Author Interview JANE RIDDELL

Jane Riddell’s debut novel is Water’s Edge, published on 22nd April 2013 by Thornberry publishing. Jane dropped by to share a few thoughts on writing and a short extract from her book, Water’s Edge.Jane Riddell

Anne asked: I know you’ve completed a Masters in Creative writing, Jane. I imagine you covered many different forms of writing for that. Why have you settled on novels?


Jane replied: thank you for interviewing me on your website, Anne.

I had actually written three books before I studied for my Masters.  By then I was aware that my ideas lend themselves to writing novels and that I find it difficult to downsize!  So although the course covered life writing, short stories, and other forms of writing such as editing, abridging and adaptation, it didn’t influence me to change my main focus.  I have always enjoyed life writing, and still dabble in short stories, albeit with little success to date….

What the Masters did do was help me begin to think more expansively about the process of writing in general, and particularly with regard to novels: about the importance of digging deep, having cohesion, considering original ways to tell a story.  I also learned about some complex writing techniques which add layers and richness, for example, free indirect discourse – not that I’ve in any way mastered FID yet.  How did Jane Austen manage this artistry at such a tender age?

Water's Edge

Water’s Edge

Anne asked: Doctors and nurses, look no further than Lucilla Andrews and Conan Doyle, often take to fiction writing. I know you’ve worked in the health field, too. Why do you think fiction attracts health professionals?

Jane replied: Working for the NHS as a dietitian, I wasn’t so exposed to the ‘front line’.  However, I imagine that for a doctor or nurse having to accept that they can’t always cure their patients or even prevent them from suffering, writing a story where they take control of what happens provides a welcome antidote. It also allows them to make sense of what they do. Additionally, writing about something particularly distressing at work could be therapeutic/cathartic and a safer outlet than letting rip at colleagues or giving their families a hard time!

Anne asked: What writing projects are you working on at present?

Jane replied: I am finishing a rewrite of another novel, Chergui’s Child.  I completed this in 2008 and it did the round of agents with no takers.   As my writing style has changed since then and I still strongly believe in the storyline, I decided it merited a rewrite.  I’ve changed the structure but the story remains essentially unchanged.  The final edit should be completed by June.

I am also in the final stages of writing a short guide to editing in which ThornBerry Publishing have expressed an interest.  With the culinary working title of EGGS (editing guide for geeks), it outlines a technique I’ve devised for the laborious but ultimately rewarding process of editing.

Readers can connect with Jane on her author’s website:, or on her blogs:   and

Jane has kindly supplied a short extract from Water’s Edge to entice us in. Read on…


Water’s Edge

Madalena invites her four adult children to Switzerland to celebrate the anniversary of her hotel.  What she doesn’t realise is that there are tensions among them, which will play out during their visit.


Chapter 1

Portia surveyed the playroom of her childhood home.  Nothing had changed: the oak bookcases, the dressing up box which Dad had assembled one stormy afternoon.  Even the whiteboard, where they wrote their “thought for the day”, remained on the wall.  She now wondered how her family would react if she wrote, “Mistake coming to Switzerland.  Should have stayed in London.”

She wandered into the private sitting room.  Here there were changes.  The green and wine striped sofa and matching armchairs were new.  So was the rug.  The familiar smell of an apricot potpourri lingered, however.   On the sideboard lay a tea tray with crockery and some Japanese paper napkins.   Beside it, two stands displayed cakes on silver doilies.

Her eye rested on the corner walnut bureau, focused on the visitor’s book, and she made herself open it, read the names of attendees at Dad’s funeral.  The leather felt comforting, but its smell evoked an involuntary swallow.  It didn’t seem like five years since they’d surrounded his chrysanthemum coffin at the graveyard.   Since she’d tolerated the incessant handshaking, mourners addressing her mother as “Frau Fontana” despite having known her for years.  Bereavement was supposed to bond families.  Not theirs.  Was this why Mum had summoned them back?

She flicked through the pages of tributes to her father.  On the last page were the immediate family’s signatures – everyone’s except Lucy’s.

At the time, it had felt inappropriate, if understandable, to be relieved about the funeral being during term time.  To so easily justify Lucy’s remaining at school, where the housemistress would keep an eye on her in case she became distressed by Papa’s death.  With Lucy in Brunnen, Portia would constantly have been on tenterhooks.

