Guest: Jenny Kane

 

Today, I'm delighted to welcome Jenny Kane to WKDN. We first met several years ago on the Romance panel at Taunton Literary Festival. Jenny is the only writer I know with a brass plaque above the cafe table where she can be found working each morning ...

 


Q: Writing and family life is a constant juggling act - is that where the coffee shop comes in?

Absolutely. I’ve never been able to write from home (until a combination of lockdown and a fast approaching deadline forced my hand and moved me into my garden shed!).

The nearness of ironing, washing etc that needs doing is such a distraction when I’m at home – so escaping to a place where I can’t see it all silently nagging at my conscience works for me.

At the coffee shop, not only do I have the pleasure of physically ‘going to work’, but I get good coffee made for me by someone else. And, of course, my fellow coffee-sippers provide an endless source of inspiration!

 Q: Jenny, can you tell us a bit about your writing journey. Have you always written? I seem to remember you come from an interesting academic background and have a PhD in archaeology?

As you rightly say, my background is academic. I have a degree in archaeology and a PhD in medieval criminology and ballad literature (Or Robin Hood and crime if you like!)

My journey into writing was purely accidental and came from a combination of loneliness and boredom. I had recently moved to Scotland – I knew no one and, with two small children, my life was very much at the ‘I love my kids but my brain is melting’ level of life.

On the day my youngest went to school for the first time, I took myself off for a solo café trip. It was in that coffee shop, over a black coffee, that I had an idea for a short story. Until that moment I had never had any urge to write – but there and then, I had to. There was no choice in the matter. I scribbled the tale down onto a paper napkin.

Miraculously, that short story was taken up by a publisher – and now, 16 years later, I’m still writing. 

Q: So does your interest in history feed in to the novels of your alter-ego Jennifer Ash?

Very much so – I’ve always loved medieval history – especially the thirteenth and fourteenth century.

My own research focuses on the fourteenth century – in particular the Midlands of England, and a criminal gang of brothers, known as the Folvilles, from Leicestershire.

I steal shamelessly from my PhD research for the plotlines for The Folville Chronicles. Each of the four novels in the series are worked around a real crime committed by the Folville family- then I weave additional fictitious crimes and happenings around them.

Q: Tell me more about Jason Connery..! (Full disclosure, I was an 80s Michael Praed fan - lifesize poster on the back of the bedroom door!) 

Mr Connery is a lovely chap. Someone I never thought I’d meet – but then, nor did I think I’d ever write scripts for my favourite TV show of all time- Robin of Sherwood!  My 14 year old self is still in shock.

Anyone who loved Robin of Sherwood (which was hugely popular on ITV in the 1980’s), should check out www.spitefulpuppet.com – where they’ll be able to find brand new RoS audio adventures, staring the original cast – including the aforementioned Mr C, plus Michael Praed, Clive Mantle, Mark Ryan, Nickolas Grace, Ray Winstone and the gang.

My involvement in the writing of these new stories (scripts and novels), came as a total surprise to me. I had been at a Hooded Man Event (fans still meet every 2 yrs in a big convention), selling my romcom, Romancing Robin Hood, at a trade stall. While I was there a lovely man called Barnaby Eaton Jones (who runs the conventions and manages the Spiteful Puppet audios and books), asked me if I had ever fancied having a go at a script for the boys. Obviously, I said yes- not thinking it was more than a kind gesture. However, he gave me a chance and – to my amazement- the ITV team liked my scripts.

I owe Barnaby a great deal. I had never written a script before, so to take a leap of faith on my ability like that was a big deal

Q: Do you find writing under several names gives you a sense of creative freedom? Do you write different books simultaneously or is your mental space a battle ground between Kay, Jen, Jennifer etc?

I love the freedom of it – all three ‘mes’ are very different people. I inhabit the personas when I’m writing as each of them – then, when work is over, I can go back to being the ‘real’ me. 

All of my pennames are attached to much braver people than me – so they give me more confidence, and the ability to do the talks, workshops and book signings and so on. The real me has very limited confidence.

I split my days into three parts – the morning is for Jenny, the middle of the day is for Jennifer and then Kay (when I’m writing as her- which is rare these days) has the late afternoon when needed. So far, I’ve had no trouble creating the mental space of all of the ‘mes’- but sometimes I do forget who I am!

Q: It's been a tough year for everyone writing, but you've had amazing success with deals with Aria and Headline - congratulations! How are you finding working with a big publisher? What's been the main advantage?

It’s been a mad year. My schedule is fearsome- with complete novels needing writing and editing in six month periods. However, I’m not complaining. When publishers like Aria (Head of Zeus) take a chance on you, you don’t want to let them down!

I thrive under pressure and love my job, so it’s been amazing to have the chance to work with them and Headline.

