Interview: Jane Risdon

On 24 May the paperback edition of Only One Woman will be released.  I caught up with one of the co-authors Jane Risdon over email to find out more about this 1960s romance.

Jane Risdon

Your book, Only One Woman, will be released in paperback on 24 May. Looking on your website, it seems that Only One Woman is based on your own true stories of being in love with the same man, even though you didn’t know each other at the time. How much of the book is fiction? Was it inspired by your diaries, or is it more of a memoir?

Donna, thanks so much for inviting me to talk to you.

Actually Only One Woman is not quite a memoir and the love story is fictional. It is true that both Christina and I have a shared past. My boyfriend (now husband) was in a band and their manager hired Christina to be their fan-club secretary. She was a rock/pop journalist and short story writer for teen magazines so was perfect for the role. We did know of each other and used to keep in touch but I didn’t actually meet her until mine and my husband’s son was at school and taught by her mother. We all bumped into each other in a supermarket one day.

The book is mostly fiction but as with all writers, some events and experiences find their way into the stories we write. The music scene and life back in the late 1960s was magical and it had a profound effect upon us all living through it as teenagers. So Christina and I couldn’t fail to let some things creep in from our own experiences and emotions. I knew what life with a lead guitarist and his band was like as we shared a house for a while and I’ve lived overseas a lot of my life. My husband and I later went on to manage musicians, songwriters, singers and record producers internationally, so I have decades of experiences to call upon when writing about anything music-related.

I went on to write crime/thrillers and a few other genres but never romance, so writing about anything other than crime has been a huge challenge for me. I’m not a natural romantic.

Christina has interviewed many famous bands and musicians during her life as a rock/pop journalist and she is also an award-winning, bestselling author of romances so she has plenty of experience writing about romantic relationships.

The diaries you mention were diaries I kept when young and also diaries my husband and I kept, and still keep, relating to our lives in music.  Therefore I had them to delve into for research. When I was young and living abroad I was able to record daily life, events and things happening with my boyfriend’s band. Later when we were involved the international music business, diaries were essential in keeping everything under control: touring, recording, meetings and travel across the world. They’ve proved invaluable. Touring schedules, photos, posters etc., have also been so useful. Everyone on ‘the circuit’, in the 1960s played the same venues, had similar experiences, and having the information to hand was so helpful when putting Narnia’s Children on the road. The materials we have kept from recent times should prove just as useful in the future should another music-related novel, perhaps a sequel, gets written.

It was when unpacking from a move in 2012 that I found the diaries and other memorabilia and began to look at them with a view to writing about music and possibly a crime story. However, as I began to make notes, I realised that there was the basis for another kind of story, possibly a love story. Christina and I have always wanted to write together but we couldn’t see how, given we both write in different genres. Then it hit me, we could write this story as a romance and it could work. I began writing about Renza, Scott and Narnia’s Children in diary format, and when I’d completed what I’d written, I sent it to Christina to write her parts and character, Stella.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the story?

Yes indeed. It is set in 1968/1969 and the locations for the story include England, Scotland, Jersey, France, Germany and a Mediterranean cruise.

The story starts when Narnia’s Children arrive in a village to take up temporary residence in a flat over a hairdressers whilst they record and tour. Lead Guitarist, Scott soon discovers that his flat overlooks the garden and house where Renza lives with her five siblings and domineering mother. Her father is overseas and they are due to join him within weeks.

Renza is the last to know they are there. Her school mates know and descend upon her to flaunt themselves in her back garden. But Scott has eyes only for Renza.  He falls in love with her before they’ve even met. He sends notes to her eventually, via her siblings, and reluctantly her mother allows her to respond.  Eventually they go on a ‘date’; a walk around the village and Renza falls for Scott too.

Renza experiences the life a band lives whilst touring and a whole new world opens up for her. But she has to leave for another country. They vow to marry and hope three years will pass fast.

Narnia’s Children tour and record, but Scott is miserable until he meets Stella one night at a gig near her home. She is facing a life-changing operation the next day and her friend Vix takes her out to take her mind off it. Stella believes she is not going to survive the operation and throws caution to the wind when her eyes meet Scott’s.

And so begins our love triangle. The novel is filled with references to the music and fashions of the era, the way of life, and how the Cold War and social change shape all their lives.

The book is based in the 1960s. Have you been inspired by the current popularity of vintage fashion and culture? Do you think right now is a good time to release a book based in the 1960s?

Actually I started Only One Woman in 2012 and I’m not sure if there was any nostalgia for the 1960s at that time. I mentioned previously that I normally write crime and Christina writes what she calls ’Bucolic Frolics’. Neither had a mind to write a nostalgic romance many years ago when we decided we’d like to write together. Romance was certainly not on my mind. I have no idea about trends and fashions in writing as I have been immersed in the music business since the year dot, so writing to fit a trend never entered my head.

I know that the 1960s is very fashionable now. I’ve noticed it now that we have written a novel set back then, but we have not deliberately set about fitting with a trend. The book came to be because that is our era, a time we know well and the whole story of Narnia’s Children began then. It is the story of so many bands on the road at that time, the story of so many girls who loved fashion and music and, for the first time, were able to express their idol worship and follow musicians on TV, radio, and in the papers; when it was easy to go and watch bands, anywhere, any day of the week.

Having recently watched the Michael Caine documentary My Generation, set in the 1960s, about the supermodels, bands, fashion designers, and the artists in London conquering the world, I can see that nostalgia for the 1960s is growing. So yes, it is a good time for Only One Woman. It was originally scheduled for publication in 2014, but due to events beyond our control, it wasn’t until November 2017 that the e-pub and paperback for Kindle was published, with 24 May 2018 scheduled for publication of the paperback and audio book edition too. A happy coincidence, serendipity.

Our paperback edition will have a few additional extras such as a foreword written by an iconic rock singer, so watch the Only One Woman Facebook Page for details nearer the time.

Christina Jones

As you said earlier you both wrote your sections of the book and Christina added hers after.  Can you tell me more about the process?

We submitted it to our publisher in 2014 and in 2017 began edits with various editors for a 2017 publication. At that time the book was 130,000 words long and we thought we’d finished it. Our last editor asked us to write more chapters in the form of diary entries and so we spent the middle of 2017 writing furiously. The book is now 160,000 words and 500 pages in total. But we are told it is a very fast read. Some of our readers, including men, have read it more than once as they love it so much.

We communicated via email, text and Facebook messages if necessary, but really never discussed much apart from checking datelines, names, and character descriptions. I had no idea what Christina had written until she finished her part and sent it to me to read before it went in to the publisher.

She has my story and characters to work from and if she added a character that Renza or Scott needed to interact with later when we were adding the additional diary entries, she’d let me know so I could work it in to my parts if necessary.

The 1960s were a period of massive social change. Does change and transformation play a big part in the plot of the novel?

Social changes during the 1960s play a huge role in the book. The characters are the product of the Baby Boom after World War 2. Their parents are the product of parents who were born during the Victorian/Edwardian era and, in Renza’s case, were very strict. Scott’s parents are divorced: still a social ‘no-no’ in those times. Renza’s family are not impressed. Women were second class citizens in the main, they could not buy a home on their own, and their husbands got their wives’ tax returns addressed to them, not her. The middle-classes didn’t really come into contact with people unlike themselves, though Scott’s family were well off and middle class too. Girls dressed modestly, behaved in a ladylike manner and there were strict social rules. Renza would never have gone into a pub, certainly not alone and would have thought twice about staying out late with a young man. There was respect for parents, police, their elders, and everyone followed rules. So when the Swinging Sixties started to impact, lives were changed forever. Out with the old and in with free love, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. This is all reflected in the novel. Plus the Cold War was part of everyday life, as was the Vietnam War. It is all in Only One Woman and has a great deal of bearing on the way the characters react and behave. It is a social history if you like.

How important is 1960s music and fashion to your novel? If you moved it to a different time period would it still work?

So very important. None of it would have worked quite as well in another era, except perhaps the 1970s. These days there seems not to be any rules and respect is a dirty word. Clothing is the same as it was back in the 1960s. Girls wear mini dresses and skirts, skimpy tops (though more revealing now), long boots, and make-up still goes in fashions it seems. Music is still important, but it looks to me that the way kids devour it today is different. We cherished long playing vinyl records and adored the artwork on the covers, the sleeve notes, and thanks to The Beatles’ innovation, the printed lyrics inside. Loyalty to the bands from the 1960s is still strong and once a fan, is always a fan even half a century later. I don’t see that loyalty today. No-one owns a physical recording.  They have downloads stored on a phone, and pick and choose tracks to keep. The live show is more about a spectacle than a musical event and more is earned from ticket sales and merchandise than it was back when. The live scene has suffered badly. Anyone making a noise in front of a microphone is a diva, a star and gets mega-rich fast. I blame Simon Cowell. Talent has been replaced with hype.

I am not sure if you could transport the whole book to the modern era. Life, attitudes and culture are so very different. However, another novel for the 1970s and beyond would work for our characters as they would be living and maturing as time passes and will have moved with the times.

Do you usually write solo? What were some of the challenges in producing a collaborative piece?

Christina is a successful author in her own right with many books under her belt. She has been published by most of the top publishers and in many languages. She is a bestselling, award-winning author. Writing with someone is a first for her and for me too. We both write alone usually.

I don’t feel we encountered any particular challenges. It was an odd way to write, not seeing what the whole book was like until it was completed and she sent it to me. But we both know the era and the subject well, and it just happened. She has read some of my work before and I knew her style, but I didn’t adapt my style to suit her’s, and I doubt she changed anything about her style to fit mine.

