January Newsletter – Happy New Year – Writing Resolutions?

I’m not much of one for the traditional sort of New Year’s Resolutions, they always seem so mealy-mouthed and full of self-denial.  Giving things up, chastising oneself into doing things we think we ought – it’s all fodder for guilt a little later in the year when we haven’t done as well as we had hoped to.  But I do think it’s a good time for a bit of reflection and a look over the year just gone and towards the one beginning, both personally and professionally; to take a moment to be thankful for what one has achieved and gained, mourn what is lost, and make a few plans, or set a few goals for the coming year.

So, fellow writers, what are you pleased to have achieved in 2011, and what would you like to get done in 2012?  Here’s my list.  Do leave yours in the comments if you feel so inclined…


Published To Touch the Stars to very nice reviews and celebrated with an excellent party.

Took part in some fantastic events around the country, from Worksop to Wimbledon, with brilliant authors such as Penny Vincenzi, Jojo Moyes, Adele Parks and Fiona Walker.

Wrote a six week novel writing course and started teaching this online for The Writers’ Workshop.

Wrote my third novel, The Darker Side of Love, a contemporary inspired by Come for Dinner, the serial I wrote for The Lady magazine.

Wrote initial outlines for four television projects.


Publish The Darker Side of Love and plan some exciting publicity happenings to coincide with this (watch this space…!)

Finish my fourth novel.  This is an interesting one for me as it’s the first novel that I’ve written that contains any significant amount of first person writing, so that’s a new challenge.  I need to do some reading of first person viewpoint to really hone what I’m trying to do with it.

Send out and continue to develop the television drama ideas I’ve been working on.  This is my big goal for this year really, in terms of new things – to make some proper headway in this direction.

Continue my teaching work (starting with two new courses in January and March – booking info here: http://bookwhen.com/writersworkshop).

Continue to build up my journalism and expand the number of publications that I write for.

And I feel like there should be another ‘new’ goal in there as well – some kind of new project or skill, though on the other hand, I have to fit having a baby in there as well, so maybe that’s enough to be getting on with…

Do let me know what you’re working on and hoping to get done this year!


The Darker Side of Love

I’m really happy to be able to show you the cover for my new novel, The Darker Side of Love.  It’s out on 16th February and is about friendship, husbands, lovers, families – all the interwoven, complex relationships that form the basis of our lives.  Secrets, lies, heartbreak… all set against the backdrop of credit crunch London.  Cover below – do leave a comment or send me a message and let me know what you think.

Lies: we all tell them.

To protect those we love, to disguise failure, to hide disappointment. To mask betrayal, or deceit. But what happens when those lies start to catch up with us? When our lives begin to be shaped by the lies of others?

The late ‘noughties’. A global recession looms. A group of old friends, all leading outwardly successful, interesting lives. All in apparently loving, secure relationships. Yet all, in some way, lying to those closest to them, concealing secret worries, jealousies, desires. This group of friends is about to discover that the truth won’t stay buried for ever…

Welcome to the darker side of love.


Newsletter – July 2011


This newsletter comes to you from my new home by the seaside – since I last wrote I’ve moved house, which is one of the reasons I’ve been a bit quiet recently… We’re now ensconced in Hove, and absolutely loving it.  Partly because living five minutes walk from the beach allows for evenings spent like this…

Also, I’ve been head down getting my third novel written, and am happy to tell you that it’s finished – just working on some edits now and then it’s there.  Title and cover still aren’t quite finalised, but as soon as they are I’ll put them up here.  Other than that…


Well, Luxury is launching a new imprint by Norwegian publishers Cappelen Damm.  It’s the first title of their new imprint ‘Strawberries and Champagne’.  Here’s the lovely cover they’ve given it.


I had a bit of an amazon binge recently, and I also found a load of unread books when I moved house, so my current ‘to read’ pile is bigger than usual.  It contains:

The Spoiler by Annalena McAfee – set in the late ’90s, this is about two female journalists and sounds sparky and sharp.

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly – just finished this, and it’s great. Atmospheric, creepy, beautifully written.

After the Party by Lisa Jewell – I loved Ralph’s Party when it first came out, so can’t wait to see what Jewell has done with her characters.

A Dry Spell by Clare Chambers – Chambers is a seriously under-rated writer – do check her out if you haven’t discovered her yet.

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffery Archer – Oh God, I know, but I have a no-so-secret soft spot for Archer. No one plots like him.

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe– Set in 1950s New York in a publishing company – this is what I’m going to read next.

The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets by Sophie Hannah – I’ve always been a fan of Sophie Hannah’s, so look forward to discovering her short stories.

