The Outlaw’s Ransom is my very first title under the name of Jennifer Ash.
The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.
When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life. Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.
Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…
A thrilling tale of medieval mystery and romance – and with a nod to the tales of Robin Hood – The Outlaw’s Ransom is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and Jean Plaidy.
The Outlaw’s Ransom (which originally saw life as part of my contemporary fiction/medieval mystery timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood), is a book that’s very close to my heart. Anyone who follows this blog will know that it is my love of all things Robin Hood which led to me researching the real life criminal gang, the Folville brothers, and considering how they might have been influenced by the outlaw ballads that would have been circulating at the time.
It was interesting to be able to give, what I imagine, the Folville family’s perspective on the Robin Hood stories might be.
…Eustace de Folville continued, ‘You know something of us, Mathilda, from living in these parts. And, I have no doubt, my dear brother has explained to you our beliefs on maintaining our lands and beyond, keeping a weather eye on the dealings of all men in this hundred.’
Mathilda bit her tongue in an effort to remain demurely mute, trying to concentrate on what Eustace was saying and not on the unknown fate of her younger brother.
‘He has also, I believe, told you of his fascination with stories,’ Eustace gave Robert a blunt stare; leaving Mathilda to wonder whether it was his brother’s passion for the minstrels’ tales, or the fact he’d shared that belief and interest with a mere chattel, that Eustace disapproved of.
‘The balladeers have become obsessed of late with the injustices of this land. Often rightly so. Naturally the fabled Robyn Hode has become a hero. An ordinary man who breaks the law, and yet somehow remains good and faithful in the eyes of the Church, is bound to be favoured. In years past such a character’s popularity would have been unthinkable, but these days, well …’
Eustace began to pace in front of the fire, reminding Mathilda of how his brother had moved earlier, ‘Now we are empowered by the young King, the Earl of Huntingdon, and Sheriff Ingram, to keep these lands safe and well run, and by God and Our Lady we’ll do it, even if we have to sweep some capricious damned souls to an earlier hell than they were expecting along the way.’
Eustace was shouting now, but not at her. His voice had adopted a hectoring passion, and Mathilda resolved that she would never willingly disappoint this man; it would be too dangerous.
‘Many of the complaints of crimes and infringements that reach my family’s ears are not accurate. Far more felonies are alleged out of spite or personal grievance than are ever actually committed. We require more eyes and ears, girl. Accurate, unbiased eyes and ears.
‘The sheriff of this county is not a bad man. No worse than the rest anyway; but Ingram is sorely stretched. He has not only this shire, but Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire within his writ. The man cannot be everywhere at once. No man can.
‘We are believed to have a band of criminals under our control, Mathilda. This is not true. I’m no Hode, although I am lucky to have the respect of the immediate population, and although I know that respect is because they go in fear of me, I’d rather have that than no respect at all. Hode’s principles I embrace, as I do other outlaw heroes’ who have flouted a law more corrupt than they are. Those such as Gamelyn can give a man a good example to follow. What was it he declared, Robert, to the Justice at his false trial?’
Moving into the light of the table, Robert thought for a second before reeling off a verse he’d probably known by heart since childhood, ‘Come from the seat of justice: all too oft Hast thou polluted law’s clear stream with wrong; Too oft hast taken reward against the poor; Too oft hast lent thine aid to villainy, And given judgment ’gainst the innocent. Come down and meet thine own meed at the bar, While I, in thy place, give more rightful doom And see that justice dwells in law for once.’
Eustace nodded to his brother, who’d already shrunk back into the shadows of the nearest wall, ‘I do not have such a band at my beck and call, Mathilda. When I need help I have to pay for it.’
The values that – in my mind at least- the Folville brothers see in the stories of Robin Hood form an important undying theme to this tale- and to Mathilda of Twyford they will make the difference between life and death…
If you’d like to read my first medieval mystery, then The Outlaw’s Ransom is available for your Kindle here –
Happy reading everyone,
Jennifer (aka Jenny!!) xx
My Cornish novel, Abi’s House, is the perfect to cheer up those dull weather days!!
And if you’re quick- you have time to read it before its sequel, Abi’s Neighbour, comes out on the 4th of May!
Here’s a reminder of the Abi’s House blurb!!
Newly widowed at barely thirty, Abi Carter is desperate to escape the Stepford Wives-style life that Luke, her late husband, had been so keen for her to live.
Abi decides to fulfil a lifelong dream. As a child on holiday in a Cornwall as a child she fell in love with a cottage – the prophetically named Abbey’s House. Now she is going to see if she can find the place again, relive the happy memories … maybe even buy a place of her own nearby?
