Our guest today is Jan Ruth, Welsh author of contemporary fiction ~ love stories with strong, identifiable characters, about family life and relationships.
Jan has been writing for more than 30 years and despite various dalliances with the more traditional publishing routes, she is now pleased to be an independent author.
Jan was born in Bowden, Cheshire, and moved to North Wales in 1998, although she has always maintained a strong connection with the area from a much earlier age. Her feel for the Welsh landscape is evident in all of her books.
Jan started writing at primary school, winning prizes for poetry and short stories. Her first novel attracted a London agent, but failed to find the right niche with a publisher because it didn’t fall into a specific category- not quite light enough for romance but not literary fiction either, sitting somewhere between these two genres. Her second novel, again snapped up by a London agent; suffered the same fate. Undeterred, Jan has continued to write, believing her market is out there.
After a polish makeover, Jan has recently re-release her four romantic dramas: The Long and Short of It, Midnight Sky, White Horizon, and Wild Water. Jan is with us today to give us a glimpse about her work and her life as a writer.
Hello Jan, thanks for visiting! Would you be so kind to give readers a summary and short excerpts of each of your books?
Readers, please click on the book titles for the US links, and on the book covers for the UK links.
The Long and The Short Of It: An emotive collection of stories and excerpts from the Welsh Mountains of Snowdonia.
Excerpt: Tom gave the group a furtive glance and sidled into the shrubs to relieve his bladder. He pushed through a thicket of gorse; no sooner was he in an uncompromising position when two things happened. First of all he spied Helga’s unmistakable shape through the trees, but there was something else unmistakable too. What the… what on earth? She was stood, braced, like a man taking a pee. Helga was clearly, unmistakably, a man! Tom’s mobile suddenly sprang to life, but before he could silence it, the theme tune from Live and Let Die filled the small copse with a dramatic burst of music. Helga quickly turned and met his eyes and for a nanosecond of embarrassed shock, both men stared at each other.
Midnight Sky: Opposites attract? Laura Brown, interior designer and James Morgan-Jones, horse whisperer – and Midnight Sky, a beautiful but damaged steeplechaser.
Excerpt: James placed the bottle down carefully, nestled it in a bed of gorse. He still held her eyes, then he held her, as if she were made of porcelain. It was different to the other times, in that she was very aware of his heart hammering against hers. When he pushed his hands into her hair and began to kiss along her collarbone she almost stopped breathing, it was so exquisite. Then he traced along her throat, every nerve ending on fire until lips touched lips. She opened her mouth to his. The soft hardness of his body, and the funny sadness of his mind were both finally in her arms.
White Horizon: On-off-on lovers Daniel and Tina marry in typically chaotic fashion, witnessed by old friends, Victoria and Linda who become entangled in the drama, their own lives changing beyond recognition.
Excerpt: Victoria made to dive across the bed to the door, but Max was faster. He grabbed her ankle and she fell awkwardly, hitting the side of her face against the solid oak headboard. For a moment she was stunned by the pain of it. Victoria somehow found the strength to grab the brass bedside clock and hurl it towards Max. It fell several feet wide of the mark. She listened to it thud against the door and roll to a halt on the deep pile carpet. He laughed. Slowly, he dragged her back towards him by her ankle.
Wild Water: Jack Redman, estate agent to the Cheshire set. An unlikely hero, or someone to break all the rules?
Excerpt: Anna took him outside before the light failed. There was a listed barn and a dairy, some broken farm equipment, and a lot of hens.
“How many acres altogether?” Jack shouted above the wind.
“About twenty,” she shouted back.
He followed her to the little cottage by the lake. At first Josh and his ghosts had amused Jack but now he changed his mind. The water was like ink and full of moving reflections, the only relief being long islands of dead grasses. There was a rich sense of ancient atmosphere here, haunted even. Anyone with half an imagination could take it all very seriously.
How real are your characters?
My characters actually exist, of course they do! If I didn’t believe this, then they would be very sad people indeed. I think each and every one of them has a little bit of me in their psyche, poor souls.
What compelled you to write these books?
I think my writing is driven by two factors, inspiration and experience.
The different stages of life with all its highs and lows, bring a whole range of experiences to draw on, and this is the foundation of my fiction, the spark that gives my characters life. I tend to use landscape as a character in its own right, so I feel lucky to live in the area which most inspires me; the Welsh Mountains. It is rich in history, diverse and dramatic, it’s a great backdrop for my stories.
