Hi Janey, welcome to Inheritance Books. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I started writing stories at the age of three, apparently. I grew up near Harrow with my younger sister and our parents. Until I was twelve, my grandmother lived with us and after that, she was just round the corner. It probably explains why I enjoy the company of older people. One of my best friends is Mary who is in her early eighties and used to be an actress. We’re exactly on the same wavelength! I went to North London Collegiate School and then read English at Reading. I was lucky enough to be taken on as a graduate trainee for Thomson Newspapers and then spent the next thirty odd years as a features writer for The Daily Telegraph, The Times, Woman’s Own, Woman and goodness knows how many more mags while bringing up my three children in what a friend called ‘splendid isolation’ (Northern Bucks.) Ironically, I only became a journalist as I wanted to be a novelist. Somehow I thought one would lead to the other. In fact, it was more difficult as the two are very different styles of writing. To cut a long story short, I wrote nine novels before getting published with Hodder & Stoughton. The School Run was written under my pen name Sophie King at the suggestion of my then-agent to differentiate my novels from my articles. After four more H & S novels, I moved to Random House which wanted me to write under another name. Janey Fraser was born (Janey is my real name, used by friends and family, unless I am in trouble. If the latter is the case, I am plain Jane.) My fourth Random House book is being published in May. It’s called ‘After The Honeymoon’ : two couples of varying ages go to the same honeymoon spot, only to find that the hotel owner knew one of the grooms many years earlier….Over the last five years, I discovered I had two other voices: historical and crime. The former sell in Italy, Germany and Spain (I was number eight in Italy recently!) while my first crime has just come out with Accent Press. It’s called GUILTY and was inspired by my time as a writer in residence of a high-security prison. The story is about Simon, a solicitor, who goes to prison for two years for a driving offence – only to find he is haunted by the humorous voice of the beautiful woman who died in the crash. Guilty also covers the wife and stepson’s viewpoint. It’s got four and a half stars on Amazon. The next two in the series will be published shortly: THE WITNESS and THE VICTIM. Meanwhile, I have had hundreds of short stories published in women’s magazines over the last fifteen years and also speak at conferences all over the world. For two days a week, I am a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Exeter University where I help to sharpen students’ writing. Five years ago, I married the best man from my first wedding and we now live in Devon with my three grown up children flitting in and out. I love tennis; pilates; yoga; reading; painting and trains (great for writing on).
Goodness, it must be very confusing being so many different people! Wow.
Which book have you inherited from the generation above? Why is it special?
‘Heidi’s Children’ by Johanna Spyri (translated by Charles Tritten). It’s special because my grandmother gave it to me. She gave birth to my father when she was only 19 and was then was widowed in her fifties. We weren’t allowed to call her ‘granny’ as it made her feel old so she was always ‘Doris’. Every year, she’d go on a coach trip to somewhere in Europe and would always bring me back a book. So I also have a lot of Spanish and French children’s novels which I couldn’t read at the time. I loved the pictures, however. I was lucky enough to grow up a very bookish household. My grandfather had been at sea so had read a lot. He passed down his love of books to my father who would read me a story every night. Now my father is ninety. I spend one evening with him every month and we chat about books or watch an old film. I also have a series of Andy Pandy books with the words ‘To Janie, for being a good girl’. These were sent to me by my mother when she was in hospital for three months after a dreadful accident which I witnessed when I was only five. She was lucky enough to survive but died in her fifties. Finally, my book inheritance would not be complete without mentioning my Godmother Peggy who always sent books for my birthday. I still have the entire series of her Arthur Ransome books, including ‘We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea’. It’s one of my unfulfilled ambitions to learn to sail but I’m too cowardly. Instead, I swim in the sea for about nine months of the year.
I shall take the Arthur Ransome to be your chosen book(s) then. Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?
‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom. I discovered it in Grenada when I was on holiday with my first husband and it had all the advice which I wish someone had given me years earlier. It’s based on the author’s resumed friendship with his old college professor. Each chapter gives the lessons which Mitch learned during his successive visits on a Tuesday. It sounds rather moralistic but it’s beautifully written. Lessons for life.
That sounds like an interesting book – I’d never heard of it before. I shall have to look it up!
Thank you for sharing your Inheritance Books with us, Janey. Best of luck with your new books (under all the different names!).