Introducing Jan Baynham

Over the course of my writing journey, I have been blessed and privileged to meet so many other lovely writers at various stages of their journeys. I first met Jan Baynham at the RNA Conference at Harper Adams University a few years ago  – and our debuts have ended up being published a couple of weeks apart. Today I am delighted to welcome Jan to my blog to tell us a little about her book and her writing process

 

Congratulations on your debut, Jan. It sounds fabulous and I can’t wait to read it. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind it?

Thank you, Kirsten. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I loved writing it. Always fascinated by family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters, the inspiration came to me when reading a novel. In it, the rustling in the trees sounded like whispers and inanimate statues took on the form of the ghosts of people they represented. Combining both those ideas, I asked myself what if the whispering could show the presence of a mother communicating to her daughter after her death. I knew I had the basis for a story.
That sounds fabulous Jan. Now, are you a plotter or a pantser?
Mainly a plotter. As there are always two stories in my novels, the mother’s and the daughter’s, I like to map out the timeline of each story and the main events. I plan in detail and know how the novel will end. However, I still have the freedom to change things and move away from the plan if an idea comes when I’m writing, and it often does. That spontaneity is what adds freshness to writing and I wouldn’t like to lose that by rigidly sticking to the plan.
That really sounds like the best of both worls. And, what, for you, is the very hardest part of writing?

The hardest part for me is to stand back and view my work objectively. I’ve attended workshops and read books on how to improve my writing but once I’m immersed in writing the story, I’m sure a lot of it goes out of the window. Once the first draft is written, the real work starts when editing and hopefully everything I’ve learned helps me with that process. However, I do find it hard to analyse and critique my own work.
And what is the most rewarding?
The most rewarding part is when someone tells me he or she enjoyed reading what I’ve written. It doesn’t have to be a novel. When my short story, ’The Phantom Boatman’, was published as a Choc Lit Treat before the publication of my novel, I had a message from someone who was not only very complimentary about the writing but said it evoked happy memories of a visit to the beautiful underground lake in Kefalonia. That made my day. Recently, not only have I been blown away by the generous reviews of ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, it’s all the lovely messages I’ve received, too, that have made this job so rewarding.
Having just had my debut published, I know exactly what you mean. Which is more important – plot or character?
I usually start thinking about my characters first and get to know them really well. The plot and what happens to them tends to come after answering a series of ‘what if?’ questions. In the case of ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, I created Elin who kept a part of her life hidden until her dying day. I then asked myself, what if she had a conscience and felt her daughter Alexandra should know what happened by leaving her a diary of that summer of ‘69? What if Alexandra followed in her mother’s footsteps, travelling to Greece to find answers? The plot and sub-plot were then planned around the characters and the ‘what ifs?’
Wonderful. And, finally, what are your wishes and ambitions for this year and this decade?
My main ambition is to continue to enjoy writing. My contract with Ruby Fiction is for three books. I hope the next two novels will be received as positively as the first and my aim is to work hard to try to achieve that. I hope to hone the craft of my writing further and achieve contracts for more books that readers will enjoy.
‘Her Mother’s Secret’ is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Mothers-Secret-Summer-69-ebook/dp/B085CHV3VQ/

You may find out more about Jan here:

Twitter: @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit/

Blog: http://www.janbaynham.blogspot.co.uk

One month to publication ….

It’s one short month until Another Us is published.

It’s such a strange time isn’t it?

On the one hand, I’m working hard on publicity in the run up to publication – writing magazine and blog articles, being interviewed for podcasts and radio shows, and keeping on top on social media. (Reading that last sentence back, I really do have to pinch myself and keep reminding myself that this really is a dream come true!) I’m also pushing ahead with book two as the first draft is due at the end of May and, believe me, it’s going to be tight!  So plenty – too much – to do and I’m spending most of my working hours in front of the computer   – often with at least one cat ‘helping’ me.

