My Monday guest – Jan Ruth, author of “Wild, Dark and Silent” books.

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Jan Ruth back to my blog today. Jan was my guest last December, when we talked about her Christmas short stories and she announced her publishing contract with Accent Press. You can read all about her on her Amazon Author Page. Welcome, Jan. Lovely to chat with you again. Please tell us about your latest Accent release!

The close of July heralds the re-release of WILD WATER. 

wild-water

Although this is the second title Accent Press have released, it’s actually my first novel, a book which has endured the longest journey of all to arrive fully polished and published. It began as a humble paper copy – remember those? – and went through several transformations before arriving in a much less frazzled state.

This is the story of Jack Redman, the wronged alpha male who’s trying to make the best decisions for his family but more often than not, gets kicked in the teeth. How often we read novels in the contemporary genres which consistently root for the female character – nothing wrong with a strong woman of course – but no one seemed to be telling these stories from the male viewpoint, at least not twenty years ago when I began my quest. Divorce still seems heavily weighted towards the partner with the children, and the mother is usually awarded custody unless there are extenuating circumstances which can be proved. Most of the time this is all well and good, but there are a great number of cases where our ancient system is fully exploited. Sadly, a lot of the initial storyline was prompted by real-life experience but there’s no better starting point than this for fiction in the family-saga genre. Jack Redman is a victim not only of the court system injustices but of its inability to deal with the speed and complications of contemporary family life.

The Wild Water series is strongly rooted in Conwy, a medieval town in North Wales. In the main I’ve used real places, and I do love the mix of historical buildings as a backdrop to a modern tale. Jan Ruth 4

Links to Welsh history and heritage are unavoidable in Wales and it’s the visible remains of quarries, castles and farmsteads which give the area a strong sense of the past. And there’s richness in the landscape here which has certainly inspired my writing. St. Celynin’s seventh century church in the hills for example, is an evocative piece of living history and a landmark which is included throughout the series. It’s exactly the sort of place Anna, with her natural spiritualism, might seek sanctuary. Nestled in the hills 927 feet above the sea, its pretty inaccessible and best approached on foot, but this is no hardship.Jan Ruth 2

Some of the area is chocolate-box pretty, a lot of it isn’t. The struggle to make a living in this community is mostly based on farming or tourism, although the mussel industry is alive and well. Since I know little about these subjects, Jack Redman emerged as an estate-agent. I like to be slightly unconventional with my characters because another great killer of readability is sameness, and cliche.

It was both daunting, and a pleasure to write the follow-up, Dark Water; to be republished by Accent Press on October 8th.

dark-water (1)

The story picks up three years after the end of Wild Water and Jack is in for another bumpy ride. Dark Water is, as the title might suggest, a darker story partly because my writing style has changed over twenty years, but also because I introduced an element of crime. It’s too easy to become lazy with a sequel and repeat much of what has gone before. The resurgence of Simon Banks created plenty of tension, and a fresh challenge for me to write some of the story from his perspective. New characters such as Clarissa Harrison-Smith and Peter Claymore, breathed new life into the original cast. When I brought Claymore into the story, he had to have a purpose and a passion, and his persona took root in one of the most fascinating buildings in Conwy – sadly in a state of disrepair – but the real life situation fitted perfectly with what I had in mind for the plot.

This house was built in 1589 by the vicar of Conwy . Since then it’s been a pub, a tearoom and an antique shop. It’s full of spooky atmosphere with cellars, trap doors and secret passages, and apparently there used to be an escape tunnel which led to the quay. Haunted? Most certainly!

It’s exactly the sort of place someone like Claymore would want to renovate and bring to life, and the perfect setting for Anna to develop in her own right as a serious artist. Her portrait of Llewellyn the Great is the centrepiece of her launch but of course, this is fiction and nothing goes to plan! The comedy and tragedy of Jack’s life rumbles on. In his own words: ‘Raping and pillaging is still rife, even in the modern world.’

Jan Ruth 3

Wow, Jan. It sounds like a fab read. I used to live in Wales and love the settings for your novels, not to mention the engaging characters and story-lines. Good luck with the launch, my lovely, and thanks for being my guest today! 

