I'm thrilled to be welcoming Jane E James to the blog today for an interview and a review of her latest book - The Crying Boy. Jane is a fellow #DarkerSideOfFiction2017 author and will be in Peterborough in October with me and other authors who love that dark side when writing. Here's a little about Jane:
Mystery and suspense writer Jane E James comes from an editorial and marketing background and when she isn't being mysterious, like her books, she enjoys living the 'good life' in the countryside with her husband and Jack Russell Terrier. Jane went back to night school in London at the age of 40 to do a diploma in creative writing and previously worked as a reporter for the local press.
She has always been more interested in dark, disturbing subjects and finds damaged & dysfunctional people far more intriguing than ordinary, everyday characters, especially unreliable narrators who never let truth get in the way of a good story.
She can mostly be found with her head in a book or writing at her desk, with her dog curled up at her feet. Rebecca, Carrie, The Woman in Black and Wuthering Heights are among some of her favourite reads. Inspired by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King, she loves a good creepy read or atmospheric ghost story
And the interview:
Q - What made you want to be a writer?
A. I first fell in love with writing when I came across The Secret Garden, which for a child’s book is incredibly dark. The secluded house and the secrecy of its occupants awoke something in me that made me put my pony club books down for good and take up pen and paper. From then on, I would scribble away whenever I could, but my dark stories worried both my parents and my teachers. I didn’t come from a bookish family, you see. In fact, my parents owned a fish chop and thought paper was wasted on anything other than for wrapping chips in. Like many other authors, I don’t choose to write – I simply don’t feel I have any say in the matter. It’s my passion.
Q - What kind of books do you read for pleasure?
A - I love mystery, psychological thrillers and dark fiction. I especially like anything that is atmospheric and spooky but I do read all genres. I recently read Caitlin Moran’s How To Build A Girl and it made me laugh out loud, even though it’s not usually the type of book I would choose. My favourite all time reads are Rebecca, Woman in Black and Wuthering Heights or anything with a Hitchcock feel. Naturally I have a crush on Stephen King but who doesn’t? Mostly I fall in love with the books others love to hate – such as Gone Girl and Girl on The Train; but I also like historical fiction and I will read anything by Philippa Gregory. I’m also quite partial to a Catherine Cookson!
Q - What book/character of yours is your favourite?
It’s got to be Hazel Ladd from my 1st novel The Long Weekend. She’s an incredibly unlikeable and unreliable narrator who has spent her life hiding the love she feels for one of her daughters and disguising the hate she feels for the other. She is a deeply complex and troubled woman who starts to lose her grip on reality, putting her family’s lives in danger. You certainly wouldn’t want her as a mother, wife or best friend!
Q - If you had the chance to write anywhere, where would you choose?
A. I can’t think of anywhere nicer than my own study in my little cottage in Cambridgeshire. We are lucky enough to live in the countryside and it’s lovely in the summer but bleak in the winter. Even so, I love watching the changing seasons from my window. I get to see lots of birds, deer, squirrels, rabbits and the odd fox pass by.
Q - Do you have any hobbies?
A. I grew up around horses and used to go to pony club and gymkhanas. For most of my young life I was obsessed by horses but I had a bad riding accident some years ago and I fractured my coccyx as a result so it is unlikely I will be able to ride again. Then again, having grown up around all kinds of farm animals, I’m crazy about most animals and can even milk a goat! Up until a few years ago we had six dogs but sadly most have now passed away and we are left with one old soldier – a deaf and partially blind Jack Russell Terrier named Fury. I lost his dad a couple of months ago and I still can’t bear to bring myself to think about it. Aside from writing and reading, I do enjoy cooking and listening to classical music and I love to travel (not so keen on flying though). Hubby and I are also keen on Formula 1 and camp out at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix most years.
Q - What's your favourite kind of scene to write?
A. Ooh anything spooky and atmospheric. I’m a descriptive writer, which means I love to describe creepy old houses and settings in my thirst for suspense. I get to explore them in real life too as I love walking along deserted coastlines or tramping through isolated woodland or on the moor. I usually have to fall in love with a place or location before I write about it and that’s happened with both my novels. I chose the bleak wintry Norfolk coastline for The Long Weekend and the isolated west Yorkshire moors for The Crying Boy.
Q - Would you ever like to branch out to a different genre?
A. Perhaps. I have another three books to write in the mystery, suspense, thriller genre and then I might try my hand at something else. I have a couple of ideas that lean more towards contemporary women’s/literary fiction that I would like to develop at some stage, but I’m not sure how confident I feel about it yet. We’ll have to wait and see.
Q - What does your writing space look like?
A. Interestingly enough, my workspace had a complete makeover last year and at first I wasn’t sure how easily I would settle in to my transformed contemporary-styled study. It used to be a bit of shambles with grubby pine furniture, mood boards and knick-knacks everywhere – but now it has dove grey walls and is kitted out in trendy white Ikea furniture. Its more me than I imagined, probably because I still have a dog curled up at my feet, and I’m completely committed to keeping my work space tidy these days. I do still have the odd little keepsake to keep me company – such as The Crying Boy portrait of course, who looks down on me as I work.
Clayton and Avril Shaw have lost their little boy and are still
grieving when they move into Swallow’s Nest on the Yorkshire moors.
their new house Avril discovers a painting and is intrigued by the
history surrounding it. When she learns that the boy in the painting was
deaf, like her dead son, she starts to try and communicate with his
Meanwhile, Clayton finds himself entangled in an equally
undesirable friendship with a retired fire chief who knows more about
the painting than he is prepared to let on.
Is The Crying Boy painting cursed and can numerous house fires be linked to it?
with their unstable marriage, the couple find themselves in further
danger as an increasingly disturbing bond develops between Avril and The
In a twist of events Avril’s irrational behaviour is
brought to a dramatic halt when she discovers she is pregnant. With her
affections once again restored for Clayton, she decides to dispose of
the sinister portrait. But the cast off painting wants revenge and its
anger towards Avril’s unborn child might just prove immeasurable.
Can Avril and Clayton live happily ever after or does The Crying Boy have other plans?
My Review: 5 stars
WOW! I've not read anything from this author before, but picked up this one on pre-order as it sounded very tantalising as far as darker books go. It was AMAZING! The story starts with a couple moving into a new home on the Yorkshire moors, but yet a strange painting that bears a resemblance to their recently deceased child hidden away in the attic is the centre of a scary curse. With Avril feeling the loss of her son and her husband, Clay drifted away from her the couple are thrown in at the deep end. I was addicted to turning the pages, wanting to make sure that I read as much of it as I could. It was dark, terrifying and so so very good! Brilliantly written and a masterpiece. This is one author I will be keeping a close eye on, because she writes amazing books!
Join Joey on Fridays here on the blog for interviews, reviews and guest blogs. If you'd be interested in doing one of the above, you can contact Joey here.