So happy to be featuring author Jane Risdon here today for a little Q and A. Jane is a wonderful author, formerly in the music biz, but always writing it seems. Jane has newly released her book Undercover: Crime Shorts. Have a read below as we get to know more about her and her fascinating life.
Jane Risdon has spent most of her life working in the International Music Business rubbing shoulders with the powerful and famous, especially in Hollywood.
Married to a musician and later working alongside him managing singers, musicians, songwriters, and record producers, she’s also facilitated the placement of music on successful television series and movie soundtracks.
Her experiences have provided her with a unique insight into the business and her writing often hasa music related theme. She is published by Headline Accent.
With long-term friend, award-winning, best-selling author, Christina Jones – one time fan-club secretary for Jane’s husband’s band – Jane has co-authored Only One Woman (Headline Accent) which is set in the UK music scene of 1968/69 and is published in paperback and eBook.
Recently Jane completed a collection of her first short crime stories – Undercover: Crime Shorts -published in both eBook and Paperback (Plaisted Publishing House Ltd).
Jane is working on the sequel to Only One Woman as well as a series of crime novels – Ms Birdsong Investigates – featuring former MI5 Officer Lavinia Birdsong – which she plans to complete in 2020. Her experience of working at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in her pre-music days has given her plenty of material for her crime/thrillers.
Jane writes for online and print magazines and has contributed to 16 anthologies. She also writes a blog and often hosts guest authors. She is also a regular guest on blogs and on internet radio shows broadcasting with a global reach, including UK, USA and Australia.Her books are available in Waterstones and all good book stores as well as via various digital platforms.
My most recent publication is ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts’ – a collection of short crime stories designed to be read when time is tight and a full-length novel isn’t convenient. Each story is different and designed to be read in one sitting. I explore motives for murder and devise unusual, yet everyday methods of despatch for my victims. I like to add red-herrings, twists and turns, to puzzle and grip the reader so that it is not until the very end of each story that everything is revealed.
The excerpt from ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’ is called Undercover for reasons which become apparent as the story unfolds. I hope it intrigues and grips my reader so that when Ms Birdsong is published it will be met with excitement and anticipation. I try to write what I like reading.
My favourite authors are all crime or espionage writers and I aspire – one day – to become a fraction as good as they are at telling a gripping tale. Kathy Reichs is a favourite, and it is because of her attention to detail and the way she paints her scenes, I was encouraged to study Forensic Science, Criminal Justice, and basic Archaeology, so that I could write with accurate and current knowledge of how to work a crime scene through to identification of a victim and to the criminal investigation and
eventual court case. I don’t write police procedurals, but I feel that I have the background information I need to make my writing believable and as error-free as it can be.
Under one cover for the first time a collection of Crime Shorts from Jane Risdon featuring previously unpublished stories which will have you on the edge of your seat.
There is an extract from Jane’s forthcoming novel (series) Ms Birdsong Investigates Murder at Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka – with the title of Undercover – for those who’ve been awaiting this series about a former MI5 Intelligence Office, Lavinia Birdsong. There’s something for everyone who enjoys a good yarn and more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction.
Author and former detective Roger A Price says: Undercover: Crime Shorts is the ideal companion for the crime fiction fan’s daily commute. You’ll run out of journey before you run out of book with this cleverly crafted mix of crime fiction short stories. Beware as you might miss your stop!
Reader Gloria Clulow says: As with all your stories I find them intriguing and unpredictable, leaving me wanting more; I don’t want them to end.
Margot Kinberg, Associate Professor and author says of Undercover: What a gripping story, so well written. You’ve packed so much ‘punch’ into it, loved it. I really felt the rising tension and suspicion! You’ve captured the suspense of it beautifully and it is such a great set-up with good characters.
Reader Tina Jaray says of Undercover: Wow, I could hardly breathe while I read this. Glad it was short or I would’ve joined the corpse!
Author Dave Michael Prosser says of Murder by Christmas: What a fantastic story. I was glued to the screen and stopped work which means another late night (thanks).
Author Jeff Lee says of The Honey Trap: Great story. You completely blind-sided me with your twist at the end. I didn’t see that one coming. Loved it. Jane is an awesome writer and an author of exceptional talent.
