Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Interview with Jenny Harper

Jenny Harper is the author of The Heartlands Series, published by Accent Press – three titles to date set in and around the fictional small market town of Hailesbank near Edinburgh. The just-published Maximum Exposure follows Face the Wind and Fly and Loving Susie.

Maximum Exposure is described on the cover as ‘Page-turning and thoroughly entertaining. I loved it!’ by Katie Fforde.

from the blurb:
Livelihoods are at risk when a local newspaper begins to fail, but the future of one member of staff depends more on the choices she makes than the decisions of others…

Adorable but scatterbrained newspaper photographer Daisy Irvine becomes the key to the survival of The Hailesbank Herald when her boss drops dead right in front of her.

I asked Jenny some questions about Maximum Exposure, the series, and her writing process.

Jenny, Daisy is a delightful character – dizzy and scatterbrained in some ways but with real emotional depth. She follows your two perhaps more ‘grown-up’ heroines, Kate Courtenay, wind-farm engineer, in Face the Wind and Fly, and Susie Wallace, a member of the Scottish Parliament, in Loving Susie. Was Daisy inspired by anybody you know?

I have no idea where Daisy came from! No, she’s not based on anyone I know, she just grew in my mind. At one point, I did feel she lacked depth though. I needed to know more about why she was the way she was – and so her controlling father walked into the pages of the novel. It would be interesting to revisit Daisy in a year or two and see how life with Ben might change her. Now there’s a thought …

We see the story from Daisy’s viewpoint and from that of her childhood friend Ben. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted both of them to have a voice?

Yes. I find single viewpoint novels really difficult to write and admire anyone who can do it. I like to get inside at least two characters, and I also like to be able to move the action around more than is possible with a single point of view.

I know that you have been a journalist and also published non-fiction books. Have you ever worked on a newspaper?

Only as a freelance. I used to be a regular feature writer for many Scottish newspapers, particularly The Scotsman and The Sunday Times Ecosse (as it was when I wrote for it). But I ran a corporate communications agency for more than 20 years and we published magazines and newspapers for private and public sector organisations, from banks and oil companies to organisations such as Seafood and Historic Scotland.

The setting of the series is a small community. As far as I’m aware none of the characters so far cross over from one book to the next. Is that a possibility?

Yes. The next in the series again features new characters, but the one I’m working on at the moment (Number 5) takes one of the minor characters and develops her story. And now that I know Hailesbank, Forgie and Summerfield quite well, I’ll be picking up other characters in major or minor ways again too.

When will the next Heartlands title be available?

The People We Love is due out in ebook format on 26 February and paperback in August, and I believe it’s my best yet.

And how many do you envisage being in the series?

Who knows? It depends on many factors – if I continue to enjoy writing them, if my publisher wants more of them, if readers like them – and if it doesn’t all become too complicated! I have at least two more novels roughly planned, but I don’t know whether I’ll develop them or not. But I also have a hankering to revisit the first novel I ever tried to write, based loosely on my parents’ experiences during the war, in Scotland and in India. I didn’t have the technical experience to write back then, but maybe I do now.

Do you like the writing or the editing best?

It depends which stage of writing I’m at. I love it when everything starts to come together, and I love enriching what I have written, making it stronger and deeper. I am appalling in the early stages of a novel, I go down false avenues, prevaricate, change plot lines and fiddle with characters. It all takes a while to settle down in my head – but once I get to a certain point, it’s much easier and I really begin to enjoy it. I love editing – it was my professional discipline and I think I’m quite good at it.

You had a short story in the Romantic Novelists’ Association anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply. How do you like writing short stories compared with novels?

I’m a complete beginner at short stories. I went on a writing course to the gorgeous Chez Castillon tutored by Veronica Henry and she decided to spend a morning on short stories. I hadn’t expected it – but I’ve been so grateful ever since. By the way, I have another short story coming out on 1 November in an anthology called Let’s Hear It For the Boys It’s all for the charity Movember, in aid of men’s health, so please do click and buy! A great read for just 99p and a great cause.

Do you have a website or a blog?

 Thank you for answering my questions – I look forward to seeing more of the Heartlands community in The People We Love.

Thank you for hosting me!


  1. Pleasure, Jenny. All the best with the series and your other projects.

  2. Really enjoyed that interview, ladies. What a great series, Jenny - though I do think that story set in Scotland and India would be fascinating!

    1. Thanks Rosemary. I keep getting drawn back to India, so who knows, I may get round to it...

  3. Excellent interview with Jenny and interest8ing to learn about her process of writing. I enjoyed her first two books abd am looking forward to reading Maximum Exposure - and the others to follow!

  4. It was good to get to know you here, Jenny. I love the sound of the Movember anthology. What a great idea. Good luck with all your releases!

  5. Thank you Helena. I'm looking forward to reading the stories by my fellow authors in the anthology! It's a great way of finding new writers you like.