After the paperback is out, are there any more joint projects in the pipeline? What lies in the future for you both?

Once Only One Woman is published in May we will continue to do promotional events and work for it and this will be ongoing we are sure. If our publisher feels there is sufficient demand she might consider a sequel which keeps being asked for by those who have read the e-pub and Kindle paperback.  Perhaps but who knows!

Christina is writing her next book which has to be in with her publisher quite soon for a September publication date. I am sure she has other novels in the pipeline. She has a huge fan-base who need feeding soon.

I have my crime/thriller series about a former MI5 Officer, Ms Birdsong Investigates. Book 1 is in with my publisher but they are not scheduling new releases for a while so I have to wait. Books 2 and 3 in the series are nearly ready. I may begin Book 4, but until I know what is going on with Book 1, I may wait.

I also have several other novels in various stages of completion, mostly crime stories.

As well as novels I write short stories.  I have been published in 13 anthologies to date.  I also write short stories and articles (often music related) for online magazine and newsletters, and I shall continue with these.

What piece of advice would you give someone wanting to write a novel? Where is the best place to start with research if you want to set your novel in a historical period?

I am not an expert on historical novel writing, there are so many who are. I think with any novel which relies upon a setting, such as Only One Woman, it is best to have a really good idea of the location and how it looked and was at the time you wish to set it.  I suppose this involves a lot of research, local papers, parish registers and so on.  It must depend on what sort of historical novel too.

Because we both lived during the era in which our novel is set, we relied upon our own personal memories and experiences. We both created a fictional village and characters, but as we knew the era, it was easy to place our characters there.

I’ve written a couple of stories which have pirates as the main characters and one was set in the 17th century.  Most of the action takes place at sea and the ship puts in at Caracas, Venezuela and Galveston Island off of Texas USA. I did a lot of research online for the story. It is a two-part story and I had an audio recording made It is called The Secret of Willow Cottage.  Part 1 is The Tale of the Reluctant Bride and Part 2 is The Tale of the Jilted Lover. It is on my Author blog if anyone wants to hear it.

The other Pirate story I wrote is in Shiver, an Accent Press anthology. It is called The Haunting of Anne Chambers and is set in Paul in Cornwall.  It spans the 18th and 21st centuries. I know the area in Cornwall as we used to have a recording studio nearby. I used the internet to check facts to include in the story.

My advice is write what you know and what you can research easiest. Keep writing simple. In order to write better, and more accurate crime novels, I have undertaken seven online university courses in Forensic Science and Criminal Justice so that I don’t trip myself up with inaccurate facts. I think getting to know your subject is vital, whatever you write.

You can find out more about Jane on her blog or by following her on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Goodreads.

You can find more information about Only One Woman on the book blog or Facebook.

Renza and Stella from the book also have their own YouTube Playlists to enjoy as you read with their favourite songs from the book.  I had a look and I like Renza’s the best!

Please let me know if you read the book and what you think of it.

6 Comments on “Interview: Jane Risdon

  1. Donna, thanks so much for hosting me. It has been a lot of fun and I hope your readers enjoy it as much as I have writing it. I hope those who lived through the magical 1960s enjoyed the walk down memory lane with Only One Woman, and those who were not around then, get to discover what all the fuss is about. It really was the grooviest decade of the 20th century and I was lucky to have been part of it.

    1. It was lovely to have you Jane. I am looking forward to reading the book! I love the 1960s and even though I wasn’t there it’s probably my favourite vintage decade to visit now.

  2. What a fascinating life both writers have had! I’m sure the book will be a great success. Here’s wishing it so! I love reading autobiographies and memoirs, and feel sure that, so-called ‘fictional’ works, carry more than a little truth in between their pages… I wrote ‘My Gentle War’ about part of my early life: mainly 1939-1946 – a HUGE time of change. Best wishes.

    1. I agree Joy. It does sound fascinating, especially with so much glamour and showbiz. Your book looks very interesting. Have put it on my To Read list. If you wanted to be interviewed about it for my blog I would love to have you.

    2. Joy, how kind. Thanks. Yes of course there is always some fact in a fictionalised novel such as Only One Woman – the fun is getting everyone guessing which bits! Thanks for reading this. I shall go and check out your book too. My mother gave me so much background information for my family history research and those years were really interesting to me especially. Such different times. Good luck with yours. x

  3. What a totally fascinating interview. I am so impressed that you wrote this book completely separately. I’m reading it now and enjoying it very much. I turned thirteen in 1968, so was a bit younger than Renza, but I remember the fashions, Carnaby Street (I lived in London) and the huge explosion of rock music that carried on into the seventies. A fascinating walk down memory lane for me! Lovely to read more about it!

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