Author Interview – Jane Risdon
With a bio like Jane’s, we are excited we found her, and that she agreed to do an interview with us. We would like to introduce you to another new author for us, Ms. Jane Risdon.
Jane Risdon has spent most of her life working in the International Music Business rubbing shoulders with the powerful and famous, especially in Hollywood. Married to a musician and later working alongside him managing singers, musicians, songwriters, and record producers, she’s also facilitated the placement of music on successful television series and move theme. ie soundtracks. Her experiences have provided her with a unique insight into the business and her writing often has music which is set in the UK music scene of 1968/69. Recently Jane completed a collection of her first short crime stories – Undercover: Crime Shorts – published in both eBook and Paperback 2019 (Plaisted Publishing House Ltd). Jane is working on the sequel to Only One Woman as well as a series of crime novels – Ms. Birdsong Investigates – featuring former MI5 Officer Lavinia Birdsong – which she plans to complete in 2019. Her experience of working at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in her pre-music days has given her plenty of material for her crime/thrillers. Jane writes for online and print magazines and has contributed to 16 anthologies. She also has a blog and often hosts guest authors. Her books are available in Waterstones and all good book stores as well as via various digital platforms.
Interview conducted by Sherry Terry
TNR: Is there anything you find particularly challenging as a writer as far as content?
Jane: I’m mostly a crime writer, although if a story dictates I can write in other genres. I love reading crime, writing crime, and I devour anything to do with crime. It is a passion. So much so, that some years ago I undertook several on-line Forensic Science, Criminal Justice, and Archaeological university courses with some of Britain’s leading experts in these fields. I wanted to ensure my writing is accurate and credible, even though I seldom write anything gory and I don’t write police procedural stories either.
Getting the Forensics right and keeping up with all the latest developments in the identification of remains, understanding crime scenes, and knowing how they are processed is important, and it is challenging trying to understand it all.
Knowing how best to apply it in my writing without bogging my readers down in reams of facts is important and understanding how police investigations of crime and suspect interviews are conducted, and under which criteria and laws someone can be held, questioned, and charged, is very challenging and also really interesting.
As I said, I don’t go in for too much of this in my actual writing but I felt I needed to understand the basics before putting pen to paper and bringing down the wrath of Khan upon my head if I got such facts terribly wrong. I’ve used a lot of this knowledge in Undercover: Crime Shorts (Plaisted Publishing House Ltd) which is a collection of some of my short stories all involving every-day, seemingly innocent methods of murder some of which are undetectable.
TNR: I agree about the research. The more you know about a subject the easier it is to write about it too. Do you write in more than one genre? If so, what are they?
Jane: I never set out to write anything but crime stories and thought I’d stay in this genre. However I’ve been invited many times to contribute to a variety of anthologies – 16 to be exact – some for charity and others for my publisher, Headline Accent – Shiver and Wishing on a Star.
The genre has often been determined by the project the anthology has been curated to benefit. The most recent anthology for which I’ve contributed a story is in aid of Help for Heroes and it is published 9th December 2019 and is called When Stars Will Shine and is published by Creating Perfection.
I’ve written ghost stories, romantic ghost stories, time-shift crime stories, pirate stories. Stories in many other genres. It amazes me that I can turn my hand to other genres and in particular, romance. I’ve never read a romance and when I began to write the novel, Only One Woman (Christina Jones/Jane Risdon – Headline Accent), it started out as a story set in the late 1960s and based around a rock band in the UK to record and tour. My background is in the international music business and I’m married to a musician so writing it was supposed to be a doddle!
As Only One Woman progressed it turned into a romance and I couldn’t work out how to commit the murder I wanted to. In the end, Christina – a very successful, award-winning, best-selling author – agreed to write with me. We’d always wanted to write together so this was perfect and so she brought another character into the story which morphed into a love triangle set in the UK music scene and with a sexy guitarist as the object of desire.
TNR: What are you currently working on and what is it about?
