A Sense of Place
I was born a stone’s throw from the white cliffs of Dover and have only once lived more than about half an hour from the coast, which I absolutely hated. I’m not sure whether that had anything to do with being further from the sea, though, or just because I was in a less than happy relationship, three hours away from family and friends, in a cottage with overly-familiar field mice and enough damp to start a mushroom farm.
Whatever the case, I’m drawn to the sea and maybe it’s in my blood. I love the big skies and there’s actually nothing better than a deserted beach in winter, wrapped up against the wild weather with only my dog for company. That’s when I do a lot of my thinking and working through plot lines for whatever I’m writing at the time. It always blows the cobwebs away and helps me to think clearly, so I guess it’s no surprise that ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ ended up being partly set by the sea.
Ashleigh Hayes, the novel’s heroine, is a freelance celebrity photographer, who finds herself spending most of her time in London as a result but, like me, her real home is on the Kent coast. Even the threat of her crazy mother, who’s been known to chain herself to the sea wall in her underwear for her latest cause, waiting back home for her in Sandgate, can’t keep Ashleigh from wanting to head home at every opportunity.
For many people, the seaside is evocative of care-free, childhood memories, when all you had to worry about was deciding whether or not to have a flake in your Mr Whippy and how to stop the seagulls from stealing your chips. That’s exactly how Tom Rushworth, Ashleigh’s new boss, feels about the coast in ‘Among A Thousand Stars’. Those childhood memories are still the best of his life and every one of them is tied up with love for the woman he’s about to lose forever.
As a writer, the coast offers a setting that allows you to really create a scene in a way that can reflect the mood of the whole piece – everything from stormy skies and crashing waves, to acres of blue and water as calm as a mill pond. Even describing the screeching of a seagull overhead immediately tells the reader where they are.
So perhaps it’s no wonder that ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ is not my only story to be set by the sea, in fact it’s in danger of becoming a habit. I might force myself to write about somewhere else next time, where you can’t taste the salt on your lips when it’s windy. In real life, though, the coast is my sense of place, so I’m sure I won’t stay away for long.
For years I wrote like no-one was reading, because they weren’t! I wrote for escapism and enjoyment but never did anything with it. It was only when cancer gave me a kick up the proverbial and I had a few months off work as a result that I decided to do something more with my writing. I joined the Romantic Novelist’s Association after reading an interview with one of my favourite authors, Jill Mansell, which mentioned them. When I eventually sent in the manuscript for my first novel to their New Writers’ Scheme, it turned out they thought it was worth submitting to publishers and I have now found a home for it.
My debut novel – ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ – published by So Vain Books is now available for pre-order as an e-book, with the paper version released for pre-order on 2nd June. I also have a pocket novel, published by DC Thomson, coming out on 18th June –‘No Time For Second Best’ – which will be available from WHSmiths and most supermarkets, for two weeks, and then as an ebook from Amazon. In addition, I released a novella – ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ – in November 2014, which has topped one of the Amazon download charts and received some really positive reviews.
I’ve met some wonderful people over the last couple of years since all this began, including some of my heroines of writing, either in real life or in the wonderful virtual world of social media. Jill Mansell, who sort of started all this in a roundabout way, is a friend on Facebook, which is frankly amazing! Best of all, though, I have picked up nine brilliant writing buddies along the way, who blog together as The Write Romantics and we keep each other going throughout the highs and lows.
So this is me with an author picture which is a bit David Bellamy escaping from the undergrowth, but mostly an attempt to look a bit thinner, younger and better looking than I am, which didn’t work all that well because sadly it looks exactly like me! —Author Bio extracted from Author’s website.
They say you’d do anything for love, but what happens when you don’t believe it exists?
When her mother turns up naked and proud during her first term at college, Ashleigh Hayes assumes that life can’t get any more embarrassing. Ten years later, with best friend Stevie at her side, and a successful career as a freelance photographer for monthly magazine Glitz, it looks like she might have finally got the hang of things. Only she seems to have inherited the embarrassment gene from her mother and her every encounter with new boss, Tom Rushworth, looks set to send her career spiralling backwards. Getting past their shaky start, Ashleigh and Tom embark on a relationship that was only ever meant to be a bit of fun. But when life, paparazzi and love-sick Labradors get in the way, they suddenly find themselves caught in a roller coaster ride of emotions.
Praise for Among a Thousand Stars:
‘The perfect feel-good read’ Kerry Fisher, Bestselling Author
‘A very funny and thoughtful look at relationships behind the lens – a really enjoyable and poignant debut’ My Reading Corner
Purchase, Amazon USA
What a great post. Good to know more about Jo and Among a Thousand Stars sounds like a brilliant read. Really looking forward to reading it.
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Thank you, Mary! And thank you for sharing not only on Twitter, but FB too! Appreciate it a lot! 🙂
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Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog, April, and I will look out for your writing 🙂
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Hi Jo! Oh that is so nice of you to say, thank you! I enjoyed this piece a lot. 🙂