14th Dec. 2016 – A Conversation with Suspense Novelist Jane Jordan

Jane Jordan: My books fall into several different genres, thriller, historical, dark romance, horror, mystery, and paranormal, so they are definitely a cross-over. The publishing industry likes to categorize books neatly into one genre, and The Beekeeper’s Daughter has been described as a historical thriller, although there is a strong element of dark romance throughout the book.

Whatever genre you label a book, you risk not appealing to an entire segment of readers. But I know that my books often surprise my readers, my previous novels were dark romance mixed with vampire superstition. I thought this genre would not necessarily appeal to men, therefore it was a surprise when I had positive reviews from both male and female readers.

Labels put misconceptions on books, there is underlying horror in my work, but that word alone can conjure up very different meanings for different people. I do not use blood and gore unnecessarily and the dark aspect in my books is more sophisticated, an element that tends to weave through the story rather than a shocking subplot. The same goes for labeling a book romance. There is such predictability in this genre, which can instantly repel readers who want something more substantial than just a boy meets a girl who falls in love scenario. I actually think it’s advantageous to have my book genre merge between two, three, or more categories.

OMN: When starting a new book, which comes first: the principal characters or the storyline?

JJ: The idea for the storyline comes first, often that is borne out of a situation I have experienced or places I have visited. The setting is very important to my stories, although, I have often written short stories just based on a single scenario or even an object. Inspiration comes from all manner of bizarre things. I always observe the world around me and talk to people, who often reveal things that are surprising, and ideas come that can be stored away for future use.

I inject a little of my own persona into my writing and immerse myself in the lives of my characters. I need to know how they feel about every situation, but most of all, I need to feel the emotions of the characters I write about, if I don’t feel it, then how can I expect my reader to?

My first book centered around an old remote house that I stayed in and a hidden church in the woods. In my second book, there was a couple of chapters that I wrote about life in India at the time of the British Raj, and the caste system, which both fascinated and appalled me, but it made for a great storyline. I have never visited India, but I was inspired by history and a friend who came from India many years ago, he became my inspiration to create a dark character, and I was able to use a little artistic license to develop a truly sinister side to his nature.

Dark characters are often my favorite to write about, maybe because we often hold a mirror up to ourselves when we write about main characters. I always question myself, and ask, Would I do this? Or how would I react in this situation? With an evil character that moral compass goes out the window. They can be as corrupt and evil as you want them to be, although I believe that it is important to make my readers feel some small amount of compassion for these dark characters. By making a reader care, or at least understand the reasons behind what a character does, then not only will they invest their emotions in the good characters, but in the bad ones as well — I think this makes for a better story.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

JJ: The Beekeeper’s Daughter was a challenge because the book starts in the year 1698 in England.

That first scene was important to the whole book. It portrays a witch being burnt at the stake. In order for my readers to feel it was authentic, I did a lot of internet research and studied several books. I uncovered old sixteenth-century records of witch trials and visited the witchcraft museum in Boscastle, England. This museum houses the most comprehensive collection of artifacts in Europe, it was fascinating and a little horrific to see original documents and implements used in witch trials.

This chapter was both challenging and exciting. After seeing these artifacts and reading such old authentic documents, I had the inspiration to include wording from a historic witch trial into my novel.

I am very thorough when it comes to research and everything was researched for accuracy. The story then moves to the Victorian period, and this is where the rest of the book is set. I spent some time working at an old 1000-year-old castle on Exmoor that is now in the hands of the National Trust and a tourist attraction. The castle is very much shown as it was in the Victorian era, and this was a great source to get a feel for how an aristocratic family would have lived above stairs, while their servants’ place was below stairs.

I have lived in a Victorian farmhouse and a 16th century thatched cottage, so I could draw on all these experiences when setting the scene for my story. I think every author probably owns a myriad of books and I am no different, so I studied my books on women’s clothing in the nineteenth century and several history books to tell me what sort of transport the cottagers and wealthy landowners would have used.

Besides reading books, the staff at the castle were knowledgeable and working there, I learned a great deal about the family that had been in residence for some 600 years. I also visited the city of Bath In England and the roman baths, so all these things just fell into place when I came to write about them.

By engaging with people in the places I write about, new thoughts can be stimulated as the plot for a story never just develops in a straight line, rather, diversions and subplots form a kind of jigsaw puzzle and it’s the author’s job to make them fit.

OMN: How true are you to the settings of your books?

JJ: All my books are set in real places, and I always try to remain true to geography. I think it gives a story a wider appeal, not only for the readers that know the places I write about but for those readers that have never visited these places. I would hope that my stories might entice them to go and visit places they never would have thought about before. It lends authenticity to a story to be set in a real place.

I always like to include local folklore or legend into my stories, and local people are often willing to share their knowledge which gives great insight into a place especially when you are writing about historical buildings or cities. Occasionally I take liberty with a setting but it is usually minor. The Beekeeper’s Daughter was set on Exmoor, the descriptions throughout the book are accurate. The villages of Gothelstone and Rookwood although fictitious are based on an amalgamation of several Exmoor villages.

