When Salt Publishing got in touch to see if I would like to read a copy of the latest by Christina James I jumped at the chance. It is not often that you get a novel set in the lovely(?) fen land near my home town of Peterborough. Gentleman Jack starts with an investigation into the theft of expensive farm machinery (this the fens after all so there has to be a farm involved!) However the story soon turns more sinister as a serial killer makes his mark. I am delighted to welcome Christina to Acrimereadersblog.
Hi Christina and thanks for joining me today. Have you always been a writer?
In a certain sense, I think all writers believe they have always been writers – or at least, have always been both inspired and tortured by writing dreams! I certainly intended to be a writer well before I left primary school, and was writing (very derivative) Angela Brazil style writing stories at that time.
Are your main characters such as DS Juliet Armstrong inspired by people you know?
All my characters except one – one of the more minor characters who occurs in only two of the books and is based directly on someone from ‘real life’ – are either entirely invented or composites of several people I have known. Juliet comes from my imagination only; Tim Yates, her boss, shares certain characteristics with a couple of people I know – but only traits – he is very much his own person as well.
Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?
I have a day job which is quite demanding and involves a lot of travel. I therefore don’t have a ‘typical’ working day. But I expect you mean a typical day as a writer – and I do try to block out periods of time when I do nothing but write. Typically, then, I would write 1,000 – 2,000 words in the morning, revise them after lunch and then either write a post for my blog or do some work for other authors (I’m a part-time editor as well). The next day I would revise the previous day’s work again before starting on my next 1,000 – 2,000 words – revise, revise, revise is my mantra. (By this I generally mean ‘simplify’, rather than ‘embroider’.) Every few days I will also revise the previous block of about ten chapters or so, to make sure the tone is right and I haven’t committed to any contradictions. On days like this I will also fit in a brisk country walk.
How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?
Either going on a leisurely walk in the country or reading a good book. Or making a cake – I am a keen baker.
Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?
Absolutely! I always have several books on the go. The only author I read time and again is Jane Austen – I read her whole oeuvre every five years or so. I also return to some of the other classics sometimes – for example, I have just re-read The Moonstone. I read as many books by other Salt authors as I can. My all-time Salt favourite is The Clocks in this House all tell Different Times. I also think that The Litten Path is an outstanding debut novel; and there are other Salt authors with whom I am in frequent contact whose work I admire: Marie Gameson, Mark Carew and Catherine Eisner, to name but a few.
Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on next?
Yes: it is a modern take on a country house crime novel, set on an island in the River Welland, near Spalding, which actually exists. One of my friends suggested the island as the setting for my next novel and I thought it was an inspired choice. The owner of the island has very kindly shown me round it since I started work on the book.
That sounds fascinating, I look forward to reading it.
Thanks very much for joining me today Christina. To find out more about Gentleman Jack please visit the other stops on the blog tour and pop over to Randomthingsthroughmyletterboxtomorrow for the last stop on the tour: