Jane and I first met when we spent a fabulous day exploring Oxford colleges and chapels during a Historical Novel Society conference there several years ago. After getting into trouble for going “out of bounds” (we had to – there was a secret door to enter that my hero would have used in 1654) we bonded on a common love of 17th Century rogues. I’m delighted to welcome Jane to Author Chats today! Let’s hear more…
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections or themes between each book? To date, I have written ten works of fiction, eight of which are published and two that are tucked away in drawers. One is my first novel, never to be published, the other is my next Bob Robbins Home Front Mystery, which is at the leavening stage – I hope. When I started writing fiction my aim was to create a ‘family of stories’ along saga lines but with each book set in a different century. I wrote the first, The Empress Emerald, and pitched the idea to various agents, but got such negative responses I abandoned the entire plan. Then, after Penmore Press published The Chosen Man, the first story about that rogue Ludo da Portovenere, I realized I was more or less doing what I set out to do, just not in chronological order or every century.
After finishing ‘The Chosen Man Trilogy’ as promised for Penmore, I then moved back to the mid-20th Century, but stayed in Cornwall (featured in my previous books) for Local Resistance, a wartime murder mystery based on real events. The genre category is loosely historical crime and all my stories contain two common themes: how genetic inheritance can determine our life choices and how decisions made in high places affect ordinary people trying to get on with their lives. Essentially, it’s the Nature/Nurture debate: how our life-choices and personalities are somewhat determined by previous generations, but our actions are influenced by current social events. Each of my stories, including the trilogy, can be read as a ‘stand-alone’, but there are common themes and linking characters. Seventeenth century Ludo da Portovenere’s twentieth century descendent, for example, is Leo Kazan, the rogue in The Empress Emerald.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Just do it! If you want to write, write, don’t let everyday life get in the way. Be more single-minded, selfish if necessary, and just get on with it. Don’t let self-doubt or being over-self-critical (is that a word?) hold you back.
Specific to your newest release Private Lives:
What do you want readers to think when they reach “the end?” That was thumping good read!’ I’d like to think readers feel that they have read something worth reading. There is a certain snobbery about who-dunnits, and some can be quick reads and instantly forgettable, but I’m writing historical crime fiction that includes real events, which makes a difference. Private Lives has an element of dark humour, but it also includes a situation that’s still part of many small communities – where everybody knows everybody’s secrets, but nobody quite knows the truth. Secrecy and shame, or the need to make the best of a bad situation – these are universal. As in Local Resistance the characters’ in this story are conditioned by the very real dangers and deprivations of wartime, but daily life still includes petty quarrels going back generations. Except in Private Lives the squabbles are pretty lethal.
What’s the best thing a reader has said about or written to you? Writing about The Empress Emerald for Indian Book Reviews the reviewer said: “Every once in a while, you come across a piece of literature that marks its territory in your heart – a brilliant work that is certain to stay with you a long time.” I was thrilled by this.
Quick Q & A
Tea or Coffee – Tea
Dark or Milk Chocolate – dark
When were you the happiest? – Very hard question. Holding my first grandchild for the first time – I thought my heart would burst.
Favourite Children’s Book: Children of the New Forest (which may explain my fascination with 17th Century)
Favourite Adult Novel: Impossible to answer. I particularly enjoy Mary Wesley’s novels, especially Not That Sort of Girl, but I also love Tolkein’s The Hobbit.
Here’s where you can find Jane:
Barnes and Noble
Secret agents, skulduggery, crime and romance that cross continents . . .
J.G. Harlond (Jane) is the author of award-winning, page-turning historical crime novels that weave fictional characters into real events. She is particularly interested in aspects of power so international intrigue, domestic politics and downright wickedness are significant elements in her stories. To date, Jane’s books have achieved recognition as ‘Discovered Diamonds’ (x3) and ‘Book of the Month’ (Discovering Diamonds Reviews), plus Readers’ Favourite 5* (x3), and a Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon award.
After travelling widely (she has visited or lived in most of the locations in her novels), Jane is now settled in rural southern Spain.