Which Books… Evonne Wareham

We have hit the time of the year when all the Choc-lit pros’ books start being published and Evonne is no exception.


Which book do you wish you’d written. 037_©Sian_Trenberth_Photography_PP18-21 (2)

Am I allowed to say anything that hits the top of the best seller lists on both sides of the Atlantic? But seriously, this is difficult as there are so many books that I admire, from many favourite authors. I think I might choose a classic – The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. For those who are not familiar with it, it’s a study of Richard III and the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, conducted as a police inquiry by the fictional policeman who appears in Tey’s mystery stores. It’s such a clever but simple idea, beautifully executed. I think Ricardian scholarship has moved on a bit since it was written, just after the war, and well before the discovery of the grave in the car park, but it is still a fascinating read. It appeals to the academic in me and to my crime writing side.

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

This has to be The Lost Spells by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. The book comprises poems – or spells – and some breathtaking wildlife illustrations accompanying them. The owl on the cover is one of my favourites. I saw Jackie doing a live video of one of her paintings as part of the on-line Hay Festival early in lock-down and knew I had to order the book and its predecessor, Lost Words, from my local indie bookshop.



Which book character/s would you protect from the world?

I’m completely stumped by this one. It would likely be a child or an animal, I guess, but I can’t think of one.

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

I can confidently say that there hasn’t been one for a long time, and when there was, which I cannot remember, it was by accident.  I am a completely escapist reader. I know I am quite unusual in this, but I give tear-jerkers a very wide birth and if anything I’m reading seems to be heading that way, it usually gets consigned to the DNF pile. I’m OK with mayhem, but not with tears. I can cry easily in real life, I want something different from my reading.

Which book would you make your child/ren read.

Whatever took their attention, within reason.  I think the impulse to read is the important thing. I was a voracious reader, encouraged by my mother and grandmother. I also apparently had a taste for Shakespeare by the age of four, so I may have been unusual. 


Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

I have always wanted to ‘translate’ one of the Jacobean plays into a modern setting – one of Webster’s tragedies, for preference. As the plays are incredibly dark, the body count is astronomical, almost everyone ends up dead and there is no Happy Ever After, it would be a big ask to make that into a romantic suspense, so it will probably stay on the wish list forever.

If you could write any genre which one would it be?

I’m very happy writing romantic suspense.  It took a long time and much experimenting for me to find my genre so I have no plans to change, although supernatural elements and maybe time slip, or possibly parallel stories, do appeal, so I’d never quite say never on that score.

If you could redesign any book cover which one, would you choose?

I’m not sure about re-designing. I’ve been very happy with the cover for all my own books. I do have a hankering after the lovely classic covers that the British Library uses for its reissues of Golden Age crime, especially the ones with trains, but I’d have to write the sort of book that went inside them for that. My WIP features an Egyptologist, so it will be interesting what might go on the cover for that one, if and when I finish it. And provided it gets accepted, of course.  

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

I’m not sure about life lesson, but a book that I can pinpoint for changing my life is The Reef, by Nora Roberts. I read it when I was trying to find a genre that I wanted to write, after many years of experimenting. It’s a classic American romantic suspense – from one of the acknowledged queens of the genre.  First published in 2008, that book is slightly dated now, I think, but she continues to be one of my favourite authors, both for these and her supernatural and  J D Robb books. When I read The Reef it was a light bulb moment –  ‘Can I do this?’ It turned out that, with the right application of effort, I could.

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

All my choices are books I have been nursing on my TBR pile. There isn’t going to be a holiday, but they may very well be a Christmas present to myself – when I am not writing my own, that is.

Say Goodbye – It’s the last of a trilogy about FBI agents bringing down a creepy cult by another of my favourite romantic suspense writers, Karen Rose.

The Venetian Legacy – Crime in Venice from Welsh ex-pat Phillip Gwynne Jones. Reading his books is like being there.

Mr Dodge, Mr Hitchcock, and the French Riviera: The story behind To Catch a Thief  by Jean Buchanan  I’m calling this one research – apparently it’s about the book that gave rise to the famous film with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, and as it is about the Riviera, it’s irresistible.


thumbnail_A Villa in Portofino by Evonne WarehamFrom chambermaid to “got it made” …
When hotel cleaning temp and poetry academic Megan Morrison finds out she’s inherited an Italian villa and small fortune from her estranged great-great aunt Olwen, she doesn’t quite know how to react. That is, until she travels to Portofino to see Il Giardino delle Rose for herself. Then she knows exactly what she has to do: live there!

Enchanted by the beauty of the house and gardens, fascinated by the history, and more than a little intrigued by handsome hired landscape gardener Gideon West, Megan can immediately see the villa’s potential as a dream home.

But having long-lost relatives sometimes means long-lost secrets – and it seems that Olwen had plenty of those. Could these secrets and a jealous obsession be powerful enough to drive Megan out of the house that she’s already fallen in love with?






