I’m delighted to be chatting to Jan Bridgen today. I’ve known Jan for a long time through social media and couldn’t have been more excited for her when she won publisher Choc Lit’s Search for a Star last year. Her debut novel, As Weekends Go was published digitally December 2015 and the paperback was released yesterday. Congratulations Jan 🙂
Jan lives in South East London with her husband and motley crew of cuddly toys. Jan’s written for pleasure from a young age; short stories for classmates, odes for workmates, fun quizzes for family and friends, progressing to her first novel, the idea for which sprang from a script she composed as part of a creative writing course assignment via The Writers Bureau. Following much secret plotting, research and feigning of passion for the customer accounts she was supposed to be reconciling during the day job, the chance finally arose to put pen to paper.
After attending many author talks, literary events, and connecting with writers and readers on Facebook and Twitter, Jan learned of and subsequently joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. An avid reader, reviewer and all round book devotee, Jan is also one eighth of online group blog The Romaniacs.
Connect with Jan Bridgen
Website: The Romaniacs
Blog: Jan Brigden WordPress
Publisher: Choc Lit
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree 🙂
Please summarise As Weekends Go in 20 words or less.
One momentous weekend away involving a ‘girls only’ trip to York, a Brighton sales conference and a Spanish stag do.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
The story originally stemmed from a creative writing course assignment I completed via The Writers Bureau. I had to create two characters and showcase the tension between them using minimal description and dialogue. I chose a jealous husband and his wife’s best friend. He’d secretly invited her round on the pretence of discussing his wife’s surprise 30th birthday party. Instead, he confronted her about some gossip he’d heard regarding a recent weekend trip the two women had taken together, which made me ponder what DID happen. And so the outline for my novel started to take shape.
Did you do any research? What resources did you use?
I did masses of research for the book on a variety of topics. To pick one or two examples, after visiting York with my husband – the central city in As Weekends Go – I knew that I wanted to set a large part of the novel there, so I booked my train ticket and took myself off, notepad and pen in hand for another visit. I had an agenda, certain places to visit, people to speak to, photos to take, etc, and received lots of help. One estate agent I met made me a lovely mug of tea over our chat (with biscuits!). I also spoke to local shopkeepers, and to the city’s tourist information centre – Visit York.
Closer to home, I visited a local hotel upon which I loosely based my fictional hotel Hawksley Manor, and spoke to the manager who provided some valuable information on the inner workings and gave me the guided tour.
Does your novel tackle a social barrier?
I wanted to challenge stereotyping which is why I chose to make my main male character a footballer. Having met one or two players who were the complete opposite of the ‘fast and flashy’ type we see portrayed in the press, and knowing how they shied away from the glitz and simply wanted to play football and maintain professionalism, I realised how frustrating it must be to be lumped in with those who give the sport a bad name.
What inspired you to write Jan?
Initially, reading lots of books as a child, like Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree and her brilliant St Clare’s/Mallory Towers series. I spent hours creating my own fictional scenarios in my head and can remember thinking even at that young age that I wanted to put pen to paper.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
Mornings, for sure, so I try and cram in as much writing or editing as I can before lunch.
How do your characters come into existence? Do they have a bio?
Once I’ve mulled over in my mind what they look like and their basic personalities and relationships to one another, I give each of the main players a bio and then interview them. Funnily enough I recently wrote a blog post about this very subject which further explains it.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
In my childhood, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, whose imaginary worlds and quirky character names left me inspired. Latterly, I’d say Lisa Jewell whose books I devour due to her brilliant character depth and observational skills. Maggie O’Farrell’s writing always leaves its mark; how she depicts the rawness of her characters’ emotions. I’ve also marvelled at the warmth of Maeve Binchy’s writing. Her novel Tara Road is still one of my fave reads to this day.
Have you joined any writing groups Jan?
I am one eighth of group blog The Romaniacs and wouldn’t be without them for all the chocolate in England! Massive family-sized bars included! We bounce ideas off each other, critique each other’s work, offer mutual support, encouragement, laughs and provide hugs when we need them. I’ve learned so much from each of them.
(so much love for the Romaniac ladies)
Finally Jan, are there any tips you could share with new writers that have worked well for you?
I would say read, read, and read some more – as many different genres as you can to get a rounded feel for what appeals to you and why. I’ve learned as much from reading crime novels as I have romance. I’d also suggest getting some feedback on your writing early on from other writing buddies, reading groups or friends and family. When I started writing, I didn’t know any other writers and wasn’t established on social media or anything, so I attended as many author events or library talks as I could. It was daunting at first but I soon got talking to people and everyone I met was as friendly, welcoming and helpful, as they are online. This was how I discovered the RNA New Writers’ scheme which is brilliant as it not only offers you the chance to submit your full or partial manuscript for critique but opens up a whole variety of opportunities to network and form bonds with other writers which is hugely beneficial.
Thank you for being my guest today Jan. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
As Weekends Go– Amazon.co.uk
What if your entire life changed in the space of a weekend?
When Rebecca’s friend Abi convinces her to get away from it all at the fabulous Hawksley Manor hotel in York, it seems too good to be true. Pampering and relaxation is just what Rebecca needs to distract herself from the creeping suspicion that her husband, Greg, is hiding something from her.
She never imagined that by the end of the weekend she would have dined with celebrities or danced the night away in exclusive clubs. Nor could she have predicted she would meet famous footballer, Alex Heath, or that he would be the one to show her that she deserved so much more …
But no matter how amazing a weekend is, it’s always back to reality come Monday morning – isn’t it?