Portia now closed the book and wandered over to the window.  Half way down the lake, boats with candy striped sails whizzed across the water, turned and tacked back in the easterly breeze.  Such freedom….  In the garden, Herr Huber was flinging weeds into a bucket which pinged as stone hit metal.   Beside him lay a basket of coral roses, probably destined for a table centre this evening.

She poured a cup of tea, wishing she could have the room to herself for longer.  As the door opened, she stood to attention.

Well, need to know what happens next? Then buy Water’s edge:


Where do You Get Your Ideas From? No 4 The Natural World

Where do you get your ideas from must be the question that most puzzles the non-creative. I watched a programme recently featuring a female artist whose technical skill is taxidermy – Polly Morgan. The works of art she creates have a strange quality as they are a mixture of the dead bird or animal and her setting of it. Not pieces I had thought I would like, but I was wrong. They are in many cases both beautiful and mysterious.

The anne feb 2013 220natural world is not simply animals. Place, the sense of a place is a strong prompt for me. My first ever published story was inspired by an over-grown garden just up the road. I took several photographs of the laundry at a big house outside Manchester and they have evoked story-lines and characters in ways I didn’t foresee, but wasn’t surprised by. There was a shiver of recognition when I walked around. I wrote about the photos, below at Pictures.

Many writers have made natural features the basis or even the star of their output. I’m thinking of a moor – Wuthering Heights; a built environment – Sex In The city; a county – Dorset in Thomas Hardy; a river – the Thames in much of Dickens – to name a few. You’ll have your own ideas and your own favourites.

As a late teen and young adult, I was enthralled by the quiet fiction of Black Isle author, Jane Duncan. She wrote a long series of books with titles starting, My Friend… Even as I write, phrases and scenarios from those books pop into my head. I’ve always been delighted to visit Scotland’s Black Isle in a vain attempt to spot the fictional places in the real world.

My recent guest, Kate Blackadder used her knowledge of Scotland’s far north west for the fictional background of Family At Farrshore. Ian Rankin has Edinburgh, Michael Malone Glasgow, Chris Longmuir, Dundee. Regency writers use London, but also Bath. American writers have long exploited the far south – William Faulkner, New York – many, the West – many more and Theodore Dreiser used Chicago.

Landmark creation

Landmark creation

In many cases, the writer leaves the reader with the belief that the story could not have taken place anywhere else. In lots of the stories the nature prompts or causes the events to the extent it is a character in the work. Think about the hot, hot summers lived in a NY brownstone or southern slave hut. Walk the cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s old town in a gale. Are these weathers malevolent? Struggle through a London fog. Listen to the fog horn on a battered cliff-edge. Think how the writer is heightening your emotional experience by making you live through physical discomfort.

Mariah’s Marriage is a contender. RNA Joan Hessayon Award

I’ve known Mariah was a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award of the Romantic Novelists’ Association for some time. There was, however, a press embargo so I wasn’t able to share. The RNA press officers have now lifted the embargo and details of the nine contenders can be read here:

I hope you’ll drop in and see the other eight books.

So, the train tickets, the hotel room, the dress, oh and what else is important when romance writers get together?

That’s it – the shoes. I’ll keep you posted.


Thanks to my multi-talented friend, Rosemary Gemmell for passing on the Reality Blog Award seen above. Rosemary has more than one blog, but the award comes from her Reading and Writing site, here:

The rules are simple. I needed to acknowledge the person making the award, above, and to answer four Reality Blog Award questions, before passing it on.

1.) If you could change one thing, what would it be?

I would allow everyone ready access to clean water. That would take the lives of so many women and girls out of the toil and fear caused by long forays to find it. It would prevent many needless deaths from the water-borne bugs in dirty supplies. It might head off comig confrontations over supplies.

2.) If you could repeat an age, what would it be?

Tricky question. Does it mean in the light of what you know now, or taking it afresh as you did when passing through? Each decade has had its challenges and high spots. I think I’ll stick with normal progress.

3.) What thing really scares you?

Mob thinking.

4.) If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be?

That’s easy. Someone whose shape and weight allows them to buy and wear elegant clothes without having to curb their enthusiasm for cheese!

I nominate:

Anita Chapman

Samantha Darling