History People: John Jackson, inspired by his family tree

J Jackson mugshot
Author John Jackson

I’m pleased to welcome to the blog today someone who moves in the most elevated circles – the Historical Novel Society and the Romantic Novelists Association. John Jackson is launching his first historical novel, Heart of Stone, today. He tells us how he became a writer and how his own family tree provided some colourful characters to write about. Take it away, John.

A hankering to write

Writing is funny! As in “Funny Peculiar” as opposed to “Funny Ha-ha!”

I have had a lifetime or two (it seems) writing professionally – but non-fiction, and mostly related o safety and ship management, which is difficult to make exciting on the page, and singularly free from ANY romance!

But: …..

These things happen in the strangest ways. About 5 years ago I was watching ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (‘Dancing with the Stars’ for my overseas readers) and chatting to some friends on Twitter. Two strangers jumped into the conversation. They seemed perfectly nice, so I looked up who I had been talking to the next morning. Two (then) unpublished lady romantic novelists.

The ladies concerned are now both firm friends in real life, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Mandy James and Liz Harris have both had several books published. Good ones too.

Eventually, through Liz, in particular, I met several other writers, and, as the circle grows ever wider, so the drip starts!

“Oh, go on, John. You know you want to give it a go!”

Truth to tell, I HAD always had a hankering to write. I had previously written stories for our daughters, while I was away at sea, and I had had one or two goes at trying to make up a story, without any success. They say that everyone has a book in them somewhere. They also say that, for many people, that’s exactly where it should stay!

Late one night in early January three years ago, I furtively sent off my application to join the New Writers Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA), and much to my surprise, my application was accepted.

Inspiration from genealogy

Jumping sideways, another great interest of mine has been genealogy. I have built up a data-set of several thousand names, all distantly related to me, or at least related-by-marriage. I was helped in this in that my mother’s maiden name was Dumaresq, which is as unusual as it looks. It is an old Jersey name, and the Dumaresqs were, many generations ago, one of the leading Jersey families. Alas, all gone now!

They did marry well though; frequently to “peers younger sons or daughters”, and as soon as you see that, life becomes much easier for the genealogist thanks to Debretts, Burkes Peerage, and all the other official records of their times.

Ninety percent of people, at every level and in every age, live desperately humdrum lives and are of no interest to anyone. That’s how it should be, too. BUT….

The other ten percent get interesting!

The most interesting I found in my own tree are the subjects of Heart of Stone, set in 1740s Ireland! The basic story had everything I could want: good characters, great location, and an interesting period. The true story was, unfortunately, too tragic to be made into a novel as it stood. The basic story was full of great points to hang a story on though, so I decided to write the story of “What should have happened.”

J Jackson Belvedere 2
The two images show Belvedere in Mullingar, County Westmeath. The house and the wall both feature in Heart of Stone.

J Jackson Belvedere 1

Now, after several rewrites, some very substantial edits and considerable help through the RNA and friends and colleagues, I’ve got the story pretty well as good as I can get it!

I hope all who read it enjoy Heart of Stone. I like to describe it as a “Historical Novel with a strong romantic thread.”

And there are more villains in the family tree. Apples yet to fall!

Heart of Stone is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book formats.

J-Jackson - cover

About John Jackson

After a lifetime at sea I am now retired and living in York. For the last thirty years I have been working in the world of ships, both on board and at a desk writing manuals, procedures and the like.

An avid genealogist, I found a rich vein of ancestors going back many generations. Among other things they opened up Canada and Australia and fought at Waterloo.

A chance meeting with some authors led me to turn my efforts to setting down some amazing stories. I am a keen member of the Romantic Novelists Association and part of their New Writers Scheme. I am also a member of the Historic Novel Association and an enthusiastic conference-goer for both organizations.

I was brought up on Georgette Heyer from an early age, and, like many of my age devoured R L Stevenson, Jane Austen, R M Ballantyne, and the like.

Modern favorite authors include Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Jenny Barden, Carol McGrath, Lindsey Davis and Kate Mosse.

Connect with John

Email: jjackson@btinternet.com
Facebook  John Jackson
Twitter:  @jjackson42
Instagram: @john5642

Copyright © Vanessa Couchman, John Jackson 2017, all rights reserved.

Published by Vanessa in France

We moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I'm fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs. I also write historical novels and short stories.

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