Tag Archives: books

Winter Downs: Interview with Jan Edwards

Winter Downs Jan Edwards front coverAnnnnnd, welcome to the next stop in the Winter Downs Blog Tour, celebrating the launch of the ever excellent Jan Edwards’ new book – Winter Downs – a thrilling ride of 1940’s crime fic starring the kick ass Bunch Courtney.   I interrogated Jan to find out more…

Winter Downs is the first in your Bunch Courtney Investigates series – who is Bunch and what can we expect from future books in the series?

Bunch Courtney is a well connected young woman who is set adrift  by the changes that the coming of war has imposed on her, and knows that the life she was brought up to lead will never return. When she stumbles on a murder she discovers a talent and taste for sleuthing as she interacts with the local police force; and with Chief Inspector Wright in particular.

Bunch Courtney Investigates is an open ended series with the next two already mapped out in note form and ideas for at least two more. I am hoping people will love Bunch as much as I do so that I can see her through to D-Day at the very least. After that? It could be fun to take her into peacetime; maybe as a private investigator.

How difficult or easy did you find it to get the flavour of the era, were there any research holes you fell into, and did you find any elements of women’s life in the era that resonated with you?

I do like writing period pieces. I’ve written for a number of Sherlock Holmes anthologies and have a series of diesel punk/cosmic horror tales staged in the early 1930’s and starring Captain Georgianna Forsythe.

Immersing myself in the language and social mores can be a lot of fun, and the research required is jam on the top. I do get lost in seeking out small details. I can spend hours, even days, looking for one tiny fact. It is amazing what comes to light!

The lives of woman of the 20th century are so very different to the 21st.  Bunch, for example, finds herself controlling the farm as the men were gradually absorbed into the war machine, even as early in the war as January 1940, yet still treated as a ‘girl’ by many of the men in traditional positions of power; police, the military, farm manager, even her own family.

I worked for 20 years as a Master Locksmith – the first female ‘practising Master’ working in the UK. I know first hand the frustration of having men (and sometimes women)  peer around me as they ask to speak with the Locksmith, because they just ‘know’ it couldn’t possibly be me… I never whacked any of them with a spanner, though the temptation was there – everyday!

You and fellow writer Misha Herwin regularly appear on 6Towns radio – how did that start, what things do you talk about and where and when can listeners find you?

I think it began with a general call to local writers who may want to guest on the Curtain Call show on 6 Towns Radio  http://www.6townstv.com/   And because we had a series of events to push it somehow morphed into a semi-regular gig. We talk about writing events and our own fiction going into print as well as writing in general.

How has your radio experience impacted your public speaking ability?

I guess it has made me less self-conscious about public speaking, though talking in a studio with just the show hosts present is rather different to sitting in front of a live audience.

You and Misha also regularly organise the 6×6 Writers Café – could you tell us how you started, what it is, where, when, and how people can find out more and/or get involved.

6X6 came about because we were trying to get reading gigs for new local writers but because of library cut backs the slots available were getting very scarce. Poetry does okay for events  but prose not so much. We had heard of a regular event in Birmingham that gives writers a set time to strut their stuff and decided Stoke on Trent could use something similar – 6 writers – 6 minutes.

It’s a quarterly event at City Central Library, Hanley, Stoke on Trent. To take part people can go to the 6X6 blog at https://6x6writingcafe.wordpress.com/ and follow the guidelines!

Having been a long time organiser of, and attendee at, Fantasycon and other events, how important are festivals and conventions to the writer at the beginning of the career, and how does this change as their career progresses?

Conventions, conferences, lit, festivals  and events such as 6X6 or Fantasycon are all great opportunities for writers to both network with industry professionals and to find a readership. It’s essential for those starting out and remains true for writers at almost every stage of their career. Yes, when someone reaches the top echelons they will be the main attraction for readings and signings and guesting at conventions etc. but they will still be out there. Not that these things should be seen as purely business, though that is an essential part of the process. I’ve made lifelong friends from going to cons either as organiser, bookseller, author or reader. They are a fun as well as productive part of being a writer.