Jan Ruth 1

Dear reader, If you’d like to connect with Jan, why not visit her website and blog, follow her on Twitter, or like her Facebook page? 

Wild, Dark and Silent: A testimony to the Welsh Hills.

Monday Interview with Jan Ruth

Today I’m so happy to welcome Jan Ruth to Douglas Bland Artists’s studio in Italy. Jan and I got to know each other online a couple of months ago when we found out we shared the same editor, John Hudspith. We have a passion for the Welsh countryside in common, too, as well as a love of horses (and a certain mad obsessiveness about our writing).

Jan RuthI couldn’t wait to read Jan’s work and, when I did, I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s the review I wrote for her novel Midnight Sky.

“When I read the blurb for “Midnight Sky” and saw that the hero is a horse-whisperer, I just had to read it. The first word that springs to mind now I’ve finished it is, “Wow!” I absolutely loved it. Fell in love with James Morgan-Jones and really wanted him and Laura to get together. Won’t give any spoilers, though. For me, the best thing about losing myself in a romance is the ‘Will he? Won’t she?’ element, which Jan Ruth exploits beautifully. There’s a whole host of realistic characters in this novel, all of them interesting, and the story line is so compelling I couldn’t stop reading. I used to live in Wales, and it was great to be transported back there. I’m delighted to have found this author and will definitely be reading more of her books.”

Midnight Sky Cover FULL WEBSo glad you can join me in an aperitivo, my lovely. What can I offer you?

I was wondering when you’d ask! I’m a plain Jane when it comes to drinkies so it’s a straight Sauvignon for me, or a cheeky Chardonnay. None of those watered-down spritzers! (I can force down gin and tonic too, although I always think of this as a long summer drink).

Ooh, let’s have some Chardonnay. (Pours two glasses). Cheers!

  • white_wine_glass

You’ve recently published Home for Christmas, an emotive trio of stories with festive themes from the Welsh Mountains of Snowdonia.

tumblr_inline_nfp0ddVOsw1rqjcsm

Please tell us all about what looks like a fab read!

It was great fun to write, despite me starting these in July with the sun beating down. The brief to myself was 3 very different stories. I think they turned out pretty well. Here’s a short description:

Rudolph the Brown-Nosed Reindeer

Rick isn’t looking forward to his lonely corporate Christmas, but it’s the season of goodwill and magic is in the air. An off-beat love story. It’s time Rick wore his heart on his sleeve, or is it too late? Lessons in love from an unlikely source.

Jim’s Christmas Carol

Santa and Satan pay a visit. One brings presents, the other an unwelcome presence. Paranormal reality. Jim’s played with fire it’s time he got his comeuppance, but from who?

Home for Christmas

Deck the halls with boughs of holly. Fa la-la la-la, la-la la-la. Tis the Season to be jolly… Romantic-comedy. Pip might accidentally find her true vocation, but the folly of her fibs are about to catch up with her.

I’m looking forward to snuggling up by the fire with your lovely stories, a glass of mulled wine, and some mince pies (which I’ll have to make myself as we can’t buy them in Italy). Jan, you must be one of the most prolific authors I’ve chatted with here.

Jan's header

Please can you tell us about the inspiration behind your books, what keeps you writing, and something about your path to publication. Before you start, let me top up your glass and offer you a slice of pizza.

real_pizza

Thanks! I think inspiration comes from having something to say, a need to share an experience; and then of course for me, the Welsh landscape plays a huge part in my musings. When we moved here some 17 years ago, it kick-started my writing. You could say it was dormant, in a musty box under the bed. Inside the box was a book I’d written called Summer in October. I even managed to ensnare an agent with it but she couldn’t get financial backing for her new business and it all fell apart. Next came Wild Water and I was lucky again to be agented, this time to Jane Judd, but to cut a long story short – it came to nothing, since my style was – and still is – very much between genre. Now of course, all of these restrictions have been blown wide open with the advent of self-publishing and over the last 17 years I’ve written 5 novels and 3 sets of short stories; not as prolific as some, but there was a long 10 year gap where I did none. Also, I only write when I’m inspired to do so. Summer in October was re-written and became Midnight Sky. I only started self-publishing my titles 4 years ago but I guess I’ve only really got to grips with my brand and who I am over the previous 2 years. It’s been a steep learning curve but I can’t say I’ve enjoyed every step of the way… in fact, I was on the point of stopping altogether when I met John Hudspith and Jane Dixon-Smith. Editing and cover design is so important and a totally different skill to writing, but the books finally got the professional boost they needed. This isn’t to say I’m entirely happy being self published, there is much I don’t like about the process and although I am grateful to have had the opportunity via kindle, I am also pleased to say that Silver Rain is now signed to Accent Press and will be re-published next spring.

