Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jan Jones Talks About Writing Close to Home

Jan Jones talks about using a location close to home as the setting for her Regency novels.

When I started writing Regencies I was faced with a problem. How to make mine stand out from the very good ones written by everybody else? The answer I came up with was: location, location, location!

I live just outside Newmarket. It occurred to me that while other Regency novels use the town as a convenient plot device for divesting young hopefuls of their ready cash or for ensuring that the hero is out of the heroine’s reach for a week, none of the ones I’d read had actually set the action there.

And yet Newmarket was the horse-acing venue for the elite seven times a year. And it is only sixty miles of good road away from London. And full of historical buildings and great stories. There are even the remains of cock pits to be seen if you sidle down the right paths and peer over the right walls.

So I plunged happily into local research and wrote my first Newmarket Regency, FAIR DECEPTION as an introduction to the town itself. For my second, FORTUNATE WAGER - coincidentally out this month - I leapt into the world of horseracing.

Caroline Fortune simply wants to train horses in an era when women were not allowed to have anything to do with the racing on Newmarket Heath. Like any right-minded heroine, she doesn’t let this stop her. However it does become a teensy bit awkward when Lord Alexander Rothwell - who is investigating shady dealing at the racecourse - is coshed and left for dead on her doorstep.

My goodness, I learnt so much about the history of horse racing in general and Newmarket Heath in particular. For example, there used to be seventeen courses at Newmarket. Seventeen! All criss-crossed around the same basic routes, but subtly different as regards start-points, lengths and end-points. No wonder the adjective most used about the race meetings in accounts of the time was “confusing”.
I could get very boring on the subject, but I won’t. Instead I hope that if you read the books you will benefit from some of the fruits of my research without getting mental indigestion. If you’d like to, you can read more about the background to my Newmarket Regencies on my website at I also blog at and I twitter about the minutiae of life as @janjonesauthor.


Kate Hardy said...

SEVENTEEN courses? Blimey! Sounds v complicated.

I thoroughly enjoyed Fair Deception and can't wait to start Fortune's Wager (it's on my desk as a bribe to finish my revisions and Christmas wrapping.

Jan Jones said...

It was, Kate! I found the print in the British Library and spent the whole morning drinking it in.

I've ordered a digital image for my birthday - someone is bound to give me a money present!

(Thanks for kind words about Fair Deception. Hope you enjoy Fortunate Wager as much.)