I’m joined today by Jan Bayham whose book Her Mother’s Secret I read and enjoyed earlier this year. She has just had her second novel published, Her Sister’s Secret, and she’s talking about that today. You find find buying links for various retailers on the Ruby Fiction website here: Her Sister’s Secret
Thanks for joining me Jan. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
Originally from mid-Wales, I now live in Cardiff with my husband. We have three grown up children and five grandchildren. I was a primary school teacher for many years, but I also taught the complete range of age groups from running my own nursery to teaching art and ceramics to adults. Towards the end of my career in education, I was a Teacher Adviser for English working with teachers in various schools. On retiring, I trained as a SAPERE Philosophy for Children (P4C) tutor and continued to do some freelance teacher training for a while. By this time, too, I’d joined a small writing group in a local library where I wrote my first piece of fiction. I went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories and flash fiction for publication to a wider audience. In October 2019, my first collection of stories was published. With my stories getting longer and longer, I took a novel writing course and began to write my first full-length novel. Her Mother’s Secret, was published in April 2020.
One of the best decisions I made was to join the Romantic Novelists’ Association in 2016. I value the friendship and support from other members and have gained so much from the conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers I’ve attended. Currently, I am co-organiser of our local RNA Chapter, Cariad.
What inspired you to start writing?
Once retired, I looked for something I hadn’t done before and to which I could devote my newly acquired time. Having loved inspiring both teachers and pupils in the craft of writing, writing my own fiction seemed to be the natural step for me to try. Once I joined the library writing group and enjoyed sharing my first efforts, I knew I wanted to find out everything I could about the craft of writing. I don’t think that learning ever finishes. From then on, I was hooked! Meeting authors at book fairs and listening to how they got started as writers further inspired and motivated me.
Tell me about your journey to publication
Joining the RNA’s New Writing Scheme played an important role on that journey. Unpublished authors submit their manuscripts and receive critiques from published authors who act as readers. The reports I received for both novels have been incredibly positive and constructive with plenty of advice about how to improve the novels further. After each one, I would edit my manuscripts again. Once I started submitting, there seemed to be progress within the rejections from the ‘Thanks, but no, thanks’ type to those where there was detailed feedback. These were the ones I was able to work on, using the suggestions (if I agreed with them) as a guide for a further edit. Acceptance from Ruby Fiction came quite quickly after that.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Located for the most part in a fictional village in rural mid-Wales, Her Sister’s Secret is another dual narrative set in two eras, post war in 1946-7 and then mid -sixties, 1965-66. It deals with mother/daughter relationships, forbidden love, Black Market dealings and a search for true identity.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
The title of the book fell into place naturally when I discussed it with my publisher and when readers read Her Sister’s Secret, I think they will realise how apt it is. The word ‘secret‘ is at the heart of the book as it was for my debut. Always fascinated by family secrets, if I see a book has the word ‘secret’ in the title, it always draws me further in to read the blurb. I hope that other readers will feel the same.
How did you celebrate publication day?
With COVID, there will be no launch party or getting together with friends. My husband and I have booked a meal in Fragolino, described as the best Sicilian restaurant in Cardiff. It will be our first visit there, but the menu looks amazing. I shall try to order the same dishes that Jen chose when she was on that beautiful island in 1966. I shall definitely be sampling cannoli, the sweet pastries filled with ricotta, that Jen got a liking for.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
My contract with Ruby Fiction is for three books and I am about a third of the way through draft one of novel three. It’s another family story that revolves around a secret kept by a mother who sacrifices her own happiness for the benefit of her daughter. It is set in rural mid-Wales and this time my main character travels to Northern France. It starts at the beginning of World War 2 and the story is picked up again by the daughter in 1959. The novel deals with social class, forbidden love, the consequences of war and the relationship between a mother and her daughter.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months?
The stand-out book for me in the last few months is Echoes Of The Runes by Christina Courtenay. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this book and couldn’t put it down. I love time-slip novels and the smooth transitions from one era to another without any need for signposting meant I knew exactly where I was throughout the book. I know very little about Sweden, the Vikings or archaeology but the setting and descriptions of the digs and artefacts made me feel I was there. Not wanting the story to end, I was so pleased to learn that its sequel is due out at the end of the year.
What are you reading just now?
My current read is The Ferryman’s Daughter by Juliet Greenwood. I’m a big fan of Juliet’s writing and this is her first book with a new publisher, Orion. The novel tells of Hester, a strong young woman who is determined to realise her dream against the odds. Set in Cornwall in the early twentieth century against a backdrop of WW1, I’m loving the way Hester is fighting for her family yet striving to be the independent woman her mother wanted her to be.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year by Allie Esiri would make the perfect choice, I think. I first heard of this beautiful book when I watched a webinar at the 2020 Virtual Hay Festival where the author introduced it. Each page of the collection contains an extract, which might be a famous poem, quote or scene of Shakespeare’s, matched to the date. It could also act as a calendar if I were to lose track of time on the desert island! I was lucky enough to receive this as a gift for my birthday from my daughter.
[Good choice – I gave that to my daughter for her Christmas last year!]
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
One of my favourite books, and one I wished I could have written myself, is Letters To The Lost by Iona Grey. It’s a beautifully written love story, poignant and heart-wrenching, with two narratives running parallel – one set in wartime and the other in the present. I can imagine how skilful cinematography of scenes of London in the Blitz could enhance the developing love affair of Stella and Dan and then move seamlessly to present day London for Jess and Will’s story. However, the actors would have to be cast very carefully in line with the author’s brilliant characterisation and world-building.
[Oh I loved that book too, it would make a great film!]
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I try to be active on social media, not just building a presence for myself and my writing but also to support fellow authors. I’m always thrilled when readers contact me to say if they’ve enjoyed my books. Here are my links:
Twitter: @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham
Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit
Blog: Jan’s Journey Into Writing https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I tend to love the characters in the current book I’m reading so, at the moment, that would be Hester Pearce from The Ferryman’s Daughter. You’d meet me in 1908 when I’m eleven years old and when my mother is still alive and follow me through to young adulthood as you see me striving to help my family escape poverty and fulfil my dreams. What I admire about Hester is her strength of character. She’s feisty and will not succumb to the expected role of drudgery as a working-class woman at that time.
Thank you for inviting me onto your blog Joanne. I enjoyed answering your questions.
My pleasure, thanks for popping along. Good luck with the new book!
From the back of the book
The Summer of ’66
How far would you travel to find the truth?
It’s the 1960s and Jennifer Howells is a young woman with the world at her feet, just on the cusp of leaving her Welsh village for an exciting life in the city.
Then the contents of an inconspicuous brown envelope turn Jennifer’s world upside down. The discovery leaves her spiralling, unsure who she is. Overnight, Miss Goody Two Shoes is replaced by a mini-skirted wild child who lives for parties and rock’n’roll.
But Jennifer’s experience with the excesses of sixties’ culture leaves her no closer to her true identity. She soon realises she’ll have to travel further – first to Cardiff, then across the ocean to Sicily – if she wants to find out who she really is …