Mary Jayne Baker is the author of A Bicycle Made for Two, Runaway Bride and The Perfect Fit. Her latest novel, A Question of Us, was published by Aria Fiction on 5 September 2019.
Today Mary Jayne talks about the inspiration behind A Question of Us.
The inspiration for A Question of Us
My new book A Question of Us is out this month (hooray!) and I wanted to witter on a little bit about what inspired it, and how I endeavoured to create a sense of place and character.
A Question of Us is set in Yorkshire in the north of England and tells the story of a group of twentysomethings: Clarrie, Simon and their friends, Sonny, Dave and Gemma. Together they make up a pub quiz team, The Mighty Morphin’ Flower Arrangers. Friends since school days, the gang have been taking part in their town’s annual inter-pub quiz league since they were teens.
Clarrie and Simon have been best friends since they were four years old. Simon would like to be more, and often tries to convince Clarrie to go on a datewith him. At first Clarrie doesn’t take him seriously, viewing his attempts to convince her to go out with him as an extension of the light-hearted playground teasing they’ve been engaging in since childhood –especially as Simon has dated (and dumped) nearly every other girl in town.
Of course, Clarrie eventually comes to realise that he’s deadly serious. However, suffering from chronic anxiety and fearing that a failed romantic relationship would kill their lifelong friendship stone dead, she continues to reject his advances despite the feelings she knows she has for him. Until he offers her the chance to let fate decide their future –by betting her a date their team will win the pub quiz league that year.
On the surface this is a best friends to lovers romance, but the theme of the book is really the sometimes painful transition to adulthood. At twenty-six, the quiz team are trapped in an extended adolescence, doing the same things they’ve been doing since they were teenagers –teasing each other, drinking too much, and of course, doing the pub quizzes. Si and Clarrie both smoke, Clarrie is permanently broke, Si treats casual sex like a hobby, Sonny and Dave both live at home with their parents. But every member of the team has realised by the end of the story that it’s time to take the next step in their lives and grow up a bit (although not too much, I hope!).
When I decided to write this story, I knew I wanted to infuse it with my own background and the world in which I grew up, in the pub-oriented, traditionally working-class communities of the West Riding of Yorkshire. This isn’t the England of Notting Hillbut rather the England of The Full Monty.The story takes place in the fictional location of Denworth: a slightly rundown little town in the midst of glorious Yorkshire moorland; a place with one dodgy nightclub, a notorious kebab shop and numerous pubs, where there’s never been much for the local young people to do –as Clarrie says at one point –apart from “drink, shag and do the quizzes”.
Denworth is also a town in a state of social flux. On the rural outskirts of Bradford, it would have relied traditionally on the textile mills for local employment. Of the three members of the team who are university graduates, all are likely to have been thefirst in their families to have gone into higher education. My heroine occasionally bewails the “gentrification” of some of the local pubs as she watches the world she grew up in change around her.
Above all, I wanted to give my characters voices that belonged entirely to their place and backgrounds. Much of the story is told in dialogue, so it felt important to get these just right. Every member of the team felt real to me: rough around the edges, earthy, warm and loyal. It felt like they came from home,from me, and from a world that’s slowly changing, and I love every one of them. I hope readers will take them to their hearts too.
About the book
There are some people who seem like they have all the answers in life. Clarrie Midwinter isn’t one of them.
At the age of 26, tomboy Clarrie is still struggling to become a ‘proper’ grown-up. She’s eternally strapped for cash, she hasn’t had a date in nearly a year and her attempts to quit smoking tend to take a nosedive after the second pint. Most annoyingly of all, her ladykiller best friend Simon just won’t stop asking her out. The only thing keeping her sane is her pub quiz team, the Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers.
But when Simon bets her a date their team will win the quiz league, Clarrie is forced to confront what she really wants out of life – and love. Is it finally time for her to grow up?
About the author
Mary Jayne Baker is a romance author from Yorkshire, UK. She is represented by Laura Longrigg at MBA Literary Agents. Mary Jayne Baker grew up in rural West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country… and she’s still there. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature, she dallied with living in cities including London, Nottingham and Cambridge, but eventually came back with her own romantic hero in tow to her beloved Dales, where she first started telling stories about heroines with flaws and the men who love them. Mary Jayne Baker is a pen name for an international woman of mystery…