When Julia Thum contacted me to ask if I’d be able to review the book she had written with her friend Gaynor Pengelly under the pen name Ginger Black, she told me all about their partnership and friendship, their experience of writing together and seeking crowdfunding for the paperback, and their future plans – and there was something about her story that really captured my imagination. I sadly couldn’t fit in the reading, but “meeting” Julia has been such a pleasure: the book – Riverside Lane – is available for kindle through Endeavour Press, and was published in paperback by Momentum Books on 28th April. That’s why there are two covers above, both equally eye-catching – the first for the kindle version, the second for the paperback. And those lovely people at Endeavour Press have really thrown their support behind the book and its writing team, reducing the price of the kindle version to 99p for May.
Riverside Lane is a ‘village mystery’ based on a house swap and set in the Thames side village of Bray where both Gaynor and Julia live. It is their first novel, and number one in a series of four, each to be set in a different Thames side village and each based on a house swap.
I’m really delighted to introduce you to Julia (she’s the one in white) to tell you the story of Ginger Black…
First of all I must say how delighted I am to be invited onto Being Anne. I have been very excited about this blog because I am new to the blogosphere and lucky to have met Anne early on; she has been very kind and welcoming and given me some good advice. Thank you for having me on your wonderful blog Anne.
I am one of the Ginger Black writing partnership and write with my friend and neighbour Gaynor Pengelly. The two of us dreamed up the concept of a series of village mysteries wondering around Bray, walking dogs and dropping off children while observing the rules and nuances of the village social structure. We began to wonder, what would happen, for example, if you dropped an international spy into the midst of such a quintessentially English community? How would a conman or an art thief fair among the curtain twitching complexity of a typical English village. The plot for our first novel, Riverside Lane which we set in our home village of Bray, grew organically through these conversations and we decided a house swap would be a good vehicle to introduce different protagonists through a series of stories. We are now mid-way through our second novel which is set upstream in Cookham, a historic village made famous by, amongst other things, The Wind In The Willows, Stanley Spencer and, of course, the Profumo affair at Cliveden .
Once we agreed to write together our nom de plume came early, dreamed up by Gaynor’s mother to whom Ginger Black was an obvious choice; Gaynor has ginger hair, mine is dark and my maiden name is Blackburn. In some ways, having a ‘brand name’ spurred us on, making us feel professional and like a team. While I had written novels before – mostly children’s – I had never submitted them for publication and as a national newspaper journalist Gaynor was used to being published, but had not written fiction.
We developed the plot for Riverside Lane pacing the Thames path with Rumpole, my British Bulldog panting in our wake. Pretty soon stuff needed to be written down so we committed to a regular Monday meeting. Here we would plan for the week and then leave armed with a brief for – depending on where we were in the process – character development, scene breakdown or copy for the next scene. We set a midweek deadline to file copy to one another and edited the work, emailing it to and fro before signing it off the following Monday.
And so we progressed, step by step along the towpaths, word by word onto the page until we completed our first draft. While every word, character and plot point is a collaboration, we each bring different strengths to the Ginger Black partnership. Gaynor is good at seeing the big picture and excellent at pace and shape while I sweat every word and comma and obsess over continuity and credibility. She is patient with my pedantry and I am grateful for her vision.
Once we finished the first draft of Riverside Lane, we filed it to the bottom drawer and worked on promoting the Ginger Black name much as we did the writing; discussing what needed to be done at Monday meetings and dividing the work between us. We developed a website and social media identity then set about building a digital presence and that all important mailing list to give us something – as well as our magnum opus – to make us a marketable prospect to agents and publishers. And then we rewrote the manuscript. Like all the other jobs, we shared this one but instead of working in parallel Gaynor edited the entire novel, then I did, and then we each did it again, and again, and again!
We are often asked how our writing partnership works and I think the short answer is with a similar work ethic, a sense of humour and complete trust. We take the discipline of writing seriously – in three years of partnership we have rarely missed a deadline – but a healthy dose of self-deprecation and irreverence has definitely smoothed our path while guaranteeing terrific fun along the way.
I feel fortunate to have met Gaynor and found a kindred spirit and writing partner. Being with her has made the rebuttals and submission failures easier to bear and the successes and delights have been far more exciting together.
Julia, that’s a wonderful story – I wish the Ginger Black partnership every success…
About the book
A handsome American with a secret, Luca Tempesta, gets off a plane at Heathrow and heads for a quiet village by the Thames, taking time out, it would appear, for a holiday in the tranquil English backwater.
The local pub, a fine restaurant, church and boat house are where the locals gather, and here Luca discovers an odd assortment of characters: the seemingly wealthy and polished set, others trying hard to make their way into higher society, and curious villagers with surprising stories to be revealed.
As Luca tries to find anonymity, he soon realises that The Village is not such an easy place to hide.
A former spy, a gameshow host, a model, a journalist, the vicar and a biker all play a part in making up the village scene, with secrets lurking at every twist and turn of the river.
When Luca’s secret, along with those of other villagers, is finally revealed and he prepares to leave the village, he takes with him much more than he bargained for.
Set against the cinematic backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a thrilling, vivid page-turner that seeks to understand human behaviour hard-wired for desire, power, love and possession in a traditional society threatened by extraordinary challenges.
Beneath a taut, fast-moving plot, the upstanding residents of Riverside Lane watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur whilst their own bipolar lives start to unravel.
To find out more about Ginger Black, do take a look at their excellent website. You’ll also find them on both Facebook and Twitter. And I must also mention the lovely guest post on Baattyaboutbooks where Julia tells the story of crowdfunding the paperback version of Riverside Lane.
About Julia Thum
Julia left Somerset for London at 16. She founded & ran her own consumer P R agency representing a range of international brands then sold the business and trained as a psych-hypno therapist specializing in eating disorders & hosting a phone-in show on Radio Luxembourg.
As well as writing with Gaynor, Julia writes children’s books, does PR & marketing for The Rivertime Boat Trust charity & volunteers on the phones and with the secondary schools team at The Samaritans. Keen on yoga and kayaking, Julia is a very happy family cook and taxi driver. She lives in Bray-on-Thames, (where she and Gaynor have set Riverside Lane) with her husband Nicolas, their four children, Rumpole, six tortoises and four rabbits.