Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

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Guest post by Jon Hartless: How not to start a novel

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Jon Hartless, hot on the heels of the publication of his latest book, Full Throttle.

Over to you Jon…

About four or five years ago, I had an idea. That idea was “Let’s write a steampunk motor racing story inspired by the era of the Bentley Boys.”

For those who don’t know, Steampunk is usually set in an alternative nineteenth century timeline in which technology had advanced to a greater degree than in reality, but the idea is flexible so please don’t feel that this definition is the only one. The Bentley Boys were very famous racing car drivers of the 1920s, beloved by the media for their wealth, social status, and derring-do racing lifestyle. This was at a time when most people still couldn’t even afford a car, never mind race one, and as such I thought the world of motor racing would be a perfect symbol for the gulf between the rich and the poor.

As ideas go, this one had quite a lot encoded within it. To begin with, this was to be a dirty, grubby Steampunk world, not a bright, shining version. Despite the presence of cutting-edge technology, my story would only feature glimpses of it, for only the wealthy elite would be able to afford it. This was to be a world very like ours, in which opportunity only exists for the rich and well-connected while everyone else is presented with the illusion of opportunity, a practice very familiar to us today.

And within this world we would focus on a young girl condemned to a life of poverty – material and intellectual – because of her working class background, her gender, and also her disability – she only has one arm, owing to a birth defect, and a weak knee from the same cause. But fortunately for her, her father has a small workshop and a secret project; a petrol engine designed specifically for motor racing. And there it was; an intelligent heroine named Poppy Orpington and a petrol-fuelled monster of a car called Thunderbus would rise up to challenge the racing elite and the social order, to smash conventions apart. Every piece slotted neatly into place.

And having thought of this, and having practically the whole thing in my mind, I then abandoned it to rewrite the core concept.  For no reason at all. Other than I was a complete prawn. For some reason I just lost faith in it and thought I’ll never get it accepted. Instead, I reimagined it as a book for young children, with large pictures on every page, where Poppy is a girl of about 8, whose eccentric father makes a car and they go off racing, towing a caravan behind them.

I then binned that idea and thought of making it a bit more “pulp”; in this version, Poppy – now a grown woman without any birth defect – is heading home from work one evening and is accosted by a sinister man who offers her 50 quid for something called Thunderbus. She has no idea what he’s talking about, and walks on. Then another man pops up and offers her 100 quid. Then two more agents appear and offer 250, and when again she refuses they attack her and try to take her prisoner. Poppy promptly goes Mrs Peel on their arses (old TV reference) and escapes. Back home she finds a letter from a solicitor saying very sorry, your father has died, and you have inherited everything; a small workshop, several debts, and something called Thunderbus.

So, Poppy visits the solicitor who gives her the keys to the workshop and says he has no idea what Thunderbus is. Poppy visits, the workshop, (and is probably attacked again by yet more sinister men), and finds that Thunderbus is a sort of small armoured tank with advanced weapons of the sort that has never been seen before and which will change the face of warfare, hence the many ominous agents want to get their hands on it and have killed her father in the attempt…

And at that point I gave up on that version, though it did briefly rise vampire-like with a new take, in that I thought; what if Poppy’s father knows it will take him about 15 years to make Thunderbus because of the complexity of doing it all alone, plus he knows that super-strength will be required to pilot the tank, and he looks at his baby daughter, asleep in her crib, and lops her arm off, thereafter telling her it is a birth defect and bringing her up to obey him in everything? The action would then jump forward to Poppy as a teen girl, worshiping her father as she has been brainwashed by him, and using her mechanical arm to use Thunderbus as her father commands, blowing up a bank here or a military installation there. The story would have then been of her ‘awakening’ as she realises the Mephistophelian nature of her father and rebels against him. But that idea died a death also. Thankfully.

And so, after all that, I finally thought, “hang on, what was wrong with the racing idea that practically wrote itself?” I went back to that, and the rest was plain sailing. Except for about thirty thousand rewrites and almost one hundred rejections. But these are a writer’s usual problems, or at least they are my usually problems, and finally the book was accepted and published, and here it is. If there is any point to this blog, I suppose it is have faith in a good idea. Or don’t be afraid to change it, if need be. Or something.

I hope you enjoy the book. A lot of torment went into creating it, never mind writing it…

Full Throttle Extract:


By James Birkin, Editor.

Today, Poppy Orpington is hardly remembered at all. Some do know that she was a famous racing driver, though only a minority of these are aware that her first car was called Thunderbus, not Thunderbolt, a mistake arising from her later company of that name. Others wrongly dismiss her as the first of the modern celebrities, working the media for fame and money, while a few will gleefully recall libellous newspaper reports of harlotry in a Parisian bawdy house whenever her name is mentioned.

Most, however, are familiar only with her stained reputation from the Great War – a reputation, I maintain, that is thoroughly undeserved. However, I must not get ahead of myself. I shall explore everything in the right order and put Poppy in the context of her era. Her exoneration, should you wish to grant it, must be given at the right time and with a full understanding of Poppy’s character.

