What if your entire life changed in the space of a weekend?
When Rebecca’s friend Abi convinces her to get away from it all at the fabulous Hawksley Manor hotel in York, it seems too good to be true. Pampering and relaxation is just what Rebecca needs to distract herself from the creeping suspicion that her husband, Greg, is hiding something from her.
She never imagined that by the end of the weekend she would have dined with celebrities or danced the night away in exclusive clubs. Nor could she have predicted she would meet famous footballer, Alex Heath, or that he would be the one to show her that she deserved so much more …
But no matter how amazing a weekend is, it’s always back to reality come Monday morning – isn’t it?
I really can’t remember how I first met new author Jan Brigden – we seem to have been Facebook and Twitter friends for simply ages, and she’s an absolute star at retweeting blog posts and supporting other authors. It might have been when she won the Choc Lit & Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star for 2014/15 – or it might have been through the Romaniacs (if you’re a romance reader and haven’t seen their blog, do take a look).
But now I’m delighted to be able to introduce everyone to Jan Brigden – her first novel, As Weekends Go, was published for kindle by Choc Lit on 4th December. I thoroughly enjoyed it – you’ll find my review below. But first, let’s meet Jan…
Hello Jan, and welcome to Being Anne – would you like to introduce yourself?
Hi, Anne. Thanks so much for featuring me on your fab blog. I’ve long been a fan! I write contemporary fiction, romance at heart with plenty of emotional fireworks, and my debut novel As Weekends Go was published by Choc Lit in December, so it’s all very new and exciting and a little bit scary.
When you heard your novel was going to be published by Choc Lit, I was almost as excited as you were. Now I already know how it all came about, but other people might not – go on, tell the story again!
Well, in March of last year, I found out that As Weekends Go had won the Choc Lit and Whole Story AudioBooks Search for a Star Competition with the prize being a subsequent contract with Choc Lit. Elated was an understatement, Anne. There had been times when I thought I’d never finish the book (mainly due to my endless tweaking and re-tweaking of it!), so to know it was going to be published had me jumping around like a mad thing – a truly brilliant feeling.
I just loved As Weekends Go – was the title your doing?
Thank you. Yes, it came to me really early on in the process. I felt it summed up the novel perfectly.
And the cover – that wonderful Berni Stevens again?
You guessed right. She’s so talented and did me proud.
And where did the idea for the story come from?
It actually stemmed from a creative writing course I completed a few years back via The Writers Bureau. I had to create a tense scenario involving two characters only. I chose a husband and his wife’s best friend . He’d secretly invited her to his house on the pretence of discussing his wife’s surprise 30th birthday party. Instead he confronted her about some gossip he’d heard regarding a recent weekend trip the two women had taken together. Which afterwards begged the question in my mind: ‘Well, what did happen during that weekend?’ And so the story evolved…
Why did you make one of your lead characters a top footballer? (Do you have the same David Beckham fantasy I do… whoops, sorry!). Is it a world you’re particularly familiar with?
Whilst I can’t deny that Mr Beckham doesn’t exactly make me grimace, he wasn’t the inspiration for my fictional footballer. I am a general football fan and have met a few players over the years, a couple of them so far removed from the stereotypical image we so often read about in the press, (often justified, I hasten to add, as some players do themselves no favours whatsoever!) that it made me wonder how these particular players cope with the pre-judgement. This sparked the challenge to create a footballer who could hopefully buck the preconceived assumptions about him and endear himself to the reader.
Please tell me Hawksley Manor is real…
Ooh, it’d be a lovely thought. Anne. Hawksley Manor is loosely based on a country hotel not far from where I live in South East London. I’d always loved the grounds and used to think on the odd occasion that I was lucky enough to visit, how great it would be to stay there for a few days!
And did I see you’re writing a sequel? Is that the next bit of writing we’ll see from you?
Yes, I’m working on the sequel and doing lots of ‘eyebrow-raising’ research. We’ll see Rebecca (my main character from As Weekends Go) facing a whole fresh set of challenges in the new world she’s stepped into. Plenty of glitz, glamour and drama, which is all I can really say at the moment without giving too much away. It will be a standalone novel too though.
Would you always want to write contemporary fiction? Would you like to try something different?
