Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Not only does my next guest, Jan Jones, organise the very best annual writer’s conference in the UK, but her debut book Stage by Stage is one of the most joyous books I’ve ever read.

When I was a girl, my driving ambition was to be an actress and although common sense – and a desire to eat – led me down the shorthand/typing route and hence to foreign parts, I had some of the most fun in my entire life doing Am Dram at the Lusaka Playhouse (and met my husband while playing a saucy page boy in St Joan). It will come as no surprise, therefore, that I fell on Jan’s book the minute it was published. I was not disappointed.

Before writing this introduction, I went back to it and within minutes I fell in love again with her fabulous cast of characters, the romance, the humour. There’s not only a delightful romance between the two major characters, but the angst of the teenage crush, driving ambition and loss. The whole desperate need to pick yourself up and get on with life when it’s kicked you in the teeth.

Typically, Jan doesn’t want to tell you about her book, but about the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Believe what she tells you…


First of all, oodles of congrats to Liz for her 50 books and thank you so much for inviting me here.

I’ve known OF Liz through her books a lot longer than I’ve known her in person, so hers was one of the names I squealed with delight to recognise when I first joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association as a new writer. I still find it awesome that I’m guest-chattering on her blog.

I think it’s fair to say that the RNA has changed my life. I’ve discovered that it’s not weird to have your head in a make-believe world half the time. It’s not unbalanced to become serially involved with all your heroes. If at first you don’t succeed, it’s perfectly acceptable to keep trying for the next fifteen years. Or even longer.

And I have made so many friends! People who understand, who are always ready to help, to commiserate, to cheer. When I won the RNA Joan Hessayon Award with my debut romantic comedy Stage by Stage at the Summer Party in 2005, I didn’t emerge from the hugs and kisses and more hugs and more kisses for about half-an-hour.

I love the RNA. I love the people. I love the parties. I love the annual conference. (Actually, I love the conference so much I now organise it.)

What do you love? APART from your immediate family, what would your life be irretrievably poorer without?

A copy of Stage by Stage to a randomly-picked comment below. If you already have a copy, we’ll think of something else.

And here’s an excerpt:

Owen’s nearness and openness were doing such strange things to her senses that it was a couple of seconds before Beth caught up with what he was saying. ‘But if Luke is the lead and Seb is the juvenile and Monty is the villain, where does that leave you?’

For the first time since she’d known him, Owen’s hazel eyes failed to meet hers. Instead he stood up and looked at himself in the mirror over the mantelpiece. With a hand that wasn’t quite as assured as usual he made a bouffant gesture to his hair, then batted his eyelashes at his reflection. ‘It costs such a lot to make a girl look cheap these days, doesn’t it?’

Beth stared at him, her mind seething with unvoicable contradictions.

‘I mean,’ continued Owen, flicking his lashes with a careful fingertip, ‘never mind Hardup’s bloody mansion, it’s me Llewellyn-Bowen ought to be making over.’

‘Dame Trot? You?’ Her voice was a thread.

He met her eyes in the mirror. ‘Made my debut as Mrs Crusoe last year. The advantage of being the writer is that you get all the best lines.’

She swallowed. Whatever she said now would be crucial. ‘Was it fun?’

He turned, picked up his tea again and moved edgily over to her A-level group’s Arms And The Man essays. ‘Wonderful,’ he said, leafing through the top one, ‘except I didn’t pull. Let’s face it, who’s going to look twice at a bloke in false eyelashes who dresses up in women’s clothes for a living?’

This was it. Make or break time. Beth’s heart was beating so hard she thought it might batter its way out of her chest. ‘Me?’ she said.

Everything about Owen stilled.

She walked carefully across and removed both mug and essay from his hands. ‘Providing you don’t wear curlers in bed. Or borrow my tights. I have enough trouble with Natalie.’ She met his incredulous stare and licked dry lips. ‘You’ll have to help me here, Owen. I’m out of practice at this.’

His mobile face erupted into a dazzling smile. ‘Yes!” he yelled, and wrapped her in his arms. ‘Oh, Beth, I’ve wanted to do this for so long.’ He bent his head and kissed her long and hard. Very long. And very hard.

Bliss. More than bliss. Sensations she hadn’t realised she’d missed flooded back into her body. After an eon of ecstasy that might have equally lasted five minutes or five hours, she threaded her fingers through his hair. ‘Me too,’ she said. ‘You may have guessed.’

He kissed her again. He ran his hands around her denim-clad hips, let them linger on her inner thighs. ‘So have you got something upstairs,’ he murmured, ‘or shall we use one of your Marigolds down here?’

. . . . . . .

(Note from Liz: I’m not sure if “Marigolds” will translate. I’ll just say that they are a well known make of rubber gloves…)


Estella said...

My life would be porrer without my best friend. She has been there for me in happy times and in sad times. All I need to do is call her, and she is there.

Jan Jones said...

That's lovely, Estella. And I'll bet she'd say exactly the same about you.

Blogger seems to have eaten the links in Liz's post, so I'll give them again here.

RNA Conference:


My site:

Jane said...

One cannot live without friends and family, but I also cannot live without coffee. I can't start the day off without some caffeine in my system.

Virginia said...

I can't imagine what life would be like without my friends. I have had one friend for 49 years, we met when we were five. That's a lifetime friend. Your book sounds like a good read I would love to read it.

Dina said...

My life would be poorer without my web friends and my dog. My dog has helped me through some very tough times. And my web friends are always there, even if they are not near.

robynl said...

Without my puppy wuppy, Sam, my life would be so lonely and unfulfilling. He is my companion, my baby, my reason to keep going on. That is honestly how I feel. He is 14 yrs. old and I could cry now at the thought of a life with him no longer in it.

