It’s a pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour for The Landlord of Hummingbird House, the debut novel by Jane Harvey: independently published on 26th August, it’s now available for kindle and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support.
With its subtitle “First impressions and second chances”, this book was one I’d really have liked to add to my reading list – but I sadly just couldn’t manage that, however much I wanted to. Do take a look at the book’s description – it might just pique your interest as much as it did mine…
When April moves into Hummingbird House, she is intrigued by her mysterious landlord, Dai.
With a bruised heart and a distinct lack of furniture, she spends the summer getting to know the other occupants. As she smartens up her home and makes peace with her recent past, she befriends Paul, a solitary ex-chef, and Betty, an elderly lady who lives in the basement flat.
But Hummingbird House holds many secrets, and the relationships of the tenants are not as straightforward as they seem. April learns some shocking truths one eventful night, and realises that victims and villains can look the same.
The Landlord of Hummingbird House is a contemporary novel exploring unlikely friendships, unexpected love interests, and family relationships. Here, everyone is in need of a second chance – and appearances can be deceptive.
So, no review today – but I’m delighted to welcome author Jane Harvey as my guest to answer a few questions…
When did you first start writing?
I have always written on and off and recall writing dire, rambling stories in my childhood. I also had to re-write a piece of coursework at school because I had chosen the creative option so many times that my English portfolio didn’t meet the criteria anymore.
During my degree, I selected creative writing as an option and that really motivated me – I was published in a couple of periodicals around that time, and had a poem published in Mslexia women’s writing magazine (comparing my body to lumpy custard…) But as time went on, I went back to University to train as a secondary school teacher, then not long after that I had my son – although I continued to write it was very sporadic.
Three years ago, I decided that I needed to do something creative for myself, for my wellbeing. I decided to truly commit to writing and set myself targets for how much I would complete. I have been writing literary fiction (short stories and flash fiction) since then. I wish I had done it earlier.
How did the pandemic impact on your writing, if at all?
I am one of those very irritating people who wrote a novel in lockdown. In fact, I wrote two. The first has not been published or properly edited yet, and is more bleak than The Landlord of Hummingbird House. I wrote Hummingbird House in just over five months. It is different from anything I have written before and I think it was good for my spirits to write something that ignored the pandemic, and that was generally ‘feel good’ and positive.
The downside of the pandemic is that I haven’t been able to hold any face-to-face launch events, and I haven’t attended a writers’ group in months – but I count my blessings as this is not much to complain about in the big picture of things.
What is the hardest aspect of writing?
In terms of craft, I used to find speech challenging, but that issue seems to have resolved itself with practice.
For me, I would say I have the opposite issue to some writers. I know many people whose first draft is over 100K and they have trouble editing and chopping out scenes to bring their novel closer to 80K. I am a short story writer, so my first draft is always too short! I am used to writing the type of fiction where every word counts. The Landlord of Hummingbird House is still not a long novel, but it is just long enough to explore and develop the characters, so I am happy with that.
Do you ever get ‘writers’ block’?
Not often at all, actually. I have never gone more than a couple of weeks without writing and even then, I will always be editing, marketing, formatting etc (or whatever other writing jobs need doing) in the meantime, which keeps me ‘warm’. My advice for anyone who writes and struggles with this would be to write a piece of micro fiction – something 100 words, or even 50, to break the stalemate. Micro fiction is achievable and absorbing and can move you on.
What is the last book you read? What did you think of it?
The last book I read was Between the Stops by Sandi Toksvig. It is a form of autobiography, but nonchronological, and based on her thoughts as she travels her favourite bus routes in London, near her home. She talks about the history of the area and this, and the people she sees, prompts memories and thoughts about her life. That sounds very dry but it’s not at all. It’s a thought provoking and tender book. I thoroughly recommend it.
Would you ever consider writing a sequel to your book?
If I can curb my enthusiasm for random side projects, I would love to do this. The Landlord of Hummingbird House is a character-based novel, and there are a number of tenants in rented flats living in the house (or nearby) so there are lots of intriguing characters whose stories we could explore further.
What inspired the idea for your book?
The novel grew out of a short story I wrote about two people who lived close by but kept missing each other. The reader knew of them both and had hints that they would be what each other needed, if only they could meet. That’s not exactly what happens in The Landlord of Hummingbird House, but it is based on people coming and going, and because the book tells different chapters from different points of view, we do get glimpses of their inner thoughts and we get to know where they could help each other, or where they are similar, or very different.
How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?
Funnily enough, there is not usually a clear end to the process, and it passes me by before I even know it’s happened! Once you have finished writing, it’s straight into editing. Once you have edited, it’s straight into formatting and then uploading. And marketing. And all the rest that goes with that.
Perhaps I should pin a random date in the calendar and crack open the Champagne to make up for it!
Jane, that looks like a splendid idea – thank you for being my guest today, and I wish you every possible success with the book.
About the author
Jane Harvey is a pen name (shhh). She crafts fun fiction for the thinking woman, where she enjoys exploring unexpected friendships and writing happy endings. This is lucky, because in real life her (prize-winning) fiction is a little bleaker. She was born and raised on the island of Jersey, and lives with two males and a dog. She owns an admirable collection of animal vases and unusual lighting.