Tonight’s guest is here for actual Friday Night Drinks, but she is also one of the shortlisted authors in this year’s Romantic Novel Awards. Nominated in the category of Jackie Collins Award for Romantic Thrillers with her novel, Chasing Flames, it’s… January James.
Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
No, thank you. I don’t get out very often – even virtually – so this is a treat! I am drinking a nice glass of Rioja. My other downfall is whisky – Laphroaig specifically. Ever since I stayed at the Glass House Hotel in Edinburgh in the Laphroaig suite and had my first taste, it’s been my go-to.
I’d buy you one of each but they say you should never mix grape and grain! 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?
If I was 15 years younger, it would be The Leadmill in Sheffield, to watch live bands and drink pints of weak lager! But, as it is, I am no longer 25 and I also have a pre-schooler so I value conversation and sleep more than a boogie along to the Arctic Monkeys. So, it would probably be for dinner at Hix near Carnaby Street or The Fish and Chip Shop in Islington where my husband and I had our wedding reception.
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?
Leonard Cohen – my favourite poet and songwriter of all time – and Dolly Parton, because who doesn’t love Dolly Parton?
Nobody normal! 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 juggling being a mum to a preschooler with running an editorial business and building an independent author career. Back in 2020, my job as a Communication professional was made redundant. It coincided with the realisation I wanted to be around much more for my daughter who was only one then. I took the opportunity to launch my editorial business and I also self-published a novel I’d been writing – A Class Act. That novel took me three years to write, but once I realised I could do it, the second took me only six weeks. I built a small following fairly quickly and found the small amount of demand really encouraging. I discovered I loved writing full length novels. I definitely found my calling. I’ve now written and independently published seven novels, with many more on the way. I’ve fallen completely in love with the self-publishing process too, every aspect of it – the cover design and formatting (all of which I do myself), the publishing and promotion, and even the learning. It’s a very supportive, vibrant community with always something new to learn, or someone to learn from. I would love to make writing my full time job so that is the plan!
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
It has to be being shortlisted for the RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award. It is incredibly validating to be recognised by such a longstanding, highly regarded organisation. The other key moment was when I received feedback from the RNA New Writer’s Scheme on my second novel manuscript. It was so positive and it really was the reason I kept going.
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!
Gosh, there’s so much! I would love to win an award, make it into a bestseller list, sell film rights to one (or more) of my books.
What are have planned that you are really excited about?
I’m very easily excited, so there’s lots! I’m excited about writing the rest of my current Starling Key series. I’m excited about the challenge of writing a brand new billionaire series in ‘episodes’ for the new reading platform, Radish. I’m excited about teaching my daughter to ride a pony, and I’m excited about booking a holiday abroad.
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?
My favourite holiday was our honeymoon in Vietnam. We traveled from Hanoi down to Ho Chi Min via overnight trains, staying in all manner of hotels at various cities and resorts on the way. We met some amazing characters and ate fantastically well. We sat on street corners in Hanoi old town and ate pho and the most delicious spring rolls, and hired a moped which was terrifying but exhilarating. India is another favourite. I flew to Delhi alone once and traveled with a bunch of strangers through Jaipur, Udaipur and Pushkar, across to Goa. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.
I’m a qualified yoga teacher
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’?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. This is a must if you ever plan to visit India. It’s a partial true story about a convicted criminal escaping prison and finding himself in India, living in the slums, starring in a Bollywood movie and getting involved with the Bombay mafia. If nothing else, it paints a delightfully warm and beautiful picture of India.
A novel of high adventure, great storytelling and moral purpose, based on an extraordinary true story of eight years in the Bombay underworld.
In the early 80s, Gregory David Roberts, an armed robber and heroin addict, escaped from an Australian prison to India, where he lived in a Bombay slum. There, he established a free health clinic and also joined the mafia, working as a money launderer, forger and street soldier. He found time to learn Hindi and Marathi, fall in love, and spend time being worked over in an Indian jail. Then, in case anyone thought he was slacking, he acted in Bollywood and fought with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan…
Amazingly, Roberts wrote Shantaram three times after prison guards trashed the first two versions. It’s a profound tribute to his willpower…
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?
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
I would love to go horse-riding then go for a Sunday roast at my favourite pub, the Middle House in Mayfield.
Thank you for answering my questions, January, I’ve really enjoyed our chat.
January’s RONA-nominated book, Chasing Flames, is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.
A luxury retail empire with a dirty secret.
A hot security guy with a murky past.
Can Eliza keep her hands clean when she falls for them both?
When I land a job as PR Director for Jackson’s, London’s brand new luxury department store, I can’t believe my luck.
But the deeper into the business I go, the dirtier the secrets I discover.
Mariella Jackson is not the retail angel I thought she was.
And the business I’m selling is a lie.
So, when the dark and intoxicating Sam Le Beux appears from nowhere, I have to wonder if it is fate that sent me the distraction, or Mariella.
We fall for each other hard and fast,
Or at least I think we do,
Until he disappears.
My heart aches but my head knows it’s for the best
Because Sam’s story is darker than I could ever have imagined.
January’s current series is Starling Key which follows a group of security guards based on a luxury resort in the Florida Keys. Book 2, The Brawn has just been published and you can get a copy here.
Seleste – F – Spanish origin – meaning: celestial,heavenly
There’s a joke if ever I heard one. Seleste Ortiz is my idea of hell.
Feisty, cocky, and out of my league, and the new star of Starling Key.
The most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on.
The most infuriating woman I’ve ever met.
But there’s more to Seleste than meets the eye.
Behind that tough exterior is a frightened little girl.
When her arranged marriage is put on hold, she comes back to Starling Key.
When her flirting goes too far and I finally give in, we wake a beast that won’t go back to sleep.
Just six months.
Then we have to stop.
Then I have to watch her return to her drug lord fiancé.
And there’s one small problem.
I don’t want to let her go.
January James lives in the smallest cottage in East Sussex with her husband, daughter and imaginary cockapoo (she will get one, one day!). Until recently, she inhabited the fast-paced, adrenalin-fuelled workplaces she writes about as a communications professional. Now, she spends her days dreaming up new characters and stories and trying her best to avoid indoor soft play.
Connect with January:
Facebook: January James Author