Welcome to the Diary of Mirren Jones – a new stop on the Writers’ Blog Tour. We hope you’ll enjoy your visit, and will go on to sample the blogs of other writers, highlighted below. We are part of a growing international community of writers, working to introduce each other’s blog to a wider audience. Christine Findlay, Chair of Bookmark Blair, (Blairgowrie Rattray and The Glens Book Festival) in Perthshire, Scotland invited us to take part. (see www.cfindlay.blogspot.com) We in turn have invited the writers Angela Jeffs (Scotland), Heidi Garrett (USA) and Marc Mordey (Wales).
More of these lovely people later, but firstly, by way of introduction: MIRREN JONES is the pseudonym for the creative writing partnership of Marion Duffy from Scotland and Elaine Atkins from Wales. We have been writing together for 17 years: non-fiction books, journal papers, articles, academic courses, workshops, short stories, poetry and a novel. And we’re still good friends! Marion currently works as a medical practice manager, and Elaine was formerly a senior NHS manager – our experiences bringing realism to our novel- in-progress, Never Do Harm.
In common with all writers in the Blog Tour we hope to give you some insight into our processes, plans and progress by answering four key questions.
- What are we working on?
Our second novel entitled Never do Harm is more than 50,000 words complete and the full storyboard has been worked out. Like our debut novel Eight of Cups, this is once again a contemporary piece of fiction, but this time set within the Scottish NHS – an organisation of which we have an enormous amount of contextual knowledge and first-hand work experience. There are three main characters: Hugh – a hospital consultant, Alan – a GP and Alan’s wife Simone – a French sculptress. Writing from a male perspective this time has been interesting and a little challenging!
The novel explores the harm that people can do to each other – both wittingly and unwittingly. It’s much more of a psychological work than our first novel, and we’ve taken more risks with it in terms of content which we believe makes for a far more intense and dramatic story. Despite the theme of ‘harm’, it’s not a dark and dour novel, but has a vein of humour, with some very ‘spicy’ moments. However, the fascinating theme of retribution does run through the book. We can’t say any more for now otherwise there will be a ‘spoiler alert’.
- How does our work differ from others of its genre?
In addition to our meticulous research (as ex-academics the need to research and analyse is bone-deep!), we are ‘women of a certain age’ and as such each of us has a huge reserve of authentic life experience on which we draw deeply to inform our writing. For Eight of Cups this included, for example, motherhood, pursuit of career, academia, the ex-pat life, Catholicism, country pursuits, divorce and the menopausal woman. For Never do Harm, our many years working both with and also inside the NHS have provided unique insights into organisational culture and management, and how these impact on patients, staff and their families. Novels in this setting are apparently few and far-between and we have not come across one yet that is written by an ex-employee. We believe the contextual and experiential knowledge we have, gives us an ‘edge’ regarding the stories we write, rather like that of one of our favourite authors, Karen Campbell, who as an ex-policewoman in the Strathclyde Police wrote four successful novels where the main character was a policewoman in that force. We hasten to add that we have no direct experience of the adulterous behaviour portrayed in Never do Harm or of some of the drastic consequences resulting from our characters’ actions!
- Why do we write what we do?
We enjoy reading well-written contemporary literature with strong characterisations and believable, interesting plots / stories. It’s natural for us to want to write in this vein and to strive to continually improve what we produce, with a goal of competing in the marketplace with successful fiction authors. Unfortunately, the market for this genre seems to be limited compared to that of thrillers, vampires, horror, fantasy, romance, erotica and historical fiction, but we believe in writing what we want to write and what we feel deeply about, rather than writing for a particular market. Our many readers tell us that they love what we produce, but unfortunately there are as yet not enough readers to enable us to earn sufficient to give up the day-jobs and write full time. We’ll keep at it until we have a significant breakthrough; we’re hoping that Never do Harm will be the book to do that!
- How does our writing process work?
Now the answer to this question depends on whether you are asking Marion or Elaine, since our writing processes are fundamentally different!
Marion (Mirren) “In an ideal world, I’d waken up slowly, have a cup of breakfast tea, enjoy a revitalising shower and light breakfast before heading out for an hour’s walk in the quiet and beautiful countryside. Here I would empty my mind of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought to’ of everyday life, and allow ideas and storylines to germinate. I’d then settle happily at my computer, check over and edit yesterday’s chapter, and begin today’s. That was my writing routine on the Isle of Lewis where Eight of Cups was conceived and progressed. These days I snatch an hour here and a morning there. And long for the old days!”
Elaine (Jones) “I have no fixed routine. I wait for the muse to come – which is generally whilst walking the dogs or listening to music and often around 3am in the middle of the night! It might not come for days or it will come all in a rapid rush and bingo I have a complete chapter, fully formed. I prefer to write longhand first without editing so that I am not tempted to censor what it is I write, and only then take the paper to the computer and edit as I go along.”
What we both agree on is having a joint editing process. Elaine sends Marion her draft for comment and vice-versa. Changes are incorporated or negotiated and then included. The final editing is done together, in real time, reading the text through and making agreed changes. So that is MIRREN JONES. You might like to visit our website where you can read sample chapters of Eight of Cups and discover more about us and our writing: www.mirrenjones.co.uk.
Now we’re delighted to introduce three of our writing friends who all write in very different genres to us and to each other. We hope you’ll visit their blogs next.
ANGELA JEFFS Angela is an established writer recently moved to Perthshire. Freelance since 1973, she worked in London editing magazines, partworks and book titles. After moving to Japan in 1986, she transitioned from editing other peoples’ words to reporting and creating her own. Since March 2011 she has mostly directed her writing towards activism, recovery, letting go and moving forward. She now self-publishes and continues to help others via the therapeutic creative writing programme ‘Drawing on the Writer Within’.
HEIDI GARRETT Heidi Garrett is the author of the contemporary fairy tale novella collection, Once Upon a Time Today. In these stand-alone retellings of popular and obscure fairy tales, adult characters navigate the deep woods of the modern landscape to find their Happily Ever Afters. She’s also the author of the The Idonnic Prophecy series, a fairy tale fantasy about a young half-faerie, half-mortal searching for her place in the Whole. Her latest project is a collaboration with B. J. Limpin. They’re cooking up a yummy paranormal romance! Heidi was born in Texas, and in an attempt to reside in as many cities in that state as she could, made it to Houston, Lubbock, Austin, and El Paso. She now lives in Eastern Washington state with her husband, their two cats, her laptop, and her Kindle. Being from the South, she often contemplates the magic of snow.
MARC MORDEY Marc lives in Pembrokeshire and works as a consultant and trainer within the voluntary and statutory sectors. He writes lots of poetry. My creative adventure – When I was about twelve, my English Teacher at Hereford High School for Boys, Mr D Sparks, set us the task of keeping a journal, but very specifically said to me that I was to write my journal as poetry. I will never know why he said that but I thank him for it, for poetry has been my principal method of keeping a note of the people, friendships, situations, views, landscapes, loves and losses that have fuelled my life.
Thank you for stopping by on the Writers’ Blog Tour. We’d love to receive your comments!