Jackie Fraser – Q&A

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I was on holiday in Dumfries and Galloway, where the book is set, and thought the string of little towns along the A75 was rather charming and would make a good setting. I wanted to write about someone who has to start again, later in life, and I wanted to use lots of romantic novel tropes to write something quite light, but also with some real truths about aging, relationships, and opportunities.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
1. Tell us a little about The Bookshop of Second Chances.
About the Book
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
My background is in publishing, so although the sort of thing I worked on (annual food and accommodation guides) is very different to fiction, the time frames and so on are similar, and I had a reasonable grasp of what to expect. I absolutely loved being edited, which I didn’t know would be the case, as I know lots of people find it difficult. But no one will ever pay as much attention to your words as an editor does, it’s great.
Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance.
Ooh, tricky. Maybe Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield, or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Or I’d cheat and have a Georgette Heyer omnibus edition.
About the Author
Jackie Fraser is a freelance editor and writer. She’s worked for AA Publishing, Watkins, the Good Food Guide, and various self-published writers of fiction, travel and food guides, recipe books and self-help books since 2012. Prior to that, she worked as an editor of food and accommodation guides for the AA, including the B&B Guide, Restaurant Guide, and Pub Guide for nearly twenty years, eventually running the Lifestyle Guides department.   She’s interested in all kind of things, particularly history, (and prehistory) art, food, popular culture and music. She reads a lot, (no, really) in multiple genres, and is fascinated by the Bronze Age. She likes vintage clothes, antique fairs, and photography. She used to be a bit of a goth. She likes cats.

I barely plan at all. I basically make up some people and put them in a room to see if they’ll kiss. Then I work out why that might be a problem. (This is not one hundred percent true of course – generally I begin with a situation, and then ask questions about how that situation might play out. My books don’t have tons of plot, they’re mostly talking.)
It’s about Thea, a woman in mid-life whose life has collapsed. She loses her job, and then discovers that her husband’s been sleeping with a friend of theirs, pretty much in the same week. Luckily for her, she also learns she’s inherited her great-uncle’s house in the Scottish Lowlands, and his collection of books. She goes up to sort out her inheritance and meets lots of interesting new people, including Edward, aristocratic bookshop owner, and his estranged brother, Charles. Shenanigans ensue.
That’s a good question! I’m not sure, I’ve done a couple of quite in-depth interviews and they’ve covered most things. Questions about process are interesting because all writers seem to write in different ways, I always like to hear what other writers have to say about editing, for example, because I’m an editor as well as a writer. I could talk about editing (of my own work and other people’s) for hours. I like questions where I can bang on about my Views, i.e. that Intense Male Protagonists would be annoying in real life, and that the things in books that are autobiographical would surprise most people because they’re the small things not the big things. This doesn’t really answer your question, does it. I expect I will think of the perfect answer as soon as I’ve sent this back.
Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving.
The weirdest thing is the difference between someone reading a bunch of restaurant descriptions you’ve written and an actual book that contains some of your real thoughts, even if they’ve been given to made-up people. I still find the idea that thousands of people I’ve never met (some of them in other countries!) have read my actual words, extremely bizarre.
2. What inspired the book?
I read a lot, of course! I like cooking, and eating, and dancing. And my partner and I spend a lot of time climbing over fences to look at standing stones. That’s my favourite thing. We’re off to Aberdeenshire in September to do exactly that and I am very much looking forward to it.
4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that surprised you?
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from…
Jackie Fraser’s novel, The Bookshop of Second Chances was published by Simon & Schuster on 2 September 2021.

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