Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.
I write uplifting stories of love and friendship set in Yorkshire. There’s always a romance in them but I place a lot of emphasis on exploring friendships and family relationships too. Friendships in particularly fascinate me in the way they can change with time and circumstance.
I went through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and secured a publishing deal with the book I put through that but, after releasing four books with that company, they ceased trading. I republished those titles as an indie author and released several more but decided in 2018 that I wanted to try for a traditional publishing deal again. I was one of the first twenty authors to join the newly-formed Boldwood Books last year and my first book with them, The Secret to Happiness, was released in September 2019. Boldwood acquired my back-catalogue so I’ve had a whopping seven books released through them this year, which included six refreshed re-edited books. Next year, the final two from my back-catalogue will be re-released and at least two new titles.
I love reading romance books so it felt like a natural choice to write in this genre when I first considered writing a book. I love that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you finish a really good romance novel and the leads whose journey has gripped you have their happy ever after or the promise of it. Lovely. It makes me feel uplifted and happy and who wouldn’t want to feel like that?
What inspires your stories?
Different stories have been inspired by different things. My debut novel, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, tells the story of Sarah who finds a lost recording of a clairvoyant reading from when she was eighteen. Everything has happened so far except one thing: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams and his name is Steven. She relocates back to her childhood home of Whitsborough Bay to take over her auntie’s florist shop and becomes obsessed with meeting Steven. This is inspired by a real-life event where a clairvoyant told me I was going to meet Mr Right and he’d be called Steven. I opened up a specialist teddy bear shop at the time and suddenly Stevens were everywhere. Did I meet him? No. I met (and married) Mark instead so I didn’t find my Steven but I certainly found the inspiration for my story.
New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is now the second book in a four-book series and the other three were all inspired by main characters from Sarah’s story, each becoming the main focus of another book. As their characters developed in Seaside Blooms, their stories came to me and I realised I had a series in the making. Most unexpected!
The inspiration for The Secret to Happiness came from the lyrics in a Leona Lewis song. On her ‘Glassheart’ album, there’s a song called ‘Unlove Me’ and, in the chorus, she laments “wish I could tell you goodbye”. It’s all about needing her partner to unlove her/let her go because she loves him too much to make the decision to walk away even though she knows the relationship is toxic, they’re both unfaithful to each other and it needs to end. This got me thinking about other scenarios where someone might have to let go but is struggling to do so and I came up with quite a few. This became the premise of The Secret to Happiness in which there are three women who are each struggling to say goodbye to someone or something. It explores whether, when they meet at a beach-based bootcamp run by one of them, the power of friendship can help them say goodbye.
I’ve had a couple of lovely moments where a random character I’ve introduced in a book has arrived fully-formed with an entire story of their own. Boldwood have re-released two of my Christmas books – Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café – which were both developed in this way. Very serendipitous!
Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?
When I was in my twenties, I read my first Jill Mansell book – Millie’s Fling – and absolutely loved it. I’d never read a romcom before. Shortly after that, I read Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes and loved that too. Those two amazing authors inspired me so much and I still read and love their work today.
I have been a fan of Lucy Diamond, Paige Toon, Lisa Jewell, Alexandra Potter and Sophie Kinsella for many years but, more recently, have enjoyed books by Samantha Tonge and Holly Martin. I’m really good friends with Sharon Booth and am lucky enough to beta read her books which are absolutely gorgeous. I’ve also been reading a lot of books by fellow Boldwood authors and have discovered some amazing writers, some of whom are debuts and others who’ve had many books out there. I’d better not name them all as it would be a long list and I’d be mortified if I inadvertently missed someone out!
If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?
Oh my goodness, that is a hard question! There are soooo many so I’m going to completely narrow it down to the last handful I’ve read. I’ve loved them all but I actually laughed out loud at Time Out by Emma Murray and it’s very rare I do that with a book so I will go for that one as we all need a little cheer in our lives just now.
Mother of one and professional writer Saoirse (pronounced Seersha, not Searcy – thanks a bunch Game of Thrones!) is still adjusting to the demands of motherhood, four years after the birth of her daughter, Anna.
