Delighted to announce the publication of Jane Riddell’s debut novel Water’s Edge, available via Thornberry Publishing and on Amazon.
I interviewed Jane and this is what she said:
1. Can you remember when you first knew you wanted to be a writer?
There wasn’t any particular defining moment, more a process. I had been writing as a hobby for many years, but was never caught up enough in it to work on something for more than a couple of hours at a time. During most of these years I had a paid job, but often this was only for three days a week, so time wasn’t really a limiting factor. When we decided to move to France, things changed. I was unlikely to be able to work there because of my limited French, and reckoned that I would probably spend more time writing. Several months before we left Edinburgh, during a Saturday afternoon at the gym, I found myself on the treadmill, listening to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas singing Dancing in the Street, and thinking: I’ll have a go at becoming a serious writer.
When we arrived in France, I found that I could write for longer chunks of time, and became quite productive in terms of finishing pieces of work, rewriting short stories and working on a new novel.
2. Do you have any form of ritual preparation before writing?
No. Perhaps I should devise one. The most sensible thing to do, of course, would be exercises for my shoulder and back, prior to being slumped over a computer.
3. Do you think creative writing is a skill that can be taught?
Yes, up to a point. I think a writer needs to have an inherent ability to write, on which they can build: reading ‘how to’ books, receiving feedback on their work from more experienced writers. I’m sure it also helps to attend classes/courses, provided the teaching is good and pitched at an appropriate level. Having a mentor can prove beneficial. I was lucky to work for a year with such a person, and the learning was invaluable.
4. What was the genesis of Water’s Edge?
As a travelphile I like to set my books in ‘foreign’ countries. After I’d finished writing a novel based in the south of France, I fancied an alpine setting for my next one. I love mountain and lake locations, so Switzerland came to mind. At that time, I had the chance to have a short holiday on my own, and decided to go to Brunnen, on Lake Luzern, where I’d spent a night on my first family holiday abroad as a child. It was only when I arrived there that I decided to make Brunnen the setting for Water’s Edge. It still intrigues me why I didn’t make the connection earlier!
The location was inspired by Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac although at the time of writing the first draft of Water’s Edge, I didn’t know that the hotel used in the film version was actually on Lake Luzern. (In the book, the protagonist, Edith Hope, is exiled to a hotel on Lake Geneva.)
I am fascinated by family relationships, the superficial interactions and the subtext. I liked the idea of a family reunion where all is not as it seems, and the idea went from there.
5. With which of your characters in Water’s Edge do you have most sympathy?
Contrary to what many people believe, a writer doesn’t necessarily create a character who is like him/herself. Most of my female characters have a few personality traits which I possess and therefore hopefully can write about in an authentic way, but I’ve never been in any of the situations in which my characters have found themselves. Water’s Edge is relayed by four viewpoints – a mother’s and those of her three daughters. Although I derived pleasure from drawing those characters, I don’t/didn’t empathise with any of them in particular.
6. You spent a while living in France. How did you end up there?
We went there for fun, basically, or to put it in more adult language, to experience living in another country. Fortunately my partner is able to work anywhere in Europe as long as he has internet accesss. I was able to take a career break. We chose France because we both spoke some French. We chose Grenoble because it is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery.
7. How do you feel about your novel being published as an e-book?
I am delighted. Although it’s less of an achievement than being published in hard copy, it’s good enough to increase my confidence and self-belief. Additionally ThornBerry are discerning in what they select so the fact that they’ve taken me on feels like external validation.
Ironically, after signing a contract with TBP, I did receive interest from a more traditional publishing company. However, as they wanted to be able to publish Water’s Edge as an e-book as well as a hard copy, I decided not to pursue this as I would have had to sever my contract with TBP.
8. Do you have an e-reader?
A Kindle Paperwhite. Initially I thought this was something I wouldn’t use, but once I knew my book would be available on such a device, I felt a bit uncomfortable about not possessing one – like having invented a washing powder without owning a washing machine. In fact I do use it a lot, partly because it allows me access to a choice of reading.
9. Is there any difference between reading a novel between two covers and reading it on an e-reader?
Yes. No attractive cover. No page numbers – instead the Kindle lets you know what percentage of the book you have read. A careless flick of the hand and you find yourself presented with a dictionary definition of a word from the page or on a different page. The advantage is that when you switch on, you are taken immediately to the page you left off.
10. What are you working on now?
I am finishing a rewrite of another novel, Chergui’s Child. I completed this years ago but because my writing style has changed since then, decided to return to it and hopefully improve it. I’ve changed its structure but the story remains essentially the same.
I am also in the final stages of writing a short guide to editing which ThornBerry Publishing have expressed an interest in.