The Writing Life of: Georgina Jeffery
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Georgina Jeffery. Georgina Jeffery will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her new book ‘The Jack Hansard Series: Season One‘, which was released on 27th September 2020, and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Georgina Jeffery is a speculative fiction writer in Shropshire, England. She enjoys blending elements of fantasy, humour and horror in her stories, and often draws on British folklore for inspiration.
She was thrilled to make her publishing debut last year, with her first short story appearing in an urban fantasy anthology by Thunderbird Studios in June 2020, followed by the release of her first book, The Jack Hansard Series: Season One, in September.
Georgina Jeffery has previously worked in a Victorian candle factory (in a living history museum – sadly no time travel involved) and attributes this as the reason for her fascination with industrial mythology. More people, in her opinion, should be apprised of the rich lore of underground mining spirits.
1) Did you enjoy writing when you were a child?
Certainly, though I may have creeped out the grown-ups around me at the time. A white-masked dead girl is probably an unnerving main character to hear about from an eight-year-old.
I remember proudly declaring this particular story endeavour to my mother during a parent-teacher evening at school, where I told her that I was ‘getting away with’ writing my creepy story during our weekly allotted computer time. I recall my teacher’s bemused expression as she arched an eyebrow and informed me that she knew full well about my little project, and in fact I was allowed to write stories at school.
My dad saved my first stories onto floppy disks for me. It made me feel so grown-up. Now it makes me feel old.
2) Which author shaped your childhood?
For much of my childhood it was surely Tolkien. My earliest works of fiction were set in high fantasy worlds featuring tall, beautiful elves trekking across sprawling forests and rugged mountains. I also collected the Creepers and Shivers series of children’s horror books (by Edgar J. Hyde and M.D. Spenser, respectively), which cultivated an early love of terrifying tales.
From my teens, it was Sir Terry Pratchett who then shaped the hell out of me, my worldview, and even the way I write. I devoured his Discworld books – and then everything else besides – and emerged with a love of pithy humour and an itch to explore the peculiarities that make us human. The fundamental need for stories to define our own humanity is a core message which especially stuck with me.
3) What motivated you to begin your first novel?
My first novel? Goodness, does anybody really talk about their actual first novel, the one tucked away in a drawer or a long-forgotten desktop folder?
Mine was a coming-of-age comedy exploring death, friendship and morality in the afterlife. I started writing it when I was fifteen and ‘finished’ it in my early twenties. At the time I felt like I was writing a fun and fantastical romp through a daring area of religious philosophy. I was very proud of it, and utterly convinced it would be my first published book.
Reading it back now, it’s plain as day that this first novel was primarily a coping mechanism for grief: commenced in the run up to my father’s death in 2007, and concluded just before my mother’s in 2013. It does fascinate me how well humour helps us deal with the inevitable issue of mortality.
In any case, I now daren’t show this manuscript to anyone because it contains far too much of myself. A psychologist would have a field day with it, I’m sure.
As for my first published novel, I started writing The Jack Hansard Series: Season One as a short story experiment. I wanted to see if I could write an ongoing series of shorts strung together like television episodes. Turns out the answer is Yes, and it’s hugely fun to do!
4) Do you plot your book, or are you a pantser?
Pantser all the way. In the very first draft of Season One I didn’t actually set out to create a massive, interconnected plot – but the characters dictated that it should become one.
I have tried plotting out big stories before. But something about already knowing the details tends to take away my enthusiasm.
I should also add that, while I think I’m pretty good at dreaming up trouble for characters to get themselves into, it’s very rare that I can figure out the solution for myself in advance. I generally find that simply throwing my characters at the problem forces them to come up with their own unique solution.
5) What is your average writing day?
At the moment my daughter (a toddler) is often at home with me all day, so this somewhat dictates my writing schedule. Most mornings I’ll catch up with small jobs which can be done in 10-minute stints: like updating my social media accounts, responding to emails, checking book sales and other misc.
I get the bulk of my actual writing done during kiddo’s afternoon nap (usually about an hour’s worth) and then in the evenings once she’s in bed. If I’m in the groove I’ll work solidly from 8pm – 11pm or later.
Thursday is the one day when kiddo is watched by her aunt (hurray!) and I can get a full work day in. This is often split into a couple hours in the morning mopping up any admin/marketing prep, and then the rest of the day writing or editing.
6) What is the best thing about being an author?
For me, I think it might be the experience of reading over your work several weeks or months after the act of writing, screwing up your face in fascinated surprise and asking, ‘I wrote that?’
I still stare at my paperback in disbelief. It is a solid thing in my hands. Did I do that? Gosh, I think I did.
Publisher – Coblyn Press
Pages – 318
Release Date – 27th September 2020
ISBN 13 – 978-1838149802
Format – ebook, paperback
Jack Hansard is the man who can sell you anything. Luck in a bottle, fame in a box, dreams on a leash… anything is possible when you’re a trader on the occult Black Market.
It shouldn’t have surprised him then, when he stumbled upon a society of Welsh coblynau hidden inside a peaceful Shropshire valley. With the furious coblyn Ang as his new traveling companion, Jack reluctantly turns detective to search for her missing friends – and unwittingly uncovers a trail left behind by a sinister entity lurking in the shadows. Together, Jack and Ang must dodge the machinations of mythic monsters, rival traders, and an invisible thief who is always one step ahead… And through it all, hopefully, survive.
Told in a chain of connected short stories, The Jack Hansard Series is an episodic urban fantasy with a wide streak of humour and a lot of folklore. Season One contains the first fifteen episodes in the series.
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7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
I started reading into various bits of regional folklore around the UK, and then spent a LOT of time on Google Maps. The Street View tool is honestly a godsend.
I realised early on that because Hansard is a travelling salesman, and I wanted to base his stories in real places, that I would have to write in detail about locations I’ve never visited – and I’m the type of person to get bogged down in ensuring those details are correct. The internet is a genuinely magical facilitator for this.
One of my favourite reader comments was a local registering their surprise that I’d never actually been to Cockermouth or Wastwater in the Lake District; they thought from my descriptions that I must be very familiar with these locations. Thank you, Google, for helping me capture the magic of a place I’ve never been. (Though I desperately want to visit, when we are allowed to travel again)
This need for detail does slow me down when drafting, however. I’ll stall a passage for hours just because I’m trying to work out which side of the street they’re on.
8) How long did it take to go from the ideas stage to writing the last word?
I’m ashamed of how long it took me to get Season One to publication. The first draft – which I released on my website as I wrote it – was finished within roughly a year, back in 2015. I edited and republished it over the course of the next year, and found a small but wonderful audience by making it available on Wattpad.
I then dithered for several years, trying variously to pitch it or repackage it for traditional publishers. When I finally decided to bite the bullet and self-publish, I took another six months to give the book one last major face-lift, and finally published it five freaking years after the first words had been penned online.
I know what I’m doing now, though. So Season Two will be out a hell of a lot quicker.
9) What made you choose the genre you write in?
Every story I’ve ever written has had some ‘unreal’ element to it – usually heavy on fantasy or supernatural themes, but also straying into horror and science fiction on occasion. With a tendency to just write what I like, I’ve never wanted to confine myself to just one of those individual genres. So I was incredibly happy when I learned the umbrella term for all of this was ‘speculative fiction’, and I’ve never looked back!
10) How did you come up with the name(s) for your lead character(s)?
I began by doodling his business card. ‘Jack Hansard, Purveyor of Occult Goods’. It was just an idle idea to fill a coffee break at work. Then I added a couple hundred words in Jack’s voice – no more than the written equivalent of a doodle – and suddenly I had a character I was utterly hooked on.
Those in the UK may know that ‘Hansard’ is also the name given to the official record of all Parliamentary debates, and I daresay this subconsciously provided the seed for Jack’s surname.
It does tickle me that my character, who delights in his own untrustworthiness, is named after a document of truth. I wish I could take credit for this inverted symbolism, but it really only struck me after the fact.
11) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Jack Hansard is a travelling occult salesman with a cunning eye for lucrative business opportunities – but also possibly too much moral substance to always see them through. Though he’s out to con the world and their grandma, there’s a certain ruthlessness that he lacks in comparison to his competitors, however much he might want to prove his own worth. Jack might not have a heart of gold, but he’ll certainly try to sell you one.
Ang is Jack’s coblyn travelling companion – they meet in Episode 3, when Jack attempts to trade pies for treasure with her hidden coblynau community. A coblyn is a creature from Welsh mining folklore, said to work alongside humans underground. They are generally friendly, conscientious workers, and will warn miners of impending catastrophes.
Ang is an astute, if cynical, foil to Hansard’s eternal optimism, and is determined to make him keep his word in helping her find her missing kin. She is sometimes overwhelmed by Hansard’s Black Market dealings – trolls and witches aren’t for everyone, after all – but so long as he keeps up the supply of pastry-based foods, she won’t be going anywhere.
12) How did you feel when you had completed your book?
Free! Validated! PROFESSIONAL!
I’ll say this to anyone who has been dithering about their own writing for a while – just get on and publish it. The sooner it’s done, the sooner you can get on with learning, improving, and ultimately with getting the next story out.
1) Do you have a favourite quote you live by?
I’m afraid I’m utterly terrible at remembering quotes. I would love to pick out a snappy Discworld one-liner (there are so many! It should be easy!) but I would have to turn to Google, and that feels like cheating.
2) Do you have any pets?
Many! I have a black cat named Esme, two chickens (Henrietta and Eggdrid), plus a handful of zebra finches and a solitary male quail affectionately named BQ – short for Bastard Quail, as he didn’t play fair with the friends he’s now outlived.
3) What’s on your current reading list?
At the moment I’m getting through the works of Junji Ito, a Japanese horror manga artist. I was gifted Fragments of Horror (an anthology of short horror stories in comic form) by a friend and was instantly hooked on Ito’s disturbing art style and storytelling. I’ve since read his Frankenstein adaptation/anthology, and am currently halfway through Uzumaki – a collection of tales from a town haunted by a curse of spirals.
On the ‘lighter’ end of the spectrum, various people have recommended the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch to me for some of its apparent similarities to Jack Hansard (which I consider a huge compliment!) and I’m pleased to have finally gotten hold of a copy of the first book. This will be my next read when I eventually have some free time!
4) Your book has been made into a feature film, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what would you be doing?
I would definitely want to be one of the shady merchants Hansard passes at the Hull Market. I could be selling invisible ink – the kind that makes things invisible. (It’s a bugger to wash out, so my coat would have splotches of invisibility on it.)
5) If you could travel to the fictional world of any book for the day, which would you choose?
While my first thought might be Ankh-Morpork, I suspect I wouldn’t actually survive for very long there.
A chance to experience the ethereal beauty of Lothlórien in Middle Earth is probably a much safer bet, instead.
6) There’s a penguin sitting in your writing chair, what is the first thing he says to you?
“You need to sleep more, my friend. When you’re having conversations with your daughter’s stuffed animals, you know something needs to give.”
I would like to say a big thank you to Georgina Jeffery for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.