Saturday, October 9, 2010
Interview with Jillian Brookes-Ward author of "Saving Nathaniel" and more
I like to introduce my readers to the writer as a person as well as discuss their work, so first up tell us a little of your background. Where were you born and raised?
Long, long ago I was born in an industrial town in Lancashire in the North West of England, Pendle Witch country to be precise. My father was a fireman and my mother, before my brother and I came along, a weaver then a full time housewife and mother.
When I was four we moved to the next town over and I lived, was schooled and worked there until 6 years ago when my husband retired and we left it all behind for pastures new.
I have held a variety of jobs, nearly all clerical in nature, but my main, most interesting and longest lasting one was as a Medical Secretary to an A&E consultant.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Science.
Where do you live now?
I am now blessed to live in a lovely village on Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, surrounded by trees and mountains and a beautiful river. Both the Queen and comedian Billy Connelly are not to distant occasional neighbours!
Are you married and do you have children?
I have been married for 28 years and have raised 3 sons.
Apart from your writing which you clearly love, what other interests do you pursue?
I love to take my little Jack Russell dog, Archie, and go walking in the area surrounding my village. There are wonderful woodlands and hillside to explore. I enjoy a spot of fishing, or just passing quiet time on the riverbank. Occasionally, I dabble with painting and photography. Apart from writing, the time I spend with friends fills me with the most joy.
When did you start writing?
At school. I won a couple of essay competitions and was always in the top stream in English. I wrote various bits and bobs over the years, mostly for fun, including the odd acerbic letter to the newspaper, but it was only when I moved to Scotland that it really took off. There’s something about the area and the people that revived the spark in me.
When did you start writing Saving Nathaniel?
Not long after I moved to Scotland. The idea was already there, in a notebook and pacing impatiently around in the back of my head, but life got in the way, as it tends to do, and it was a while before it got going properly.
How long between word one and the final draft?
Once I got started it went quite well, but in fits and starts. In total, I would reckon on just over two years.
Was it your first attempt at writing a full length novel?
Yes, and it showed. It started out as a completely different book with a different title. I had my characters in mind, I knew who they were, what they were like and what story I wanted to tell, but being naive in the rules and subtleties of writing, didn’t have the technical expertise.
My first effort was an overblown, overwritten info-dump and not very good – no strike that, it was abysmal. I took a lot of advice and constructive criticism and the book underwent a couple of complete rewrites. The first chapter alone had 22!
Eventually I realized where I had gone wrong. I had had too much advice. When I stopped trying to please all of the people all of the time and did what I wanted, it finally clicked into place. Lessons were learned and I’m happy with the result now.
The characters in saving Nathaniel are quite wonderful and developed beautifully, not the muscle bound hero and the Barbie look alike heroine. They are very accessible characterizations. Was this deliberate?
Yes it was.
Muscle-bound and Barbie belong in chick lit. Saving Nathaniel is not chick lit.
This is not a conventional romance. For a start, the characters are more mature, he is 55, she is 45, both with plenty of life experience and its resultant baggage. Also we see that Nat is not the hero – far from it. He is a broken man, the victim of an unresolved emotional turmoil that is tearing him apart. Megan is no damsel in distress in need of rescuing either. She is his saviour. It is her strength and support that helps him comes to terms with his past and, despite the occasional hiccup, look forward to a future.
Romance is such a great escape from the darker days in our reality, knowing that, was it your intent to have the characters so very human?
Yes it was, because that is who we are – human beings. What else can they be but just people. We all laugh, cry, lose and love. It is what makes us who we are. We can all relate to Nat and Meg to some degree. They show us that even the most challenging situation can be overcome by simple human contact. If, at the end, the reader can close the book with a warm and fuzzy glow of understanding, and can say, ‘That was really nice, I’m happy for them,’ then my job is done.
Nathaniel is a man bereft and lost, was he based on someone you know?
