Hello lovely readers.
As we head into December and the year comes to a close, I’m taking stock of what I’m writing currently, under two names, three genres. I have a new novel to be published in December, one in February, and several more on the way. I thought I’d share where I’m at with you, and take a look at the journey so far…
I’m not the sort of person who likes to work on a novel at the last minute, with fierce deadlines looming. I know it’s quite exciting to be typing into the night drinking mugs of coffee, trying to complete a hundred thousand words due to be submitted the day after tomorrow. But I’m quite prolific and focused, so I like to be ahead of the game a little bit, giving myself plenty of opportunity to plan ahead, to have thinking time and the chance to go back and change.
The other day someone reminded me that my first novel, A Grand Old Time, came out in the spring of 2018, so in the last four years, I’ve had twelve books published. My first two were with Harper Collins, and I was lucky to work with lovely people there who helped me to get started on my writing career. My background is in theatre and teaching, but I first started writing full-time after doing a masters, and since then I’ve been trying to create inclusive stories featuring people of all age groups, uplifting tales in which older women are central protagonists and I want to celebrate their lives, often discovering second chances of happiness.
I was fortunate to be signed by Boldwood Books, a brilliant publisher. I’m blessed with a lovely agent, Kiran, who is warm, knowledgeable and wise, and I’ve benefited from her advice so much. My current novel, The Highland Hens, tells the story of the indomitable and mischievous ex-chorus girl Mimi, living with her three handsome sons at the edge of Loch Ness. She loves the chance to be in the spotlight and goes to lunch in a ball gown and tiara. I think that’s how we all might want to be when we’re 88. I loved writing that novel – it was a little bit different, the Scottish setting, the lonely central character, the three handsome and devoted sons and Mimi’s close relationship with kind and sensitive Jess, her carer. The ending was sad too – not all novels can end in complete joy, and I wanted this one to reflect both sides of Mimi’s life, the chance to love and the possibility of loss.
My next novel is The Golden Oldies’ Book Club, set in a cider-making village in Somerset where the community meet to discuss the classics. I enjoyed working on the way the characters’ own lives reflect their opinion of the novels they read. Jeannie thinks that Tess in Tess of the D’Urbervilles should be treated with more respect. Aurora and Danielle believe that, like Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, true love will never be theirs. Verity, like Cathy in Wuthering Heights, has two men competing for her heart and when Ruth reads Lady Chatterley’s Lover, she realises just what she’s been missing!
Recently, I’ve been writing as Elena Collins, (named after my grandma Nell who was a healer and told fortunes.) Writing in this genre is so exciting: my dual time line spooky historical debut, The Witch’s Tree, is a best seller and I’ve had so much positive feedback about it. The novel tells of Selena, who comes to Sloe Cottage in Somerset to escape the difficulties in her life and to concentrate on her painting. But she soon realises she is not alone. In 1683, sweet milkmaid Grace lives in Slaugh Cottage. These are dangerous times for dreamers, and rumours and gossip can be deadly…
The Lady of the Loch is out in February, and I can’t wait for you to read what happens when twin sisters Leah and Zoe arrive at Ravenscraig Castle in the Highlands, to discover that they should probably stay away from the tower in the southwest wing. In 1306, feisty Agnes falls in love with a warrior of Robert de Brus and dares to dream of happiness. I loved writing this novel. It’s a love story, but it’s also about the characters’ desire to live life to the full, to grasp opportunity and to make change happen. It’s about independence, ambition and loyalty. It was also a chance for me to write about the Highlands again. I have no drop of Scottish blood, but the scenery is truly breathtaking, and the history is full of passion and drama. I hope I’ve captured it in the story of Agnes and her warrior, and reflected it the parallel story of the modern timeline.
I’ve also written the next Judy Leigh novel for 2023, which was such a thrill as I allowed myself to return to the place where I spent my chidhood. My characters live in an Oxfordshire village; one of them lives in Oxford itself, both places connected by the river Cherwell. It’s a story of several women between the ages of 22 and 91, each with their own problem to resolve. It’s about the strength and support that exists between women and how true friendship is priceless.
I’ve also just finished writing the third Elena Collins dual timeline spooky novel. I visited the east of the UK to do my research, and I had great fun in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge and Essex, talking to people and researching fascinating sites. It was an inspirational time and it resulted in writing the story of two women who have an uncanny link, spanning the past and the present. That novel, with the working title of Daughter of the Fens, is now safely filed, to be edited a couple of times before I send it on to the experts whose opinions I value so much.
And now I’ve started another novel about two very different, strong but flawed women who have an unlikely friendship. More about that soon.
Also – incredibly exciting news!! – I have a four-book deal from Boldwood to write a series in a completely different genre. I’ve written the first one already and I loved creating it so much. I hope you’ll enjoy the lively characters, the gorgeous location and the twists and turns. More about that next year.
I’m taking a week off to read some novels in December. I always find it stimulating to read and review exciting books. I have a huge TBR pile, including MJ Porter, Maddie Please, Anita Faulkner, Kath McGurl, Fay Keenan and TA Williams. I’m looking forward to curling up by the fire and enjoying those…
Thanks so much for reading my blog and spending time listening to me rabbit about what I’m doing at the moment. It really is a privilege to be able to write novels and I’m so grateful to everyone who reads them. It’s been great to catch up. I hope you’ll enjoy reading more of my books.
Lots of love and warmest wishes,