[My guest this month has multiple personalities. Known to many readers for her romantic comedies, written as Sophie King, or her family-based novels, written as Janey Fraser, she also writes non-fiction and gritty contemporary fiction under her own name. I am delighted to be chatting with author and journalist Jane Bidder.]
Hello Jane and thanks for taking the time to chat to me. Let’s start with a childhood question. What is your earliest memory — and how old were you at the time?
I was in my cot in my parents’ bedroom on the ground floor. (We shared a house with my grandmother in Harrow Weald.) The curtains were closed but I think it was daytime so I must have been having a nap. Or meant to be! I vividly recall someone coming into the room but I knew I was meant to be asleep. So I pretended to be. Then, when they left, I stood up. I must have been under two. Secretive or what?!
What was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
English. I loved making up stories – especially the ones where we had to draw islands and work a tale around them. (I’ve always been drawn to the sea and now live on the coast). But I hated maths. I was hopeless at it and my first teacher crushed my confidence. Then I had a wonderful Scottish teacher who somehow helped me get an A grade at O-level. I regard that as one of my triumphs in life. However, I still feel sick at the sight of a row of figures…
Talking about yourself, how would you finish the sentence “not a lot of people know…”?
Not a lot of people know I am terrified of driving on motorways. It’s the joining bit which freaks me out. Once I got onto one by mistake and had to turn back. That caused a lot of trouble.
Where is your favourite place on earth — and why?
My bed. I can dream my way out of life.
How do you relax?
Not a word in my vocab! Actually, I do relax a bit when I’m walking my dog. But it’s also when I get ideas to write.
If you knew you only had 24 hours left, how would you spend them?
Partly in our local parish church where we go to Evensong. Partly with my children. And partly with my husband and dog.
If you could change one law, what would it be?
I’m not sure about changing a law but I’d love a law that said everyone had to be peaceful for one whole day. This would apply to families as well as countries. And given the date, that’s so appropriate, isn’t it?.
If you could change one thing about yourself or your life so far, what would it be?
I’d have my mother back. she died at 56 from ovarian cancer. After twenty seven years, not a day goes by when my sister and I don’t think about her.
Describe your ideal menu — and where would you like to eat it?
Depends on the time of day. At breakfast, it’s yoghurt with fruit and hot chocolate. For lunch, it’s smoked mackerel or smoked salmon. And for dinner, it’s cheddar cheese slices on Ryvita! I’d eat it by the sea where we live.
If you could meet one person from history, who would it be — and why?
Mark Lemon Romer. He was the first editor of Punch and was also my great great great grandfather. Not that this helped my career. When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone who was a writer. it seemed like the kind of job you could only dream of.
Watch a film, go to the theatre, read a book or talk to friends — which would you prefer?
I should say ‘read a book’ but that depends what it is. I’m an eclectic reader and find it increasingly hard as I get older to find a book that I really enjoy. I love films but only if they’ve got a strong, believable twist . I like musicals but I can’t get into the story within a play. I’m always aware it’s not real. And I do love talking to friends – especially the ones who make me cry with laughter. May I have a mixture please?
If you could take part in one television programme, which one would it be?
if you saw me in my school plays all those years ago, you wouldn’t ask. I was the character in ‘Antigone’ who knitted her way through on stage and didn’t say a word. There’s a reason for that. I’m gripped by stage fright even though I can happily talk about books to an audience of hundreds.
Upload a picture or a photo that best represents you, and tell us why (and it doesn’t have to be a portrait, although it can be).
The photo attached was taken at the Romantic Novel Awards where I was shortlisted for Love Story of the Year. (The Wedding Party under one of my pen names, Sophie King.) I was so excited ! Half of me hoped to win and the other half didn’t think it would happen. It didn’t… I’ve recently also been shortlisted for an award by the Festival of Romance (‘After The Honeymoon’ by Janey Fraser).
Would you describe yourself as left-brain (analytical), right-brain (intuitive) or a mix of both?
Intuitive. I’ve ignored my intuition in the past. Big mistake. As for analytical, don’t ever ask me anything about the 24 hour clock. It explains why I’ve turned up at the airport at the wrong time….
I’ve set the earlier questions; now it’s your turn, Jane: Write the last question yourself and use it to tell us something about yourself, your life or your work.
Good one. My question is: Why do you think you’re here on earth?
To help others and learn from past mistakes. We have to be here for a reason and I think this comes out in my writing. I also try to nurture writing skills in others. I’ve helped students find agents. And I used to work as a writer in residence of a high-security male prison. Now I’m a life story judge for the Koestler Awards, which gives literary and artistic prizes to men and women in prisons. Writing can make us all aware of our shortcomings.
And having attended a number of Jane’s classes in the past, I can verify that she is a great teacher as well as a most entertaining author.
You can find out more about Jane Bidder here; about Sophie King here; and about Janey Fraser here.
Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.
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