I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Jane Risdon today. Having spent her adult life married to a rock musician, Jane Risdon had little time for writing. She and her husband managed rock musicians, singer-songwriters and record producers, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous in Hollywood and around the world. Latterly, with time on her hands, she has used her experiences in the world of music and from an earlier job in The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to kick-start her writing career. She writes mainly crime, though she has ventured into other genres, notably a soon-to-be published novel with award winning romance author Christina Jones.
Tell me something you would like your readers to know about you, please, Jane!
I’ve walked through the middle of a shoot-out in Los Angeles, between bank robbers and the cops following a robbery at Wells Fargo, not long after surviving the 1994 earthquake and tornadoes in the mid-West. I am wondering about my other six lives now.
Wow! At bedtime, do you listen to relaxing-so-you-can-sleep sounds or something else?
I listen to Radio 4 as I read. I love the Shipping Forecast. I’m that sad!
I love the Shipping Forecast, too. It’s wonderfully soothing. What kind of music do you listen to if you do listen to music?
Having worked with music all my life, in the studio, on the road touring and at concerts, I find I can’t really listen to music – for pleasure – without analysing it in detail. I love Rock and R&B but I am a Doris Day fan too. My all-time favourite song is one my husband wrote and recorded for me when we were dating…but that is a secret.
How intriguing! If your life were a movie would it be considered an action film, comedy, drama, romance, fantasy or a combination?
I think my life would be Calamity Jane meets Some Like it Hot with Smiley’s People mixed in.
Fascinating! Let’s talk about your books now. When did you start writing and why?
I’ve always wanted to write but life on the road baby-sitting rock musicians, constantly on tour or in the recording studio when keeping normal working hours is something other people do, there was never the time. If I ever had a spare few hours they were usually spent with family, but quite often we were never in the same country let alone the same room together, so finding time in such situations was almost impossible. Beside, working on song writing with my artists and producers tented to drain my brain. I’ve always read, mainly crime and spy thrillers, and the urge to have a go at it myself has always lurked in the back of my brain. When we began to wind down our business and stopped travelling so much, I decided it was time for me to do something for myself and I was encouraged by my husband and also by his band’s former fan-club secretary, Christina Jones, to stop talking about it and do it.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Life on the road and working in the international music business (and with movies and television) provides some amazing fodder for a writer. I also worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall when I was younger and the whole atmosphere back then – during the Cold War – got my little grey cells excited and my imagination ran riot with possibilities for writing spy thrillers and crime stories. Back then I had no idea I’d have to wait half my life to be able to write.
How did you come to write crime?
I think I have a criminal mind. I don’t know how or why I wanted to write crime. I read crime and with the calibre of writers out there, I must be mad even thinking I could possibly stick my oar into their pond, but I have and I am.
Would you like to write a different genre?
I do write in other genres, mostly short stories and novellas. I’ve written a couple of Ghost Stories (for my publishers) which are in two anthologies, Shiver and Wishing on a Star. I write flash fiction and have written about pirates, domestic abuse and various other topics including what I call ‘observational humour’ in another series of books (WIP) I call God’s Waiting Room. Whatever grabs me. I have just completed a joint project with award-winning author Christina Jones, called Only One Woman, which is going to be published May 2016 by Accent Press. We have always wanted to write together, having been friends since our teens when she was Fan Club Secretary for my husband’s band and working as a rock/pop journalist. This is a change of genre for me as it is Women’s Fiction.
What is your favourite part of writing?
Reading the finished product…when I know I can leave the story and start another.
What is your least favourite part?
Writing it. I wish I could just think a story and it would physically write itself.
Which of your own releases is your particular favourite?
I don’t really have a favourite. I do think that both my stories in the anthology, In A Word: Murder are some of my favourites. Set in the worlds of music and book publishing where money and fame drive people to commit the most terrible crimes. Ms B is a favourite but she is not published yet.
How do you handle writer’s block?
I don’t really suffer from it. I can make myself write anything – it may well be rubbish – but I make myself. I walk a lot and take photos and this helps me with locations for stories and clears the fog in my little brain if I am finding something particularly difficult.
A good tactic! Do you write long hand first, or does it go straight onto the computer?
Oh computer. I used to have decent hand-writing but of late I can’t even read my own writing. Using a computer too much I guess. My writing looks like a spider dipped in ink and let loose over the page.
That’s happened to me as well! Are you a “sit down and play it by ear” kind of writer, or do you need a structured guideline, or maybe a little of both?
I usually get an idea based on a personal experiences in the music business or espionage-related quite often, or something in the news. I know the name of the main character, the title of the book and the general idea for the story, but that’s it. I sit in front of the computer and write. A bit like the process of song-writing, it just comes.
I love writing like that too. When crafting the story do you go from beginning to end, or do you jump around writing the scenes that are pushing themselves forward in your brain?
I am an A-Z kind of gal. I think this comes from working in recording studios. You being at the beginning and work through until the end of the project.
