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Tag: Jenny Harper

Blowing the Dust Off: Jenny Harper’s People we Love

It’s Day 8 of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series. Today we are joined by the lovely Jenny Harper. She is introducing us to one of her Heartlands novels’, People we Love.

Go grab a cuppa, sit down, and enjoy…


Finding inspiration in the dark

A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a gig at the Edinburgh Festival. It was African music and dance (traditional and contemporary), and there was lots of bounce and rhythm and colour. I was enjoying myself immensely – but at the back of my mind, something was niggling me. I couldn’t get the right title for my forthcoming novel.

These things can be instant and easy … or they can drive you to insanity because nothing seems to work. I was at the latter end of the spectrum. I closed my eyes and tried to block out my worries and concentrate on the music. After all, it was terrific.

Then it happened.

‘The people we love,’ said the diminutive lead singer of the group, introducing the next song, ‘don’t always love us back.’

Bang! There it was. People We Love. Perfect. The fourth novel in my Heartlands series (set in East Lothian, near Edinburgh), is about a family grieving for a brother, or a son, who was killed in a road accident a year ago in mysterious circumstances. The heroine, Alexa Gordon, is an artist who put her career on hold to support her parents. Tom Gordon (her father) is staunch and buttoned-up, determined to keep his grief in check so that he can go on supporting his family (and inevitably suffering in the process), while her mother, Martha, has completely fallen apart. It’s only after an elderly lady with dementia climbs in through her kitchen window that Alexa begins the long journey back from the dark. There are other characters too – her ex lover Cameron Forrester, who appears back on the scene after an unexplained absence, and Patrick Mulgrew, a suave art dealer who lives near Alexa in the fictional town of Hailesbank, but who works in Edinburgh. Oh, and her best friend Molly Keir, who has ghosts and secrets in her own past.

I loved writing that book. If I say it’s about shoes, it’s not a lie, but don’t get the wrong idea! ‘Shoes tell stories,’ reads the invitation to the exhibition Alexa finally puts together, ‘stories of much-loved babies who can’t even walk, of the tottering steps of little children towards adulthood, of special events in our lives; of dances, and marriages, and mountain climbs and escapes.’

What am I talking about? Sorry – you’ll have to find out for yourself!

Anyway, the inspiration I had that night during the gig had natural consequences – when I decided to write about Molly’s story in my next novel, I used the title Mistakes We Make. It’s the first book in the Heartlands series that actually links to a previous one, other than through the setting. Alexa (Lexie) reappears, and her life has moved on considerably in the months since the end of People We Love, while Molly is still stuck in her hideaway, her problems unsolved. Inevitably, she has to face quite a few ups and downs and challenges, and deal with the mistakes she has made in the past, before she can set things to rights.

I adored the covers Accent Press designed for these two books. They have just the right feel of dreamy mysteriousness. I’m not sure if it was the titles that inspired them or my blurbs, but anyway, sometimes things come together in a very pleasing way – even when finding the path might be difficult in the first instance!

Buy them here


Jenny Harper lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, though she was born in India and grew up in England. She has been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and has written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland, as well as five novels and a novella in The Heartlands series (set in Hailesbank), a novel set in Edinburgh, and a number of short stories.

Jenny writes contemporary women’s fiction with bite – complex characters facing serious issues. Face the Wind and Fly, about a woman wind farm engineer with a marriage in trouble and a controversial project to handle. Loving Susie, about a female politician with a complicated family history and at odds with the world. Maximum Exposure, in which a newspaper photographer with job to save has some growing up to do. People We Love is about an artist whose life is on hold following the tragic death of her brother and Mistakes We Make follows a high-flying events manager as she works out what is really important in her life. In a sixth title, Between Friends, three women have to work together to take revenge on a man from their past whose reappearance threatens to ruin them all.

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Many thanks Jenny. Great blog.

Come back tomorrow to read all about Richard Gould’s work.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx





Guest Post from Jenny Harper: The perils of writing a series

I’m delighted to welcome Jenny Harper to my blog. Today Jenny is chatting about a problem I’ve tackled myself- series writing.

Over to you Jenny…

The perils of writing a series

I confess to being a very bad series writer. The fact is, I never expected my first novel, Face the Wind and Fly, to turn into a series. But the town of Hailesbank was in my head, and it wouldn’t go away. However, I’ve never drawn a map (except in my head), and I just know that one day my characters are going to meet in a place that has mysteriously shifted along the High Street, or they’re going to be the wrong age, or their eyes will have changed colour… And going back through all the books now to log everything would be such a lot of work! I can’t resist sending my characters off to meet in the Spanish tapas bar, Besalú, or watching them walk in the Memorial Park, or drop in at the Duke of Atholl for a pint or two (but heck – where is it again?).

mistakes we make updated web

In my latest novel, Mistakes We Make, I’ve been more daring than merely setting the books in the same town – it’s the first book in my Heartlands series that actually takes a character from a previous novel (People We Love) and moves her story forward. I loved writing this! It was a great feeling to know that Molly and her friend Lexie (who went through the mill in the earlier novel) had a future – and to uncover the mysteries left hanging about Molly’s past.

