This week, I’d like to welcome Eva Jordan as my interviewee. I met Eva at the Deepings Literary Festival at their wonderful Read Dating event. Eva was a joy to talk to and I found the concept for her books very interesting. Here, she shares her writing passions, her inspirations, and there’s a taster of what’s to come in her latest book. Read on…
Q. You’ve written a trilogy about contemporary family life. ‘183 Times a Year’ is the first in the series. Can you tell us a little bit about it and where you got the idea for that eye-catching title from?
A. Hi, Esther. Thanks so much for inviting me on your blog and for the fab questions.
My debut novel is a heartfelt, humorous, and at times tragic look at contemporary family life. I’m often asked if Lizzie and Cassie, the mother and daughter characters in my books, are based on real people – namely my daughter and I. As both a mother and stepmother I had plenty of inspiration to draw on at home. When I wrote ‘183 Times a Year’ I portrayed Lizzie (like me at the time) as an exasperated parent trying to balance work and family life, including all the dynamics and baggage that comes from raising teenagers in a blended family. And yes, like my own daughter once was, Cassie is a typical angst ridden teenage girl whose speech (again like my daughter’s) is littered with malapropos and spoonerisms, which helped add humour to the storyline. When my own daughter once referred to Virginia Woolf as Canary Wharf, I knew I had to include it in the book. However, the characters are fictional, and like most writers I also carried out a great deal of research for all three of my novels.
As for the title of my debut? I was inspired by the findings of a study reported by The Telegraph in May 2013, which looked at the relationship between mothers and their teenage daughters. The results were both humorous and fascinating suggesting that, during the course of a year, teenage girls will:
Cry over boys 123 times
Slam 164 doors
Have 257 fights with brothers and sisters –– and
Fall out with their friends 127 times –– despite spending
274 hours on the phone to them.
Guess what they do 183 times a year?
Q. You’ve clearly got to know the main characters intimately over the course of three books. Who is your favourite character and why?
A. I honestly don’t think I have a favourite character. Lizzie is very dominant throughout all three books and like me, and most mums out there, she wants to do the best for her family, which, as we all know, isn’t always easy. Cassie is great though, brings a lot cringe worthy teenage angst and hilarity to my books, especially in ‘183 Times A Year’, as does Connor (Cassie’s younger brother) in the second book, ‘All The Colours In Between’. However, I also love Lizzie’s parents, Salocin and Ellie. It was fascinating writing their backstory for my third novel ‘Time Will Tell’ because I take the reader back in time to the 1960s and to the East End of London.
Q. Did you have a trilogy in mind when you started writing the first book? How hard was it to write the second and third books? Or were they easier than the first?
A. No, I had no plans whatsoever to write a trilogy! ‘183 Times A Year’ was my first completed novel and as far as I was concerned the end was just that – the end. I fully intended to write something else entirely when I finished it. However, the characters continued talking to me and I found myself wondering what they were doing. That’s when I realised there was more to tell. Like my debut, the second and third novels were easy to write sometimes, at others, not so, but I suppose the most difficult part of writing a trilogy is remembering everyone’s individual voices. My books are very character driven so it was very important for me to keep the essence of each character, reminding myself, as the story progressed, they were slightly older, or, as was the case for Salocin and Ellie in my third novel, younger.
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. Everywhere! I’m a great people watcher and I love reading about, or watching programmes that delve into the human psyche. More often than not I’ll be watching something; a fictional TV drama, a true-life crime story, a real life couple engrossed in conversation, friends arguing, and I’ll find myself thinking “what if… ” The other day, for example, I’d been reading something about foxes when my son came home and said he’d had a bit of an altercation with his childhood best friend. Putting the two together, I suddenly had an idea for a story.
Q. You’re with Urbane publishers. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
A. When I’d finished writing ‘183 Times A Year’ I went down the traditional route, hoped to hook an agent. I got some great feedback but after a number of rejections I became impatient and decided to self-publish my debut as an ebook. A couple of months later, one of my readers, who contacted me to tell me how much she loved my book, suggested I send it to Matthew Smith, the owner of a fairly new, traditional, but small independent publisher called Urbane Publications. Matthew loved my story and agreed to publish it as a paperback. He has since gone on to publish the ebook and paperback versions of my second and third novels, ‘All The Colours In Between’, and ‘Time Will Tell’.
Q. What are you currently working on?
A. My fourth novel has nothing to do with Lizzie and her madcap family, although like my previous stories, this one is also very character driven. Here’s a bit of a taster…
They say true love lasts a lifetime. But how is that possible when the one person you thought you knew turns out to be someone else entirely. Someone beyond all recognition…
It’s the 1980s. Life before mobile phones and social media. It’s also when Ben Thompson and Ebony O’Brien meet for the first time. Ben is confident, part of the ‘in crowd’ at school, whereas Ebony feels like an outsider. Spanning three decades this is a love story with a difference. A powerful tale of love, betrayal and revenge, where, thanks to a rapidly advancing world, we see how, at times, life has changed beyond all recognition, but also how our basic need to love and be loved never alters.
This is a story about love but above all else it is a story about triumph over adversity…
Q. What’s the hardest thing you find about being a writer?
A. Making people, usually those closest to me, understand that I need time to write.
Q. Do you get time to read yourself and if you do, what books do you read?
A. I don’t read as much as I’d like to but I do read every day. If you’re going to be a writer you need to read – lots! My reading is really broad and eclectic. I love the classics but I also love contemporary fiction and you can’t beat a good psychological thriller. I read a lot of non-fiction too.
Q. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A. Hah – more writing! I write a monthly column and book review for local (to me) lifestyle magazine The Fens. Now and again I receive invitations from various organisations to give a talk about my writing journey, and when I’m not out and about with friends and family, you’ll find me at the cinema or taking long walks in the beautiful fenland countryside. I love to travel too and I’ve been very fortunate to visit some amazing places around the world. I also used to work for a charity that helps adults learn to read but had to give that up when my daughter became very poorly.
Q. Finally, what piece of advice can you give to writers who are struggling to get that first book written and published?
A. Stop making excuses and finish the book you’re writing. There are 365 days in a year – if you write a page a day, that’s a book. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be finished, there’ll be rewrites and edits to do but there’s something very satisfying and very motivational about writing “The End”. As far as getting your book published – the world’s your oyster. The publishing industry has changed massively over the last ten years or so. So, do your homework, decide which option is best for you; traditionally published, independently published or, why not do both –– as a hybrid writer. Be warned though, writing is hard work; you need to be passionate about it to do it. And contrary to popular belief, most writers make little or no profit from their writing. However, nothing beats that feeling of holding your printed book in your hands – and when readers contact you and tell you that the story you made up, the characters you crafted, really touched them in some way, well, there’s no other feeling quite like it.