My guest on the Five Photos feature this morning is Jennifer Wilson. I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer on a social media marketing course run by Anita Chapman (highly recommended!) earlier this year, and remember noting her passion for her subject even then. She was clearly fascinated by Richard III and so it’s no surprise that at least one of her photos is connected to him. But what a photograph! And what an event! Over to Jennifer with her amazing first photograph.
Me and Richard III
This photo means so much to me, as it’s one of those moments which I can pinpoint as being a huge jump in terms of my writing life, which is so important to me. There cannot be many writers who get to attend part of the funeral services of their leading man, and even fewer when you narrow that down to historical fiction writers! I only entered my name into the ballot to feel part of things, once they’d found the body of Richard III, and couldn’t believe it when I received the gold-rimmed envelope inviting me to Compline.
The weekend itself was wonderful, full of lectures and events, and then Compline was just perfect. Sitting there in Leicester Cathedral, I was completely lost in the moment, then in the hotel afterwards, the draft novel in the metaphorical ‘bottom drawer’ started niggling at me. That was in March 2015, and by the end of April, that draft was edited and submitted to Crooked Cat Books. Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was released in October 2015, and I know that day in Leicester Cathedral was so important to everything coming together.
Bjossa the killer whale
One of my earliest memories is watching Wolves of the Sea, narrated by the ever-amazing Sir David Attenborough (surely ‘King of the World’ is a more appropriate title for him), which featured killer whales semi-beaching themselves to catch they prey, young sea-lion pups on the beaches of Patagonia. From then on, all I wanted, career-wise, was to be a marine biologist, and I started planning, reading up on what I needed to do, and making sure I stuck to it.
This is a photo of a photo, of Bjossa the killer whale, the captive orca from Vancouver Aquarium, where I was lucky enough to visit in 2000. We’d gone to see wild killer whales, but of course, you can never guarantee whether you’ll be lucky, and we decided to go and see the one in the Aquarium before going over to Vancouver Island. I know there’s a lot of controversy about captive whales and dolphins, but Bjossa was in good shape, and not made to do any daft tricks or jumps. And so she became the very first killer whale I saw. She was absolutely stunning, and made me even more determined to work in marine science.
And now? I’m 11yrs into working as a marine environmental consultant, so it worked out just fine!
Apart from marine biology, my other passion is history, and in particular any historical tale which involves a castle. Edinburgh Castle is one of my favourites, although part of me doesn’t think of it as a castle proper, more a collective of defensive buildings all within the same wall, but still… It’s inspired plenty of my writing over the years too, and I cannot wait to get back to it later this month, and see whether the renovations I saw earlier in the year have been finished.
Every castle has so many stories to tell, and nothing makes me happier than meandering my way around all their nooks and crannies, thinking about who might have walked on those stone floors before me, and what stories I can write about them…
I live in a cosy two-bedroom flat on Tyneside, but in my head, my living room is that of a Scottish hunting lodge. Not that I have any urge to hunt a stag, but I love filling my room with various bits and bobs. Fake antlers, fossil antlers, and the most gorgeous piece of artwork on some old driftwood – there is never enough stag-based décor I can fit in my flat!
This gorgeous creature is in the Galloway Forest Park, where they have a hide that you can sit in and watch a small herd going about its day. Visiting them is now a firm commitment whenever we’re over that way, and one year, I’m definitely going to take carrots for them…
And back to my writing… I’ve always been obsessed with stationery, but recently, there’s a chance my notebook collection might just have got out of hand! I’ve made notes in refill pads in the past, but for me, there’s nothing like writing in a beautiful notebook, and I love using one which makes me think of the place I bought it.
These days, I collect pens and notebooks from almost everywhere I go, so that when I start working in them, they bring back all sorts of happy memories, hopefully inspiring connected fiction, where useful. This photo is just the empty ones, and I keep telling myself I need to write more to fill half of them up before buying any new ones. This doesn’t work!
Ah, another notebook enthusiast! There is, I’m afraid, no cure for that, Jennifer! Believe me, I’ve tried … Thank you so much for taking part in this feature and for sharing your photos and memories with us.
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.
Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and available via Amazon, along with her timeslip novella, The Last Plantagenet? from Ocelot Press. She can be found online at her blog, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
From Book 1 … In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.
Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.
With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave? But foremost – will the young Plantagenet Princes join them?
You can buy the Kindred Spirits novels here.
The fireplace hadn’t looked like a time-portal.
All Kate had wanted was a fun, relaxing day out, watching the knights jousting at Nottingham Castle. What she ended up with was something quite different.
Transported in a heartbeat from 2011 to 1485, how will Kate handle life at the Ricardian court? Even more importantly, how will she cope when she catches the eye of the king himself?
Find out in this ‘giddily romantic’ romp, set just prior to the Battle of Bosworth.
You can buy the The Last Plantagenet? here.