In September of last year, I had the immense pleasure of reading and reviewing the latest book from Anna Jacobs, The Trader’s Reward: here’s a link to my review. I made no secret of the fact that I really, really enjoyed it, and it gave me one of the loveliest reading weekends I’d had in a long time.
Amazingly, Anna Jacobs has just released her 70th novel – A Time To Remember, published by Hodder & Stoughton on 1 January in hardback and for kindle, with the paperback to follow in July – and I was thoroughly delighted when her publicist asked me to run a guest post to mark such a magnificent achievement.
Welcome to the blog Anna – over to you…
A year ago, I was counting up my books and realised ‘A Time to Remember’ would be my 70th novel published – and I’d also written some non-fiction books, short stories and poetry. I felt rather surprised by all that.
How quickly time seems to have passed since my first novel won a $10,000 prize and publication in 1992. I remember sitting down once I’d stopped tap dancing for joy on the ceiling and thinking, ‘I might even get up to 10 novels published before I’m through.’
I didn’t reckon with the addiction element. I’m now totally and utterly addicted to story telling. Other activities have fallen by the wayside, except for one: my time spent with my lovely husband.
The more books you write, the more you learn. That’s one of the main things that keeps me interested: there is always something to learn, some aspect of your writing that you can improve on. Or you hope you can improve on!
Practice also makes you able to do something more quickly. By the time I’d written 50 novels, I’d halved the time it took to write a book. I still take as much care as I think it needs, but I do find it easier to think of plot twists and turns, and to think of ways to improve a scene.
I’d also learned that it’s best to stay ‘inside’ a story every single day, even if it’s not your best day’s writing. I don’t sit around waiting for inspiration (if there is such a thing). If it’s a sluggish day, I still write. I may need to do more polishing the next day, but mostly the story element is still on track.
I feel that the imagination is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows. I’ve certainly given mine a thorough outing!
‘A Time to Remember’ is the first in the Rivenshaw series, set in an imaginary town in Lancashire. It starts in 1945, just as World War 2 is ending. There is a prologue set in 1941 and that’s important because it sets up the main problem for later, but Chapter 1 moves us on to 1945.
The main heroine, Judith, has an unhappy marriage and has to protect three intelligent and loving children from their brutal father. She’s relieved that he’s been called up into the Army and when he’s posted overseas, it’s an even bigger relief.
He stays overseas for 4 years and my editor felt that was longer than it would have been in real life. Not so. It happened to both English and Australian servicemen. My own father was posted overseas for four and a bit years, and in my letter to readers at the beginning of the book, I tell about my first meeting with him. Don’t forget to read that letter before you start reading the story!
The central hero, Mayne Esher, is from a family that has owned a small country mansion for hundreds of years. But the money has run out and he knows he’ll have to sell it. He and some fellow officers have decided to set up a building company and convert it to flats, then build houses on the land around it. It’s the only way he can think of to preserve the house itself.
There are, of course, other characters and sub-plots. I like to write complex tales. I’m now writing the third book in the series, and still enjoying this ongoing story very much indeed.
Thank you Anna – I’ll be reading and reviewing the book here on the blog as soon as I get my hands on a copy. Until then, here’s a little more detail about the book.
1945 – the war in Europe is over. Most women can’t wait for their men to return, but in the small town of Rivenshaw in Lancashire, Judith Crossley fears having her husband back in the house. He’d grown into a bully and a drunkard, and on the occasions he’d come home from leave, he’d hit her.
He wasn’t a good father either – when their eldest daughter Kitty won a prestigious scholarship to the private girls’ grammar school, Doug had tried to stop her going, saying it would turn her into a snob. Luckily Judith had help from an unlikely ally – Maynard Esher, from an old aristocratic family on the other side of town – but Judith knows that when her husband returns, she’ll be blamed for letting Kitty take up her school place. She decides that for the children’s sake, she must leave her husband. But with the house rented in his name, and other accommodation scarce, where on earth can they go?
Helen Bretherton is returning from being a Land Girl in Wiltshire. Her great-aunt has left her a house bordering the park in Rivenshaw, but it was partly bombed and is in a poor condition. Still, she decides to camp out in it, if it’s at all habitable, because she has nowhere else to go. However, when she arrives, she finds a displaced Polish man is already living there . . .
Many congratulations on your achievement Anna…really looking forward to reading the book!