Today on Getting To Know... I have the extremely lovely Jane Risdon, a multi-talented author of crime, fiction and mystery.
You previously worked in the music industry, can you tell me anything about what you did and what it was like?
Life in the music business is crazy. My husband and I managed recording artists, musicians, singers and singer songwriters as well as record producers. We took on a couple of actors too. We were responsible for every aspect of their careers, sometimes from a very young age, taking on Guardianship of those under age. Everything to do with their musical life is under a manager’s control – direction, genre, creating opportunities, finding and negotiating deals (record, publishing, tour agents and merchandising, tour managers, tour sound engineers and lighting guys etc) and outlets for their material or talents, their image, finances, expenditure, the hiring and firing of a team, and so on.
Managers run their lives and often their private lives too. In return managers get little time to themselves. We didn’t have a private life, holidays and so on and we were on call 24/7 52/12. If the act succeeded, the artist was the hero and if they failed, the manager was the villain. Managers never get any credit for their hard work and efforts, financial or otherwise. Well, rarely that is. Often the manager is financing the band for years.
It is difficult to describe a normal day as there wasn’t ever anything normal about our days that you could recognise.
Let’s imagine we are on tour with a band. A rock band with 5 members in their late teen and early twenties…asking for trouble before we begin; I should have added secret police to the list above – always on the lookout for young girls throwing themselves at testosterone filled young men. Things can get very difficult.
Anyway, this is a fast run through.
Imagine coming off stage at midnight, fighting off the groupies, doing endless interviews and meet and greets with the radio stations and local press wanting interviews and the record company guys making sure you – the manager - do your job. The manager over-sees everything remember. Then it’s either getting on a tour bus to travel through the night to the next town/city/venue, or getting on a plane and flying to wherever for the next show.
The crew will have broken down the gear whilst you travel and they probably come on afterwards if by road, and if by air, then you wait for them to get their stuff sorted and you travel together, unless you have your own private plane. The tour manager will oversee the gear setting up and breaking down as well as supervising onstage and off stage sound engineers and lighting crews. He and the crew is under the control of the manager. There might be a party to go to before leaving the venue/city etc, but mostly our guys wanted to go to bed….the secret police made sure they went alone!
You all arrive at your destination, probably worn out. You book into the hotel which the tour agents will have arranged with the record company and the manager. Hopefully no-one has forgotten! Everyone falls into bed but the manager will be last having checked everything for the following day, made phone calls, sent emails, working on behalf of his/her other artists as well, if he has them. Press calls, radio interviews and video and television appearances will be arranged and negotiations for recording budgets and studios decided, use of music on soundtracks for TV and Movies and Adverts arranged and so on….it never ends. Don’t forget any problems with the band, the crew or whoever has to go through the manager to deal with.
Up with the lark the band has a 5am live radio chat show to get to with the local station. Breakfast follows with the radio station big wigs and DJs and the manager has to be working them hard. Next comes a series of press interviews, possible events in local shopping malls, stores and other such outlets. Possibly a live performance at local music stores and video stations. There might be a video to film for promotion or for the next record coming out. There are often record company staff on the tour and also an overall radio station liaison person too. Lots of people to control and keep happy.
Lunch with local and national press, radio and other important people lined up to schmooze with the band and management. Back to the hotel for a couple of hours and then travel to the venue or open-air venue to sound-check for the evening concert, when it all starts again.
Meantime the manager and the record company are expecting the band to come up with some new material as recording has been booked after the tour. If the band doesn’t write then the manager will be touring the publishing companies seeking suitable material for the band to record. So time on tour is supposed to be used to write and prepare material for the next release.
Working in the music industry you travelled a lot, was there a favourite place that you visited?
This is a hard one. I cannot say I have a favourite place. I love Los Angeles as it is the centre of the entertainment business globally. It is a ‘can do’ sort of place. It is easy to make connections, to get things happening there. The whole place is geared to making deals and producing something. But, it is also an easy place to fall into so many traps and has seen the downfall of many hopefuls and wannabes.
Taipei in Taiwan isn’t Hollywood but in some respects they have the same attitude. They want to make things work and they are determined people. I like doing business with the Chinese. The Singaporeans are the same. Business orientated and serious about what they undertake.
Have you always known that you wanted to write your own novel?
I think so, yes. I used to mess about as a child, writing short stories and little bits and pieces. I loved reading. So my imagination was active and I thought I wanted to be a ballerina and an actress at first. Then a singer. I see now that the creative arts beckoned me. Of course I married a musician and my fate was sealed.
You've written stories across several genres, but what is your favourite genre to write?
I love crime writing and it is what I read and enjoy the most. I love planning and plotting and working in little red herrings and playing games with the reader. The thrill is in the cliff-hanger when the reader nearly falls off their seat in surprise. Well, that is the aim. I must have a criminal mind, and it is just as well I express it in my writing. Goodness knows what I might get up to otherwise.
Do you have a set routine when you're writing or a favourite place to sit and write?
I guess my desk is my favourite place to write, I have a Dell desk top to use and the screen is big and easy to work with. But, I can also sit in bed with my computer on my lap and write too. I don’t mind that much. It depends on my mood and if I am competing with any other noises and distractions. I often write from early morning until I nearly pass out with hunger, fuelled by endless cups of tea, and if I’ve been naughty and given in to temptation whilst shopping, some liquorice. I may write all day and into the night and then again, I may not. I have not really got a planned routine unless I decide I need one and then I stick to it.
When you're not writing what would we find you doing?
This is a good one. What indeed. I like walking and taking photos so you may well find me lurking in a lane, wood or near a lake. I often go on ‘jollies’ with some of my numerous siblings and we will visit cathedrals, churches, lovely gardens and houses, things like that. Which means more photos. I blog so all this ends up in the blog and photos I take are often used as my visual notes for my stories.
I have been researching family history for over 35 years and I may well be dabbling in some research, writing things up, following leads like a detective and making contacts with possible long lost family. I’ve succeeded in reuniting various strands of both sides of my and my husband’s family over the years.
In addition to blogging and Twitter – recent addition to my day – I fiddle around on Facebook and I have a personal and an author’s page there: a massive hole to climb out of every day; I could disappear down it never to be seen again if I am not careful.
If I bother watching TV I will be concentrating on Time Team reruns, The Sky at Night and any other science or history based programmes and of course, the odd crime thriller. For the last 5 years I have been hooked on Scandinavian crime thrillers on BBC4.
And I read. I read before going to sleep and sometimes I finish a book during the night. I think I am programmed for night time activity having worked so many years through the night.
You also write a blog where you share you writing experiences, what was the inspiration behind setting this up?
Originally I started my blog so I could write for myself in private and no-one would see it and then I got adventurous and added photos. After a while I saw other peoples’ blogs and as I started to follow them I realised that having a private blog for just me was a bit restrictive. So I hit the publish button one day and the rest is history. I didn’t want it to be just writing related stuff. I imagined that would be a turn off, so I write about whatever I fancy. It might be about a ‘jolly’ out and about seeing historical places or I might do author interviews which are fun. Now and again I write about my stories and books and provide a little sampler or titillate potential readers of my work. It’s a place to natter with other bloggers and share things. If it hadn’t been for blogging I would never have met some of the most amazing writers and people I have become friends with. Some with whom I have been included in anthologies. I enjoy it a lot and it never ceases to amaze me how many people bother to follow me and read my twaddle.
Do you have a favourite character that you've written so far?
Ms Birdsong is my favourite at the moment. She is feisty, intelligent, has a wicked sense of humour and when someone first sets eyes upon her I think they are fooled into thinking she is a bit stand-offish. She is posh but not too much. She has had a good education and comes from a moneyed family but she is really down to earth. Because she is a bit of a looker some get lulled into thinking butter wouldn’t melt but she is a martial arts expert and they’d be wise to give her a wide berth if they upset her.
She always wanted to work for the Security Services and her dreams of being another Stella Rimington (Director General of MI5 at one time) were on course until a mission with her MI6 partner and now former lover, Michael Dante, went badly wrong, and ended with her taking ‘voluntary’ retirement under a bit of a cloud.
I love anything espionage related and love spy and political thrillers. I think it comes from working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when young and being there through all sorts of amazing world events, including the time The Soviet Union kicked 50 British Diplomats out of Moscow accusing them of spying, and the British retaliated and kicked 50 of theirs out….who most likely were spies. Such exciting times….then there was the kidnapping of the Ambassador to Montevideo…
Do you have a favourite author?
I once thought I did have a favourite but actually I don’t think so. I love Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen, Kathy Reichs – it is she who inspired me to take 3 forensics courses in the last year so my murder investigations and crime scenes are accurate, and the manner of death is portrayed as forensically correct as I am able. I love Peter Robinson, Peter James, Elizabeth George, Michael Connolly, Nelson DeMille and Jeffrey Deaver…the list is endless. But I can’t pick a favourite.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Hopefully I will complete the first 3 books in the series Ms Birdsong Investigates for publication next year. I am rewriting book one - Ms Birdsong Investigates: Murder in Ampney Parva. Book two is Murder at the Observatory and book three is The Safe House.
I am writing another one off novel called The White Haired Man, set in Mumbai at the time of the terrorist attacks there and with a Bollywood connection. Based on true events.
I have a series called God’s Waiting Room which so far is in bits and pieces, but almost completed…I call this collection of stories observational humour as they are based on my experiences of a group of elderly people over a period of time. They’ve lived in the same village all their lives, everyone knows everyone as they went to school and through WW2 together. Some of the funniest and insane people I have ever met.
In the works is a book about my life in the music business, but that is way off.
October sees the publication of an anthology of stories written by several authors in aid of Save the Children and I have a story in it. Hammer Horror icon Caroline Munro has written the forward and the book is called Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror.
Sometime this year or early next year a novel I have written with award winning author Christina Jones, is due to be published by our joint publisher, Accent Press. It is fictional, but as we have been life-long friends (she was my husband’s band fan-club secretary and a rock journalist) it has a lot of music, fashion, world events and more in it - based on what we experienced in the late 1960s – it is the story of two girls in love with the same musician. It is not a romance though.
Thanks so much for asking me to chat about myself and my writing and former career. I do hope your readers enjoy it. It has been a blast.
And a big thank you to Jane for giving such wonderful answers!
You can find more about me over on:
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8
Accent Press: http://www.accentpress.co.uk/jane-risdon
Author Blog: https://janerisdon.wordpress.com/
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2/#