This, then, is the beginning of the testimony, taken from diaries, letters and personal contemporaneous interviews. Some may complain that my shaping of this material into a narrative rather than an academic account will diminish the authenticity of the work; I contest that Poppy’s biography is so dramatic in tone, and so rich in style, that it pulled itself naturally into this shape.

Nonetheless, a few disclaimers should be noted. Memory is fragile, and it is unsurprising to see the manner in which events can be transposed, altered and generally misunderstood. Please be assured that I have researched all areas as closely as possible and that everything in this book actually took place, though not necessarily in the order given.

Also, the spoken language at that time was rather more formal than today, especially amongst the upper classes and the well-educated, and this has driven me to lightly edit certain conversations between Poppy, Simeon, Helena and their contemporaries. Please be assured that I have endeavoured to keep the pith of each exchange, sacrificing the semi-archaic speech patterns only for the sake of lucidity.

The reader may ask just why I have devoted so much time to the Orpington archive of diaries, letters and more. Does it really matter what happened to an almost forgotten woman over a century ago? In my opinion, and simply put; yes. Poppy’s life has many parallels today, while her eventual fate in the early years of the twentieth century could – tragically – easily happen again. I will accordingly interpose a series of editor’s notes on those aspects of Poppy’s life that I feel are relevant to us. I shall endeavour to keep these interjections to a minimum, however, as they serve to illuminate rather than to distract.

Join me, then, as we travel back to when motor sport was still open to amateurs – albeit only wealthy amateurs – who could race their own cars side-by-side with the professionals of the day. Back when the sport still boasted heroic individuality rather than corporate wrangling over fuel consumption and weight limits. Back when cars were designed by hand and built by imagination, and were as much for the public road as the racetrack, unlike today’s machine-designed racing vehicles that have no function outside the sport and no individuality within it.

So, let us return to an age which is now regarded as a lost era of romance and rugged individualism, but which was also characterised by gross inequality, a rigid social order, casual violence toward women and unthinking submission toward authority. And let us never forget that the past is golden only when viewed from afar.



Jon Hartless was born in the seventies, which is rather long time ago. Full Throttle is his first novel with a traditional publisher.

Jon Hartless

Many thanks Jon, sounds great.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny. xx

OUT NOW! Abi’s Neighbour

My second Cornish novel of friendship, romance, fun, and cream teas, is OUT TODAY!

Abi’s Neighbour– the follow up to Abi’s House, continues the story of Abi Carter, and her new friends Max, Beth, Jacob, Stan and Sadie the Golden Retriever.

Set in the Penwith area of Cornwall, the sun is shining and the fish and chips have been ordered, ready for Abi’s next big adventure.


Abi Carter has finally found happiness. Living in her perfect tin miner’s cottage, she has good friends and a gorgeous boyfriend, Max. Life is good. But all that’s about to change when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Cassandra Henley-Pinkerton represents everything Abi thought she’d escaped when she left London. Obnoxious and stuck-up, Cassandra hates living in Cornwall. Worst of all, it looks like she has her sights set on Max.

But Cassandra has problems of her own. Not only is her wealthy married lawyer putting off joining her in their Cornish love nest, but now someone seems intent on sabotaging her business.

Will Cassandra mellow enough to turn to Abi for help – or are they destined never to get along?


So how am I celebrating today?

Well, obviously I’m starting with a generously sized cup of black coffee…and I was thinking that later I might treat myself to a cream tea. As I’m in Devon however, I’ll have to be a good girl and have it the local way and not the Cornish way – I don’t want to be thrown out of the café after all!

My real celebration will happen tomorrow, when I meet up with my lovely friends from University for a reunion. These are the very special people who influenced (and all appear in) my Another Cup of… series. I can’t think of better folk to help me raise a glass of bubbly to my latest novel.

Next week there will be a blog tour- I will post details in a few days time.

There will be some book events soon as well. I’ll be selling copies of Abi’s Neighbour in Tiverton, Devon on 23rd June as part of the literary festival (time to be confirmed), and I’ll be in Chippenham, Wiltshire, at the library on June 30th. I’ll shout out about both these events very soon!

In the meantime- thank you all for your support! If you lovely folk didn’t buy my books, then I wouldn’t be asked to write any more!

If you’d like to buy Abi’s Neighbour (which can be read as a standalone novel, or after reading Abi’s House), then it is available from all good book shops and online retailers.


Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Another Glass of Champagne goes AUDIO!

I’m delighted to be able to announce the birth of my very first Jenny Kane audio book.

Another Glass of Champagne can now be purchased as a audio book – the perfect listen for a long car journey, or to help the housework along.


