Jane is an Edinburgh-based writer of contemporary realistic fiction, of short stories and of life writing. Before writing full time, she worked as a dietitian and health promoter for the NHS. Then, during a three year career break in Grenoble, France, writing became more important to, and that was it.
The Jane Riddell Interview
What is one thing that no-one would usually know about you?
As a child, I was desperate to have a monkey for a pet. On the odd occasion I visit the zoo, the monkey house is still the place I find hardest to leave…
What did the best review you ever had say about you and your work?
“This is an emotionally rich story full of complex characters and unexpected plot twists. Riddell excels at two things in particular– evoking a wonderful sense of place and populating it with fascinating individuals. “(Chergui’s Child)
Most positive views I’ve received comment on characterisation and description of location.
What did the worst review you ever had say about you and your work?
“I’ll be honest, I’ve read a lot of books filled with angst yet this book takes the cake so to speak in the angst department. I usually don’t mind some angst while reading but honestly the angst filled tension constantly throughout the whole book was too much. I wanted to throw my ereader across the room several times because of all the angst.” (Daughters of the Lake)
This came as a surprise, I have to admit. However, when I was re-editing the novel, I did remove a little of the angst. The book blurb would suggest that anxiety features in the story, but obviously too much for this particular reader. However, it’s important to remember that reviews are totally subjective.
Are the names of your characters important to you?
Definitely. I sometimes wish my name was more interesting, and therefore often choose less common names for my characters. However, during the process of writing and editing a novel, which takes several years, if not longer, I find myself changing the antagonist or protagonist names. If I don’t like a character, I choose a name I don’t particularly like, such as Nora in Chergui’s Child. My current novel is a romance, and it is taking ages to decide on a name for the man that would help to seduce me!
Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?
It can be isolating. When you have a bad writing day there might not be someone around to talk to, unlike being in an office, for example, where you’ll have colleagues. To avoid isolation, I rent desk space in a co-working enterprise, so that there is company, even if I don’t talk much to people at times.
You have to motivate yourself, and if you don’t have deadlines, this can be difficult.
If you are self-published, which I now am, promoting your work is required, which involves learning new skills. Even publishing companies expect their authors to do some marketing. This is time-consuming and often unrewarding.
Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?
Read the ‘how to’ books on writing. You may not agree with everything they say, but even if you become clearer about two aspects of writing, investing in the book will have been helpful. Read a lot and analyse the techniques used. Get feedback on your work but choose your reader carefully – ideally someone who likes the genre you are writing in. Allow yourself to ignore some of the feedback you receive, but if several readers say the same thing, then the chances are its valid. Keep notes about your work: chapter plans, characterisations, voices, timescales. You may think you’ll remember all this info in your head. But unless your memory is exceptional, it’s easy to become confused. The best example I’ve heard of a mistake in timescale was a character who’d been pregnant for 18 months! Joining a writing class or participating in a regular writer’s workshop can be helpful in terms of energising you and allowing you to give and receive feedback.
How do you remain sane while working?
I don’t work long hours, I take frequent breaks. And I make sure to have some form of company most days. My partner works from home but travels a lot with it, and when he’s away, I tend to meet up with friends more often. I swim and go to movies. And the company I have in the co-working space mentioned earlier, helps greatly.
Where do you find your inspiration?
The happier I am, the keener I am to write. Lovely photos, whether mine or someone else’s, make my spirits and emotions soar, which usually triggers the desire to communicate ‘on paper’. A sort of de-corsetting. It’ the same experience with music.
Are there any habits you wish you didn’t have?
I have a dysfunctional relationship with time. Before going out, I’ll look at the clock to see how much time I have, start getting ready, and be surprised when I check the time again and find that it’s moved on. Consequently I can be stressed when going to meet someone, and actually arriving early somewhere feels odd.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT Jane AND HER BOOK?
You can find Daughters of the Lake in Kindle or Paperback format here:
You can also catch up with Jane on her website here: quietfiction.com
WHY ‘THE THURSDAY THRONG’?
These posts are called The Thursday Throng in honour of the throng that waits eagerly outside the book store when a new author is doing a book signing event or appearance. On this website it takes the form of a ‘Meet the Author‘ online event with some information about our author’s latest book and an interview. If you would like to take part in the Thursday Throng then why not visit Thursday Throng Author Interview Guidelines to find out more.