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Interview: Jane Jordan Author of ‘The Beekeeper’s Daughter’

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jane-jordanJane Jordan is an English dark romance writer. After fifteen years of living in America she returned to England and relocated to Exmoor. Her first novel, Ravens Deep was the first book in a gothic vampire trilogy that is set on Exmoor in the South West of England. Blood & Ashes and A Memoir of Carl completed this Trilogy. She also started work on her fourth novel, The Beekeeper’s Daughter. Since then, she has moved back to America and now lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Beekeeper’s Daughter. When did you start writing and what got you into Dark Romance?

I started writing in 2004. Dark Romance incorporates everything that I like to write about, gothic horror, supernatural as well as conflicted characters often with dark or dangerous secrets.

I grew up listening to old ghost stories of England and Scotland. As a child I played in an ancient graveyard that still had stocks (pillory) they used to put accused witches in centuries before, this Saxon church was reputedly haunted by seven witches, and I thought nothing of climbing up the stone tower to see if I could find the witches. As an adult I have visited many ancient castles, old houses and haunted inns after reading accounts of supernatural happenings. My Scottish grandmother was clairvoyant, and so plenty of strange stories have been handed down to me from my own family.

England is an old country filled with myth and legend, and everyone has a few tales to tell. Even here in America there are plenty of tales of ghostly encounters, and haunted buildings that are full of darkly atmospheric inspiration. Writing in this genre feels completely natural to me.

What is your book about?

The Beekeeper’s Daughter is a darkly romantic historical thriller. The story begins in the year 1698 on Exmoor in South West England. It is a time when women could be accused of witchcraft by their husband, and condemned to death.

The story then moves to the Victorian era, and to Annabel, my main character. She is ‘The Beekeeper’s Daughter’ and possesses the ability to charm bees. She has grown up surrounded by the wildness of Exmoor. She is a free spirit, unconcerned by rules or class distinctions of society.

While attending the village school, she meets Jevan the blacksmith’s son, they are soulmates, drawn together in what will become a compelling love affair that could last a lifetime, if it were not for darker forces at work.

When Jevan leaves Exmoor for London, Annabel believes she might never see him again, consequently, her world falls apart. But her beauty along with her distinctive long red hair and green eyes attracts the attention of Alex, the heir to the foreboding Gothelstone mansion.

Annabel’s initial dislike of Alex changes as she becomes flattered by his attention. Even though they are worlds apart, a friendship develops and she cannot shake the fact that she feels inexplicably drawn to him. She becomes torn between him and her undying love for Jevan.

Annabel’s happiness seems complete when Jevan returns, but it is short lived, when Alex makes it clear that he has no intention of letting her go. Drawn into an impossible situation, it seems that she must forsake Jevan in order to save his life, consequently Jevan’s anger is the least of her problems when she finds herself in the dark and dangerous clutches of Alex’s father, Cerberus.

By uncovering a terrible truth, she discovers Cerberus’s diabolical plan that looks certain to come to fruition. As the legacy unravels further, Annabel uncovers a pattern of insanity, murder and an ultimate betrayal.

Left with no other choice, she must draw on her inherent power, commit the ultimate sin, and destroy a powerful witch.

What was your inspiration for it?

Exmoor in the South West of England is truly an inspirational place for writers. The landscape is hauntingly beautiful with great cliffs that plummet dramatically into the sea and deep wooded valleys. A landscape where herds of wild Exmoor ponies still roam across great expanses of heather clad moorland.

Add to this mysterious ancient castles and creeping dense mists, it often feels of another time, and a much slower pace of life.

My first three books were a gothic vampire trilogy that began on Exmoor. I transported my readers to London, India and Scotland, in those stories, but I still wanted to write another book that was set on Exmoor. I already had another story begging to be written, primarily a historical dark romance.

I have always enjoyed books written in an earlier time frame, when life seemed much simpler than what it is today.  At least, we are led to believe that. In reality, there were many rules people were expected to abide by, especially between different social classes.

I wanted the challenge of writing this book. I believe as a writer it is important to push yourself to discover just how far your imagination can take you.

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

The Beekeeper’s Daughter begins in the year 1698 with the burning of a witch. This was my first challenge. I wanted the scene to have authenticity, not only the setting, but I needed to make readers feel the terror the accused woman would have felt. I wanted readers to imagine the appalling agony she would have endured, the suffering of when the fire was lit and her flesh began to burn.  Most of all, I wanted readers to feel both the horror and the intrigue of this chapter.
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The next challenge was writing in a completely different time period. This book is primarily set in the Victorian era, so it was important for me to get every detail as accurate as possible. For example, the types of clothes that would have been worn by the cottagers and elite society.

I visited a Victorian school museum on Exmoor to find out what types of lessons would have been taught at that time and get a feel for an old Victorian schoolroom.

Writing the witchcraft element was fascinating, and in my quest for knowledge, I visited the museum of witchcraft in Cornwall, England. It has one of the most comprehensive collections of witchcraft artifacts in Europe, and it was an absorbing insight into history.

Another challenge was how I would incorporate actual wording from a sixteenth century witch trial into my story. It was certainly distressing to read archaic documents and know that these so called witches, were just women that people, often their husbands, wanted to get rid of.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Yes, I researched sixteenth century witch trials and subsequent burnings, which incidentally did not happen that often in England. Scottish witches were regularly burnt at the stake, whereas, English witches were most often hung. Because my story is set on Exmoor in England, I had to make a plausible case for the burning of a witch at the stake.

I have lived on Exmoor and worked in a 1000-year-old castle, so I had lots of historical facts to draw upon, from the stories of the people’s lives at that castle and the surrounding estate lands. Besides, locals are always willing to share stories that have been handed down through the generations.

Exmoor is the least visited national park in England and in some places it retains a feel of an older bygone era, and there are lots of mysterious things associated with it, from hauntings to legendary beasts that roam the moors.

Researching the city of Bath was interesting, it helped me understand how polite society behaved in that time and to realize that a women’s opinions did not count for much. My main character Annabel is headstrong and outspoken for a girl of that time, but she is not of society and when she is thrown into that world, hopefully, I portray just how out of her depth she feels.

How do you keep your narrative exciting?

I tend to use short chapters and move the story quickly where I can. I like to build a creative setting and give readers enough information so they might understand and visualize the place.

Building a character’s personality and making them different and unique, keeps the reader interested, as well as developing an intriguing plot.  I have to make my readers care about the character, and want to know what happens next.  I also think by making a story easy for a reader to digest and move on from, keeps the attention focused, and creates a page turner.

I want readers to tell me they could not put the book down, that is the greatest complement you can receive as an author

Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?

I often worry that I won’t be able to think of another story. This has not yet happened, but it nags at me that perhaps one day I will be drained of all ideas, and have total writers block.

I would say that my anxiety comes, not before, but halfway through a book. I may have the beginning, an ending, but the middle eludes me.  Then, one day I start typing and all the pieces come together, like a complex jigsaw puzzle.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and it hits me suddenly, and I know how the story should move forward.

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

That I can write freely. Writing lets me escape from the real world, it takes me to a different place and time, where I can engage with complex characters and feel the joys and sorrows of their lives.

I like the freedom being able to write gives me. I am not bound to a place or time, I can write about whatever my imagination conjures up. I am not a regimented writer, I could never be, it would destroy my creativity, for a start, my life is always full of too many interruptions, but I think that I often write well when I am under stress.

I love meeting other authors, and maybe I have been lucky, but so far the ones I have met have been genuinely nice people, willing to share their thoughts and experiences. This is so important, as getting published can be disheartening, and a downright long and painful journey.  It helps keep you on track to know that even famous authors have struggled at some point in their careers.

I love that I feel passionate about writing. It is truly my vocation. Perhaps, one of the best feelings in the world is finishing a novel and knowing that it is better than I could ever have imagined.

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?

My website is: janejordannovelist.com.

My website lists all of my published work including my novels, a recent short story and a feature article for Florida Gardening Magazine. I am a trained horticulturist and combined my knowledge and experience in horticulture with my current writing skills.

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?

I understand and agree with this point of view. I often feel driven to get a story line out of my head, it refuses to go away until I write it down. Sometimes, I sit at my computer with so many thoughts and ideas tumbling around my head, while my fingers struggle to type fast enough to keep up. And I am a fast typist.

It’s creative energy, when it’s good it is amazing, and I can write thousands of words at a time, then, I would say perhaps there is a demon inside, driving me on, and it won’t let me rest until I literally cannot write anymore.

One thing is for certain, no matter how much I think I know what my story will be, it changes and evolves, as if it has a mind of its own.

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

No writer can write a book that will satisfy everyone. Personal preference and interpretation are unique to each and every reader. I strive to create memorable stories and characters that readers will invest their time and emotions in. Real places are often the inspiration for the settings in my books.

When I wrote my first novel it was based on an old haunted house that I rented on Exmoor. In The Beekeepers Daughter, I write about ‘The Devils Pass’, a legendary ancient clapper bridge known as Tarr Steps, readers can identify better with real places and it lends authenticity to the entire story.

I often have a supernatural element in my books. I have lived in a haunted sixteenth century English cottage, and worked in an ancient castle that had many ghosts. I believe these places often retain impressions that are woven into the fabric and structure of the building, a remnant left by a previous occupant. I have witnessed and experienced too many strange happenings for this not to be true on some level.

There is some horror in my books, but it is subtle. It creeps up on the reader unexpectedly weaving an underlying thread through a person’s psyche. By the time a reader might think to protest, and announce they don’t like horror, they have already read most of the book. By then, it is too late, they are committed to the twists and turns, the unexpected and the unique.

Most of all, I write stories that I want to read, and I hope that readers will want to read them too.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.