I do sometimes get the yearning to write children’s fiction. I’m a big kid at heart with a vivid imagination and still love reading all those Enid Blyton books and watching the old films like Willy Wonka and Wizard of Oz.
What’s your day job Jan – and how do you fit your writing around it? Have you been at it long enough to have a typical writing day?
I’m home-based so able to chop and change the hours I write around my freelance proofreading, (which has taken a bit of a back seat at the moment), and looking after my husband’s business admin (he’s a painter & decorator), plus other commitments, so no typical writing days, really.
And what writers do you admire? if someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
I’m a huge Lisa Jewell fan – her characterisation and observations are fantastic. I also love Maggie O’Farrell for her ability to portray such raw emotion. Tammy Cohen, David Nicholls and Adele Parks never disappoint. I also love Maeve Binchy novels – the warmth and spirit of her characters. I’d be thrilled beyond belief to be thought of in the same bracket as any one of them.
I really can’t remember how we “met”, but I suspect it might well have been because of the Romaniacs. Would you like to tell everyone a bit about them?
I think you’re right, Anne. I was lucky enough to meet my fellow Romaniacs via the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s brilliant New Writers’ scheme. We were all at varying stages with our writing and used to keep each other’s spirits up, offer mutual encouragement and support, etc. The blog was a natural progression as we’d all expressed a desire to pool and share our various nuggets of knowledge and experience. Our name actually derived from a typo, so we stuck with it and now couldn’t imagine being called anything else.
Thank you Jan – lovely to meet you properly! Back to writing the next book now please…
My thoughts on As Weekends Go
Those lovely people at Choc Lit and their reading panel do have a bit of a talent for spotting something special that their readers will enjoy, and they’ve done it again with this lovely book. The story’s partly the stuff of every girl’s fantasies (and several rather older women’s too…!) – meeting a famous footballer on a weekend break, living the high life for a while, and finding that he’s not only gorgeous but also a really, really nice guy. But it’s not just the stuff of fantasy – Rebecca’s marriage is on the rocks, her plans for a family forgotten, while her husband Greg relentlessly pursues his career (and a few other things he really shouldn’t be pursuing).
I really liked the way Rebecca’s friendship with Abi was drawn – Abi’s quite a character, but also one of the most genuine and supportive friends anyone could wish for. I also liked the twists and turns of Abi’s own relationship with Nick, and the fallout from the stag do in Spain. Rebecca is a real well developed character – your heart aches for her, knowing what Greg is up to while she continues trying to discuss things with him. Jan’s very good at depicting friendship actually – I also thought Alex’s relationship with larger than life friend Kenny was really well handled. I do know some reviewers have felt that the portrayal of Greg left a little bit to be desired, but I don’t really agree – people do change, particularly when circumstances change and a couple don’t have anything in common any more. Thank goodness for Abi – but thank goodness for Alex Heath too.
This was a lovely story, really well told – just to be nitpicky, I did think the Hawksley Manor stay, particularly the night at the club, were maybe a little more drawn out than they could have been, but the scenes in the restaurant were extremely funny (what horrendous people!) and really well written. I really look forward to seeing what Jan does next. OK, I do look forward to getting to know Alex better too – but this is a really good read from a first-time author well worth watching.
My thanks to publishers Choc Lit and netgalley for my advance reading e-copy.
Jan proudly signed with Choc Lit after winning the Choc Lit & Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star competition 2014/2015 with her debut novel As Weekends Go. Jan’s written for pleasure from a young age; short stories for classmates, odes for workmates, fun quizzes for family and friends, progressing to her novel. Following much secret plotting and research and feigning of passion for the customer accounts she was supposed to be reconciling during the day job, the chance finally arose to put pen to paper.
After attending many author talks, literary events, connecting with writers and readers on Facebook and Twitter, Jan learned of and subsequently joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme. An avid reader and all round book devotee, Jan is also one eighth of the on-line writing group The Romaniacs who in 2014 released a charity anthology Romaniac Shorts – Fashionably Brief. The Romaniacs also received in November 2015, the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Industry Media Star award.
Jan lives in South East London with her husband & motley crew of cuddly toys.
Connect with Jan on Facebook and on Twitter: she also has lovely blog.