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
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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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
three words describe you as a person? Methodical. Loyal.
three words describe you as a writer? Plotter. Disciplined.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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end here with an excerpt of Sara-Jayne’s latest book, its cover, and buy link.
Except from DEAD COOL
“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’re just jealous because
the lady prefers me to you!” Dallas shouted.
I jumped up and hurried over to
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.