On the other hand – bloody hell! The whole world – literally – has changed in a way none of us could have predicted. As it had for many of us, our own little world has changed too. A levels have been cancelled, universities have been closed, we’ve had our brushes with ill-health (Covid or not – who knows?), we have parents in a locked down care-homes and close family members in hospital. Fingers crossed we all emerged unscathed but it’s scary, isn’t it, really scary? I have times when I am quite frankly petrified and times when I am quite blasé, and  – at a time when distance is no longer an object – some unexpected and quite lovely friendships have bubbled to the surface.

So, somewhere between these two extremes, Another Us will be launched. It would be foolish to pretend that everything is as it would have been if this hadn’t happened – too many opportunities have been lost along the way and in the greater scheme of things, it is, of course,  quite, quite unimportant. But  – as this is my little corner of the internet – I hope it’s OK to say that I’m hoping Another Us will still be able to find its feet and to be read and enjoyed.

To that end, a huge thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered and retweeted and requested on NetGalley and given such generous early reviews. I really am very grateful.

I’m going to finish with a review from Claire Dyer that made me cry  – because this is wht writing is all about. Thank you Claire:

‘Another Us’ is a roller-coaster of a ride as we take the journey with Emma towards self-knowledge. Prompted by her son’s Asperger’s diagnosis, Emma is forced to take a long, hard look at her role as a wife, mother, daughter and friend but, this long hard look is fraught with drama, conflict and humour. What may, at first, seem a light-hearted portrayal of playground politics becomes something much deeper and more profound the more we get into the novel, until it becomes something brave and brilliant, and which both entertains and informs. Kirsten Hesketh’s writing is assured and the pace never falters. It is a total must-read debut.
Claire Dyer, author of The Last Day

I wish you all health and happiness and look forward to seeing you all on the other side  xx

A cover reveal in the time of Covid19

Yesterday Another Us had its cover reveal and a very strange affair it was too. People were lovely – bloggers and authors and publisher and agents and friends and strangers all generously retweeting and tweeting on Twitter and saying lovely things about my book.

I’m grateful.

I really am.

And I love the cover. It’s bright and upbeat and on point and I’m very happy with it and very grateful to my designer.

Here it is if you haven’t seen if yet.

Another Us_wide (1)

I love how it has the whole family I’ve created on it  … and the little picture on the wall. So cute.

But … it all feels wrong, doesn’t it?

So wrong.

Wrong to be revealing my cover and promoting my book and asking people to pre-order it when all …. this …. is happening.  It just seems trivial and demanding and an imposition on everyone’s energy when they have so much to worry about at the moment.

So … my book will wait.

I have written this post and pinned a tweet to my profile and now I will let it be.

It;s time to focus on my parents who in lockdown in their care home and my 92 year old uncle who is in total isolation up in London and my lovely children are confined to the house, their lives and education in temporary limbo. Time to focus on the things and people that really matter.

Sending love and brightness to all of you  …. see you on the other side xx

 

 

 

 

 

Retreat … and advance.

I’m just back from a fantastic writing retreat.

Never mind city breaks, or spa weekends  – lovely as they both are. For me, a few days holed up in the countryside with other writers is where I best recharge my batteries and come back ready to do battle in all areas of my life. There’s just something about cutting myself off from the outside world and barricading myself away with likeminded souls that really works for me. It’s not even that I write screeds and screeds – although I’m pleased with how I pushed my current WIP on this time. It’s that I come back full of ideas and enthusiasm and optimism and have nurtured old friendships and made new friends – including lovely ladies I have known on Twitter but never met in real life.

The retreat was in a gorgeous old house called The Throne in Weobley and was organised by my friends Jane and Moira from The Place To Write.

Weobley three

Honestly, do go on one of their retreats if you can. Their homecooked food is wonderful, there is tea and cake on tap and look what I discovered on my door when I arrived – along with a bag of my favourite chocolates!

weobley four

Yes, I don’t have my own book cover yet, so they invented one for me. I rather like it!

