Christina Jones writes fluffy, happy, uplifting books, set in rural Berkshire with eccentric lovable characters her readers relish and adore. They’ve loved her work so much she is a best-selling, award-winning author and well established. So, why on earth, you might wonder, would she want to write with me – formerly in the international music business and now a gritty crime/thriller writer whose characters are not fluffy, are certainly not loveable, and they nearly always meet the same end – a dead end. Good question.
We have to take a trip (no, not that kind of trip) back to the late sixties, to the heady days of the British Invasion of America with all the wonderful music we exported, the outrageous fashions and the general vibe which made those of us living through those times think we could do anything we wanted. Change was in the air and we were part of it.
We were young and the streets were filled with transit vans dashing up and down the country – motorways were not linking cities and villages like they do today – so it was easy to spot a ‘group van’ several times a day somewhere or other. Live music was everywhere and going to see a top name group playing somewhere local was not expensive and so nearly every night of the week you could be guaranteed a gig by someone ‘famous.’ You can see it would not be difficult to meet some of the grooviest, sexiest, musicians on the planet – no bouncers or heavies kept fans from bands back then.
England was a magnet for musicians wanting to break into the relatively new music business, and in addition to the famous bands on the road and gigging locally, many foreign bands appeared on ‘the circuit’ as it was known – travelling up and down Britain playing anywhere and everywhere – gathering a following of faithful fans who are still fans today in many cases, and attracting the attention of the record business executives who would regularly attend gigs and get their cheque books out, often on the night…well, that’s what most bands hoped.
This is where Only One Woman as a piece of fiction has its origins. Christina and I write from shared experience and knowledge of those giddy day, and use it to embroider a story set in 1968/1969 about two young girls who meet and fall in love with the same lead guitarist, unknown to each other.
The only similarities between Christina and Stella and Jane and Renza – our two main characters – is that my boyfriend (later husband) came from abroad with his band to record and tour in England and at one of their gigs their manager met Christina and asked her to be their fan-club secretary as she was well qualified. She was a rock/pop journalist and a short story author at the time and had great contacts, which the band’s manager recognised would be most useful to them.
Christina and I have always wanted to write a book together about those times, after-all we were exposed to the music scene intimately and could write accurately about what we experienced and saw. The trouble was, I was always on the move touring with recording artists and Christina was always caught up in deadlines for her then publishers, and so neither of us had time or were even in the same country most often than not. Besides, I hadn’t even started writing seriously. We talked about it and that is far as it went.
Fast forward a few years to 2012 and eventually I had time to myself and I began writing, mostly crime and thrillers, and miraculously I obtained a contract with a publisher which, unknown to both of us, we shared. Now was the time, we both felt, to get on with our book – but Christina had more books to finish and I was in the midst of moving house…
Whilst moving house I came across lots of my husband’s memorabilia from his group days: diaries, posters, touring schedules, post cards from exotic locations and lots of fan letters. A ping went off in my brain and I began to make notes under diary headings, listing band names and their hits, who was where on tour and which venues they played and so on. Eventually a story began to take shape with two girls as the main characters; Renza and another, unnamed as yet. Once I had the notes made – unusual for me as I am a pantser not a planner when writing crime – I began to weave a story around Renza and her life and love for lead guitarist, Scott. When I’d gone as far as I could with it I sent it to Christina and she wrote her parts of the story featuring Stella.
We are very 21st century – we wrote via emails, text messages and Facebook messages. We spoke on the phone once and met up once to discuss the book, but other than that we wrote it with distance between us. It was easy and fun and it worked really well for us both.
In 2014 Christina submitted Only One Woman – named for The Marbles song of the same name – to Accent Press and they accepted it with a publication date later in 2014. That date came and went, several other dates in 2015, 2016 were set and missed and during that time we went through quite a few editors who moved on to pastures greener.
Yes, a little despair set in from time to time. Would we ever get the book published we wondered and worried – after-all so many people knew it as coming. However, earlier this year we got down to final edits with not one, but two new editors and the book began to take shape. Both left and another editor arrived and asked us to write additional chapters which we both did during this summer with a publication date of 23rd November 2017 set in stone.
We clocked up goodness knows how many hours editing, researching, and writing. In the midst of this our editor left at the last hurdle, and Christina and I have ploughed on without one. Eventually we’ve ended up with our version of War and Peace it seems: 772 pages and 160,000 words plus. Though seeing the advance copy of the book they’ve managed to get the page count lowered.
There you have it. How a fluffy, happy, Bucolic Frolics romance writer gets to write with a gritty crime/thriller writer and without a dead body or rotting corpse in sight.