|Jan Baynham - Author|
Hello Jan – And thank you for taking time out from your busy writing schedule to join me on Arabella’s Blog and Chit-Chat today. It was lovely to connect with you through the Romantic Novelists’ Association where a plethora of experienced authors and affiliates are often ready and willing to assist those in need on their writing journey. But before we discover more about your debut release, Her Mother’s Secret, here are a few questions which will hopefully give your readers and followers an insight into some of the things that matter to you…
Arabella: Authors can release books, making them available to readers in various ways…via an agent, or working directly with a traditional publisher, or they can even go the self-publishing route. Which method of publishing do you prefer, and why?
When I started writing, I could only dream of becoming a published novelist. By the time I’d joined the RNA’s wonderful New Writers’ Scheme and completed my first novel, I knew from the very start I wouldn’t have the confidence to self-publish and am full of admiration for those who do so successfully. That left two options available to me if I was going to fulfil my dream. At the RNA Conferences I have had one-to-ones with both agents and editors of publishers where you submit directly to them. When two editors gave me very encouraging feedback on the first 5000 words of ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ and asked for the complete manuscript, that was the route I took. Neither offered a contact in the end but I worked on the helpful detailed advice for improvement I received from them before submitting again. I was delighted when Ruby Fiction offered me a contract for three books shortly afterwards. Working with my editor there has been a very positive experience and I love the support that working with an editor has given me.
Arabella: A slice of Chocolate Cake, a piece of Fruit, or Burger and Fries?
I eat a lot of lovely fruit but if there’s a piece of chocolate cake on offer, as a self-confessed chocoholic, it would be my choice every time. Mmm!
Arabella: Who or what inspired you to write your debut release, ‘Her Mother’s Secret’?
The novel started out as a short story, entitled ‘Whispers in the Olive Trees’. At the time, I’d been reading a novel where the rustling in trees sounded like whispers and inanimate statues took on the form of ghosts of the people they represented. Combining both ideas, I asked myself what if the whispering could show the presence of a past family member. Always fascinated by family secrets, I knew I had the basis for a story. In both the story and the novel. I leave it to the reader to the reader to decide what the whispering represents. I believe that bond between mothers and daughters is a very special one and often continues after a mother has passed away. Even if there is no such thing as a ghost, I think a mother’s presence can still be felt. I liked the idea of my main character writing all her secrets and thoughts down in a diary and locking them away.
Arabella: If the person of your dreams, (husband/wife/partner/or superstar), were to take you out for the night, where would they take you and what would you do?
If I could go out for the night with anyone, it would be with my husband. We first started going out with one another in grammar school and he would know exactly where to take me. It would be to a gourmet restaurant where we could sample a range of beautifully cooked food and different wines with each course. Like the one in Madeira that we love, there would be live music from a classical pianist and soprano singers. After our espressos, we would finish with double amarettos with lots of ice. It would be a balmy evening and our table for two would be outside the restaurant overlooking the sea.
Arabella: Currently, what is your most favourite T.V. programme, and why?
I enjoy a cosy crime series, especially those with stand-alone stories each week. For me, ‘Vera’ fits that bill. The wonderful Northumbrian setting, the quirkiness of DCI Vera Stanhope played so brilliantly by Brenda Blethyn and a murder that’s always solved in the end make it easy viewing without giving me nightmares. Not many actors can pull off shambolic and effective, but Blethyn can do it with a single, penetrating glance from beneath that hat. Guardian Review.
|Crime Series - Vera|
Arabella: When writing a book or chapter, which do you concentrate on first: plot, character, or setting?
I try to plan my novel in as much detail as I can. It often changes as I write but I do like to have mapped out the main events and know roughly how it will end. However, after that, I concentrate on getting to know my characters, writing character sketches and outlines. For example, I knew I wanted Elin to be an artist from the beginning in ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ and so I spent time working out her back story, what she was like as a person, what she was like as a daughter, a wife and a mother. Most of this hasn’t gone into the novel itself but I wanted to get inside her head in order to know why she acted the way she did. In this novel, the Greek setting plays a very important role, I think, so although it wasn’t the first thing to concentrate on, when I was actually writing I did try to bring the setting alive. I hope I’ve succeeded.
Arabella: How do you research your novels and characters?
I tend to make notes as I write the first draft and come back to trying to resolve those issues later. In ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, there was a part where I needed details of taking LSD and the effects of a bad ‘trip’ so I used Google to start and found personal accounts from people who had experienced them. A friend also supplied me with interviews she’d done with students as a project back in the 60s which was helpful. I first visited Greece in the late seventies and could draw on my own experience of that but I had to check that any ‘facts’ were relevant ten years earlier. However, my next two novels go further back in time. For novel two, I researched the black market, prisoners of war and conscription using archives, newsreel footage and personal accounts. A visit to the country house in mid-Wales on which Greystone Hall is based was particularly useful. Now open to the public, it gave me the layout of the house especially of the kitchen and servants quarters where my character, Rose, worked. Once the present situation is over, I’m hoping to undertake some first hand research in Northern France before creating one character who worked for the French Resistance in novel three.
How would you describe your style of writing or your chosen genre?
It’s women’s historical fiction; I seem to be going back further in time with each novel I write. I like to explore the way the past often informs the present in family relationships and how social history has changed. My novels are not time slips in the way that two narratives are woven together throughout the book but they tell two stories that are linked in some way.
Arabella: What advice would you give to someone who is starting out on their writing journey?
My main advice would be never to give up on your dream. Get yourself a pair of broad shoulders and learn from any feedback you get. Be open to all the help you are offered. Members of the writing community have been incredibly supportive and I would advise becoming active on social media. I’ve learned so much from being with other writers, attending events and workshops, especially the annual RNA Conferences.
Thank you for joining me on Arabella’s Blog and Chit-Chat, Jan. I’m sure your readers enjoyed discovering a little more about your personal life. Your research sounds daunting and also adventurous. Travelling to Greece, Wales, and Northern France all in the name of research! Amazing…
Good luck with your debut release - ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ and wishing you lots more happy-ever-after writing.
About Jan Baynham
|Jan Baynham - Author|
After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction. From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and short listed in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published. Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in further depth and delve into their stories. She writes about family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters. Set in the last year of the 60s, ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ takes you to sun-drenched Greece, her favourite holiday destination.
Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. Having joined the Romantic Novelists Association in 2016, she values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter.
You may find out more about Jan here:
Twitter: @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham
Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit/
Book Blurb Her Mother’s Secret
A secret left behind in the summer of ’69 …
It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …
Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.
‘Her Mother’s Secret’ was published on 21st April and is available on Amazon: