I’m delighted to welcome Jo Bartlett to the blog. Her first full length novel, ‘Among a Thousand Stars‘ is being published by So Vain Books and will be available in paperback and eBook on 17 June 2015 (you can pre-order the Kindle version on Amazon UK now for 99p).
Why did you want to be an author and how does it feel to see your work published?
I’ve always wanted to be an author, I think because I loved books so much and I started my first ‘novel’ –which was a complete rip-off of ‘What Katy Did Next’ – at aged seven. Some of my earliest memories are of waking my parents up on a Sunday morning, just so my dad could read me the next instalment of ‘Wind in the Willows’. My love of books definitely came from him. Although he left school at fourteen, after his father’s death, to go to work, be read voraciously and knew so much about so many things as a result. He was a non-fiction man, really, and loved autobiographies, but he was also a great story teller. In fact, even though he didn’t live long enough to see me fulfil my dream, I’ve dedicated ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ to my dad – the ultimate raconteur.
As for how it feels to see your work published, I’d say it’s an almost equal balance of excitement and abject terror! When people tell you they’re reading your book, it’s wonderful, but you also experience the whole gamut of emotions about whether they’ll love it, hate it or, perhaps even worse, be completely indifferent to it!
You have previously published a novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come. How long did it take you to write a full length novel and was the writing process any different? Do you plan the story in detail at the beginning or just run with it?
This is an interesting question, as I actually wrote the novel before the novella, but the publishing process takes a lot longer with a novel. It only took about a month to write the novella, whereas the novel was closer to a year, at least it does when I’m fitting it around work and family life, as the writing happened in peaks and troughs. The writing process was different, as I’m generally what’s known as a ‘pantser’, which means I don’t plot in detail. I know where I’m going to start and what I want the ending to be, but I let the characters decide how to get me there. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. With a shorter book, I had to try and plot a bit more, but even then the characters took over and often deviated from my plan. The best thing about a shorter book is that there’s less editing – I hate editing with a passion, it’s my writing kryptonite!
Can you please tell us a little about Among a Thousand Stars. Where did you get the inspiration for the story?
The novel tells the story of Ashleigh Hayes – a woman who, on the surface of it all, seems to be living her dreams. Yet the thing she most wants to do is to outgrow a lifetime of living in someone else’s shadow. Except when you have a mother who thinks nothing of stripping naked in front of your friends, and a best friend who doesn’t know the meaning of embarrassment, that’s quite a tall order. When Tom Rushworth comes into her life, their ‘no strings’ relationship seems like the perfect distraction – but sometimes life has ideas of its own. I hope there are lots of laughs along the way, but there are also some poignant moments too.
One of my son’s best friends at primary school was the son of fashion and celebrity photographer, Perou. It intrigued me that one day he could be off photographing One Direction or Dita Von Teese in New York and the next day he’d be back in the school hall with the rest of us, trying to elbow his way to the front of the nativity play. So I had this idea of writing about someone working on the perimeter of such a glamorous world, but who still had the ability to live a separate anonymous life, with the same kind of problems as the rest of us.
Has anyone given you any writing advice which you would pass on?
Just write. I honestly think that’s the best bit of advice you can follow. I’ve known lots of potentially really talented writers who tie themselves up in knots agonising over every word, comma and turn of phrase at the start of the story and somehow never get past the first page or chapter as a result. If you just write, you can always go back and rewrite, but it’s really as simple as getting the words down to complete that first draft. The other thing I’d say is to write because *you* love the story. Every editor – and reader – seems to want something different and you’ll never, ever please all of the people. If you love your story and your characters, though, someone else will too.
How do you feel about social media, do you find it helpful or a distraction?
This is another really interesting question! I’ve met some wonderful people through social media interaction, including the rest of the Write Romantics – who I blog with and who’ve supported me through to publication – some other wonderfully generous writers and book bloggers/reviewers, who have offered me so much support and encouragement too. In fact, I even found my publisher as a result of a Twitter exchange one of my writing friends had. So I have a lot to thank social media for. That said, it is time consuming and, if I’m completely honest, I don’t really ‘get’ Twitter. I’m much more comfortable with Facebook and I’m part of several writing groups on there, but I managed to attract the attention of a stalker – which, trust me, isn’t nearly as *celebrity* as it sounds – so I’ve definitely seen the downside too.
What type of books do you enjoy reading and what are you reading now?
I like books with ‘heart’. Even when it’s a romantic comedy, I like to read something with deeper themes than just boy meets girl and that’s what I try to have in my stories. I loved Jo Jo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’, like just about everyone else, so those are the sort of stories I’ve been seeking out. At the moment, I’m reading ‘Where Love Lies’ by Julie Cohen. I really enjoyed her novel ‘Dear Thing’ and, so far, this is shaping up to be just as good.
What is next for you as a writer? Is there another book being planned?
I’ve actually got a book coming out the day after ‘Among A Thousand Stars’, which is a bit of a departure and a much cosier sort of story because it was written for a particular line of pocket novels published by DC Thompson, which appear as a series, with a new forty thousand word story every fortnight, and so it will go in to bookstores and supermarkets for just a two week period from 18th June. I’ll be able go into WHSmiths and buy a book with my name on it, though, which will definitely be a childhood dream fulfilled!
I’m working on the next novella in the St Nicholas Bay series now, which is the sequel to ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ and I’m editing ‘The Mourning Line’, my second full length novel, which is all about finding love after bereavement and whether there’s such a thing as finding it ‘too soon’.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog and for all your support, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.
Thank you so much Jo for taking the time to answer my questions, I’ve read both ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ and ‘Among a Thousand Stars’ and they have been extremely enjoyable reads. I will be looking out for the pocket novels from 18 June.
My review of Among A Thousand Stars is below. I really enjoyed this and can recommend it.
Jo has been writing stories for as long as she can remember, but had only ever written non-fiction for publication until a brush with cancer gave her the impetus to focus on her dream of seeing a novel in print.
Jo’s first novella, ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’, published by Fabrian Books, was released in November 2014 and is the first in the St Nicholas Bay series. This will be followed by her debut full-length novel, ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ in 2015, published by So Vain Books in e-book and paperback, making some of those daydreams a reality.
As a founder member of the Write Romantics, Jo regularly blogs with the other nine members about love, life and writing. The Write Romantics released their debut anthology, ‘Winter Tales‘ in November 2014, in aid of The Teenage Cancer and Cystic Fibrosis trusts.
Website – jobartlettauthor.com
Facebook – The Write Romantics
Twitter – @J_B_Writer
When her mother turns up naked and proud during her first term at college, Ashleigh Hayes assumes that life can’t get any more embarrassing. Ten years later, with best friend Stevie at her side, and a successful career as a freelance photographer for monthly magazine Glitz, it looks like she might have finally got the hang of things. Only she seems to have inherited the embarrassment gene from her mother and her every encounter with new boss, Tom Rushworth, looks set to send her career spiralling backwards. Getting past their shaky start, Ashleigh and Tom embark on a relationship that was only ever meant to be a bit of fun. But when life, paparazzi and love-sick Labradors get in the way, they suddenly find themselves caught in a roller coaster ride of emotions.
Ashleigh and Stevie have been best friends for over 10 years since first meeting at an art class. They work so well together that they are employed as a team by a glossy gossip magazine Glitz; Stevie as a stylist and Ashleigh as a photographer. However when the magazine is taken over by a mega successful and high profile public relations firm, Rushworth Associates, Ashleigh finds herself drawn to her new boss Tom Rushworth. But is the feeling mutual and can any relationship withstand the glare of publicity that will inevitably follow?
This is Jo Bartlett’s first full length novel. I had previously read and enjoyed her Christmas novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come, and was very much looking forward to reading this.
Ashleigh and her best friend Stevie are complete opposites but their personal friendship and their work relationship is an enduring one which has bought them both success. Ashleigh was definitely the quieter and more cautious personality and I took to her immediately. Stevie, I wasn’t quite so sure of at first and it took me a little longer to warm to him only because he is very much the brash extrovert – much like an excitable puppy, however as the story progressed, I did have to change my opinion of him.
All the characters are very well formed and like or loathe them they all make an impression, including rock god Zac. Zac turned out to be a marvellous creation – he was a serial fiancé and in all honesty the kind of person any sensible female would run a mile from. Ashleigh’s eccentric mother provided some excruciatingly embarrassing comedic moments – she was definitely someone I would not want to be related to.
The relationship between Ashleigh and Tom kept my interest all the way through, and although there were times when I could have happily have thumped Tom, I could understand his cynicism, even if I didn’t always agree with it. Overall this is an upbeat and very funny rom-com but there are poignant moments too; I enjoyed the light and shade elements which made for a more meaningful story.
This was a very funny but thoughtful look at relationships and how people can be shaped by their life experiences. It also takes a look at those relationships conducted behind the glare of publicity – and shows how easily situations are misinterpreted.
….and if you’re a dog lover like me then you will definitely fall in love with Bertie – he was just adorable.
Jo Bartlett is definitely an author to watch. My first introduction was via her short stories in the Winter Tales anthology (authored by The Write Romantics). I really enjoy her style of writing and will certainly be keen to read more in future.
If you want to read more………..
you can download ‘Before a Thousand Stars’ – which is a ten page mini prequel to Among a Thousand Stars and ‘At First Sight’, which is a mini anthology of three of Jo’s short stories (including the one from Winter Tales) – all are available for FREE at Smashwords and can be downloaded in various formats:
The prequel, Before a Thousand Stars is also currently FREE on Amazon Kindle
a pocket novel, published by DC Thomson on 18th June – ‘No Time For Second Best’ – will be available from WHSmiths and most supermarkets, for two weeks, and then as an ebook from Amazon.
Finally, there is a trailer available for Among a Thousand Stars