No. He represents an amalgam of all those men who outwardly put on their bravest, ‘coping with it’ veneer to the world, when underneath they are barely muddling through with hearts that are broken, emotions in turmoil and feelings crushed. Just because they say, ‘I’m fine,’ doesn’t mean they are. Sometimes all they need a touch, a smile and a kind word to see them through.
Men are often left to manage alone, to paste on a brave face and carry on as if nothing has happened, because it’s the ‘manly’ thing they are expected to do. In truth, it really isn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t in the least disparage the tumult women also go through when they lose their loved ones, but women tend to be much stronger in these situations, are more supportive of each other and as a consequence, cope better.
Megan is one of the most likeable and sassy heroines I have read recently, again was she based on a person or people you have met?
Again, no. Megan too is representative of the compassionate, empathetic instinct I think all women possess, even those who deny it.
Although she has had her own troubles in her past, she puts them all aside to give her steadfast support to Nathaniel. Even when he, at first, rejects it, she doesn’t give up.
How much of yourself is invested in Megan?
Not a lot, I’m far too dull for that. I have put in some personal experiences from my life into hers – work, the loss of my father, etc, just to give her something for conversation, but she is for the most part a construct of imagination and wishful thinking.
The main similarity I like to think we have is that I too have a very soft spot for men like Nathaniel. Sad, lonely men break my heart, I can’t help it, it just flicks a switch deep inside. I tried to inject some of that feeling and understanding into Megan and allowed her to use both her sass and her empathy to bond with Nathaniel. I hope it worked.
I have to confess that as the story progressed, I fell in love with Nathaniel myself.
Your second and another great romance is Linda Loves…?, the ‘ménage a trios’ with an interesting twist, tell us about the thought process in creating this one?
This was inspired again by locality and people I’ve met. The Castle, the park and the Oak Wood are all real. I did meet an ‘Adam’ while out walking my dog, although I didn’t climb on the fence and have to be rescued :o) The man was very nice, but it went no further…shame.
I love it when a real life incident results in a ‘What if…?’ and sets the cogs a-stirring.
I flouted the convention of the traditional ménage-a-trois. Often they end in heartbreak and/or disaster for all involved, but in Linda Loves…? there are a couple of twists to the story, certainly some things you wouldn’t expect. The ending might take you by surprise, too.
This book also started out differently. It originally involved a death, but I cried so much over it I couldn’t bring myself to use it. I’m glad I ditched it. There’s enough misery in the world, we don’t need more in books.
Do you work to a schedule? Or are you guided by what feels right at the moment?
I don’t have a schedule, I’m too disorganised. I do like to write something every day, but more often than not it isn’t anything to do with the books. Some days I have spent more time on my blog or messing about on various forums than on actual story writing, I have learned that you can’t force it. But once the mood is on me, I can write for hours at a time oblivious to everything else, although I have not yet, touch wood, fallen asleep at the keyboard.
The books flow beautifully. Are they crafted chapter by chapter or pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle?
Neither, more like adding links to a chain. I have never been able to write from ‘once upon a time’ to ‘the end’ in a straight line. I don’t plot or plan, I just go with the flow.
I start with a key event and then sort of spread out from there. I will add what leads up to the event and then what comes after and then expand in both directions at once.
I don’t use chapter breaks either when I write my drafts, it is a continuous flow of text. When I read through, the breaks show me where they should be. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not so. I also like to make chapters into individual ‘stories’ rather than a continuous tale. That way the reader can put down the book at a chapter end and when they pick it up again, haven’t missed anything. I hope that makes sense.
The third book is a complete change in characterizations and is a bright free flowing style that is so different from the other two, was this deliberate or again moving with the thoughts as they struck?
I know a lot of fishermen and a couple of instructors.
On The Fly was really written for a bit of a laugh, because if you can’t make fun of randy fishermen in neoprene waders, who can you, eh? It is a saucy romp through the misadventures of an angling instructor and is full of innuendo, smut and sex. It is actually quite explicit in places. Having never seen a book involving both ‘fishing’ and ‘sex’ in quantity, I decided to write my own. I’ve never done comic or erotica before either, and combining it was a gem, and I loved it.
