An Interview with Jon Beattiey, author of Mary’s Legacy

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I’m pleased to welcome Jon Beattiey, author of Mary’s Legacy, to Linda’s Book Bag today. Mary’s Legacy is published by Tregertha Imprints and is available for purchase directly from Jon here.

As well as interviewing Jon about his writing, I’m sharing one of Jon’s poems.

Mary’s Legacy

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. . . She died, and left her film art-director husband Donald with the prospect of a life on his own. Twenty-five years of love and companionship destroyed by an insidious fatal illness.

In the train northbound to his remote cottage in the Lakes he reflects on her passing, on the resolute way she faced death and her last instruction echoes through his head.

find a girl who needs someone like you”

His love for her is stronger than death and her spirit, her indomitable sprit, is always there, in his mind, in the way he sees her presence in every place, every action throughout the forthcoming days,  How can he possibly be expected to ‘find another girl’?

But he does, when one member of a party of walkers gets into trouble on the path near his cottage and he can’t help but become involved . . .

Can dark-haired Paula truly fill the space Mary left and allow him to fulfil her last request? The story follows the pair as they develop a relationship built around the perceived spiritual presence of Donald’s deceased Mary.

From the depths of the Lake District to the strange world of Pinewood Studios, with a glance into daughter Sarah’s Parisian world of haute couture, a film’s conception moves to the beautiful location work in Puglia (Southern Italy) where we meet the lovely Michaela and then on to a prestigious film launch. . .

A surprisingly intense and beautiful story of how a love can become more dominant than death; it will inspire and strengthen awareness of the power of the stubborn human spirit in a fascinating and most readable way.

An Interview with Jon Beattiey

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Jon. Tell me, how did you begin writing?

The first novel took shape after a foray into the damp February countryside (2006) where I met a lone lady horse-rider who offered a lovely smile – and wove a story around the meeting once home and sitting in front of the screen . . . only ten years and twelve novels ago! This must have been pre-destined – though a ‘hands-on’ person and creative in many ways, writing has become an all-absorbing pastime.  My mother wrote, but not professionally.  I still own a number of her prize books.

How do you conduct your research for your many novels?

Most of the detail and backdrop for novels comes from a lifetime of experience; I feel sorry for the bright young budding authors who haven’t had the benefit of life.  They can’t possibly weave the same depth of story.

Your novels have strong female protagonists. Why do you write from this perspective?

I write ‘relationship’ fiction (not ROMANCE as in M & B!) so the ‘ladies’ must figure strongly – a story wouldn’t be the same without its leading lady and they allow one to develop intrigue.  There are strong male characters too – Peter in Windblow, Andrew in the Manor Trilogy, Jones in Seeking, Jack in Greays Hill, Peregrine in Melisande  etc.

Which element of writing do you feel is most important?

The setting for a novel is all-important.  It must be right for the story, and essentially correct so readers can, if necessary, identify with the area.  Sometimes the backdrop dictates the twist of the story.  Melisande is a case in point.

What is the most difficult aspect of writing do you think?

Finding the right moment to take the story on as there are other factors that dictate the time available.  I don’t have any routine; I’ll add a sentence, a phrase, a paragraph or a thousand words according to mood, time and circumstance.  It’s mostly behind the cosy desk in our library, with a view over the garden.

Which of your books is your favourite?

I’m often asked ‘which is your favourite book” – the answer is often ‘the one I’m writing.  I loved writing Twelve Girls (over three/four years, a ‘Girl’ at a time), ‘Seeking’ was also a joy to write – it flowed beautifully and was set around my old school haunts – and Greays Hill is a ‘Tour-de-force’ of childhood memories which unexpectedly became the HNA’s Book of the Month on publication.  It is also beautifully printed, with chapter illustrations too.  A joy to hold and thumb pages . . .  and I’m proud of ‘em all.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

Well, with so many books thrown at me by different publishers it’s difficult to choose.  Now and again one appears that grips me,  Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas comes to mind – or Nine Pins by Rosy Thornton – there are many others who share my philosophy on plot and backdrop.  Sadly, there so many that are ‘also-rans’ because they are ‘written to the clock’ by writers contracted to mainstream publishers and have little depth to them.

What other interests do you have that inspire your writing?

