Jane Ryan completed her BA Hons 2/1 in English and French from the University of Sussex which involved a year in Aix-en-Provence and inspired the lead adult character in Missing Dad. It also gave her some rich locations, from Aix itself to the Camargue and Corsica.
She is a Full-time author; her time is divided between getting the first book in the Missing Dad series launched, looking for a 3-book deal for books 2 – 4 which are all written and edited, researching the next book and also spending quite a bit of time as governor at the high school that inspired Missing Dad.
In 2010 she co-won the Wasafiri New Writing prize with her YA short story Minding Romiya – the first time a YA had won. This year she is delighted to have had her YA short story A Bracelet of Bright Hair selected by Momaya Publishing after being entered for their competition themed Treasure. Let us know more about her writing.
What inspired you to start writing?
As a disaffected 13-year old I wrote romantic sci-fi, mainly as a form of escapism from a school where I was struggling. The stories were very popular and made me loads of friends so I guess they served their purpose. After uni I kind of fell into writing advertising copy for the motor industry. It was glamorous and inspired the love of fast cars that populate the Missing Dad books, but the real inspiration came when I quit the advertising business and went to work in same school where I’m now a governor. I saw many teenagers who had been dealt a really bad hand in life but were facing an uncertain future with amazing courage. Some were refugees with no prospect of ever seeing their families again. Others had lived in foster homes for most of their lives. Some were looking after a sick parent and missing hundreds of hours of school. But they got on with things and I also saw how their mates looked out for them. Such remarkable teenagers should be celebrated!
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
Horse mad, I wept buckets over Black Beauty. Adventure crazy, I adored Treasure Island, probably the first YA story ever written! I guzzled Moby Dick, Hornblower and loads of other sea-faring stories. But I also loved the subtlety and wit of Jane Austen and William Thackeray.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
Finding the time! I don’t know how I ever wrote the four Missing books while I was in a job. It’s now so busy getting the series launched and the other three books into print that I end up researching the new series far into the night.
How much research do you do before writing a book?
A huge amount – especially when that involves travelling. As well as using my time in France as a student, I re-visited Paris, Aix and Marseille for Books 2 and 3 and got myself driven along the French Corniche to find out what that thousand foot drop actually looked and felt like. I learned Italian for Book 4, to create a compelling half-English half-Italian teenager with a very dark past. And spent an uncomfortable few days finding out just how dangerous a place Naples is. For the new series, I’m currently delving into the complexities of drones, drone catchers and diamonds in meteors.
What motivated you to write the book Missing Dad: Wanted?
My experience of working with some very brave teenagers in the school and wanting to celebrate their courage and friendships was the motivation. And so the twin themes of courage when something is deeply wrong with your life and looking out for your mates fired the Missing Dad series. In Missing Dad: Wanted we have 16-year old Joe, desperately longing for his missing secret agent father. And we have girlfriend Becks, who comes from an unloving family and instead focuses all her energy and resourcefulness on helping Joe.
Can you tell us more about your latest book Missing Dad: Wanted?
Missing Dad is about a secret agent, Commander Julius Grayling, who has gone missing while working undercover. And it’s about his teenage son Joe, who is missing his dad so badly that he’s failing at school and doing crazy things like driving underage and becoming prime suspect in a hit and run.
And that’s where we find Joe as the novel opens. Girlfriend Becks tells him he’s an idiot but is determined to help him out of this awful mess. Joe’s chance comes in an accidental encounter with the real hit and runner who turns out to be working for a major drugs gang. After an adrenaline-fuelled drive he hands her to the police. And that’s where his real problems – and the clues to his father’s fate – all begin.
Joe finds a dream job advertised on-line as chauffeur to the charismatic and mysterious Monsieur Le Directeur of L’Ētoile Fine Wines. When he goes for a blistering test drive in Monsieur’s golden Bentley Continental and gets offered the job, Joe finally tastes the sweetness of success after feeling like a loser. And as his relationship with Monsieur develops, successive clues tell him that he’s working for the man who was once his secret agent dad’s best friend.
But Joe’s world implodes when he discovers he’s in a job to die for. Handing over that drug runner to the police has started a vendetta against him that could see him in jail or far worse. Set up as a drug runner himself, with gunmen behind him and outside his home, all he can feel is betrayal. He has to find out if Monsieur is behind this or not; this man whom he’s come to see almost as a father.
All Joe’s courage is tested in what follows. And he and Becks are taken to the very edge of despair and death in their search for his missing dad. The first in a 4-part series, Missing Dad: Wanted launches the teenagers on a quest that will take them to some very dark places and some extraordinary friendships.
How did you come up with the idea of writing in the crime thriller genre?
I have a very low boredom threshold. Unless a book grips me from Go, it’s not for me. So the crime thriller genre was a must-have – and feedback from normally reluctant teenage readers has confirmed this was the right route to go. They also love the fact that’s not dauntingly long – just 184 pages. And none of the books is more than 200 pages.
Who are your favourite authors?
Raymond Chandler – I love his laconic, laid-back style and economic prose. Oscar Wilde has long been one of my literary heroes – I once had the joy of directing The Importance of Being Earnest. Hemingway, John Le Carre for The Spy who came in from the Cold and The Constant Gardener, Iris Murdoch for The Sea The Sea, Fay Weldon – The Life and Loves of a She Devil is brilliantly outrageous. But my favourite author of all time is Ian McEwan because of his enormous humanity. He once memorably said “Imagining what it is like to be someone other than oneself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality.”
How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis?
It varies hugely. When I was galloping through the last pages of the last book in the Missing Dad series, I once worked right through the night and into the following morning. Right now I’m writing radio shows for the US launch of Missing Dad this summer. But I’m also developing the new series when I get a spare minute – it might be just a quick scribble of a scene I can see unfolding.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Only write about something or someone you feel very strongly about. I’ve always seen writing as a ‘noble enterprise’ – you must really care. And if you do care, you will enjoy it hugely! Secondly, if you get stuck and you can afford it, hire yourself an editor. Even top-selling authors have editors. Believe me, I needed mine! Try The Writer’s Workshop; you’ll get tough love that will sort you out.
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