Guest Post by Jane E. James – Author of The Long Weekend

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I’m very pleased to welcome Jane E. James as my guest author today. Jane is the writer of the novel The Long Weekend, described on Amazon as exploring…

the theme of maternal love and how the ‘sins of the mother’ affect the daughters. It also focuses on how dysfunctional patterns repeat across generations. Jane E. James weaves gothic and supernatural elements through her novel to create a truly chilling read that will appeal particularly to fans of mystery novels.

Here, Jane gives a fascinating insight into how she became a writer, how The Long Weekend had originally been a screenplay and she also reveals some amusing lesser known facts about herself (Britain certainly has got talent!). I must admit, I love George Bernard Shaw and also share some of her guilty pleasures…and I’ll always bring the wine!

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‘If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in the closet, you’d best teach it to dance’ George Bernard Shaw

Thank you to Eva

First up, I want to say a huge thank you to Eva Jordan for having me. It’s an honour to be here. As well as being a fab writer and a busy mum, Eva works super hard promoting other authors on her blog. I don’t know where she gets her energy from. But I’d like some.

Introduction

My name is Jane E James and I am the author of ‘The Long Weekend’ which was published just over a year ago. I would describe my novel as a dark and disturbing mystery, full of secrets, with strong supernatural elements. It is set against the haunting backdrop of a wintry Norfolk coastline and a remote lighthouse that overlooks the bleak North Sea. The story follows Hazel Ladd, who has spent her life hiding the love she feels for one of her daughters and disguising the hatred she feels for the other. After fifteen years apart, they all meet up for a long weekend. Hazel’s guilty secret is finally torn from her and the long-anticipated reunion ends in disaster.

A Bit About Me

I’ve been married to Darren for ten years now and between us we have four grown up children. We live in the country and share our home with three dogs (used to be six). We couldn’t be more different but he makes me laugh… a lot. ‘The Long Weekend’ is the first novel he’s ever read all the way to the end. I have a day job, working as a Sales and Marketing Manager, but my writing comes before anything else. I guess that’s why I’m not terribly fussy about what I do – I’ve written obituaries for local newspapers; worked as an Estate Agent; handed out Fixed Penalty Notices for people who let their dogs’ poo in public places and driven a fork lift truck! When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading or walking the dogs. Saturday is my main writing day and I love to finish off by listening to classical music, cooking something a bit special and opening a bottle of red. I love Saturdays.

My Background

Born the youngest of six children to a straight talking Yorkshire man and a deeply superstitious Welsh mother, I was an outdoor country girl who loved ponies, milking goats and tramping the countryside with one dog or another. On my walks, I discovered a love of old abandoned houses and got a real thrill out of being alone in the woods. In short, I discovered that I loved being afraid. Being the tomboy of the family I would rather climb trees with my brothers than learn domestic skills (the same still applies today). Not coming from an academic background, my fish and chip shop owning parents viewed my obsession with books as suspicious. As far as they were concerned, paper was for wrapping chips in!

My Writing Experience

For as long as I can remember, I have always written. But I didn’t always know I wanted to be a “writer”. The two seemed distinctly different to me. At various stages of my adolescence I might have said I wanted to be an actress, a nun, a jockey, or even a stand-up-comedian – but I just couldn’t bring myself to say the word ‘author’ out loud, especially not to my family who already considered me prone to melodrama (which of course I was – for one day I would be an author of fiction). It wasn’t until I was in my forties with two grown up children of my own that I started to finally do what I’d always dreamed of. But even then I couldn’t imagine having the patience to sit down and write a whole novel; so I went back to night-school and completed a diploma in screenwriting instead. Even ‘The Long Weekend’ started out life as a screenplay, but I soon realised pitching to television companies and producers wasn’t for me. Truthfully, the idea terrified me. Deciding I was more suited to a solitary life in the country as an author, I sat down to write my first novel at the age of 49 and ‘The Long Weekend’ was born. I already had the screenplay. It was all the head start I needed. Back then I don’t think I would have been brave enough to take on a first novel from scratch.

What Inspires Me To Write

I have always been interested in dark, disturbing subjects and find damaged & dysfunctional people far more intriguing than ordinary, everyday characters, especially unreliable narrators who never let truth get in the way of a good story. But if anyone asks me ‘What inspires you to write?’ I always feel a little tongue-tied as if I should know the answer. The truth is… I don’t. But I do believe it’s a combination of many different things – books I’ve read; writers I’ve admired; films I’ve seen and places I’ve visited. But I also think dreams play a major part in forming ideas. I suffer from a condition known as sleep paralysis, which is a temporary inability to move or speak, that happens when you’re waking up, or less commonly, falling asleep. Although you’re awake, your body is briefly paralysed after which you can move or speak as normal. But with the paralysis come the night terrors when you experience horrific visual hallucinations of monstrous figures; of someone else being in the room with you (often at the foot of your bed) and of footsteps and voices all around you. And if you’re really unlucky, like me, you also get to sleep walk and talk to strangers in the corner of the bedroom. If anyone knows what it is like living in a ‘paranormal activity’ household, just ask my husband. He’s scared stiff by my night time activities but they do tend to give me ideas for my writing. And ‘Mr Naughty’, a fictional fiend from ‘The Long Weekend’, was bred out of these episodes. As for how and where I write – that can be anywhere at any time When I am in the process of writing I scribble notes everywhere – in the bath, on the loo and in bed. My memory isn’t what it used to be and I tend to forget things if I don’t write them down. As a new author, I don’t feel I have the experience to offer advice to anyone else at the moment, especially those who are in the process of writing their first novel or short story. But I will say this, say ‘yes’ to everything when opportunities come your way. I really struggle with public speaking but I still say ‘yes’ whenever anyone invites me along to give a talk on my book. I keep going; in the hope that I will one day get better at it.

