The Writing Life of: June Kearns
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author June Kearns.
June Kearns has published two novels, ‘An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy’ and ‘The 20s Girl’ – both historical romantic comedies, featuring wide, sweeping landscapes and plain-ish heroines, (she has a bee-in-her-bonnet about beautiful ones!)
In a warm corner next to the airing cupboard, she is currently writing a third, set in 1960s London and San Francisco.
A founder member of the indie publishing group, The New Romantics Press, she is also an Independent member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
June lives in the middle of England with her husband and family.
1) Do you remember the moment you decided that you would like to become a writer?
I remember copying out pages and pages of Enid Blyton – probably a Famous Five adventure – at around the age of 7. Why would I do that! I must have been trying to see how the author did it, how she put the magic into that story.
2) How did you go about following your dream?
After leaving teaching to bring up my own children, (it was what you did in those ancient days!) I took writing courses at the local university. Winning a national magazine competition for the first chapter of an historical novel gave me the confidence to take myself more seriously.
3) Is there a particular author that inspires you?
I have a long list of authors who have the same effect on me now, as Enid Blyton did when I was 7, (i.e. how did they do that?) but Anne Tyler is one of my all-time favourites. She’s so quirky and funny and quietly brilliant; she always takes me by surprise. The Accidental Tourist started me off. Someone introduced me to William Maxwell a few years ago, and he’s been another real inspiration.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any strange writing habits?
I used to write in the mornings when everyone else had gone out. Since we moved last year, the new house is never empty. I tend to get up early for a few quiet hours, then just make notes during the day. (Like most writers, I leave scraps of paper covered in scribbled hints, tips and bits of dialogue everywhere.)
5) Do you write Longhand, Type writer, Computer?
After losing my writing space for a while last year, I went back to longhand, and quite like it. It feels less pressured, somehow.
6) From all your books, do you have a favourite character?
I still love Colt McCall, the laconic native-American cowboy from An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy. He was a composite of so many of my early Western heroes from Paul Newman, in Elmore Leonard’s Hombre to Gregory Peck in The Big Country, (and many many more, sigh.)
7) Do you plot your books completely before hand or do you let your imagination flow whilst in the writing process?
I plot a bit, then start writing, then repeat the process until the basic premise is set. The plot is constantly evolving, though – and veering off at tangents.
Concerning your latest book:
Author – June Kearns
Release Date – 12th November 2013
1924. The English Shires after the Great War – all crumbling country houses and no men.
When her jazzing flapper of an aunt dies, Gerardina Mary Chiledexter inherits some silver-topped scent bottles, a wardrobe of love-affair clothes, and astonishingly, a half-share in a million-acre ranch in south-west Texas.
Haunted by a psychic cat, and the ghost voice of her aunt Leonie, Gerry feels driven to travel thousands of miles to see the ranch for herself.
Against a backdrop of big sky, cattle barons and oil wells, she is soon engaged in a game of power, pride and ultimately attraction, with the Texan who owns the other half.
8) How long did it take to get from the ideas stage, to the date of publication?
It took over 2 years. (I’m a slow worker, and probably far too pedantic!) There was just something in the air at that time – the anniversary of the Great War, then Downton and the new Gatsby film. My story was partly inspired by ‘Singled Out’ a book by Virginia Nicholson about how two million women survived without men after the First World War. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter were based on things that were actually said to women at that time.
9) Did you suffer from writer’s block at any stage? How did you overcome it?
I often have periods of self-doubt! It’s a confidence thing, isn’t it – and crippling to the creative process. How to get over it? I make myself sit down and write, and try to stop being such a self-critical wimp. (I moan a lot, too, and am very hard to live with!)
10) How did you come up with the name(s)for your lead character(s)?
Gerardina (Gerry) is the middle name of one of my sister-in-laws, after Saint Gerard Majella, the patron saint of pregnant mothers. My lead character was named by nuns in India after being rejected by her mother, and it just seemed to work in the story. It had the male/female ambivalence that I wanted, too.
Coop came in a flash and felt a perfect fit for the hero.
11) If your book was made in to a film, who would you love to play the lead character(s)?
I’d almost prefer someone unknown, but don’t suppose that would make much commercial sense!
So, perhaps Michael Fassbender for Coop, the gritty Texan – and Carey Mulligan (not conventionally pretty-pretty) for Gerry, the 20s girl.
12) Did you get anyone in particular to read your work before sending it to the publisher i.e family member, friend etc?
I’m part of an indie publishing group, The New Romantics Press, (all tough critics) and we regularly review each other’s work. A few other friends – writers and non-writers – read for me, too. I’m self-published, so it’s vital to have my books professionally checked and proof-read.
The American West, after the Civil War – a wild and restless place.
Into this background, wanders a party of Englishwomen. Well-bred, bookish spinster, Annie Haddon – (product of mustn’t take off your hat, mustn’t take off your gloves, mustn’t get hot or perspire Victorian society) – together with an aunt the last word in snobbery, and a spoiled and brittle cousin.
After a stagecoach wreck, Annie is thrown into the company of Colt McCall – a man who lives by his own rules and hates the English.
Can two people, moulded by their backgrounds and pasts, overcome that conditioning? Annie and McCall find out on their journey across the haunting, mystical landscape of the West.