This time last year my social media platforms were flooded with images of my debut novel, The Daughter in Law. I was so thrilled to have been offered a book deal to write three psychological thrillers for Boldwood to be published between 2019 and 2020 and I was making sure everyone knew about it. There was a definite buzz around Boldwood as a brand new publishing house and the first book that they were publishing, which just happened to be mine.

Would I ever have thought all those years ago when I was intermittently pulling out the manuscript, giving it a dust off and resending it out to agents and publishers that there was this wonderful independent publishing house waiting for me? Yes I did. I just knew it was a matter of time.

Like many writers, my journey to publication was not straight forward! I spent many years perfecting the same manuscript and taking breaks in between to work and raise a family.  My goal of publication always remained on the horizon; sometimes a mere, will-o’-the- wisp like flicker, only I knew I would one day reach my goal.  Then in February 2019, I signed my very first three book deal and The Daughter in Law was published 1st August 2019.

Looking back over the last 12 months, the highlight for me would have to be my first publishing meeting in London. I met with my literary agent, CEO and founder of Boldwood Books, Amanda and my editor, Nia. The four of us talked through the marketing campaign and enthusiastically toasted The Daughter In Law over a delicious boozy lunch in the sunshine.  That was the pinnacle moment, when I truly felt like a proper (slightly inebriated) author. I was still on a high days later as I enjoyed dinner out with girlfriends to continue the celebrations. Halfway through my main course, as I was raving about my new life as a fully-fledged author, my phone rang; my editors name flashing on the screen.  By the time I had excused myself to take the very important call from the literary world, she had rung off. Minutes later a text came through explaining she called me by mistake. But for a moment, I was a character in my own movie, receiving calls from my editor over dinner! A year later I am still riding that high; whenever I see an email or receive a call from my editor, or anyone from Boldwood, I still get that fluttery feeling in my stomach because I can guarantee it will always be good news.

One particular email that got my pulse racing was the one where I was told The Daughter In Law had sold over 50,000 copies!

I feel so proud to have been a part of the Bloodwood journey from the start and watching them grow so successfully as a publishing house over these last 12 months. I am incredibly lucky to have forged a cracking relationship with my editor, we are literally on the same page when it comes to cover designs, edits and titles and I am unbelievably excited to have recently signed a second 3 book deal, which will see me publishing books into 2022. I have also thoroughly enjoyed seeing the work from the other authors of Boldwood. I have even had the pleasure of reading a couple of them and reviewed one for my book podcast, Sniffing The Pages.

So Happy Birthday Boldwood, thanks so much for having me, congratulations on a fabulous year and here’s to many many more.

The French, as a nation, love to camp. The country has the astonishing number of 9,000 campsites – the largest number in any European country.

Close to where I live in Brittany I can think of at least eight within a twenty kilometre radius.

In normal times this month, August, is the time of year when France virtually shuts down as the whole of the nation take their annual holiday and thousands of them head for campsites throughout the country. August is known not to be a good month to need a dentist, a plumber, car mechanic or even to visit your GP because the chances are they’ll all be ‘en vacances’. It’s also not advisable to arrive at a campsite this month without having booked a pitch for your caravan, motorhome or tent, because it will, in all probability, be full, although maybe in this strange year there will be a space or two left.

I have fond memories of when we first came to France on our bikes twenty-one years ago, cycling down the canal paths on the western side of the country on our way to the Riviera and staying in various campsites en route. We pitched our tent in two campsites in Brittany, not suspecting at the time, that eleven years later we would be returning to live in a quirky cottage that is almost equal distance between the two of them.

As we cycled on down we stayed in small campsites where we were the only campers and the local mayor had to come and open up the facilities just for us. Then there were the larger sites, with caravans and a shop and possibly a cafe. Some sites were in the grounds of châteaux out in the French countryside, some were on the outskirts of a town or near a river. And then there were the really big sites we stayed on in Nantes, Toulouse, Carcassone and finally Biot when we reached the Riviera.

Part of the fun of campsites in France is you never know who you are going to pitch up next to. Camping here is not just for families maybe counting the pennies. Your next door neighbour could be from any walk of life; a doctor, an engineer, a postman or a retired couple. It’s a lifestyle choice for a wide range of people who value the freedom camping gives whether you do it in a small basic tent or a posh motorhome. We met so many different, interesting people on our journey.

My latest book A French Affair is set, for the most part, in a rundown camping site in rural Brittany, far from the maddening crowd. While writing it I couldn’t help but remember the year when we just got on our bikes and enjoyed exploring and camping in the French countryside. The fact that it turned out to be a turning point in our lives is another story.

