Al is the black sheep of his family, Kate, the good shepherd of hers. Can black and white become silver, or just a dark and dangerous grey?
Alastair Black has revealed a secret to his wife in a last ditch attempt to save his marriage. A return to his childhood family home at Chathill Farm is his only respite, although he is far from welcomed back by brother George.
Kate, recently widowed and increasingly put upon by daughter, sister and mother, feels her life is over at fifty. Until she meets Alastair. He’s everything she isn’t, but he’s a troubled soul, a sad clown of a man with a shady past. When his famous mother leaves an unexpected inheritance, Kate is caught up in the unravelling of his life as Al comes to terms with who he really is.
Is Alastair Black her true soulmate, or should Sleeping Beauty lie?
I’ve been wanting to read a book written by Jan Ruth for ages. Friends told me I’d love her writing – great stories, well written, character driven, key characters of a certain age… and (not everyone will know) my family home is in North Wales, on the edge of Snowdonia where her novels are set. Well, I’ve just read Silver Rain, and everyone was absolutely right – I thoroughly enjoyed it, and might just have found another author to add to my favourites list. My review of Silver Rain follows, but first let’s meet Jan Ruth…
Jan, it’s taken me far too long to do this – but welcome to Being Anne! Would you like to introduce yourself?
I write contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic with a generous helping of humour, horses and dogs. My books blend the serenities of rural life with the headaches of city business, exploring the endless complexities of relationships.
I’ve just read and thoroughly enjoyed Silver Rain – my review’s below. I like the description of your writing on your website – contemporary stories about people, with a good smattering of humour, drama, dogs and horses. Would it be so awful to call it a romance?
Oh, well, you know my feelings about the word ‘romance!’ I think an awful lot of people presume Mills and Boon (although, I have to take my invisible hat off to them because in the constantly changing world of the publishing industry, they’ve kept up with the times and continue to thrive). But back to my novels. When the main characters are in their fifties and you never can be sure there will be a happy ending – then it parts company from the general mainstream genre description of romance.
Your writing is equally strong from the male or female point of view – how difficult is that?
I prefer, and find it easier, to write from the male point of view. Maybe it’s because being female I know what appeals to readers when it comes to creating a lead male character with some staying power, so to speak! It also allows me to bring greater depth to the story and to play with different points of view.
You write an exceptionally good character-driven story. With a book like Silver Rain, what comes first – the story or the people who drive it?
I always have the characters in place first, and then their mission, so to speak. The plot evolves as I go along.
And it’s impossible to ignore the wonderful setting and sense of place. You might know I’m passionate about Snowdonia – why do you love it?
I’m always inspired by big landscapes, especially historical ones for some reason although I write contemporary.
Many years ago, I was a big fan of the now defunct Transita, who published books reflecting the lives of mature women. One of the aspects of Silver Rain that I really enjoyed was that Al and Kate were (almost!) as old as me, and that’s pretty rare these days. Am I the reader you want to appeal to when you write?
Women in their twenties have enjoyed the story too, which slightly surprises me. I’d like to think that readers maybe connect to a women portrayed as strong in a more realistic way. We do seem to champion extremes in fiction ie: the subservient, virginal female portrayed in many erotica novels, to the light and fluffy young woman seemingly enlightened by shopping – in the chick-lit genres. Not that there is anything remotely wrong with these books, it’s all about personal escapism, but I’d have to say Silver Rain is perhaps more identifiable to ladies of a certain age.
At one point, Kate looks out of the window of Chathill towards Foel-fras – one of those wonderful scenic descriptions you do so well. Does that viewpoint actually exist?
It doesn’t quite exist because Chathill is totally fictitious, but Foel Fras does. I can see this mountain from my house in the Conwy Valley, and that’s the general vicinity of the book location.
OK, so that’s Silver Rain. I love your writing and want to read more. What should I go for next?