As a member of the Authors Electric site, how important is being a part of online writer communities and what ones do you recommend?

Blogs such as Authors Electric provide support and encouragement for writers and help to connect them with readers. Having an online presence is an essential part of being an author and popping up in regular slots helps in getting a wider reach  for your profile.

What would I recommend? Authors Electric of course 🙂

You’re in a crime story – are you the detective, the victim, the villain, the red herring or the plucky sidekick?

Detective naturally. Though being the villain could be fun, and the Watson personna has the advantage of being an observer of the action at close quarters.

What are you up to next?

I am on the scripting team for White Witch of Devil’s End, a Dr Who world DVD out this autumn – along with a book of the film. It concerns the life of Olive – the witch who appeared in the Dr Who story The Daemons from the Pertwee Who era.

I have a couple of other projects, but none I can talk about right now!

I should be at Fantasycon in the autumn, and had to make the Theakston Crime festival, but moving house and launching Winter Downs has been more than enough to deal with 🙂

But Winter Downs is the big one this year!  Of course there is Bunch Courtney Investigates: Book Two coming next spring (or sooner).

Thank you for talking to us Jan!

Jan ps 1Jan Edwards is a Sussex-born writer now living in the West Midlands with her husband and obligatory cats. She was a Master Locksmith for 20 years but also tried her hand at bookselling, microfiche photography, livery stable work, motorcycle sales and market gardening. She is a practising Reiki Master. She won a Winchester Slim Volume prize and her short fiction can be found in crime, horror and fantasy anthologies in UK, US and Europe; including The Mammoth Book of Dracula and The Mammoth Book of Moriarty. Jan edits anthologies for The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Books, and has written for Dr Who spinoffs with Reel Time Pictures.

Winter Downs is published by Penkhull Press and is available in paperback and kindle editions from Amazon.

Don’t forget to check out the next stops on the Winter Downs blog tour:

jan blog tour

Adventures in Shopping Around

booksSo here’s the thing… I love books (and really, what sane person doesn’t?) More specifically, I love e-books and will quite cheerfully buy vast quantities whenever funds allow, because, what’s not to love?  They take up no space, can be instantly downloaded, I can cart my entire library around in one e-reader which is a big bonus for travelling, and are also handy when I want to be lazy and not actually muck around with boxes stored under beds to find the book I fancy rereading.  I can read them on my kindle, on my iPad, on my laptop or on my iPhone if I squint a bit, so there’s also the bonus of back up options if one device gets a bit glitchy – which is why I very rarely buy dead tree versions of books these days.  Fiction reading and buying, for me, is always e-book format – oh there’s the odd exception if I’m at a convention and have a mad moment of buying something at a launch, or if there’s no e-book version available and I really-really want to read it (though if I don’t really-really want to read it I’ll not bother, and just make a note to keep an eye out in case it ever does get e-bookified.)

So then the Amazon/Hatchette thing happened.  Marie Brennan does a summary here with handy linkage – so where does this leave the average e-book buyer if they want to keep feeding their habit but would kind of like to not screw over their beloved authors by their shopping choices?

Happily, as far as the indies and smaller presses are concerned, there’s the option of buying direct from the publishers or from the lovely online Indie stores.  This is something I’ve been trying to do for the last couple of years – not so much because of Amazon’s policies (because I’ve not dug deep enough into them to make a fully educated decision and explain exactly why big corporate = bad), but more because I’m not a huge fan of the file format they do.  I want to have my e-books in DRM free epub or mobi formats that I can keep copies of on my own storage devices and easily chuck at whatever reading device I happen to be using.  I don’t want to be locked into Amazon owning my books or fiddling with them or generally losing them if I use a device without the kindle app. I want control of my books.