Author Stacy Margaret Allan says of Undercover: Wow, Jane, this is one of the best stories I have ever read. It doesn’t matter that it is so short, I was right there with her and this blew me away. You are such a good writer!
Now that we’ve gotten to know a little more about Jane, let’s head to some more personal questions:
Is there a particular time period in your life that has influenced your writing most?
I’ve thought about this recently, strangely enough. Every period of my life has influenced my writing and in different ways.
My childhood was spent as part of an Army family constantly moving overseas (Singapore, Germany, for example) and, for me, changing schools and never getting to make any friends for long has impacted me greatly I think. I was a lonely child who had responsibility for an ever increasing number of younger siblings and I retreated into my imagination for company and entertainment. I read a great deal – mostly crime and espionage authors – and scribbled short stories in red 6d (oldmoney) notebooks, laying the foundations for eventually becoming a writer it seems. Solitude is our constant companion as writers, out of necessity; it is just the blank screen or sheet of paper and us, ultimately. I think this period made me adventurous with a lust for travel and excitement. When we arrived in Germany in 1957 we were part of a Missile regiment and were met with riots and hostility, even though we were there to protect the Germans from the Russians. It fired my imagination I’m sure.
In the late 1960s we moved back to Germany. The time I spent there influenced me so much I used it the novel, ‘Only One Woman,’ which I’ve written with the successful and best-selling author, Christina Jones. The novel uses some of my experiences and those of Christina’s – heavily fictionalised obviously. Just before I left for Germany I met my (now) husband who is a musician, and that feeling of leaving someone I loved behind – possibly for years – helped me write about the grief and loneliness, as well as longing, which my main character Renza felt living apart from the love of her life in the novel. Christina was fan-club secretary for my husband’s band and so she knew what
we went through. She and I both have an extensive knowledge of life in the Sixties music scene and it has proven priceless. We wrote ‘Only One Woman’ from our knowledge and own experiences.
As I mentioned earlier I read crime and espionage novels voraciously, and I’ve always wanted to write in both genres. My experiences working at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, in the early 1970s, really set my imagination on fire. My department handled everything to do with staff overseas in our Embassies and it was the height of the Cold War and the IRA activities on mainland Britain. The UK kicked almost 100 Russian spies out of England and they reciprocated by
doing the same to our Embassy staff. The Ambassador to Montevideo (Uruguay), Geoffrey Jackson, was kidnapped in 1970 by Tupamaros guerrillas during my first months at the FCO, and we workedflat out as negotiations were on-going to get him freed, which was exciting. He was freed in 1971. We were hauled several times daily from our offices due to IRA bomb scares, and made to stand on the pavement outside our building which was the Old Scotland Yard building on the Victoria embankment in those days, and there were lots of events happening all around the world involving
our diplomats and spies. All this fuelled my thirst for anything to do with espionage.
My husband and I eventually went into the other side of the international music business working with recording artists, musicians, singer-songwriters, and record producers. We facilitated the placement of music on soundtracks for movies and television series in Hollywood and Bollywood and around the world. Our experiences have found their way into my writing. I’ve written crime stories set in the world of music and movies. The movers and shakers in Hollywood and beyond have proven a fantastic source of material. You only need to read about the shenanigans of some of the household names at the top of the music and movie business to know where my inspiration has its roots.
I wish I could say one period of my life has influenced my writing the most but I can’t really pick any particular time. Everything has melded my writing. It is the sum of all parts and with each story I write another memory finds its way into the plot and characters, sub-consciously at times, and deliberately quite often.
D.G. – Wow, what an eclectic life you’ve led Jane!
Which author friends of yours inspire you by being supportive to your writing?
This is an easy one to answer. I’ve mentioned her already, Christina Jones. Christina is a friend in real life and we’ve known each other 51 years. When I met her she was a short story writer – since the age of 14 when she was first published – and a rock/pop journalist working for teen magazines such as Jackie, and various women’s magazines. She’d met my husband’s band at one of their gigs back in 1968 and their manager asked her to be their fan-club secretary. We became friends and she knew I wanted to write. We both determined very early on in our friendship that we would one-day write
together. Since I didn’t write romance and she didn’t write crime it was hard to think how we’d ever manage it.