On impulse Abi sets off to Cornwall, where a chance meeting in a village pub brings new friends Beth and Max into her life. Beth, like Abi, has a life-changing decision to make. Max, Beth’s best mate, is new to the village. He soon helps Abi track down the house of her dreams … but things aren’t quite that simple. There’s the complicated life Abi left behind, including her late husband’s brother, Simon – a man with more than friendship on his mind … Will Abi’s house remain a dream, or will the bricks and mortar become a reality?
Check this out this video about Abi’s House!!- YouTube link https://youtu.be/VAumWAqsp58
You can buy Abi’s House here- http://www.accentpress.co.uk/Book/12915/Abis-House– as well as here…
Happy reading everyone,
There are many rules in the construction of good story. One of the most important is instant impact- the art of capturing the attention of your readers/potential readers as quickly as possible.
Take your lead from the balladeers and the storytellers of history. If they didn’t impress the audience who gathered to hear their tales by the end of the second line they’d uttered, then they wouldn’t earn enough money to eat that night.
For the modern writer this lesson is a good one. There are so many books in the world that, if you don’t take a firm grip of your reader’s imagination within the first two or three paragraphs (if not sentences), then the chances of you selling your work is automatically harder. If not impossible. Editors and agents read hundreds of first paragraphs each month. If you don’t engage them straight away they won’t read more than a few pages. Consequently, every single word you have written after page four is in danger of being nothing but a waste of time.
Here are a few ways to create instant impact to grab that elusive audience- and hopefully keep them grabbed!
– Start with some powerful first line dialogue. Something that makes you want to know what follows, and why what is being said, is being said. Such as…
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” – (Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier)
– Add immediate tension by starting in the thick of the action. Such as…
Dr Clouston could barely keep himself on the seat. The wheels of his carriage kept cracking over humps and puddles, breaking the night’s silence as they rode frantically towards Dundee. – (The Strings Murder, Oscar de Muriel)
– Build a scene on paper that draws the reader in so much, that they want to be there- or that leaves them feeling relieved that they aren’t. Such as…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” – (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens)
– Start with a sentence that makes sense- but makes the reader need to keep going to find out what on earth is going on. Such as…
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – (1984, George Orwell)
– Begin with a recollection. A situation that your novel will later explain. Such as…
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” – (One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez)
In an age of instant technology and an immediate availability of information, people are used to instant gratification- so the faster you engage your readers mind, the better!
I’m delighted to welcome April Hardy back to my place today to help celebrate the launch of her new novel!
Over to you April…
Excuse Me While I Pinch Myself …
Hi Jenny, thanks so much for letting me share my excitement with your readers. I’ll try not to waffle on too much and bore them all away!
This time last year I was doing the edits on Sitting Pretty, which was to be my début novel. I was completely new to the whole editing process and, as I’m a 100% technophobe, must have driven my poor editor nuts with my silly questions! Whilst working on it I couldn’t help daydreaming about what it would be like to be a published author.
Fast-forward a year and here I am, Friday 3rd March 2017, not only doing my first ever author session at one of the biggest and best literary festivals there is, but launching my second novel at it too. It really is a case of Excuse me while I pinch myself!
The theme of this year’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is “Journeys”, and my own journey to this point started in January 2011, when my husband and I moved back to Dubai from Abu Dhabi. I’d been writing since 2008 – secretly at first, even my husband didn’t know – and, with no guidance or feedback because I wasn’t sharing my work with anyone, getting nowhere. And who knows how long that might have carried on if I hadn’t gone into Ibn Battuta, my new nearest shopping mall, by the entrance which took me past a huge branch of Magrudy’s bookshop having a closing down sale. I was sad to see another bookshop close, but that didn’t stop me buying so many books I needed a supermarket trolley to get them to the taxi rank. It was a mix of novels and writers’ reference books. I opened a random page of the first one I picked up and my eye was immediately drawn to an article on Winchester Writers’ Conference.
Well, I’m from Southampton, and have family in Winchester, so it felt like I was meant to go. I had a fabulous week and met some wonderful writers, including amazing Ali Spencer and Adrienne Dines, who told me about the Romantic Novelists’ Association and advised me to join its New Writers’ Scheme
It turned out there was another RNA member living in Dubai at the time, lovely Liz Fenwick, who kindly took me under her wing over many cups of tea in bookshop coffee shops. It was Liz who told me about the Emirates Lit Fest and so in 2012 I went to my first one, rushing from session to session like an excited puppy, absorbing as much writerly wisdom as possible. I even collared agent, Luigi Bonomi in one of the corridors to ask his advice on what I was working on at the time. In 2013’s festival I entered the Montegrappa Fiction Prize. I didn’t get anywhere, but three new friends, Annabel Kantaria, Rachel Hamilton and Linda McConnell, came first, second and third.
