Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Friends

Our Friday Friend this week is Jan Bowles, who lives with her husband in an old farmhouse in Lincolnshire, England, UK. She would like to think that she's a free spirit, having lived in various parts of the UK and Europe.
When she's not writing Jan likes to paint large landscapes and sweeping vistas. She loves walking, and looking in old antique shops. There just might be something someone has overlooked.

HWH: Jan, welcome and thanks for being with us.

JAN: Thank you for inviting me, Paula.

HWH: Let’s start at the beginning and tell us when and why you started writing.

JAN: I love being creative. You know, making something entirely from scratch. Just like painting, weaving a story feels so expressive.

When I was much younger, I read one romance book after another. I think I was addicted to them. It was a way of escaping into a fantasy world.

Later I began to think that I could do that, and decided to write one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I’d first thought. I found I ran out of ideas very quickly. The older I am, the easier it is has become. I guess there are a lot more life experiences with which to draw on.

HWH: How easy or difficult was it to get your first book published?

JAN: Rejection is difficult to swallow. I’ve a whole drawer full of rejection letters.

Fifteen years ago I had so many rejections, that I shelved writing entirely. Last year my husband retrieved my manuscripts from the loft, and I looked at them all with a fresh pair of eyes. I saw all the mistakes. I thought I can do better than that.

I re-wrote ‘The Return’ and eventually received a contract for it from Siren-Bookstrand.

My motto to would be authors is never give up. If you think you have the ability keep plugging away. Eventually you will succeed.

HWH: Good advice for us all!
Some writers work from a detailed synopsis, others let the characters take them. How do you plot your novels?

JAN: I have a plot, and I create a storyboard with it. One chapter per box. But I have to admit, my characters do have a life of their own. Sometimes they will lead me through their conversations, into something quite unexpected. I think when that starts to happen, the characters really come alive, and this will also show to your readers.

The characters in my latest release, ‘Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire’, took me in a totally different direction. Eva St. John, and the Texas oilman Jack McClaine, really do make the sparks fly.

HWH: I completely agree that your characters come alive when you let them surprise you sometimes. Apart from those sparks flying, what do you think makes a good romance novel?

JAN: Emotion, passion, and a happily ever after. I think the reader would feel cheated if you missed any of those out.

HWH: What’s the best writing advice you’ve received/read?

JAN: Always make a detailed list of your characters attributes for your book. It really helps when deciding on what will happen in a given situation. From the colour of their eyes, right down to their mannerisms, there can never be too much information. I even give my characters an education. Yes, really. I decide whether they have further education, or whether they never really had an education at all. It all makes for a more rounded character, and one that the reader can believe in.

HWH: That’s interesting advice, and something I’ve never actually done. Must admit I tend to learn about my characters as I go along and again sometimes they surprise me by revealing something about their past life!
Now, what’s your cure for writer’s block, or when you get stuck somewhere in a story?

JAN: I leave well alone. One can’t force the muse to flow. I usually go away and do some gardening, or feed the fish. Both of which are very therapeutic.

HWH: Wouldn’t work for me, I’m afraid! I don’t like gardening and I don’t have any fish. Maybe I should buy some!
Let’s talk now about your books. Your novel ‘The Return’ is about a hostage who returns home after 2 years. What inspired you to write this story?

JAN: I originally wrote this story some fifteen years ago. It was inspired by the John McCarthy and Jill Morrell story.

He was a journalist working Beirut, Lebanon. He was taken hostage and held captive for five years. For 1,943 days he was chained to a radiator. When he returned to Britain he was a changed man. He was the most traumatised of all the hostages taken.

Jill Morrell never gave up on him, though she did have some idea that John was alive.

I wondered what would have happened if she’d been convinced that he was dead. Would she have moved on, and what would he have thought if she had?

‘The Return’ is based loosely on that premise. It is about coming to terms with betrayal, loss, and forgiveness. Ultimately, it is about falling in love again.
It centres on Robert Tremayne, an English journalist who is captured by the Islamic Jihad, and held hostage for two years. When he returns to Britain, he finds everything changed. His sweetheart, Marielle Stevens, has moved on with her life. His sense of betrayal and loss consume him. Will he ever find forgiveness in his heart?

HWH: Like many people, I was intrigued by the story of how Jill Morrell never gave up while John was being held captive, so I look forward to reading your angle on this story.
Your second book is completely different. Tell us more!

JAN: ‘Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire’ is about English beauty Eva St. John, who is flown to Texas to shadow rugged billionaire oilman Jack McClaine, for the magazine article she is writing.

He has a reputation as a fast living, womanising rogue, who has quite literally come from the wrong side of the tracks. A self-made man who always gets what he wants.

Still nurturing a broken heart and a secret past she left behind her long ago, Eva intends to remain professional at all times. Will she be able to resist the inevitable sexual advances of the predatory Texan, Jack McClaine? Will she really want to?

I really the love the character of Jack McClaine, he’s flawed, and yet so loveable. He’s a real Texan, with a gritty past, and an eye for the ladies. I guess Eva will have her hands full when it comes to taming him! J

HWH: Jack McClaine sounds like one sexy guy!
Finally, what are you working on now?

JAN: I’m working on a mystery suspense at the moment. It involves an English archaeologist as the heroine, and an American archaeologist as the hero. The hero has recently lost his family, and his inability to come to terms with that, sends him on a slippery downward slope into the seedier side of life.

Fortunately, the heroine is able to reach him, and guide him back to a more stable way of life.

HWH: Another interesting scenario, particularly with the archaeology setting, I look forward to it.