It wasn’t until many years later when her career had really taken off and she was an award-winning and best-selling author, I dared let her read anything I’d written. I cringed with fear when I sent her my first offerings. I’d been writing a series of stories which I’d given various titles and which weren’t (strangely) crime stories. I’d been writing about life in a small village and the characters who encountered each other every week at the local bus-stop, who were all in their old age and who’d gone to school and grown up together. I called these, ‘God’s Waiting Room.’ Another set of stories is called, ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary,’ and there is ‘Granny Takes a Trip,’ and also, ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ Still on my computer I might add. I really must do something with them. I call them ‘observational humour.’
Christina told me she laughed until she cried, reading them. She usually read them in bed and her husband, so she told me, was almost driven to sleep somewhere else. This was encouraging. And so it went on for a couple of years; I sent her stories which she read, giving me her feed-back, encouraging me always and for which I am eternally grateful.
By this time, 2011, I’d had several short stories accepted in various anthologies and online magazines but I’d not considered seeking a publisher. I’d even begun working on several crime novels, including a series about a former MI5 Intelligence Officer, ‘Ms Birdsong,’ and the beginnings of what would eventually become a novel we could both work on together, at that time nameless, but later to become ‘Only One Woman.’
However, in 2014 I was asked by Accent Press to submit stories for two anthologies they were publishing: ‘Shiver,’ and ‘Wishing on a Star.’ I was thrilled and as a result the publisher sent a contract for all my writing. I noticed, when the anthologies were published, that Christina had contributed to both of them. She had also signed with Accent by this time unknown to me. One of my stories was a Halloween crime story with a time-shift edge, and the other was a Christmas story set in a recording studio with ghostly goings-on and based on a true event.
If it hadn’t been for her encouragement and her knowledge of the publishing business I don’t think I would have ever bothered writing except for my own enjoyment. Having someone read my material without judgement was priceless for me. I’d tried to write a novel about the music business over 30 years ago and after a lot of pressure gave it to a school friend to read. She thought it was all right but didn’t sound like me. I didn’t really write again for almost 30 years and only my husband read anything I wrote, the few times I gave it another go. He was constantly reassuring and supportive and always telling me to approach a publisher. I wish I’d looked for a publisher decades ago. Christina has been an inspiration and a rock and I can never thank her enough.
Crime writers Roger A. Price and R C Bridgestock have been particularly helpful and encouraging to me, and in fact lots of authors I’ve met through Facebook have been very supportive, sharing my work and giving me guest spots on their blogs, so each and every one of them has been a gem and I’m forever grateful to them also.
D.G. – It’s always so interesting learning our writing friends’ journeys. Your life story is a book in itself for sure.
Would you like to share with us what upcoming projects and/or ideas for books you’re working on?
Gosh, that is a big ask. I have over 100 short stories sitting in my hard-drive awaiting the light of day. These range from the stories I mentioned earlier to a number of crime/espionage stories. I’ve just published a few of my stories in a collection called, ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ and I am planning to do another collection next year. My husband says they are going to waste.
In addition to the short stories I have several novels in various stages of completion. I just need to clone myself to get them all finished. I have however, completed the first book in my Ms Birdsong Investigates series and next year it should see the light of day. The other two in the series are almost ready as well.
In book one: ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka.’
Ms Birdsong is a former MI5 Intelligence Officer who was forced into ‘Voluntary’ retirement following a disastrous joint-operation with MI6 and her – now – former lover, Michael Dante. She got the boot and Michael went to Moscow and continued with their operation. She is desperate to get back into the Security Service and when a woman goes missing in the village where she lives, she finds herself involved in trying to find her and as a result becomes embroiled in her former lover’s operation involving Russian Mafia and people trafficking and Ukrainian gun and drug traffickers, and
Ms B sees an opportunity to ingratiate herself with her former Director General of MI5.
I am writing the sequel to ‘Only One Woman’ which takes Narnia’s Children into the 1970s and beyond. Scott’s life is still complicated and as the novel opens he and Renza are still a couple. Renza has moved to London to live and work and to be near the band, who are on the brink of success, and Stella appears to have gone her own way. ‘Only One Woman’ has proven a great success and is much loved by readers who want to know what happened next, and want to hear more from Scott himself, so I am endeavouring to satisfy demand. I haven’t got a title for it yet. I had one in mind and someone to write our foreword, but sadly that person has died so I am rethinking it all.