Jane: I’m currently working on several projects. I’m weird like that, I cannot concentrate on one book at a time. I’ve just completed book one in a series I’m writing about a former MI5 Intelligence Officer called, Ms. Birdsong Investigates. Book one is Murder in Ampney Parva – Operation Matryoshka.
Books two and three are in various stages of completion and I’m working on both books: Ms. Birdsong Investigates: The Safe House and Ms. Birdsong Investigates: Murder at the Observatory.
Only One Woman’s sequel – as yet unnamed – is underway and I’m taking the story of Narnia’s Children into the 1970s and up to the 1980s. There’s a possibility there’ll be a book three taking their story to the present day – I’m considering it.
Only One Woman is named after a hit single in 1968 written by the Bee Gees and performed by The Marbles. One of the Marbles, Graham Bonnet, is an iconic rock singer and has sung with Rainbow, Alcatraz and Michael Schenker etc. The song features in the book and he wrote the foreword for us and so I’d quite like to find another singer or icon from that era to write the foreword to the next book. I’ll need to find one of their songs for the title.
I had a title and singer in mind, but sadly he died a short time ago so that put paid to that. I am still searching. I’m collating stories for another collection of short crime stories – I’ve 100 waiting to be published.
In addition to all the above I have several incomplete novels awaiting attention and if anyone knows of a clone for me, do let me know.
TNR: Wow! That’s a lot of projects going at the same time. You go with your bad self. Where do your ideas come from?
Jane: My ideas for my writing come from a variety of sources. I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when younger, during the Cold War and IRA ‘troubles,’ and got a taste for intrigue and all things espionage following many exciting events I got to experience working with a team of other youngsters. I’ve always enjoyed John Le Carre and Frederick Forsyth books and a whole range of crime authors (and still do) so I think writing crime and espionage flavoured stories just had to happen. My work gave me ample food for thought and ideas.
Ideas also come from a lifetime spent in the international music business, working with musicians, recording artists, singer-songwriters and record producers, as well as placing music on to soundtracks for movies and TV series. I’ve lived and worked around the world, including Hollywood and you cannot help find out very quickly that crime is never far from the movers and shakers of the entertainment business. Books have been written about what goes on and so far none of those names has ever sued for defamation!
Everyday things spark my imagination: A news report, an overheard conversation on a bus or in a restaurant, my own experiences and those of people I know have inspired me to write, perhaps a name will get the juices flowing.
Ms. Lavinia Birdsong (Ms. Birdsong Investigates) came from hearing someone on the radio talking about how surnames came about. Ms. B immediately popped into my head. I loved her name and I had to think how to write a story using it. All of a sudden she came to me: a former MI5 Intelligence Officer who had taken ‘voluntary retirement’ after an operation with her then MI6 partner and now former lover, Michael Dante, went pear-shaped and she carried the can, he got posted to Moscow.
I’d been going through my husband’s music memorabilia following a house move and came across dozens of my diaries which I’d kept from age 16 all through our lives together, following his career and then the careers of the artists we worked with. I sat reading them and looking at photos, tour schedules, old posters for venues and tours and also copies of the music press such as NME, Melody Maker, Smash Hits, and Record Mirror, etc., and they immediately transported me back to 1968/1969 and life on the road with his band.
Even fan letters from girls who followed my husband’s band around were a great source of information and in the end, I began to write Only One Woman. Christina Jones had been his band’s fan-club secretary back then so that is how we met and why we wanted to write about it all one day.
My latter experiences in artist management from the late 1970s onward is already fuelling my imagination as writing the sequel gets fully underway.
TNR: You’ve lived a pretty adventurous life. Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Jane: I absolutely think covers play an important part in the buying process. Coming from a music background when covers were very elaborate and designed to attract at first glance, I know how important that first 30 seconds is when someone looks at a cover, albeit a cover for a Vinyl or CD or for a book. It is a sale or no sale. That fast. Emotionally a potential buyer is engaged if they love the cover.
