A Conversation with Author Jenny O’Brien

Today in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Jenny O’Brien who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

You are very welcome, Jenny, please introduce yourself:

Firstly, thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Pam.

I view myself as a mum who writes. I have three teens and spend most of my spare time acting as taxi driver. But I always carry around a notebook and pen and, when I have a spare minute, write. I’ve been doing just that for the last 12 years and, funnily enough, am about to publish book number 12. I’m also a qualified nurse and still spend my mornings at the local hospital doing what nurses do. Although born in Dublin I now live in Guernsey and spend my time between there, Wales and France.

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

I’m currently writing thrillers. I started out writing romance and, whilst I’d never say never, my writing has moved on from there. I also write for children. There’s something engaging writing for this age group. The skies the limit as far as imagination goes – it’s fun. Writing thrillers isn’t fun. It can be enjoyable but it’s also complex and emotionally demanding.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

I read every day when perhaps I don’t get to write. It’s my first love. I own 2 kindles just in case one breaks or something. I know – madness. But I don’t watch TV so it’s my main form of relaxation. I read romance, crime and a smattering of literary classics.

What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?

Start late and leave early. Something I read many years ago and still practice today. Basically, it means jumping straight into a scene rather than beginning with a long intro. And, at the end, leave early – leave the reader with a need to turn that next page to find out what’s next.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I find I have to squeeze my writing in between work and running around after the kids but I do enjoy that first half hour when the rest of the house is asleep.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

You name it I’ve tried it. Knitting is my first love, but I’ve tried all sorts of crafting projects with varying degrees of success. I’m the proud owner of numerous woollens and a variety of patchwork. I even make my own jewellery not that I ever wear it. Reading would also feature – there’s nothing like curling up with a good book.

You have been chosen as a member of the crew on the first one-way flight to Mars – you are allowed to bring 5 books with you. What would they be?

Probably the complete works of Jane Austen barring Sense and Sensibility, my least favourite. There’s always something new each time I read them.

Please tell us about your latest published work, which I have just pre-ordered.  

My latest book is Missing in Wales, the first in a crime series which features DC Gabriella Darin, half Italian, half Liverpudlian and living and working in Pembrokeshire. I’ve included the blurb below:

Alys is fine – don’t try to find us

Izzy Grant is haunted by the abduction of her new-born daughter five-years ago. When a postcard arrives from her missing partner, the man she believes is responsible, saying they’re fine and asking her not to try to find them, she knows she can’t give up hoping. Then she sees a face from her past. Grace Madden. Just where did she disappear to all those years ago? And is there a connection between her disappearance and that of her child?

DC Gabriella Darin, recently transferred from Swansea, is brash, bolshie and dedicated. Something doesn’t fit with the case and she’s determined to find out just what happened all those years ago.

Available in paperback now or pre-order as an e-book here.

Thank you for inviting me. I love hearing from readers. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram as Scribblerjb and on Facebook here

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New Release from William Todd

I have a very special guest today on my blog. If you haven’t read any of William Todd’s Sherlock Holmes’ stories, you are definitely missing out. I love them. His collections of short horror tales are rather special, too. William’s new release, Something Wicked This Way Comes, is now on pre-order, going live on 8th July (you’ll find the link below). I’ve ordered my copy; what about you?

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Continue reading “New Release from William Todd”

Penny Dreadfuls – Only a Bit of Fun?

If you enjoyed a good old execution in the 18th or early 19th century, it was possible to buy a crime broadside at the hanging which was produced by specialist printers. These would feature a crude picture of the crime and the culprit, a written account of the crime and trial proceedings and a doggerel, thrown in for good measure. Most of the poor could not read but they enjoyed the lurid pictures, and there was always someone on hand to read out the cautionary poem.

Varney_the_Vampire_or_the_Feast_of_Blood 1845During the Victorian era, however, literacy rates increased. Combined with technological advances in printing and the advent of the railways making wide-spread distribution viable, the demand for cheap, entertaining reading matter increased rapidly. This led to the first penny serials (originally called penny bloods) being published in the 1830s, and by 1850, there were over 100 publishers of penny-fiction. The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap wood pulp paper and were predominantly aimed at young working class men and boys. They usually had eight pages with black and white illustrations on the top half of the front page. Working-class readers could afford these and they did a roaring trade. In contrast, serialised novels at the time, such as Dickens’ work, cost a shilling (12 pennies) per part and were out of the reach, therefore, of most working class readers.

