Welcome to my monthly blog where I feature an Indie Author. My guest today is popular author Jane Risdon. So grab a cup of coffee – or a glass of wine! – and let’s get chatting to Jane. 😊
Welcome to my blog, Jane. Lovely to talk to you. I’d like to start with asking if you have ever been traditionally published?
Yes, I am traditionally published. I have a co-authored novel with Christina Jones, Only One Woman, with a traditional publisher, one of the top five, and I am included in two anthologies with the same publisher.
I am what I believe is called a hybrid, in that I have also published through an indie publishing company as well. My collection of short crime stories, Undercover: Crime Shorts, is published by an independent company in New Zealand.
Over the last ten years I have also had short stories published in several anthologies with the same indie publisher and with a couple of others, often in aid of various charities. I try to write for a charity every couple of years.
Can you tell us what you think are the main differences between being traditionally and indie published?
On the surface, extraordinarily little I’d say, but that is simplistic. Being traditionally published means that you are given an editor who works closely with you and is a great asset in that they will guide, offer advice, suggest changes, point out errors in timelines and inconsistencies within one’s story which may have been missed by the author. We all get word blind.
The traditional publisher formats and prints the finished book and has means of distribution —possibly globally via licensing agreements — so, in theory your reach as an author is greater. At one time the traditional publisher would handle the publicity and promotion of the author and book and arrange personal appearances. Their name has clout and gives the author credibility, supposedly.
However, my experience has been that I am supposed as a traditionally publisher author, to do all the PR and publicity myself. My publisher for Only One Woman did a little PR when the book came out, every now and again they would post Tweets, put something out on Instagram and Facebook, but that was about it. That ended quickly and now I do it all – in-fact I have done all the publicity for Only One Woman to date following publication.
I’ve arranged online guest author posts, internet radio interviews, press, etc., for the novel and I am still doing it.
Only One Woman is sold via Waterstones, Blackwells, Foyles, WH Smith etc on a Print on Demand basis and is not stocked in the stores. Readers need to order the book from these stores in person or online. This was a huge surprise to me. Successful authors have their books stocked by stores but it never occurred to me that our novel would not. But at least having a traditional publisher opened the door to being sold in actual brick stores and not just on-line which affords some kudos apparently.
The anthologies in which I am a contributor via my traditional publisher — Shiver and Wishing on a Star — are sold in the same way, via stores and online.
The Indie author goes it alone. They are responsible for getting their work edited, the formatting and artwork arranged and done, printing arranged via one of the online platforms such as Amazon, Lulu etc. I decided not to self-publish as such, but get an Indie involved to edit, format, use the artwork I submitted, and to put it up on the necessary platforms.
I was able to arrange for Undercover: Crime Shorts to be sold, Print on Demand, through Waterstones, Blackwells, Foyles, etc since I already have a profile with these stores and have my own Author Pages with them. I think it helped having a traditional publisher already, and with my Crime Collection listing a publisher, albeit an Indie company, on the cover I feel this helped.
I still do all the PR, promotion, and arrange my own interviews on blogs, and on online internet radio myself. I am doing all this for my traditionally published work as well, so in this respect there is little difference between the two.
I get to keep all the royalties being Indie published, I must share my royalties being traditionally published.
The anthologies in which I’ve contributed stories other than via my traditional and my Indie publisher have all been subject to different arrangements, but ultimately I do my share of PR and promotion to push these books.
And what made you decide to become an Indie author?
I don’t think of myself as an Indie author as such, although I made a conscious decision to publish Undercover: Crime Shorts with another company, which is Indie, because I did not want to wait to publish it. At the time, my traditional publisher had just been sold and the new company was not planning on publishing anything by the authors they’d inherited, for about two years. I did not want to wait two years, so I got permission to publish the book elsewhere. I didn’t want to waste time seeking another traditional publisher and so I engaged an Indie with whom I’d published short stories prior to my traditional deal some years ago.
I haven’t any plans to Indie publish again unless my latest books are not taken up with a traditional publisher and I get tired of waiting. My agent is submitting on my behalf.
