My dear bookish friends!
This week the Jiddy Vardy series (the first book in particular) by Ruth Estevez is on tour with TheWriteReads, and for my tour spot I was lucky enough to do an interview with the author herself – how exciting is that?!
A huge thank you again to Ruth for agreeing to do this interview with me!
Let’s jump right in!
1. Jiddy Vardy is set in Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire, and we get to see the place in the north-east coast of England through Jiddy’s eyes. What made you choose this spot for your story, and why do you know it so well?
Answer: I chose to set Jiddy Vardy in Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire because this is
where Jiddy lived! I was visiting a friend who lived here and on a rainy day, I explored the old second-hand bookshop on Chapel Street that is now a large café and venue. They sold books of local interest and I looked through one called A Rum Do! by Patricia Labistour. There are four pages that mention a dark-haired woman who was involved in smuggling and who had mysteriously arrived in the bay as a child. That set me off thinking and imagining… I know the area well from visiting said friend as well as exploring the coast with my now husband.
2. Tying into that first question, do you feel you prefer to write about places you know well, rather than places you would have to imagine or have never been to?
Answer: I much prefer writing about places I know well rather than those I don’t because place is central to my work, becoming a character in its own right. My novels are mainly set in my native Yorkshire and I will transfer buildings, lakes, valleys, hills – any specific location to another location, but they are real and by knowing them so well, I feel I can share them with the rest of the world. I want to share the glorious, wonderful Yorkshire with the rest of the world!
3. How did you get the idea for Jiddy Vardy?
Answer: I suppose I’ve answered this in question 1. The Jiddy Vardy character is inspired by the few facts I learned about her in the local history book about smuggling that I found in the Old Chapel Bookshop. It is sadly no longer there – but a café and venue. The few facts about a beautiful Italian girl, not from the bay but who became a loyal resident and clever member of the local smuggling ring, inspired me to imagine much more of her story. I also found that hardly anyone had heard about her and that didn’t seem right. We hear about male smugglers and pirates, it was time this real life female smuggler was more widely known.
4. Your heroine Jiddy is (head)strong, independent, and knows what she wants. Are you like her, or is she based on someone you know?
Answer: You describe Jiddy wonderfully, which makes me want to be like her!
Friends say they can seem me in all my main characters, but I think it is their reactions to situations rather than character traits as such that are the resemblance. Or are those the same thing? I tend, without consciously realising it, to put myself into my main character’s shoes. And I have long, wavy hair, even if it isn’t dark!
5. Smuggling is an important part of your Jiddy Vardy series. What made you want to write about that in particular, and did you have to do a lot of research for it?
Answer: Smuggling was intrinsic to Robin Hood’s Bay and Jiddy, so the books
naturally had to be about smuggling. I did do a great deal of research about the
time, as in clothes, food, the whole shebang, and also why smuggling was rife at
this time. This led me to the American War of Independence and then the war
with France. War is expensive, so to pay for it, the government put levies on goods
and taxes rose and rose. Certain items became outrageously expensive. These
started as luxury goods but more essential goods like salt were taxed and I began
to understand why people broke the law and why smuggling became a lucrative
business. I became obsessed in the meaning of crime, what it means to different
people and what really constitutes breaking the law. Of course, throw the
North/South divide into that, and the rich/poor debate and historical fiction
becomes as relevant today as these issues were then.
6. In general, but also in regard to the previous question, how much of Jiddy Vardy is based on true events or rooted in factual history?
Answer: All the smuggling events really happened. I have merely adapted them. There are so many I‘ve found out about that I haven’t had space to use, particularly one regarding the King’s Back tunnel and a pub – that I did initially include, but had to take out. Maybe I will have to write another book to fit these in, after all!
The reasons for smuggling – the wars with America and France are historically correct and provide the motivation for communities like this and also they gave me the opportunity to use characters to highlight the different sides of such crimes. For example, the smugglers, the community and also the soldiers and the consequence of stealing from the government by not paying taxes on goods. The knock-on effect of this tax dodging, is that the soldiers sometimes had to go without ammunition and the correct uniforms – sometimes having summer wear in the freezing winter, for example. Facts provide story lines and motivation. Essential in my eyes.
7. How do you name your characters – do the names have special meanings, are they just names you like, or do you name your characters after people you know?
Answer: The names in the Jiddy Vardy trilogy are all from real people. In other
books, Meeting Coty, for example, these names are real too, as the story is loosely
based on my family on my father’s side. The characters in Erosion and The Monster Belt are all made up and sometimes the names come easily and other times, I really struggle. I certainly did with my two female protagonists in both books. I’m not sure why. If they don’t come immediately, then it can be a problem. You could say that is because I can’t know my characters well enough, but I think it’s because they are very complicated characters with different faces. They don’t know who they are themselves and so, in that case, why should a name come easily? More secondary characters are
often named after people I have known from my childhood. It is my way of making sure they are still with me.
