"Twists and Turns, Obstacles and Setbacks." Jan Baynham Talks About Her Debut Novel

Posted on 4th May, 2020

Today I am delighted to welcome back Jan Baynham to my blog. Jan's first collection of short stories, Smashing the Mask and Other Stories, was published last autumn and now her debut novel, published by Ruby Fiction, is also available.


Her Mother's Secret is a dual-time saga, as a daughter goes in search of the truth about her mother's life and what happened to her years ago on a Greek island. Book reviews highlight Jan's "love and knowledge of Greek society and customs". One reviewer said, "There's a bit of everything. . . mystery, romance, thriller and a whodunnit."



Isn't that a gorgeous cover?


I asked Jan some questions about wriitng the book. Here's what she told me:


You started out as a short story and flash fiction writer. What made you decide to write a full-length novel?

On retirement, I joined a writing group where I wrote my first short story. Very soon, I could see my stories getting longer and longer. After enrolling on a novel-writing course at Cardiff University, I enjoyed being able to explore characters in more depth and delve further into their stories. I still write shorts but now it tends to be when I’m editing or doing research for a novel. When writing a novel, I love getting to know my characters so well that I miss them when I come to the end and I enjoy visiting new locations with them. The length of a novel allows me to create more involved plots and sub-plots for the characters to experience than I’m able to do in a short story or piece of flash fiction.

What was the initial idea behind the story from which it all grew?

The novel started out as a short story. At the time, I’d been reading a novel where the rustling in the trees sounded like whispers and inanimate statues took on the form of the ghosts of people they represented. Combining both ideas, I asked myself what if the whispering could show the presence of a past family member. Always fascinated by family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters, I knew I had the basis for a story. In both the story and the novel, I leave it to the reader to decide what the whispering represents. In the short story, Alexandra’s search for the truth was resolved quite quickly whereas in the novel there are many more twists and turns, obstacles and setbacks before the story concludes.

Tell us about the places that feature as the backdrops of the story.

Once I’d decided that my main character Elin would be an artist, I chose a setting where the surrounding colours would be more vibrant and intense than in her home country of Wales. Having visited many times and being struck by the wonderful palette of colours seen in every landscape, Greece was my choice of background. The island is not based on one particular place but is an amalgam of areas I’ve visited. Every holiday has contributed to the whole backdrop where I’ve tried to show the climate, the vivid colours of the sea and the flowers as well as the warmth of its people.


How important is the mother-daughter dynamic to the story?

The mother/daughter relationship is central to the novel. Alexandra is grieving after the untimely death of her mother, Elin. She experiences a whole gamut of emotions from deep loss and its accompanying sadness, through to anger that her mother has abandoned her. When she learns there is part of her mother’s life she knew nothing about, Alexandra goes to Greece with the hope of finding answers.

What have you learned about the writing/editing process? Is there a piece of advice you'd like to share?

Everything suggested by my lovely editor at Ruby Fiction was very clear and straight-forward, but one thing stood out. I hadn’t always got the dates or passing of time issues right. Elin’s story is interspersed with diary entries and these didn’t always tally! The way I dealt with these continuity edits was to have a calendar in front of me and highlight the dates as events happened. Although a diary may not feature in another novel, I will definitely use a calendar to check the passing of time in future.


* * * *


Jan's Links:


Jan's author page on Amazon     


Her blog - Jan's Journey Into Writing      


Jan on Twitter      


Jan's author page on Facebook      




Make A Comment

Characters left: 2000

Comments (5)

Congratulations on your debut release, Jan. I enjoyed this interview and learning more about your book which is near the top of my TBR list. Thanks for sharing this interview, Susanna and Jan. xx
Thank you, Kirsten. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. It was lovely to be back on Sue’s blog again to answer her questions and give readers a glimpse behind my book.
Thanks for visiting the blog, Kirsten. I loved having Jan back here again and especially for such a happy reason.
A fabulous interview. I really enjoyed it! x
Thank you so much for having me on your blog today. I enjoyed answering your questions about my novel and giving some insight to the story behind it.