Thursday, 17 September 2015

Q & A with Jackie Kabler

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1.    Did you always dream of being a writer?

I always loved writing at school – I remember when I was twelve years old being asked for a two-page essay on being stranded on a desert island, and being ridiculed by my English teacher in front of the whole class for handing in ten or twelve pages because I got so carried away with the story (not the best way to inspire a young writer, possibly!). But I didn't think about writing seriously until I was in my thirties, and didn't actually start writing my first novel until I got to my forties. So it took me a while! Now, writing is one of the greatest joys in my life.

2.    Your debut novel The Dead Dog Day will be published in October, what is it about?

It's about a television news reporter called Cora Baxter, who works for Morning Live, a breakfast news programme. When her much-hated boss is murdered, Cora is assigned to cover the story for the show, and ends up getting dragged into the investigation in unexpected ways. The trail of suspects also leads disturbingly close to home. Cora’s arch rival, newsreader Alice Lomas, is behaving very oddly; one of her camera crew seems to be hiding a dark secret; and Justin, her ex-boyfriend, has mysteriously vanished. Alongside all this, Cora is juggling her not-very-successful love life. So it's a novel with a murder mystery at its heart, but there is humour and romance in there too.

3.    What was your inspiration for the book?

I'm now a presenter on shopping channel QVC, but before that I was a journalist for twenty years, mostly in television news. I spent nearly ten years as a reporter on UK breakfast show GMTV, so the book was very much inspired by my time there, and many of the characters are based on people I worked with (I'm hoping this won't get me into too much trouble when they read it!). Almost every event in The Dead Dog Day, apart from the actual murder, is also based on things that actually happened to me during those years. In fact, so many crazy things went on that I probably have enough material for about a dozen books!  

4.    Can you tell us more about the main character(s)?

News reporter Cora Baxter is in her thirties, and very ambitious and hard-working. She has never wanted children, and this has caused issues with some of her relationships – in fact, her latest boyfriend has just dumped her at the start of the novel. Later she meets TV star Benjamin Boland and starts a passionate fling with him – they are very similar in many ways, in terms of career and ambition, but Benjamin is struggling to leave his womanising in the past. And then there is police officer Adam Bradberry, who is leading the murder investigation. Cora feels very drawn to him too, but he is a single dad, and she feels the relationship can never go anywhere because of that. There is also a great supporting cast of Cora’s colleagues and friends.

5.    Where and when do you write your stories?

I write mainly at home, in the smallest bedroom of our house, which I've had converted into an office/dressing room. As for when, it's whenever I can find a spare hour! I work full time in London, which is at least a five-hour round trip commute from our home in Gloucestershire, so on work days there really is no time for any writing. On my days off, I write frantically, trying to fit it in around general domestic stuff, exercise and an attempt at a social life.

6.    What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

Aside from my job and my writing, the other thing I always try to make time for is keeping fit, and over the past year that has mainly taken the form of power walking. I started off doing a ten mile challenge, then a full marathon earlier this year, and next I'm planning to take part in a 100km event, which is basically two and a half marathons, non stop! It's a sleep deprivation and endurance challenge, and it's going to be extremely tough, but I'm quite excited. Most people do it in 24 to 30 hours so hopefully me and the little team I'm doing it with can manage that. When I'm not out training, I like gardening too, which is a little less hard on the body! And I'm an avid reader. I also listen to audiobooks on my long drives to and from work, which is a great way to pass the time!

7.    You are also a TV presenter and reporter, what do you like about these jobs?

There is nothing quite like the buzz of live television. Being a reporter for so many years was amazing as I got to travel the world and covered so many major news stories – the Kosovo crisis, President Clinton’s impeachment, famine in Ethiopia, the Asian tsunami, the Athens Olympics. But I needed a change after twenty years on the road, and my QVC role is actually probably the most challenging job I've had – we can be on air for up to three hours at a time, always live, with no script and no autocue. Plus, I get to spend a large part of my day talking about fashion, make-up and beauty. It's the ultimate girlie job and I absolutely love it.

8.    If you could switch places with a character from a book, who would it be and why?

As a child it would have been one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five…I loved a good mystery even back then! Now, probably somebody like Rebus from the Ian Rankin series. I think I would really have enjoyed being a police officer.