Fascinating! And congratulations on your publishing contract! Briefly, can you describe your writing process? I mean, are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants? Is there a daily word-count that you aim for when you are writing? Do you revise as you go along, or do you plough on with a first draft then go back and self-edit?

Oh, I never plan anything. I have a well formed idea in terms of plot, but after that I rely on character and circumstance. I think over-planning takes all the spontaneity out of the process and if its dull for the writer, its more often than not, dull for the reader. Having said that, I do cut and paste scenes here there and everywhere to make something work. Also, as one becomes more experienced I do think instinct kicks in. I’ve brought in characters and small scenes with no sense of purpose at the time, but then when it all clicks together towards chapter 15… I love that feeling! It’s like my muse is saying ‘I told you so. There was a reason the man with the wooden leg popped up in chapter 3.

Ha! That’s Interesting, and I think you’re spot-on about spontaneity. We can’t sit here chatting without mentioning our inspiring editor, John Hudspith. You’ve coined a new word, “Johnnyometer”. Love it! Please explain to my readers what that means.

For me, it means he reads the final manuscript and gives it a thorough proofread and a line edit. He’s also checking that I haven’t got the guy with the wooden leg running for a bus in chapter 4. When I first started writing novel-length books I endured dozens of re-writes; but the discipline of that was necessary to learn and understand the craft of how to structure a novel, build character, show not tell. I’ve got a good handle on the basics now but no matter how experienced you think you may be, another pair of experienced eyes is vital. This is where the Johnnyometer comes in.

Fab! We have a love of horses in common and I’m green with envy when I see the wonderful pics you post on Facebook of some of your rides.

10006080_744474255636887_7058848615728028062_oWales is such a beautiful part of the UK and you’ve said it has influenced your work hugely. Many of my followers won’t know much about Cymru and I hope they will pick up your novels to get a flavour of God’s own country. In a few sentences, can you tell us about Snowdonia and how it inspires your writing?

Snowdonia is rugged, mountainous and as beautiful as it is dangerous. I love the hills and the constant change of season here, it never fails to inspire. There’s a rich sense of history too, with castles, druids circles and standing stones; derelict farmsteads, slate mines and of course, the sea. I use the landscape almost as a character in its own right. I use it to set mood too. I never noticed this until an editor at Cornerstones Literary Agency told me I needed to expand on that. With regard to the horses, I’ve been around them all my life so its natural they should feature, plus I’m lucky to have the wild Carneddau ponies on my mountain doorstep. (Some stunning images of the ponies and a feature about them on my blog).

Great! I’ll provide a link to your blog at the end of our chat. What’s on the cards next in your writing career?

I’m thinking about a sequel for Midnight Sky, which is tentatively titled Palomino Sky.

Wonderful! I loved that story and will definitely read the sequel. Oh, I can see your glass is empty. Let me refill it. More pizza?

pouring glass 2

Yes, and yes please. Thank you for having me!

I wish you every success in achieving your dreams, my lovely. It’s been great chatting with you and sharing an aperitivo. Thanks again for joining me. Before you go, please can you leave readers with three facts that might surprise them about you?

I’m not Welsh. I do my best writing in a pair of horrible pyjamas. I’m still a tomboy at age 57. (Actually, I doubt anyone is terribly surprised by that .)

(Laughs) Readers, if you would like to know more about Jan and her books, you can visit her website http://janruth.com/ follow her on Twitter @JanRuthAuthor and connect with her on Facebook.