Amy and husband Paul are expecting their first baby – they want Amy’s best friend Jack to be godfather, but having left London to ‘find himself’ he hasn’t been heard from in months. When Jack suddenly turns up, things seem to fit nicely into place – but his motives for returning to Richmond aren’t all altruistic. He has a plan – one which could put community hub Pickwicks Coffee Shop out of business, and potentially ruin a number of old friendships. Meanwhile, Kit has problems of her own: just when her career as an author has started to take off, she finds herself unable to write – and there’s a deadline looming…not to mention two children to see through their difficult teenage years.


Unbridged, you can listen to award winning voiceover artist, Anna Parker-Naples read my novel out to you as you go about your day – all day in fact, as it is a 9 hour and 8 minute production!!

You can buy your audio version (with the different quirky cover!) from –


Of course, you can still grab the paperback or Kindle versions as well!

Happy reading/listening,

Jenny x

Another Glass Of Champagne

Special Announcement: Abi’s House is to have a sequel!

It is with great pleasure- and several celebratory cups of coffee- that I can announce that Accent Press have commissioned me to write a sequel to my bestselling novel, Abi’s House!

Set in the beautiful Cornish village of Sennen in the Penwith Peninsula, Abi’s House tells the story of Abi Carter and her emotional and geographical journey from an unhappy life as a young widow in London, to a new life in search of her dream home in Cornwall.

Abi's House new cover

Thanks to all you wonderful readers, Abi’s House has proved so popular that a couple of months ago, a sequel was requested by my publisher. Since then I have been working out what sort of storyline I could weave next against the backdrop of Cornish sunshine, cream teas and fish and chips.

After much thought, and a chat with a local Abi’s House fan (thanks Jo), I developed a new plotline and the words were soon flowing.

It is with great excitement therefore, that I find myself already 50,000 words into the first draft of Abi’s Neighbour.

Obviously I don’t want to give too much away, but I can tell you that Abi Carter is about to get a brand new next door neighbour…and there is a very real worry she has bought the Stepford Wife style London City attitude that Abi had fought so hard to escape, along with her…

House for Abi- Sennen

And when will Abi’s Neighbour be ready and waiting for you to read? Well, I’m afraid it won’t be until Summer 2017!! However, I do have another coffee based novel almost ready to be released in June 2016…so watch this space for more news…

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Temporarily Going Cold Turkey

I’ve had two weeks off!! Two whole weeks!

Sounds like bliss doesn’t it? And- it was. I had my first full fourteen days off since I started to write 9 years ago this Christmas. It was wonderful to have my little computer stashed away over the festive season and New Year, and to do what I’ve been promising my long suffering, and incredibly patient, family for years- leave my pen and pencil alone.

pen and paper

However, as any writer will tell you, leaving your stories behind for a while isn’t that straight forward. The fingers might not be hovering over the keyboard, the hand might not be gripping the pen, but turning off the imagination is a tougher proposition altogether!

Before the turkey had turned cold my head was at saturation point with new ideas dancing around my brain. I’ve lost count of the nights I have managed to sleep this Christmas without waking up with an idea nagging at my head to be scribbled down.

By Day 6 my fingers were actually itching for movement and the familiar hold of my pen, and I could feel my usual calm temper cracking. I felt a bit like a recently quitted smoker who yearns to hold a cigarette even if they don’t intend to smoke it!

On Day 7 I took action- away I went to the wool shop and bought some wool. I’ve never knitted so fast in my life! Every time I felt the urge to write I knitted a line of something- not sure what- probably a very long wide scarf- possibly a blanket…I’ll see how it looks when the wool runs out…


By Day 12 I was sneaking ideas down in a notebook when no one was looking. By Day 13 I found I’d accidentally written the chapter plan for a novel I won’t have time to write until the end of the year at the earliest!

But thankfully- for the sake of my sanity and my families- today is Day 14- and my beautiful children are back off to school tomorrow. You probably think I’ll be cheering them off as they disappear with their bags and their lunch boxes, but I’ll really miss them. They however have decided that Mum is a lot nicer to have around if she has a pen in her hand!

Next Christmas I am definitely not going cold turkey writing wise- I think a week of slowly writing less and less each day until I take just one week off would be much more sensible!! It’s either that, or I break the world scarf knitting record!!

cold turkey

Coffee time I think- and on with my latest novel…

Happy Reading Everyone,

Jenny xx



Happy New Year!!

Is it me, or did Christmas come and go with even more lightening speed than usual this year?

I hope you all had a wonderful break, and are kicking off 2014 with good health and wide smiles.

2013 was my very first year as Jenny Kane- and what a start I had!

ACOC- coverAnother Cup of Christmas

Another Cup of Coffee spent weeks in the Amazon Best Sellers, and it’s mini festive sequel Another Cup of Christmas hit the Amazon short stories Best Sellers lists!!!








So what does 2014 bring for Jenny Kane???

Well- a new novel is on its way, and I’m planning a few story stories… watch this space…








Thank you for all your support in 2013!!

Happy Reading,

Jenny xx



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