Boldwood Books, my amazing publishers, are celebrating the one-year anniversary of their first published book and what a year it’s been for Boldwood as a publisher and for me personally as one of their authors.

They shared a graphic on their social media this morning which I’ve shamelessly stolen, summarising an amazing year:

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I was the 5th author to be published with The Secret to Happiness released on 3rd September 2019. My re-edited ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series came out in the first quarter of the year and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – the start of a new series – came out last month. Six of those 59 titles published are therefore mine. Greedy, aren’t I?

I’ve had such an amazing first year as a Boldwood author.

I’ve gone from languishing in the charts and failing to make an impact to being a Top 10 international bestseller… Woo hoo!!!! All of my books have been in the UK Kindle Top 200 with two of them entering the Top 100. Just yesterday, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (which has been in the Top 100 since the start of May, peaking at #14) and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow were in the Top 100 at the same time which was lovely. Five titles have been in the Top 30 on the AppleBooks chart and the other – Making Wishes at Bay View – only didn’t make it quite that high because it was on a free offer and #1 in the free chart.

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I’ve gone from days and days of zero sales to… well, watch this space as I should have an announcement about that next week when July’s sales figures are in. Eek! It’s something I could never, ever have dreamed I’d achieve until I joined Boldwood.

IMG_8440I’ve gone from having my titles in eBook only… to 9 formats. Wow! You’re going to ask me to name them all, aren’t you? Argh! I think it’s eBook on 3 platforms (Kindle, Kobo, AppleBooks), paperback, large print, audio MP3, audio CD, digital audio and one more format that I know about but there’s not been an official announcement yet so I’d better not say just yet). The Secret to Happiness has appeared in The Works stores around the UK and online and it is always a dream to hold (and sniff and stroke) your own paperback. It’s not just me. I promise. We all do it!

I’ve gone from having a demanding day job… to being a full-time author and I could not be happier to be able to spend my days chatting to my fictional friends and making stuff up. And procrastinating a bit on social media. Okay, procrastinating a lot! Although I did write 80k words of my second Hedgehog Hollow book since leaving the day job so I’ve got my head down too.

Now, I proudly declare I’m an author – or I did before Covid turned me into more of a hermit than usual – while trying to push that pain in the backside, Imposter Syndrome, back in his box. Ooh, he’s a little tinker.

Now, readers get in touch with me to say they’ve loved my work. Now, other authors ask me to read and endorse their books. I have to pinch myself every time these things happen and wonder if they’ve got the right person!

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So on Boldwood’s 1-year publication anniversary, my thanks go to so many people who have changed my life over the past year:

  • Boldwood Books for inviting me into their fold and believing in me – Amanda, Nia, Caroline, Sarah, Megan and Ellie (and welcome Emily!)
  • Our audio partners, Isis Audio, and Ulverscroft who run the uLibrary App and produce our large print books. Your work is fabulous and my audios, voiced by Lucy Brownhilland Emma Swan are brilliant
  • My superb, passionate, talented and lovely editor, Nia Beynon, whose support and advice I value so highly
  • My fellow Boldwood authors for being such a supportive community
  • My husband, Mark, and our daughter, Ashleigh, for being amazing and never moaning about the crazy hours I had to work trying to balance a day job with writing
  • My mum for being my number one fan!
  • The amazing book blogger community, some of whom have been with me since my debut release. You are such amazing champions of my work and I appreciate all your kind words and promotion so much
  • Any of my family and friends who’ve read/reviewed/promoted my books. You know who you are and I’m so very grateful
  • My writing bestie and super-talented fellow author, Sharon Booth, for tea, cake, advice, encouragement and sympathy
  • My other Write Romantic buddies for being there with virtual hugs during hard times and congratulations during the good
  • The Beverley Chapter of the RNA who are so much fun to be around. So glad we’ve managed to keep our meetings going virtually
  • A whole host of authors, some of whom I’ve met, some of whom I only ‘know’ virtually who’ve been so supportive and encouraging
  • And last, but absolutely not least, all you lovely readers. Boldwood say they’d be nothing without their authors and I’d be nothing without my readers. You are absolute stars, every one of you

If I had some cake, I’d be tucking into it right now but, instead, I’ll take a sip of Diet Pepsi (I so know how to party!) and toast Boldwood Books and their team of amazing authors.

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If you’re an author, Boldwood are currently closed for submissions but will be open again later in the year. I cannot recommend them enough as a home for your books so do follow them on social media and watch out for news.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

BOLDWOOD BOOKS ROCK!