The last three Mill Grange series novels have been written entirely under lockdown – that’s 300,000 words in 12 months. (Plus a Jennifer Ash novel and five scripts in that time too – so make that 400,000 words plus since last March.)

The main advantage of working with a big publisher is that they have a wider reach sales wise, and the product they produce is more polished. Smaller publishers simply can’t afford the number of edits and checks needed to make a book as perfect as it should be.

Having said that I loved working with the majority of the smaller publishers who helped me follow this path – without them giving me a chance in the first place, I’d never have been accepted by Aria or Headline.

Q: you also teach creative writing workshops through Imagine - are there any workshops planned? 

My workshops are still happening, as are the writing retreats I run (with Alison Knight) from Northmoor House on Exmoor. If anyone fancies joining us in October for some writing freedom, then we still have 3 bedrooms available.

All details of the retreat and my workshops can be found at www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk

Most of my tutoring time is spent teaching my Novel in a Year course. This takes new novelists from the first to last word of their novel and beyond, over a twelve month period.

A new series of these will begin in November – details will appear on the Imagine website soon. 

Q: When you're not writing what do you love reading? Who are your writer heroes?

I read as much as I can. It’s always been a passion.

At the moment I’m reading one of Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks crime novels – A Friend of the Devil. His style of writing is superb – I’m learning a lot as I read it.

My reading preferences are wide – I love Victorian crime/gothic fiction, British crime fiction and pretty much anything by Terry Pratchett!

Colin Dexter was definitely one of my writing heroes – a great man, who never wasted a single word. His books are also fabulous resources for anyone who isn’t sure about their punctuation! If in doubt- do what Colin does.

I am also in awe of Kate Griffin and Oscar du Muriel – both experts in the field of Victorian crime/thriller fiction. If only I could write like them! 

Q: What's been your proudest moment (so far)? And what's next for Jenny/Jennifer?

I’ve been blessed with lots of wonderful moments in my career – it’s hard to pick one to be my proudest moment – but if pressed...

I think for Kay Jaybee it would have to be winning Best Erotica Writer of 2015.

As Jennifer Ash, it has to be when I saw my name on an ITV audio script next to the words – Robin of Sherwood for the first time.

And as Jenny Kane, it would be the very first time I saw a ‘bestseller’ sticker next to my name in the main Amazon chart. (For Abi’s House – now known as A Cornish Escape)

Currently, (as Jenny Kane) I’m in the editing stage of the final Mill Grange book – Winter Fires at Mill Grange – which will be published this Christmas. Meanwhile, Jennifer Ash is engaged in a new project which I’m not allowed to talk about – but it’s very exciting!

Huge thanks for inviting me over to chat today,

Jenny xxx


Bio

From the comfort of her cafe corner in Mid Devon, award winning author, Jenny Kane, wrote the contemporary women’s fiction and romance novels, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, (Aria 2021), Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange, (Aria, 2020), Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange (Aria, 2020), A Cornish Escape (2nd edition, HeadlineAccent, 2020),  A Cornish Wedding (2nd edition, HeadlineAccent, 2020), Romancing Robin Hood (2nd edition, Littwitz Press, 2018),  Another Glass of Champagne (Accent Press, 2016), and Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013).

(Winter Fires at Mill Grange will be published by Aria in December 2021)

Jenny has also written 3 novella length sequels to her Another Cup of.....books:  Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle (Accent, 2016). These three seasonal specials are now available in one boxed set entitled Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection (Accent, 2016)

Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015)

Under the pen name, Jennifer Ash, Jenny has also written The Folville Chronicles (The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw, Edward’s Outlaw, Outlaw Justice - published by Littwitz Press, 2016-2020), The Power of Three (Spiteful Puppet, 2020) and The Meeting Place (Spiteful Puppet, 2019). She has also created five audio scripts for ITV’s popular 1980’s television show, Robin of Sherwood.

The Waterford Boy, Mathilda’s Legacy, The Baron’s Daughter, The Meeting Place and Fitzwarren’s Well were released by Spiteful Puppet in 2017/2018/2019/2020.

Jenny Kane is the writer in residence for Tiverton Costa in Devon. She also co-runs the creative writing business, Imagine. Jenny teaches a wide range of creative writing workshops including her popular ‘Novel in a Year’ course. (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk)

All of Jennifer Ash’s and Jenny Kane’s news can be found at www.jennykane.co.uk

@JenAshHistory

@JennyKaneAuthor

@Imagine_Writing

Jennifer Ash https://www.facebook.com/jenniferashhistorical/

Jenny Kane https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011235488766

Imagine www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk


'Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange' has just been published by Aria, 
and is available here.

PS: Jenny was kind enough to invite me to Northmoor last year to talk to her students - it's a beautiful setting and Jen and Alison are great tutors. If you could do with some time away with your writing, (who couldn't ...), book now.




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