This week on Espresso Tales, I meet with Jennifer C Wilson, author of the spooky and intriguing Kindred Spirit series of novels. Kindred Spirits: Westminster, due for release on 8th June 2018, and available for pre-order now.
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.
Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books, alongside The Last Plantagenet?, a self-published timeslip novella.
She is also a co-founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers' Circle, and has hosted various events and workshops across the Tyneside area.
Megan: Jennifer, welcome to Espresso Tales. What can I get you to drink?
Jennifer: I’m quite partial to a Banana Twist tea, from our local coffee house, but at home, I’m a green tea girl.
Megan: The Banana Twist tea sounds amazing! Make that two. Now, tell me about your latest book.
Jennifer: Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey is out on the 8th June, and is the third in my Kindred Spirits series, which is a sentence I never thought I would be saying! In each of the books, we meet a new ‘cast’ of historical ghosts, in a contemporary setting, and having visited the Tower of London and Edinburgh’s Royal Mile previously, I finally felt brave enough to tackle one of our busiest locations, spirits-wise…
This time, we have a host of Tudors, and a couple of ghosts from the previous two novels make a ‘guest appearance’ as it were, which was fun to write. With the likes of Elizabeth I and Mary I having to spend eternity together, the ghostly community of Westminster Abbey was never going to be a quiet one, and we encounter poor Henry VII as he tries to calm the warring women of his immediate family. Throw in poets, courtiers, and a certain small animal, and things get very animated, very quickly.
Megan: Wow! It is such a fascinating period of history. Is that what inspires your writing - the events of that time or the people?
Jennifer: For me, it’s places. I love nothing more than wandering around historical sites and buildings, and getting a sense of not only the place, but the people who have lived there down the years. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, so really enjoy ‘filling the gaps’ in empty halls and corridors as I wander around, happily managing to block out any other visitors who might intrude in my happy, imagined world.
It makes a real difference, I think, if you’re able to be somewhere that you’re writing about. It’s also helped me correct errors, which would have been terrible to make it through to the final edit. For example, I’d been writing about the tomb of Anne of Cleves, which I knew was at the heart of Westminster Abbey, but when I actually got there, I realised you couldn’t see as much of it as I had imagined, so that whole scene, although it could stay, needed rewriting to make it factually correct.
Megan: I imagine there is a great deal of research involved in your work. Are you researching or writing any specific places or periods of history currently?
Jennifer: At the moment, I’m in the early stages of what I hope will become Kindred Spirits: York, and I’m enjoying getting to know a new group of spirits. The story starts with an event which is briefly referenced in Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey, but then, once we’re up there, we meet some of the city’s starts, including an ancient king, a Roman emperor, a highwayman, a northern folk hero and a famous traitor. It’s another heady mix!
I’ve also rediscovered an old manuscript which I wrote back in 2009, but based on a plot which my friend and I first came up with when we were about twelve. The quality of the writing is shocking, but I have faith that the core idea is workable, so I’m re-reading that at the moment, looking to turn it into a viable project at some point in the future.
Megan: What are your writing rituals? Is there anything you do to get yourself in the frame of mind to write?
Jennifer: I’ve tried really hard not to have any, to be honest. Not that I’m anywhere their leagues, but I’ve read so many interviews where top authors talk about how they used to have rituals, a favourite pen, seat etc., but then, once they became ‘big’, they realised that simply wasn’t sustainable. Having said that, I cannot work in silence, so there has to be some sort of noise happening around me, whether it’s at home, listening to the tv or playing music, or being out in public with bustle happening all around me. Happily, as circumstances go, it’s a fairly easy one to set up!
The other one for me would be when I’m writing by hand. I cannot enjoy writing with a boring pen in a boring notebook. I love September, when all the ‘back to school’ sales are on, and I can get stocked up for the rest of the year. I also enjoy buying pens and notebooks from places I visit, so that when I then start using them, I have a whole bunch of happy memories to inspire me as I go along.
Megan: I can't work in silence either. Does writing energise your or exhaust you?
Jennifer: Honestly, it can be either or both! I sometimes equate writing, for me, to going to the gym. There are days when I’m shattered after work, and the notion of going and looking at another computer screen just does not appeal. But, then I put that out of my head, log on, and aim to do ‘something’. Once I’ve done it, and I’m sat there, I feel 100% better, and writing even just another couple of hundred words, or half a blog post, absolutely anything, makes me feel energised and inspired.
On the other hand, there are days when all I want to do is sit at the screen and not move for hours, when the muse has hit, and I cannot bear to let it go. The contrary joys of a writing life!
What does always energise me though, is hanging out with other writers, whether at writing groups, meeting for a cuppa, or even just online. It’s a really positive community to be part of.
Megan: Jennifer, thanks so much for the catch up. I can't wait for your next novel to see what ghostly chatter you create!
To learn more about Jennifer and her novels, visit: