Welcome visitor you can log in or create an account

Q&A with Jane Davis author of At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock

Author Jane Davis is no stranger to this blog, and it’s a real privilege to host her once again in advance of the publication of her latest novel, “At the Stroke of Nine O’ Clock.”

Jane is not only an exceptional writer and successful self-publisher, she’s a really lovely person who works hard to offer sound, practical advice to authors trying to grope their way through the publishing maze.

I was keen to find out more about this new book, what motivates her to keep writing and her views on the future of the book industry. Her responses are fascinating. Before you read what she has to say, two final things from me:

The pre-order price for the kindle version is just £1.99. Get in now before the price rises. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08B1PCTC1
If that gorgeous book cover doesn’t suck you in, I’ll eat my new manuscript!

What inspires your themes and in particular this book? 

Most of my books have been based on factual events, albeit slightly unexpected ones. One of the things that inspired me to write These Fragile Things was the discovery that a woman in Surbiton – close to where I live – claims she has seen visions of the Virgin Mary every day for the past thirty years. When challenged that that there were too many coincidences in I Stopped Time, I referred the reviewer to the biography of model-turned-photographer-turned-journalist Lee Miller. I see myself as a magpie. I collect obscure facts and think, how can I recycle them?

At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock began in much the same way. I had watched the episode of the BBC arts series Imagine about the actress Ingrid Bergman, and was hooked. I ordered her autobiography and a biography (I like to read both an autobiography and a biography whenever I can). My next two book choices also happened to be biographies about two very different women who had lived through the 1950s. Each contained an anecdote about Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Great Britain to be hanged. It struck me that everyone who lived through this era, which was dominated by dual standards, would have had a very strong reaction to the story of the platinum blonde club hostess who shot her racing-buy lover, and then immediately asked a bystander to call the police. Reactions to Ruth’s plight divided people. Some felt very strongly that her sentence should be carried out, others (many of them to who themselves suffered domestic violence) petitioned the Secretary of State to grant a reprieve. It was the public outcry that followed Ruth’s execution that led to the introduction of the partial defence of diminished responsibility. Although we may like to think that the world is a very different place. Ruth’s story has so many themes that resonate today. Domestic violence, coercive control (behaviour that was only criminalised in 2015), mental health issues, how women are treated by the justice system.

“Women who are violent are monstorised by the system.” “The law doesn’t work well for women in relation to issues of violence. If a woman reacts and fights back, they are often punished more severely than a man that’s violent.” ~ Harriet Wistrich, human rights lawyer, Justice for Women, speaking about Sally Challen in 2019

The list goes on. 

I remain wary of writing about recent history from the point of view of real people. You have to tread so carefully, especially when relatives of victims are still alive. This was the same challenge I faced when writing Smash all the Windows, which was inspired by the result of second inquest to the Hillsborough Disaster. Then, I asked myself what I could add to the material that had already been produced and if a fictional account be welcomed? And what right did I have to tell the story? My decision was to create a fictional disaster to explore the issues faced by the Hillsborough families. Although I haven’t been conscious of it until answering this question, I adopted much the same approach for At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock. Instead of writing from Ruth’s perspective, or including her as a major character, I created three very different women and had them face some of the same struggles that Ruth faced, so that when they learned of her fate, each would have their own reason to say, ‘There but for the grace of God.’

My character whose trajectory most closely follows Ruth’s is seventeen-year-old Caroline Wilby. Like most working-class daughters, she’s expected to help support her family and for her this means leaving the family and everything she knows behind. Alone in a strange city, she must grab any opportunity that comes her way, even if that means putting herself in danger. She is our direct route into the world of afternoon drinking clubs, where hostesses must rely on powers of persuasion and feminine wiles to part male customers from their money. 