Walking: it’s odd how, when out and about, little incidents produce story lines.  The Contour novel (first of a trilogy) followed meeting that lady rider.  Seeking was inspired by the glance from one late-teenage girl from a group leaving a senior school across a road in Stamford.  Melisande came from an intriguing European fairy-tale – and the latest one – 6,500 words so far – from a chance remark from a bookseller in Ballyvaughan, an Irish town on the Co. Clare coast.

Tell us a bit about the mentoring  you do.

Driven by the oft-quoted comments from young people “how do you manage to produce such lovely stories’, I offered to ‘teach’ one young lady who said ‘I wish I’d had you as my English teacher at school’ – and it went on from there.  She’s since been published.

If you had to be a character from one of your books, who would you choose?

Difficult question.  Each one has an individualistic streak, so I’d probably say I’d pinch a bit from most of them – the best bits!  Though many debut writers will have some autobiographical traits written unconsciously into their stories, I’ve taken pains to ensure this isn’t the case.  Life tells you which aspects of one’s character are likeable, and what isn’t – and this helps when drafting a protagonist’s c.v.  I do love the girls though – each and every one of the dozens I’ve invented.  The great thing is, you can tell them what to do and they don’t argue  . . . though I once killed one off, lost sleep over her demise and so had to write her back into life. An author’s power of resurrection!

How would you feel about one of your books being turned into a film?

Turning a book into a film?  Dream world.  I worked with Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros as a location provider in the ‘80’s for some notable films (Aliens, Batman) and had I been writing then, who knows what might have happened – I had the ear of the directors!  Since then, I’ve used the backdrop of the film world in Mary’s Legacy, an emotional write because it covers the death of a lovely girl from cancer and how her film art-director husband is able to turn her loss into bringing another woman back to a proper life from what could have been despair.  That might make a superb and topical film – as would Greay’s Hill – in fact a notable reviewer has suggested it.  (A copy is currently sitting in a production office in Hollywood!)  I also had a comment from a BBC producer that Twelve Girls would make an excellent ‘Two series of six episodes’ – but I’m still waiting!

And how would you describe a Jon Beattiey book in 15 words?

Different, believable, heartfelt, ‘proper English’, no overt swearing or clumsy sex.  Charming characters, beautiful backdrops.

Finally, I’d like to share one of Jon’s poems today:

In Memoriam, Pace.

 For every life there is a living, for every death there is a giving.

Giving life to death is heartache, yet,

Death is part of life, to understand may leave us empty,

Until the reason of the parting gives sense to life,

And to the gift that God has taken.

 

This we must accept; each one must sacrifice our love,

So life can then again become us;

To journey on towards our destiny,

And live, knowing that we have given

Our best, our love, to God.

 

We mourn, as mere mortals do, the gift now taken from us.

The greater gift, the greater depth of loss,

Though we should not grieve too long, too deep, for

That life, that gift, has found a better place,

And in so doing,

Leaves us the room to construct yet more gifts

To offer God, in time’s fulfilment.

About Jon Beattiey

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Jon Beattiey has a long-term background of industry in the management of people and property. He did three years with the National Trust, having responsibility for the care and conservation of a major property in Surrey and now runs both a mail-order business and a B & B with his wife. Jon is a prolific writer, copy editor and reviewer, even on a number of occasions beating The Times to  influential reviews, which included a Booker prize winning novel.  Also, on the ‘reading’ panel for a National Book Award and monitoring submissions to a major publisher of women’s’ fiction, Jon successfully mentors up and coming new writers, undertakes school tutorials and focuses on young people’s literary development.  When possible, he loves to travel by train across Europe yet still likes to explore out-of-the-way places in the UK for story ideas.

Jon now lives in Bedfordshire with his wife Sue, has three grown -up children, each with youngsters of their own. He enjoys gardening, long walks in open country and the challenge of writing in all its aspects, including poetry.  He participates in Literary Festivals when time allows, gives talks on a variety of literary subjects and has lost count of the number of book-signings undertaken.  Jon loves well-bound volumes, well-run second-hand and independent bookshops, hates e-books, heavy discounting and worries about the over-use of mobile devices that diminish true social interaction.

You can find out more about Jon on his website and find him on Facebook.

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