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Which Books… Jan Baynham

Jan is an established Choc-Lit author who has been counting down to the release of her next book, teasing us with photo locations in her novel.


Which book do you wish you’d written. RNA-89

One of my favourite books, and one I wished I could have written myself, is Letters To The Lost by Iona Grey. It’s a beautifully written love story, poignant and heart-wrenching, with two narratives running parallel – one set in wartime and the other in the present. It has all the ingredients I love to keep me turning the pages. I am full of admiration for the author’s brilliant characterisation and world-building. I think it would make a wonderful film, with skilful cinematography of scenes of London in the Blitz enhancing the developing love affair of Stella and Dan and then moving seamlessly to present day London for Jess and Will’s story.

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

There are so many wonderful book-covers but one I particularly like is the cover design of Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin, published by Honno. The cover is silky smooth to touch and the title is raised in relief. The way the cover designer has formed the image of a human head and shoulders from the foliage and branches of a tree seems very apt for a novel where the author has drawn heavily on nature, witchcraft and ancient folklore.  



Which book character/s would you protect from the world?

Another Honno book, Not Thomas written by Sara Gethin, has a five-year-old narrator. We are taken right into the world of Tomos where he is badly neglected by his young mother. He observes things no child should ever have to witness and must fend for himself. I would love to nurture the little boy’s naïve innocence and shield him from the human depravity he encounters.

Which was the last book that broke your heart.

Although I’m pleased to say, there was a satisfying conclusion to Not Thomas in the form of hope for him, that little boy stayed with me long after I’d finished reading the book. The story takes the reader on a roller-coaster emotional journey and I’d shed tears along the way.

Which book would you make your child/ren read.

I couldn’t make anyone read something they didn’t want to but I know, especially from my experience as a teacher, that by recommending books with passion and enthusiasm this will often result in books you love being read by others, too. One such book is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s beautifully written and illustrated with line drawings with an important message about the gift of giving and the acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.


Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

Having always loved Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, I would love to try to rewrite the story as a modern-day novel. I like the idea of writing a story involving forbidden love, a secret marriage and the subsequent tragedies between members of two families at war with each other.

If you could write any genre which one would it be?

I’ve always fancied trying scriptwriting with the purpose of improving the structure of my novels. I think it would compact a story idea and refine it, helping me understand what makes the story strong. It would also help me with plot, keeping the story tighter.  

If you could redesign any book cover which one, would you choose?

While holidaying on the stunning Greek island of Kefalonia, I read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the much-acclaimed novel by Louis de Bernières, twenty-five years after it was first published in 1994. My copy was an early one and the blue and white patterned cover was very much of its time. If I was redesigning it now, I would include images of beautiful Greece with a look back to the wartime occupation of the island as a backdrop. I would have to include an image of the beloved mandolin which was Antonio Corelli’s prized possession.

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

My debut novel, Her Mother’s Secret, taught me to be resilient, and not take rejection personally. I was fortunate that soon after submitting, I started to receive helpful feedback from publishers. I always acted on their advice and knew that I was getting closer to my dream of becoming a published author. I was a late starter, only beginning to write fiction, when I retired, so I knew if I kept going, I would get there.

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

All being well, I’m going on holiday to Madeira in two weeks’ time. Three book I shall be taking with me are:

  1. The Girl with the Silver Clasp by Juliet Greenwood
  2. Summer of Hopes and Dreams by Sue McDonagh
  3. The Runes of Destiny by Christina Courtenay



How far would you go to save the person you loved the most?

It’s 1941, and Annie Beynon has just become the first stable girl for the most powerful family in her Welsh village. Whilst her gift for working with horses is clear, there are some who are willing to make her life very difficult on the Pryce estate, simply for being a girl.

There are other – secret – ways Annie is defying conventions, too. As the war rages, and when Edmund, the heir to the Pryce fortune, leaves to join the RAF, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s secret is exposed. That is, until she makes a shocking decision.

It’s 1963 before Annie is able to face up to the secret she chose to keep over twenty years before. Justifying that decision takes her to Normandy in France, and an outcome she could never have expected …come at once?





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Meet The Family – Jan Baynham

Today, I have caught up with Jen Baynham to talk to her about her long awaited novel Her Sister’s Secret which is set in the summer of ’66.


Hi Jan and welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” I’m so excited to get to sit down and chat to another member of the Ruby-Lit family and learn about the summer of 1966.

What inspired you to write “Her Sister’s Secret?”

I have always been fascinated by long-held family secrets and skeletons lurking in cupboards. Many years ago, I was told of one such secret that only came to light when someone I knew was applying to go to college. Her Sister’s Secret was inspired by the story that has always stayed with me. The ‘what ifs?’ began and I wondered how the girl felt when she found out. How would she react? What would she think about the people who had kept her in the dark for almost eighteen years? As with all my novels, I wanted it to tell two stories so that I could explore that special bond between mothers and daughters and how the actions and decisions of one impact on the other. In 1966, my character, Jennifer Howells, reacts badly to finding out that, in her eyes, she has been living a lie and that her life is a sham. At first, she rebels and becomes a wild child unrecognised by her parents. She puts her life on hold until she endeavours to find answers and heal the wounds that fractured her family back in 1947. Having lived all her life in rural mid-Wales, Jen’s journey to find the truth takes her to first to the city of Cardiff and then to Sicily.

What made you decide to submit with Ruby Fiction?

The manuscript for my first novel was also with three other publishers when I received the offer of a three-book deal with Ruby Fiction. Their slogan, ‘Stories That Inspire Emotions!’, appealed to me and I knew my family stories would fit their remit. I contacted the others to let them know that I was going to accept Ruby Fiction’s offer and each one kindly replied to wish me well.

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

To write often and every day if possible. That piece of advice is something I still find difficult to follow even now. If I don’t, it always takes me longer to get back into my writing.

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

If I hadn’t begun writing when I retired, perhaps I would have taken up painting or pottery again. I studied art and specialised in pottery and ceramics and although I’ve dabbled in painting a little over the years, I pottery-4286961_640haven’t done any clay-work. I don’t have a kiln or access to one since giving up teaching ceramics. I joined a small writing group at a local library as soon as I gave up my job in education and from then on, I haven’t looked back. Alongside my writing, I enjoy reading and Pilates. I also co-organise Cariad, our local Chapter of the RNA.

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

I’ve always regarded rejections as something to learn from. Once they moved from being general comments with no indication of the reason for the rejection to ones where details were given, I felt I was making progress. With ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, my debut novel, I got a great deal of helpful feedback from one publisher after finally being rejected by a submissions panel. I then used those suggestions for improvement as a list of things to work on before submitting again, and I received the offer from Ruby Fiction shortly afterwards.

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

people-4050698_640I would say to go ahead and start writing. Join a group and enjoy the support and friendship of fellow writers. It’s a lonely business on your own. The next thing I did was to join a writing class at the local university run by a published author. I would also recommend becoming active on social media, especially Twitter.

Do you have any writing routines or rituals if so what are they?

Not really, apart from reading through what I’ve written the day before. I always try not to finish mid-scene and if I can end with a cliff-hanger or something for the reader to wonder about, all the better.

Which authors inspired you to write?

11253741Rosie Thomas is one. I have enjoyed many of her novels but ‘The Kashmir Shawl’ stands out for me. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to write like that.

Another author is Honno writer, Judith Barrow, whom I met not long after I started writing a novel, and she has become a supportive writing friend ever since. In her Howarth trilogy and its prequel ‘A Hundred Tiny Threads’, I have the perfect models for creating characters who are true to the times in which they live.

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

Now there’s a wonderful thought. I took ages to pick these actors, but I had great fun choosing these:

karen GillanRose has auburn hair and sage-green eyes and in the end, I decided on Karen Gillan, the Scottish actress and film maker. She played Amy Pond in Doctor Who, as a companion to the 11th doctor played by Matt Smith. More recently she portrayed Ruby Roundhouse in the Jumanji film series (2017-2019).


Jennifer (Jen) has long dark hair and brown eyes. To play her, I chose Jenna Coleman for her early roles as Jasmine Thomas in the ITV’s Emmerdale and Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who.

Michele_RiondinoMarco was the hardest to cast. In my head, he has black hair with brown eyes and an olive skin. There were so many handsome actors who could fit the bill but, in the end, I chose Michele Riondino who plays the young Montalbano in the detective series set in Sicily. What a coup that would be for my story!

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

My third novel is planned and partially written. It’s another mother daughter story with a secret at its heart. It’s set at the beginning of World War 2 and the second story is twenty years later in 1959. This time, the contrasting setting is Northern France, an area I know well.

More About Jan

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 course at the local university and began to submit stories for publication to a wider audience. In October 2019, her first collection of short stories, ‘Smashing the Mask and Other Stories’ was published.

Following a novel writing course, Jan began to write her first full length novel. She loves being able to explore characters in greater depth and delve into their stories. She writes about family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband.


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sister's secret

How far would you travel to find the truth?
It’s the 1960s and Jennifer Howells is a young woman with the world at her feet, just on the cusp of leaving her Welsh village for an exciting life in the city.

Then the contents of an inconspicuous brown envelope turn Jennifer’s world upside down. The discovery leaves her spiralling, unsure who she is. Overnight, Miss Goody Two Shoes is replaced by a mini-skirted wild child who lives for parties and rock’n’roll.

But Jennifer’s experience with the excesses of sixties’ culture leaves her no closer to her true identity. She soon realises she’ll have to travel further – first to Cardiff, then across the ocean to Sicily – if she wants to find out who she really is …  


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