The Writing Life of: Jennifer C. Wilson
Jennifer C. Wilson
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Jennifer C. Wilson. Jennifer will be sharing with us detail of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘Kindred Spirits: York‘, which was released on 22nd November 2018 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.
In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and has been working on a number of projects since, including co-hosting the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and her timeslip novella The Last Plantagenet? by Ocelot Press.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
I did, and, magically, I’m (sort of) doing it! I remember watching killer whales powering up the beaches in South America (on TV!), to catch sea lion pups, all narrated by Sir David Attenborough, and thinking “marine biology, that’s what I want to do”. And now I work as a marine consultant, so that worked out well.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
I was a huge fan of the Chalet School series, by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, and all I wanted was to be sent to a finishing school in the Alps, and share a dorm, wearing red tartan pyjamas, spending my days eating gorgeous pastries. Sadly, this didn’t happen.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always written stories down, for as long as I can remember, but it was when I joined an evening class on coming back to the north-east after uni that I realised I wanted to take it a little more seriously. I remember buying Writing Magazine in Stratford-upon-Avon, and feeling that was a big step. I had a long train journey home, and started working on competition entry notes whilst I was travelling.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
So many times, I have cleared this desk [see photo], and tried, really tried, to write at it. This is in my spare room, which is quiet, cosy and tidy, and yet, I just can’t do it. I have to have noise of some sort whilst I work, either music or the television, and both my TV and CD-player are in my living/dining-room, so in reality, it’s the dining table where I work. I live on my own, so I don’t have to battle anyone else for the space at least!
Working full-time, the evenings are my writing time, and in terms of routine, I try really hard to get the ‘chores’ done first, including replying to emails etc., so that I can have a clear run at being creative once I’m done for the day. I set a weekly word count target, rather than daily, because I often have a much longer writing time at the weekend than during the week, and generally aim for 2,000 words per week, on whatever I’m working on.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
The fourth in my Kindred Spirits series, Kindred Spirits: York, has just been released by Crooked Cat Books, and other than that, I self-published a timeslip novella, The Last Plantagenet?, in 2018, and have work in a couple of anthologies.
I have so much unpublished work! I’m terrible at coming up with ideas, jotting down a few lines of notes, and then getting distracted, or putting it aside until I have time to focus on it, but, of course, that time never quite comes around… It’s been lovely to have been part of two anthologies last year, and have self-contained projects which I managed to finish.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A bit of both? The two projects I’m currently working on, I know the stories of inside out, as they’ve been buzzing around my head for so many years now, but even though I have the synopsis for them, it’s still not a full plan, and there’s still some wriggle-room in there. For the Kindred Spirits series, I was definitely in the pantser category. I had my cast of characters, and a couple of key scenes which I knew were going to happen, but in terms of a solid plan, nothing at all until around 30,000 words in. Then, it was in with the index cards to bring some order to procedures.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – Crooked Cat Books
Pages – 233
Release Date – 22nd November 2018
ISBN 13 – 978-1790209361
Format – ebook, paperback
In the ancient city of York, something sinister is stirring…
What do a highwayman, an infamous traitor, and two hardened soldiers have in common? Centuries of friendship, a duty to the town, and a sense of mischief – until they realise that someone is trying to bring chaos to their home.
Joining forces with local Vikings, the four friends keep an eye on the situation, but then, disaster strikes.
Can peace be restored both inside and out of the city walls?
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
For Kindred Spirits: York, it was incredibly hard. There are so many haunted pubs in York… Happily, my mum decided my art was worth the sacrifice, and came with me for two days out. It was great fun actually, getting to know some of the historical buildings and sites that we’d never bothered with when we just used to pop down for a spot of shopping on a weekend. There was the Minster, of course, but also lovely little treasures like St Margaret’s Chapel, on the Shambles, which we had never even noticed.
For me, visiting a location is the best bit of research I can do, to really get a feel for a place. Also, even though my characters are ghosts, and can flit through walls, I need to know where they’ll be coming out the other side – there’s nothing worse than reading a book and finding little mistakes like people walking down a road they couldn’t have got to, or turning left when they should be going right. It’s more important still if you’re writing true historical fiction, thinking about how people might have got about, that sort of thing.
