It’s no secret that I love featuring authors I’ve actually met on Linda’s Book Bag and today I’m delighted to welcome another of those authors, John Jackson. John and I met in September and I’m so pleased he agreed to tell me all about Heart of Stone.
Heart of Stone is published today, 24th October 2017, and is available for purchase here.
Heart of Stone
When young and beautiful Mary Molesworth is forced to marry Robert Rochford, widowed heir to the earldom of Belfield, she finds that her idea of love is not returned. Jealous, cruel and manipulative, Robert ignores her after she has provided him with a male heir, preferring to spend his nights with his mistress. Power-hungry, Robert builds up a reputation that sees him reach for the highest positions in Ireland.
Caught in an unhappy marriage, Mary begins to grow closer to Robert’s younger brother, Arthur. Acknowledging their love for each other, they will risk everything to be together. But Robert’s revenge threatens their lives and tears them apart.
Will Mary and Arthur find a way to escape Robert’s clutches?
Based on real events, Heart of Stone is a tale of power, jealousy, imprisonment, and love, set in 1740s Ireland.
An Interview with John Jackson
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, John and congratulations on today’s publication of Heart of Stone. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Heart of Stone in particular.
Tell me, why do you write?
Because I enjoy it! (although I don’t enjoy the struggles with writers block)
When did you realise you were going to be a writer?
When I realised that I had a story to tell, and that I could tell that story. What I had to learn was to tell it in a way that made it approachable for others.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
If I can get the story fixed in my head, then I can rip out several thousand words a day. That’s the easy bit.
The hardest has been deciding exactly where you want to go with a story.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I use a trolley table and type at my chair in the lounge. I am quite happy typing away with the TV on. Weird, isn’t it?
(Interesting as many authors tell me they need to be away from all distractions!)
In your previous working life you did quite a lot of technical writing. How difficult was it to turn your hand to fiction?
Ha ha ha!! Chalk and cheese in so many ways. My previous experience certainly helped in so far as I knew my way around a document, so the technical side was very familiar.
The more technical documentation I wrote, the more I realised that I was writing for the reader – in my previous life these were mostly ships officers who had English as a second language. In other words, simplicity and clarity are everything. That was a help when it came to writing fiction.
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Heart of Stone?
It is set in Ireland and is about a family of three brothers. One had all the advantages by way of position and money, while the middle brother had all the moral advantages. Add a third brother who’s only love is money, and a young girl pressured into marriage and you have some great ingredients.
I know you have an avid interest in family history and have used some of it as a basis for your writing. How did it feel to include elements about those from your own background?
Great! For me it personalised it, so in many ways writing it didn’t feel like work.
How did you go about researching detail and ensuring Heart of Stone was realistic?
I read all I could about the personalities involved, and visited the main sites for the story – initially on line and then in person. As Heart of Stone is set partly in a major building in Ireland, I contacted the managers of Belvedere who were also amazingly helpful.
Heart of Stone is set in Ireland. Why here particularly and how easy did you find it to create a sense of place in your writing?
I have been to Ireland a few times over the years, and researched the period and area as extensively as I could. A lot of the “first draft” had to be intelligent guesswork, but we went over to the location two years ago and just wandered around soaking up the atmosphere and “feel” of the place. As it happens, there was very little I needed to change, but it was extremely useful in giving me more confidence in what I had written. Even little but important details, like “Can you see over the local hedges lining the roads there”
You’re highly supportive of other authors on social media. What advice would you give to those authors who tell me they don’t use social media platforms?
If you have never used Twitter or Facebook before it can seem very daunting, especially when you see and read so many warnings about identity theft, etc. I found it a great place to meet people, and, over the years, to meet them in real life, where on-line friends turn in to real friends,
I would urge any writer to try Twitter and Facebook, and not to be afraid of them. It is, perhaps, the modern equivalent of a “chat across the garden fence”.
I know you belong to the Romantic Novelists Association and the Historic Novel Association and love attending conferences. What do you gain as a writer from such involvement?
Meeting friends!! I have lost count of the times that I have been approached by someone and told “Hi, John – I’m on your Friday twitter list,” or “We are friends on Facebook”
As a writer, it helps me get back in the groove. I have learnt a LOT from the various sessions, especially from Julie Cohen and from Emma Darwin.
As a writer, I would say I learn more about the “Craft” of writing at the RNA Conferences, and more about History and Historic Writing at the HNS Conference.
Heart of Stone has a cover that suggests murkiness and mystery to me. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
The cover uses a portrait of one of the main protagonists in the story. The original hangs in the house I mentioned, Belvedere. The management were unbelievably helpful in allowing me to use the image.
If you could choose to be a character from Heart of Stone, who would you be and why?
Very difficult. Probably either Stafford or Flynn.
If Heart of Stone became a film, who would you like to play Mary and why would you choose them?
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I tend to read a lot of historical novels, esp. writers like Bernard Cornwell, Linsey Davis and Simon Scarrow.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Heart of Stone should be their next read, what would you say?
It’s a story of jealousy, passion, privilege and suffering, but with love at its heart
Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions John.
And thank you for asking them.
About John Jackson
Following a lifetime at sea, John Jackson has now retired and lives in York. After thirty years of non-fiction writing, drafting safety procedures and the like, he has now turned his hand to writing fiction.
An avid genealogist, he found a rich vein of ancestors going back many generations. His forebears opened up Canada and Australia and fought at Waterloo.
A chance meeting with some authors, now increasingly successful, led him to try to turn some of his family history into historical novels.
John is a keen member of the Romantic Novelists Association and graduated through their New Writers Scheme. He is also a member of the Historic Novel Association and an enthusiastic conference-goer for both organizations.
He describes himself as being “Brought up on Georgette Heyer from an early age, and, like many of my age devoured R L Stevenson, Jane Austen, R M Ballantyne, and the like.”