Jane Bailey – Q&A

Jane Bailey is the author of What Was Rescued, Mad Joy and Tommy Glover’s Sketch of Heaven. Her latest novel, Lark Song was published by on 5 June 2018.

Jane kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Lark Song.

I started out trying to write a modern take on Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, but with a man, Duncan, trying to woo a widow. The dead husband, Reuben, keeps popping up in all his glory, whether in memory or photographs or other treasured objects, and like Mrs. De Winter, he is tormented by the dead spouse. A venomous mother-in-law (mother to the dead Reuben) is hell-bent on nipping any nascent relationship in the bud, and makes Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca look like a pussycat. Add three dysfunctional children who don’t want a replacement father, and Duncan has his work cut out. But determined to find out about his dead rival, Duncan stumbles upon some shocking secrets. What to do with them is his horrifying dilemma.

2. What inspired the book?

Secrets, lies and torment are always a good starting place. I had recently married a widow, which made me think of Rebecca and how much I liked the idea of a powerful, tormenting character who isn’t there. Another idea bouncing around was how easily women (in particular) delude themselves to protect their families (Freya realizes she has made her husband up ‘out of scraps’), and how children – especially small children – are often the litmus paper of family chemistry. So often their seemingly odd or dysfunctional behaviour reflects what’s really going on beneath the surface in families.

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?

I definitely keep planning to a minimum, and I don’t always start at the beginning, but with any scene I feel passionate about. I do have to have an idea for an ending or I can’t make my way there. It always changes though, but writing would be so dull if you couldn’t keep trying things out along the way. Usually somewhere around the middle I have to write a timescale or I get lost. By the nth edit, of course, it has all been meticulously worked out.

4. Having been through the publishing process a few times is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?

I am still surprised by the way ideas arrive, perhaps on waking at night or while doing something completely different. As for the publishing process, all publishers are different, but the most terrifying editorial suggestions usually turn out to be good. Novels benefit from the editing process. It is a chance to look critically again and again at something you thought and hoped was finished.

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

I tutor a lot with First Story, a charity set up to bring creative writing to schools serving low income areas. I have also tutored young people in Gloucestershire hospitals, and for the Arvon Foundation. To relax I like to read and go for long walks, and I used to draw and sew a lot. If I’m honest, I find writing pretty relaxing!

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

I think it would be my idea of hell to read one book over and over. However, a book I admire a lot is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It deals with prejudice on so many different levels, and I love the child’s eye view.

7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

I have never been asked, ‘Would you like to borrow my cottage by the sea indefinitely to write your next novel?’ To which my answer would be, ‘Crumbs, thank you. Yes, please.’

About the book

Widowed and with three children, new love is unimaginable for Freya – until she meets Duncan. But it isn’t long before their whirlwind romance faces complications that could harm their relationship before it even has time to blossom…

While most of Freya’s family show no interest in welcoming Duncan, Freya’s youngest child, six-year-old Sophie helps him to integrate into their lives, but even young Sophie harbours anxiety that looms over the chance of a new start. The past is hard to forget when Freya’s late husband Reuben is idolised throughout the house with pictures hanging in several rooms. As Duncan seeks to find the origin of Sophie’s fears he faces a new hypothesis… what if Reuben was not the perfect man Freya and her family remember?

Haunted by Freya’s past, Sophie’s woes and his own insecurity, Duncan begins an investigation into the dead man’s past. But his curiosity almost leads to his undoing… Duncan risks ruining not only everything that he and Freya have built but also the family’s chance of new happiness.

About the author

Jane Bailey is the author of five novels and and a book of comic verse. Her first novel was shortlisted for the Dillons Prize.

She is writer-in-residence for Cheltenham Festivals First Story, which promotes creative writing in schools serving low-income areas. This year she will be writer-in-residence for Beyond Words, which takes creative writing to young people attending Gloucestershire Hospitals.

Jane lives in Gloucestershire.

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