Today on Meet the Author we’re talking to Jennifer C. Wilson about her books (which sound fascinating!), why she’d choose to have Mary Queen of Scots on an island with her and how she was at Richard III’s funeral…..
Jennifer C. Wilson
Paranormal historical fiction
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m a marine biologist by training, and work as an environmental consultant during the day, looking at impact assessments of various types of development. It’s really interesting, but with everything having to be ‘right’ and fully referenced, it’s lovely to come home and play with my own characters and world.
I’m a huge fan of history, and love nothing more than losing myself in a new documentary, or via reading about different people, eras and countries via fiction.
I live near Newcastle, and am very proud of my two-inches of North Sea that I can see from my bedroom window.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always made up stories, ever since I was a child, but once I finished uni and came back to the north-east for work, I found myself in a strange town with no friends. I’d joined a dive club, but my mum also suggested I look at adult education classes at the local high school. When I saw that creative writing was an option, I decided to give it a go. That was over ten years ago now, and I’m so glad I did it; it was the start of actively trying to write for competitions, or submissions, and so the start of the path to publication.
How many books have you written and published?
There are currently four of the Kindred Spirits series, published by Crooked Cat Books, and one novella, through Ocelot Press, called The Last Plantagenet? But like many people, those are by no means all I’ve written! I’m currently writing a border reiver romantic adventure, The Raided Heart, which started life over twenty years ago, as well as having started plenty of other ideas, waiting in the drawer to be finished.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
I think it would have to be Kindred Spirits: Tower of London. I loved writing it, and it was my first book to be accepted by a publisher, so it has a very special place in my heart. It’s where the world of Kindred Spirits began, and everything just managed to fall into place as I was working on it. It still makes me happy when I read from it at an event, or just look at the cover.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
As my books include real historical characters, I haven’t had to make up many names at all just yet. When I have done, there’s a fairly limited pool of names, once you have your era and class determined. It’s the one frustration I think, with historical fiction: whether real or fictional, most royal or noble people were named from such a narrow range. There are so many people named Anne, Mary, Elizabeth, Edward, Richard or Henry, it can get confusing which one you’re talking about!
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
My obvious answer has to be Richard III, as a staunch Ricardian, but logistically, Mary Queen of Scots did once escape from imprisonment on an island, so perhaps she would be a better option! If escape wasn’t possible, I suspect she’d be fascinating to talk to as well.
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
It has to be The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory. I wasn’t that interested in the Tudors, but a colleague gave me her copy to read, and I was immediately hooked. The fact that it’s written in such a way that you really do find yourself believing Anne is going to be sent to a convent, and get away with everything she’s accused of, shows how brilliant it is. It’s the book which rejuvenated my love of reading, and also made me realise just how much I loved historical fiction.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
At primary school, I wrote a story about a superhero dog, which I think may have been called (originally) Super Dog. I don’t remember anything other than the fact that it existed, and that I read it out in assembly, but it clearly struck a chord somewhere!
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
Sadly, being an author isn’t quite a job for me as yet, but I do try to treat it as importantly as though it were. I’m a fulltime environmental consultant, looking at impact assessments for projects such as wind farms, power stations, and airports. I’ve also been a researcher into fish behaviour at university, and a mud-sifter in a research lab.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
I’m torn here, between two very different events. I know you’re not meant to change time, so although I’d love to go and change the course of the Battle of Bosworth, I know I can’t, so my other option is a bit daft, but would be great fun: I’d love to have been at the recording of one of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Specials, ideally the one with Andre Previn (Preview). To be there when that level of comedy magic was being made, would have been amazing. And I wouldn’t want to change a single thing, so no risk of doing anything dangerous to the future of mankind either!
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I think it would have to be Mary Queen of Scots again – if we were to meet in Fotheringhay, however harsh it would be for her, I could also perhaps meet Richard III at the same time! The pair of them would have so many interesting tales to tell.
On a more realistic note, I would love to share a pot of tea with Sir David Attenborough. If there’s one man who sees sense, environmentally, it’s him, and again, think of all the stories…
What are your favourite things to do?
Apart from writing, I love nothing more than pottering around historical sites and buildings, losing myself in my imagination. I find it both inspiring and relaxing.
At home, I enjoy making jewellery, playing with gemstones and making new necklaces and earrings for various trips or events.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I was thinking about this, and I think it does have to be attending the Compline part of the reburial services for Richard III. He was the leading man of two draft novels of mine when his body was rediscovered in Leicester, and I entered the public ballot to attend part of the services just to feel part of everything that was going on, never expecting to get a place. But I did! Sitting in the cathedral watching a royal coffin, carrying my leading man, being carried in, was so strange, but ultimately, so inspiring too – I went back to the hotel that very night, and worked on the ending of one book, and within a month, the second was edited and submitted; it was accepted and published by the October of that year.
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
That’s a really tricky one! I’m going to go non-fiction, and say Life On Air, by Sir David Attenborough. It’s his birthday as I’m writing this, and the man is a legend. He should be put in charge of global environmental management, and he writes beautifully too.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
Kindred Spirits: York was released in January 2019, and is the fourth in the Kindred Spirits series, following the (mis)adventures of the city’s ghosts. Here’s the blurb to tempt you in…
In the ancient city of York, something sinister is stirring…
What do a highwayman, an infamous traitor, and two hardened soldiers have in common? Centuries of friendship, a duty to the town, and a sense of mischief – until they realise that someone is trying to bring chaos to their home.
Joining forces with local Vikings, the four friends keep an eye on the situation, but then, disaster strikes.
Can peace be restored both inside and out of the city walls?
I’m not sure why, but this one took a slightly darker turn than the other three books, which have each explored the Tower of London, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, and Westminster Abbey.
The book is available on Amazon here, and is free on Kindle Unlimited.
Thanks so much Jennifer for this brilliant interview! I always love hearing from other history lovers and found your interview fascinating! I also now HAVE to read your books!!!
Any questions for Jennifer then give her a shout!
Have a great day all