The workshops were run by Isabel Costello and were on inspiration and motivation and gave plenty of food for thought. Everyone got stuck in and everyone was very honest and generous with their contributions, so I learned loads. Here were all are hard at work – we look very serious here, but rest assured that there were lots of laughs too.

Weobley twoWeobley one

I left with lots of insights on how to make my writing life more creative and productive, whilst boosting my resilience to the inevitable set-backs. It was brilliant.

Many thanks to Jane and Moira and Isabel and everyone else for making the time there so special. And a special thanks to the people of Weobley who had not been panic-buying toilet paper so I was able to buy a packet to take back to my home town where the shelves have been denuded!!

So here I am back at home again, refreshed and recharged and ready to take on the world.

Happy days xxx

My book is available for pre-order!!

Another milestone moment!!

Twitter is full of writers announcing that their books are available for pre-order and I’m ashamed to say that in the past I’ve always been a bit dismissive. What’s the big deal? And what’s the point in buying something that you won’t be able to read for a couple of months anyway. If it’s an e-book, it’s not as if it’s going to go anywhere, is it? They’re not exactly going to run out!

But, now it’s my turn, it feels huge! HUGE!

My book, my baby, is ‘out there’.

This is actually happening!!

Of course, I know it’s happening anyway. I’m knee deep in edits (eek), writing stuff for magazines (how thrilling is that?!) and asking writers I admire if they’d like an ARC (hoe scary is that?!) It’s all encompassing and absolutely brilliant.

But now it’s ‘out there’. You can actually part with your hard-earned cash and pre-order it!

To be honest. I’m jumping the gun a bit. I don’t have a cover yet. I don’t even have an Amazon author page. I didn’t even know the book had been put on Amazon and the way that came around was a bit surreal. I’d tweeted about The Fear ( bad reviews, no reviews etc etc) and a lovely lady from the States suddenly tweeted ‘I’ve pre-ordered your book.’ So my first (probably) sale was international. Am international-selling author (*pinches self*)

Anyway, thank you all for your excitement, your tweets, your messages, your flowers, your love. Thank you for being on this journey with me.

Here’s the link:

 

 

 

(There must be a more elegant way of doing that but if you click on the bottom left corner it seems to work and you don’t have to buy it! )

And now I’ll go away and shut up until I have a cover!

XX

Saying goodbye …

Tomorrow I will pull myself together and get on with doing life with a smile on my face.

But today I am going to acknowledge my feelings, to allow myself to be sad … to say goodbye.

I’m talking about leaving the European Union, of course –  about Brexit. I have absolutely nothing new or of import to say on the matter but – hell – this is my little corner of the internet and so maybe that doesn’t matter. Either way, it feels important to acknowledge it, me  … us.

I was a Remainer.

I signed the petitions, joined the marches, tweeted and retweeted and, as we navigated all the twists and turns, hoped against hope that we wouldn’t leave. I was brought up to believe that – bendy bananas or not – being part of a union which could help prevent the horrors of a third world war was only a good thing and that if we want things changing, it’s best to do so from the inside. I still believe in the European project. I accept we have to leave as it was the will of the people, but I don’t want to leave. I hope our children will make a different choice in the future.

I’m also British

When we lived in the States I would say I was from ‘the UK’ with genuine pride. I love England and Great Britain as much as the next person.  My husband says I’m soppily patriotic – arranging a street party for the royal wedding, taking our daughter up to London for the Jubilees. Like everyone else, I want the best for our country and the people – all the people – who live here.

So it really really pisses me off to find myself branded a ‘traitor’ for having voted remain. And I hope that from tomorrow we do all genuinely start to pull together and move forward.

For all our sakes.

 

 

 

I have a publishing deal!

And just like that, I have a publishing deal!

My debut novel, Another Us, is going to be published by Canelo on May 14th!

Gosh, it feels good to type that. I am very, very happy

Of course, it isn’t ‘just like that’ at all. Anyone who has even a passing knowledge of, or interest in, the publishing process knows that things happen very, very slowly, and unless you are extremely lucky there are twists and turns and setbacks a plenty along the way. I’ve had a couple of those, but, at the end of the day, my debut novel  – the first novel I’ve ever written – is going on to be published on May 14th (did I mention the date?!)