There’s more lurking in my shelves, but that’s my list for the next little while… do let me know if you’ve read and enjoyed any of them.


Warrior, the forthcoming cage fighting (or ‘mixed martial arts’) movie starring Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte.  I can’t say I’m a cage fighting afficionado, but I’ve recently joined a gym owned and run by a former champ, where alot of mixed martial arts goes on, and am kind of fascinated by it.  I also loved The Fighter… oh, who am I kidding?  It’s all about Tom Hardy, as these photos will attest…


At Wimbledon Bookfest – on 5th October I’ll be at The Lighthouse with Penny Vincenzi and Adele Parks for a ‘Glittery Literary Lunch‘.   Tickets cost £30 which is for a two course lunch (I’ve eaten there lots of times and the food is delicious) and a glass of wine.  The event starts at 12.30 and there’ll be plenty of opportunity to chat and ask us any questions you like.


True Grace‘s roomsprays – they have the most wonderful scents that don’t smell anything like ‘air fresheners’.  I’ve got Moroccan Rose and it’s so lovely I want to wear it as a perfume.  Am also dying to try the Hyacinth and Apple Blossom, and Library, Secret Garden, Velvet… And their room diffusers… Delightful.

Have a lovely summer and see you next time…


Newsletter – April 2011

Hello!  And what an amazing April it’s been – let’s hope this isn’t the end of the long sunny days… This is what I’ve been up to since I last wrote.


To lots of lovely readers at Girls’ Night Out events in Basingstoke and Worksop.  Thanks so much to all of you who came along and bought books, drank wine, ate cupcakes and got make-overs!

I had a great time at both events and I hope you did to.  Here’s a little write up and photo about from the Basingstoke Gazette about that event.


And loving, Leaving the World, by Douglas Kennedy, one of my all time favourite writers.  It’s the story of a woman called Jane Howard (Kennedy writes women impressively well) who vows, on the night of her 13th birthday, that she will never get married or children, and how she later discovers that life doesn’t always turn out as you planned.  Douglas Kennedy does that unusual thing of writing beautifully within the framework of a cracking good story, and his novels are hugely varied in style and topic.  Do check him out.


Like a demon, trying to get my third novel into shape and deliver it to my editor.  This is always the scary (and fun) stage of writing a book for me, when I’m pulling it all together and hoping that I can pull off what I set out to do.  I don’t have a finalised title for it quite yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as I do.


Some of you may remember a piece I wrote in Red recently, about the often-painful process of trying to buy a house and my belief that houses find their owners, not the other way round.  It was written after I’d lost out on a house that I’d falled in love with, in Hove.  Well, not long after that piece was published, we had an offer accepted on another, even better house, in the very same street!  We got the keys last week and will be moving in before too long.  It’s a short walk to the beach, and I can’t wait.

As a result of my imminent move…


…Around junk shops and antiques fairs for furniture, having realised that the only pieces I own are a bed, a dining table and chairs, two sofas, a bright pink velvet armchair and – actually, I think that’s it.  And about 50 boxes of books, which I suppose could be fashioned into coffee tables and shelves if I really get stuck…  I had a great day pottering around Ardingly Antiques Fair, and plan to go back in July, and have become completely addicted to the Ebay app on my iphone.  I recently bought an antique printers’ tray like this one, which I plan to mount on the wall to display my little trinkets and bits and pieces in.

And, like most of us, on Friday…


…The Royal Wedding!  I had a great time drinking English Rose tea and eating cucumber sandwiches at The Tea Cosy in Brighton, a suitably Monarchist themed tea room stuffed full of memorabilia.  I spent the morning watching proceedings on TV and casting a beady eye over the ladies’ headgear, on behalf of Violet.  Here’s what I think she’d feel were the best and worst of the hats on parade.


Elegant and classy, the hat provided a stylish twist without overwhelming her.

Violet would have adored the colour and shape of this 20s style cloche hat, which looked fresh and just right for Princess Letizia of Spain’s delicate frame.

It’s divided opinion, but I think Violet would definitely have approved of this Poppy-like flash of brilliant colour that Miriam Clegg is exotic and striking enough to carry off with aplomb.

Charlene Wittstock, Prince Albert of Monaco’s fiancee, looked stunning and extremely elegant in this wide-brimmed white hat.  Bit of a masterclass in understatement,this.

But my absolute favourite, both outfit and hat, was this, from Princess Maxima of the Netherlands.  The nude on blonde palette!  The unbelievably sexy Mad Men-esque Va-va-voom of it, while still managing to look Royal Wedding appropriate!  The extremely cool name!  And most of all, the TURBAN!  Princess Maxima, Violet Cavalley applauds you.