Living in the claustrophobic London suburb of Woodvale, and being surrounded by passive-aggressive mum-wars, isn’t helping. Neither is her increasingly pent-up anger at her once-perfect husband. Her only comrade in arms, best friend Bea, is the one thing keeping her sane.
When Saoirse’s agent asks her to pitch for a book, she is horrified to discover the topic is motherhood. How can she possibly write a ‘warts and all’ account of being a mother without giving away what it’s really like?
Which romantic hero would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?
Another super tricky question! Like so many authors, I completely fall in love with all of my leading men so would happily go away with any of them (just don’t tell hubby!) As for more famous ones, I’d need to go back to one I read a very long time ago and a different era: Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery. I loved the books and I adored the TV series from the mid-80s. Jonathan Crombie, RIP, was so dreamy in that role and really brought the character to life.
For my romantic weekend with Gilbert Blythe, I’d love to spend it in a gorgeous wooden property with a wrap-around porch on Prince Edward Island as it looks beautiful. I honeymooned in Canada in British Columbia and would love to go back and explore a different part.
What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?
I’m going to be greedy and pick two things.
I joined the New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) in 2012 and put my debut novel through the scheme twice and the sequel through in my third year, after which my debut found a publishing deal. I found the feedback from my first two readers absolutely invaluable in shaping my novel and giving me the confidence to send it out into the world and hopefully secure a publishing deal.
My second thing is the people I have met. I’m part of a ten-strong writing collective called The Write Romantics. We were all unpublished NWS members when we met virtually and we’ve been together for 7.5 years now. We don’t blog or do much collective promotion anymore but we provide a support group for the highs and lows of the writing journey and I value that so much. I’d never have met my little writing family without the RNA.
What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?
Specific to this genre, I’d say to really think about the type of romance writer you want to be and the best way to do this is to read widely in the genre. What type of book excites you and makes you turn those pages? Perhaps that’s the type of book you might want to write. There’s so much variety across the genre and thinking about where you see your fit will help shape your characters and your story. A publisher will typically want to see a clear fit but if you’re going down an indie route, you do have more flexibility on doing something a little different.
I know it says one piece but my other piece of advice is related. It’s to write from the heart, not to try and chase a trend, and to write because you couldn’t imagine not doing so. If you’re passionate about, and believe in, what you’re writing, that should come across to readers.
Tell us about your latest book.
My first nine books are all set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay but I changed location for book ten and the start of a brand new series. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was released in July and, although the protagonist is from Whitsborough Bay, the location moves inland onto the Yorkshire Wolds. You can buy the book in all formats here.
Can love really be found when you stop looking for it…?
As Samantha Wishaw watches the love of her life marry another woman, she’s ready to give up hope of finding her happy ever after.
But when a chance encounter leads Sam to find friendship in Thomas – a lonely, grumpy elderly widower living at derelict Hedgehog Hollow – her life is about to change forever.
Glad to have a distraction from family feuds and match-making, Sam vows to fulfil Thomas and his wife, Gwendoline’s, dreams of restoring Hedgehog Hollow to its former glory, and to open a hedgehog rescue centre.
Throwing herself into the task at hand, little does Sam realise that the keys to love and happiness may also be found at Hedgehog Hollow, when she least expects it…
About the Author
Jessica lives in Scarborough on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast – the inspiration behind the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay – with her husband, teenage daughter and sprocker spaniel, Ella.
She’s a stationery addict with a notepad obsession who loves chocolate (although it doesn’t love her), hedgehogs, 80s music, collectible teddy bears and lighthouses.
Her career has mainly been in HR as a trainer and recruiter but, in June 2020, she became a full-time author. She’s so very grateful to anyone who has bought or borrowed her books in whatever format, helping her fulfil a long-held dream of writing full-time. She still can’t believe she gets to spend every day chatting to her fictional friends and making stuff up.
Connect with Jessica:
Facebook: Jessica Redland Author