Then we have star of the silver screen Ursula Delancy, who we meet when she’s just been abandoned by the man she left her husband for. Already hounded by the press, it won’t be long before she’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Like Ruth, is pre-judged by those who think they know her because they’ve read about her in the press. And, like Ruth, Ursula appreciates all too keenly that it’s impossible to tell your side of a story without hurting those you love. 

Making up the trio is Patrice Hawtree. Once the most photographed debutante of her generation she is now childless and trapped in a loveless marriage, and her plans to secure the future of her ancient family home are about to be jeopardised by her husband's gambling addiction. 

Although none actually suffers Ruth’s fate, lied to and exploited by men, each finds a way to fight back. But when they defy others’ expectations of them, they must pay the price society demands.

I am really interested how you keep motivated to write and battle with the publishing world as it is today?

The publishing world is constantly evolving – to be honest, the emergence of independent publishing is one of the key drivers of change. We indies have advantages that many traditionally published authors lack. For example, access to real time sales data allows us to react far more quickly to market forces. 

That said, the ease and advantages of self-publishing mean that competition is tougher than ever. According to Just Publishing Advice, between 1670 and 7500 new eBooks are published every day. Although over 6 million eBooks are available on Amazon, there’s very little change to the number of adult readers. This means having to work even harder for every sale. And, of course, I don’t write in the most popular genres.

That said, my writing has never been entirely about money. (I’d be very disappointed if it was!) An email from a reader who shares a personal experience, or leaves a thoughtful review, can make such a difference. Last year’s competition win at the Selfies (a new award for independently-published fiction) was also very motivating, particularly because it acknowledged the quality of self-published books and the professionalism of indie authors. It was also quite a kick that the award ceremony took place at London Book Fair.

We don’t yet know what permanent changes will come about as a result of this year’s pandemic. The importance of independent presses has grown in recent years, as they do so much to nurture new talent, but with margins in publishing being as small as they are, 60% of independent presses surveyed estimate that, without financial support, they will go out of business. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/may/07/majority-of-small-publishers-fear-closure-in-wake-of-coronavirus

This would be a huge loss to the publishing world.

As my collection of books grows, I’m also beginning to see them as my legacy. As someone who doesn’t have children, they are the mark I will leave on the world. So another reason for writing – one that I didn’t think about in my mid-thirties when I started out on this path – is to create a legacy that I can be proud of.

Many writers stick to a series, like the super successful LJ Ross, but I like the fact that all your books are different. 

I think that certain genres naturally lend themselves to series – in fact there are some genres where readers expect a series. Crime (the genre LJ Ross writes in) being probably one of the best examples, but they’re also the norm for sci-fi, fantasy and supernatural novels. I’m not aware of many authors of contemporary or literary fiction who write books in a series. Ali Smith produced her ‘Seasonal Quartet’ (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter), although this was really a collection of standalone books rather than one continuous story broken down into volumes. Having said that, I’m often asked what some of my characters are up to, so who knows? 

At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock will be released on 13 July, but you can pre-order it now for the special price of £1.99p/£1.99 (Price on publication will be £4.99/$4.99). The Universal Link is https://books2read.com/u/brWppZ

Blurb

London 1949. The lives of three very different women are about to collide.

Like most working-class daughters, Caroline Wilby is expected to help support her family. Alone in a strange city, she must grab any opportunity that comes her way. Even if that means putting herself in danger.

Star of the silver screen, Ursula Delancy, has just been abandoned by the man she left her husband for. Already hounded by the press, it won’t be long before she’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons. 

Patrice Hawtree was once the most photographed debutante of her generation. Now childless and trapped in a loveless marriage, her plans to secure the future of her ancient family home are about to be jeopardised by her husband's gambling addiction.

Each believes she has already lost in life, not knowing how far she still has to fall. 

Six years later, one cause will unite them: when a young woman commits a crime of passion and is condemned to hang, remaining silent isn’t an option.

“Why do I feel an affinity with Ruth Ellis? I know how certain facts can be presented in such a way that there is no way to defend yourself. Not without hurting those you love.”