Liz Fielding said...

The links are fixed now. Why does Blogger take perfectly formed links and chop them in half when you're not looking!

London was brilliant. I had supper with Jenny Haddon/Sophie Weston, Elizabeth Sellers, the organiser of the Women's Fiction Festival in Matera and Karin Stoecker. We talked a lot... :)

Jan Jones said...

Ah, Jane, yes. My personal addiction is tea, but I know exactly what you mean.

Virginia - friends just make life worthwhile, don't they?

Dina - internet pals, how true. And yes, pets are wonderful. All they need is love and they're yours forever.

Robynl - Sam sounds gorgeous. Real hero material. Give him a special hug from me.

Jenny Haddon said...

I agree with Liz. 'Stage by Stage' is funny and touching a great read. Loved the heroine,one of the world's copers, and Yob, the daft teenager.

At the moment I love my lunatic adolescent cat. He has learned to switch off the answering machine. He sits on it.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the excerpt and the comments. Outside of the usual, my dogs enrich my life. I enjoy playing with them, walking them and grooming them. And flowers enrich my life-I have always had a green thumb

Jan Jones said...

Aw, thanks, Jenny. I'm sure TK thinks he is doing you a favour by not allowing you to be distracted.

Thank you, Joye. Dogs and a garden - very idyllic and very satisfying to tend. Hope the weather is kind to you this weekend.

michelle Douglas said...

I'm going to count my friends as family (because, seriously, they're the family we get to choose, aren't they?)

My life would be far poorer without books - or, at least the reading of books. I think I would go mad without them. In my darker moments I always believe I could give up writing, but I could never give up reading.

Between Liz and Jenny - and your excerpt, Jan - am going out today to see if I can grab a copy of 'Stage by Stage.'

Dina said...

Jan, I forgot to say that I love your cover, I love the Phantom of the opera and that mask is great.

Dena said...

My life would be poorer w/out my best friend and other close friends. I also think w/out good books to keep me entertained much better than any TV show my life would be poorer.

Jan Jones said...

Michelle and Dena - oh yes, a life without books would be just too awful to contemplate! (Glad you liked the excerpt, Michelle)

Dina - thanks re the cover.

anne said...

The cover artwork is simply beautiful and dramatic. I love the design and colors.
My life would be empty without music which gives me hope and inspires me to accomplish.

ruth said...

I enjoyed your post today and your book is striking.
My life would be empty without my art. I am an art teacher and love being able to create and work and help students succeed in this endeavor.

diane said...

My life wold be empty without my adorable Maltese, Guido. He is cuddly, sensitive and wise. We have great conversations which are always positive and hopeful.

petite said...

Lovely blog today which resounds with me. For me books have always had a great importance since I was young and they provide me with adventure, entertainment, hope and love, travel and enjoyment.

ellie said...

I enjoyed your excerpt greatly and your comments as well. Thanks.
In my life it is necessary to have sunshine. This is an important ingredient which makes me feel positive and well. It brings me better health and energy. Also the flowers and their colors are a delight to behold.

annie said...

Unique blog today and great excerpts.
My life is richer by far with a deep and enduring friendship which I cherish. A constant that makes me able to cope and stay focused.

Jan Jones said...

Anne - music! Of course! And I love the colour of my cover too. The first one they showed me was blue and black. I cried down the phone and got this one instead.

Ruth - oh, how I wish I could paint. You are so lucky to have the gift.

Diane - a Maltese? ... Oh, my goodness, I just googled for a picture of one. (
Beautiful dog - but looks a full-time job to keep nice!

Petite - glad you like the blog. Yes, books are the ultimate escape. They feed your imagination and really make it work.

Ellie - sunshine! What a brilliant answer. Gosh, what an awful place the world would be without any. And you're right - everyone always does feel better when the sun is out. Glad you liked the excerpt.

Jan Jones said...

Annie - our comments crossed. Thank you for your comment and I love your description of your cherished friendship. Long may it last.

Natasha Oakley said...

Okay well, I'm sure my friends will understand ....

I love my washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher. Without these I would write nothing. I have far too many children.

I'm also fairly intoxicated with 'magic knickers', concealer, mascara and my hairdresser. Without these I wouldn't venture to do any public appearances.

I wish I could say my laptop but it's a new relationship and we're a little strained. :)

Jan Jones said...

Love it, Natasha! No wonder Jane Austen only wrote six books, eh? Complete lack of domestic appliances in the early 19th C.


limecello said...

Hi Jan,
Congratulations on your debut book! That was a great excerpt. I think my life would be a lot poorer with my friends - I've had a lot come and go throughout the years, but there are about 6 people I keep in touch with, that I've known since I was born. Literally. Our parents were friends before they all had kids. We're all busy, but it's still great when we get to meet up - and we're all really close too. I've always lived pretty far from my extended family, so this group was like my family.

Massagem said...

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Jan Jones said...

Limecello - old friends are wonderful, aren't they? However long it is since you've seen them last, you just pick up straight away from where you left off.

Anne McAllister said...

I absolutely loved Stage by Stage. I did "backstage" work in high school and got a taste for the theatre from that. So getting to re-live some of it through Jan's book was great fun. Thanks for reminding me it's still on my shelf. Must go dip back in!

Waving to Jan and being very sorry not to get to RNA this year!

Nell said...

Life would be poorer without love. Friends, family, faith and especially I think, hope.
I'm also with Jane on the coffee.

Jan Jones said...

Oh, Anne, thank you so much - and waving back.

Nell - Love. Of course. Life really wouldn't be worth living without it.