Friday, 30 November 2012

Edinburgh Fog is FREE today and tomorrow!

To celebrate St Andrew's Day, Muse It Up is offering my short contemporary romance Edinburgh Fog completely free, today and tomorrow!  Go to the Muse It Up bookstore at and click on the Edinburgh Fog banner at the top of the page to download it.
You can also check out an excerpt at the Muse It Up blog here.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Next Big Thing - All The Boys of Summer

I’ve been tagged by writer Christine London as part of The Next Big Thing Blog Hop - thanks, Christine! In turn, I'm tagging three of my favourite writing chums - Carol A Spradling, Bess McBride, and R.R. Smythe, who also writes as Brynn Chapman.  With a little luck, you'll be able to read about their own 'next big things' next week on November 14th.
So, what IS all this about a Next Big Thing?  Well, here's all about mine.
What is the working title of your book?  'All The Boys of Summer,' but that may well change - not least because it makes no mention of the 'girls of summer,' who are just as important as the boys!

Where did the idea come from for the book?
  It started off as the tiniest germ of an idea after an event one summer afternoon several years ago.  We'd not long moved into a rented country cottage in an area I wasn't at all familiar with.  My kids and I were having a picnic lunch in the garden behind the cottage on a wonderfully sunny afternoon, the kind where the only sound you hear is the humming of the bees amongst the flowers, almost silent and quite idyllic, when we heard another sound in the distance, one quite at odds with the sunshine, Sussex afternoon - a low rumble, coming nearer and nearer, growing louder and louder.  The out of the clear, blue sky, the most extraordinary thing - three vintage WWII warplanes roaring over the roof of our cottage, across the garden and over the nearby forest, and headed towards the coast.  It was absolutely breathtaking, and at the time, I'd no idea why they were there or who they were.
I learned later they were part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, on their way to a nearby local airshow.  What we'd actually witnessed was a flypast from a huge Lancaster bomber flanked by two smaller planes, a Hurricane fighter and the iconic Spitfire.  In the evening, another Spitfire flew a solo flight along part of the coast, and I stood by the edge of the paddock adjoining our house, and watched him turn inland, dipping his wing in salute.  In contrast to the spectacle of the three planes from earlier, this was slow, peaceful, and incredibly moving.  I found myself thinking of all the other women who'd stood and watched, maybe in the same spot I was standing then, as the Battle of Britain was fought over the skies of Sussex and Kent.  Those women, of course, were watching for very different reasons to mine - perhaps they were worrying what the future might hold for them, or were longing for their loved ones to come home safe.  Many of them would have loved ones who would never return.  Standing there, with my young daughter in my arms, watching that solo Spitfire and thinking of those women is a moment I've never forgotten.  It planted the seed that's slowly becoming 'All The Boys of Summer.'

What genre does your book fall under?
  If it has to have a genre, it'll be a combination of romance and women's fiction, and it's part-contemporary, part-historical.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I wouldn't.  I never 'see' characters as actors, although I know some writers always have actors in mind when they're writing.  I've never been able to - or wanted to - do that.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? When it's finished, it'll most likely be submitted to my current publisher, Muse it Up.  I've had nothing but great experiences with them so far, so I'd be very happy to have another!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  It's still being written, but I abandoned a huge part of the first draft that I began about two years ago.  The whole direction of the thing was wrong, and I really hadn't got the male protagonist of the contemporary part of the story right at all.  He was in the wrong job in the wrong part of the world, and I drove myself to tears with the amount of research I was having to do for him.  I'd reached too far, and he wasn't working at all.  While I'm not a stickler for 'write what you know,' I decided this time I'd do exactly that and go back to my own background to get him right.  I'm glad to say, he's coming alive beautifully now!

