Welcome to our next Monday Merry Meet where we celebrate author’s who write romantic fiction. We’re excited to chat to Jessica Redland who has written many bestseller novels based in our beloved North Yorkshire and the Wolds.
Grab a cuppa and relax for five minutes while you discover what she has to say about her books, writing, the romance genre and of course, spells.
Monday Merry Meets: Jessica Redland
Willow: Welcome Jessica, have a seat. We’re thrilled to have you this month to celebrate romance books to coincide with Valentine’s Day. While the Enchanted Bookshelf has oodles of fantasy and paranormal books, Rosa’s Box of Romance is full of romantic novels, including yours. Talking of romance, I apologise if Vincent, our Maine coon, is extra affectionate. The catnip we’ve used in some of our love potions has made him high. Amber has cast a no stick spell to prevent you getting covered in his fur.
Jessica: It’s so lovely to be here and I love cats so am more than happy to have a Vincent snuggle … although my dog, Ella, may be a bit grumpy with me for giving my affections elsewhere when I get home later!
Amber: What would you like to drink? We have umpteen blends of tea, including Yorkshire tea, hot chocolate, coffee or something stronger. We have some mead made from local honey too.
Jessica: Could I have some hot chocolate please? Did somebody say cream and mini marshmallows?
Amber: Hot chocolate isn’t the real deal without those. Won’t be a mo.
Rosa: I’m so excited to have you here and many of our customers mention how much they love your books because of the local locations. Whitsborough Bay is based on Scarborough and the Hedgehog Hollow series is based in the Wolds. How important are the settings to your books and how do you decide which ones to use?
Jessica: My settings have become such a strong part of my brand but, funnily enough, I didn’t have one when I started writing. I’d relocated back to the north to be closer to my family after living away from home for about 12 years and I knew I wanted to write a book set in the north, but I had no sense of where. A couple of months later, I met my husband who was from Scarborough and, as soon as I visited him, I knew I’d found the inspiration for my setting. I’ve lived in Scarborough for nearly 19 years now and, with the northern tip of the Yorkshire Wolds being just a few miles away, it seemed a logical place to set my hedgehog rescue centre, adding a countryside setting to my coastal one.
Deciding on which setting to use falls naturally with the story I want to tell and whose story that is. I try to keep the two main settings distinctly different so a story involving a shop or café is more likely to be a Whitsborough Bay one with me keeping my Yorkshire Wolds setting for things that are more logically countryside-based like the rescue centre and a farm (Bumblebee Barn).
Willow: You’ve gone from different shopkeepers in Whitsborough Bay to the romantic occurrences in a hedgehog rescue centre and now jumping into reality tv with Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn. How easy do you find starting a new series?
Jessica: Scary! There’s always a fear of readers not enjoying a new setting. A lot of readers expressed disappointment when I ended the Hedgehog Hollow, which is incredibly flattering as it means I’ve created a world they love and want to keep visiting, but it’s also a lot of pressure on writing something new. I stand by the decision that it was time for the Hedgehog Hollow series to end, but fans of the series have enjoyed the treat of some glimpses into the rescue centre in Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn, so I think I may have appeased them.
When I first shared the blurb for Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn, a few readers expressed surprise at reality TV playing a part in the story as that’s very different and typically more of a romcom story line rather than women’s fiction, but I haven’t changed the style of book I write with it. The reality TV setting is simply a different storyline around how this story of love, friendship, family and community unfolds.
Rosa: I’m an avid romance reader and your books always provide the much needed an uplifting, happy ending. Did you always want to write in this genre?
Jessica: Aw, thanks Rosa. Yes, I did. I was in my early to mid-twenties when I discovered romcoms and, as soon as the idea came to write a book, I knew this was what I’d write because I also love that uplifting, happy ending. As I worked on my first series – Welcome to Whitsborough Bay – my voice and style developed and I moved from romcom to women’s fiction, which, for me, still means the same uplifting, happy ending but more of an emotional journey in getting there.
I do want to write in other genres in the future, but alongside this one. My heart will always remain with the romance genre, and I couldn’t imagine not writing heart-warming stories which help people escape from how tough life can be.
Amber: Healing Hearts on Bumblebee Farm is your eighteenth book. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Jessica: I can’t believe I’m at 18 already. When I wrote my very first book, I wasn’t even thinking about publication – just wanted to see if I could write one book! I went through the RNA’s NWS (Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme) between 2012-14 and started submitting my debut in late 2013. I had a stack of rejections but secured a 3-book publishing deal in 2014, which then extended to include a novella. The novella came out in May 2015 with the first novel released in June that year and I really thought I’d made it. Things didn’t work out as hoped. Eighteen months later, the publisher had ceased trading; I had my rights back, and I re-released those four books as an indie author.
Unfortunately, being indie didn’t work for me. I wrote and released another five books and none of them made much impact. I really needed to learn how to advertise properly, but I had a very demanding full-time job and any ‘spare’ time had to be devoted to writing or I’d have had nothing to promote.
In 2018, I realised I was going to need to either find another publisher and hope they could work miracles or accept that it wasn’t going to work for me and walk away. I’d written a new book, so put it out for submission and had a few rejections which completely floored me and massively knocked my confidence. Calling it a day was a very real consideration, but then I saw an advert for Boldwood Books. ‘One last submission,’ I told myself. Fortunately, they loved it and they’ve turned me from a struggling indie into a bestselling author.
Would I change anything? No, because I feel like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be now and I needed to go through the difficult years to get here and to appreciate what I now have. I’d like to have been better equipped with the resilience to deal with some of the tough stuff, but I wouldn’t change the actual journey.
Willow: Thank goodness for that final submission. After talking to several authors now, everyone seems to have different ways to tackle their writing. What is your writing day like?
Jessica: I used to cram writing into evenings and weekends so was really productive because, if I didn’t crack on with it, I’d never achieve anything. I became a full-time author in June 2020 and I still haven’t quite sussed a routine. I could be more productive than I am, but I allow myself to get distracted scrolling through social media and going down research rabbit holes. I’ve recently started writing book 20 and decided to try a different approach of writing first thing and only allowing myself to look at emails or social media once I’d written 2k words. That was going brilliantly for a week, then I got hit by the lurgy so had to have a week off. I now need to get back into it and hope I can sustain it.
Amber: There’s a lot of lurgy going round. Hope you’re feeling better now. Many would be writers come in looking for spells to help their creativity. Do you have any advice for fledgling romance writers?
Jessica: My first bit of advice isn’t specific to a romance writer, and it’s just to get on with it. We can find so many excuses not to write and time is the big one. I say we can all find time if we really want to. I used to watch several of the soaps after work, but I stopped watching them to free up time to write.
For a romance writer, I’d say to really think about the importance of setting. In a romance story, the setting is very much a character in itself which can add warmth and make readers feel so much more involved. I’m running a workshop through RNA Learning across March all about the importance of settings and it’s available to non-members as well as RNA members if anyone wants to find out more about this.
Amber: That sounds great. Not quite the fantasy settings I’m attempting to write but anything can be adapted right?
Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Jessica: Can I have them all? 😉 Too greedy? I crave a good night’s sleep, so can I go for that one please? It feels like I haven’t had one of those since I was first pregnant. My daughter turns 17 this year so I’m very tired!
Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit. Where would it take you?
Jessica: Aw, how lovely. Probably my wedding day. It was such an amazing day from start to finish. I spent a lot of the evening on the dance floor, which was great, but I wish I’d circulated a bit more to speak to some of my relatives, especially as many of them are no longer with us. I kept thinking I’d do a wander but then another great song would come on (we had an 80s disco) and I never quite made it.
Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have ever had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Jessica: I was about to say no, but I’ve just remembered something. When I was at primary school, we went on a week to an activity centre and all stayed in this long dorm which was divided into 4 coloured bays. I was in yellow bay at the end and there was a rumour that the yellow bay was haunted by the grey lady. As the story was being relayed, the fire exit burst open and everyone screamed. It couldn’t have been opened from outside, so it was super spooky at the time.
I haven’t included any ghostly experiences in my books. There are, however, a few spiritual occurrences in my Hedgehog Hollow series at the point where a character dies. I’ve really enjoyed including those.
Rosa: And I enjoyed reading them. Some tissues were needed for some of them.
Willow: We often blend different potions beyond the love ones that are flying off the shelves this week. If we could create a spell to give you magical powers for 24 hours, what would it be?
Jessica: I’m wondering what spell could do the most good in 24 hours. Hmm. Would need to be a powerful spell but it would be amazing if I could send a spell round the world that would clean and heal everywhere that’s hurting – plastic and oil out of the oceans, rain forests growing where they’ve been cleared, war zones repaired and rifts healed, and so on. I can’t watch the news as it makes me cry and I’m so grateful that writing means I can escape into my happy world every day.
Willow: We’d have to increase our powers and spell repertoire to do that one. Our Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is a small lending library full of books with that are either fantastical, witchy or have paranormal theme. What would you add to it?
Jessica: I believe you’ve already got them because she’s had a cuppa with you before, but my best friend is the author Sharon Booth who writes the most amazing series called the Witches of Castle Clair. I’d add those as I love them.
Willow: So do we, though we do need to add her newest one, His Lawful Wedded Witch to the bookshelf. She was our first visitor and her interview can be found here.
Rosa: My Box of Romance’s is proving popular in the run up to Valentine’s Day. What would you add to it?
Jessica: All of Sharon’s non-magical books! I’d also anything by Eliza J. Scott or Jo Bartlett who also write lovely heart-warming stories and always with happy endings.
Willow: And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Jessica: I’ve just finished the final proofread on Summer Nights at the Starfish Café, which is out on 28th April. This is the final part of the trilogy, so, in the space of three books, I’ll have ended two of my popular series (Hedgehog Hollow and The Starfish Café). Eek!
I’ve started writing what currently has a working title of ‘Lakes 1’. It’s a brand new series set in the Lake District around Derwent Water, but I don’t have a name for the setting yet which feels a bit weird. I’ve proposed a few ideas to my publisher, but I’m waiting back to see what they like best. I love the Lakes, so I’m very excited about this series. The plan is for it to be the longest of all my series, with a different protagonist fronting each story rather than a consistent narrator plus guests like I’ve done for Hedgehog Hollow and The Starfish Café series. This makes it easier to keep adding stories in and also for readers to dip in partway through the series if they wish.
Lakes 1 needs to be submitted at the start of March, at which point I move on to book 21 which will be my Christmas release and a return to Castle Street.
Willow: You’ve a busy time ahead. Good luck with it and we look forward to visiting the Lakes in the future.
Rosa: A huge thank you for visiting. Please may you sign, the visitor’s book we’ve just started to celebrate the authors and customers who visit?
Jessica: Thank you so much for having me and for the delicious hot chocolate. Can I take Vincent home with me? He’s gorgeous!
The Witches: Do you love our author chats? Why not, subscribe to our blog and they’ll whizz to your inbox so you’ll keep up with the gossip from the Enchanted Emporium. Next week to celebrate diversity in romantic novels, Linda Corbett, author of Love You form A-Z.
Title: Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn
Author: Jessica Redland
Genre: Women’s fiction, romance
Publisher: Boldwood books
Release date: 24th January 2023
Welcome to Bumblebee Barn, home to wonderful animals, stunning views and spectacular sunsets – and resident young farmer, Barney.
While Barney loves his life at Bumblebee Barn – a farm that has been in his family for generations – he’s struggling to find someone to share it with. The early mornings quad biking through muddy fields and the long hours looking after the crops and animals are proving to be a deterrent to finding love.
So when his sister, Fizz – desperate for Barney to find his soulmate – sees an advert for Love on the Farm, a new reality TV show to help farmers find love, he has nothing to lose by applying. After all, he isn’t meeting anyone suitable down the traditional route and surely he won’t be picked anyway…?
Thrown into the chaos of reality TV, Barney could never have expected that his whole life would be turned upside down, with buried secrets to be uncovered and his heart on the line. With his family and friends rooting for him, could the magic of Bumblebee Barn heal his broken heart and help him find love on the farm?
Jessica Redland is a bestselling author of emotional but uplifting stories of love, friendship, family, and community. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast where she lives with her husband, daughter and sprocker spaniel. Her Hedgehog Hollow series, set in a hedgehog rescue centre, takes readers into the beautiful rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds.
All of Jessica’s books are available in a multitude of formats: eBook, paperback, hardback, large print, and audio. Her eBooks are all available for FREE via Kindle Unlimited and six of her audiobooks can be listened to for FREE as part of the Audible Plus programme for Audible subscribers. Libraries internationally also stock Jessica’s titles in a variety of formats.
Links to author landing pages:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3tNQgh9
Amazon USA: https://amzn.to/3ne3zU9
Audible UK: https://adbl.co/3n8jOlK
Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3WEIjX6
Amazon USA: https://amzn.to/3DkgzQA
Audible UK: https://adbl.co/3Hit3K1
Redland’s Readers (Facebook group exclusive for fans of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow): https://www.facebook.com/groups/409519133635791