Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Interview with Jane Riddell

I’ve just finished reading the very enjoyable Water’s Edge and as I know the author, Jane Riddell, through the Edinburgh Writers’ Club, I was able to ask her some questions about her work.

Congratulations, Jane, on the publication of Water’s Edge.

 Can you pitch the book to us – in 140 characters?
What a challenge!  Okay, here goes:

Set in Switzerland, Water’s Edge is a contemporary drama where secrets, guilt and regret turn a happy family reunion into a stormy one.  

Water’s Edge is published by ThornBerry Publishing. How has the publishing experience been for you?

The most positive thing about being published is the boost in self-esteem and self-belief.  For years, every time I described myself as a writer, I felt like a fraud.  This no longer happens.  The first few days after I heard that ThornBerry wanted to publish my book, I wandered around with a cosy little glow inside me.  It was lovely.

What has been a surprise is the amount of effort I have to make in order to promote my book. I was naïve enough to think that once I was published, the work was done and the royalties would roll in.  In fact, as my publisher told me, the hardest part today is not getting published, it’s selling your books.  Consequently much of my working time is now spent on promoting/marketing Water’s Edge, involving learning another set of skills.  I liken it to starting a new job with no induction, training, supervision or guarantee of a salary.  Over the last year or so, I’ve learned much about how to promote myself, and am now more realistic.  It does involve time and uncertain outcomes, but there’s a pleasant side to it, for example, at the moment I am contacting people on Linkedin to suggest we interview each other or review each other’s books.  This mean I’m getting to know writers from a range of English-speaking countries, all interested in promoting their work.

The book is set in Switzerland – is that somewhere you know well?
I’ve had a few holidays in Switzerland, mainly to ski.  As a child, on my first family holiday abroad, we drove to Austria, stopping off in Brunnen, Switzerland for the night.  We stayed in the wonderful old Waldstätterhof Hotel, (featured in Water’s Edge, but not Madalena’s hotel).  Amongst other things, I loved the fact that you entered the hotel to hear a pianist in the drawing room.  It wouldn’t surprise me if some day I write a book based on the Waldstätterhof – it lingers in my memory.
Being an enthusiastic traveller, I like to set my novels in other countries.  This allows me to spend ‘head’ time in a sunny landscape, when those around me are enduring yet another blustery, wet Edinburgh afternoon.  After I finished the first drafts of Chergui’s Child, based in the south of France, I thought about having an alpine setting for my next novel.  As I love mountain and lake locations, Switzerland came to mind.  Shortly after, I spent four days in Brunnen.  It was only when I arrived there that I decided to make it the setting for Water’s Edge.  It still intrigues me why I didn’t make the connection earlier!
 Did any real-life people inspire your characters?
A few aspects of Vienne’s character are based on me, mainly her health worries, the way she is slow to take reassurance she isn’t ill.  But other than that, not in this novel.

Madalena, Portia, Vienne and Annie each have a ‘voice’ – did that take a lot of advance planning?

It did, yes.  I was aware of the importance of varying the voices, so I spent time thinking about speech patterns, favourite phrases, and the attitudes I wanted to convey.  This is quite hard to do – although you need to incorporate pet words, as with so many aspects of writing, it’s about balance – too many, and it becomes irritating/self-conscious writing, too few, and they’re not enough to depict the character.

 Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac is mentioned in your book several times. Did you feel that it was the elephant in the room, so to speak – that the Swiss lake-side setting of Water’s Edge would inevitably bring Hotel du Lac to the reader’s mind?

No, I didn’t, but I think that my novel was probably inspired by Hotel du Lac, albeit subconsciously. When writing the first draft of Water’s Edge, I didn’t know that the hotel used in the film version is actually on Lake Luzern.  (In the book, the protagonist, Edith Hope, is exiled to a hotel on Lake Geneva.) 

 Which do you prefer – the writing or the editing process?
Probably the writing process, especially when ideas are flooding my mind and words haemorrhage out – this happened with the initial draft of Water’s Edge.  Editing is pure slog, although there’s the pleasure of re-reading a piece of text and seeing how it has strengthened.  I’m convinced enough of the value of  a comprehensive edit to have written a small editing guide (Words’Worth: a fiction writer’s guide to serious editing, also published by ThornBerry), but admit to finding the process time-consuming, tedious and hard work.  At least you can edit when you’re not feeling particularly creative/inspired, and know that your book is progressing.

What are you writing now?

I am completing a rewrite of Chergui’s Child.  This tells the story of Olivia who inherits a fortune after her aunt dies, at the same time learning something significant about her past which propels her on a life changing journey.   It should be finished by Easter. 
Where can we buy Water’s Edge, and where can we find your website/blog?

Water’s Edge can be purchased from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats:

And from Barnes and Noble in paperback:

My author’s website: http/www.quietfiction.com  

My blogs:  http://wwwbloggercom-janelilly.blogspot.co.uk/         and

 Thank you for answering my questions, Jane. Look forward to your next novel.


  1. This is a really interesting interview, Jane. I am about to embark on my first novel after having many short stories published and the idea of having to promote it if successful is terrifying!

    1. Thank you, Wendy. Good luck with your novel. Re promotion, most of what I do is online, which is less scary! Do get in touch any time if you'd like to discuss this.

  2. As you know, I loved Water's Edge, Jane - the characters and their stories, as well as the setting, stayed with me long after I finished reading it.

    1. Thanks Rosemary. I did appreciate your review. Knowing that your story has stayed in a reader's mind long after finishing the book is one of the most positive comments a writer can receive, methinks.

  3. Water's edge sounds tantalising, Jane. Thanks for drawing it to my attention, Kate. Off to Amazon right now.

    1. Joan, thank you! Hope it lives up to expectations!

  4. As another debut author I can certainly relate to the problems of marketing and promotion although now I have at least learned to live with them and there are some, like visiting local libraries, I quite enjoy. By the way Jane that's a great 140 character pitch!

  5. Thanks, Ali. The 140 character pitch was certainly a challenge, but a good discipline. As for promoting in libraries, I hadn't thought about that. How much we can learn from each other....