I’m delighted to be joined by Jessica Redland today. I’ve read and really enjoyed loads of Jessica’s books and thought it was about time to invite her to tell me – and you – more about herself. Thanks for joining me Jessica. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
My name’s Jessica Redland and I live in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, with my husband, our 14-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old sprocker spaniel called Ella who still thinks she’s a puppy. I’ve nearly always worked in HR, specialising in recruitment and training, but fulfilled my dream of becoming a full-time author last summer.
I’m a stationery addict with a notepad obsession who loves chocolate (although it doesn’t love me), hedgehogs, 80s music, collectible teddy bears and lighthouses. Many of these feature in my stories!
What inspired you to start writing?
In my late twenties, I used to produce reports as part of my role as a graduate recruitment and development manager. My manager would tell me my reports read more like stories and I should write a book. I loved any aspect of my job that involved writing, my favourite tasks involving creating scenarios and characters for assessment exercises, and I realised I’d love to write a book but I had no plot ideas. Then something unusual happened in my personal life which I realised would make a great premise for a book. That true-life event became the story behind New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and once I’d had that idea, it was as though a creative dam burst and I had loads of them!
Tell me about your journey to publication
It took me a whopping ten years to write my first book! During that time, I had several major life-events like moving four times, opening and closing a shop, getting married, having a baby, and changing job several times so there were significant chunks of time when I wasn’t writing but I was always thinking about it. I also studied the craft as being good at writing and being good at writing a book are different skills.
I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) and put my debut manuscript through the scheme twice. In 2013, I started sending it out to publishers and agents and, after several rejections, received two offers in 2014. I accepted a three-book deal with a new publisher and they released a prequel novella in May 2015 then a trilogy of full-length novels over the next 14 months. Sadly, they struggled to establish themselves and, shortly after my final book was published, they ceased trading.
I re-released the books as an indie author along with several others between late 2016 and 2018 but I struggled to make an impact. With a demanding full-time day job, it was hard to find time to write, never mind time to invest in the advertising and promotion I needed. The time felt right to seek another publishing deal and I couldn’t have been more fortunate to be taken on by Boldwood Books in early 2019. I signed a contract to edit and re-release all my backlist books and write several new ones. The final book from my backlist, Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop will be out in early August and a brand new book called Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café will be out in late August, starting my second twelve-book contract with Boldwood.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow was released on 4th May and is the third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series. Hedgehog Hollow is a fictional hedgehog rescue centre set on a farm in the Yorkshire Wolds.
All the books in the series feature the owner of Hedgehog Hollow, Samantha Wishaw, as the main character and the first book Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is purely told from her perspective. For the other books, there’s a second perspective and, while readers continue to find out what is happening for Samantha and the gorgeous rescue hogs and hoglets (baby hedgehogs), there’s a plotline from someone else’s perspective running alongside it which impacts on Samantha.
As you can probably guess from the title, there are family secrets in this book. Samantha’s cousin Chloe turns up at the start of the book with her baby son and announces she’s left her husband James, but won’t explain why. It’s all connected to a secret from her past catching up with her which is going to rock the family.
I’m writing a fourth book in the series now which will be out in January 2022. There’ll definitely be a fifth and there may be a sixth but I’ll know that for certain once I’ve written book 4. I’m also hoping to write a prequel story. Hedgehog Hollow is such a stunning setting and there are so many fascinating characters, all with stories to tell, that what was only planned as one book has become so much bigger!
As with all my stories, it’s an emotional but uplifting read of love, friendship, family and community that may draw a few tears but will bring plenty of smiles and leave readers with a warm and fuzzy moment. My characters often have a rough ride but I guarantee them a happy ending.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I always knew I’d set a book in a hedgehog rescue centre, inspired by my auntie who runs a small-scale rescue operation from home.
I used to be a Brown Owl and one of my Brownies gave the group a talk about hedgehogs for one of her badges. She was passionate about wildlife and often visited the local hedgehog rescue centre in the village where I ran Brownies. It was called Sleepy Hollow which I thought was simply gorgeous. The owner moved abroad a few years ago so it no longer exists but I knew that, when I found a plot for my hedgehog rescue centre, I’d take the ‘Hollow’ part and add ‘Hedgehog’ to the front.
Thankfully my editor loved the sound of Hedgehog Hollow and it seemed logical that all the books would take the format ‘xxxx at Hedgehog Hollow’. We then have something that’s relevant to the theme/plot: Finding Love, New Arrivals, Family Secrets.
How did you celebrate publication day?
