Meet Jane Jesmond Author Of On The Edge

 "Writing a first draft ... is a bit like being on an out-of-control toboggan speeding down a steep slope at times. You don't know where you going but the ride is a blast" says Jane Jesmond, whose debut thriller On The Edge is published on 26th October 2021. 

She tells us why she set her novel in Cornwall, why the main character Jen is a prolific climber, the inspiration for the novel and what her worst fear is.

Download the ebook of On The Edge from Amazon or buy the paperback from Thriller Women's list at Bookshop.org. NB: if you buy books through this link we may earn a commission from bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops.

Front cover of On The Edge by Jane Jesmond

TW: Jane, huge congratulations on the upcoming publication of On the Edge. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?

JJ: It was long! I definitely took a scenic route to publication, full of ups and downs and endless rewrites. I submitted a very early version a few years ago and had a LOT of rejections and some interest, which ultimately came to nothing, rewrote it, got more rejections and more interest, but again the elusive publishing goal never came about. I put it away in a drawer and wrote another book which I was preparing for submission when, quite by chance, I pulled On The Edge out again and reread it. Two things struck me. The first was how much I still loved the book. And the second was that after a couple of years away from it, I could write it better. So I rewrote it yet again and sent it out. I had offers quite quickly from two independent publishers but I knew straightaway that Verve was the right home for On The Edge and me.


TW: What was the main inspiration behind On the Edge and how long did it take you to write your first draft?

JJ: Because On The Edge was written on and off over such a long period of time, there have been a lot of inspirations. But the very first idea for the book came to me when I was driving home on a fairly stormy winter evening. The sea where I live (in Brittany) is very dangerous with rocks close to the surface everywhere. The Amoco Cadiz disaster happened a few miles away. Consequently, the coast is awash with lighthouses and flashing buoys both on shore and at sea. My journey home took me past a particularly magnificent example - the majestic lighthouse at St Matthew's Point.

For some mad reason, I parked up and walked out onto the headland to take a look and as I stared up at its great beam, thinking how amazing the view must be from the platform up top and wishing I wasn't so scared of heights, the image of a drenched and unconscious figure hanging from the top came into my head and with it the knowledge that I wanted to write about someone who loved danger and thrill. Someone entirely unlike me.


TW: You live in France but you chose to set the novel in Cornwall. How important was the setting, and what made you choose the south west?

JJ: My family comes from Cornwall and I spent a lot of time there as a child and young adult. I've always loved its changeable landscape; one minute it's moody and dramatic and the next, tranquil and inviting. It's surrounded by the sea, which opens up a great range of criminal possibilities for a thriller writer. But besides its geography, so many things about Cornwall inspired my imagination: its fiercely independent culture; its industrial and maritime heritage; the disconnect between the tourists who flood the region in summer and the people who live there all year round; and also the Cornwall of Arthurian legends and Daphne du Maurier, of Poldark, Rosamund Pilcher and Susan Howatch. Actually I'm surprised anyone sets a book anywhere else.


TW: What made you choose to make your protagonist an intrepid climber?

JJ: Sheer madness! I am terrified of heights. I've never climbed anything except the stairs. But my choice had very little to do with it. Jen Shaw arrived in my head as a daredevil climber and I've never been able to persuade her to take up something more sensible - like crocheting for example. I can't tell you much research I had to do.


TW: What do you think readers will most remember about On The Edge a few weeks after they've finished reading?

JJ: I'm not sure and it's quite hard to answer without giving too much away! But I hope they'd remember some of the exciting bits: the wild chase across the moor and the escape from the mine. And, of course, Jen Shaw herself with her passionate, almost mystical, love of climbing.


TW: Who are your favourite authors and who do you consider to be your main influences in your work? Have you always wanted to write thrillers?

JJ: I never planned to write thrillers. Mind you when I started writing I never planned anything. I couldn't help myself though. I'd be writing a scene full of quietly interesting characters when I'd start to wonder what would happen if a bomb went off or one of the characters went out to make a cup of tea and never returned. It was downhill all the way from there.

I love crime fiction though, so I probably should have realised I'd also love writing it. We're privileged to have an extraordinary heritage of crime and thriller fiction either written in or translated into English so it's very hard to pick out my favourites but worthy of special mention are Agatha Christie whose books first introduced me to the genre, Dick Francis for his taut prose and wonderful ability to introduce me to worlds I knew nothing about, Anthony Price for his mastery of tension and intrigue and Sara Paretsky for bringing V.I. Warshawki into the world ... and I'm going to stop there. Whether any of them have influenced my writing I'll leave to the reader to decide.


TW: What is your approach to writing a novel? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

JJ: I am undoubtedly a pantser by nature. There’s nothing I love more than letting my imagination guide my hands over the keyboard and take me where it will and some of the writing I am most proud of has come out of my pantsing habits. BUT, and it is quite rightly a "but" in capital letters, I have forced myself to develop some plotting skills over the years I have been writing - although at times it has felt like retrofitting the latest Sat Nav to an old banger of a car with wonky steering.


TW: What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and what do you most enjoy?

JJ: My answer to this varies according to which part of the process I'm currently in the middle of. So if you'd asked me a couple of months ago, I'd have said writing the first draft, but as I'm currently trying to tame and shape this into a readable and understandable second draft, I'm going to have to go for that. There's a certain panicky freedom of writing a first draft that I love. It's a bit like being on an out-of-control toboggan speeding down a steep slope at times. You don't know where you going but the ride is a blast. Whereas the second draft, which involves lots of rewriting but in a sober and constrained way, is tough.


TW: What is next for Jane Jesmond and will Jen Shaw be part of a planned series?

I am deep in the middle of writing Book 2 in the Jen Shaw series, which takes Jen to Spain, Malta and France and will also feature several of the characters in On The Edge. Once that's finished I want to revisit a book about a sixty-year-old, long-buried secret that suddenly springs back to life and starts killing people again.


Quick fire questions:


TW: Your favourite book?

JJ: Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond series (bit of a cheat, I know as it is six books)


TW: Your favourite holiday destination?

JJ: Because I live in the countryside, I love the noise and excitement of big cities for holidays. Museums, galleries, theatre, restaurants - bring it on.


TW: Your favourite way to spend an evening?

JJ: With a good book in front of the fire!


TW: Your favourite TV Series or film?

JJ: Strictly Come Dancing!


TW: Your favourite tipple?

JJ: Tea.


Thanks Jane!
Photo of Jane Jesmond, author of On The Edge

More about On The Edge:

Jen Shaw has climbed all her life: daring ascents of sheer rock faces, crumbling buildings, cranes - the riskier the better. Both her work and personal life revolved around climbing, and the adrenaline high it gave her. Until she went too far and hurt the people she cares about. So she's given it all up now. Honestly, she has. And she's checked herself into a rehab centre to prove it.

Yet, when Jen awakens to find herself drugged and dangling off the local lighthouse during a wild storm less than twenty-four hours after a 'family emergency' takes her home to Cornwall, she needs all her skill to battle her way to safety.

Has Jen fallen back into her old risky ways, or is there a more sinister explanation hidden in her hometown? Only when she has navigated her fragmented memories and faced her troubled past will she be able to piece together what happened - and trust herself to fix it.

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