With me in the coffee shop today is Jennifer C Wilson who’s here to talk about her second novel, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, the follow-up to Kindred Spirits: Tower of London. Hello Jennifer, how lovely to see you. Can I get you anything?
Hi Katy, and thanks for welcoming me along to visit today! I never used to be a coffee shop person, but thanks to attending a weekly writing group in a wonderful little café in Newcastle, my tastes are expanding! So I’ll have my favourite banana twist tea, if you have it, and really up the fruit and veg ante with a slice of carrot cake, if that’s ok? That’s got to be a portion!
Of course. So the big day’s nearly upon us – are you all set for the launch?
I cannot believe we’re so close now – I’m excited and terrified all at the same time, and very much in need of more sleep.
Can you tell us a little about your books?
The concept of the Kindred Spirits ‘world’ is eavesdropping on the ghostly inhabitants of our greatest historical sites and buildings, and for somebody who loves history, it’s bliss to write about. Helped along, I have to confess, that I can break the rules a little bit, and if my version of Mary, Queen of Scots has a slightly modern take on life, that’s fine – her ghost has been hanging around ever since her death in the 1500s, she’s surely allowed to pick up some modern slang or attitude? She’s even been on a plane, so she’s definitely a modern woman.
Exploring the Tower of London’s residents came about fairly randomly, but I’ve wanted to write about Mary, Queen of Scots for years, and have pages of notebook scribblings, trying to find a ‘way in’ to one of my favourite historical characters. She has always been a heroine of mine, and almost a family joke, when, on family holidays, almost every house or castle in Scotland seemed to have a room she had apparently stayed in (and we visited a lot of Scottish houses and castles!). Therefore, following the publication of the first Kindred Spirits, there was only one place I could possibly write about next – the Royal Mile, Edinburgh.
The Mile has so much history crammed into one relatively small patch, so narrowing down the buildings and characters to include was tricky, and for a while, it all felt a bit scattergun, but having Mary as the central character, joined by her father, James V of Scotland, one of his courtiers, Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis, and Sir William Kirkcaldy, the man who tried to keep the Castle for Mary, it all started to fall into place. And I knew I had chosen wisely when, on a recent visit to the castle’s esplanade at night, I overheard one of the ghost tours talking not only about Janet, but one of the other ghosts who turns up in the novel too – definitely validation I had picked my ‘cast’ well.
Once I had the characters in place, the next task was to figure out who might be interacting the most with who, and how? In the end, I went for a brainstorming approach, writing lots of scenes to try and get to know the characters a bit, then gradually, a thread for Mary came about, helping her father, and dealing with her wastrel of a husband, Lord Darnley.
Being a massive history fan, but not consistently interested in the same period, it’s great thinking about how folk from different eras might come together and interact. My biggest hope is that people enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!
I’m hosting an online launch for Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile on Thursday 1st June, on Facebook, and you and your readers are more than welcome to attend – just click here for more information, and I look forward to seeing you there.
Thanks Jen, it sounds like a great opportunity to find out more about the book and have a bit of fun. Count me in! Thanks so much for coming along today.
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.
Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile is coming June 2017. She can be found online at her website