Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and thirty-fifth, is of historical novelist Diana Jackson. See below for Diana’s book signing events! If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Diana Jackson has spent most of her career teaching English in the heart of England, but she has been writing all her life. Lucky to have an inspirational English teacher in her teens, a person who would continue to be a perfect role model in later life, Diana was encouraged to write poems and short stories. She graduated with a degree in education before training as a middle school teacher, where she motivated youngsters with her enthusiasm in the power of language.
Next Diana gained experience teaching English as a Second Language both in the UK and abroad, giving her a rich experience of life and cultures, but she would say that one of her most rewarding jobs was in the last decade, teaching sixteen to nineteen year olds, often with few or no English qualifications, to believe in themselves, be self motivated and to achieve.
Diana continued to write for her own pleasure but it was not until her late thirties that she launched into researching for her first novel. Ten years later she dug out the manuscript, worked furiously on it and her debut novel ‘Riduna’ was published in 2009, initially by Vanguard Press.
Her parents traced her family roots to both Alderney and Guernsey in The Channel Islands as far back as the seventeenth century and then at the end of the nineteenth century her great grandparents moved from The Channel Islands to the UK, settling in Woolston, Southampton. Her great grandmother, Harriet Jane was Diana’s original inspiration.
Diana stresses though, that her first novel ‘Riduna’ and the second in the series ‘Ancasta, Guide me Swiftly Home,’ are purely fiction. She enjoys carrying out extensive research and weaving a family saga around key events in history, bringing it to life through the eyes of ordinary people. Her second book has led to an unusual interest in the early development of flying boats and the birth of Supermarine, one hundred years ago in October 1913.
In 2012 Diana made the brave decision to take the rights back of ‘Riduna’ and publish both her novels under her own imprint Eventispress. She is developing a business model so that she can support other local authors to publish their work too in a cooperative, where people share their various talents at each stage of production.
Diana also took a year out for another project, which she found both precious and rewarding, to compile the memoirs of an extraordinary 103 year old, whose humour and candour was heart warming. ‘The Life and Demise of Norman Campbell,’ Norman’s chosen title, was also published in 2013 by Eventispress.
Diana’s belief in real books as well as e versions, and also that novels need to be produced professionally, are values at the centre of her writing and her business. Marketing takes up time too, but there is nothing Diana Jackson likes more than giving talks or chatting to potential readers at book events. This year Diana was offered redundancy from her college position, giving her the opportunity to focus full time on her writing activities for at least a year.
And now from the author herself:
I love social history and believe we can learn so much through reading historical fiction. If I see an old building or read an article about an event in history my mind starts to think, ‘What would it have been like to have been there?’ In fact a reader wrote in a review recently ‘I could stand on the Portsmouth Road in Woolston and imagine the characters there, going about their business.’ Reading this I felt I’d truly achieved what I set out to do.
I am currently researching for a third in The Riduna Series taking us to the early 30’s but I may write a prequel too, in the mid nineteenth century. Although I feel most comfortable with historical fiction I am currently editing a murder mystery set in Bedfordshire. The idea began as a couple of short stories but it grew into a full-blown novel. It’s been a challenge but quite fun to write so we’ll see.
I became an Indie publisher because I wanted to have more control over the whole process from the book cover to the marketing. I believe that, if you produce a novel as good as the publishing companies then you will be taken seriously. Having said that I’ve never worked so hard and when I was teaching I must admit I felt burnt out at times, but it has been so exciting and rewarding too. I’ve learnt so much about editing, printing options, distribution and with Norman’s book, to keep the cost down, I even typeset and formatted the manuscript, converting to a print ready PDF. I’m quite proud of the results too.
I have a great deal of respect for the big players in the business, Amazon, Gardners, Waterstones, Nelisons, CPI… but it takes a lot of patience and I am aware that I’m only ‘a little minnow in an enormous pond.’ Having said that, I’m a bit frustrated with Amazon at the moment. Recently they’ve removed all the reviews written about the ‘Vanguard’ edition of Riduna, even though it is the same novel, and I cannot get them reinstated. Reviews are precious and I am a bit peeved, but what can I do?
I see myself as a new author, and I’m still learning but if I were to pass on any advice I’d agree with the comments:
- produce the best possible book you can;
- your book needs to be well written;
- the facts need to be checked by expert;
- have it critically appraised if you’re not sure.
In fact, I would not do what I did but probably produce just an e book initially and then see how it’s received by the public. A paperback can always follow. Finally I’d say just keep believing. There’s nothing like having good feedback from readers. It makes it all worthwhile.
To find out about the ‘Riduna Series’ and Diana’s other writing projects, you can meet her in person at:
- Waterstones Hitchin: on Thursday 3rd October at 7pm, where she will give a talk and book signing
- The Luton Book Fair: on Saturday 5th October at 11am, where she will give a talk and book signing
- Waterstones West Quay Southampton: on Saturday 12th October at 11am, where she will chat and sign books
You could also say hello to her virtually on:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Riduna
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DianaJacksonauthor
- Website: www.dianamaryjackson.co.uk, which has a link to Diana’s blog (http://dianamj.wordpress.com) for her news, views, muse and reviews
- Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Riduna series are available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
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