What is the inspiration for your latest book?
I have written a series called, Ms. Birdsong Investigates, which is about an MI5 Intelligence Officer who is unexpectedly given the option to take voluntary retirement or face the sack and loss of her pension due to a joint operation with MI6 going terribly wrong. She ‘retires,’ to a village in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, to lick her wounds and plot her return to MI5 come hell or high water.
It is hard to pinpoint a moment when the inspiration for her arrived inside my head. I have wanted to write a security services/organised crime novel for a long time. Before I was involved in the international music business, I worked for several British government departments. In Germany I worked for the Ministry of Defence on a huge army base. I went on to work in London and elsewhere for the government. These positions have given me a huge amount of material to use in my writing and what I experienced and learned whilst working for them intrigued and fascinated me, and I filed it all away for the time when I could write.
I especially had a fabulous time at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London during the late 1960s at the height of the Cold War and the IRA ‘troubles,’ when I lived at a Civil Service hostel on the Bayswater Road. I shared a dorm with 4 other girls. We all worked for various government departments: one worked in Customs and Excise and used to bring drug samples home so she could familiarise herself with what they looked and tasted like, another worked at the Home Office so you can imagine what interesting things we used to talk about.
Work was exciting, we were always evacuating our building on the Victoria Embankment — the former premises of Old Scotland Yard and recently, once again, the new premises of New Scotland Yard — due to bomb threats from the IRA. I worked with our ambassadors and staff of the various British embassies and consulates around the world and when our Ambassador to Montevideo, in Uruguay, was kidnapped by Tupamaros Guerrillas and held for ransom, we worked around the clock trying to secure his release. It took 9 months.
When the Soviet Union was found to have been spying on the UK from its Embassy in London we expelled almost 100 diplomats and in retaliation the Russians expelled our Moscow Embassy staff. It was exciting and great material for a future author to store inside their imagination.
I met with Special Branch regularly for interview by a Commander who was responsible for keeping my P. V status (positive vetting) up to date. Everyone wanting to join the FCO had to be vetted to ensure there weren’t any areas in their private life which could lead to blackmail by a foreign power, to keep it from becoming public. I was vetted when I was in Germany before I was employed by the FCO. We handled sensitive materials, working with what was known back then as ‘the funny buggers,’ aka as spies, and so anyone working for the FCO had to be beyond reproach, which is funny when you think of what has gone on over the years.
The commander with whom I met regularly was instrumental in the surveillance upon, and eventual arrest, of the husband-and-wife spies, The Krogers, who were part of the infamous Portland Spy Ring which had been exposed and prosecuted in the early 1960s. My chats with him fuelled my appetite for anything espionage related. And I also realised that there was a lot of Organised Crime involved with the security of our country.
I am not sure if Ms. Birdsong was lurking in the back of my mind then but over the years as I worked in various departments, including the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, Oxfordshire, my imagination worked over-time and I learned so much that would or could be used for material when I eventually had time to write.
Dame Stella Rimington was the first woman Director General of MI5 and she later became a best-selling author of a series about an MI5 officer, and I think it was she who inspired me to consider writing about a female intelligence officer.
I wanted Ms. B to be a strong independent woman with a vast wealth of experience within the security services. Her name popped into my head out of the blue one day and I started to write.
That all sounds fascinating, Jane. How do you go about your research?
I’ve already mentioned that my inspiration for my crime/mystery writing comes from my experiences although I must stress I have never been a criminal or a murderer, and from reading similar books. I love crime/espionage fiction and true crime. When I write about music in my crime stories, I call upon my experience in the music business. Write what you know they tell us. The music business is well known for its criminal connections.
To enable my writing to be more authentic and accurate I decided some years ago to take 7 university courses online with several universities, and with tutors who are world renowned in their fields. I studied some courses in Forensic Science under Dame Sue Black at Dundee University, for example. I also studied other Forensic Science courses, Criminal Justice, and basic Archaeology. I don’t write police procedurals, but I felt I needed to have a basic and comprehensive understanding of how forensics and criminal justice works so that when I am writing about the discovery of a body or how a murderer is tracked and convicted, I don’t open myself up for ridicule and condemnation by my readers for having got the very basics wrong.