There’s plenty of reading and fact-checking too, to make sure people are where I’ve said they were, or the right age when I’m writing about them. Again, there are so many great historians and experts out there, and these days, it’s so easy to get things right, there’s no real excuse for messing up.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
The idea for York really only came about at the start of 2018, when I was looking for the next location, and I went on my first research trip in March, as I was going through the editing process of Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey at the same time, and didn’t want to get muddled.
The first words would have been written in early March, and I sent it to Crooked Cat Books around mid-September (my deadline was the 20th of that month). So six months for York. It varies though. For The Raided Heart, one of my current projects, I had the first idea for the plot when I was fourteen. I’m now 34, and haven’t written beyond the third chapter as yet.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
Kindred Spirits: York, is the fourth, but for the first, I was working towards NaNoWriMo 2013, and just wanted a working title. Kindred Spirits struck me as handy idea, given that my characters are all ghosts, thrown together to make the most of whatever situation they find themselves in, often finding friendships and working together. It seemed apt, and I stuck with it. I wasn’t sure whether my publisher would want to change it, and was prepared to see what they came up with as an alternative, but they liked it too, and that’s what they have remained ever since.
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
York has such a diverse and interesting history, it was great fun working out my ‘cast’ this time around. I have a rule for the Kindred Spirits world, that the ghosts of any location have to make sense, i.e. they died somewhere, or there’s something pulling them back. For the Tower of London, Anne Boleyn obviously died there, and Richard III returned to find the truth about what happened to his nephews, the infamous Princes in the Tower.
In York, Harry Hotspur, a famous north-east lad, was buried in the Minster, well, the bits of him were, and we also have Dick Turpin (executed in the city), Guy Fawkes (a local lad, raised there), and Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York (father to Richard III, and executed nearby, before his head was displayed on the city walls).
Those four are an interesting little group, working together to keep their city safe, but making sure they can also have a little bit of fun at the same time.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
I’m incredibly lucky that Crooked Cat Books were happy to publish Kindred Spirits: York, following the previous three in the series. For the first in the series, I went about it the traditional way, sending the synopsis and opening chapters of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London through when they had an open window for submissions. Luckily, they liked it!
For my self-published novella, it was all new and a bit exciting, once I’d cracked the code of what tax number Amazon wanted from me. The processes were broadly the same in terms of editing, cover-art design and launching though, just a different division of workloads.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
I’m currently balancing two quite different projects, neither of them being Kindred Spirits novels. Whichever one I settle down with and finish, will be my second release through Ocelot Press, a collective of authors who are working together to help one another through the publishing process.
So, it will either be a border reiver romance, set in Northumberland, or a contemporary romance, set between the highlands and Paris. Both will bring their own challenges, and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in!
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
It would have to be flight. I’ve had so many recurring dreams about having the ability to fly, and I still don’t quite understand how it works in reality. Just imagine being able to fly over rooftops, glorious landscapes, the ocean – it would be magical.
2) Do you have any pets?
I don’t, sadly. I’ve never had any pets of my own, but we used to have two fabulous cats who lived next door and next door but one, Jenu and Hobbes. They both spent an awful lot of time in our home and garden, and I loved them to bits. Very special little characters. I would love to have a cat, and will one day, but they’re banned from my current block of flats, and my lifestyle doesn’t really lend itself to one at the moment.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
This is a difficult one! “A life well-written” has a nice ring to it, if you ignore the pretentiousness? Also, I think there’s an element that all our lives are ‘written’ to an extent these days, with Facebook and Twitter statuses telling people about our days. So I’ll stick with that.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
A good question! I think I’d like to be one of the living being haunted by one of my characters, just for a giggle. I’m such a scaredy-cat, it would be an interesting challenge for me…
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Up until September 2018 I would easily have said Paris, as I’ve been going there since I was a child, and adore the city. But recently, it’s felt a bit ‘different’, not quite as relaxed as it did. I’m planning to go back either this year or next, and I hope it’s back to the city I loved.
In September though, I finally got to Rome, after years of wanting to go, and I completely fell in love with it. The history, the architecture, and the glamour were all a bit seductive. I would love to go back in the next couple of years, and would put a lot more effort into learning the language, so I could feel a bit more involved.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
“Where’s your baseball cap?” I would have to find one, to make sure I fit in with him! You cannot make your guests feel uncomfortable, after all.
I would like to say a big thank you to Jennifer C. Wilson for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.