Jan Brigden is from south-east London and won Choc Lit’s Search for A Star competition in 2015 for her contemporary fiction novel As Weekends Go. She is a former member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme and belongs to online group blog The Romaniacs.
At what age did you realise writing was going to mean something in your life?
When any thank you notes I penned as a child had a little verse or two about the recipient tagged on the end.
Was it always a dream of yours to write a book?
I think it probably was, as from a really young age, I’d create fictional scenarios in my head and write short stories and little plays for school friends so a novel seemed the natural progression. I was forever reading books too.
Tell us about winning Choc Lit’s 2015 Search for a Star? Can you describe your feelings when you found out you’d won?
If I say my smile was watermelon-slice-wide for the whole day, and I bounced round my flat like a woman possessed for most of it, that would come pretty close to describing them. There were a few tears and lots of excited phone conversations. It was magical to think that the judges loved my book enough to deem it the winner. A proud day for sure. It has been a fabulous year – crazy at times with editing deadlines and gearing up for publication last December. Valentine’s Day will always be super-special to me now, with it being the anniversary of being shortlisted for competition. I might even have an extra chocolate!
How long did it take you to write As Weekends Go?
About four years in all, although a good chunk of that was on and off, due to life diverting my attention elsewhere.
How did you find the editing process?
I loved it, even if I did gasp and stare at the screen in shock when I initially received my first revisions report. After meeting my editor who brilliantly walked me through the process and was a delight to work with, I threw myself into it wholeheartedly and feel thankful to have had such invaluable input.
Is it nerve wracking as a debut author reading or hearing feedback on your book? Definitely! I peer through my fingers and hope that any reviews or comments are positive (obviously) and if not, that any criticisms are constructive, which so far, fortunately, has been the case. I’m always eager to learn and am hugely thankful to anyone who takes the time to voice their opinion, so to speak.
What is your writing routine? Do you write every day?
I try to, but don’t always manage it. I also try to vary the times I write, so don’t have a set routine as such.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
It’s more like brain fog with me. I know what I want to/need to say, but can’t seem to express it properly, then, BAM, the fog lifts and I’m writing so fast, I can’t keep up with my thoughts, and end up having to decipher my scrawl before typing it up.
Tell us about being a member of the Romaniacs? What support do you get from the group and how important is it for writers to become involved in peer groups in your opinion?
Oh, it’s an absolute privilege. We advise each other, bounce ideas off each other, laugh with each other and sound off to each other when those ‘I can’t do this any more’ moments strike. In my opinion, the collective support and encouragement we mutually give and receive is so beneficial. I’d say to anyone wanting to form or join a group, go for it!
Is having a good social media presence important?
I believe so, as I know from my own experience that forging those online friendships over time with readers, fellow writers at all different stages, and bloggers, has taught me so much and given me more confidence to interact. As with The Romaniacs, the shared support and camaraderie online is fantastic.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently doing lots of eyebrow-raising research for the sequel to As Weekends Go. It’ll be a standalone novel, though, so can be read without having to first read book one.
What do you like to read?
Ooh, anyone from Maggie O’Farrell, to Maeve Binchy to Bill Bryson. I like most genres, really. I’m a huge Lisa Jewell fan, so always devour in one sitting her latest book.
Where do you write?
In my dining room at my little desk or at the table.
As Weekends Go is available to download on Amazon.
LadyNicci comment: I discovered the Choc Lit community when I entered my own novella into the competition last year. (I wasn’t placed – still going to eat some chocolate in commiserations though) I’ve found a very vibrant and friendly group of writers and publishing professionals. I think it’s important for writers to find a community like this, one where they are understood and can discuss their passion freely. Jan’s book is a contemporary romance, something that is far outside my own genre of writing, but it is warm and real, with lots of relatable moments any person of any age could identify with. It’s been interesting to read outside my normal comfort zone and it’s opened my eyes to the romance world – a genre enjoyed by millions of readers every year.
How I write is a blog post series published on Sundays on www.ladynicci.com. The posts aim to give a voice to writers, published, unpublished and everywhere in between, to help and encourage other writers. If you would like to take part email email@example.com with How I Write in the subject line.