Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Interview with mystery author Jane Renshaw

Mystery novelist Jane Renshaw is here today and we’re chatting about The Sweetest Poison.

During her virtual book tour, Jane will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Having discovered early in her 'career' that she didn't have what it takes to be a scientist, Jane Renshaw shuffled sideways into scientific and medical editing, which has the big advantage that she can do it while watching Bargain Hunt! Jane writes what she loves to read – series of novels in which the reader can immerse herself, which let her get to know an engaging, interesting and/or terrifying cast of characters slowly, in the same way you get to know people in real life. Ideally, the drama should be played out in a gorgeous setting, and the cast should include at least one dangerously charismatic, witty, outrageous protagonist with whom the reader can fall in love. A bit of murder and mayhem in the mix never hurts either... Hence the Pitfourie Series.

Please share a little bit about your current release.
When she was eight years old, Helen Clack was bullied so mercilessly that she was driven to a desperate act. Now she is being targeted once more, but this time her tormentor’s identity is shrouded in doubt.

When her life starts to disintegrate, she flees home to the wilds of north-east Scotland, and to the one man she knows can help her – Hector Forbes, the dubiously charismatic Laird of Pitfourie, with whom she has been hopelessly in love ever since those hellish days in the school playground, when he was her protector, her rescuer, her eleven-year-old hero.

But is Hector really someone she can trust?

And can anyone protect her from the terrible secret she’s keeping?

What inspired you to write this book?
To be honest, I’m mainly inspired not by anything in the real world but by reading, by immersing myself in books in which I can fall in love with the characters, and be desperate to know what happens to them. The characters have to be complicated and three-dimensional and do interesting/alarming/funny things, but also have interesting/alarming/funny conversations. Ideally, one of them should contrive to be murdered. In my writing, I’m trying to create that sort of experience for other readers.

Of all the writers who inspire me, Dorothy Dunnett has to be at the top of the list. I always feel bereft when I finish the Lymond Chronicles for the umpteenth time!

Excerpt from The Sweetest Poison:
Helen looked up at the tree. There were plenty of pods hanging down from it, like peapods only skinnier.
How many would she need?
Yesterday when she was helping Daddy with the bales she had asked him, ‘How many laburnum seeds would someone have to eat before they died?’ and he’d shaken his head and said, ‘Hel’nie. You mustn’t ever take seeds from that tree,’ and she’d said, ‘I won’t. But how many would someone have to eat?’ and he’d shaken his head and said, ‘I don’t know, and I’m not just awful keen to find out.’
Helen wriggled her schoolbag off her back and dropped it down on the grass.
No one would see. The byre was between the tree and the kitchen window, and Daddy had gone up the fields to look at the calfies.
To reach the pods she would have to climb up on the fence, but Suzanne had shown her how to climb on barbed wire. She put one hand on the fence post under the tree, and one hand on the top wire, and climbed with her bum sticking out to keep her legs away from the jags. The wires were wobbly but she didn’t fall off. When she was high enough she let go the hand on the fence post and reached up and grabbed one of the pods.
It was as if the branch didn’t want to let go.
When they were little, Suzanne used to say peas were the pea plant’s children, and the peapod was a coat it had made for them, and when you ate peas you were eating the children. Even when she was little Helen hadn’t actually believed that, but now she couldn’t help thinking that the seeds were the tree’s children.
It had plenty though.
She leant out away from the fence so she could pull better, and the branch stretched and stretched but then it suddenly let go and flapped back. Helen grabbed the post.
She didn’t fall.
She could see the bumps of the seeds inside the pod. There were six.
Would that be enough?

What exciting story are you working on next?
At the moment I’m working on Book 2 in the series: Bad Company.

It’s winter at Pitfourie, and undercover policewoman Claire Castleford arrives from London to investigate the suspicious death of a colleague – inadequately supplied with thermal underwear and insufficiently forewarned about certain aspects of the suspect’s character. She’s falling for the bastard. To add to her problems, she’s trying to pass herself off as a housekeeper at the domestic goddess end of the spectrum, but has spent her whole life resisting domestication in all its forms.

She’s not letting that worry her, though.

How hard can it be to boil an egg?

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I remember the moment vividly. I was watching TV when the phone rang (this was in the days of landlines!) and a husky voice introduced herself as one of the agents at the top of my list (not sure if I should say who), who’d read the opening chapter of The Sweetest Poison (which was then called Natural Victim) and loved it! I was so scared and excited I wasn’t able to respond coherently. I babbled about hoping she wasn’t disappointed with the rest of the book, and her response was: ‘Even if there are problems, don’t worry, because YOU ARE A WRITER.’ Ironically, there were problems with the rest of the book, and I ended up putting it in a drawer for a long time (writer, huh?), until I reworked it and sent it out again and another agent picked it up... But I’ll never forget that moment, and will always be grateful for the first agent’s reassurance and encouragement.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, I’m not lucky enough to write full-time. I need to pay the bills! I work part-time as a freelance copy editor and am also involved in caring for a family member. It’s quite hard to find time to write, and days or weeks can go by without much progress. When I am in writing mode, I find it easiest to be productive in the mornings. Sometimes it’s hard to get into a scene, but other times I’m suddenly ‘in the zone’ and seeing the action playing out in my mind’s eye. It’s a bit like watching a film, but having complete directorial control.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know about interesting, but I find that bribing myself with online games works well. ‘Just get to the end of this scene,’ I tell myself, ‘and you can play a game of Tetris!’

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An intrepid zoologist exploring the Amazon Basin! I did end up studying biology, but that’s as close as I got. Now I get my zoology kicks from watching birds in the garden. Not quite the Amazon, but I love getting to know them as individual characters. Bertie the robin even comes to my hand for food!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Please take a look at my writing friends’ stuff:

Lucy Lawrie, writer of Tiny Acts of Love (The Sun: ‘funny, poignant and honest’) and The Last Day I Saw Her (This Chick Reads: ‘No wonder I devoured this book in one day, everything about it is brilliant’)

Lesley McLaren, nature writer extraordinaire:

Oh, and I would love to hear from any readers who would like to get in touch via my website.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you for having me!

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Jane Renshaw said...

Been lovely to 'chat' with you! Thanks so much!

James Robert said...

Your book sounds like a great read and thank you for sharing it with us.

Bernie Wallace said...

How long ago did you come up for the idea of your book?

Jane Renshaw said...

Thanks James. Bernie, the idea for the book was 'brewing' for quite a while - so to answer your question, at least 10 years ago. Thanks for your interest!

Jane Renshaw said...

Glad the cover and excerpt caught your attention, Gwendolyn and Rita! Thanks for commenting.

Victoria Alexander said...

I love the cover!

Bea LaRocca said...

Good evening. My question for you today is: Are you able to read or write when it is noisy or do you require peace and quiet as I do?

Jane Renshaw said...

Hi Bea! To answer your question, I can sort of shut myself off to noise and 'lose' myself in the world of my story, so I don't find noise a problem - unless it takes the form of people talking to me, obviously! But I agree that peace and quiet is nice when you can get it... What do you write?