Jane Corry is author of the new psychological suspense everyone’s talking about – My Husband’s Wife. Here she tells us how her experience working in a high-security prison provided inspiration for her debut novel, and she also provides some invaluable pearls of wisdom for aspiring authors… read on!
What led you to write your debut thriller My Husband’s Wife?
It was a mixture of prison and marriage! After my first marriage ended, I took a job as writer in residence of a high-security male prison. This involved going in two days a week, over three years, to help headline criminals write short stories, novels, life stories, poems and letters. The reasoning behind it was that writing can help people come to terms with the past and do better in the future. I then got married again which made me consider how prison can affect marriage in lots of different ways. Many of ‘my men’ found it hard to keep their relationships going. And I also began to think more deeply about the relationship between a first and second wife…..All these factors began to weave a story in my head.
Did you find it difficult to find time to write a novel, or did your work as a journalist allow you the flexibility you needed?
If you are a writer, you make time to write, no matter how hard it is. When the removal men came, after my first marriage broke up, I coped by retreating into a corner with my laptop to write a short story as an ‘escape’. I also had to change my writing times to fit in with my work and life as a single mother. I began to write late at night instead of first thing.
How did your experience working as writer in residence at a high security prison for men inform My Husband’s Wife?
I couldn’t have written it without knowing how everything works in prison. You need to be there for some time to understand that. For instance, ‘my’ prison had Friends and Family days when everyone is allowed to invite a guest. Some of my men asked me to meet their families. It was quite a revelation. Not all prisoners are the stereotype jail characters you might imagine, with shaved heads and tattooed necks. Readers of my novel will see that when they meet Joe.
Did you ever doubt yourself or your novel and, if so, was there anything in particular that helped you to stay motivated?
I think most writers have doubts at some point. I did wonder, half-way through, if this was going to work and whether anyone would take it on. But I also felt that I had something different because of my experience. My novel isn’t ‘just’ about crime. It’s a love triangle too. What helped me stay motivated? Something inside me that is difficult to describe. It’s almost an obsession.
You are represented by the Kate Hordern literary agency. How did you go about getting an agent, and was it a difficult process?
I met Kate through a friend who spoke very highly of her. We got on immediately – she understood my characters and the market. It’s not easy finding an agent but I do think that personal contacts help. I’d also recommend going to literary festivals where you can meet agents and publishers.
How did your two-book deal with Viking Penguin UK come about, and how did you feel when you realised you were going to be a published author?
It was all very exciting! I was actually getting ready for a long journey to London for a family do when my agent rang to say that Katy Loftus from Penguin was interested. She wanted to meet me so we arranged a rendezvous in the University Women’s Club just before the family party. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was the editor for me. Like my agent, she got the characters and also had a great long-term vision.
Was the advance enough to change your lifestyle?
It helped to reduce my student son’s overdraft!
What would you say has been the highlight of your writing career so far?
Being published by Penguin. It’s the Harrods of publishing, as far as I’m concerned. What a wonderful feeling to go into the foyer and see all these classics lining the walls! I have to pinch myself in order to believe I’m part of this. But I also have another highlight – being published for the very first time when I was eight and had a winning letter in the comic ‘June & Schoolfriend’!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write about something you’re passionate about. Make your characters different – not just in looks but personality. Every character needs a problem. End each chapter on a cliffhanger. Write regularly to keep the story going in your head – even if it’s just ten minutes a day. Read each chapter aloud when revising. It’s amazing how this can help you with rhythm and also to spot typos. Don’t tell people too much about your plot as it can take away the urge to write the story yourself. Keep going and read helpful blogs like yours! Thank you for asking me to do this.
(Photo credit: Justine Stoddart)