Why I Wrote ‘The Long Weekend’

I hoped writing ‘The Long Weekend’ would be a cathartic experience and I spent many hours during the writing of it, thinking about my own children. Anyone who has visited my website or read the dedication in the book will understand why the emotions in the story felt real to me, as I know from personal experience what it is like to be estranged from one’s own children. I don’t deny that some of the scenes in the book are harrowing, disturbing even (it certainly isn’t for everyone), but the heart of this novel explores the theme of maternal love and how the ‘sins of the mother’ affect the daughters. It also focuses on how dysfunctional patterns repeat across generations. Motherhood is an extremely complex relationship and each of us has a different story to relate. I grew up in the knowledge that I was my mother’s least favourite child and I wanted to use this experience in my writing.

The Location for ‘The Long Weekend’

The novel is set in Hunstanton, where walks along the beach on cold winter days helped me gather my thoughts. The bleak, wintry atmosphere also suited my main character’s mood. I remember being intrigued by the Old Lighthouse and knew that I wanted my novel to be based there. But I never properly visited the building until after I’d finished the book because I wanted my imagination to run wild with its mysteriousness. Once it was published I went to stay for my very own ‘long weekend’ (alone, I might add) in the lighthouse. It was not at all as described in the book, although the tower really was quite spooky. Even so, it was easy to imagine the presence of Hazel and her daughters there with me.

The Ups and Downs

Writing and publishing my first book has been a real rollercoaster ride and I can honestly say I have learned loads from the experience; especially about myself. One of the most hurtful things I have seen written about me (as part of a review) is that I am ‘arrogant’. Honestly, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I cry at anything and suffer from terrible low-esteem. Ask my husband, who is always having to prop me up. Whilst writing can be an incredibly humbling experience, the highlight for me has been meeting readers who have shared their own personal stories with me. I much prefer chatting to people as friends rather than the formality of giving talks; a prospect that scares me to death. It’s taken a while, but I have finally come to accept that bad reviews are just part of the process of being a writer; but in the beginning they are crushing. There have been days when I have not wanted to get out of bed because of what somebody has written on Amazon. But I do get up and I do write some more and I thank my lucky stars for the positive reviews. They have meant so much to me. I wish I could hug each and every one of my readers who has enjoyed ‘The Long Weekend’. In general, the experience has been hugely rewarding; besides I can’t stop now, can I? So many people have put out a generous hand to help me along the way – my local Waterstone’s for one, who stocked the book and threw me a launch party; the townspeople of Hunstanton; local press; other authors (you have been inspiring), and many a local librarian and independent book shop. I am grateful that so many people wanted to help.

What’s Next?

I’m currently in the process of writing my second novel, ‘The Crying Boy’, which is another screenplay adaptation. I’m hoping to complete a first draft by the end of July 2016. For this one I’m counting on the support of Kelvin Mackenzie who once wrote nice things about me in his newspaper column, saying “It would be a crying shame if this story didn’t make it to the big screen”. The book, another mystery, is about a couple who have already lost one little boy only to gain another in the shape of a cursed ‘Crying Boy’ painting when they move into their new home on the Yorkshire moors. When the grieving mother learns that the boy in the painting was deaf, like her dead son, she uses sign language to communicate with his spirit and soon becomes lost in another ghostly world. Some of you may remember the ‘Crying Boy’ painting from the eighties; which would be found undamaged amid the ruins of houses burned down by fire. The subject is once again personal to me as my own parents inherited one of these portraits and as a child I can remember being fascinated by the myths and folklore that surrounded it. Being a superstitious type, my mother was one of the thousands of anxious owners who sent their copy to the “Sun” newspaper to be burned. I own several of these paintings myself and even have one hanging on my study wall. My husband may not be quite so keen on having the ‘Crying Boy around but he keeps me company while I write. Part of my research for the book involved going back to night school once again to complete a course in sign language; a genuinely worthwhile experience.

Silly Stuff

Here are a few silly facts about me you may not know. I’ve always wanted to be assigned hazardous duties (as in Charlie’s Angels). I once auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent with my performing Jack Russell Terrier, Fury. My guilty pleasures include The Nolan Sisters, Catherine Cookson, pickled onions and crisp sandwiches. I once had a phobia of street lights and had to cross the road to avoid them (I was convinced one would fall on me). My favourite things (other than reading or writing) are my dogs, hubby, log fires, red wine and Saturdays. I’m also partial to taking spooky selfies – evident by my picture. You can catch up with me on Facebook or Twitter (always happy to make new friends), but make sure you bring wine… or you can like my Facebook page here https://t.co/EdzV31aT0y if you prefer. Here is the link to my website www.janeejames.com.

If you wish to purchase a copy of The Long Weekend you can find it here and here.

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