I’m so pleased to offer up this week’s Author Dream Series post with author Jen Wilson!
Hi Tam, and thanks for inviting me to join you on your blog today.
I’ve always loved reading about history, mainly non-fiction as a child and teen, then historical fiction once I had left university, and found time to read proper stories again. Deep down, once I began writing, it was always my dream to write historical fiction, but with a full-time job, then studying again, then working again in the job I’m in now, there simply wasn’t time for the research and hard work a ‘proper’ historical fiction novel requires, ensuring the right people are at the right place at the right time. So I tried other things for a while, short stories, then poetry. I loved writing poetry, but history kept pulling me back, and in 2009, I gave National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a go, and managed a 50,000-word draft of a story my friend and I had dreamed up whilst wandering Scottish castles on holiday together. It. Was. Awful.
But it did rekindle my passion for historical fiction. And I started working on more and more ideas, drafting opening after opening, trying to find a better ‘way in’ to the story I wanted to tell. Only, that story was proving hard to come by – I knew I wanted to write about the 1400s or 1500s, and include court life in some way, but no story seemed to fit. It took until 2013 for true inspiration to strike. I found a competition for a poem about ghosts, and started thinking about Richard III (I am a Ricardian, and proud of it!), and Anne Boleyn, who I was reading a lot about at the time. It occurred to me that if their ghosts were to meet, they might have a lot in common. And the most logical place for their ghosts to meet would surely be the Tower of London? As with the 2009 ‘novel’, the poem was awful, but the idea kept niggling away at me, so again, NaNoWriMo came to my aid, and by the end of November 2013, I had my first draft!
One royal funeral (they found Richard III’s body under a carpark in the interim, and I won a place to be at part of his reburial!), a lot of editing and even more nerve later, I submitted it, and there it was, October 2015: Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, by Jennifer C. Wilson.
Talk about a dream come true.
But what next? In my head, a string of bestselling novels, a couple of competition wins perhaps, who knows where it could lead? In reality, fretting over putting pen to paper, and wondered what on earth I would do if nobody wanted to hear about a second novel? Finally, I realised I had the perfect opportunity to return to one of my childhood heroines, Mary Queen of Scots, and explore her afterlife, and see what she would be getting up to in Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities. After years of visiting the places she visited, and reading about her life, this was finally my chance, and thankfully, it worked out. Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile came out in June.
So that’s me, Jennifer C. Wilson, author. Author of a series, no less (I’m currently working on what I hope will become a third). Thinking back to when I was filling notebooks with endless ideas that never got anywhere, it’s hard to believe that dream has indeed become a reality. But it has, and it keeps growing (as does the collection of filled notebooks!). I’ve got a sign in my living room: Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen (John Steinbeck). When my friend first gave me it, I thought it was nice, but didn’t really realise how true it was. A couple of months ago, I wrote up a table of ideas that I wanted to explore, and it really is a shame that I also have my dream ‘day job’, because in terms of workload, I could do this all day every day!
As a child, I wanted to be a writer, and a marine biologist, and unbelievably, I’ve managed to become both, so that’s not too shabby for childhood goals! I’ve even combined the two, writing a couple of papers and book chapters about offshore wind farms and their interactions with the marine environment. Yes, it can be difficult to juggle work and writing, but oddly, I’ve found that the busier I am at work, the more productive I am at my writing. I’m a stickler for lists, and try to treat both as professionally as I can, setting targets, deadlines etc. If it doesn’t go on the list, it doesn’t get done.
Sometimes I cannot believe how lucky I’ve been to fulfil my goals. All I have to do now is keep going…
About The Author
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.
Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile was released on 1st June 2017. She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website.