Today it gives me great pleasure to interview author Jan Edwards, whose new crime novel, Winter Downs, launched on 3rd June.
How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
Always a hard one to answer without sounding cliched, but I honestly can’t recall when I first started to make up stories to entertain others. My Monday morning ‘news’ at primary school was always complete fabrication. At senior school my languages teacher could never understand why, after three years of Spanish lessons I still could not speak it – despite spending my lessons with head bent over my books scribbling for all I was worth. The reason was, of course, that I was busy writing westerns and noir crimes to entertain my friends and never once looked at my text books.
My first publication ‘credits’ were in a local magazine called W.I.T. produced in Horham, Sussex, with a circulation of about 50! My first ‘proper’ publication was in Visionary Tongue magazine issue 6 – all of which happened in the mid 1990s.
Tell us about your new book! When is the publication date and where can we buy it?
Winter Downs – well now! First in a series of crime novels set in Sussex, UK during WW2. Bunch Courtney finds the body of her close friend Jonathan Frampton in a snowy woodland. The official opinion is that he took his own life but Bunch is positive that he did not. And as she delves deeper into the mystery of his death so the body count begins to rise. Winter Downs launched on 3rd June in paper and kindle formats on Amazon and other outlets.
How important is your setting?
I was born in Sussex and spent my first 13 years there so I suppose it has the most resonance of any place to me. The farm where I lived had several relics of the war, pillboxes and dugouts made in preparation for the invasion so it was always there on the periphery off my thinking.
I have a love of Golden Era fiction; crime, noir and pulp. I have had several Sherlock Holmes stories in print and also several diesel punk (fantasy set in the 1930s) short stories, and writing in historic settings is something I like to do.
Is there any genre or style of writing you haven’t tried yet but would like to?
I don’t think there is to be honest. I have not gone into romance and/or erotica as yet but neither really attract me that much as a writer.
Research: chore or obsession?
I love research! I can lose myself for days looking for one tiny snippet of information that may quite literally appear in a story as no more than a half dozen words.
I do realise how hard it to get every fact right, especially those tiny throw away things (I came across mistletoe growing on the ground in one book – a parasitic plant that grows in the branches of trees…) And I don’t doubt I get it wrong now and then but I only ever use a tiny fraction of the information that I do gather. Hitting that line between accurate background information and gargantuan info-dumps is a delicate operation.
Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?
Small screen initially; maybe as a four part serial. But big screen is good too!
Do you have your own office, study or writing space, or can you write in a cafe or the library?
Currently I have a study, but my best writing times are the wee small hours – either in bed or in front of the TV with my laptop. I have considered the Cafe option. Not having social media to tempt/distract would be good!
Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?
Right now I have three cats: Oberon, Betty Poop and Dilly Dumpling. Do they influence my writing? Maybe not directly. I have written short fiction that involves cats. There are no felines in Winter Downs, though there is a big dopey Labrador and several horses. I have owned dogs in the past and worked with horses. It is the old ‘write what you know’ adage. Everything you experience has the potential to turn up in a story somewhere.
Who do you consider are your major influences in writing?
This is a question I always find tough because the answer will change depending on what I am writing. Like many people of a certain age my childhood reading revolved around the Famous Five, Swallows and Amazons et al. As a teen there were books by Michael Moorcock as well as Tolkien that made impacts on me. But then I could say the same of Daphne Du Maurier and Jane Austen and Lewis Carroll (Alice, like LOTR, was required reading circa 1968). My writing is probably less influenced by my reading choices in recent times purely because having read so much it would be hard to pick a few from the many.
If you were marooned on a desert island and could take just seven books, what would you choose?
If the boat was sinking and I had to grab just seven I’d drown! I simply could not choose a mere seven.
What writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Du Maurier or Austen? As with the book choices there are far to many candidates to single one out over the rest.
If you could have any director to shoot the film of your book(s), who would you choose?
Pass. I don’t notice names of directors if I am honest. Not Cameron (long-winded) or Tarantino (too silly). Had they still been alive Powell and Pressburger would probably have done a great job on Winter Downs!
About Winter Downs:
In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose.
Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?
Winter Downs is first in the Bunch Courtney Investigates series and is for sale in paper and e-formats here
Jan Edwards is a Sussex-born writer now living in the West Midlands with her husband and obligatory cats. She was a Master Locksmith for 20 years but also tried her hand at bookselling, microfiche photography, livery stable work, motorcycle sales and market gardening. She is a practising Reiki Master. She won a Winchester Slim Volume prize and her short fiction can be found in crime, horror and fantasy anthologies in UK, US and Europe; including The Mammoth Book of Dracula and The Mammoth Book of Moriarty. Jan edits anthologies for The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Press, and has written for Dr Who spinoffs with Reel Time Pictures.
For further information please contact Penkhull Press at: https://thepenkhullpress.wordpress.com/