I’d like to welcome Jean Mead to Jera’s Jamboree today.
Jean counts herself fortunate to have spent her childhood in rural Staffordshire where she attended Howard Primary School in the village of Elford. At eleven-years-old she graduated to the school bus run and travelled the five miles to Tamworth to a school where fear and trepidation were part of the normal day and regular as lessons.
The family moved to Warwickshire and Jean, hating the education system of the time, spent the next three years at Sharman’s Cross High for Girls. The building was demolished some time ago.
The Cotswolds beckoned and she spent several blissful years in the village of Lower Slaughter. Eventually she moved to the Lough Derg area in Southern Ireland. Home is now in North Wales but she does have a hankering for Cornwall.
For the past few years Jean has written short stories for American, Australian and UK magazines and continues do so. To date she has written six novels and is busy completing the seventh.
She cannot envisage retiring from writing and hopes to carry on getting to know the characters and places that for the moment inhabit her imagination.
Jean is sharing her writing journey with us – and a recent change in genre.
My interest in writing historical fiction was formed at school where English and history were the only subjects I actually enjoyed.
The history teacher was brilliant, and when she told tales of the past the ring of clashing swords, the cries of battle, the sobs of the soon to be beheaded were brought to life and held me enthralled.
The English teacher was appalling! To save her the bother of attending to pupils she would tell us to write a story. The other girls would groan, but for me this was heaven. Whilst writing I could forget I was actually in the classroom.
Perhaps it’s the bad teachers that shape a child’s destiny! The pupil must exercise imagination to escape the dreariness of the classroom.
My writing began with short stories which eventually were published in magazines in America, Australia and the UK. I still enjoy writing short fictions and fortunately new work is published in the UK and America. It still gives me a buzz to have a story accepted, exactly as it did years ago.
The ambition to write a novel began quite by chance. On a perfect autumnal day, sunlit with the bite of the first frost in the air, I came across Dorothea Quarry, an astoundingly beautiful and haunting place. Stepping over the rusty wire of a wrecked Blondin, the idea of The Widow Makers came to me.
The research required to write a historical trilogy, the story based in the quarry lands of North Wales, didn’t occur to me until I attempted to write the first paragraph. But so in love with the derelict quarry, I enjoyed learning about the history of Dorothea.
The quarry in the trilogy is the fictitious Garddryn but many incidents that happen in the story actually occurred in Dorothea.
The Widow Makers 1842-1862 was published 2005 and republished 2012 and is now a paperback and a Kindle ebook.
The Welsh Books Council awarded a Literary Grant for the publication of the second book The Widow Makers:Strife 1862-1874. This is a paperback and also a Kindle ebook.
The Widow Makers:Road’s End 1874-1884 is to be published summer 2013.
The characters and locations are the same in all three books but each edition stands alone and can be read independently of the others.
Freya 800 AD
Most Viking era books are male dominated with battles, skirmishes and gore. Others are mystical and fantastical.
My purpose was to portray a woman living more than a thousand years ago at the beginning of the Viking raids on Britain. To write about life as it really was at that time. How women coped emotionally and practically when their husbands sailed across the Norse Sea to wreak havoc on the Picts of Northern Britain. With settlements deserted of able men, the women were vulnerable from attack, and in the story, Knut, a man of the mountains crosses the threshold of Freya’s longhouse with devastating consequences.
Researching the longhouses, longships, the way people lived at this time has taken me to Viking sites, and museums which has been fascinating. Though the dried-out remains of a Viking warrior does tend to prick the hairs at the back of my neck.
I was persuaded by my then agent to write a psychological thriller. This was in complete contrast to my other work, and a tad too far out of my comfort zone at the time.
It was strange to be writing without the stop-start research that a historical novel creates.
Instead I had a character, a woman living with the burden of her neurosis. Every waking moment Kate endures the torment of her husband’s perceived infidelity.
Kate’s obsessive fascination with Adam tips her close to insanity when he vanishes without trace. When she discovers the reason for his disappearance it is beyond her wildest imaginings. The truth doesn’t release her from the torment, for she is forced to keep the dreadful secret, telling will wreck her family, hiding the truth may ruin her sanity.
Writing this I needed to really explore my own emotions and think about how I would react if faced with the grief of losing someone I love when they vanish without a hope of me finding them again. It’s an awful concept and left me wondering how I would fare with everyday life, always wondering where, and if they were safe.
I have thought long and hard about pursuing the new venture of contemporary fiction. Although I haven’t made up my mind entirely, Annie, a character in Kate’s Secret is haunting me with her idea of becoming my next modern heroine. But I do love the characters that historical fiction evokes. Some are already tapping me on the shoulder encouraging me to work harder and faster so their stories can be told. But then there’s Annie!
Thank you for sharing your writing journey Jean. Perhaps it’s a positive thing for us to be taken out of our comfort zone 🙂
Freya 800 AD – ebook and paperback, also available amazon.com
Kate’s Secret now an ebook – paperback before March ~ Psychological mystery
Facebook : www.facebook.com/Freya800AD
Twitter: @Jeanmeadauthor https://twitter.com/jeanmeadauthor