RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Jenny Bayliss

RONAS

Today has felt very spring-like here in Yorkshire, so it seems an odd time to be a talking about Christmas/ Festive Holiday Romantic novels, but that is the category in which my next guest was short-listed in this years Romantic Novel Awards, with her book, The Winter of Second Chances. Welcome to the blog… Jenny Bayliss.

Jenny Bayliss, Christmas : Festive Holiday Romantic Novel, Romantic Novel Awards 2022

Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for inviting me! I am drinking a hot chocolate with a generous shot of brandy in it. It’s my Friday night treat through the winter months.  

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Oh, definitely out for dinner. I’m not much of a drinker – my Friday night tipple is the sum total of my alcohol consumption each week – so, for me a meal out always wins over drinks. But equally, some of the best foodie places in my area are pubs, so I would probably take you to The Radnor Arms or The Pullman in Folkestone. Both of them are really old, crooked buildings with open fires and dark corners for cosy evenings. And in the summer they have gorgeous outside spaces to enjoy the balmy evenings.

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Gosh, that’s a hard one! I would love to chat with Nora Ephron. She wrote two of my favourite films; When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail. There was a magic to her writing. Her dialogue was so witty, the back and forth between her characters was fast paced and energetic. And I think my male guest would have to be Richard Ayoade. He’s so deadpan I think he would be a brilliant dinner companion. He seems to have a way of finding the ludicrous in everyday things. I guess I’ve chosen two natural wits. I’m quite shy so I find myself drawn to people who can hold a room. I like people who make me laugh, I think being able to do that is a gift. 

I think those are two great choices, that would make for a fun evening. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am currently working on re-writes and edits for two books. The third in my Malice in Underland middle-grade and my next festive romance novel, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, which will be published this November. 

In this book, as well as finding new love, I really wanted to explore the shared history of friendships and how they change over the years. I have three friends that I went to school with, we don’t all live near each other, one of our number spent a decade living abroad. But we have seen each other through births, deaths, heartbreaks and celebrations. We are in many ways quite different to how we were as girls and yet on the rare occasions we are all together, those years just fall away. So, I wanted to write about those bonds and perceptions and how new understandings and love can be born out of old allegiances. Also, it’s set in a castle – I love a castle – which meant I could convince my husband that our holiday last year had to be a tour of British castles for inspiration hee-hee!  

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment was definitely holding my first novel, The Twelve Dates of Christmas. I had been writing for so many years and never had anything published, so to hold that book in my hand at forty-six years young was literally my dream come true. I still can’t quite believe it! 

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On the first day of Christmas, a dating app offered me
Twelve tailored chances for perfect harmony . . .

Kate Turner is happily single – a bit too happily, in fact. Since returning to her hometown, the sleepy village of Blexford, love hasn’t really had a look in.

But Kate does love Christmas. So when her best friend insists she signs up to the Twelve Dates of Christmas, a brand new dating app service, she doesn’t need too much persuading. Twelve perfect festive dates with the area’s most eligible men – who could say no?

Amongst the twinkling lights and falling snow, over hot chocolates and glasses of red wine, romance is easy to find. But with each date, Kate learns more about the men, and even more about herself.

As the big day approaches, Kate’s left wondering – is it really the season for true love, or will this Christmas be the coldest yet?

My biggest challenge was writing my second novel, The Winter of Second Chances. I had the worst imposter syndrome. My first novel was like a dream and then my second was pressure! What if everyone hated it? What if my agent and publisher decided that I couldn’t write at all, and that Twelve Dates had just been a lucky fluke? As I pressed send on the final draft, I had my eyes closed tight, I was so nervous. I think after so many years of trying and hoping that I’d one day be an author, I felt like I wasn’t worthy; like I was doing doggy-paddle in the deep end of the pool while all the real authors were doing an effortless front crawl. Feeling like I’m allowed to call myself a writer is something I’m still working on; I think there’s probably a lot of writers who feel like that.   

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I’d like to be a New York Times Bestseller! I would like to have that Bestseller sticker on my books, imagine that! That’s the dream! 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I am always excited when I get to have both my sons’ home at the same time. It doesn’t happen very often, they both have jobs and lives and live away from home, so when I get have to have all my ducks in a row, that feels like the world is as it should be. My eldest son is bringing his girlfriend home this weekend, so that is very exciting! And at Easter, I have booked both boys and their partners to come home, which just makes me blissfully happy.  

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I have two favourite places that stand out in my mind, both of which I would love to visit again. The first is New York. One of my friends from school that I mentioned earlier, lived in Manhattan and so for our fortieth birthdays we saved up to go visit her. It was wonderful, I fell in love with the vibe of the city. 

The other place is the Lake District. We went there on a family holiday a few years ago in October, when the colours were at their autumnal best. I have never seen anything more beautiful. I could have stayed forever. 