So, do you always know how a story will end when you begin writing it?
Vaguely. I really am a ‘seat of the pants writer.’ I tend to think in terms of writing songs; you have a story to get across in X number of minutes (pages) and so you need impact with the opening line, you need a good hook (chorus) and a change of pace (middle 8 – bridge) and repeat the process again before ending on a high (cliff-hanger). So I know what I need to do, and possibly how, but where it takes me is often a surprise to me. I also see my story in terms of making a video or a movie, and again I apply the same process to writing but often there is more than one ending to a movie and so I never know which is going to be the Director’s cut.
Fantastic! Have your characters ever taken the story in a different direction than you had originally planned?
Often. I started writing my series of novels, Ms Birdsong Investigates – a former MI5 Officer who ‘retires’ to live in a rural village to escape her enemies, and a former lover – with the idea she’d be a modern day Miss Marple, but she soon took over and now she is very different. She is an action woman; complex, intelligent, feisty, experienced in the ways of covert operations, funny and sexy. A long way from where I thought she’d be.
Is location important in your books, then?
I tend to use locations I am familiar with. I’ve written crime stories set in Hollywood, Beverley Hills and England, and I am writing a book based in Mumbai, though my personal knowledge of India was many years ago, so I am reliant upon my husband’s knowledge as he has spent many years working in Bollywood where one of my stories set. Am toying with setting another book in Singapore as we lived there too. Ms Birdsong is set in The Vale of The White Horse, Oxfordshire where we lived for many years and we used as a base during visits back to England.
Generally speaking, your work is based on real life experiences, isn’t it?
Oh I think it is well and truly based on real life experiences, though I have to say I have never murdered anyone or committed the kind of crimes I write about. I have met some very ‘interesting’ people during my lifetime and some would think nothing of leaving a horse’s head in my bed if they didn’t like what I’m about!
How long does it take you to create a story on average?
When I write short stories/novellas I write really fast and can complete 10-15,000 words in a day or two. However, I have four full length novels on the go at the moment and the main one, Ms Birdsong Investigates, has taken me three years so far. I thought I’d completed it and then something triggered book two and book three in the series and I started writing them so I wouldn’t forget the stories, and soon found that Ms B (book one) had to be re-written to accommodate books two and three. By this time I discovered that I had become a better writer (in my opinion) than before, and so it has taken me some time to bring the whole thing together again. I plan on finishing all three books in the series this year and then concentrate on either a follow-up to Only One Woman, or complete the other (crime) book I’ve been working on. Well, that’s the plan!
Awesome! Do you like to read crime fiction?
Yes I do. I am a great reader of crime/thriller/espionage stories and if I watch movies (rarely) they would be this genre also.
If you could see one of your stories turned into a Hollywood film, who would you like to see play the lead roles?
I really have no idea. I know people in the movie business to whom I might pitch one of my books, but I am not sure who’d play any parts in one. I am not keen on many of today’s movie stars, though I do love Johnny Depp as I feel he has depth as an actor, but not for any of my books that I can think of. For female roles based on my characters, I have no idea. Knowing how the industry works, the lead role would have to be an American and I don’t fancy that so the movie wouldn’t get made.
Do you have a special writing place, Jane?
Not really. I have a desk and office and I am happy in there or writing on my lap-top sitting in bed late at night. I need to be comfortable with tea and liquorice to hand….or wine, if someone has given me any.
Can you tell us a bit more about your Ms Birdsong Investigates series?
It’s about a former MI5 Officer ‘voluntarily’ retired following a disastrous joint mission with MI6. She moves to a rural village in The Vale of The White Horse to lick her wounds and keep a low profile, however, old habits die hard and she tends to keep tabs on those around her. The first book in the series soon finds her involved in the search for a missing woman which leads her to Russian Mafia people traffickers – financing Ukrainian pro-Russian fighters with their ill-gotten gains, and drug money. The village of Ampney Parva doesn’t know what’s hit them when Lavinia decides to take matters into her own hands.
Tell us a bit more about Only One Woman, please, Jane.
It will be published May 28th by Accent Press, I have co-written it with romance author Christina Jones. We have a shared history in music dating back to our teens which inspired us to write a story set in 1968/1969 about two girls in love with the same musician. There is a lot of music, fashion, and atmosphere of the swinging sixties, along with epic world events providing the background for this love story. The book can be pre-ordered via Accent Press in paperback and for e-book.
Fab! Please let us have your social media and book links!
My Facebook Author Page is: www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2
My Author Blog is: http://wp.me/2dg55
My Amazon Author Page is: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8
My Accent Press link is: http://www.accentpress.co.uk/only-one-woman
My Twitter link is: https://twitter.com/Jane_Risdon
Thanks for joining me and my readers today and all the best with your writing, my lovely!
Thanks so much for having me as your guest and for the opportunity to tell you something about myself and my work. I have enjoyed being here and wish you all the best for 2016.