‘The Return’ and ‘Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire’ are available through Siren-Bookstrand -

Here’s an excerpt from ‘Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire’
“Why, Miss Eva St. John, I feel about as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party.” Jack McClaine spoke as mild amusement played around his silver-grey eyes.
Eva eyed him warily. It was only two days since she had first laid eyes on the rugged Texan. Now his lithe, athletic frame perched on the desk, her desk. He looked every inch at home, as if he belonged there. Wearing a light grey suit, he seemed to think his very tall six-foot-three-inch frame had somehow a right to be there.
“Just what is going on, Mr. McClaine?” Eva folded her arms across her chest, her mouth compressed with indignation, as she waited for his answer. Her gaze was drawn inexorably to his, and like a laser it burned into her. Then as a smile spread from his eyes down to the deep dimples at the side of his mouth, she felt the breath escape from her lips in a silent gasp. Why did he have to be so damned attractive? She had to fight the sudden urge to push the stray hair back that had fallen forward across his forehead.
“Mr. McClaine, are you going to answer my question?”
“Hold on now, darlin’, I thought we were on first-name terms already.” He smiled at her in amusement.
“No, we’re not.” She slumped into her chair and glared up at him. “Andrew Jameson could shadow you for a month. Why do you want me? I won’t be a pushover, you know. I’ll certainly write exactly what I think.”
He smiled easily and twisted around to meet her frosty gaze. “Now, why would I want Andrew Jameson to shadow me for a whole month? Live in my home. Share my food. Share my life. Why would I want him when I’d be much happier with you?”
Eva picked up a pen and pointed it at him. “You, Mr. McClaine, have a reputation. If you are expecting anything but a working relationship, then you are mistaken.”
“Well, that’s settled then, honey.”
She looked up watching the amusement play around his eyes. The creases channelled down to his mouth. “Don’t look so smug, Mr. McClaine. You may regret your decision to invite New Dawn magazine into your home. You may not like what I write. Be careful what you wish for, Mr. McClaine.”
“Darlin’, I’ve never regretted anything in my life.”
“I told you once before, Mr. McClaine, I’m not your honey, and I’m telling you now, I’m not your darling either.”
He laughed. “Eva, it’s just a figure of speech. It don’t mean anything.”
That afternoon a huge row developed with her boss, Simon Jessop, but he wouldn’t back down. If she pulled this off, he’d give her a raise. Even more than that, he’d give her a promotion. She wanted to know why he thought Jack McClaine specifically asked for her to do the article. His thoughts exactly mirrored her own. He had lifted his hands in the air, an expression of helplessness on his face, and said, “You’re a big girl, Eva. I’m sure you can handle yourself, and Jack McClaine.”
Well, thanks!
Eva felt like a dish served up specifically for Jack McClaine’s pleasure. What’s more, her boss had handed her over on a solid silver platter.
JAN: Ha, ha, I think Eva will have to keep her wits about her where Jack McClaine is concerned.

HWH: You’re right about those sparks flying between them!
Thanks very much for joining us today, Jan, and telling is about yourself and your books

JAN: You’re welcome, Paula. I’ve really enjoyed it, Jan.

Jan’s website is at

STOP PRESS NEWS: 'Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire' reached #1 in Bookstrands 14 day mainstream list, after only 6 days. It also received 5 stars from the reviewer at Manic Readers:


  1. Fantastic and interesting interview. Can't wait to read The Return. Funny how Jill was so faithful and hardworking on John's behalf but he married someone else after they broke up.
    Some useful tips Jan, will have to try being that bit more methodical. And Congrats on being No. l.
    Great interview Paula.

  2. Thanks for the kind words Margaret. I really hope all is well with you.

    I felt sorry for Jill Morrell, she was so faithful and courageous. She must have felt let down, but then I'm sure John came back with many demons. Just like my hero Robert Tremayne
    Jan xx

  3. Hey, Jan,

    Congrats on the great reviews!

    As a writer, I struggle with revisions. Just when I think my chapter is perfect, my critique partner sends it back with so many highlights I want to cry!

    What tips can you give a writer on what to look for when revising?


  4. Hi Jan,
    Thank you for being so generous in your interview!

    I have two simmering drafts that I have been trying to upgrade. (I have learned much about craft since I wrote them.)

    You said you pulled out old drafts and reworked them. Can you descrive how that went / worked for you? Obviously, you were successful.


  5. Hi Toni

    Thank you for your kind words.

    My tip would be, keep the conversations tight. Try not to interrupt them with too much narrative.

    Strangely or not, depending on how you view things, I read my manuscript out loud to my husband, chapter by chapter. If he doesn't think they have enough pace, I revise them.

    Reading them out loud gives a much better indication of pace. If I read them to myself, I just can't judge that.

    I think I've thrown thousands of words out in this way. Of course, because he is my husband he is able to tell me straight, and cuts no punches ;-)

    Best wishes

  6. Wonderful Interview,Jan! Your books are on my TBR list!

    hugs, Kari Thomas, Paranormal Romance Author,

  7. Hi Ana

    Thanks for your comments.

    In my case, the first 2 chapters I kept, and re worked the rest, from scratch. There were a few passages that I kept and the general idea, but it was better to start again.

    This worked for me. I've also split a manuscript up into short reads. One of them is on NightOwlReviews. ;-)

    Best wishes

  8. Hi Kari

    Thans for stopping by, and reading my interview.

    A big congratulations to you for your recent success at LRC!!

    Best Wishes to you for 2010