Probably Wild Water and its sequel, Dark Water. Jack Redman has been my most popular character to date, so I’d love to know what you think of him! It’s a more gossipy read than Silver Rain but then the sequel is much darker. Midnight Sky is my equine-based series so if you love horses then this is the one for you – Palomino Sky the sequel, is out early next year. This features a slightly younger heroine in Laura and a hunky horse-whisperer who happens to be something of a manic-depressive (My men are always heavily flawed…). That leaves White Horizon which is another stand-alone novel and is written from 4 points of view which was something of a challenge to myself.
Tell me more about the attractions of independent publishing. I know it’s been your choice. Doesn’t it make everything so much more difficult?
I’ve been round the block and back again with my publishing history. I began 15 years ago with a London agent, which came to nothing and I left writing alone for many years. With the advent of Kindle, I self-published 3 novels – using the services of a professional freelance editor, a formatter and a designer. It IS a lot of work publishing novels to a high standard and when I received contracts for 6 books from a small press last year, I made the move. Sadly, this wasn’t for me and I found the entire process mostly protracted, and uninspiring. I’ve been released from these contracts now and reverted all my novels back to the versions I published myself.
If anything, it’s proved to me that independent publishing – and I include using freelance experts where the author lacks those specific skills – is the best combination, not only for producing quality but allowing the author full control over their own material. It has its frustrations when technical matters don’t go as expected, but overall, self-publishing is far more rewarding and I didn’t realise how much I valued the freedom. This is my personal experience of course and I can’t speak for other authors who’ve enjoyed much success with a small publisher. The important thing is, we have choice.
Having read Silver Rain, I now have an idea of what to expect from your writing. If someone were to say “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
That’s a tough one… I’ve been described as a combination of Jo Jo Moyes, Linda Gillard and Catherine Cookson. Someone once said I was a bit of Jilly Cooper mixed with Rosamund Pilcher. All immensely flattering, as I love all of those authors.
And what’s next for you? Are you writing?
Always writing. I’m currently immersed in the third Wild Water book, Silent Water.
Thank you so much for that Jan – looking forward to the Wild Water books already, and I do rather like the look of White Horizon!
And given the timing of this feature, I must also tell you that Jan does have a Christmas book, available for Kindle – Home For Christmas. It’s a trio of long short stories with a festive theme, and might be a nice introduction to her writing. It’s available through Amazon for 99p at the time of writing.
My thoughts on Silver Rain
There was so much I enjoyed about this lovely book – but first and foremost, the two very real main characters, Al (Alasdair) and Kate. Both damaged by life experiences, these are two people who really capture your heart. My heart ached for Kate dealing with the aftermath of the death of her husband, while juggling her demanding mother, indifferent daughter and horrendous sister. Al is quite wonderful – immensely likeable despite your initial less than favourable impression, desperately trying to recapture his youth, badly damaged by so much history and the fractured relationship with his wife. The other characters are superbly drawn too – particularly Kate’s wonderfully dreadful family, Fran as she falls apart, Al’s brother George still nursing his grudges, and Al’s girlfriend Jo.
This is much more than just a tender love story – the issues come thick and fast, and the story loops and twists in directions you really don’t expect. The primary setting is exceptionally vivid – the wider canvas of Snowdonia, beautifully described, but also Chathill Farm itself in all its chaotic detail. And Jan’s writing is quite perfect – engaging, flowing, easy to read, this was a book I really looked forward to picking up again whenever I set it aside.
It’s really interesting that Jan mentioned comparisons with Linda Gillard – strangely enough, that was the comparison I though of as I was reading, and this book excited me in the same way Linda’s writing always has. If you haven’t already discovered Jan Ruth’s writing, do give it a try – I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely book, and will most certainly be trying more.
My thanks to the author for providing my review copy of Silver Rain – the other books by Jan, already sitting on my kindle, were purchased!
About Jan Ruth
The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. She failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day struggles to make sense of anything numerical.
Her first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.
Many years later Jan’s second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.
Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. Jan went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections and after a brief partnership with Access Press in 2015, has returned to the freedom of independent publishing.
Follow Jan on Twitter or via her Facebook author page: she also has an excellent website and a blog that’s always fascinating reading.