But 2014 was lucky for me. Armed with the opening pages of two romantic comedies, Kind Hearts & Coriander and Hazard at The Nineteenth, I booked two Quick Pitch sessions with Luigi Bonomi. I also entered both in the festival’s Literary Idol competition. Cutting a long story short, Luigi liked Kind Hearts and we arranged a meeting which ultimately led to my being signed by his agency. And, championed by Judy Finnigan, Hazard at The Nineteenth won Literary Idol. I couldn’t stop grinning for a week. All I had to do now was finish writing them!
As you can imagine, 2014/15 flew by in a flurry of writing and rewriting, and the excitement went up a further notch when, in August 2015, I was signed up by Accent Press. The subject of one day being an Emirates Lit Fest author myself was broached – ELF and its sister organisation, Dubai International Writers’ Centre are very supportive of the family of locally based authors they’ve helped nurture over the last nine years.
The 2016 Lit Fest saw me, like one of the Bisto Kids, nose pressed against the glass, thinking “This time next year … This time next year …” But there was still plenty to do before then. Sitting Pretty had to be edited and, when it came out we had a launch in London and another in Dubai, which might seem a tad greedy but we had so much fun! And I like to think I was better prepared when it came time to editing Kind Hearts ready for e-book publication in January.
And here we are, Friday 3rd March 2017. A very important point in my writing journey. Today I’m not a Bisto Kid. Today I get to be one of the authors up on the platform. Today I get to sit behind one of the tables in the book signing area, and see not just the one I expected, but two of my books on sale on the bookshop area. Oh, and the bookshop in question? Magrudy’s! Magnificent Magrudy’s! I love that shop!
April Hardy grew up on the outskirts of the New Forest. After leaving drama school, her varied career has included touring pantomimes, children’s theatre and a summer season in Llandudno as a Butlins red coat. All interspersed with much waitressing and working in hotel kitchens!
After moving to Greece, she spent many years as a dancer, then choreographer, and did a 7-month stint on a Greek cruise ship before working for a cake designer and training as a pastry chef in a Swiss hotel school in Athens. Whilst living there, she helped out at a local animal sanctuary.
Relocating to the UAE with her husband and their deaf, arthritic cat, she has lived in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where she is delighted to have found herself so unemployable that she’s had plenty of time to devote to writing her romantic comedies!
At the 2014 Emirates Lit Fest she won the inaugural Literary Idol competition with the opening page of Hazard at The Nineteenth. She also had a successful Quick Pitch session, showing Kind Hearts & Coriander to agent, Luigi Bonomi, whose agency, LBA Books went on to sign her up.
In 2015, she signed a 3-book deal with UK publisher, Accent Press. Sitting Pretty was her début New Forest rom-com. Kind Hearts & Coriander has just been published and Hazard at The Nineteenth is due out later this year.
Thanks April. Many congratulations on Kind Hearts. (You didn’t bore a single person away!)
Today N J Simmonds launches her debut novel ‘The Path Keeper’, part of her thrilling new fantasy romance series. As a romance writer myself I have always been interested in what inspires other authors to write about love. Here’s what N J Simmonds had to say…
‘The Path Keeper’ is much more than just a romantic tale about two young people. It has passion, suspense, drama, humour and a dash of the esoteric running through every page. You’ve been quoted as saying that the book is not a romance novel but a love story. What’s the difference?
To me there’s a big difference. When you write a traditional ‘romance novel’ you generally have two people that fall in love, you have a bunch of obstacles getting in their way and then you have a happy ending. From Cinderella to Fifty Shades of Grey and everything in between – ultimately you are following the journey of two people’s love until they reach their Happy Ever After. But ‘The Path Keeper’ isn’t just about Ella and Zac. I wanted to cover the topic of love in all its guises – unrequited love, friendship, the bond between mother and daughter, lost love, first love and of course soul mates. My writing isn’t linear, probably because my mind thinks more like a collection of crazy fireworks than a straight line, so readers dip in and out of seemingly random people’s lives – zipping back and forth from The Blitz to the 90s to the present day – until it all comes together in the end. Writing romance has a formula, writing about love has endless possibilities, because ultimately every decision we’ve ever made in our lives has been governed by love or fear…and every decision has a consequence.