I’ve been toying with a memoir – based on my life in the music business – but so far it is just an idea. There is so much I could write but part of me wants to wait until those who might feature in it are well and truly dead and gone. I am not keen on a horses head in my bed or a swim in a river wearing concrete boots! It may never get written.
D.G. – My gawd Jane, you have enough projects to get you through this lifetime! And so funny that my comment above was suggesting you write a memoir! 🙂
Excerpt: Undercover: Crime Shorts
Sweet Sable – The Red Siren
Closing the safe door quietly and with an expert spin of the dial, the black clad woman straightened up, slinging the grip with her haul over her shoulder. She stood listening intently before moving towards the office door. Again she waited, her ears straining, before gently prizing the door open and stepping silently into the corridor of darkened offices; she eased the door closed, calculating she had barely two minutes before the night-watchman made his rounds, trying the doors and checking the building was secure.
The woman headed for the fire escape where she’d made her entrance to the three storey building some ten minutes earlier. Gently raising the window she climbed out on to the metal staircase with the athletic grace of a ballet dancer, giving the dark alley below a quick once-over to ensure no-one was around, she hastily made her way down the rusting stairs. Her tar toned unremarkable and unmemorable automobile was parked across the street hidden in the gloom of another narrow alleyway. Glancing at her wrist-watch – an expensive pay-off from a married lover – she knew she’d better step on the gas. She’d less than fifteen minutes to get back to the night-club, park her car at the darkest end of the outside lot, and leg it back to her dressing-room with enough time to change into her gown for her last set of the evening.
The red-head chuckled to herself as she repaired her lipstick, pouting seductively at herself in the mirror, waiting for the stage hand to knock on her door with her final call. She was buzzing. She’d done it again, she’d pulled it off. It was better than any sex she’d ever had, and that was saying something. She chuckled, puckered her ample lips and blew herself a huge wet kiss.
~ ~ ~
As the spotlight found its mark the band-leader nodded to the scarlet-clad shapely figure who took up position in front of the microphone. Her hips swayed in time to the jazz trumpet and she took her cue. Her sultry sable-clad tones sucked her audience into her lair.
The figures outlined in the flickering candle-light adorning circular tables dotted around the smoke hazed, expectant venue, stopped talking and turned their heads towards the elevated stage where Desi Garcia’s Syncopators went into full swing behind Sweet Sable, also known as the Red Siren – neither was her real name but no-one cared. When her song ended there was a moment’s silence before they pounded their tables shouting, ‘more, more.’
Sweet Sable wiggled her slender but shapely hips, leaned over the stage giving more than an eye- full of her full bosom on display in her tight-fitting strapless gown, and blew huge smackers into the air, aimed at no-one in particular, but the full-blooded men in the audience got the message and so did their partners who silently seethed.
Her set over for the evening Sweet Sable made her way back to her dressing room, accepting compliments and congratulations on her ‘wonderful performance,’ smiling, blowing kisses, and with a toss of her luxurious red mane, closed her dressing room door to keep the stage door Johnnies out. There was always a small stud congregated outside her door and gathered around the stage door, following her shows. Sometimes she allowed a particularly handsome or obviously loaded guy inside,
who was good for a dinner or two – or for something else – if rich enough. They were ripe for the picking; such patsies.
This particular evening Sweet Sable was anxious not to have any company. She had plans and getting pawed by a fawning, slobbering man who felt ‘entitled’ after giving her dinner, was not part of them. She had to get her haul to a safe place so she could take a proper look at it before deciding what she had to do. Sweet Sable loved having options – and she had plenty.
Praise for Undercover: Crime Shorts
-Spell binding crime shorts by a phenomenal author
R K Wigal (USA)
-I love the stories in this book. Each one is a maze-like roadmap of intrigues, laden with twists, turns, and a surprise or two, that grabbed my attention right off the bat and didn’t let go. More than one had me glued to my seat in suspense. I could not divert my focus from the book until I finished reading it. The last piece, Undercover, is an extract from the author’s next novel which I cannot wait to read.
-As an author, Jane Risdon is a natural. She pens her stories in such a manner that you can see her characters up close in their surroundings, and you can follow the action as it takes place. Her writing style is most unusual in that she can write from the standpoint of an American, from that of one who is British, or from that of anyone of any nationality she chooses. I strongly recommend the book. His review link is below:
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