A year ago when Boldwood Books published the first book of the four book contract plus my backlist, that I’d signed with them, I had no idea how much my life was about to change.

It’s no lie to say that I was on the verge of giving up when Boldwood opened for submissions. I’d all but decided I’d stop with the books I had out there In the world, give up trying to get an agent or another publishing contract and do other things. So, when I sent my latest completed ms off to Boldwood it was with no great hope or expectation.

The day I received the e-mail saying they would like to offer me a four book contract, starting with the story that became Villa of Sun and Secrets and which has subsequently become my bestselling book ever, selling over 75K copies since it was published this time last year, I was more than over the moon with delight. Over the following months my Boldwood books have received numerous orange bestseller flags on Amazon not only in the UK but also in America, Australia and Canada. Something that I could only ever dream about. The Danish rights for Villa of Sun and Secrets and Riviera Retreat have also been sold.

Since joining Boldwood I have been a very busy woman indeed. Three new novels written and published – one, A French Affair, coming in this anniversary week. I’ve also edited and lengthened two of my backlist and this week I’m about to start a new book, the last in that original four book contract.

A friend, who knows Amanda, Nia and Caroline well, left a comment on my joyful FaceBook announcement that I had signed a contract with Boldwood, saying ‘Congratulations – you’ve got a good team there’. At the time I didn’t realise how good a team they were – but I definitely do now.

Experienced, always approachable, amazingly hardworking (sometimes e-mails come in marked as having been sent at midnight or even later!) they have definitely achieved their stated slogan of ‘Publishing Reimagined’.

Thank you Amanda, Nia and Caroline for daring to be imaginative and personal in the publishing business and for including me in the journey. To misquote that saying from The Godfather, “It’s not business, it’s personal”. It may be a business in the hard world of publishing but the team at its heart, also care personally about their authors. And that is why Boldwood Books rock and I love being a Boldwood author!

Love Jennie

x

Isle of Wight inspiration behind ‘The House Party’ – Mary Grand

The Isle of Wight is place of extraordinary beauty, dark skies, stunning beaches and gentle downland. It can feel remote, isolated, and as you travel on the ferry there is a feeling of leaving the rest of the world behind.

The inspiration for The House Party came while I was out walking, and the novel is soaked in the atmosphere that makes the island unique. The people in “The House Party” are all fictitious, but the story is set on the ‘real’ island with many recognisable landmarks mentioned.  Beth lives in “Castleford”, whose geography is similar to the village of Carisbrooke. Places featured include Carisbrooke Castle, St Mary’s church, as well as Tennyson Down, Shepherd’s Chine, the prison, the hospital, and my favourite place of all, Mottistone Down.

 

DS Jenna Morgan Series – Inspiration, Writing & Research

What comes first when I create a story? – Part 3

 

What She Saw was for me a different approach initially. For some unknown reason, the unrest in the world must have affected me. Call it luck, call it intuition, but unusually for this story I plunged heart and soul into the research and background of a subject matter which fascinated me, but I never had enough information on to write in great depths. This time the story needed my research to centre around fires, the fire service, arson and the legal side of these together with a depth of knowledge regarding firearms that I’d never previously indulged in.

To my utter good luck, I happened upon a fire officer, Charlie Cartwright, through mutual connections and we met up, messaged, talked on the phone and I prised each and every morbid detail from him regarding fires, heat, the effect on bodies at different stages

I also met up with Peter Wright, a retired police officer with a wealth of knowledge about all things firearms and special operations. Amazing and inciteful, his imagination made mine run riot. I think he needs to write his own stories.

At the time of lockdown I had conducted all the research I needed to throw myself wholeheartedly into What She Saw.

But Covid-19 came along and so did my brother’s cancer and my aunty’s stroke all during a time when they couldn’t get treated.

So all the research in the world was poured into this book for three months until the day I woke up to the discovery that as it stood, this was not my story. It was dry. It was research, it was police procedure and backstory.

With a deadline looming, and I do mean beating at my door, Jenna Morgan strode back into my head with her faithful and fascinating team players, Mason and Ryan, and together we stripped back 30,000 words of police procedure and let the story make a run for it.

The pure unadulterated rush of freedom poured into What She Saw making it come alive and I couldn’t happier with how it’s turned out.

Research is essential, but the story is the reason people pick up the book.

Book 4 is well under way and the characters are talking…

 

Amazon UK:                 https://amzn.to/3efP5wn

Amazon.com:               https://amzn.to/2ZeAGfK

Kobo:                            https://bit.ly/2ZaWyZb