I’m really pleased to welcome Jan Selbourne back to my blog! There are the links at the end of this interview to her other visits with me.
Jan Selbourne grew up in Melbourne, Australia. Her love of literature and history began as soon as she could read and hold a pen. Her career started in the dusty world of ledgers and accounting then a working holiday in the UK brought the history to life. Now retired, Jan can indulge her love of writing and travel. She has two adult children and lives near Maitland, New South Wales.
Since your last visit, give us an update on you and what you’ve been up to.
Thank you for having me Eileen. Since my last visit, my book Lies of Gold was awarded the Coffee Pot Book Club 2019 Book of the Year silver medal – historical romance category. It was a complete surprise and I am very honoured. And, in February my fourth book The Woman Behind the Mirror was published.
Tell us about your new publication (part of a series, novel, short story, anthology etc)
The Woman Behind the Mirror is a historical novel set in England and Boston during the early days of the American War of Independence.
Is your new book / project in the same genre
Yes, historical fiction.
Describe your main characters
Young, naïve Sarah Forsythe had stars in her eyes when she eloped to the American colonies, where abandonment, poverty and selling herself to survive await. Utterly degraded, she hides her self-loathing beneath a hard, bitter shell – until she returns to England with documents that could very well kill her.
Neil McAlister, confirmed bachelor, has found his niche working for the prestigious Bank of England – until he meets Sarah. He doesn’t trust her an inch but she’s the only person who can identify the man behind a clever bank fraud.
Marry in haste, repent at leisure is the last thing on Sarah Forsythe’s mind when she and the son of a local minister elope to the American colonies. She wasn’t to know abandonment, misery, poverty and shame would follow. As the colonies rebel against British rule and the siege of Boston worsens, alone and afraid, Sarah hides her desperation behind a hard shell. Conditions worsen, she’s forced to steal and instead of the cash she needs, she finds Bank of England documents. Sensing they might have some value, Sarah protects them through months of deprivation until she finally secures passage home to England. Unknown to her, two men are following, intent on claiming those documents. At any price.
Bank of England fraud investigator Neil McAlister faces the biggest challenge of his career when a woman from Boston demands a reward for returning lost documents to the bank. Then two men with the same name and nearly identical stories arrive in England, each claiming ownership of them. Who is lying? Or are all three accomplices in a plot to swindle the bank? As the obstinate, secretive woman gets under Neil’s skin, he trusts that she was an unwitting witness to the crime of cold-blooded betrayal and treason before the fall of Boston. Now it’s up to Neil to protect Sarah because the traitor wants her dead.
It was as she expected, dark and stripped of all furniture, so she felt her way along the wall until a hand covered her mouth. Her heart thudded with shock then she bit down hard. The grip loosened and she kicked back behind her. Two strong hands swung her around and jammed her face into the wall.
“Move and I’ll cut your throat,” a muffled voice hissed in her ear.
Sarah tried to kick back again but he dodged to one side and threw her to the floor. Winded and terrified she flinched when his knife pressed against her throat.
“Who are you? Answer me!”
“Please,” she begged. “Let me go and I’ll not look back.”
A sharp intake of air. “A woman?”
Sarah was pulled up to face a man shrouded in black and with a scarf covering the lower part of his face.
“Let me go!” she yelled but his grip tightened and now frightened for her life she fought back. Her fingernails clawed at his eyes and when he jerked away her boot lashed into his shin bone. Swearing furiously, he kicked her feet from under her and she landed heavily on the floor.
“Bitch,” he snarled. “If you were a man, you’d be dead.” Within seconds he was gone.
Shaking uncontrollably, Sarah backed into a corner and curled into a ball until the cold and the terrible silence became unbearable. You are so close, and you can’t lie here forever.
Lifting her head, she peered into the dark room before crawling to the alcove where the mahogany desk had stood. Inch by inch, she felt along the floorboards until she found the join. Her fingers moved forward until they found the second join and pushed down. It didn’t move. Stifling a sob, she willed herself to remember the night two men had challenged each other to a duel. She’d burst into this room to find Samuel Fenton on his knees placing a box into the hole. He’d swiftly covered it, spluttering something about dropping his snuff box. She hadn’t so much as glanced at the floor, instead she’d pointed to the salon shouting, “Quick, they’ll kill each other.” Now, she had no idea how to open the hidey-hole. God, it was so dark she couldn’t see a damn thing. Gritting her teeth, Sarah felt the floorboards again. No keyhole. Her eyes closed in despair, why didn’t she bring a hatpin or… Her eyes flew open. Idiot, the knife!
Keeping one finger on the join, she fumbled for the knife in her pocket and pushed it into the crack. Nothing. “Please, please,” she begged silently and dug the knife into the other join. A soft click. Now what do I do? Her fingers gently pushed again, and the other end lifted. Every nerve in her body was screaming to get out now as she lifted the box from its hiding place. Something else was beneath it.
Her fingers probed and picked up a slim leather folder when a noise outside made her freeze. Dear God, he was coming back. Then it went silent. Most likely an alley cat. She pushed the folder into the pocket of her cloak, clutched the box to her chest and, heart pounding loud enough to hear a mile away, she crept down the stairs and into the kitchen. Across the flagstones to the coal chute. “Oh no,” she whispered. There was nothing to help her climb out. Defeated, she slumped down to the floor and put her head in her hands.
It was a scraping noise that roused her. Most likely a tree branch against a window, but wait, how did that brute get in and out? Gripping the knife, she walked beside the walls, touching each boarded window and door and then stopped to listen. Back to the privy where chamber pots were emptied into the sewer outside. The small door was open, its rusty hinges squeaking. Dropping to the floor she crawled through the gap, stepped over the foul-smelling drain and was about to run when a figure loomed in front of her.
Hard hands grabbed her shoulders. “What were you doing in there?”
“Nothing, get away, get away from me!” Jerking away, the box slipped from her grasp and hit the ground with a clatter.
The man grabbed her again. “Slut, answer me or I’ll break your fucking neck.”
Blindly Sarah lashed out at him and her breath caught in her throat when he gave a sickening whoop and staggered backwards to collapse onto the cobblestones.
Oh, dear God. In her panic to get out she’d forgotten the knife in her hand. Her legs were turning to water, she couldn’t move, then a shout from the road.
“What goes on there?” Two nightwatchmen with lanterns were turning into the lane. Dragging air into her lungs, she picked up the box and fled.***
Please tell us about any other accomplishments (other books or publications, awards, events)
My second book, Lies of Gold received the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year Award Silver Medal Historical Romance 2019.
Are you attending any events?
Not at the moment.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a story set in England and Australia 1855. A retired London doctor discovers he and his business partner have been swindled out of their fortunes by the clerks they employed. Worried about the scandal, he begs Metropolitan Police detective Lloyd Harrington to find them, quietly. When evidence reveals the business partner and one of the clerks are travelling to the colony of New South Wales, Lloyd reluctantly agrees to follow. Where a brutal revenge for crimes committed years ago is about to unfold.
With more experiences, what advice would you give a new author?
Research for accurate settings and details, edit often as you write, ask a colleague to read your work as a reader, not as a friend. Another pair of eyes is invaluable. And, don’t give up.
Social media links
Links to other posts about Jan Selbourne