The Take Three Books feature is proving popular amongst guests and it’s always good to hear their choices. This time it’s Jan Baynham’s turn and it’s a delight to have her on the blog. Over to you, Jan, what book would you like to have written?
There are so many wonderful books out there that it was almost impossible to choose just one. However, every now and then, you read a novel that you didn’t want to end and one that you wish you’d written yourself. That happened to me when I finished Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey. It was the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year in 2016 and I can see why. It moves effortlessly from wartime to present and in both narratives, the characters come alive on the page. You are drawn into their emotions and get glimpses of times past and present. As a reader, you become wrapped up in a beautiful, tender love story and are left thinking about Stella and Dan long after finishing the book. If one of my books had that effect on a reader, I would be over the moon!
This is on my TBR pile – I must get round to it!
Now tell us about the book that inspires you, Jan
The book I have chosen is one I read before I started writing and can remember thinking it had all the ingredients I like finding in a novel. Also set in WW2, The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas has a secret at its heart and finding out what that secret was kept me turning the pages. I liked the idea of a novel that’s set in two contrasting locations and one that involves family history. When Mair Ellis clears out her father’s house in Wales, she finds an antique shawl with a lock of child’s hair wrapped inside. Tracing her family history back to a time spent in Kashmir where her grandparents were missionaries, Mair uncovers a story of doomed love and great sacrifice. The sense of place and time is strong and I felt I was right there with the characters. When I heard Rosie Thomas speak about the research that went into the novel, I appreciated why I felt like that.
And now share your own book, Jan. I believe this came out in the summer:
The Secret Sister is my fourth novel and was published by Joffe Books/Choc Lit on August 31st. The novel, set in 1943 and 1968, in rural Wales and the island of Sicily, is a dual timeline dealing with secrets, forbidden love, grief, sibling relationships and forgiveness. Here is the blurb:
TRAVEL FROM WARTIME WALES TO SIXTIES SICILY IN THIS BREATHTAKING CROSS-GENERATIONAL SAGA ABOUT A DAUGHTER ROCKED BY HER FAMILY’S SECRET PAST.
Sara Lewis should be heartbroken when her husband doesn’t return from the war. But he was never the kind husband she hoped for. And now she’s stuck with her cruel mother-in-law on the family farm. Sara must do what is best for her young sonso she leaves the farm for the safety of her sister’s home. Despite herself, she begins to notice Carlo, an Italian prisoner of war. Longing looks soon turn into love letters and a connection neither of them can sever. But fraternization between the prisoners and local women are forbidden. As their love grows, so does the danger all around them . . .
Twenty-five years later, their daughter holds her father’s hand as he takes his last breath and whispers a name: Giulietta. But who is Giulietta, and who are the young woman and baby in an old photograph? The secrets of the past collide as the family is shaken to its very core, forced to revisit memories they’d rather forget to uncover the truth.
I loved writing this novel. Creating a sense of place is always important to me and I had a wonderful time researching this story with a trip to Sicily walking in my characters’ footsteps and another to the Italian POW chapel in Henllan, near Llandyssul, West Wales, which inspired the one created by Carlo and his team in the novel.
Here’s some info on Jan and where you can find her books:
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 shortlisted in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of shorts 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 further depth and delve into their stories. She signed a contract for three books with Ruby Fiction in May 2019. The first, Her Mother’s Secret, was published in April 2020 followed by Her Sister’s Secret the following September. Her Nanny’s Secret was published in September 2021.
Originally from mid-Wales, she lives in Cardiff with her husband. They have three grown-up children and five grandchildren. She enjoys meeting up with other writers especially members of her local RNA Cariad Chapter as well as when attending talks and workshops.
Social media links:
Twitter – @JanBaynham (https://twitter.com/JanBaynham)
Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer (https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit/?locale=en_GB)
Instagram – janbaynham (https://www.instagram.com/janbaynham/?hl=en-gb)
Blog – Jan’s Journey into Writing (https://janbaynham.blogspot.com)