Today, fellow Muse author, Sara-Jayne Townsend joins me on my Sunday afternoon blog. Please join me in welcoming her and hearing about her background and her books.
Sara-Jayne is a UK-based writer of crime and horror. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person. The first two books in her amateur sleuth series about Canadian actress Shara Summers, DEATH SCENE and DEAD COOL, are available as e-books from the MuseitUp book store: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/our-authors/70-our-authors/authors-t/420-sara-jayne-townsend
You can learn more about Sara and her writing at her website at http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com or her blog at http://sayssara.wordpress.com.
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Thanks so much for stopping by today, Sara-Jayne. If you would, please give us a little insight of you, the person, not the author. A small paragraph or two will be fine. I want readers to connect with an introduction before the interview begins. Whenever anyone asks me when I became a writer, I always answer “since always”. I’ve been making up stories since before I learned how to write. As a child I had an array of dolls and stuffed toys. They all had names, personalities and family histories, and I used to make up stories about them to send myself to sleep. I just can’t imagine not being a writer. It’s part of who I am. Being a published writer, now that’s a different story, and much harder work. I was born in the North of England, lived most of my teenage years in Canada when my family emigrated there, and now live in England again, near London, with my guitarist husband and two cats.
What motivated you to become an author? It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve been writing stories since I was a child, and I knew by the time I was ten years old I wanted to be a published author. It took many years of learning how to be a better writer, of submitting work and getting a lot of rejections, to achieve that dream.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you? When the story is going well, and the words flow, there’s no better feeling. I am in the habit of writing in a coffee shop before I start work at the day job. If that session goes well, it puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.
What do your fans mean to you? To have fans mean people love your work so much they are prepared to pay money to read the next thing you write. There are millions of books out there. If someone’s parting with their hard-earned cash to buy one of your books, that’s very flattering. It’s also amazing to get a good review, just to have someone say, “I read this book and I really enjoyed it.” That’s the best compliment a writer can get. Who are your favorite authors? Stephen King, James Herbert, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton and Kathy Reichs. Stephen King remains a big inspiration for my horror stories. I discovered him at 14, and I’ve been inspired to write horror ever since. Sara Paretsky is the inspiration for my crime series. I just love her tough-talking private eye, VI Warshawski. Her character stands up as an icon for strong, independent-minded women.
What three words describe you as a person? Methodical. Loyal. Logical.
What three words describe you as a writer? Plotter. Disciplined. Persistent.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time? I have to fit the writing around the day job, and juggling both can sometimes be a challenge. I’m a vociferous reader, and I do most of my reading on the train to and from work. I’m also learning to play bass guitar, and I frequently play at open mic evenings with my husband, who’s a guitarist. That all keeps me pretty busy. In rare moments of free time, I like playing video games. Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Dragon Age are my favourite series of games.
How do you discover the ebooks you read? Like everyone, I have favourite authors, and I will intentionally seek them out when new books are forthcoming. But I also browse Amazon’s Kindle store for special deals, and quite often I will take a chance on a book by an author I’ve never read before, based on the cover, the blurb and the fact that it’s only 77p, or whatever. I have discovered many new authors worth reading this way.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? The very first ones, written back in primary school, all featured me and my sister, and my best friend and her sister, having exciting adventures. I remember the first novel I wrote, at age eleven. It was about a young girl who became invisible through a witch’s spell, and as she and her older sister endeavoured to find out how to reverse the spell, she was trying to disguise her invisibility by covering her skin with foundation, wearing a wig and contact lenses, and other such antics. I had her rinse her mouth out with red food colouring and putting tooth polish on her teeth so they would be visible, too. But I also had her do all the ordinary things every day like showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast, because at that age I couldn’t stand the fact that people in books never did any of the things that ordinary people did. In retrospect I learned that these sorts of facts don’t go into books because ordinary activities make for a very boring book. That first novel really wasn’t very good.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you? There have, really, been far too many. My parents used to read stories to my sister and me before bed. At some point I began to choose my own. We used to spend our Saturday afternoons in the children’s department of the local library, and I would choose as many books as I was allowed to check out. When I learned to read I started to follow along with the story as my mother read it to me, and if she missed a section I would pick her up on it, and by that point I was reading stories on my own as well. I don’t remember the first one, and there have been so many that stayed with me it’s hard to pick out just one. However, I remember being fond of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories at an early age. The concept of these children, who weren’t that much older than me, living an existence that was largely free of adult supervision every school holiday and having amazing adventures seemed incredible to me. To be honest, I think that’s the reason these stories are still popular, so many years after they were first written.