The subject matter of the penny horrible, penny awful or penny blood was always sensational, usually featuring detectives, criminals or supernatural entitles. Popular characters included Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber, first printed in 1846, who murdered his clients so his neighbour, Mrs Lovett, could cook them in her meat pies. Then there was the endless retelling of Dick Turpin’s exploits and his supposed 200 Pennydreadfulmile ride from London to York in one night! Supernatural characters, such as Varney the Vampire were extremely popular. But the most successful of all time was the Mysteries of London, first published in 1844. It ran for 12 years, 624 numbers (or issues) and nearly 4.5 million words.

Many famous authors began their writing careers writing penny dreadfuls including, GA Sala and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. She reputedly said “the amount of crime, treachery, murder and slow poisoning, and general infamy required by my readers is something terrible.” Many authors took the melodrama of the dreadful and infused it into their later very successful novels.

When highwaymen and evil aristocrats fell out of fashion, true crime, especially murder, was the most popular. These were then overtaken in the popularity stakes by detective stories with the focus on the police rather than the criminal. By the 1860s, the focus changed again and children became the main target audience.

It was easy for the middle and upper classes to look down on the penny dreadfuls as cheap, sensational nonsense. Some even went to far as to blame them for infamous crimes and suicide. But I suspect many read them surreptitiously – for who doesn’t enjoy a good yarn now and then?

In No Stone Unturned, Lucy’s maid, Mary, is huge fan of the penny dreadfuls and cheap sensational novels. Lucy, feeling obliged to look out for her maid’s moral welfare (so she claims!), often reads these books and thoroughly enjoys them, too. When the women’s lives are in danger, Mary comes to the fore with her penchant for intrigue and spying. Lucy suspects Mary’s favourite reading material may be at the root of it.

No Stone Unturned is the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series.

NoStone-EBOOK

A suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

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The Blue Velvet Sapphires of Kashmir

My latest novel, No Stone Unturned, is the first in my Victorian mystery series featuring Lucy Lawrence. As I started to research, I stumbled across the story of the famous Kashmiri sapphires. I could not believe my luck. It is a fascinating story and got me thinking: what would a scurrilous Victorian rascal do if he got his hands on some …

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Kashmir Landscape: Photo Credit Nick Kent-Basham

Treasure in the Hills: A mountainous region of Kashmir, known as Padar, held a fabulous secret. It is a remote region high in the Himalayas, well off the beaten track. Various stories abound as to how it finally revealed its treasure-trove; some say a landslide, others that hunters or travellers came across the first stones lying on the ground. Not knowing what they were, the gems were traded for salt and other supplies in Delhi. Eventually, they were sold on to someone who recognised they were rough sapphires. Many transactions followed until they eventually turned up in Calcutta.

kashmir_sapphire_map-1

2263ff92-48af-11e4-85c0-e01c50cfcd63-2The news of this transaction got back to the maharajah in Kashmir, who discovered the sapphires had originated in his area. Extremely annoyed, he went to Calcutta and demanded them back. Every single transaction in the long train had to be undone. Each man who had sold the sapphires gave back what he paid, and so it went through many towns, until at Delhi, a merchant received back a few bags of salt (not his lucky day!).

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Padar Mine 1890

Still miffed, the Maharajah of Kashmir sent a regiment of sepoys to take control of the mines to ensure no more precious stones went astray. During the life of the mines, the yield was disappointingly low and commercial mining ceased early in the 20th century. Their rarity and the fact they are exceptionally beautiful, with a texture like velvet, has led them to be the most prized and expensive sapphires in the world.

 

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Victorian 4.3 Carat Diamond and Kashmir Sapphire Ring
 

No Stone Unturned is the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series.

NoStone-EBOOKA suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

Amazon Buy Link