Who or What inspired you to write this book?  The women on the 'Home Front' in WWII.  I've always had an interest in that period of British history, how it affected everyday life, and the lives of women in particular.  Dealing with a very new way of life, perhaps working in a factory or driving a tractor, working out how to feed a family on increasingly meagre rations, and the constant fear and worry underneath it all, the threat of air-raids, the ever-present possibility of an invasion by enemy troops, and then the desperate, personal anxiety about those who'd gone to war - is he safe, will he come home?  
On the other hand, for some women, the war held a strange kind of liberation.  Many of them relished the opportunity to do things they'd never done before - they learned to drive, and not just cars but buses, tractors, ambulances.  They worked in factories, earning a wage for the first time in their lives.  Some women volunteered for local support services - organising, managing, being creative, getting things done, providing both practical and emotional help to those who needed it, using their skills and imaginations in brand new ways.  Some went a step further and joined organisations like the Women's Land Army - the famous Land Girls - or the Women's Timber Corps, affectionately known as the Lumber Jills.  It was an incredible time to be a woman, for sure.
The other massive inspiration for the book is the courage and huge achievement of the pilots of WWII.  Those were the men Churchill famously called 'the few,' in his famous speech in the House of Commons in August 1940, at the height of what came to be known as the Battle of Britain, when he said those words that have such a resonance to us now: never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few
All along the coastlines of Kent and Sussex - where I now live - temporary airbases sprang up to repel the threat of Nazi invasion.  So many of the pilots (and bomber crews) were young men, and it wasn't uncommon for them to have had only a few weeks' training before they took to the skies to defend us.  Their achievement was truly remarkable - we really must 'never forget.'
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I've brought an element of  a WWII story into the contemporary part of the book and woven the two goes! 
Jack Tyler is a young, talented actor-director born and brought up in Canada, but who's recently come over to live and work in London.  His grandfather, Harry, was a British WWII Spitfire pilot  who left the UK after the war and settled in Canada.  When Jack is given the task of sorting his grandfather's possessions after the old man's death, he comes across photographs and love letters from 1940 from a woman called Amy - not the woman his grandfather eventually married.  Harry often talked of the farm in Sussex near to where he was stationed, where he had good friends, and spent many happy days - yet he never mentioned Amy.  Who was she, and why did Harry keep her letters? 
Intrigued by the mystery, Jack decides to find out what he can about Amy.  Visiting the site of the old farm, he meets Lindy, the woman who now owns the house Amy lived in.  Lindy agrees to help Jack trace Amy and fill in the missing parts of his grandfather's story.  As Jack and Lindy become more and more entwined with Amy's story, they become more and more entwined with each other....and the rest is still being written.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Perhaps the prologue.....the beginning of Amy's story....