I should have planned the whole project better, of course. I spent a ridiculous amount of time making sure there weren’t any continuity errors. Still, I did love writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it too. Here’s the gist:

What do you do when you find you haven’t fallen out of love after all? It’s too late to save your marriage and your husband has a new woman in his life …

Molly Keir’s answer is to run away. Well, it’s not exactly running away because she is given the chance of a lifetime – a partnership in a glamorous marketing agency in London – but she soon finds it isn’t the right answer either. She misses her friends and family, and when her brother gets into trouble, she’s not there to give him her support.

Adam Blair, her husband (they are still married at the start of the book), is sleepwalking through life. He has lost his wife and he’s in a job he hates. He became a lawyer to please his father, but he’d much rather be out walking on the hills. When everything collapses around him, he has some difficult decisions to make too.

And then there’s Caitlyn Murray. I really enjoyed writing about Caitlyn, who stars in the sub-plot, Caitlyn Murray. Caitlyn lives with her unlucky-in-love mother and four step siblings, and she’s a warm, loving, salt-of-the-earth girl who has to find her own way through the huge problems that beset her, while trying to work out what it is that she really wants from life. Her story, obviously, intertwines with Molly’s in an unexpected way, but in the end, she’s her own woman.

So – will I write another book in the Heartlands series? Almost certainly! And will I learn from the past and get organised?

Shh … don’t tell anyone … but I’ll probably muddle along again. But next time I decide to write a series, it will all be different!

Jenny CC2 web

Author bio.

Jenny Harper lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, though she was born in India and grew up in England. She has been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and has written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland, as well as a number of contemporary novels and a novella in The Heartlands series (set in the fictional town of Hailesbank), and two short stories that have appeared in anthologies. Mistakes We Make, published in July 2016, is her sixth full-length novel

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Many thanks again Jenny- great blog.

Happy reading,

Jenny x



Sand in My Shoes: A Taste of Summer from Jenny Harper

Today I’m delighted to be able to share with you a tasty snippet from the lovely Jenny Harper’s new summertime novella, Sand in my Shoes.

At only 99p or 99c, Sand in my Shoes is an absolute bargain!!


Here’s the blurb-

A trip to France awakens the past in this heartwarming summer read from the author of People We Love.
Head teacher Nicola Arnott prides herself on her independence. She has successfully juggled motherhood and career, coping with early widowhood by burying her emotions somewhere deep inside herself. When a cancer scare shakes her out of her careful approach to life, she finds herself thinking wistfully of her first love, a young French medical student.
She decides to revisit the sleepy French town she remembers from her teenage years – and is astonished to meet up with Luc again. The old chemistry is still there – but so is something far more precious: a deep and enduring friendship.
Can it turn into true love?


Sand in My Shoes

Let me whet your appetite with this extract from Jenny’s engaging European romance…

Nicola Arnott pushed open the French windows onto the balcony of the apartment she had just rented, and stepped out Above her, the blue and white striped canopy offered shade, but not coolness. She gasped – not at the heat, but at the view. She’d seen it, of course, on the letting agent’s particulars – after all, it was the view that dictated the price, not the apartment’s facilities, which were meagre – but no photograph could do justice to the panorama that greeted her.

She’d enjoyed so many holidays in France with David – in the Loire valley and the Dordogne, on the Côte d’Azur and in some of the country’s great cities – before Eleanor had been born. After that, they’d had so little time together before he’d been snatched from her. Now she was back.

She watched a dinghy tack and change direction, its sails startlingly white against the bright blue waters of the Bassin d’Arcachon. Picture postcard perfect.

Unthinking, she grasped the balcony rail and yelped. It was burning hot.

Nicola felt no pain when she thought of David, only love. But all memories were softened by time. If she were really honest, hadn’t they fought over everything? Whether to get up early to explore or laze in bed till midday. Whether to open the window at night or keep it closed. Whether to walk or take a taxi. Little things. Things that didn’t matter, but niggles that were easy to forget in the aftermath of loss.

It hadn’t been real fighting, just bickering – the kind of bubbling undertow that characterises many relationships but doesn’t affect the core.

She stood and stretched. Here she was, reminiscing already, and she hadn’t even unpacked. In any case, David had died twenty years ago and she had rebuilt her life since then. She had her work – at the primary school where she was headteacher – wonderful colleagues and friends, and several hundred children who filled her days with laughter and young life, and gave her all the challenges she could wish for. She had Eleanor, her daughter, and she had her beloved West Highland terrier, Darcy. So what if she hadn’t found love a second time? That had been partly circumstance, partly choice.

The boat had tacked again. Now it was heading for the low islands off the Grande Dune du Pilat, the magnificent three-hundred-and-sixty-foot-high natural sand dune that was one of the main tourist attractions of the area. She knew the islands well. Hadn’t she sailed there with Luc that extraordinary summer?

Sweet sixteen, and never been kissed? She’d celebrated her seventeenth birthday on the third day of her holiday in Arcachon with her parents. The night she’d met Luc. The memory of it made her smile, the sense of him stronger now that she was back here.


She pulled a chair towards her. Its metal feet, grating on the tiled floor of the balcony, set her teeth on edge and she sank onto it with a grimace.

So much to think about. So many memories. And so many worries about what the future held…


If you would like to buy Sand in my Shoes, it is available from all good e-retailers including-

Happy reading,

Jenny xxx

Guest Post from Jenny Harper: A writer’s path is littered with obstacles

I’m pleased to welcome fellow author, Jenny Harper, to my site today, with an excellent blog about the perils of being a writer.

Over to you Jenny…

Jenny Harper PWL_FC

A writer’s path is littered with obstacles

Have you ever gone on a writing course? Read a book about plots, characterisation or dialogue? Done a degree in Creative Writing?

I have. I’ve done all of those things, except the last one – but my first degree was in English Literature, and it put me off creative writing for decades. I knew I could never be Tolstoy or Dickens, or even Monica Dickens, come to that. And all that close analysis of texts made me so self conscious about structure, words, imagery, metaphor and the rest that I was like a rabbit staring into headlights – frozen.

So I wandered through a career in publishing (I was a non fiction editor for Collins and Cassells), magazine editing, journalism and finally corporate publishing (I produced magazines and newspapers for corporate giants such as BP, Total, Clydesdale Bank, Bank of Scotland and a number of insurance companies, as well as local authorities and government departments). Only when retirement was looming did I finally pluck up the courage to look at creative writing again.

After floundering around a bit with scraps of ideas and miserable efforts to ‘write a novel’ (everyone can write, right?), I spotted a course that sounded just great. It was in a castle in the Scottish Highlands. The tutor was best-selling novelist Anita Burgh, and I could use a week away from work.

So I went on the course and became a novelist, didn’t I?


I certainly learnt a lot, met new friends (including author Jo Thomas whose career has just gone stellar), and had a great time – but all I learned was how much I didn’t know.

I went on more courses, including a wonderful week in Corfu with Katie Fforde and a week in the fabulous Chez Castillon in France with Veronica Henry.

I read books on writing.

I became increasingly confused.

After all, celebrities seem to be able to knock out a best seller the first time they set pen to paper, so why couldn’t I?

I became bogged down in scene lists, three-act structures, beats, conflict, points of view, themes – all the technical bits and pieces that underpin a novel.

Finally, I learned that it takes most novelists an average of nine novels before they find a publisher. I threw the lot away. I listened to my inner voice and simply wrote. All the advice and lessons I had had over the years must have sunk in, because the things I had found so hard began to flow naturally. I gained confidence. I drew on the support of fellow writers. I joined a lot of social networks. I networked in the real world. I became a writer!

Here are my top tips for anyone on a similar journey:

1)    Tell the story you want to tell (and make sure you know which character’s story it is).

2)    Focus, by asking yourself what your story is really about ­(not a synopsis of the plot). Try to capture it one word, then in two sentences.

3)    Dig deeper. Get right inside your characters.

4)    Persevere.

5)    Don’t be afraid to get help – from writing buddies, mentors, beta readers or editorial agencies.

And finally – please tell me I’m not the only one who has been on this journey!

Jenny CC 2 web


I live in Edinburgh, Scotland, but I was born in India and grew up in England. I’ve been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and I’ve written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland. Nowadays I write contemporary women’s fiction with bite – complex characters facing serious issues.

Face the Wind and Fly is about a woman wind farm engineer with a marriage in trouble and a controversial project to handle. 

Loving Susie is about a female politician with a complicated family history and at odds with the world.

Maximum Exposure, is about a newspaper photographer with job to save and some growing up to do.

My latest novel People We Love is about an artist who is struggling to support her family after her brother’s death. She needs friends, and reasons to be happy, and her journey is a strange one.

People We Love UK:
Maximum Exposure UK:
Loving Susie UK:
Face the Wind and Fly UK:


Thanks ever so much for such a great blog Jenny. My writing journey has also been littered with potholes, fits, and starts! I’ve never done a creative writing course either- I’ve always been wary of them- they always seem to add pressure rather than make you feel more capable- or maybe that is just me!!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

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