How long did you develop them to their current state? Tell us about John Hudspith too.
Wild Water was written 25 years ago, and I was lucky enough to have two traditional agents, both of whom worked quite hard for me. However, my work was knocked back so many times by publishers claiming that the books fell ‘between genres.’ How many times have we heard that from self-published authors? So then a long barren period when family and job took centre stage, and then my son persuaded me to look at self-publishing a couple of years ago.
However, I didn’t really tackle the editing, formatting and marketing with very much enthusiasm! I had a lot of falling over to do before the books reached their current state of ahem… near perfection. All of the technical aspects of publishing have been a huge learning curve. I was recommended to John Hudspith after a lot of false starts, and my covers were designed by Jane Dixon-Smith. Editing and design costs money, but I do think it is important to offer the best quality we can.
Wild Water won Cornerstones book of the year 2011, and it is listed in the eFestival of Words book nominations. All my titles are also listed with The Awesome Indie Site, which is a seal of quality approval. So I do feel that two years of editing (yes!) has paid off and yielded some very satisfying results.
Good on you, Jan! Now, how did you come up with the titles?
My first book was called Under Offer, but then my agent changed it to Wild Water. Midnight Sky was a natural follow on, and then I found that I had a theme going, and it has worked itself into a brand. The titles sit very well with the landscape. The work in progress has already moulded itself into Silver Rain (but that could change!)
When did you know you just had to write?
I’ve always been a bookie kid, and it just went from there. I recall winning little prizes at school for creative writing, but it wasn’t till I reached my twenties that I realised writing a novel was a craft that had to be learnt. I made a lot of mistakes.
Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?
George Orwell. I loved the social message and the depth of character. On a more current theme, I enjoy Linda Gillard’s novels, and my all-time favourite The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna. There are lots more but I think I’m a character freak and if it features big Celtic landscapes, then it’s got me hooked, just a personal preference.
What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?
My first novel Wild Water attracted agents and publishers, then it went on to win an in-house competition in 2011 and it has recently been listed on the Festival of Words 2013.
These boosts are great, but the ordinary reader feedback is the best, the reader with nothing to gain and who takes the time to get a message to you, to say how much they enjoyed reading your fiction. The downsides are probably negotiating the sometimes rather insidious, nasty side of the internet.
Who gives you the most encouragement, Jan?
My readers give me the most encouragement.
What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
My latest work in progress is called Silver Rain. I’m hovering around chapter four, working through a lot of plot threads in my head, so day dreaming is a common state! It’s another romantic drama, but this time the main characters are in their fifties. I also have ideas for another set of short stories based on my recent travels, so a sort of global assortment.
Best wishes for Silver Rain. This time you will have John to assess it for restructure and to edit before publishing, I guess. It will give you so much confidence against naysayers when an expert has already given his approval. Now, what’s your best marketing strategy?
To write quality fiction.
How much do you have in common with your protag, Jan?
Oh, I think there is a little of me in all my characters!
What are your hobbies?
I have a passion for horses, so after books, I love riding, with walking the hills a close second.
How nice! When do you find the time to write?
I’m lucky to have lots of time for writing, I’m at that age where I can be my own boss, my time is more or less my own. Adult children are a wonderful invention
What one thing is important for your audience to know about you? Why?
My books are sometimes described as romance, but there is a strong element of drama and reality. Lots of male readers have enjoyed White Horizon, and Wild Water is mostly written from the male point of view. There’s a sprinkling of black humour too.
Any tips on reading and writing?
If you want to write well, you need to read a lot too.
You visited Sydney recently. Would you like to share with us some experiences from this trip?
Loved Sydney! It has the wacky wow factor; bold, brash, buzzing. A sprawling cosmopolitan city with a complex waterfront connected by bridges, walkways and several quaysides. Old fashioned ferries next to multi-million pound boats and cruise ships had me in mind of Windermere crossed with London – there’s even a Kings Cross and a Paddington – but clearly with more sun. Some of it was touristy with boomerangs for sale and folk playing the didgeridoo, but I liked that, it gave the place a strong identity; I would have felt miffed if I hadn’t seen all the trademark Aussie paraphernalia in the flesh. Rolf Harris, Crocodile Dundee and Dame Edna just couldn’t belong anywhere else. And where else could you buy a genuine kangaroo scrotum?
Only in Australia! 🙂
Thank you so much for your time Jan. Have a smooth sailing onwards!