Today, I’d like to welcome the lovely Jo Bartlett to my blog. Jo and I met online a couple of years ago, and we’ve been encouraging each other ever since. She’s a founder member of the The Write Romantics, and Jo regularly blogs with the other nine members about love, life and writing. Her novel, Among a Thousand Stars has just been released, and it’s a fab read. Over to you, Jo!
“Thanks so much, Siobhan, for allowing me to guest on your blog. Whenever I visit your site it’s like being transported to Italy and I can only hope to maintain the usual quality of posts.
Writing is something I can’t seem to help doing, even at times when I wish my passion was for something else – like gardening or interior design, something that you don’t necessarily have to share with the world to be deemed a success. When you tell people you are writing a novel, you set yourself up for having lots of questions and comments directed your way. Trust me when I say that people calling you JK Rowling, when you are struggling to even finish a first draft, never mind find a publisher and try to sell copies to someone other than your mum, is neither helpful or amusing!
I do love writing, though, and it was after a brush with cancer that I decided I was going to settle down to finish a novel and see if I could write something worthy of publication. Around the same time, I saw an article from a writer whose novels I’d always loved, Jill Mansell, talking about how invaluable the RNA New Writers’ Scheme had been to her. I managed to get in at my first attempt and had feedback which gave me real hope that I wasn’t completely deluded.
I floated on a high for a while, worried how I’d decide if more than one publisher or agent wanted the rights to the story. Perhaps they’d fight over it and I’d be one of those debut authors who triggers an auction… Of course real life doesn’t ever quite turn out like that. Part of being an author is putting yourself out there for criticism and rejection – both of which I had my fair share of. I also had my share of positive feedback, though, and made a decision in the end to go with a UK publisher, So Vain Books, and pull out of the submission process with two US publisher who had also expressed an interest.
‘Among A Thousand Stars’ was a story that sort of happened by accident. At my son’s primary school, one of his best friends was the son of celebrity and fashion photographer, Perou. One day, he’d be heading off to New York to photograph Dita Von Teese but, by the next week, he’d be back in the thick of it, with the rest of us parents, trying to elbow his way to the front of the school hall to get a good seat for the nativity play. Actually he’s much cooler than that, but I’m sure you know what I’m trying to say. It made me wonder about how someone can inhabit two such different worlds and was part of the inspiration for the novel.
My heroine, Ashleigh Hayes is a freelance photographer who finds herself in a professional life filled with glamour but with plenty of the more ordinary along for the ride – including a mother who’s only too happy to strip off in front of her friends and an alarming ability to put her foot in it. It’s a story about the insecurities we all carry, the ups and downs of a less than perfect family life and how the right person can suddenly help it all make sense.
My stories often seem to feature certain themes which are replicated in my own life, from quirky family members, through to sadly departed father figures, seaside settings and errant hounds with more than a passing passion for bacon rind. I can’t seem to stay away from the sea and wrote a Christmas novella last year, set in the fictional bay where Charles Dickens was alleged to have penned A Christmas Carol, and have since had two pocket novels picked up by DC Thomson – both of which were set a stone’s throw from the Kent coast where I live.
Being published has been a rollercoaster ride of highs and unexpectedly bumpy twists and turns. I’ve held a paperback of my novel in my hands, had fantastic reviews from strangers telling me that my stories have made them laugh or cry, and even seen my pocket novel on the shelves of WHSmiths and a host of other shops. There have been less enthusiastic reviews from one or two, as is the way with anything you publish, the pressure of watching Amazon rankings rise and fall and even attracting my very own stalker – which is way less Hollywood than it sounds!
All that said, I know I can’t stop writing any more than I want to. Inspiration is all around me. Sadly, I went to a family funeral this week and heard anecdotes about my aunts, who were twins, both of whom led lives filled with a mixture of tragedy and triumph. I’m already itching to tell their stories – but first I have two full length completed manuscripts to edit and a second Christmas novella to write. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep the voices of the characters in my head down to a dull roar, whilst they wait for their stories to be told.”
Thank you so much, Jo. It’s been an absolute pleasure to learn about your writing journey. I’ve just read “Among a Thousand Stars” and this is the review I left on Amazon:
I adored everything about this book. From the rolling on the floor laughing moments to the will he/won’t she? falling in love moments. The secondary characters, Stevie, Zac and Carol are larger than life. Ashleigh is an extremely likeable heroine and Tom a complex hero with issues to solve. I don’t give spoilers in my reviews, so I’ll just say there are times when I felt my heart-strings pulled so hard I had tears in my eyes. That said, Jo Bartlett’s novel is a light, entertaining read which would be ideal to take away on holiday and read on the beach. Highly recommended.
I wish you every success with your future career, my lovely. And I look forward to welcoming you back to my blog when your next book is published.