Album covers used to be a huge part of marketing and vast amounts of time and money were spent getting a graphic artist involved or a photographer who would interpret the concept of the artist (band/singer) and their music so that a would-be buyer or fan was immediately drawn to the cover. They’d pick it up, look at the art, read the cover notes and lyrics – we had them printed inside back when – and it might tempt a new listener and potential fan. Fans collected the albums and singles for the art-work and looking at what people pay for original covers these days, it was a good marketing ploy. The same applies to book covers I think.
As well as looking for a favourite author’s books on store shelves, in libraries or on the internet, I have to admit that cover design is the next thing I go for after finding their name. And, also the title. The title is so important and with the cover must give an inkling of what to expect inside.
There are certain book designs which are an immediate turn-off. I don’t like over-sexualized or blatantly violent cover designs. I like the cover to suit the genre but to also engage the imagination too – to me it should tantalise and invite. There are many cans of baked beans and cereal boxes on the supermarket shelves with similar contents. What draws you to one can or box and not another? Marketing, design, word of mouth? I think all these are just as important when looking at a book cover or deciding what cover to use for a piece of work which cannot risk being ignored or overlooked because it is too similar to all the others, or it is so wide of the mark regarding representation of the contents people never consider picking it up or browsing the back cover or the inside. A sale lost. Image is everything. Packaging is so important in my opinion.
TNR: How are you publishing your writing and why?
Jane: I’m both traditionally published and indie published. When I first began writing I was published by several indie publishers who invited me to contribute to anthologies they were publishing. I hadn’t really thought about publishing my work until then. Mostly I wrote – and write – for my own enjoyment and it was, and is, always a thrill when someone wants to read my work.
Two short stories were accepted by Accent Press Ltd for two of their anthologies and the contract they sent covered all my writing, which was somewhat of a shock, but a pleasant surprise. I considered it and thought, what the heck, I’d give it a try.
They’ve also published Only One Woman written with my co-author, Christina Jones. I got permission to indie publish Undercover: Crime Shorts because my publisher did not publish single-author collections. This collection is published by Plaisted Publishing House Ltd. However, Accent Press was recently sold and at the time of writing it isn’t clear what is happening. There’s lots for the new company to sort out still.
My new publisher is Headline (part of the Hachette group) and Accent is now an imprint.
Meantime Headline has given me permission to have one of my short stories included in an indie publication, When Stars Will Shine, which is in aid of Help for Heroes and it will be published 9th December 2019. You could say I have the best of both worlds.
TNR: What’s your views on social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?
Jane: I have mixed feelings about social media and marketing. It takes a huge amount of work, every day, to interact with groups and friends and fans on social media and plugging one’s book is difficult. It feels narcissistic and I worry about over-doing it, being in everyone’s face too much. Besides thousands of other authors are doing the same.
Sadly, publishers do little to promote their authors and books and it seems to be very like the music business – those who do well immediately get lots of push and attention, and those who don’t are left to drift. Throw enough mud at the wall some will stick and authors and books are no different to me than records and recording artists. Publishing is a business. Authors need to remember that. Publishers are not there because they are philanthropists, they are there to generate money.
It would be nice to have a PR/marketing person at the publishing company whose sole existence is to promote my books, but it isn’t going to happen unless I become an ‘overnight’ success, sell billions of books and start a whole new cult-like JK Rowling. For most of us, including me, we are our own PR/Marketing person and we have to find time to think up and execute amazing new ideas and strategies to market our work and to write another amazing novel or story as we go about it all. I’m exhausted writing this!
I belong to lots of reader and author groups on Facebook, I am on Twitter, Instagram, MeWe, Pinterest and many I forget. I try to post varied and interesting content. A couple of years ago I held a competition on the Only One Woman book page asking readers who were on holiday, to post selfies with copies of the book, and the most exotic or interesting photos would win a signed copy of Only One Woman or a special mug designed by me. It worked and there were some fabulous photos and I boosted sales. I do this for all my books.
I also post photos of my books in interesting locations just to break up the monotony of seeing a copy of the books with ‘buy my book’ posts attached.
