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:


KATE BLACKADDER The Family At Farrshore Ulverscroft Linford Romance Library

Kate B at Penrith

Kate B at Penrith

Kate Blackadder, Edinburgh based author of Family at Farrshore, is a well known writer of short stories and her name will be familiar to many readers of large circulation mags such as People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly. In 2011 Kate’s first serial for People’s Friend, The Family At Farrshore was published in seven weekly instalments. It has now been produced by large print label Ulverscroft in their Linford Romance Library and is available from April the first.

Kate and I are both members of the Edinburgh Writers’ Club.Together with a third member, Jane Riddell, we have our first novels coming out this Spring. Novels Now may refer to this as the Edinburgh Three, but only while editorial sense is switched off. An interview with Jane, author of Waters’ Edge will appear later this month.

I took the chance to ask Kate Blackadder a few questions about this exciting future for Family At Farrshore. I’m sharing her answers here.

You’re a well established short story writer, Kate, with People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly among others. How challenging was it to write so many more words about your characters?

It was certainly a learning curve. The serial came about because I won The People’s Friend First Instalment of a Serial competition at the Scottish Association of Writers Annual Conference. But that’s all I had written – the first instalment. So when The People’s Friend asked me to write a scene-by-scene synopsis before they gave me the go-ahead, it was like walking into a roomful of people I’d barely met. But in writing that synopsis (which took me weeks …) I got to know them all very well, especially the five characters who had viewpoints. Each of their stories had to be interwoven and I ended up with seven instalments rather than the six I thought I’d have.

I know you read widely. How does the magazine serial differ from a ‘normal’ novel?

In a People’s Friend serial each weekly instalment of around 5000 words is divided into ‘chapters’ with headings.

This is how it looks in the large-print edition too. And of course the end of every instalment has a cliff-hanger!

The writing process though, in my experience, was certainly different from ‘normal’ writing because I submitted each instalment to The People’s Friend and waited for their comments before proceeding with the next one. This meant that I couldn’t go back and change anything I’d written earlier – which might sound an impossible way to work but, in fact, it was great and I really enjoyed it.  The People’s Friend staff were very supportive and encouraging.

Are you working on anything at present?

I’m very good at starting things … so, yes – a pocket-novel-length story, a longer novel which will involve lots of research, and short stories.

How about a short extract to tempt readers along to their local library?

Kate's First book

Kate’s First book

This is how The Family at Farrshore begins:

“Cathryn’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. She could hardly see through the windscreen although the wipers were working overtime.

It had been fine in Lancaster when she left just after lunch, anxious to put the miles between herself and Daniel, but the weather had got steadily worse and the road more narrow. She’d hoped to get to Farrshore by six but the dashboard clock told her it was almost eight when all of a sudden a figure loomed up at the side of the road, an arm held out.

At home she wouldn’t dream of stopping for a stranger, and the May evening was still light, but she couldn’t leave someone standing in all this rain. It might be hours before another car passed.

As she came nearer she could see that it was a man, tall and fair-haired. He bent down and wiped the window with his hand and smiled. Just for a moment she was reminded of Daniel and her heart jumped.

She pressed the button to open the window a fraction and leaned over to hear him.”


Actually, I know what happens next, but for those of you who don’t, I highly recommend The Family At Farrshore and local libraries.

Thanks for dropping in, Kate, Novels Now wishes you every success with your first book and all those projects.

Kate is Membership secretary of Edinburgh Writers’ club. edinburghwritersclub/