It was also partially written to redden the faces of the tweedy, rather stuffy members of the fishing syndicate. There is a warning on the book cover that it isn’t for ‘anglers of a nervous disposition’. Bless ‘em.
Now, whenever the chaps down at the fishing see me with my notebook in hand, they begin to tremble, harrumph and clam up before scattering to the far reaches of the riverbank leaving me with a self satisfied smirk! Oh, the power!!
This book, too, has a ‘Hmm, I didn’t see that coming’ ambiguously open ending.
To be honest, I think the niche for this type of book may be just that wee bit too narrow for the main market, so I may self publish. At least the fishermen’s wives might like to read it!
How do you manage your real world and still have time for writing?
Generally, it isn’t a problem. I don’t work at the moment so my time is my own for the most part. Housework gets done and meals cooked on time as a rule, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. Occasionally, I have been so totally and utterly consumed by involvement in a story that the dog has gone unwalked, family unfed and clean socks unavailable. They’ve got used to it by now and they have learned to be a little more self sufficient – never a bad thing in a man.
I play music while I’m writing too – that’s a clear enough signal to leave me alone.
Do you spend much time on building a web presence for yourself?
I am a real technophobe, but times they are a-changing. I grasped the nettle a few months ago, and now have a little blog at www.writers-unlimited.blogspot.com where I publicise my own books, feature fellow authors or write a little piece as it occurs to me. I have also put myself about on sites like LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook as I feel those type of networking sites are great tools to be utilised. I have to admit defeat as far as Twitter is concerned. Sorry, Tweeters, but I can’t make moss nor sand of it.
The Publishing world is undergoing huge changes as readers and authors seem to be coming to grips with the new Ebook format, do you think that the days of holding a paperback in your hands will ever become a thing of the past?
I do sincerely hope not.
eBooks, although the modern idiom, are cold and soulless and far too ‘functional’ for my romanticised liking. I would rather curl up under my duvet with a well-beloved tatty George Eliot than a cold piece of plastic, and there is nothing so comforting as the smell and feel of a well loved paperback with dog eared corners and a saggy spine.
I buy a lot of second hand books, and not only to I enjoy the story, I like to think about the pairs of hands the book has been through to get to me, particularly if it is an old book.
Call me a Luddite, but long live the paperback!
What’s next for Jillian Brookes-Ward?
I am currently working on a 4th book, once again based around a real life incident. I put the bare bones of an idea out at first, presenting it as a ‘flash fiction’ story to see if it had legs. When I found it had, it began to grow. Once I connected with who and what I needed to help me, it is progressing apace, although it is a long way off completion - another 6 months at the very least. I may take my time with this one. The research is proving to be as much, if not more rewarding than the writing.
Where would you like to see yourself both professionally and personally in 2011?
Life is going pretty good at the moment. I am settled and comfortable in my locale and if nothing changes, that would be very nice for the foreseeable future.
I’ve never been one for great ambitions, but the ultimate dream is to see all my books side by side on a real life bookshelf, or be able to check them out from the local library. I suppose I’m no different to any other author in that respect.
I don’t expect make a heap of money from writing, although it would be nice, so long as I have health and happiness and a working internet connection, I will be content with my lot.
Businessman Nathaniel Mackie lives alone following the deaths of his wife and baby, a tragedy for which he blames himself. His struggle to maintain a rapidly deteriorating veneer of normality has left him emotionally exhausted and unbalanced.
When Mackie’s housekeeper has an accident that leaves her unable to work, she persuades her older sister Megan to substitute for her.
Megan is kind-hearted and confident and her compassionate nature quickly allows her to bond with the troubled man. Soon events begin to unfold that reveal the true depth of his unresolved grief and guilt. With gentle guidance and support from Megan, Mackie slowly begins to come to terms with his past.