Sussex, England
15 August 1940

     You always hear them first. 
     I learned to tell the difference a while ago, and this was definitely one of ours.  All I could see were the tangled smoke trails from the dogfight, like a child had scribbled over the bright blue sky.  Then suddenly, he was coming right at us.
     I’ll never forget that sound.
     You see - I thought I was used to it, but there was something wrong this time.  For a moment I wondered if I was mistaken and it was one of theirs, not one of ours at all.  He twisted across the sky, around and around, and then I knew what sounded so odd.
     The plane was screaming.
     I couldn’t move.  You’d have thought the muck on my boots had merged with the stuff I’d just earthed up over the potatoes and I’d taken root, like I knew I would one day.  Then I heard Tom, racing from the top field.
     It’s a Spitfire!  He’s comin’ down!
     Tom vaulted the gate and hared across the paddock.  I had the fork in my hand from digging, and I held it up, like a spear; as if it was ever going to be any use when a plane landed on us.  Even if it was one of ours. 
     Tom stopped beside me, wheezing in the top of his chest, like he always sounds before he’s had his first ciggies of the day.  I thought the plane would pass us and land on the big house, and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it.
     Then it dropped.
     I saw a starling drop a snail once; up in the air one minute, then falling, fragile as an egg, and cracking open right there on the path in front of me.  The Spitfire came down, still screaming, and it hit the ground with the most God-awful crash.  Then, nothing.
     I hope I never hear that sound again.
     Or that silence.
     Tom gripped my arm – I’ve still got the half-moons from his nails – and we ran.  It’s hard to run fast in these big Land Army boots, and usually it’s away from aeroplanes, not towards them. I didn’t know why we were running; the way it came down there couldn’t be anyone still alive in it.  But the canopy slid back; a dark glove waved then fell away.  Tom leapt like I’ve never seen him move before, braced his foot on the side and hauled himself onto the wing.
     Give us a hand here, Amy!
     The pilot must have passed out the second he got the canopy open; pretty rotten timing, if you ask me.  Tom hauled him over the side, and I grabbed him tight around the knees. 
     An unconscious man weighs a lot more than you’d think.
     Bright red blood was seeping out from under his flying jacket and his trousers, and in a moment it was tricking down my arm too, like a tiny red brook.  I didn’t think I could hold him, but Tom had him under the arms and between us we lowered him onto the grass, or Tom did mostly, I just held on.  I heard shouts, and it was Debben and Billy running down from what we still call the rose garden, even though it’s all been turned over to beets now.  They’re big lads, and they scooped the pilot up.  His face was all grey and screwed up, like crumpled paper.  Tom was ready to jump off the wing when he half-turned his head, and I heard him sniff, like he had a streaming cold.
     Bloody hell – run!
     He didn’t have to say anything else.  We ran, Debben at the pilot’s head and Billy at his feet, and it was almost comical how they looked, like boys with a penny-for-the-guy on Bonfire night.  But none of us felt like laughing. 
     Tom pulled me again, and I’d wished he’d let go, because if anything was going to make me trip up, it was him grabbing at me.  I dashed ahead and opened the gate, and they ran down the path straight into the cottage.  Tom was last, and I don’t know why, but after him I turned around to close the gate.  Force of habit, I suppose, and just then I saw a huge fireball that shot up in the air as if to scorch the sky.  I heard later it took the top branches off the elms.  Now I’m writing this down I realise I didn’t hear the head was still full of the sound of the plane screaming.  Bits of burning metal fell everywhere, and then Tom turned me away from the gate.  Go on, see to the lad.   
     Billy came out, saying he was going to the big house to call the doctor.  Debben was standing there, squeezing his hands like men do when they don’t know how to help.  Truth be told, neither did I, but I told Debben to fill a basin and bring the clean sheets I’d stacked on the kitchen table this morning.  The least I could do was tie something around the chap’s leg and see if we couldn’t stop the bleeding – then I realised I didn’t know if there were bullets in his leg, or what I’d do if there were.  He was muttering now, the pilot, and starting to shake, so I took the blanket from the back of the settee and covered him. 
     He clutched my wrist, and it was like being clutched by a dead hand.
     “I’m cold,” he said, “I’m cold,” and I didn’t know what to do to help him get warm except put my arms around him.  Billy came in with the doctor, who it turned out had been up at the big house with the old man anyway, and had seen the whole thing.  Doctor Morris knelt beside the pilot, and said “what’s your name, son?  What’s your name?”
     The pilot opened his eyes and, oh, they were such a brilliant blue - just like the cornflowers in the border that I keep cutting back.  “Harry,” he whispered, all breathy and croaky, “Harry Tyler.”  Then he closed his eyes and didn’t say anything else.
    And all I could think was, I’ll never cut those cornflowers back again.
     At least, not this summer.

So there you are.  This is the beginning of 'All The Boys of Summer.'  I hope you enjoyed it, and you're looking forward to seeing it finished as much as I am!  It's a story about how the past and the present combines, about how your own past and the past of the your family combine to make you the person you are today - and it's very much a book about 'coming home.'

Thanks for sticking with me this far!  If you'd like to find out a little more about how I write, follow the links on my blog sidebar to my currently published works, A Different Kind of Honesty and Edinburgh Fog.

all the best,

Jane x