At the very very top of my bucket list is visiting Scotland. I am slightly obsessed with it. In my perfect dream, we travel up on the sleeper train – thus feeding into all my Agatha Christie fantasies – then hire a car and tour around Scotland. I want to absorb it all from Edinburgh to the wild highlands and the lochs. I have this idea that I’d like to move there and live by a loch and have a massive walk-in larder that would see us through the harshest winter, hee-hee. 

I hope your Agatha Christie fantasy doesn’t include the murder part! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

Cripes! That’s another tricky one, I’m quite boring! Many moons ago when my sister was at Art College, she needed naked life models to draw and paint, and in the absence of anyone else willing to take their kit off, it fell to me. She painted a rather lovely picture of my naked back and bottom – which incidentally was four whole sizes smaller back then – and it went on show in an Art Gallery. During the opening night, the local paper covered the show. The journalist took a picture of the painting with my sister and I standing next to it. So, my naked bottom depicted in acrylic has been in a newspaper! I have the original canvas on my bedroom wall so that I can look back remember that once upon a time I had a bottom that didn’t resemble two basket balls in a sack. 

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty was one of my favourite books last year. The whole story was understated genius. Liane Moriarty has this way of making the mundane minutia of daily life absolutely critical. I cannot say enough good things about it.  

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The Delaney family love one another dearly – it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

Joy Delaney and husband Stan have done well. Four wonderful grown-up children. A family business to envy. The golden years of retirement ahead of them.

So when Joy Delaney vanishes – no note, no calls, her bike missing – it’s natural that tongues will wag.

How did Stan scratch his face? And who was the stranger who entered and suddenly left their lives? What are they all hiding?

But for the Delaney children there is a much more terrifying question: did they ever know their parents at all?

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Aha, well, I’m not so much of a drinker these days. But when I was younger, back in the days when I would drink till 3am and then get up at 7am for work, I would drink a pint of water right before bed. Drinking that whole pint of water meant that I didn’t get the dehydration which is mostly what a hangover is. If I did that, most times I could avoid a hangover. But if it didn’t work, then I’d eat carbs all the following day, a no holds barred carb-fest. So, I guess my hangover prevention and cure is to feed and water it liberally! Which now I think about it, is pretty much my solution to any problem!  

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

My perfect weekends are not terribly exciting, my favourite kinds are those that are slow and meandering. I would meet family at the beach for a coffee and a catch up. I live really near the beach and there are two brilliant coffee huts to choose from along the long promenade. Later, weather permitting I would do some gardening, it’s not a big garden but I grow as much as I can in it; some might call it overcrowded! If the weather is bad, then I’ll be snuggling down with a couple of episodes of Poirot or an old Columbo and reading my foodie magazines, tearing out recipes I’d like to try as I go. Nothing relaxes me like a spot of cosy crime on the telly and some food inspiration. On top of that, a couple of hours of uninterrupted reading is a glorious weekend treat. I usually read for an hour before bed each night, but to have the time to read during the day on a weekend feels wonderfully decadent. And then I’ll either cook, or we’ll get a takeaway for dinner and watch a movie. Like I said, not terribly exciting but Oh so relaxing!

Sounds pretty perfect to me! Thanks for chatting to me tonight, Jenny, i have enjoyed it immensely.

Jenny’s RONA short-listed novel, The Winter of Second Chances, is available now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Jenny Bayliss, Christmas : Festive Holiday Romantic Novel, Romantic Novel Awards 2022, The Winter of Second Chances BOOK COVER

Annie Sharpe has it all – an acclaimed restaurant she owns with her handsome husband Max, and two gorgeous grown-up sons. But after one indiscretion too many, she leaves behind the only life she’s ever known.

In search of a fresh start, Annie takes up a position as a caretaker of Saltwater Nook, a creaky but charming beach house on Kent’s beautiful, wild coastline. The village community is an eccentric but tightknit bunch, and Annie is swept up in a whirlwind of their traditional festive celebrations, from pumpkin carving to bonfires on the beach. It soon feels like home – she even reopens the long-dormant seafront café.

The only thorns in her side are John, the owner’s rugged but totally unreasonable nephew who has his own agenda for the house, and a persistent Max, intent on winning her back.

Salwater Nook has been the perfect escape, but Annie can’t run from her problems forever. Will she give her first love a second chance? Or step into the promise of a new life?

Jenny Bayliss lives with her husband in a small Kent town near the sea, their children having grown and flown the nest. She attended Canterbury Christ Church University as a mature student and graduated with a BA in Creative and Professional Writing. Throughout her various jobs over the years – waitress, pub cook, cruise consultant, auxiliary nurse, baker, antique jewellers assistant – writing has remained her passion and she is now finally able to live her dream of writing books for a living. Jenny writes romantic novels, middle-grade books and YA fiction. She enjoys coffee, beach walks, reading, chocolate, and wearing flouncy dresses, though not necessarily in that order or all at the same time.

Connect with Jenny:

Twitter: @BaylissJenni

Instagram: @jennibayliss

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