Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.
Hi Roger, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog today!
Could you tell us about yourself?
I’m an environmental consultant, usually working on environmental impact assessments for big projects such as offshore wind farms, power stations and the like, but have always had a love for history as well. Whilst I was studying, my history and reading had to take a back-seat, but now I’m able to spend time on them as well, and it’s great to have them both back in my life.
How long have you been writing?
It sounds a cliché, but I’ve been making up stories and writing bits and pieces down for as long as I can remember. I used to make stories up about the Playmobile sets I had, mixing pirates and grand Victorian ladies in the same tale, to see what happened. As with reading, the writing (and the playing with Playmobile, obviously) stopped when I was studying, but when I came back to the north-east, I joined an adult education creative writing class, mainly as a way to meet people in a new town, and haven’t looked back. I started taking my writing much more seriously as a result, actually dedicating a decent amount of time to it.
Tell us about one of, or your most recent book?
My first novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, is the book I’m most proud of, and I have a lot of affection for it. It started life as a rubbish poem, about how the ghosts of Richard III and Anne Boleyn would have a lot in common (mainly a dislike for Henry Tudor, albeit a generation apart), and how they would get on. As a poem, it was awful, but the concept of historical ghosts in contemporary settings stuck with me, and thanks to NaNoWriMo 2013, I managed to complete the first draft of it as a novel.
Once I had knocked it into shape in the editing process, it followed the ‘lives’ of a range of characters in the Tower of London, headed by Richard and Anne, but also both of their brothers, George, Katherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, and a host of other courtiers. I had so much fun working out who might get along with who, and more entertainingly, who definitely would not.
What do you love about writing?
I love just being part of the writing world. Since 2015, when Kindred Spirits: Tower of London came out, I’ve met so many wonderful and interesting people, and I was thrilled to bits to find out that on the whole it’s such a supportive environment. Crooked Cat, who publish the Kindred Spirits series, hold fairly regular get-togethers, whether via Skype or sometimes in real life, and really encourage everyone to get involved and help each other. That, along with attending workshops, my regular writing groups, or larger events like Swanwick Writers’ School, make the whole thing a real pleasure, because let’s be honest, there are times when the actual writing can feel like an uphill struggle, however much we love our plot and characters…
How do you get inspired/ where do you get your ideas?
I’m generally inspired by places. Although for the first Kindred Spirits book I was actively looking to try and write about Richard III, it was only when I hit upon the setting of the Tower of London that everything began to fall into place. I like to know where my stories are happening, even if the place I use is an amalgamation of many individual places.
To me, there’s nothing better than wandering around an old building or historical site, and trying to get a sense of who has been there before, what they were doing, why they were there, and what they might have been thinking.
Do you have a specific writing process?
I’m currently in the process of changing my process! In the past, I’ve been a bit chaotic, especially at the start, and written a collection of scenes, character explorations, dialogue and the like, without a huge amount of focus. Then, at around 20-30,000 words, I panic, and have to number all the scenes, put them on index cards, and take over the spare room floor to get them into a sensible order. Once that’s in place, it’s a case of adding the linking scenes, tying up subplots and the like.
Going forward, I am determined to plan more. Thanks to a plea on Facebook, I have plenty of new ideas to try, and I’m sure all of them will result in a more streamlined and stress-free approach for my next projects.
I do try to do something every day though, whether it’s actual writing, working on a plan, or even drafting ideas for my blog, just to keep my brain active, so it doesn’t forget how to be creative when the day-job has taken over too much.
What are you currently working on? How long before release?
Just before Christmas, I submitted the third in the Kindred Spirits series, and have heard since the New Year started that my lovely editor, Sue Barnard, has completed her first read-through, so I should be getting edits back on that soon, which is the stage I really enjoy. I’m not great at self-editing, but I love getting feedback from other people.
Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey will be released this summer, completing the current trilogy of the series.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Whales and Strange Stars by Kathy Sharp, for my fiction fix at the moment, and for research, Richard III by Michael Heck. I managed not to read any fiction at all until about July last year, so am making a conscious effort to read more this year – I’ve even signed up to the Historical Fiction Writing Challenge to keep me on track.
Who are your favourite authors?
I love a good dose of historical fiction, so adore the work of Philippa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick and Anne O’Brien in particular. But thanks to taking part in blog tours a lot since last autumn, I’m getting to read a great range of other genres and authors, so am spreading my wings in a literary sense.
Do you have any favourite fictional characters?
I will say Robin Hood here, because whatever your thoughts as to the true historical nature of the actual person, the version most of us know and love (for me, either Kevin Costner or a fox!), is almost certainly fictional. For a purely fictional character, I’ve always felt an affinity to Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Books are power, after all.
Any fun facts about you that you would like to share?
Well, as a historical fiction writer, there cannot be many times you can say you’ve attended the funeral of your leading man, but that’s exactly what I managed to do. In late 2014, I entered the ballot to ‘win’ a place at part of Richard III’s reburial in Leicester Cathedral, and was lucky enough to get a place at Compline, the service where his body was first brought to the Cathedral. I was there first thing for the service which was broadcast on Radio 4, I was at the service where they brought his coffin out for the first time, and then there I was, front row in the Cathedral as it was brought through the great doors. Something I’ll always treasure, mainly because it spurred me on to finally get cracking on editing what became Kindred Spirits: Tower of London.
Jennifer’s books are available at and you can catch up with Jennifer on her WEBSITE or on or