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Interview with Beverley Jones, author of Holiday Money

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Tell us about Holiday Money.
Sensible Jen is planning her wedding to fiancé Dan, a police inspector, when a telephone call from a mystery woman throws everything into chaos. It seems clear that Dan has been having an affair and she bolts to a little hotel where she meets an enigmatic stranger called Justin. Justin seems to offer her the romance and glamour that straight-laced Dan doesn’t, maybe an opportunity to change the course of her nice but dull life.

But it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’!  Soon she’s being blackmailed and Justin turns out to be not at all what he seemed – but then, neither is Jen! As a police press officer, she starts to use her insider knowledge to play Justin at his own game. She has to ask herself what she’s prepared to do to keep her dignity and her sanity. Even if that means becoming something she never thought she could or perhaps realised she was.

Holiday Money takes a seemingly familiar premise and turns it on its head, asking the questions, Can you tell predator from prey at first glance? Is right the same as legal? And, what makes a victim?

What genre is it?
I think sometimes people want to pigeonhole books that don’t fit squarely into a single genre but if I had to describe Holiday Money it’s a contemporary literary crime thriller with dark and sinister elements. Despite the premise it isn’t chick-lit.  It sets up a situation with seemingly familiar characters – ‘the good girl’, ‘ the reliable cop’, ‘the handsome charmer’ – but turns them around and keeps the reader guessing.

What kind of readers will it appeal to?
Anyone who likes a good mystery story but relishes a bit more substance to get their teeth into! If you like being surprised, like your characters edgy and your moral dilemmas with more than a few shades of grey you’ll like this! And you’ll be asking ‘What would I do in Jen’s shoes?’

If you like….? you’ll love Holiday Money
Oh, a double edged question!  Maybe it’s easier to say if you love thrillers with black and white morality or your crimes solved by a grizzled detective with a drinking problem you won’t like this! But if you like layered and edgy psychological thrillers, maybe like those written by Kate Atkinson, you’ll love this!

Writing a book is never easy but other than that what has been the hardest part, editing or marketing?
Well, as journalist I’ve been used to having to write in different styles to different specifications and to be ruthless with editing to a word count or page design. I think that has helped me look critically at my writing and keep the reader in mind. But it can be hard if you really love a passage or piece of dialogue but your instinct is telling you it’s slowing the pace down – then it has to go! I did have some disagreements with the editors of both my novels but I think writers should bear in mind that often the editor’s suggestions are well-thought out with the reader in mind.

The marketing of the books seems to be a minefield by comparison as it’s a completely new area for me. My publisher is a small independent so in the last few months I’ve been trying to start doing some of my own marketing. I’d be lying if I said at the moment I wasn’t just flailing around in the dark but I’m learning a lot from self-published and e-authors – these guys really know their stuff! Social media is really coming into it’s own for this kind of marketing.

You’re a journalist – does that help you as a novelist or is it a completely different kind of writing?
I think journalism is great grounding for writing a crime-based novel. You deal with everything from community issues to fatal road accidents, inquests and court cases. I’ve even dealt with a few murder cases and trials. You see tragedy and cruelty and the worst of human behaviour. It seemed only natural to bring some of that into my writing. (No surprise perhaps that my first novel Telling Stories is about a young journalist who finds herself in the middle of an unpleasant situation – writing a story about a death she thinks her friends may have been involved in!)

From a more practical point of view it also makes you think about the importance of editing and how ‘stories’ are constructed – news is just a variety of stories constructed from facts and opinions and given a particular slant for a particular audience. In a way it’s not that different from fiction!

How do you write, according or a schedule or when inspiration comes calling?
A bit of both, to be honest! I can easily sit down and write from nine in the morning until 11 at night, three days in a row. But then I might spend two days just mulling over a plot and ideas in my head – scenes and dialogue often fly at me from unexpected directions, usually when I’m out running! My comfy settee’s also great for ‘head-writing’ sessions.

I don’t think there’s any point in saying – ‘It’s 9.15am so I must start writing and I must write 10,000 words today!’ That’s not how it works for me.

But equally there has to be an element of discipline. I suppose it depends on whether you’re a planner or a last minute crammer who needs the pressure to produce. I tend to treat writing like a job, say I’ll complete this draft/these chapters by a certain advance date, set my own deadline. If I finish sooner, then great. If I’m not producing anything I look at what’s not working and revise my approach but still try and work to that deadline as if it were fixed.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I went to school in Ferndale in the South Wales Valleys then after university I did my training at The Rhondda Leader, a weekly newspaper in South Wales. I also worked at The Western Mail, the Welsh national daily, and finally at BBC Wales on broadcast news. More recently I have worked as a press officer for South Wales Police, sort of ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ where I worked on all sorts of investigations, operations and security planning projects.

There can be a tremendous amount of pressure in both these roles (which are actually quite similar, you’re just on opposite sides of the coin). The emergency services deal with death and tragedy and that’s the bread and butter of the press/media. There’s always something bad happening to someone, usually before you’ve eaten breakfast/just as you’re hoping to go home/at three a clock on a Sunday morning –it goes with the territory. But with the emergencies and deadlines there was never much time (or energy) left to write. So now I’m taking a year to give undivided attention to my next book. Ask me again in 12 months if this was a good, bad or mad decision!

Have you got a blog where readers can keep up with your work?
You can having a nose at my blog where I rant about books and things that interest me.   It’s only been going about a month and is getting about 250 hits a week, so that’s a good start! Please come and argue with me – I love a good literary scrap!

I’m on Twitter @bevjoneswriting

What’s next?
Both Telling Stories and Holiday Money have been sold to Goldmann Verlag for publication in translation in German, which is very exciting. I am awaiting a final November publication date for Telling Stories. I’m also awaiting a publication date for Telling Stories in Dutch with Bruna in Holland.

It’s a strange feeling to think that people could soon be reading my books in German and Dutch as well as English. They are set in the Welsh Valleys, Cardiff and South Wales but are modern and contemporary and I think they tell human stories that anyone can relate to. Maybe I can help put The Valleys and South Wales on the crime fiction and mystery map!

In the meantime I’m finishing the draft of my third novel – it’s about 80pc there but needs one big push. I’m not telling you what it’s about yet – you’ll have to wait and see! It’s a crime thriller, similar in tone, though unlike the first two books this one is told by four people instead of a single narrator!  If I can sort out the voices in my head, and not go mad, hopefully it’ll be in good shape by Christmas!

Where can we buy Holiday Money?
From Amazon – UK, USA.

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Enjoyed this interview? Then check out our interview with Peggy Edelheit!

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3 Comments

  1. Course I ‘like’ it – I wrote it! Hee, hee – thanks IndieAuthorland!

  2. Terry Tyler

    Yeah it woz well good Bev :) (Sorry, that was me being ‘street’)

  3. Writer Envy

    Gripped by Holiday Money and Telling Stories and you’re bang on,this isn’t chick lit!
    Loved the dark and twisted threads in both the books and that your female characters are refreshingly complex and flawed and even dark.
    I loved them both. But did you think such complex female characters were a risk for your first books?
    (Definitely a risk worth taking in my book!)

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