Saturday, 27 May 2017

Southern Virtual Mini Book Festival - Introducing Jan Ellis

Hello and welcome to my second virtual mini book festival! After all the positive feedback I received after my Isle of Wight mini book festival I decided to do it all over again but this time focusing on the South of the UK. When I put a shout out to authors in Book Connectors (a fantastic Facebook group for authors, bloggers and publishers) I was amazed at the response I got. As I'm sure you're aware the South covers quite a large area so to keep numbers manageable I only asked for authors from Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Berkshire. I'm sure that in time I'll do another event to pick up on the missing Counties.

So over the next three days I'll be introducing you all to nine authors, sharing their guest posts and telling you about their wonderful books. I hope that you enjoy it and that you find some new authors and great books along the way.

Before I introduce you to our first author here's some interesting facts about each County.

Cornwall - Also known as the Cornish Riviera and home of the Cornish pasty and cream teas (jam first then cream!) Daphne du Maurier wrote many of her books here, including Jamaica Inn.

Photo source Google

Devon -  Also known as the English Riviera, The birthplace of Agatha Christie and the Agatha Christie Mile. Devon is also famous for its cream teas but make sure it's cream first then jam to avoid controversy!

Somerset - Well known for it's cider and of course Cheddar cheese. It's also the home of the Jane Austen Centre where you can visit The Regency Tea Room and enjoy Tea with Mr Darcy (sadly for some this comprises of a selection of finger sandwiches, a warm scone with cream and jam and a selection of homemade cakes as well as tea/coffe, Mr Darcy himself doesn't make a physical appearance!)

Dorset - Well known for it's Dorset Knobs (that's a biscuit that's been baked three times to give a consistency similar to a rusk, shaped like a door knob and eaten with cheese) which are said to have been a favourite of the author Thomas Hardy who was born there.

Photo source Google

Wiltshire - Probably most well known for its Catherdral and Stonehenge but did you know about Avebury henge? Both henges are World Heritage Sites. There are also eight white horses carved into hillsides throughout the County. Ian Fleming (James Bond), William Golding (Lord of the Flies) and Sir Terry Pratchett (Discworld) all have connections to Wiltshire.

Surrey - The Magna Carta was signed in Runnymede in 1215 and Hampton Court Palace can be found here. It's also where Jane Austen started writing her novel Emma while she was staying with her married cousin in Great Bookham.

Hampshire - Home to the very beautiful New Forest and its famous ponies. You'll also find Jane Austen's House Museum here. As the name suggests it was Jane's home and it's where she spent the last eight years of her life.

Jane Austen House Museum photo from Google

Sussex - Author's Rudyard Kipling and Virginia Woolf both have links to this County and it's where you'll find the stunning Sussex Downs and the Royal Pavilion which was built for King George IV.

Berkshire - or Royal County of Berkshire to give it it's correct title because of the presence of Windsor Castle. Jane Austen crops up here again as she went to school in Reading and Oscar Wilde served 2 years hard labour in prison here and wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol whilst incarcerated there.

 Now that you know a little bit more about the area I'd like to invite you in and introduce you to the first of today's authors who has been waiting patiently.

Lovely readers I'm delighted to introduce you all to the very lovely Jan Ellis.

Photo courtesy of Jan Ellis

Jan Ellis began writing fiction by accident in 2013. Until then, she had led a blameless life as a publisher, editor and historian of early modern Spain. She fell into fiction when a digital publisher approached her to write a history book and then made the mistake of mentioning women’s fiction, which sounded more fun.

Jan’s stories have small-town settings with realistic characters who range in age from young teens to 80-somethings. She is somewhat surprised to find herself a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

                                   When your characters rebel 

When I began writing fiction way back in 2013, I fondly believed that I would be in charge of the action: I would hang out with my imaginary friends and they would do exactly what I told them to do. Two-thirds of the way through writing my first ebook, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Smug in fact. Then my heroine fell for the wrong male character, completely mucking up the story. Eventually, I figured out how to get everyone back on track, but it was an unsettling experience. I had heard ‘proper’ novelists talk about characters taking over and, frankly, had thought it was nonsense – and here were mine rebelling.

