Please welcome author Jan Birley
Welcome Jan, please tell us a little about yourself including where you are from?
I have spent over half my life living in London but I now live in a pretty Georgian town in the glorious Dorset countryside. As I sit writing this, I am looking out over the town with its beautiful 8th century Abbey to the green hills beyond. I am very spoilt. I am even more spoilt as we also have a home in Tuscany. We have three sons, one of whom is married and they all come out to stay with us in Italy – including the dog of course. This year we won’t be there for so long because my husband, David, is now Mayor of our town and is kept very busy opening things and making speeches so although we usually go for three months in the summer, this year it will only be six weeks. Only six weeks! A few years ago when I was working full time that would can i buy accutane online have seemed a huge span of time but now it really doesn’t feel long enough!
Can you tell us about your books and how it got started?
‘The Lost & Found Life of Rosy Bennett’ is about a wife and mother who, after the sudden death of her husband, is uprooted from her comfortable city life after inheriting an alpaca farm. Totally unprepared and suddenly in debt, Rosy is forced to start a new life with her incredibly reluctant boys in the countryside. It is a story of how she and her young sons come to terms with this life change. I love alpacas, I love their kind, gentle faces. I wish I could have some!
I wrote the book several years ago. And then is sat there on my computer like a slumbering beast. It was only David constantly badgering me to do something about it that spurred me into action. I didn’t go down the conventional route of agents and rejection slips because I was quite sure that would be all that I would get. I don’t know what it’s like in the States but over here, it is nearly impossible to be taken on – unless you’re famous. So – I put it out onto Amazon and I am happy to say it is selling and even better, people have been kind enough to write great reviews which I treasure.
What made you decide to write books?
I have always written. When I was 17 I wrote bad poetry. In my twenties I wrote a couple of novels but I never took it any further. I think it all stems from a deep love of reading, To me, perfection is sitting in the sunshine with a glass of wine and a good book. The sort of book that has you so enthralled that you can’t do anything at all except read it right to the end – only to wish you hadn’t charged through it but spun so it out so that it would have lasted longer.
What was your inspiration for your books?
I don’t really know where the ideas come from. I do know that I always have a plan – a map of where I’m going in each chapter. However, once I get going my characters all start doing their own thing. They don’t behave at all as I want them to do but go off on tangents. It’s an extraordinary thing – I don’t feel as though I am writing about them per se, it is more that I am merely noting down the conversations I can hear them having in my head. They are very real to me. It’s such fun. I can dress them in clothes I would like, do their hair etc. It’s a bit like playing dolls, only they seem to be telling me what to do. Quite bonkers.
How do you create your characters?
As I said – they seem to create themselves. For me, the important thing is getting the first draft done. From that I can rework my characters to tighten them up and firm up their defining characteristics. On the whole, I don’t model them on real life characters. They’re taken from a smattering of many different people.
What is your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
My schedule is not good. Not optimum at all. It has to fit in with my life and like all of us, I’m busy and so writing sometimes finds itself at the bottom of my to-do list. I hate that. I like blank days when I can be undisturbed and tuck myself away, just me and my laptop. It is far easier to write in Italy because we are in the middle of the countryside and there are no distractions. When I’m on a roll, I hope to write a good few thousand words a day but here in the UK, there are many days when I don’t write at all. That isn’t good, it makes me feel as though something’s missing, that my world isn’t as it should be.
How do you cope with writer’s block?
For me, I have to make myself sit down and write something. Anything. Just to get the words flowing. I am a dyslexic support tutor at a university in London and whenever my students say they feel unable to sit down and write an essay, I tell them to write anything. The conclusion, a paragraph, anything to break down the self-constructed wall of nothingness.
Lastly, what plans have you got for future books?
I have nearly finished my next book. This is very different – with half of it being based in London and the other half based in Italy. It is about an interior designer who takes on a large project in Umbria, where of course, things don’t go according to plan. It will have a happy ending though, I have to have happy endings!
Thanks for being my guest today and good luck with future books.