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Life is Stranger than Fiction by Jane Risdon

I’ve often been asked what inspires me to write, where I get inspiration for a short story or a novel
and it is not an easy question to answer. Where does inspiration come from? When I was managing
songwriters – in my other life in the music business – I worked with songwriters who would sit down
and mess around with words (lyrics) or tinker around on a guitar or piano in the hope that
‘something’ would come. It always came, sometimes within minutes, sometimes within days. But
‘something’ always popped up and they’d set to work on it, honing and chopping it around until a
song was born…as if from nowhere. Writing stories, to me is no different; ‘something’ always comes.
But, where does ‘it’ come from? In my case an idea might begin to form from an overheard
conversation – I recommend standing in a bus or train queue, sitting in a bus or tea shop if you want
to hear the most amazing conversations – and I’d expand upon the conversation in my head. One
time I overheard three Gypsies chatting at the bus stop. ‘Starkers, with just a fur coat on when they
found him dead, floating in the sewer where he worked…’ One of them was telling the others. ‘But
he’d only had new teeth last week, so his wife said.’ Replied another. Well, how about that for
inspiration. I went home and wrote the first of a series of short stories called ‘God’s Waiting Room.’
My experiences in the music business cannot fail to influence and inspire me. Having worked
internationally with the big music, movie and television companies, especially in Hollywood, I’d be
daft not to use some of those experiences in my writing – which is mostly but not limited to crime
stories. How about sitting in the offices of a major record label with an attorney negotiating terms
for a recording contract, and spying a gun and baseball bat on his desk. You have to ask, who
wouldn’t? ‘They’re for managers who come in here demanding more money,’ he said, winking.
Another time we – husband and I – got a visit from a famous ‘character’ with some interesting links
to Las Vegas who’d been sent to do us a ‘favour.’ We had an idea what that might lead to and
declined, but he kept popping up, always wanting to ‘help’ us. We had no plans to wake up with the
horses head in the bed or a trip down the river in concrete boots! Of course these experiences
found their way into some of my music themed crime stories.
A family wedding at a very grand house on a large estate became the basis of one of my books in the
series I am writing ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates,’ about a former MI5 Officer. On display in the house
were several works of art which belonged to HM Art Collection and from my experiences when
younger, before I married a musician, when I was working at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
in London, and I knew that only Government buildings were loaned HM works of art. So I asked. The
house wasn’t a hotel and was rarely used for weddings or conferences, so it intrigued me. It was
isolated with a mile long drive and over the top security in my opinion. I was amazed when I was told
that the house was used for top level conferences (G8 for example), and also for debriefing. Ah!
Language I understood. All the staff were FCO and I was asked if I’d found the ‘Safe Room.’ My
imagination was on fire by the time I got home and book three in the Ms B series was started that
night.
Music has been a huge part of my life. I was a teenager in the late sixties when I met my lead
guitarist husband, who was in England on tour and recording with his band. It was when his band
took on their first fan-club secretary, a rock journalist and short story writer, who became a good
friend of us both, that I met the person who was to eventually encourage me (besides my husband)
to start writing; a dream I’d had for years, but with touring, recording, and managing songwriters,
record producers, and musicians, I’d never found the time. She’d become an award winning author
by the time I was able to follow my dream and she’d always wanted to write with me. We said we’d
write a fictional novel based on our knowledge and experiences of the late sixties (1968/69). She is
known for her ‘bucolic frolics,’ women’s fiction. I’d never dabbled. Anyway, we never got round to it
until a few years back when I decided to begin writing about the sixties. She read what I’d written (as
she often does) and decided she’d like to co-write with me. Only One Woman is to be published in
November 2017 by Accent Press Ltd. We’ve written the story of two girls in love with the same
guitarist in a rock band they meet, and it is full of the vibe of the era – music, fashion, and world
events – in which the girls, unknown to each other, follow their hearts. But of course their guitarist
cannot have them both; there will be Only One Woman.
So, when asked where inspiration comes from, what inspires me to write, I have to say life. My life
experiences, things I see and hear and things I know. I’m sure most authors would say the same. I
was told many years ago to write what you know, which I try to do. I’ve never murdered someone,
but I read lots of crime and watch lots of crime TV series, and I’ve studied Forensics, so I am familiar
with the genre and often my life experiences trigger most of my stories. And we all know that life
can be stranger than fiction.
Jane Risdon

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