The second big surprise was how ‘minor’ characters muscled in on the story. The best example of this is Connie, who is the mother of my bookseller Eleanor in A Summer of Surprises and An Unexpected Affair. Connie and her twinkly-eyed beau, Harold, snuck into The Bookshop Detective and also have starring roles in French Kisses. I suspect they may also be with the group of pensioners who young Kate sees partying on New Year's Eve in A London Affair.

“If I may interrupt, I have to keep Eleanor in order. I was quite worried when she decided to leave London and head for Devon to open a bookshop. Fortunately for her, Harold and I were able to take care of The Reading Room while my youngest daughter gallivanted around France then decided to become an amateur sleuth.”

Thank you Connie. As I was saying . . .

My old-fashioned librarian ‘Dismal Deirdre’ in The Bookshop Detective is another character who ended up with a bigger role than anticipated, although this time it wasn’t entirely her fault. 'We like her,' said my publisher. 'Can you give her a bigger role?' So I did, then the publisher said, 'Oh, no! What if we upset all the librarians and they refuse to stock the book?'

Readers – I believe in living dangerously, so Deirdre stayed. Disclaimer: if there any librarians who are mortally offended by any suggestion that Deirdre is an interfering old bag with a scornful attitude towards booksellers, tough. In any case, some of my best friends are librarians and they are still speaking to me. Just about.

I think French Kisses might be my favourite book because the main character, Rachel, is so optimistic and gung-ho about life. She has a Ukrainian cleaner-cum-friend called Irina who – along with cousins Alexei and Gregor – play a big part in transforming her crumbly house into a bijou guesthouse.

Best friend Margot is the kind of woman you want on your side. French, fierce and always ready to pop round with a selection of posh patisserie, white wine and the occasional herbal (ahem) cigarette when Rachel's love life becomes a bit stressful. She's the sort of friend we all need in a crisis.

I wonder whether Margot might ever cross the Channel and spend some time in Combemouth with Connie? Now that would be interesting.

                                        *    *    *    *

What a great insight into your characters Jan and how lovely that you brought Connie along as well!

I did a special feature on Jan and her wonderful books at the end of last year which you can read here. Her covers have had a make over since then and don't they look gorgeous? If you haven't read any of them I would highly recommend them all and if you have read some or all of them I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments at the end of this post.

You can find out more about Jan, her books and connect with her using the links below:


I'd like to say a huge thank you to Jan for taking the time out of her manic schedule to write a guest post and for stopping by today, it's been a pleasure to have you back again. Jan, like myself, also has a soft spot for hippos so this is just for her. . . . . .


  1. Great start to wonderful mini book festival..

  2. Thanks Jo! I hope you and Jaffa enjoy meeting all the other guests as well. Have a lovely weekend 😉

  3. Great start to the Festival Neats and I love the way you've given us details on each county. X

    1. Thank you Jane. I thought it would be nice to let people know about the fabulous literary connections to each place. I'm looking forward to 'seeing' you later today 😉

  4. I love your mini festivals! Such a great idea x

    1. Thank you Barbara. It takes a while to put them together but hopefully everyone loves them as much as you do! 😉

  5. A great start to your mini festival Neats and some interesting facts. I'm going to be the awkward one with cream teas - I always put the jam on first and then the cream! :)

    1. Thanks Karen. I don't know why no-one has come up with the idea of doing half and half on each piece of the scone! 😉

  6. GREAT start to the mini festival Neats. Fantastic response from fantastic authors...looking forward to reading about them ALL ! xx

  7. Thank you Sue. There are lots of fabulous authors popping in over the next three days. I hope you can join us for some/all of them 😉

  8. Great post Neats! Brilliant start putting in all the info about the various counties too! Looking forward to reading about everyone.

  9. Thank you Paula. I hope you enjoy the next few days as well.

  10. I'm looking forward to Day 3!

  11. This was such fun to do that I reckon it's worth a 'Throwback Thursday' shout out tomorrow. xx