8. Is Jiddy Vardy your first book?
Answer: Jiddy Vardy isn’t my first book. My first novel was Meeting Coty but Jiddy
Vardy was my first approach to be professionally produced. I wrote it first as a screenplay (my background is theatre at television.) Actually, I’m not sure that is true either! At the time, I wrote a TV series on spec and a stage play. But Jiddy Vardy, the screenplay was taken on by an agent which led me to write my first novel, Meeting Coty. So, in that way it was instrumental.
9. Did you always want to become an author, or was there a specific moment in your past that made you realise this is what you want to do?
Answer: I’ve always written. I grew up near Haworth where the Bronte sisters
lived and the little books on show in the Bronte museum, that the young Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne produced, inspired a school friend and I to create our own little books called The Adventures of Ruth and Clara. I also wrote and created my own little books, drawing the characters, creating families and stories for them. As a teenager, I wanted to be an actress which led to writing, co-writing and it all seemed a natural progression to where I am now.
10. Do you take notebooks with you wherever you go and take random notes throughout the day, or do you write only when you actually sit down at your desk with the purpose to write?
Answer: I take notebooks with me wherever I go but I only seem to jot down ideas if I’m on a train say, or in a waiting room, or in bed! My jottings tend to occur in the night, as I’m ready to fall asleep, or when I’ve just woken up, so I have notebooks and scraps of paper scattered around my bedside table. These get transferred to my desk, or another scrap of paper. Or both. I seem to live in ‘Random Paper Note World!’
11. Do you follow a specific writing schedule?
Answer: I don’t follow a specific writing schedule as I have another freelance job
which can take over if I let it. It has busy times of the year as well, so I have to be
flexible, and so, no specific writing schedule! I try to give certain days of the week to writing, but what works best for me, is allocating chunks of time. I work with schools a great deal, so I aim to take the summer for writing and also when I have deadlines. At the moment, I’m starting a new book and I am more relaxed about balancing my two careers. Weekends can also be writing time.
12. Where do you look for inspiration?
Answer: I’m not looking for inspiration at the moment as I have a backlog of ideas
– so the next three separate book ideas are all mapped out. I do tend to get ideas from photographs, images I’ve seen or a snippet of information I’ve read. I keep folders of story ideas and inspiration, so I have a good stock.
13. Do you ever wake up at night with an important idea or dream that you want to write down?
Answer: I often wake up in the night with an idea or dream and that is usually connected to what I am working on. Oh! Jiddy would do that! Jonas would say this! That sort of thing. Solutions often come in the middle of the night. It’s only annoying when it’s an idea about my other job and not my book, though that too is useful.
14. If you hadn’t become an author, what field or job do you think you would be in now?
Answer: If I hadn’t become an author, I would probably involve myself even more
in my job, which is organising reading and writing competitions. This is based at a historic library and I would become more involved there as well, as it’s a fascinating place to be. I volunteer for a local Book Festival Committee, so I can see I may try to do that type of role professionally, or continue my theatre career in some way – or work in or own a bookshop. Like many writers, I dreamed of owning a bookshop. I used to own a campervan named Doris and I’d actually like to travel to remote areas taking books. That is what I would love. Touring the Yorkshire Dales in Doris 2.
15. Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Answer: My tips for aspiring writers would be to write about what interests you and find your voice by writing about what fires you up. Read. Read all sorts of books, fact and fiction. It can take time to find your ‘voice’ so I would say not to be afraid to experiment. Read your work aloud, write like there is no tomorrow, tear it up, don’t be precious, let the words pour out without stopping. Observe, listen. Don’t procrastinate, do it! And when you can’t do it, do something physical – a walk, dance, paint! I hate this question! We all find our own way. Try not to look around at what others are doing. Concentrate on you and your path.
16. Jiddy Vardy – Full Sail is out today (December 2nd)! What can we expect next from you?
Answer: Now the Jiddy Vardy trilogy is done, I am already on my next project. For
over a year, when asked this question, ‘What’s next?’ I’ve answered confidently, A
Ghost Story set in an area of Yorkshire I know extremely well. But this summer, I was drawn back to a novel I wrote years ago but left in a drawer. It’s the follow on in a way to Meeting Coty but definitely a stand alone novel. The main character, Tessa, is working in 1920s Paris in the perfume business, but she has to reexamine her relationships with the other females in her family – her two sisters and her mother. This takes her into rural France and Southern Spain and the family sherry business. Even writing briefly about it here is getting me excited!
17. Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Answer: I’d like to add that our voices are important and that is why writing is
crucial to ourselves and others. We need variety whether that is nationality,
region, class, urban, and rural, physical and emotional, different experiences. We
need characters showing the range of experience.
And I also want to add thank you to you for asking me questions that make me
think about what I do and why I do it. I think we all need to question ourselves
from time to time.
Thank you for this opportunity. x
And that is it! Thank you again so much for doing this interview with me, Ruth, and I hope our readers enjoyed reading it!
Jiddy Vardy – Full Sail, book three in the Jiddy Vardy series is out today (December 2nd), and the series is now complete, so be sure to check it out if you haven’t started it yet!
Thank you all so much for reading, and do let me know if you’ve picked Jiddy Vardy up yet!