When I managed bands and singers and we’d tour all over the world performing, recording and doing personal appearances on video and radio stations and at press events – which I’d sit in on and sometimes organised alongside the record company marketing and radio departments, and the tour agents – I got to understand how marketing works. I cannot possibly do things on that scale, financing it myself, but I have managed to get on to local community and global internet radio stations regularly talking about my writing, and my writing with Christina Jones, my own books and my life in music. Sales seem to peak a little following such exposure. I enjoy it and I am now a regular on a few.
Having an interesting ‘back story’ is important and again, I think publishers are interested in the unusual and that is why, I’m sure, many celebrities are given publishing contracts…people love to know everything about people, including their inside leg measurements.
For the last 8 years, I’ve had a blog and as well as writing about myself and my books, I also feature guest authors now and again. I also post a variety of other things such as photos and details of my ‘jollies,’ when I’ve been out on a trip to a stately home, church, cathedral, a lovely village or a special garden. I write about the trip and my followers seem to really enjoy them, so I don’t shove my books and writing down their throats.
I am also a regular guest author on other blogs too, such as this one, and I write a regular series for an online and print magazine (sold in stores), as well as other online newsletters and magazines. I think one has to keep one’s face and books in the public domain somehow. I think this works for me, but I cannot guarantee it would work for others. We all have our own methods.
TNR: Thank you for sharing all that information. You’ve given me some great ideas for my books. What do your fans mean to you?
Jane: Accumulating fans and followers takes dedication and requires a great deal of time and patience. I find that if I communicate with those who like the things I post on social media and who follow me there, they often become readers and fans and eventually friends. Friendly, regular chit-chat, a shared interest or sense of humour helps, and if they’ve purchased and read my writing and like it. I’ve found they share their thoughts and enjoyment of my work with their friends.
Word of mouth is so important and I’m forever grateful to those who spread the word, without being asked, to their friends and relatives. They review my work and contribute to posts I make and share things of their own accord, which is wonderful and so uplifting. I really appreciate them and never take their interest and support for granted. They are king/queen as far as I’m concerned. I enjoy communicating with them and sharing their lives in a small way, hearing what the stories I write mean to them and how a certain story or character has really grabbed them and had a profound effect upon them.
I apologize to all those neglected families I hear about, whose dinners have been late or burned, whose sleep has been disturbed by spouses reading long into the night and who nip out of work with the slightest of excuses to read a quick chapter because they cannot wait to get back to the story, and those who cry when it ends and have been reading slower and slower to eke the book out, not wanting it to end. Feed-back from such fans and readers makes all the hard work writing so very worth it. I love my readers.
TNR: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? What was it about?
Jane: I cannot recall the very first stories I ever wrote. I’ve been dabbling since I could read and write, however, I do recall a story I wrote in my English Literature class at school which caused a bit of a stir with my form master and eventually garnered me two school awards for English Literature and English Language. It was about a firework display and it really grabbed him and the rest of the class when I had to read it out. I don’t recall much about the story but the praise I received really encouraged me to continue to write, as did the £100 I got in book vouchers to be spent in the local book store.
Much to the horror of my parents two of the books I chose as part of my prize were ‘Return to Peyton Place,’ by Grace Metalious, and ‘Valley of the Dolls,’ by Jacqueline Susann, which went down like a ton of bricks and both were confiscated forthwith. The other books were mostly detective stories, probably by Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane and similar, as I recall, but I forget their titles – it was in the mid-1960s.
TNR: I love Valley of the Dolls. Do you prefer to write alone or in the company of other people?
Jane: I don’t mind writing alone or in company. I often have the radio on in the background and if my husband is around he is often playing his guitar and song-writing so I’m not worried about being disturbed or not being able to think with other things going on. I tend to lose myself in whatever I’m writing and so I’m quite happy either way.
Great interview! Thank you so much for stopping by and giving us a look into your life and writing. I had a blast! Take a look at Jane’s catalog.
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