All too soon, it is time for Megan to leave, and the extent of Mackie’s growing dependence on, and affection for her becomes apparent. How will he cope without her stabilising influence, and to what lengths is he willing to go to get her back?
REVIEWS ON Saving Nathaniel.
Phil Bottomley, author of Danny Murphy. said:
Jillian you have got me into serious trouble with my wife! I told her five hours ago that I was just going to skim through Saving Nathaniel before taking her shopping.
Being a bloke I couldn't possibly get engrossed in a 'woman's' book, could I?
Totally and utterly absorbing, I have read it all and I am still enthralled.
Beautiful story, beautifully written and firmly on my bookshelf. Thank you.
Your pitch is very intriguing and sets out all the ingredients for a romantic story to develop.
I loved the opening and the introduction to Megan. The development of the story in this chapter was excellent. The dialogue between the two of them is very realistic. Nathaniel soon took control of the situation and turned the scene into an interview. Clearly they are worlds apart in terms of status. He is clearly drawing a line in the sand of what he expects from Megan, but at the same time you give us a hint at the interest they may have in each other. It will be interesting to see how her down to earth character helps him come to terms with his sorrow and in this regards I am hooked, so well done.
Excellent start, very well written.
SueAnn Jackson Land wrote
I love your reader’s warning, which was the second thing that caught my eye. The first was that you mentioned empathy in your pitch. Laughter and empathy in the same place – there’s a reason to read. Your writing is crisp and the “perfunctory shake” made me smile as it reminded me immediately of a dear Brit friend. I’m your basic brash Yank, I’d be slobbering all over your character with “ya’ll.”
“...pedantic, fastidious and downright pernickety...” – you have a love of words and it is showing along with Megan and Nat batting them back and forth. Yes, I promise to read more than Chapter One, but I’m really enjoying what I’m reading.
I passed up 16 as it had been visited and chose 19, instead. Rebecca is not allowed to come back and why in the world did Megan have to spend vigil at Nat’s bedside? This means I’ll have to read all in between... and Jillian, this is the “kind” of book that makes this reader want to. Kind being the operative term, here. Your story tickles with promise and something deeper, like that smile you mentioned. It was backed before I got to go back...ok... now for 8. Still reading...and on a hockey night in Canada -- that's an achievement.
SueAnn Jackson Land
The Truth About Whales
Linda Lewis is the devoted wife of Tom, a happy-go-lucky, man of the moment blokes' bloke. While out walking her dog, she meets local woodsman, Adam Strachan.
There is instant attraction, and the two strike up a friendship, which all too soon, turns into an affair.
Linda is content loving both her men until Adam, having endured atrocious living conditions for several months, falls seriously ill. She accompanies him to hospital, and the affair is revealed.
Tom is, naturally, devastated, but the trio's lives take an even more bizarre twist when Linda persuades him to allow Adam to move into their home to recuperate.
After witnessing a touching scene between Adam and Linda, Tom realises the depth of her feelings for Adam, yet he himself is loved no less. It brings about a seachange in the men's relationship.
Adam eventually recovers enough to return home.
Weeks later, Linda has a dilemma. She is pregnant, but which man is the father?
Will the men's acrimony resurface, or will they pull together to care for the woman and child they both love?
REVIEWS ON "LINDA LOVES ...?"
This nicely written, very comfortable to read. The characters feel real in their lives, thoughts and relationships. Your wording is Simple crisp and taught. No errors that I picked up on.
Not being something I would usually read, I was drawn into the lives of Linda, Tom and Adam. The spark between Linda and Adam jumps off the page at you. I found myself drawn in wanting to know more... Excellent book. Aidan
Oh WOW. Okay, the first scene was awesome--excellent romance between Adam and Linda. He starts off as a bit of a grump, but turns out to have a soft side. The flirting bantar was a deal-sealer for me. I had to read on. I was shocked to find out she is clearly involved with someone else. I wasn't 100% sure at first, with the second scene, but it was clear by the end. She seems like a whole other person--flawless. She's likeable, but not perfect. Lately I haven't had time to read more than one chapter, but you've done it to me again. I have to read on :)
Jessica L Degarmo wrote …wonderful work. Very enjoyable, and what an interesting situation Linda finds herself in! I can't wait to read more to see what happens, and since I am now wondering how I would handle her predicament, you have accomplished your goal! No doubt your readers will find themselves pondering such a dilemna!!!
