I’m delighted today to welcome author Jenny Harper as my guest on Being Anne. I’ve had the pleasure of reading and reviewing two of Jenny’s lovely books – Between Friends and Mistakes We Make (links are to my reviews) and really enjoyed both – Jenny has a real talent for creating three-dimensional characters who become your friends, and a deft touch in capturing friendships and relationships you can really believe in. Today she’s taking us back to the beginning of the Heartlands series. Face the Wind and Fly was originally published by Accent Press in August 2014, and is available via Amazon in the UK and US with a rather lovely new cover. With thanks to Jenny and Accent Press there’s a giveaway below – the chance to win one of two e-copies.
But first I’ll hand over to Jenny so she can tell you more – if only she’d known, eh?
When I invented a fictional town called Hailesbank, together with a small conservation village (Forgie) and a council-run housing estate (Summerfield), I had no idea that I would be starting a whole series of books set there. If I’d known, I would have done things very differently.
My thinking went like this:
– There are real advantages in writing about a place that doesn’t exist
– I’d never have to worry about some reader getting in touch to tell me that the Fountain Café is actually just past the library on the right and not just before it and next to the medical centre
– I could invent wonderful streets and buildings, parks, views, facilities to suit my story.
– It’s timeless, living only in the context I wanted to give it, and above all …
– It was mine.
But … (and being a rookie at the time, I never considered the downsides) … as I went on to write more books set in the area, I found it became all too easy to trip myself up and get things in the wrong place. I know, I know, I should have done a map! But by the time I realised this I was three books in and it was all becoming a bit complicated. You might think an author would know everything about her own books, but I write on average a book a year, and after several years details begin to blur. To draw a map at that stage, I would have had to reread everything, and who wants to go over old ground when there are so many exciting things ahead?
Anyway – that’s what happened. Face the Wind and Fly was the first in a number of books set in this fictional area in East Lothian, east of Edinburgh. In this novel, wind farm engineer Kate Courtenay and her philandering novelist husband, Andrew, drift apart through pressure of work (Kate) and the actions of an adoring fan (Andrew), and the situation rapidly becomes complicated when Kate’s job puts directly into conflict with a local gardener, Ibsen Brown (think a younger Monty Don with a pony tail). Just to complicate things, Kate has a stepson who is older than she is and a teenage son, Ninian, who’s at the awkward age of lacking confidence yet wanting to belong, and therefore at risk of being easily misled.
Kate lives in Forgie (which is very loosely based on Inveresk, near Musselburgh). It’s a really pretty village, but she is put in charge of a new wind farm to be built on the hill above it, much to the fury of many locals.
I loved writing this book, and the places became very real in my head – so much so that I invented:
– a local newspaper, the Hailesbank Herald, where Daisy Irvine, the photographer heroine of Maximum Exposure works
– a furniture emporium, an antique shop, and a small art gallery which feature in People We Love
– a stately home just outside the town in Mistakes We Make and
– a rural cottage with a picturesque courtyard and outbuildings near Forgie in Loving Susie – the home of Susie Wallace, film star/actress Member of the Scottish Parliament.
Characters sometimes reappear too. I loved writing my novella, Sand in my Shoes, which features the headmistress of Summerfield Primary School, Nicola Arnott. She’s a very minor character in Face the Wind and Fly, but in the novella we get to know her and the challenges she faces as she heads off to a gorgeous little seaside town in France called Arcachon. And Molly Keir, the heroine’s best friend in People We Love, is the main character in the next book, Mistakes We Make.
I’d love to revisit the Heartlands (the name I gave this whole fictional area) – but then, I might just have to commission a cartographer first!
(Photo credits: Inveresk village: By Stephencdickson (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons. Haddington: By M J Richardson, via Wikimedia Commons.)
Thank you Jenny… and I do really want to catch up on the whole Heartlands series…!
Let’s take a look at an opening extract from Face the Wind and Fly…
‘You’re late,’ Andrew Courtenay said unnecessarily as his wife Kate hurried into the kitchen, a blur of arms and legs and shopping. He had already changed into his dinner suit and was lounging against the island unit in the middle of the room sipping white wine, a perfect picture of relaxation and readiness.
Kate dropped the bags and stared at him.
‘What?’ He smoothed down his tie and patted his hair self-consciously. ‘Did I spill curry down my front the last time I had this on?’
Andrew cut a fine figure, but then, he always had done. When they first met, she had just graduated but he’d been a young-looking forty-one. Sixteen years into their marriage, he inhabited his skin with assuredness. Master and Commander. Her master. At least, the owner of her heart – but not, right now, of her affections. Her mind still whirling with the news she’d been given at work she said, more curtly than she meant to, ‘I thought you said you’d drive.’
‘Ah.’ He studied the glass in his hand and then looked at the clock. ‘I forgot. I was in need. Martyne has been particularly difficult today.’
Martyne Noreis was the eponymous hero of Andrew’s bestselling medieval murder mysteries.
Martyne Noreis and the Circle of Fire
Martyne Noreis and the Woman in Scarlet
Martyne Noreis and —
Nine of them, the tenth to be published shortly.
‘Martyne was difficult?’ she echoed, thinking of the project she’d just been handed and wondering what could possibly be so challenging about a character that had never existed.
Andrew wrote his novels in the small room next to the front door of Willow Corner, their home in the pretty conservation village of Forgie. His study overlooked the garden on two sides and had book-covered walls and a leather sofa. In winter, Andrew lit the fire. While Kate scurried into whatever the weather chose to throw at her, frequently with her hard hat in one hand and jacket and boots in the other, Andrew sidled down the comfortably carpeted stairs a civilised hour or so later, put a match to the kindling, and settled to his thoughts without ever having to put a toe out of the door. Where Andrew’s life was lived from the study, Kate spent much of hers at the top of some wind-blown hill staring at wind turbines, or where they would shortly appear.
Kate liked wind turbines, which was good, because her job was to build them, whole farms of the things. Now, though, standing in the kitchen in mud-spattered trousers and still with her high-visibility vest over her jacket, she wondered why the hell she’d picked engineering when there must be a hundred other less challenging careers she could have chosen.
‘I really could do with a— Oh, never mind.’
Sometimes she felt she had to fight with the fictional Martyne and his perfectly beautiful, perfectly sensible wife Ellyn for Andrew’s attention, but she and Andrew had agreed their division of labour years ago. She was to be free to pursue her ambitions as an engineer, he to follow his dream of writing and, because he worked from home, to look after their son Ninian. Somewhere in the small print of that agreement lay all the dull minutiae of daily tasks, negotiated and renegotiated across the years.
With thanks to Jenny and Accent Press, I’m delighted to offer two lucky readers the chance to win an e-copy of Face the Wind and Fly. Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
About the author
I’ve been so lucky to have made a living out of what I love doing best: writing. One way or another, I’ve always written. Stories as a child, anguished poems as a teenager, essays as a student (though taking a degree in English Literature certainly put me off thinking I could write fiction!), then a career as a non-fiction author, editor and freelance journalist, and – finally – a novelist.
I was born in India, and it’s definitely in my blood. I grew up in England, and have lived in Scotland for most of my life. This was definitely a homecoming, as I have Scottish ancestry on both sides of my family, going way back – and it’s Scotland I love to write about.
There are a million other things I love doing too – making jewellery, painting, reading (of course), walking, seeing friends and family – and I feel blessed to be able to live in a warm local community, in the very beautiful city of Edinburgh.
I hope you enjoy coming with me to the places I love best!