The Devil’s Pass that I write about exists, it is an ancient clapper-bridge in the heart of Exmoor and also known as the Devil’s Pass in local folklore. Exmoor is hugely inspiring, but are many other places if you are willing to do a little digging. I know the city of London well, but I was surprised to unearth the forgotten tunnels and war cabinet rooms below the pavements of London when I was researching my previous books. In the past, I wrote about Stirling in Scotland, a place I only remember visiting as a very small child, but I remember being told stories of the ghost that inhabits the famous castle, and all these stories along with my memories and research are weaved into my novels. My characters also have to feel genuine, and there has to be a plausible reason a character would find him/herself in an unusual setting.

OMN: If we could send you anywhere in the world to research the setting for a story, where would it be?

JJ: There are still too many places I want to visit, and a story can come out of any place, but there are a few countries in Europe that I would be interested in visiting. Transylvania, being one, and that’s because I have already written three novels with vampires and it just feels like a place I should have already visited. But I am sure that when I do a completely different story will be borne.

Europe has so many beautiful old cities and I always find so much inspiration in European cities. But in America too, there are many old cities and fascinating buildings and histories just waiting to be discovered.

My next book takes my readers to New Orleans, and I have not visited there since the 1990s, it is definitely on my top ten list to go and revisit the French Quarter, but now I also want to visit the swamps to get a feel for the setting I am writing about.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?

JJ: These days writing and research takes up a lot of my time, but I love plants, and being a horticulturist I am always propagating plants and acquiring new ones. I like to visit garden festivals when I can and search out unusual plants, although I have to control my urge to buy everything I see.

I am also an animal lover and I have three cats and a fish. I like to visit wildlife sanctuaries, my favorite being the ones that house Big Cats. I am lucky to be living in Florida as wildlife is all around me, everything from deer and armadillos to alligators in the lake at the bottom of the garden.

I would say that my horticulture knowledge certainly finds its way into my books, being able to name local flora and fauna, as well as describe many plants in botanical terms is always useful in writing. But I occasionally write for a gardening magazine, so I prefer to save much of my plant knowledge for the magazine articles I write.

I have not used animals that much in my writing, although The Beekeeper’s Daughter was an exception. There are several horses in the story given the historical aspect, and I gave them all names as they were key to the storyline. The bees of course feature heavily, but the emphasis is more on the human characters and what happens to the bees is from their point of view.

OMN: How did The Beekeeper’s Daughter come to be titled?

JJ: The Beekeeper’s Daughter was a natural choice for a title. My main character is Annabel and she is the daughter of a Beekeeper, she also inherited traits from her mother, a gifted witch. I loved the idea of the bees being a witch’s familiar because bees are so key to nature and in reality, most witches follow the path of the natural world.

It’s only superstition and fear that tell us witches should be dark and evil. Most witches I have met have been enlightened with a respect for nature and life. Even in centuries past, history tells us that witches were healers and wise women, most often midwives. I liked the idea of the bees being connected to a witch, implying she would be a protector of the natural order of things, likewise, without bees, the world would starve, as nearly one-third of the world’s crops are dependent on honeybees for pollination.

OMN: Tell us more about the book’s cover.

JJ: The background to The Beekeeper’s Daughter cover is plain black. I wanted to make a poignant statement with this cover, something that would stand out from the rest if placed alongside other books. The main picture is a bee resting on a pentagram, the bee being a reference to the beekeeper’s daughter as well as they factor throughout the story. The pentagram is a reference to witchcraft.

I wanted a simple yet eye-catching design, and I worked with Jack in the art department at Black Opal Books, who is my publisher. Jack quickly understood what I was trying to achieve and in a relatively short time designed this cover perfectly.

This cover also complements my previous book covers that have used a simple theme or idea.

OMN: What’s next for you?

JJ: I am currently finishing my fifth novel, which is another stand-alone story. This novel is a little different in the fact that all my other books are primarily set in England, but my new book Whisht Hall starts off on Dartmoor in England and then moves to New Orleans. It is a story that spans twenty or so years and it is a mixture of Dartmoor legend, and voodoo of the deep south, with a darkly romantic thriller weaving throughout.

I also write short stories, when something inspires me, and I often do this alongside writing a novel, as ideas just come into my head and I just have to write them down. I believe you should push yourself as an author, and submitting short stories to magazines or competitions are great writing prompts to write about something completely different.

With Christmas looming, I will try to take a break from writing until the new year, revel in The Beekeeper’s Daughter having been published, and spend some with my family, my cats, and my plants.

Jane Jordan was born in Essex, England, and grew up exploring the history and culture of London and surrounding counties. In the 1990s she immigrated to Detroit, USA, eventually settling in Southwest Florida. She returned to England after a fifteen-year absence, to spend six years in the Southwest of England living on Exmoor. Here, inspired by the atmosphere, beautiful scenery, and the ancient history of the place, she began writing.

Jane writes in the dark romance genre. She has four published novels. She also writes short stories and being a trained horticulturist, she occasionally writes for a Florida gardening magazine.

Jane returned to Florida in 2013 and lives in Sarasota.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at JaneJordanNovelist.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.


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