Oh dear, there were some shocker as well…

Top of the list of misguided choices – Beatrice and Eugenie.  I’m normally a huge fan of Vivienne Westwood, but can’t really imagine what she was thinking dressing Eugenie in this matronly, milkmaid-y number.  It’s the hats that are making Violet turn in her grave though.  Attention-seeking rather than simply striking, they’re too big,too showy and simply too silly for words.

I like the vivid blue of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s dress, but the gloves tip it into OTT territory for me, and the hat drew attention to her nose – she looked uncomfortable in it.  And as Violet would tell you, the first rule of hats is that you must wear them, not they you.

Sally Bercow looked as though she had made little effort.  Her hat was fine, if uninspired, but the dress and amount of flesh on show made the whole effect look a bit cheap.

What a missed opportunity by Samantha Cameron.  Gorgeous teal ruched dress, but no hat?!  VC is not impressed…

Have a lovely May, and I’ll be back at the end of the month

Jessica xx

Girls’ Night Out – Worksop Library

On 26th April I’ll be appearing at Worksop Library as part of a Girls’ Night Out event with four fabulous writers of top notch women’s fiction – Fiona Walker, Jojo Moyes, Claire Irwin and Amanda Brookfield.  We’ll be chatting about our books and writing, and there’ll also be the chance to get make-up tips and treats from The Body Shop.

Tickets are just £3 including a glass of wine (and I hear there might even be cupcakes on offer…)

Get your tickets from Worksop Library.

New 6 week online novel writing course

I’ll be teaching another 6 week novel writing course, entirely online, starting 4th June. Booking is now open and you can reserve your space here.  The first course, which ran at the beginning of the year, was a huge success, and all the students made real progress in their writing during the course.

The course is suitable for complete beginners, and you don’t need  to have any experience in novel writing to take part – just plenty of enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard on your ideas… We cover everything from how to build and develop characters and a compelling story to how to edit your work.  Each week you’ll get a full set of course notes including a homework exercise that you’ll complete and receive individual feedback on.  There’s also a private forum where you can get to know your fellow students, discuss the course and ask me anything about the course or writing as we go along.

Full details of the course and an introductory video can be found on the Writers’ Workshop site here.  Hope to see you there!

Griffith Park/Sainsbury’s competition

The exclusive Sainsbury’s competition to win one of ten bottles of Griffith Park sparkling wine PLUS a signed copy of my first novel, Luxury, is now up and running.  One lucky winner will also receive a gift card for a top high street shop loaded with £100 to spend on a swanky new outfit (or maybe even a posh hat!).

The competition is open until 31st May.  To enter, just follow this link, answer the simple question and enter your details.

Good luck!

To Touch the Stars (and The Sun…)

From The Sun, March 18th.

“Violet’s hats are worn by the rich and famous all over the world, thanks to the milliner’s talent, and lifetime of grafting.  Violet is now 60, and needs a successor – but who will it be?

When a man appears saying he is her brother she knows life will never be the same again and the secrets she’s struggled to conceal will come tumbling out.

A dazzling and delightful tale.”

Review – Take a Break – Fiction Feast

“Born into a gypsy family, May Violet Cavalley doesn’t have the best start in life.  Her father is a violent drunk, her mother won down by children and poverty.  One terrible night, her father murders her first ove.  May vows to testify against him – but as he is led away, he whispers a warning: ‘Blood betraying blood begets blood.’

Determined to improve life for her and her baby, Violet, as she now calls herself, exploits her gift for hat creation.  Cavalley’s is born and all she touches turns to gold.  But dark forces are at work.  In the lives of her five children, tragedy strikes and Violet wonders if she is cursed.  Now, gathered for her 60th birthday and with time running out as Violet’s illness takes hold, her children need urgent answers.

If long-haul travel’s on the cards, Jessica Ruston’s novel will make you yearn for delays!”

Newsletter – March 2011

Hello and welcome to my second newsletter.  Suddenly it feels like Spring is properly on its way, doesn’t it?  The clocks have gone forward, the evenings are getting lighter and the bleakness of winter is fading… Here’s what I’m up to this month.


The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. I’m hopelessly addicted to cookbooks – I read them in bed – and, while this isn’t really a recipe book (though it does contain some) – it’s one of the best foodie books I’ve bought for ages.  Segnit takes 99 popular ingredients and works her way through flavour combinations for them, incorporating recipes, suggestions, history and bits of narrative as she does so.  It’s the perfect book to dip into when you’re short on inspiration or heading to the farmer’s market.

Read More