A very warm welcome to this month’s award-winning author, Christina Jones.
Katie Fforde described An Enormously English Monsoon Wedding as “warm, witty and wonderful”. I love the title of this book. What inspired this novel?
My editor suggested that I should write a summery/weddingy/villagey book as the first in a new series of village-based stories. It threw me a bit to start with, as most of the weddingy themes have been covered a zillion times – but as my daughter recently had a fusion wedding (hers went wonderfully smoothly, I must add – nothing like poor Erin’s!) so I’d learnt a lot about marrying together two totally different religions and styles of wedding ceremony. I knew I had to use the experience – so An Enormously English Monsoon Wedding is the happy result!
What do you consider is at the heart of your novels that makes them so appealing?
Probably their ordinariness (is that a word??). I write about normal people doing normal jobs, nothing and no-one high-powered or high-flying. I also include all ages, genders, and all other diversities. Something for everyone – like real life. They live in small rural communities, everyone knows everyone else, and I suppose it’s all a bit cosy. My whole aim with my books is to create warmth, security, happiness, a few laughs, escapism, and hopefully a massive dollop of feel-good factor. Like everyone else, my real life has had enough sadness – I was determined there’d never be any sadness in my books!
I love the way you create your own villages and the communities that interlink. What was the inspiration for your characters, their world and the stories which they have inspired?
The village where I grew up. No question. It was a very close, rural, working class community, and gave me a fabulously grounded and secure start in life. My friends from back then are still my friends now and we all share the happy memories and the luxury of a perfect childhood. Now I live somewhere very similar, and I watch people and listen to them talking in the corner shop and the pub and just pinch bits here and there! Again, it’s all very safe and cosy – not too twee, I hope – but sort of real and the kind of world that everyone can recognise.
I read in an interview that your cats share your workspace as they do your home. How did you first come to rescue them?
I grew up with animal-loving parents who took in waifs and strays. We had dogs that were going to be shot or drowned before my dad stepped in; cats that had eyes/legs/tails etc missing; ferrets, rabbits and hens that wandered in and out of the kitchen; and ducks that were destined for the dinner table before my mum did a midnight raid on their pen! Nothing was ever turned away. I sort of gravitated towards cats when I first had my own home – via our local vet who had a litter of dumped motherless kittens – and it grew from there. My cats have come from vets, from Cats Protection (the ones no-one wants – too old/scared/injured – oh, and feral in some cases!), word of mouth, and just strays who have turned up and moved in (cats seem to know when there’s a cushy billet!). When I met my husband, he also had rescue cats, so by the time we married and merged our broods we had 11. We’ve never looked back!
What fictional hero/heroine has inspired or impressed you as a reader?
Probably an unpopular choice – but Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Manly because Gone With The Wind is one of my all-time favourite books and also because they were both real people, with flaws and not very nice sides to their characters but I understood their dreams, desires and motivations. They simply walked off the page for me and despite them not really having a Happy Ever After; no other fictional romantic couple can hold a candle to them in my opinion.
You are an award winning author, but what do you consider the highlight of your career to date since you became published in 1997?
There have been a lot of highlights (and some lowlights as well!) and over the years I’ve won awards, been to some amazing places, met some very famous people, done telly and radio programmes, and had more fun than I surely deserved, but I suppose it was that first publishing deal for Going The Distance. Seeing my first book in print, on bookshelves, being chosen for WH Smith’s Fresh Talent… honestly, a dream come true – and a feeling that will never, ever be forgotten or recreated.
You are a writer that many new writers aspire to and respect. What would be your three top tips for anyone wanting to succeed in the industry today?
- There honestly are no rules to creating a fictional world – so don’t over-do the “I must study all the manuals/latest info etc” because it’ll only confuse and worry you. Write what’s in your heart – write the story you alone want to write, not what you think you should be writing because it’s trendy or current – write for yourself. If you love your story and your characters it’ll show on the page and everyone else will fall in love with it/them too.
- Don’t feel you have to write every day. Write the way that suits you. Some people write 10,000 words a day, others write 500. Some (like me) know that if the words aren’t there then it’s best to forget writing until they are and go and scrub the kitchen floor or go for a walk or chat with friends or read or watch telly, whatever – be yourself and do what’s right for you. Just don’t feel pressurised to be like everyone else.
- Don’t overwrite – don’t keep going back and rewriting. You can write the life out of your story by constant tweaking. Usually those first bubbling, brilliant ideas that just pour out on to the page are the best ones!
What is next for Christina Jones?
I’m just writing the next novel in the new series – That Red-Hot, Rock’n’Roll Summer – which is about a summer fete that, thanks to Tiggy, who works in the local American Diner, and Marilyn Monoroe look-alike, Cordelia, somehow morphs into a mini-Glasto in the village of Daisybank, much to the horror of the very stuffy and traditional fete committee. And of course nothing goes exactly to plan (understatement!), and Tiggy and Cordelia find lots of love and laughter along the way…. I have ideas and notes for the next two after that as well!
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in the interview.
Thank you so much for asking me. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be included here. I’ve loved it! Thank you!!!