Previously I’ve bought smaller press books from Smashwords, Weightless Books, Book View Cafe, and Spacewitch, and also the sadly missed Wizards Towers Books when it was up and running.  I also buy direct from the Angry Robot Trading Co.  who do a few indies as well as their own books; and I keep meaning to try out the Rebellion Publishing store for all things Solaris/Abaddon and the Tor Books store for all things Tor!

All of which is great, but if you want something from one of the bigger publishers, Amazon has always been the easiest go-to.  But after the AmaHatch grudge match, I decided to finally get around to checking out some of the other options for e-book buying – Nook and Kobo I’d heard about, and discussions on one of Juliet E. McKenna’s facebook posts brought Waterstones Online and Google Play to my attention, so I’ve been book-buying and downloading reading apps and here’s my not-very-technical-and-has-a-short-attention-span results!

The books: The first four books in The Mysteries of the Greek Detective series by Anne Zouroudi (buying 1 per venue!) – available from Amazon UK for £1.54

Comparison points: Price of book, file formats available, reading apps available, readability on the app-readers

General notes: At minimum I want to be able to read the e-book on either my kindle or iPad, and also my laptop as a back up if possible.  Therefore a downloadable and accessible file format I can convert to mobi is going to be preferable.  I’m not that bothered about the look of the store – so long as it has a basic search widget I can find my way to what I want.  And if there’s too much hassle in downloading reading apps or syncing content between devices I’m done with that venue.

Kobo
Price of Book: £2.63
File Format: Adobe DRM epub
Reading Apps: Kobo app for PC – easy to install and use; Kobo app for iPad – easy to install, a bugger to use and still hasn’t synced up to my account after 3 hours so no book has appeared in my library; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app and the purchases sync up! Yay!
App Readability:  PC – short pages but readable.  Bit like a landscape PDF.   iPad – still hasn’t synced with my Kobo library so have no book to test it on!  iPhone – if you don’t mind the titchy screen with not a lot of content per page then definitely readable.
Will I use it again?  Probably not.  No auto sync to the iPad or quick solution to fix that is a big turn off.

Nook
Price of Book: £1.54
File Format: Erm.. Adobe DRM epub?
Reading Apps:  PC – need Windows 8.0/1 – which I don’t have; iPad – app easy to install and instantly syncs to purchases; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app and purchases sync up nicely.
App Readability:  iPad – Very readable, like it.  iPhone – again, if you don’t mind the titchy screen with not a lot of content per page then definitely readable.
Will I use it again? Probably.  Easy to shop, easy to read on the iPad but the lack of compatible PC app is annoying, and I’d quite like an open file format.

Waterstones
Price of Book: £2.99
File Format: Adobe DRM epub licensed for 6 devices
Reading Apps: PC – uses the Adobe Digital Edition – easy to install and use; iPad – uses Overdrive Media Console – easy to install, total bugger to actually use as it’s not syncing to my account; iPhone – ditto the iPad comments.
App Readability:  PC – readable, like the Kobo app you get that squashed landscape page feel but it’s clear and easy to use.  iPad – still hasn’t synced to my account and there’s no easy way to work out why and fix that.  iPhone – ditto the iPad comments.
Will I use it again? No.  Twice the price of the other stores and the mobile device sync failure is a pain in the ass and will take too much time and fiddling to sort out.

Google Play Books
Price of Book: £2.48
File Format:  erm? Dunno. Kept in the google cloud.
Reading Apps:  PC – online via Google Play website; iPad – easy to install and use; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app
App Readability: iPad – very easy to read with easy navigation and easy typeface alteration options.  iPhone – easy to read, like it.
Will I use it again? Actually, probably.  Though the cloud access only thing will be a problem next time my internet connection goes down so it’s not ideal, but can see it as a good one for phone reading.

In conclusion – it’s likely that given time and further investigation the Kobo/iPad app problems and Waterstones/Overdrive app sync issues can be fixed but for a quick and easy option I’m erring towards Nook apps or Google Play.  Would still prefer a store that lets you download actual DRM free epub/mobi files though, so neither the Nook or Google Play are completely ideal.