How lucky am I?!

This was part of a blog which went up on Canelo’s website yesterday (I’ve tried but I’m either too dim, too tired or too excited to work out how to link it here):

What do you do when your marriage starts to fall apart when you need it most? In Another Us, when Emma and Daniel’s son is diagnosed with autism it answers a lot of their questions. But it also raises one big one: can they beat the statistic that says 80% of marriages with an autistic child break down?

Emily Bedford says: ‘Kirsten is a wonderful author who brings compassion, humour and warmth to a story that challenges our conceptions of what a ‘typical’ family looks like. I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with her on Another Us – it’s a beautifully compelling story that will make you laugh one instant and bring a tear to your eye the next, and I cannot wait for everyone to experience this rich and real novel.’

Thank you, Canelo and especially Emily Bedford, thank you to Felicity, my wonderful agent, and thank you to all of you who have supported and cheered me on along the way.

Happy days

xx

 

The Deal That Never Was.

I was so close.

So damn, damn close.

So close I could smell it, breathe it …. believe it.

An unsigned contract from a top publisher in my hot little hand, copy deadline next January, first hardback out 2020. I was researching, writing …. loving it.

And then … it all fell away. Up the ladder, and down that sneaky snake that lurks around square 98 to catch the unwary. Right back to the foothills. Strong temptation to throw the whole damn board across the room and never write again.

There was a third party involved, you see.  They had a contract with the publisher too,  nothing to do with me but if that fell through, the whole deal was off. And, at the eleventh hour, it did. And so it was.

My agent has been brilliant.  The publishers have been lovely. Under no legal obligation to do so, they’ve paid me for the work I’ve done to date. It’s a source of much mirth in my family that the first money I’ve earned from writing …. is to stop writing.  A ‘kill’ fee. Even I can see the irony, the humour in that.

So there we go. Up and down and round and about we go. No one ever said it would be easy. But, now the sting’s subsided and new opportunities are opening up …. oh, the thrill of this totally unpredictable scary, frustrating, maddening, totally exhilarating magical mystery ride …

Back to the laptop.

x

 

 

Day 19 Without Twitter.

So, I might have cheated a little.

Just the tiniest bit.

A few days ago we were at the airport when my daughter announced she had forgotten her anti-sickness mediciation. And, boy, does my daughter get sick on flights! A quick whip round the stores and, whilst I could have had giant Toblerones and perfume and even haggis a plenty, there were absolutely no travel sickness pills. Anywhere. Even Boots came up short. Stress levels rising, I reached for my phone, re-activated Twitter and tweeted the airport help people Cue one very nice DM conversation with Laura who confirmed my fears. No anti-sickness medication at all once you’re past security. (In the end we plumped for some wrist bands with a bead in them which apparently presses on an acupuncture point and, to be fair, daughter was absolutely fine. She even polished off half a bag of chocolate fingers on the flight with no ill-effects. I ate the other half.)

It felt weird to be back on Twitter. At first I was perturbed that the act of deactivating my account seemed to have deleted all the 3,000 odd people that I follow and who follow me. I sat in the Airport Costa feeling – frankly – a bit anxious, but after about 20 minutes, they all miraculously reappeared. Then it began to feel a little excited. This was all a bit illicit. I was back!! And I couldn’t help it. I twitted a jaunty little ‘just poking my head around the door to say hello’ type of message and sat back to await the replies. The ‘we’ve missed yous’, the ‘have you been somewhere’s,’ even the ‘get off Twitter you useless lump – call this a month?’

There was nothing. Absolutely zilch, zero, nada. I refreshed a few times. Nope. Not a flutter. After about twenty minutes, some kind soul said ‘welcome to twitter’ and someone else tried to sell me their book on getting the most out of social media.

So I slunk away again.

That’ll teach me!!

xx