Monday, 15 August 2016
UNCOVERED INTERVIEWS: Mary Jayne Baker
Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Romance blossoms between a journalist and the director she sets up. If Leveson did chicklit...
What inspired you to write The Honey Trap?
It was an ambition when I was younger, going back to schooldays even, that I could write a romantic novel, but after a couple of false starts I eventually lost confidence in my writing and abandoned the dream. Then a chance comment to my boss and his encouragement to give it another go made me decide to sit down and just do it, rather than regret it for the rest of my life. That was in October last year. Googling for writers' forums, I discovered the NaNoWriMo event just in time to take part. Their site turned out to be just what I needed to get over my confidence problems.
I'm not sure where the plot came from, except from wanting to write what I knew. I made Angel, the heroine, a journalist because I work in media in my day job, and I decided the hero, Seb, would be a talented film director because I just love film. In the story, Angel and Seb bond over a shared love of vintage movies, which are something I'm passionate about myself so I wanted them to share that.
Other elements of the plot came to me as I wrote - Seb's charity ReelKids, for example, which seemed to pop up out of nowhere. And then there's Groucho the cat, a fictional version of my cat Harpo in the hope he might stop pestering me if I let him be in the book (he didn't)!
One theme I really enjoyed exploring was press ethics, and Angel's struggle to make the right choices in her career. Her unprincipled boss Steve was probably my favourite character to write for, he's just so deliciously horrible.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I have quite a long commute so I do a lot on the train. I try to write 2000 words a day usually, although that doesn't always work out when day job deadlines loom. I write at home in the evenings often too, wearing my special writer's hat so my other half knows not to disturb!
What is your favourite book?
Wuthering Heights is my go-to book when I want cheering up - odd really as it's not a cheery book, but I love it so much. Plus it was written four miles from where I live, and us West Yorkshire lasses have to stick together...
I'm a big fan of Catch-22 as well, which I've read several times and am reading again at the moment. Harrowing but hilarious - not many books you can say that about!
Which part of The Honey Trap did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing the dialogue between characters. It was when they were talking I felt I really got to know them, and it gave them the chance to be quite witty too. I think my favourite parts were with Seb and Angel in the abandoned 1920s cinema he owns - lots of great dialogue where we find out more about them, and their classic film nights with a flirty twist were definitely wish fulfilment for me!
I thought I'd struggle with the more, er, racy scenes in the book (if my mum's reading, it's just tea and cake at the vicarage, I swear), and I did find it hard at first. But by the end of the story I was quite relaxed about them, found they flowed easily and were enjoyable to write. I loved getting the chance to show Seb and Angel in their most intimate moments, and how their relationship developed in that respect.
Who is your favourite literary heroine?
I like a defiant heroine who refuses to be dictated to or told what her place is. I've got a soft spot for anti-heroine Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair, despite all her bad deeds, because she plays the world instead of letting it play her. And I really liked Katniss is The Hunger Games, which I read recently, too. I think she's a complex character and a great role model for young girls.
Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
Don't stop writing!
Someone on the NaNo forums gave me a great bit of advice, "push on into the white space". You can't edit nothing - just keep writing until you've got something to play with, and don't let confidence problems hold you back.
Secondly, don't skimp on the edit. If you can show agents and publishers something that isn't just a great story but polished enough to be almost submission-ready, that will help your chances no end.
A book I read after writing The Honey Trap was very useful in the edits, Self-editing for Fiction Writers. I've read it twice now and found it really helped me hone my style. No doubt there are lots of other great books on writing out there, but that's the one I keep by the bed.
Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
Don't know if I should but I will because I can never help talking about works in progress, I get too excited about them!
I've got two completed manuscripts I'm sitting on at the moment while I look for an agent. Both are romcoms set in my own lovely Yorkshire. The first is the story of a Yorkshire Dales pub quiz team, with the hero betting his best friend Clarrie a date that their team will win the quiz league. I love this story, the characters had me laughing out loud! The second is about two old schoolfriends who haven't seen each other in ten years, teaming up to renovate a broken-down Victorian lighthouse as an offbeat music venue. Of course, they soon find themselves falling in love...
I'm also about two-thirds through a draft tentatively titled Don't Fence Me In, about a runaway bride who hooks up with an Irish loner and his karaoke-singing dog to travel the country in a VW camper van. Watch this space!
If you'd like to follow me on Twitter you can find me at @MaryJayneBaker, and on Facebook at facebook.com/MaryJayneWrites. I also have a website, www.maryjaynebaker.co.uk
Thanks, Mary Jayne!
The Honey Trap by Mary Jayne Baker
The trap is set – but which one of them is the bait?
Journalist Angel Blackthorne is looking for her next big scoop. When her sleazy editor asks her to use her charms on super successful – and married – film director Sebastian Wilchester for a juicy exposé, Angel thinks what the hell? There’s a staff job on the horizon, and, let’s be honest, no one can make a cheater cheat if they don’t want to, right?
After the scandal breaks, Angel tries to put the story – and Seb – behind her, but fate seems to have other ideas. A near miss at a premiere after-party and a shared love of vintage film brings the honey closer to the trap.
But what happens when pretence leads to passion, and a ‘kiss and tell’ becomes something real?