With all the negativity in the media lately, how do you get into the happy mindset to write romance?
I love love, it’s my escape. I tend to shy away from conflict and anger, it makes me feel ill, so when I don’t want to watch the news any longer I switch on a lovey dovey film. Or I put down my newspaper and pick up a romance novel instead. The thing about love, whether you watch it, read it or write about it, is that it fills you with hope. From the teenager who longs for their first experience of true love to the old lady who is reminiscing of happier days, having someone to love and being loved in return is the best feeling ever.
As a writer you not only have to move the images from your mind to the mind of your reader, but make them feel what your characters are feeling. It’s not enough for me to have my readers follow a storyline; I want them so absorbed that they are the characters. To do this I love to watch romantic movies. One of my favourites is ‘Before Sunrise’. Not only is the dialogue so clever but it’s what isn’t said that speaks volumes. The way Jesse looks at Celine when she isn’t watching, the contradiction between what they are saying and their body language, those tiny subtle pauses, touches and unspoken words are what pulls you into the story and make you feel that all encompassing emotion. That’s what I attempt to get across in my work.
The love between your main characters Ella and Zac is very unique. How is writing fantasy romance different to regular love stories?
To be honest I didn’t approach it any differently to writing a normal love story. In fact using fantasy elements makes writing about love easier as it opens the story up to endless possibility. Being in love, especially the first time when everything is so intense and raw, is truly magical….so adding a touch of the mysterious and unexplained to it feels totally natural to me. Unlike a lot of YA fantasy romances like ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and ‘Twilight’ my book doesn’t have vampires, werewolves or witches – it’s a lot more realistic (if you believe in the unbelievable, that is). Isn’t that what love is all about, striving for that ultimate fantasy?
Did you have to sensor yourself once you discovered that ‘The Path Keeper’ was being categorised as YA (Young Adult)?
I never wrote ‘The Path Keeper’ intending for it to be a Young Adult book. I wrote the kind of story I like to read, which just happens to have a nineteen year old girl as the main character. When my publishers said they wanted it for their YA division I was worried – there’s swear words and sex and some really adult themes – but they kept it in. Then I realised that I don’t write for children, I write for older teens. They aren’t stupid, they know about sex and F words and violence so why keep it away from them? I show love in a realistic light; hopefully I can give my younger readers a taste of what is around the corner and my older readers can be taken back to a time when life was simpler and more exciting.
What do you love the most about writing romance?
The escapism. To be a decent writer you have to do more than just choose the right words – you have to feel everything your characters feel in order to describe their emotions effectively. So I could be doing something mundane like walking to the shops or ironing but in my mind I’m imagining what the taste of Zac’s kisses are like or whether his lips are firm or soft. Likewise I may be imagining the pain of losing someone I love or being on the receiving end of an unloving mother. It can really take you to the brink and back, many a night I’ve been typing with tears splashing on to my keyboard. But I love it; the drama and the intensity – what other job gives you such a ride?
Ella’s love interest Zac is a character that no one will forget in a hurry. What makes a perfect leading male character?
Lots of things. I guess it depends what people want from their dream guy. For me I wanted to write about someone who was far from perfect. Zac is a very complicated character. Yes he’s beautiful to look at and he adores Ella with a ferocity that can be quite suffocating at times but he’s troubled. He is torn between the life he has and the life he wants with her. He wants her in every way, but knows that he shouldn’t be with her…that makes for some very impulsive decisions that create all sorts of problems for our star crossed lovers. Saying that though, he really is gorgeous! Who doesn’t love a guy with olive skin, dark hair and bright blue eyes?
And finally, what can you tell us about the sequel ‘Son of Secrets’?
I wrote ‘The Path Keeper’ knowing that it would be the first in a series of books…I wasn’t sure if it would be a trilogy or more, but I as I began to explore the characters I realised that the story had the potential to run and run. Except ‘The Path Keeper’ doesn’t start at the beginning, it starts at the moment that Zac and Ella meet for the first time. But they have a bigger past, and we see that in the second book. We also see how they learn to live with their new lives and we find out what happens to the truly vile Sebastian. Best of all we meet Luci, one of the most exciting and original characters I have ever created. She is both petrifying and beguiling in equal measures, even I’m not sure what I think of her yet…but I’d definitely want her on my side!
Many thanks for such a wonderful interview! Good luck with The Path Keeper.
Happy reading everyone,