Christmas Awards 2011

Monday, 20 June 2011

Interview with Jen Black

Today we have Jen Black with us. she has written some wonderful books, historical and modern.

Tell us a little about yourself

Jen has always lived within twenty miles of where she is now in Northumberland. The only continent she hasn’t visited is South America – and she has no plans to do so! With a degree in English and recently retired from library management, she writes almost every day – sometimes contemporary ghost stories, but more often historical adventures. She keeps her blog up to date and send the odd missive to Facebook and Twitter (@speckledbirds).

What do you write?

Historical novels, historical romances and a contemporary romance with ghosts. I have a contract for an e-book called Reluctance to come out next April. It’s what I’d call a Regency story, even though it is set in 1803 about a couple who marry for convenience and then she decides it won’t suffice and tries to make him break his vow of celibacy.

Why do you write?
Because I love doing it. There isn’t another outlet for my imagination that gives me anything like the satisfaction writing does. Imagine being in control of what characters do and say! Giving them what they want, or stopping them from having it. We all indulge in it as children, play-acting and role-playing. Well, now I get to do the same as an adult. If I get my hero in a tricky situation, I can stop and think about how he’s going to get out of it, or what smart crack he’s going to come out with this time.

What are you writing now?
I’m resting, and promoting my latest – the contemporary romance with ghosts. Shadows is set in France. A couple of years ago this was briefly published by Triskelion before they went bankrupt, and the rights were tied up in limbo for over a year. During that time I re-wrote the thing, and added in another 30,000 words, making it much better than it was and then I sold it to another publisher. Finally, it is back out in the world again and looking for readers!

Here’s the blurb: Melissa and Rory met three days ago and already he’s ditched a girlfriend for her. Now he takes her to France on a pre-booked holiday. Once there, she loves the ancient water mill, but is annoyed when he assumes she’ll share the only bed. Opting for the sofa that night, Melissa finds her childhood proclivity for seeing ghosts has returned with a vengeance and she finds it very hard to convince Rory that anything is amiss. Check out the trailer, or read an excerpt on my blog at

What kind of clothes do you like to wear?

Comfortable trousers and fleeces for when I’m lounging around the house, but I do own some smart clothes. I look fairly respectable when I go out to visit with friends or go into town. I recently bought a striped black and white top in the John Lewis sale, and wore it with black tights to visit friends for dinner. They were amazed at my boldness. ‘But you never wore short skirts when you were young and it was fashionable,’ they cried in disbelief.

‘Well, I am now.’

It doesn’t do to stay in the same rut, does it?

Are you in love? Have you ever been?

I love my husband dearly, and in my younger days before I met him I knew the sudden rushes of adulation and longing that most of us feel at some time or other, usually for a totally unsuitable man. There’s been heartbreak, too.

Do you have a dream lover – and what does he or she look like?

Naturally, I love whichever hero I’m writing about at the time, especially if I’m writing from the heroine’s point of view. He’s usually dark haired, but has been a red-head, but they are always the kind with a strong jaw and a stubborn streak. I don’t have to live with this man, you see, so I can have him as heroic as I like. If he has a fiery temper, I’m never going to suffer from it, as I’m in control of what he does. For a long time I was in love with Jerott Blyth and Francis Crawford in the Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett. Sometimes I think I still am!

What kind of comfort food do you like best?
Oh, I have a long list. Sometimes it’s chocolate. Sometimes it’s scones, my own home-made fruit scones fresh from the oven. Garlic bread, Magnums, white wine, red wine, Kettle crisps with balsamic vinegar. Crisp Cox’s apples. Raisins. Toast with a scraping of butter and Marmite. The list is endless.

What makes you laugh? Cry?

Malapropisms. Inadvertent humour, usually. The kind where someone says the wrong thing, or trips over their own feet. The scene in Only Fools and Horses when Del leans on the counter that isn’t there. Doc Martin is a hoot and I can’t wait for the new series. I’ve watched the previous episodes until I know the dialogue off by heart.

Anything to do with animals can have me weeping. Don’t go there.

What do you do to amuse yourself when not working?
Do some gardening. Walk in the glorious Northumberland countryside, taking photographs and putting them on my blog. Reading, when I can find something that interests me. I enjoy Sarah Dunant, Nora Roberts, C J Sansom and Jude Morgan. Meeting like-minded friends for chats and meals. Skiing once or twice a year, spending part of the summer in France, and at this precise moment, acting as general apprentice-cum-dogsbody to all the DIY-ery work going on chez Black. It will all be worth it when we have a brand new bathroom.

What is it in a man or woman that turns you on? The clean version please!
Haven’t a clue. Women don’t turn me on, but I like looking at them as objects of beauty in the same way as I’d admire a painting or a statute. With men, it’s much more a matter of personal attraction. Do I like the way he moves, does his voice catch my attention, does he look healthy? Good health and fitness is a major thing. Clear skin, bright eyes, quick reactions - the same thing you’d look for in a healthy animal! But those are the things that attract from across a room, or a field, for that matter. The other attributes come later – is he kind, has he got a sense of humour, do we share any interests, do we actually like each other?

What do you hate about life?

That there’s so much misery and poverty, that people can seem a blight on the world when they cover it in smoke, oil and pollutants, when rivers are too dirty for fish and that soon we’ll have eaten every living creature in the belief that only we have the right to live.

What do you hope to achieve in life and when will you know that you have been a success?

My goals are small in the scale of things. I’d like an agent, and a publisher, please, and an audience who likes my writing. I’m not asking to be the next Gabaldon or Gregory, though that might be nice, but I’m happy as I am and I’ll keep on trying.

What are you going to write next?

I’ve recently finished the second volume of his trilogy, so far unpublished. It is set in 1543 in northern England. Matho is on a learning curve in his new profession as courier between the English Lord Wharton and the Scots Queen Dowager, Mary of Guise. Very soon he’s going to take her letters to France, and gets impatient when she asks him if he speaks French. ‘It canna be that hard to learn, surely,’ he snaps. Little does he know!

Jen Black

Banners of Alba, 2006

Dark Pool, 2006

Far After Gold, 2009

Till the Day Go Down, 2009

Shadows, May, 2011

Reluctance, coming in April 2012


1683 said...

I liked reading about Jen. You should continue to feature her and talk about her novels a little more!

C. Wayne Dawson


So nice to learn a bit more about you, Jen. Good luck with the new release!

Anne Whitfield - author said...

Lovely interview, Jen. Some good answers.
Good luck with all your books!

Debra E. Marvin said...

Enjoyable interview ladies! Blogger ate my original comment which may have been more clever than I can recreate. I do recall saying that I miss Matho

Carolin said...

Loved the end of your interview - Matho's statement regarding French. Hah! Can't wait to read your next installment of his tale, Jen.

Good luck with your books - may they all find a publisher and a devoted readership :-)

Ursula said...

Great interview, Jen - but they sure ask odd questions, don't they? What kind od clothes do you like to wear??? Seriously?

Jen Black said...

The questions were fun to answer and just a little bit different. BTW, I love it when you pics come up and I can see who I'm talking to!