9.    What books have most influenced your life?

Long running series from crime authors have influenced me a lot and made me want to write something similar, in particular writers like Ian Rankin, Patricia Cornwell, Peter James and Tess Gerritsen. I would love to have the talent that they have – the ability to create a cast of characters that readers want to return to time and time again, in book after book.

10.  What are you working on at the moment?

I was lucky enough to sign a three-book deal with the fabulous Accent Press, so I'm now working on book two of The Cora Baxter Mysteries series. It's called The Deadline. That's all I can say at the moment!

11.  What do you enjoy most about writing?

It's such an escape from everyday life. I sometimes sit down intending to write for just half an hour, and three hours later I will still be there, tapping away at my keyboard. I find it very relaxing, and as a person who is always on the go and actually not very good at relaxing, I'm sure it's doing me lots of good!

12.  Can you tell us about your road to being a published author?

I actually started writing The Dead Dog Day when I was working at GMTV, but I didn't really have time to devote to it so it was a slow process. It was originally a very different book, more of a romantic comedy, but it wasn't really working, and when I made a few tentative approaches to agents nobody was interested. Then I left GMTV to work freelance as a newsreader and reporter, thinking I would have more spare time, but things got even busier, so the book was basically put away in a cupboard for about six years. When I joined QVC I dragged it out again, suddenly decided to completely rewrite it as a murder mystery, and finally got it finished a year later. This time, when I very nervously started sending it out again, there was a flurry of interest, and in one completely surreal day I suddenly had an agent and three offers from publishing companies. My agent told me I should go with Accent Press, who had offered me a three-book deal, so days later the contract was signed. I still can't quite believe it, it really is a dream come true.

13. Imagine The Dead Dog Day would be turned into a movie, who would you cast for the main characters?

Ooh, how exciting! It would have to be an all-British cast – maybe Sheridan Smith as Cora, Henry Cavill as Benjamin and Paul Bettany as Adam. Cora’s camera crew would have to be Benedict Cumberbatch, Idris Elba and Martin Freeman, and her friends could be played by some of my favourite Coronation Street actors, like Alison King, Kate Ford and Jane Danson.

14. Pick three authors you want to have dinner with and tell us why.

Ali McNamara and Lindsey Kelk, both amazing authors who I have never actually met but who have both been so unbelievably kind and supportive via Twitter. And then Jo Nesbo, because I love his books but also because he’s really rather gorgeous, and would give us three ladies something nice to look at…!

15. You also worked as a media trainer, can you tell us more about it?

When I was freelance I worked with a few media training companies, teaching groups like town councils and company executives how to deal with the media. But my favourite jobs were with a specialist company working with the Armed Forces. We would travel to places like Canada and Germany to join troops on exercises. I had to get very high level security clearance, including signing the Official Secrets Act. It was fascinating work, which sadly I don't have time to do any more, and it's one of the very few things I miss from my time as a journalist.

16.  Coffee or tea?

Tea. And it has to be weak Earl Grey, with no milk or sugar. Coffee is the most vile drink on the planet, I can't stand it!

17. Paperback or e-reader?

     I’m still a paperback girl, mainly because I want to put the book on a shelf and keep it when I've read it. But I might get an e-reader too one of these days, as I end up bringing so many books on holiday that there isn't enough room for shoes, which is not a good thing. However, knowing me, I'd probably end up buying both the e-book AND paperback versions of every book, so my book shelf doesn’t feel left out, which I guess isn't really the point…

18. Mountains or the sea?

Sea. I spent thirteen years of my childhood living close to the sea in the west of Ireland, and I find being near water incredibly calming. My dream house would be on the shores of a lake. I've already seen it, but I can't afford it…maybe one day!

19. Summer or winter?

Winter. Mainly because of the clothes…I much prefer cuddly jumpers, coats and boots to floaty summer things.

20. Sweet or salty?

Salty. I do love chocolate, but I could live without it. Spicy savoury snacks though would be much harder to give up! Thank you so much for having me on your blog, I've really enjoyed answering your questions.

About the author

Jackie Kabler is a journalist and television presenter, currently working in London for shopping channel QVC. Before that she spent twenty years as a newspaper and television reporter, appearing on GMTV, BBC News, ITV News, CNN and Setanta Sports News. Married to a GP, Jackie lives in Gloucestershire. She signed a three-book deal with Accent Press last year, and her first novel The Dead Dog Day is currently on pre-order on Amazon ahead of publication day on 22nd October.

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