I read your opening chapter and am already a big fan! Your dialog is impeccable, and the scenes your write kept me reading on. I think both men come through loud and clear as different personalities. Your MC is sympathetic and intelligent. I think you have a real winner with this book!
Elizabeth Wolfe (MEMORIES OF GLORY)
from Jay Spires.
- An exceedingly well-conceived and equally well constructed novel, Jillian. Your characters are achingly real. There is a rhythmical and relaxed development of the activity that leads up to the sexual consummation. Psychologically exacting, she comes on to Tom romantically, sexually, after a steamy session with her paramour. Many unskilled writers would start with the sex and have every scene develop to the next encounter without regard to the pacing that a novel of your caliber requires. This is a winner. This should be published! I did what I could in that regard. Thank you for sharing. –
Brian MacDonald has twin passions; fishing and sex, although not necessarily in that order.
A professional game angling instructor, Brian MacDonald begins each new season with a clean slate, a fresh supply of condoms and a charming smile.
Being a red-blooded male, he is rather fond of women and even fonder of sex, and will avail himself of any opportunity presenting itself.
Before long, his phallic philanderings get him into trouble, and his plans start to go awry.
Sandwiched between his misadventures with an assortment of women - including a professional rival, Marie the receptionist, and the pink-haired bride of a Lord - a near drowning incident brings the mysterious Lily to his bothy.
A lothario's dream come true, the strikingly beautiful and seemingly sexually insatiable Lily drives him to distraction by appearing at the most unexpected moments…and giving him the best experiences of his life.
But could there be more to the enigmatic woman than meets the eye?
**Warning: Pretty saucy stuff, with a smattering of innuendo, smut and bad language - May not be suitable for anglers of a nervous disposition. Over 18 please**
REVIEWS FOR "ON THE FLY"
Vanessa Darnleigh wrote
Your words tease the reader this way and that as we await the outcome of his rendezvous with Lily...this is certainly one of the best reads I've experienced on this site. You've got it down to a tee...well done!
Jillian you have done it again. How dare you not have a more positive view? I enjoyed Saving Nathaniel but On the Fly is the one for me. Firstly the cover is brilliant It makes you want to pick it off the shelf immediately. Brilliant take on the UK most popular hobby. It goes without saying how well written it is. You have a best seller here good luck with it.
Jillian, a change in style and yet there's all the signs of a fine writer in this amusing and well constructed book. Loads of stand-out phrases - 'Grant me the patience to not kill any of them today' will be familiar to any member of the teaching profession - all very enjoyable. A 'period piece' in so many ways, this is simply charming.
Gerry Johnston (Dropcloth Angels):
This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, Jillian. I read the prologue and first three chapters without blinking an eye. You remain one of my favourite writers here, but I now can call you a deviant without feeling guilty for naming you so. This is very inventive. After Brian's tryst with the Lady, I thought he'd be knocking boots with Mary after she'd 'jumped' him. What came next was perfect.
How does it feel to have such a grasp of grammar and punctuation that you receive the following nits from me?
Plug time…please share links to your books and websites with my readers.
On the Fly
Sample first chapters of all three are available to read at,
and the first five chapters of Linda Loves…?
The first chapters of On The Fly (with a new cover) are also at
*****UPDATE**** Saving Nathaniel is now available in paperback and kindle on the following sites
Thanks to the fine offices of T. Roux esquire and Night Publishing.
and for Kindle http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Nathaniel-ebook/dp/B0045OUSWC/ref=sr_1
Posted by S Burke at 4:58 PM