Introducing Jan Baynham, Author of Her Mother’s Secret and a worthy Romantic Novelists’ Association contender for the Joan Hessayon Award. #WritersLife #WriterWednesday

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I am so pleased to be talking with Jan Baynham on my blog today. Having known Jan for some years and seen her writing going from strength to strength I was thrilled to hear that she is one of the contenders for the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) 2020 prestigious Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, the award for all the authors whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.Before I knew this I’d read, loved, and reviewed her book. This is my review: Her Mother’s Secret.

Her Mother's Secret: The Summer of '69 by [Jan Baynham]

I began by asking Jan what was the inspiration behind Her Mother’s Secret. This is her reply:

I have always been intrigued by family secrets and the fact that these sometimes do not come to light until after a person has died. I read of someone who was sorting through her mother’s things after her death and found a diary. In there, the young woman learned about a part of her mother’s life she knew nothing about. The ‘what ifs?’ started in my head. 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 ghosts of the people they represented. Perhaps the whispering could show the presence of a past family member. Always fascinated by the bond between mothers and daughters, this was basis for Her Mother’s Secret. Very often, the close relationship between mothers and daughters means that they would know things about each other no one else would. I wanted to explore how my character, Alexandra, would feel when she found out about her mother, Elin’s secret life. How could her mother have kept this from her? How would she feel? I needed Elin to have been able to keep her secret from everyone, even her own mother, until she died. Did Elin have a conscience when she left her diary to Alexandra?

I decided that Elin would be an artist, having just finished art college. She travels to Greece to further her painting skills and while there, something happens that she never mentions again. I chose a setting where the colours would be more vibrant and intense perhaps 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 obvious inspiration. Elin’s daughter, Alexandra, arrives on Péfka, a small island off the Peloponnese in Southern Greece, to follow in her mother’s footsteps to find out what happened there twenty-two years earlier. Péfka is purely fictional and is not based on one particular place; it’s an amalgam of areas I’ve visited – a beach or street here, a taverna or workshop there where I’ve met characters when getting out into Greek villages. Every holiday has inspired me with contributions to create characters and settings that are hopefully authentic showing the climate, the vivid colours of the sea and the flowers as well as the warmth of its people.

Her Mother’s Secret was published in April this year by Ruby Fiction. I’m grateful to the Romantic Novelists’ Association for the role its New Writers’ Scheme played in helping me realise my dream of becoming a published author. The novel was critiqued on two occasions by experienced scheme readers. The first time, I’d submitted a partially written manuscript that was followed by the full manuscript the next year. The helpful and incredibly positive advice I received on both occasions was invaluable and gave me the motivation to submit my novel to publishers. Having ‘graduated’ from being unpublished to published via the scheme, I am eligible to be a proud contender for the 2020 Joan Hessayon Award along with twenty other debut novelists.

Blurb for Her Mother’s Secret:: A secret left behind in the summer of ’69

It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …

Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

About the author:

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction. From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and short listed in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published.  Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in more depth and delve further into their stories. She writes about family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters. Set in the last year of the ‘60s, Her Mother’s Secret takes you to sun-drenched Greece, her favourite holiday destination.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. She values the friendship and support from other RNA members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of Cariad, her local RNA Chapter.

‘Her Mother’s Secret’ is available on from Amazon:

You may find out more about Jan here:

Twitter: @JanBaynham  https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer  https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit/

Blog: https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/      

And more exciting news: Well, two pieces of exciting news, really…

Jan is on the Not the Booker long list https://bit.ly/31nyGBo

And…   

Jan’s second book,Her Sister’s Secret: The Summer of ’66, is now available to pre-order: https://amzn.to/3k5xjzU   

  Another wonderful sixties saga from the author of Her Mother’s Secret.

How far would you travel to find the truth?
It’s the 1960s and Jennifer Howells is a young woman with the world at her feet, just on the cusp of leaving her Welsh village for an exciting life in the city.
Then the contents of an inconspicuous brown envelope turn Jennifer’s world upside down. The discovery leaves her spiralling, unsure who she is. Overnight, Miss Goody Two Shoes is replaced by a mini-skirted wild child who lives for parties and rock’n’roll.
But Jennifer’s experience with the excesses of sixties’ culture leaves her no closer to her true identity. She soon realises she’ll have to travel further – first to Cardiff, then across the ocean to Sicily – if she wants to find out who she really is …

My Review of Her Mother’s Secret: The Summer of ’69 by Jan Baynham #TuesdayBookBlog

Her Mother's Secret: The Summer of '69 by [Jan Baynham]

Book Description:

It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …
Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

My Review:

I looked forward to reading this debut novel by Jan Baynham for quite a while and I wasn’t disappointed. The author has an easy writing style that I really like, I love the story, which has a brilliant dramatic opening and, unusual for me, I read the book in one fairly long session.

Her Mother’s Secret is set against the background of the Greek island of Péfka during completely different eras; 1969 and 2011 .These two time frames are linked by the two main characters,  Alexandra and her mother, Elin and are connected through time, by the diary that Alexandra has found after her mother’s death.

 I don’t like giving spoilers in my reviews; I try to explain what I like about a book.

Both Elin and  Alexandra are complex and well-rounded characters, and very much of their time. And, although they are never together in any scenes in the novel, the love they had for each other is threaded throughout Her Mother’s Secret.  But there is one big difference in the two; Elin Morgan is following her dreams by becoming an art student at a summer painting school, run by a famous artist, on Péfka. Alexandra, still grieving, is on the island seeking answers to the disclosures in her mother’s diary

 And the author has ensured that the reader becomes engrossed in these characters by intertwining their stories with a cast of believable minor characters and the detailed and redolent descriptions of the Greek island, the harbour, the art school The portrayal of all the settings give an evocative sense of place.

 The book moves at a good pace with a number of twists and turns that sometimes took me by surprise and sometimes gave me a feeling of ‘Ah-ha!; my suspicions, picked up through the foreshadowing the author has slipped into the story, coming to fruition is always satisfying to a reader.  

There are many themes running through Her Mother’s Secret: of love, relationships, mystery, crime, secrets and friendships, all woven to give a good balance of romance with a believable darker side of life.

All in all, Her Mother’s Secret is a novel I would recommend to any reader who enjoys a story that is grounded in the Romance genre but reveals itself to be so much more.

About the author:

Jan Baynham

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction. From then on, she was hooked!

She soon went on to take a writing course at the local university and began to submit stories for publication to a wider audience. In October 2019, her first collection of short stories, ‘Smashing the Mask and Other Stories’ was published.

Following a novel writing course, Jan began to write her first full length novel. She loves being able to explore characters in greater depth and delve into their stories. She writes about family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters. Partly set in the last year of the 60s, ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, takes you to sun-drenched Greece, her favourite holiday destination.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband.

To find out more about Jan, she may be contacted on:
Twitter – @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham
Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit
Blog – http://www.janbaynham.blogspot.co.uk