want Dylan to think she did. She wanted Dylan to put his hand on her arm, staking a claim the way Todd did, but he didn’t move. She threw him a pitying look, determined to hold the moral high ground. If that was how he behaved, then he didn’t deserve her loyalty, anyway.
As Todd patted her hand, she groaned inwardly. What the hell was she doing?
She wanted to explain to Dylan how it was with Todd. The hold he had over her, manipulating her with his threats and sexual overtures. She was so confused, but really, she just wanted Dylan to like her again.
Except, that would mean she cared about Dylan and that wasn’t how she felt, at all. Was it?
And now for my interview with Jackie:
Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?
My working background was mostly airline based, either flying as a stewardess or latterly as a ground handling agent for a corporate aviation business at Stansted Airport. It seemed natural that I would write ‘what you know’ although it took me quite a long time to settle on airline based stories. Consequently, I have three full length novels written on different topics that may or may not see the light of day. With Air Guitar and Caviar, I had a ‘what if’ moment when I saw an immaculately dressed air-stewardess turn her nose up as she passed by a beggar. I wondered how he would feel if he saw her every day and was a little bit in love with her. I metaphorically gave him a guitar and made him charismatic and handsome and that was it – the quest for Dylan the busker to make beautiful air-stewardess, Scarlett fall in love with him, had begun.
Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?
I don’t really find that bit hard, it’s the sorting it all out into the right order to turn it into a book that does me in. I think because I write romance, (and I don’t think I’ll ever write any other kind of book, regardless of the era and setting) I start off with the sort of man I think I would fall in love with, and put him into an interesting setting, throw a few challenging situations at him and a girl who has her own troubles, and voilà.
How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?
Oh, God, I’m such an ‘all over the place’ type of writer that I don’t really know how long it takes. I’m likely to start writing another story when I get fed up of the current one and, sometimes decide not to bother with one that I’ve written say 30,000 words of, only to resurrect it a year later.
Air Guitar and Caviar was totally re-written, as I knew the story wasn’t good enough, but I just loved my busker boy and the frosty Scarlett too much to let them go. I suppose I didn’t really have any sense of urgency then, as I hadn’t been published, but now I really intend to get my act together – honest!
How many drafts of each story do I do? Loads! My best discovery was finding Kindle’s Text to Speech as I send my novel to my Kindle and listen to it while reading the story. This has made a HUGE difference to my writing and if anyone ever hears me moaning about the giant that is Amazon – just remind me of this wonderful feature.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
I’m not a touch typist so it takes me ages to literally type the story and I make loads of frustrating mistakes. Also, my concentration span is appalling, so I have to take myself off somewhere where there is no internet or silly distractions. Getting the structure of the plot is often hard too, as I write in an excited ‘stream of consciousness’ kind of way and then realise that the storyline is all muddled. So, another thing I intend to change is my planning process, i.e. I need to plan!
What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
I think it’s the editing once the basic story is written. I get an enormous sense of satisfaction when I see that I’ve made sentences and paragraphs so much better than the first or second time around.
Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?
Not really a recurring theme but the second and third novel are both airline based. My heroes are always gorgeous – and that’s a good place to start!
Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?
The second novel is still untitled, but mostly finished (it’s had so many titles that if I don’t look at it for a week or so, I don’t know what to type in the search box to find it). It was shortlisted in a Mills and Boon Flirty Fiction competition but having dabbled in Mills and Boon writing, I realised their style wasn’t for me, as the story line, in my opinion, is too limiting. So, I’ve struggled a bit to change the style of the writing and consequently it’s taken me a lot longer than it should have.
The third novel is drafted out and it’s about an FBI guy who is sent to track an air-stewardess who they believe is drug smuggling. He starts to like her against his better judgement and all sorts of shenanigans happen before the ending is ironed out. It’s set in Africa and Russia so should be quite entertaining.
Jackie was desperate to become a journalist when she left school but was ousted within minutes on the day of the exam at her local rag because she’d forgotten to bring a pen. Short and sharp lesson learned. Her budding writing career was not on hold for long, though, as Jackie found herself scribbling love stories of pilots and ‘hosties’ while she flew in aeroplanes of various shapes and sizes as a flight attendant herself.
Fast forward a good few years and Jackie finally decided it was time to discard her stilettos, hang up her tabard and say goodbye to the skies to concentrate on what has become her new love – writing full-length romance novels.
After being shortlisted for Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition with her novel Air Guitar and Caviar, and again shortlisted for a first chapter Flirty Fiction competition, she decided the time was right to become a professional writer. She is now putting the finishing touches to her series set in the fictional StarJet airline.
Find out more about Jackie here: