Today it’s the turn of crime writer JJ Marsh to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.
Jill’s latest book is The Woman in the Frame and it’s the 11th book in the utterly fabulous Beatrice Stubbs series – more about that below. But now over to Jill.
JJ Marsh’s Writing Life in a Day
Such a thing as a pure writing day always felt like a fantasy. Even though I only worked part time as an English teacher, I was also spending several days a week marketing, profile-raising, reviewing and writing articles for magazines on top of trying to write novels. Two years ago, my husband and I came to a decision. We both gave up our jobs to focus on making a success of my books. He took over the marketing, I backed out of all commitments other than my own work and threw all my energy into writing.
This gave me the gift of time. Few things are more precious and the onus was on me to use it wisely. As I type, I’m about to begin my sixteenth book, a figure I can scarcely believe myself. A quick check of my shelves verifies that assertion. By the end of 2020, I will have written and published four novels in one year. The first in the series took three years to write.
What changed? A few things.
Discipline: Without it, I could happily while away my days arguing with people on Twitter and drinking gin in the garden. That’s why I get up early, walk the pug, plan strategy with my husband over breakfast, do my daily exercise, spend an hour learning languages, then go upstairs to my study and start work. Seven days a week.
Experience: The characters in my series are so familiar; it feels like my job is stage manager. I prepare the set, arrange the props, let them out of their box and watch what happens. That means I spend mornings doing research or plotting or filling in an Excel sheet of character development. Mmm, those oh-so-sexy spreadsheets.
Focus. My writing has to support two people. That scary prospect showed me what I’m capable of when not being a lazy mare faffing about on Facebook. Afternoons are for writing, nothing else. I aim for 2-3k words per day. First I re-read yesterday’s work, edit out the ‘all’s* and write the next chapter.
Well, I say write …
Dictation: Old age, as my Nan used to say, don’t come alone. Hours at the keyboard gave me RSI in my shoulder and bursitis in my elbow. Dragon Dictation has made a huge difference to my productivity. Plus I can paint my nails at the same time which makes me feel ever so Barbara Cartland. The only downside is that the pug sleeps under my desk, which is why my manuscript is peppered with at least one extraneous ‘all’ (*pug snore) per sentence.
Narrative: As an ex-actor, director and ravenous reader, the structure of storytelling is hard-wired into my system. That said, I’ve still got a lot to learn. In the evenings, after I’ve shouted at the TV news, I read or listen to an audiobook, study a masterclass or watch a film. I’m obsessed with how people tell stories.
Anne: Thank you to Jill for this fascinating insight into her writing life. I must say I admire her work ethic and commitment. And I also must say if you haven’t read any of Jill’s books, you really should – because they’re just brilliant. The Beatrice Stubbs detective series is original, entertaining and always gripping.
You can read more about Jill and about the latest book in the Beatrice Stubbs series below. And isn’t that cover gorgeous?
Note from Jill: My most recent publication is The Woman in the Frame, book 11 in The Beatrice Stubbs Series. Each novel is a stand-alone read and this particular one was a long time coming. The story has been fermenting for years but I was always nervous of fictionalising certain people’s secrets. Still, they’re all dead now.
The Woman in the Frame
Crystalline Mediterranean waters lap the rocky northern coast of Mallorca, blessing the town of Deià with blood-orange sunsets, balmy night skies and the legacy of a poet. This former artists’ colony now attracts the rich and famous, looking to party in privacy. It’s the perfect place for a honeymoon until your morning coffee is interrupted by a dead body.
Who would want to murder the muse of a world-famous artist? Why would anyone slash his artworks, but only those depicting her unearthly beauty? Suspects are in abundance and the police want a quick solution. Enter Beatrice Stubbs, private investigator, who never rejects a job if it involves good food and fine wine.
Meanwhile, Beatrice’s old friends Adrian and Will are babysitting. Adrian doesn’t mind because he quite likes this kid. Plus the dull practicalities of parenting might act as a reality check on Will’s fatherhood fantasies. Unless, of course, it has the opposite effect.
Beatrice and her assistant Theo must sift through the secrets of a small town with a big reputation. Someone – an esoteric church leader, a wild-eyed ex-muse, the woman who forgets nothing, the artist’s agent or that covetous neighbour – knows what really happened and why. But when locals and incomers point the finger at one another, how can Beatrice distinguish between lies, truth and artistic licence?
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
“Sun, sand, sea … and cold-blooded murder. Addictive and emotive, this book will shake all your senses.” – Gillian E. Hamer, author of The Gold Detective Series
About JJ Marsh
Jill grew up in Wales, Africa and the Middle East, where her curiosity for culture took root and triggered an urge to write. After graduating in English Literature and Theatre Studies, she worked as an actor, teacher, writer, director, editor, journalist and cultural trainer all over Europe.
Now in Switzerland, she writes crime and literary fiction to entertain readers with enthralling stories and endearing characters.
Her Beatrice Stubbs crime series topped the Amazon best sellers in “International Mystery & Crime” in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.
You can connect with Jill online at the links below:
You can buy Jill’s book HERE