Books2Read Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/brWppZ
Amazon Link https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08B1PCTC1
Goodreads link https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53955188-at-the-stroke-of-nine-o-clock

Social media links:

Website: https://jane-davis.co.uk
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage
Twitter: https://twitter.com/janedavisauthor
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/janeeleanordavi/boards/

Bio

Jane 0008Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis is the author of nine thought-provoking novels. 

Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing. 

Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards. Smash all the Windows was the inaugural winner of the Selfies (best independently-published work of fiction) award 2019. 

Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.

 

 

Read more...

Dogs for Mental Wellbeing

Raffi is a three year old poodle dachshund cross – a doxiepoo- but is also the family’s Head of Welfare. He’s earned this honourable title because he has a knack of lifting people up when they feel down and intuiting what they need at that moment.

This usually comes in the form of selecting one of his much loved toys and handing it over in the same way a parent will snuggle a sick child into bed with a favourite teddy.

When he does this to me he watches for my reaction and if I don’t seem to thrilled with the well-mouthed fluffy toy with most of its stuffing ripped out, he quietly pads back to his stash and selects another.

When we bond with our dogs during the many hours we spend playing with them, fussing them and walking them, our brains release the feel good chemical, oxytocin. All pets, but especially dogs, are a great source of comfort and companionship, especially for anyone living alone. Stroking a pet alleviates stress and has an immediate calming effect and if we have something to get up for in a morning, it gives us meaning to our lives.

Dogs are great at encouraging us to get exercise whatever the weather. Fresh air, being out in nature is good for mental health especially low mood and anxiety. Raffi senses the moment it’s time for “walkies” and will dash into the hall where his lead and hi-viz jacket are waiting.

Being out and about with a dog offers an easy opportunity to be sociable. Raffi is a friendly dog and wants to play with others. I find myself stroking whippets, huskies and dachshunds before I’ve said a word to their owner. We do the dog talk, move onto the weather and I often find myself engaged in longer conversations and on occasions being invited for coffee.

Not all dog owners as approachable though. I tend to read their facial expression letting Raffi launch in. There are times when I prefer to wander in solitude, dog at heel and not have to do the small talk.

When I’m writing, Raffi is happy to sit on the sofa and snooze. I chat to him about a character or an idea and if he opens one eye it’s a sign of approval. People say dogs don’t understand or talk, but I beg to differ. Raffi has a vocabulary of about ten words, most of them involve food but the one he protests is “bed.”

Pets give us so much love and it’s a great feeling to come home and see his tail wagging away like a windscreen wiper. Having responsibility for a pet means being less focused on your own problems, just for a while.

Not everyone is in a position to have a pet, especially a dog, but Borrow My Doggy is a website which connects owners to responsible dog sitters. Animal shelters are often looking for volunteers and it’s always worth putting a card in the window of your local newsagent or post office to offer dog walking services.

Dogs are our everyday heroes. They offer us unconditional love and can have an enormous impact on our mental wellbeing. If they’re anything like Raffi, they’ll always be there for you.

Read more...

The Silent Treatment - emotional abuse and its impact

Most of us have heard the idiom, “Sent to Coventry,”  meaning to ostracise someone or act as if they don’t exist. Knowing that city well, I’ve heard a number of explanations as to the origin of this phrase, all linking back to an historical event involving war. For those who might be interested, click on this link.  http://www.coventry.org.uk/sent-to-coventry/

   In my counselling and training practice over the years, I have come across a number of people who have suffered from the effects being on the receiving end of The Silent Treatment. This is a form of passive-aggressive abuse equivalent to a toddler holding its breath until it gets what it wants.

I’ve seen this behaviour in two year olds in supermarkets who collapse on the floor, to act out an almighty temper tantrum as a way of getting the parent/guardian to buy the forbidden item on the shelves. Too embarrassed to address the issue properly, the parent gives in, reinforcing the idea that bad behaviour brings rewards.

