Wednesday, 29 September 2010


PAPER DOLL by Janet Woods
Severn House UK
October 28th 2010

In the early 1920s Julia Howard feels as though she’s the perfect daughter – the paper doll that was manufactured by her father in her image. She longs to dispense with her innocence. Her best friend's brother is chosen for the deed. Alas, he turns out to not the gentleman he projects, and invites a couple of his friends to the party.
The wealthy, but less than perfect businessman, Latham Miller, has other plans for Julia. He wants a perfect wife. He sees Julia in that role and manipulates the situation to suit his plans. Julia marries him to please her father and she lacks for nothing – as long as she dresses, and does, exactly how Latham tells her to.
But Julia is only human. Already acquainted with troubled war hero, Martin Lee-Trafford she turns to him for friendship and comfort, and the former attraction between them grows into a deep and abiding love. The inevitable happens, Julia gives birth to a son, and her paper doll image is torn apart.
Julia is then faced with a heart-wrenching decision. Can she leave with the man she loves, knowing she’ll have to abandon her beloved son – or should she stay?

Monday, 27 September 2010


I've been looking through my previous novels while converting books to ebooks, and it’s brought home to me how very strongly place has influenced my writing. Born in the UK, I’m a ‘Lancashire lass’, but I’m also Australian now, so both places figure prominently in my books.

When I started writing, where did I set my first big novel? Lancashire, of course. I didn’t know then that I was writing a saga. I was just writing the sort of story I enjoyed reading. I’ve been writing sagas ever since.

At first all my stories were set in Lancashire, but after I emigrated to Australia I just had to write a story set there. I’m particularly interested in Western Australian history, because Sydney and especially the convict era in the Eastern States of Australia have been used rather often.

I began collecting historical ‘titbits’ years ago and am gradually working through them. One incident happened when the American Civil War stopped cotton supplies to Lancashire. This closed most of the mills, so a group of 60 unemployed cotton lasses was sent out to Western Australia as maids. That story seemed meant to be told, uniting both sides of my own and my writing background.

‘Farewell to Lancashire’ was born when I found a published diary which described the voyage which brought the cotton lasses to Western Australia. I added four more lasses to the group, but it’s the same ship, with the same events during the voyage.

Book 2 of the series is ‘Beyond the Sunset’ (my 50th novel published) which came out in July 2010 in hardback. In this, one sister is so homesick she has to return to England. That journey takes readers by a route of the 1860s that has been less used in fiction, via Galle, in what is now Sri Lanka, Suez (before the canal was built), rail to Alexandria and then sailing on to Gibraltar and Southampton.

Book 3 is ‘Destiny’s Path’ and tells the story of the remaining pair of sisters. It’s not published yet but is due out in March 2011.

But that story led me to a new place, because a minor character was so vivid, I’ve given him his own series – and that starts in a new place, Singapore in the 1860s. It was fascinating to research.

I started writing modern novels at the same time as we began house swapping holidays from Australia to England. Naturally, this led to several different backgrounds for my modern stories, starting with Dorset, our first house swap. For a while we went all over the place, Cheshire, modern Lancashire, Ireland, Derbyshire, Wiltshire – and so did my stories. In fact, I’ve had a ball.

Using places you visit as settings for novels makes you learn far more about them than you would if you were just playing tourist. I hope this has given my readers a taste of a few new places, too.

My latest modern novel (Licence to Dream) is set in a small town in the state of Western Australia, which readers would probably never ‘visit’ otherwise. It was one of the earliest places settled in that state, but it is still a very small and charming country town.

I’ve even been around the universe when I was writing SF/F as Shannah Jay – those stories are now out as ebooks if you want to join me on a much longer trip to distant planets.

Do come and travel to my special places sometime.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Happy Birthday Agatha!

This short paragraph is the beginning of a nostalgic blog on the BBC’s Agatha Christie page.
I remember the year when Nima read us a chapter or two of A Pocket Full of Rye after dinner each night. It must have been 1953 and I can remember the game as if it were yesterday. All the family sitting round the drawing-room at Greenway, coffee cups empty on the tray, a little cigar smoke rising from my grandfather's cigar, mauve chintzy covers on the chairs and a piano in the corner of the room. Nima sat in a deep chair with a light directly above her and spectacles, a strange butterfly shape, were pushed slightly forward…”
Gorgeous, isn’t it? 120 years ago today, Agatha was born and yet today we still love to read her as her burgeoning sales figures show. She epitomizes all that makes us feel cosy, secure, grounded and optimistic, even though her crime novels contain more than their fair share of murder and mayhem. Tonight, it's out with the Cluedo, which somehow also makes me feel cosy and secure. During our family get-together, we’ll dress up barmily, one of the kids will be the detective and one the victim when we play Murder In the Dark. And then, after dinner, my husband will read from 4.50 from Paddington. I hope Agatha will tune in from wherever she is, for she has been a great mentor through her novels and scripts to so many of us. The youngest in the family have yet to sample her magic and I do envy them the discovery. For my generation she is timeless, ageless and priceless – so here’s to you Agatha, Happy Birthday, and long may they always continue.

Monday, 6 September 2010

On the last day of August I went to prison, or at least the building which was built as the court house and prison for Dumfries in 1707. It is a tall building built from local red sandstone and it stands in the middle of the High Street, looking down on the fountain which commemorates the installation of a clean water supply to the town after a devastating outbreak of cholera. In the other direction it faces a statue of Robert Burns and the spire of the Grey Friars church - once a monastery where the Red Comym was killed after a disagreement with Robert the Bruce.
The listed building has been renovated and modernised inside and is now used by the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association. I was invited to a "Meet the Author" evening to discuss the audio and paper back publications of A Home of Out Own. The evening went well with plenty of questions and readings by fellow author, Gill Stewart, from two of my books.