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Author Spotlight no.100 – Jane Wenham-Jones

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the hundredth, is of novelist, speaker, journalist, tutor, presenter and writing guru Jane Wenham-Jones.

Jane Wenham-Jones is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books.

As a freelance journalist, Jane has written for The Guardian, The Daily Express, The Sunday Express, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and numerous women’s magazines. Regular spots include columns for her local paper – The Isle of Thanet Gazette, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special and Writing Magazine, where she is the agony aunt.

A member of Equity, Jane has presented for the BBC on both TV and radio and has hosted the award ceremony for the RoNas (Romantic Novel of the Year Awards) for the last two years. She is not the sort of writer to remain in her garret, shunning publicity, and has also done her fair share of daytime TV, particularly when promoting her controversial second novel Perfect Alibis (subtitled ‘How to have an affair and get away with it…’). It was those – sometimes hair-raising – on screen experiences that inspired Prime Time, her new novel.

Jane is an experienced tutor who is regularly booked by writing conferences and literary festivals to run workshops, give talks and chair panels. In recent years she has interviewed dozens of best-selling authors and celebrities including Julian Clary, Richard Madeley, Victoria Hislop, Bel Mooney, Helen Lederer, Amanda Ross, Kate Mosse, Kay Burley, Jenny Éclair, Katie Fforde, Veronica Henry, Fiona Walker, Jill Mansell and Tim Bentinck.

Her two non-fiction books are: Wannabe a Writer? – a humorous look at becoming a scribe – featuring contributions from a wide array of big name authors and journalists including Jilly Cooper, Frederick Forsyth and Michael Buerk with a foreword by Katie Fforde;

and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? – a guide to the art of book and self-promotion which includes tips from a variety of celebrities.

And now from the author herself with more about the inspiration behind her latest book:

My new novel, Prime Time, is the story of Laura, who is persuaded onto a TV discussion programme which has life-changing consequences.

I’ve done a few TV shows now – often on little-watched channels with three viewers – and one of the things I’ve learned is that you need to be ready for anything…

On Loose Lips on Living TV, I was called upon to give off-the-cuff relationship advice as part of a live phone-in.

I’m not sure what sort of counsel I cobbled together – the woman in question was having an affair I seem to remember, so I probably said: For God’s sake don’t get caught – but it was the first in long line of situations where I’ve had to think on my feet.

I once nearly spluttered on air having just heard myself introduced by one regional radio station (clearly desperate to fill five minutes before the travel news) as a “relationships expert” and finding I was being called upon to offer guidance to Helen who felt Kevin no longer loved her, when I’d thought I was just there to plug a novel.

I rose to the challenge though, trawling my memory for every cliché from every agony aunt page I’d ever read, suggesting quiet nights in and heart-to-heart chats over candlelit dinners, even though I knew that Kevin, if he was like most blokes, would probably much rather watch the football than have any sort of discussion about his feelings, and would be totally aghast when Helen switched off the TV and served up chicken a la mode in the dark instead.

In fact, I obviously showed a bit too much enthusiasm for her plight because they then rather misguidedly kept me on the line and offered me Veronica and her problems with her mother over which I was utterly lost – “put the old dragon in a home” evidently being not quite what they were looking for.

On another occasion I got involved in a “documentary”. Again, I was supposed to be talking about affairs, but this time, how to get away with them (it was when my second novel, Perfect Alibis, which deals with that exact knotty issue, had just been published).

When I got there –”on location” to a frighteningly expensive house in North London – they wanted me to shave my legs on camera. The director – who looked about twelve – was the creative type.

They were also filming a Betrayed Wife, the suitably scary Lady Sarah Moon – she who cut her husband’s bespoke Savile Row suits to ribbons and distributed his vintage claret collection around the village.

We met in the hall.

“What are you angry about?” she asked me. I opened my mouth to explain only to find it covered by one of the crew’s hands.

“For God’s sake don’t tell her you’re promoting affairs,” he said, as she was taken down to the kitchen to hack off chickens’ legs with alarming savagery, and I went upstairs where it was considered jolly arty to have me sitting in the bathroom half-dressed (the cameraman squashed uncomfortably in the bath with the lighting man on top of him) pretending to get ready for a night out.

I haven’t shaved my legs for years (this is not an admission of German ancestry – I have them waxed) and was apparently not much cop at pretending.

As I sat there under a weight of shaving foam doing Take Fifty-three, repeating the same sentences over and over again, I not only drank all the rest of the Lady Chicken-chopper’s cooking wine to get me through the ordeal but persuaded the runner to go out and get me another bottle.

This was, on balance, a mistake. I will spare you the rest of the story but it involved slurring, agreeing to greater states of undress and nobody telling me my make-up had run.

Most of the footage ended up on the cutting room floor – thank the Lord – but in the bit I saw, I looked utterly deranged and in need of a good social worker.

Nothing is lost however. I drew on that very experience to inform Laura, my heroine in Prime Time, who, one way and another, ends up feeling pretty bonkers too….

For more information see www.janewenham-jones.com and http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com (the latter built by yours truly, and lovingly crafted by us both. :)). Jane travels extensively and she may be appearing at a venue near you (she’ll be visiting us in Northampton in September for our first ever gay literature festival – the gay festival for everyone :)) – see all her dates on her blog’s events page. You can also see Jane in action on youtube. I challenge you not to laugh. 🙂

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with novelist and scriptwriter Veronica Henry (whom Jane panelled with at the recent Chipping Norton Literature Festival) – the four hundred and twenty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 

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