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An Interview with Jennifer C. Wilson

Today I welcome my friend and fellow author, Jennifer C. Wilson to the blog to talk novels, book birthdays and all things writing. Thank you for your time today, Jennifer.

Hi Val, thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog today. We’re coming up to the first anniversary of publication of The Warriors’ Prize, and it’s always exciting to celebrate a book’s birthday!

What inspired you to write The Warriors’ Prize?

The Warriors’ Prize was written during Lockdown, in response to a call-out from Mills & Boon. I know many people got a lot of writing done during Lockdown, but I personally really struggled to find any ‘space’ to be creative. Having a competition to work towards really helped me.

When the competition was announced, one scene immediately came into my mind (frustratingly, it wasn’t in the first chapter, which was what was being asked for!), and after some brainstorming, I was able to come up with a decent plot around that scene, and the characters / setting which sprang from it. Whilst the book was ultimately not picked up by Mills & Boon, I WAS lucky enough to get an hour’s meeting with an editor, and was asked to submit the full manuscript on the basis of my first chapter and synopsis. That was definitely the boost I needed during Lockdown.

Who is your favourite character in The Warriors’ Prize, and why?

I really like Sir Lachlan. He’s a warrior, used to being out on the road, moving from place to place, never settling down, and whilst he may not admit it to his men, the idea of settling down and building a home is really appealing to him. All he wants after years of fighting is some stability.

Although not many of us can relate to being a king’s champion, and doing literal battle on a regular basis, I think we can relate to the desire for peace and calm in our lives.

What was the first piece you had published?

My first real publishing success was Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, and it still holds such a special place in my heart. The Kindred Spirits series came from nowhere, inspired by a poem written for a competition. The poem never amounted to anything, but the idea just wouldn’t let me go, and eventually it turned into a full novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2013.

After Tower, there have been five other books in the Kindred Spirits series, and I’ve had so much fun writing each one. The overall concept is to follow the adventures of the ghosts of historical characters, in contemporary settings. The first book, for example, features Anne Boleyn and Richard III as the main characters, but other ‘leads’ include Mary Queen of Scots, Henry VII, Anne of Cleves, and so many other kings, queens and courtiers. I’ve loved doing the research, visiting historical buildings, and getting to ‘know’ their ghostly communities.

Do you have another story planned or in progress? When can we expect to see that?

At the moment, I have quite a few projects in progress, and sadly, no confirmed dates for any of them! My main WIP is a contemporary romance, set between London, the Highlands, and Rome, which I’m around 20,000 words into, and really enjoying. It’s been in the works for over a decade, and I feel I want it ‘out there’ now. My goal is to have it finished this year, and hopefully released in early 2024.

A smaller project (in terms of my own writing) is the second anthology from North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, the writing group I run in North Shields Library. We released our first anthology in 2023, and it went so well, we’re doing it all again for 2024! Our theme is ‘folk’, and the book will be out in September / October.

Who is your favourite author?

This is really tough, but I’m still going to go with Philippa Gregory. Her book “The Other Boleyn Girl” is the one which got me back into reading fiction after leaving university, and also inspired me to start writing again. The tale of Anne Boleyn, and her ultimate fate, must be one of the most famous stories in British history, so the fact that she’s able to write in such a way that you think Anne might actually be released, and sent to a convent in France, shows how good a writer she is.

What do you like to do when you’re not planning or writing your next book?

I am at my happiest pottering around historical sites, of any type or age, to be honest. My favourite will always be castles, but I just love being in and around history. My brain is always on the hunt for stories, even if I don’t have the time to write everything up!

When did you know you wanted to write novels?

I’ve always loved to write. Even when I was at school, I was constantly making up little stories in notebooks at home. I never imagined it would lead to anything real, but I’m very glad that it did!

Do you write in other genres?

Absolutely! I sometimes worry, but the truth is, I just write the story which comes out first when I think about my next project. So far, there’s been historical fiction, paranormal historical fiction, time-slip, and contemporary romance. There’s a plot set out for a three-part crime story I really want to work on at some point, but it requires a lot of thought to get the crime elements absolutely right before I sit down to start.

What do you like most about being an author?

Being part of the writing community. The writing itself is quite a solitary pursuit, but I’ve been lucky and found myself some wonderful writing friends, whether that’s through North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, or the various events and workshops I’ve attended over the years. It’s just wonderful having people around to celebrate successes with, and commiserate together when things don’t go quite according to plan…

Do you have a specific routine for writing?  Is there a special place or particular tool you use?

Not anymore. I still love a nice notebook and a good pen to write with, but in terms of routines or places, I try to avoid that, in case I get somehow stuck to only being able to write when those conditions exist. I know there’s some great advice out there about setting up a specific space, or particular routines, but it doesn’t work for me.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Just to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) as often as possible. Not all of it may be publishable, but sometimes, that’s the point – just getting words ‘out’ which might be otherwise blocking what you want to write. I’ve been doing some online courses which are focusing on journalling as a starting-point to get your writing-time going, and despite it not being the goal, have come up with some pretty good poems along the way.

Getting out into the writing community is also wonderful, if you’re happy doing so. Like I say above, being part of that world is one of the loveliest things for me, and I wouldn’t be without my writing friends.

If your book were to be made into an Audiobook, who would you choose to read it?

That’s such a good question! I’m thinking of investigating audiobooks for a couple of my books, “The Last Plantagenet”, and “Twelve Dates ‘Till Christmas” so I’m starting to give some thought as to the type of voice which would suit each story.

In terms of my favourite voices, it’s always the two Davids. I could listen to Attenborough or Tennant read the phone-book, their voices are so wonderful. Unfortunately, neither is probably in the game for recording self-published novellas, so it perhaps not on the cards just yet.

If your book were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play the main character?

This is a strange one. For my Kindred Spirits novels, I rarely ‘mentally cast’ my characters, since they’re real historical characters, so their appearances are well-known through artworks (even if those artworks aren’t necessarily contemporary or accurate). But I do cast my other stories as I’m writing them.

For my current WIP, I see my leading-man as Jensen Ackles (of Supernatural fame), and the leading-lady as Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, amongst other things). But for “The Warriors’ Prize”, I never had anyone in mind as I was writing it. It’s definitely the odd one out from all my novels – perhaps I should do some homework, and retro-cast some actors, just in case…

The Author

Jennifer C. Wilson stalks dead people (usually monarchs, mostly Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III). Inspired by childhood visits to as many castles and historical sites her parents could find, and losing herself in their stories (not to mention quite often the castles themselves!), at least now her daydreams make it onto the page.

After returning to the north-east of England for work, she joined a creative writing class, and has been filling notebooks ever since. Jennifer won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014, and in 2015, her debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Books. The full series was re-released by Darkstroke in January 2020.

Jennifer is a founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, and has been running writing workshops in North Tyneside since 2015. She also publishes historical fiction novels with Ocelot Press. She lives in Whitley Bay, and is very proud of her two-inch view of the North Sea. 

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