  If this behaviour isn’t corrected, it becomes destructive, long lasting, blame driven and eventually abusive towards anyone who doesn’t “dance to their tune.” Think temper tantrum throwing managers.

   The silent treatment is a way of controlling and showing contempt for another whilst acting blameless through what is known as the sin of omission. I didn’t do anything!

  This extreme form of manipulation instils fear, guilt and obligation in the intended target. I’m not talking about healthy periods of quiet time when two people are getting on with their work or who become so engrossed in their hobbies they lose awareness of those around them.

  There might be somebody in your workplace who includes everyone in their coffee chats except you. You get the “cold shoulder” and have no idea what you’ve done to deserve it. Nothing. Think of a family member who talks to everyone at the birthday party except you. Their plan is to make you feel uncomfortable and want to leave. If you do, they’ve won. Ok, so one excuse or reason might be you’ve upset them but if this behaviour goes on for more than a few days and your efforts to communicate to resolve the issue are ignored, then you are getting the silent treatment. These are powerful mind games and your mental wellbeing can be seriously affected.

   The abuser delights in turning the tables on you, saying, ‘She’s not been well, or ‘You know I’m going to get round to finishing the bathroom.’  I came across a horrendous situation of covert abuse when a husband and wife agreed on the refurbishment of a bathroom. Half way through, he went on a go slow. Only the toilet was installed with the bath and shower still in its packaging in the garage for weeks.

   The silent treatment includes refusal to finish tasks, thus causing distress, not addressing issues of serious financial matters resulting in serious consequences and doing what my ex-husband used to do, wait for guests to arrive for a dinner party then go to bed.

  Out of all the forms of abuse I endured for twenty years, this was the worst. I used to beg him to talk to me, try to sort things out but all I would get back was a knowing smirk. He knew that I was suffering and got a kick out it. His family thought I was the one being abusive. He was their golden boy and believed all the tales of woe he told them.

  As time passed, things got much worse.  For two years he lived in the house, in one room, without speaking to me or his children. His plan was to drive me out or under.      He achieved neither. Having his day in court so he could denounce me as unfit, unstable, un… everything else was all he lived for in the end. This is how far some people will go to achieve their desire to control and inflict psychological injury.

   When he was finally ordered to leave the house by the court because of his abuse, he ignored the order and at the point of being removed by the bailiffs, he walked down the drive one minute before the order expired. He’d made plans to return to his own country and told nobody, not even his own family. It played out exactly as he wanted as in nobody and nothing, not even the law, would tell him what to do.

   So what did it do to me?  It caused irreparable damage to my psyche in the form of post- traumatic stress disorder or as I prefer to call it, combat stress. My optimistic, lively personality morphed into somebody who cowered at the slightest noise – weird considering the house was silent like a churchyard for two long years – and who feared my own reflection which I saw as a reinforcement of the person he said I was. Truth was convoluted, upside down, inside out yet I had to keep it together for the sake of my children who had suffered in a way that didn’t become clear until many years later.

  Every day I live with some horrific memories, the worst being conned into visiting his family in the Middle East then being told we couldn’t go back to the UK.  Our passports were confiscated. During the two months I battled to get us home with the help of his mother and sisters, (for ever grateful to them), he disappeared to his cousins or his friends, ignoring our existence, showing no empathy for our anxiety. No, he relished it. It was my own, “Not without my daughter” moment. Fortunately I spoke the language well and knew how to work within the cultural and religious restrictions.

   Other days I am dogged by insecurity,flashbacks and a crazy  sense of guilt that I couldn’t fix things between us. No matter how much professional help I’ve had, it made little difference but the good news is when I become a novelist, I found a certain catharsis, writing about characters with  dark emotions and behaviours. It is through writing that I am finally on the road to recovery, seventeen years later.

Read more...
Subscribe to this RSS feed