Publication day can be very hectic, sharing the exciting news across various social media platforms, having the blog tour commence and responding to all the lovely comments from readers and well-wishers so I’ve learned now not to plan to do any writing that day.
In a pre-Covid world, I’d have gone out for lunch with my husband and I’ll hopefully be able to do that again for my other publication days this year.
This publication day, I had a hair appointment! I didn’t plan it to coincide with publication day but, when it was offered, I thought I’d better grab it. I was due to have it cut on the first day of the original lockdown in England so it hadn’t been cut since early December 2019 and was nearly down to my waist and driving me mad!
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I’m working on a brand new story called Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café which is a book I started writing four years ago to release as a Christmas novella. I stopped when I realised the story was far bigger than I could tell in a novella. Funnily enough, it’s also turned out to be too big to tell in a full-length novel so my major challenge right now is to separate out the two key plot lines into two books. I’m about halfway through that task and it’s been a tough one but the great part is I then have about a third of a book written for a future release so more work now will end up being less work later.
In Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café we return to the North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay where many of my books are set but we’re on a cliff top just outside of the town above a seal sanctuary so it’s somewhere new to explore. As you can probably imagine from the title, there’s snow! It’s set across November and December so it’s all about winter: hot chocolate, log fires, fluffy jumpers and snow. Always a little strange to be working on when it’s bright sunshine outside!
What one book would you recommend to a friend and why?
I wasn’t sure whether this meant of my books or books I’ve read so I’m going to answer from both perspectives! For my books, it’s really tough to narrow it down but perhaps Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow as this series has been extremely popular and who wouldn’t want to read about gorgeous hedgehogs? If readers prefer a coastal setting and want to dip their toe in, I’d recommend All You Need Is Love. It’s one of my personal favourites and will be a great introduction to my writing as well as my major setting.
For books not written by me, I always struggle to recommend a specific book as my favourite is often the one I’ve read most recently. I read a lot of books written by friends and by my fellow Boldwood Books authors. I strongly recommend Sharon Booth, Jo Bartlett, Katie Ginger and Samantha Tonge.
What are you reading just now?
I’ve just read an advance copy of Welcome to Ferry Lane Market by Nicola May. It’s out in July but I was asked if I’d consider giving it a quote. I really enjoyed that one; a fun heartwarming read.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
I think I’d go for my most favourite book ever which is an oldie: Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. This was the first ‘big’ book and adult book I read. I was about 13 or 14 and it blew me away. I’d never read anything quite so gripping and how it made me feel has stayed with me for all these years. I read the whole series so many times that my paperbacks feel apart. I have re-bought them recently but not revisited them as there is a little part of me afraid I won’t love them quite so much but the desert island would give me the opportunity to explore that.
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
Anything I’ve written! Please!!! That would be an absolute dream come true and to have it filmed in the local area would be even better.
[I think they’d make lovely films Jessica!]
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
Redland’s Readers (Facebook group exclusive for fans of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow): https://www.facebook.com/groups/409519133635791
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Ooh, that’s a really difficult question! I’d be drawn to one of my own as I fall in love with my heroes every time, helped by them bearing a striking resemblance to certain actors who might be easy on the eye.
I’m thinking maybe Jemma in All You Need Is Love because Sam looks like Chris Hemsworth and Jemma runs a bear shop and teddy bears are one of my big passions.
Or maybe Samantha in the Hedgehog Hollow series because Josh looks like Chris Pratt and who wouldn’t want to look after adorable hedgehogs?
Although it could be Charlee in Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop as there’s a Kit Harrington inspired heartthrob and she gets to spend all her days surrounded by chocolate. Mmm.
From the back of the book
Every family has its secrets, and at Hedgehog Hollow there is no exception…
It was always Samantha’s dream to run her beautiful rescue centre, Hedgehog Hollow, full-time. But just as her wish comes true, she becomes a victim of her own kindness when she finds herself with a house full of guests – all with their own problems and secrets – looking to her for support.
When her self-absorbed cousin, Chloe, unexpectedly turns up at the farm – swiftly handing over her baby to Samantha to care for – trouble is definitely brewing. Especially as Chloe won’t tell anyone why she’s left her husband, James…
As Samantha juggles new hedgehog arrivals, family dramas and her own health challenges, it soon becomes clear that she needs to start putting herself first for once. Little does she know that life-changing secrets from the past are about to unravel and turn their lives upside down…
Return to glorious Hedgehog Hollow with top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a heart-warming, emotional but uplifting story of family, friendship and moving on from the past.
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is published by Boldwood Books and available now as an ebook
You can order a copy here: Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow