Hello June! Warm weather has arrived and so have the tourists. Visiting witches, tea connoisseurs and those stumbling down Black Cat Alley because fate has intervened are making the small shop busy. Rosa is in her element socialising, Willow is hiding (creating) in the workshop and Amber is plotting hexes to make the annoying customers disappear.
One visitor she isn’t planning on turning into a toad is today’s author for Monday Merry Meet, Jennifer Page. She’s her to chat about her debut novel The Little Board Game Café, board games and of course, spells.
So grab a cuppa and enjoy!
Monday Merry Meet: Jennifer Page
Willow: Welcome to our shop, Jennifer. Ever since we knew you were coming, we’ve been chatting about our favourite board games and even played a few during our lunch hour after we discovered Amber had never played any. Ouija boards didn’t count.
It wasn’t as relaxing as expected as we are all quite competitive. And Vincent discovered a new delight in swiping pieces to the floor when we weren’t looking. Cats and chess don’t mix.
Rosa: Nor do teenage witches, as they have a tendency of setting fire to things in a temper when they lose.
Amber: Ignore them, Jennifer. It was only once. What can I get you to drink? We have many bespoke tea blends, including Yorkshire tea, coffee, a cosy hot chocolate or something chilled.
Jennifer: Tricky decision. Yorkshire tea is my usual choice but a hot chocolate is tempting. Would there be marshmallows and whipped cream with that? If so, I’ll go for the hot chocolate please.
Amber: Hot chocolate isn’t hot chocolate without those.
Rosa: Your book, The Little Board Game Café is in my favourite genre, romance and is set in the best location, Yorkshire. Why did you choose Yorkshire as your setting, and did you always plan to write a romantic novel?
Jennifer: Initially I planned to write a dating memoir, rather than a novel. I did internet dating for over 12 years after getting divorced when I was 35 – I just couldn’t meet the right person. I could have done with one of your spells! I met and married my husband, Hermi in 2017, and a literary agent advised me to write a novel, rather than a memoir. Romance was the obvious choice, as I’d just found the love of my life. Sorry if that sounds a bit cheesy!
And we live in Yorkshire, near the quirky town of Hebden Bridge. I’ve loved Hebden Bridge for years and always wanted to move here so it felt natural to base my novel here – although I’ve given the places fictitious names and changed them quite a lot. It’s inspired by this area, rather than actually set here. Also Hebden Bridge has a strong sense of community and I really wanted The Little Board Game Café to have that too.
Amber: Board games play a wonderful role in your story. Are you an avid fan of them? Are there any board games you’d recommend for us to try?
Jennifer: I’m a huge fan of board games. When I first met Hermi, he asked me for a second date but said he couldn’t meet me for a week because he was too busy. It turned out he was playing board games every evening and at the weekend, too. He has a huge collection of them. Fortunately I discovered that I loved playing them almost as much as he does and barely a day goes by when we don’t play a game or two.
And as for games that you might like, well, since the cats didn’t like chess, how about trying The Isle of Cats? It’s got lots of colourful cats in it and it’s such a fun game. There’s rats in it too – they’ll like that. Or Cat in the Box which is a really great card game, and there’s a new game out called Boop which features cats and kittens – I haven’t tried it yet but it’s really cute.
And how about two games about making potions? Quacks of Quedlinburg is a brilliant game and suitable for children too, and Potion Explosion – another fun one and it comes with its own marble dispenser.
Willow: They sound fantastic, thanks. If we could conjure up your ideal accompanying players, who would they be? Since magic is involved, they could be people from the past, present or fictional.
Jennifer: I wish you could conjure up my dad. He died two weeks before Hermi and I got married. He really enjoyed board games like draughts, chess and Scrabble, and I’m sure he’d have loved the games we play.
Willow: This novel is your debut. Congratulations. We keep seeing rave reviews for it on social media. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Jennifer: My publication journey was a bit unusual. In March last year, I was thinking about submitting my book to agents – that was my book Love Letters on Hazel Lane which is not coming out till next year – and I saw a tweet about the Books for Ukraine auction where a professional editor was offering a feedback session on the first three chapters of an unpublished novel. I thought that was an ideal opportunity to get some feedback on my work before submitting it, so I bid in the auction and won. The editor asked what else I was writing and I told her about The Little Board Game Café and she asked to see the full manuscripts of both books and offered me a two-book deal a few weeks later.
The only thing I’d change is I wish I’d started writing fiction sooner. I was lonely in those years of being single, even though I had friends. Through writing the books and being published, I’ve discovered a wonderful online community of readers and other authors, and everyone has been so supportive. I really feel I have found my tribe and I wish I had found them sooner.
Rosa: We hear that a lot from visiting authors. Writing and book tribes seem to be a supportive bunch. We’re nosy and love to hear about writer’s routines. Are you a plotter and do you have specific rituals to get you into the zone to write?
Jennifer: I usually wake early – about 6 am. I make a huge mug of strong tea, and sit on the sofa in my dressing gown for a couple of hours before Hermi wakes up. Those early mornings are my most productive time. I am a mixture of plotter and pantser; I can’t plot without writing at least some of the novel because I need to get to know the characters. If that makes sense – they kind of reveal themselves through the writing.
Amber: Most people who regularly catch up with our Monday Merry Meets know I’m a secret writer. Do you have any advice for new writers?
Jennifer: My biggest piece of advice is to be persistent, with both the writing and the whole submission process. It’s really hard to keep going because there’s that little voice in your head – well, I have one in my head anyway – that tells you you’re not good enough and then you get rejected by agents or you read a bad review, and that voice gets even louder. So my second piece of advice is, don’t listen to the voice!
Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range, which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Jennifer: Please, could I choose confidence? I’m not a very confident person – although I know I sometimes appear confident, but that isn’t the same thing at all. It would be nice to have a little more confidence and not worry so much that things might go wrong.
Rosa: When lit one candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day? Where would it take you?
Jennifer: That’s too hard. I feel very lucky as I try to come up with an answer to that question as I realise I’ve had a lot of lovely holidays and a lot of lovely days too. I think I might have to go with the day I met Hermi. It wasn’t a perfect first date by any means – he’s shy so initially it was a bit awkward. I got a migraine partway through and felt very nauseous at one point. But we looked round a fantastic exhibition at the V&A and then another one next door at the Natural History Museum, and then we had a coffee together and we talked and talked and talked.
Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it ever influenced your writing?
Jennifer: I’ve never seen anything but I’ve certainly felt things, and, as a child, I never liked being alone in my grandparents’ house – or even going upstairs on my own – because I always thought it was haunted. And after my grandma’s funeral, the lights went on and off a few times, and even my mum was freaked out and she doesn’t believe in things like that. Has it influenced my writing? Not yet, but it’s about to! It’s top secret though, so I can’t say any more than that at this stage.
Rosa: That sounds intriguing. If the witches could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?
Jennifer: What I’d most like to be able to do is talk to my dad. To tell him how happy I am with Hermi – I know he’d have been relieved about that as he always worried about me after my first marriage ended – and to show him the novel. He’d have been really proud.
Willow: Our enchanted bookshelf is dedicated to books with magical, paranormal or fantastical elements to them, either fiction or non-fiction. What book would you add to it?
Jennifer: Perhaps you already have one, but I’d love there to be a book about angels. I used to work on the TV programme Songs of Praise and I made an episode about angels once; I heard some amazing stories. There was an angel story on the Uncanny podcast recently too. I’d love to think that there really are angels out there and would like to read about people’s real-life experiences of them.
Amber: A new podcast for me to follow thanks. On the Enchanted bookshelf we have some fictional angel related books including Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, The Indigo Chronicles by NJ Simmonds and Regan: Snatcher of Souls by Rebecca McDowall. If it has a reshuffle and finds more I’ll let you know. Many books are hidden from view.
Rosa: Your book is already in my box of romance. What other book would you add to it?
Jennifer: Is The Book Lover’s Retreat by Heidi Swain in there already? I read that last week and I really loved it. Becoming Ted by Matt Cain is another favourite, not least because it features a Polish man; Hermi is from a Polish family as, of course, is the character Ludek in The Little Board Game Café.
Rosa: The Book Lover’s Retreat is fab isn’t it? Heidi Swain popped in to chat to us previously so we had to pre-order. I’ve just downloaded Becoming Ted, thanks.
Willow: And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Jennifer: I’ve just finished editing my second novel, Love Letters on Hazel Lane, which comes out on 4th January. It’s about a woman who is obsessed with Scrabble.
Willow: Thank you for popping in and good luck with your writing.
Book Title: The Little Board Game Cafe
Author: Jennifer Page
Release date: 13th April 2023
‘An absolute delight from the very first page to the delicious end!’ Faith Hogan
An irresistible story of love, friendship and the power of games night, perfect for fans of Holly Martin and Christie Barlow.
When Emily loses her job, house and boyfriend all within a matter of days, she’s determined to turn a negative into a positive and follow her dream of running a small cafe in the gorgeous Yorkshire village of Essendale.
But she quickly finds she’s bitten off more than she can chew when the ‘popular’ cafe she takes over turns out to secretly be a failing business. Emily desperately needs a way to turn things around, and help comes from the unlikeliest of places when she meets local board game-obsessed GP Ludek. But when a major chain coffee shop opens on the high street, Emily is forced to question if she’ll ever be able to compete.
Has she risked everything on something destined to fail? Or can a playful twist, a homely welcome, and a sprinkle of love make Emily’s cafe the destination she’s always dreamed of?
‘A heart-warming romance perfect for curling up with. I absolutely loved it’ – Kitty Wilson
I’m Jennifer Page, I live in the beautiful West Yorkshire countryside and I write cosy romance novels.
I was 8 when I wrote my first novel. It was called Natureland and was about ponies, because I was obsessed with ponies until I discovered boys. I wrote Natureland in a school exercise book, covered it with sticky back plastic in true Blue Peter style and gave it to my mum to send to Puffin Books. (She didn’t – she thought it was too special to part with!)
45 years later, and my first ‘proper’ novel, The Little Board Game Café, is finally being published.
During those 45 years, I learnt to speak Dutch, taught music in various primary schools, directed a few operas, produced several episodes of BBC Songs of Praise and lived on a narrowboat.
I live in an old Yorkshire farmhouse near Hebden Bridge with my husband Hermi and his very large collection of board games. When I’m not writing and playing board games, I love cooking and caravan holidays.
Social media links:
Facebook: author page – https://www.facebook.com/JenniferPagewrites
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/booksandboardgameswithjenniferpage
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