I research as I write. I am not one for planning so when I get to a part in my story where something is about to happen or has happened which requires forensic or criminal justice being involved, if I don’t know or cannot recall what I have learned, I will go online and research. I also have access to a couple of former homicide detectives and a counter-terrorism officer I can consult who are also authors and are most helpful. I enjoy the research aspect of writing.
Have you ever been to any of the countries in your books?
Yes I have. Only One Woman is set in the late 1960s in England, Germany, Jersey (Channel Islands), Wales and Scotland, and it is also set in France, and I have been to these places or have lived there. In the story countries where cruise ships called into are mentioned. I have not been on a cruise, but my musician husband and his band played all over the world and have been on several Mediterranean cruises visiting many exotic places, so he has been invaluable supplying details for me when writing about these locations. They played on the cruises when they were waiting for a European tour and a record to be released. They needed the money!
I have lived and worked in Europe, America, and SE Asia and quite often I will add these locations into my stories or set stories there. I find it makes interesting reading. I love reading stories set in locations other than Britain.
What are your hobbies when not writing?
I love writing so I do spend a great deal of my time at my desk writing stories, articles, and blog posts, and when I am not doing that, if time and lockdown allows, I can be found out and about with my camera or camera phone. I enjoy taking photos and walking in our lovely countryside or in the great gardens we have in England.
As well as the countryside and nature, I love photographing old churches, cathedrals, ancient buildings, and villages. Brick walls, chimney stacks, gates, doors — you name it. My camera is aimed the moment I spot anything.
For over 40 years I have been researching family history and have reunited long lost family members from around the world. I was going to write a book about it but none of my family or my husband’s is in the least bit interested in what I discovered, so that is on the backburner for now. Possibly one day.
I have a passion for general knowledge, so I really enjoy quizzes, but not quiz game shows. I have been an avid reader since I was old enough to read. I read mostly crime, espionage, or thrillers.
Astronomy and anything to do with space and the planets, star systems, galaxies, and the cosmos captivates me. Professor Brian Cox is a star, and the late Carl Sagan and Sir Patrick Moore have been my idols, if that is the right word, since I first watched anything to do with Astronomy when I was little. The Sky at Night was and still is one of my favourite TV programmes. I love science.
Music. I cannot l forget music. It has been my life since I first heard Nat King Cole and Doris Day as a child at home, and having married a musician, later working with musicians for most of my adult working years, it is the second most important part of my life. Home is filled with music. Listening to it or having my husband song-writing and playing his guitar as I write. Music is forever with me.
Jane Risdon is the co-author of ‘Only One Woman,’ with Christina Jones (Headline Accent) and ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ (Plaisted Publishing), as well as having many short stories published in numerous anthologies. She has written for several online and print magazines such as Writing Magazine and has a regular series in The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine.
Undercover: Crime Shorts was the February Free Book of the Month on the virtual library and festival site, MYVLF.com, and her live video interview features in their theatre. She is a regular guest on international internet radio shows such as theauthorsshow.com, chatandspinradio.com, and The Brian Hammer Jackson Radio Show.
Before turning her hand to writing Jane worked in the International Music Business alongside her musician husband, working with musicians, singer/songwriters, and record producers. They also facilitated the placement of music in movies and television series. Earlier in her life she worked for various government departments in Germany and the UK.
You can find her on:
In December 2020 Jane signed with Linda Langton of Langton’s Literary Agency in New York City, New York USA. You can contact Jane via Linda at: www.langtonsinternational.com
Undercover: Crime Shorts universal link
Only One Woman universal link
Wishing on a Star universal link
In A Word: Murder universal link
Lovely to talk to you, Jane. You’ve certainly led a fascinatng life, which has inspired your writing. Wishing you lots of success with your books.
Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
Amazon Author Page: https://tinyurl.com/y2q5audb