What do you read for pleasure? I read a lot of crime and horror novels. Reading the latest Sara Paretsky is always a special treat. I am also quite fond of Lindsey Davis’ series of novels about the Roman informer Marcus Didius Falco, and his family of formidable women. The era of ancient Rome really comes alive in these books. Falco is a likeable rogue, and there is a light-hearted tone to the books that make them easy to read. For an era where women had no real power there is still an abundance of strong-minded women in these books, most notably Falco’s wife Helena.
Describe your desk: The smallest bedroom in our house is my study. We have a loft bed in it, which is like a set of bunk beds where instead of a bottom bunk there’s a desk, so the room can be used as a spare room as well. I have my laptop docked on this desk and do most of my writing at home here. The shelf above it contains a number of items I find inspiring – including a small statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom, and a figurine of Yoda from Star Wars.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing? I spent the first ten years of my life in Lancashire, England, before emigrating to Canada with my family. We may as well have moved to an alien planet – everything was so different and unfamiliar. After eight years in Kitchener, Ontario I finished high school and moved back to England, only to discover that everything was different again. Ever since then I’ve been living in the Greater London area. What influenced my writing from these moves between countries was a feeling of always being the outsider. A lot of my early published short stories deal with feelings of isolation and loneliness. It took me quite a long time to learn that it’s OK to be different, to follow your own path, and not be like everyone else.
Where do you get the inspirations for your book(s)? I started writing the Shara Summers books because I was inspired by Sara Paretsky’s books to write a series about a kick-ass female sleuth. Only, I didn’t want to write a police procedural so I created an amateur sleuth. I made her an actress, because I wanted her to have reason to put on a costume and play a role during her investigations in every book.
Let our readers know why your book is different from others in the same genre: The Shara Summers mysteries are marketed as cosy mysteries, but I don’t think they quite fit in this genre. Yes, Shara is a contemporary amateur sleuth, but she lives in a bit city, not a small village, and her personal life and family drama occupy much of the story. The fact that Shara is a Canadian living in London gives her a unique perspective on life as an outsider. She notices things that native Londoners don’t.
Any advice for new writers just beginning this trek down the wonderful world of publishing? Seek out a writing group – an online one if you can’t find one in real space – and heed any constructive criticism they may give you. Don’t be that writer who flounces off in floods of tears any time anyone deigns to suggest that their masterpiece might be less than a shining example of outstanding literature – and every writing group has at least one person like this. Polish your manuscript until it shines, and then send it out. When it comes back with a rejection – which it invariably will, more than once, pick yourself up and send it out again. And again, and again. Most important of all, don’t give up. I was submitting manuscripts for nearly thirty years before that first novel contract came in. * * * * We’ll end here with an excerpt of Sara-Jayne’s latest book, its cover, and buy link.
“You just don’t get it, do you?” David yelled. “You don’t own the world. You can’t swan around doing whatever the hell you please!”
“You’re just jealous because the lady prefers me to you!” Dallas shouted.
I jumped up and hurried over to the table.
David pointed a finger at Dallas. “You’re unbelievable. You just walk in and take what you want. You can’t treat people that way”
“You’re just sore because your little plan backfired,” Dallas sneered. David took a step forward, his hands clenched into fists. As he and Dallas stood off against each other, I sidled in alongside the table and linked my arm through Astrid’s. She offered no resistance, staring at the two men standing each other down.
“What the hell do you mean?” David demanded.
“Oh come on, it’s obvious. Trying to make your ex-girlfriend jealous by making the moves on her sister. But neither of them is interested in you and that just pisses you off.”
David emitted a noise that sounded very much like a roar, and he suddenly lunged forward and decked Dallas, hard across the chin. Dallas fell across the table, knocking all the glasses over.
Available now in ebook format from MuseItUp Publishing: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/now-available-in-ebook/dead-cool-detail