Writer profiles

    Read on for in-depth chats with Vintage Script writers...our first writer to be profiled is Janis Pegrum-Smith. Three of Janis' short stories—One of the Family, The Race and The Blacksmith's Wife—have been published in Vintage Script. She has gone on set up Wilton End Publishing (www.wiltonendpublishing.com) with her husband Nicholas, and has recently published her novels More Than Gold and Marigolds In Her Hands.

     Janis Pegrum-Smith

    How did your interest in writing start?
    It is very difficult to say how my interest in writing began as, ever since I have been able to write, I have always written stories and poetry—despite being dyslexic but I was extremely fortunate to have a teacher who stayed behind after school every night to teach me to read. Once I overcame the handicap, I was off.

    My parents are both avid readers and the house was always full of books, so I read…but I also wrote. So, I guess I would say I was born with an interest in writing

    Alongside my lifelong love of literature and writing, a passion for history has run in parallel—hence my writing is predominantly historically based; I have this insatiable need to recreate moments of historical interest and attempt to immerse the reader in “how it was” as accurately as possible.

    Tell us about your career as a writer before you were published by Vintage Script
    Before I was published in Vintage Script I wrote a fair number of things, but my self-confidence was exceedingly low, so I did not seriously pursue publication. I wrote my first novel when I was at school—luckily it is long lost!


    I completed my second novel The Wicked Ways of Men when I was 20, just after my daughter was born. It was a wartime romance between and S.O.E. agent and a Hollywood heart throb, based on Errol Flynn. Friends and family read it but I did not seek to try and find an agent or publisher for it.


    I then wrote, To Tame The Hawk, another romance, set in Ireland—where I was lucky enough to be living at the time. It is a contemporary story of a writer/artist  trapped in a terrible marriage who falls in love with a troubled, enigmatic American falconer, who lives in his family’s tumbled down, ancestral home—very Emily Brontë.


    Shortly afterwards I attended a screen writing course at my local college and adapted To Tame The Hawk into a film script, and then went on to write the screenplay De Sade which was a real life account of the truth behind the infamous Marquis De Sade. An actor friend became my agent for that, and we naively offered it to a few prominent actors at the time; we received some very kind letters—but no serious interest. It was placed on Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street. com where it achieved a huge amount of extremely positive feedback.


    I then wrote a three episode period drama set in the late 1700’s called The Lovers, The Devil and The King of Cups and this was optioned by the BBC, but was dropped with a change of policy. From this I was invited to become involved with writing for EastEnders, but a house move and circumstance meant I was unable to take it up.


    I then wrote another romantic fiction novel Marigolds in Her Hands, which I sent to Mills and Boon – but they decided it wasn’t really for them.


    Sculpt came next, a very macabre, black comedy about a failing young artist who wants to be as famous as his sculptor grandfather…it was a send up of the absurdity of the art world inspired by a discussion I heard on Damien Hurst. This was well received on Trigger Street.com and has been in development with a film company for a couple of years…but  one soon discovers the movie business is a very slow engine. I then had the huge fortune of attending the great Robert Mckee’s Story lectures when he came to London; an invaluable, if not massively intensive, three days I will never forget.


    Unfortunately, great turmoil in my personal life caused me to down pen and not write for eight years—I attempted a few short stories but nothing flowed. Then my life itself became a novel as I met, and fell in love with, the most incredible man I had ever met—my twin soul. His great love and belief in me not only rebuilt my life, but gave me the confidence to write again. Having read some of my work, his belief in me was so great that he offered to support me so I could write full-time—the first short story I wrote at that point was One of The Family which was published by Vintage Script—oh, and reader, I married him.

    What have you gone on to do since you were published in the magazine?
    After One Of The Family appeared in Vintage Script magazine, I was very lucky to see my next two stories appear in the magazine too—The Race, the tale of Fen speed skater Larman Register’s great race against a train in the late 1800s; and, The Blacksmith’s Wife, a simple period love story inspired by a camping trip to the Suffolk village of Darsham.


    I also had articles published in Writers’ Forum magazine and The New Writer magazine. Though most of the past year has been taken up with writing More Than Gold, a novel set during the Klondike gold rush of 1897. Although it attracted a lot of interest from publishers and agents, I found the more I got to know about the publishing world, the less inclined I was to hand over my manuscript. To this end, my husband and I took the decision to begin our own independent publishing company, Wilton End Publishing, and published More Than Gold ourselves on 22 March. And we’ve just published Marigolds In Her Hands under my romantic fiction penname Demelza Darcy with To Tame The Hawk to follow later this year.

    What’s your writing routine—if you have one!
    Years ago I used to crave a writing routine, having to snatch moments in which to write between being a mother, running a home and work. How lucky I am now to be thus blessed. My children are now grown, and my darling husband, Nicholas, facilitates and encourages my writing completely.

    Writing is very much 24/7 for me now. I tend to work to the rhythm of Nicholas’ shifts, blocks of four days that go 6am to 3pm and then 3pm to 11pm.

    Nicholas also works as my editor and we always seem to be doing something to do with writing—editing, going through plots…or just talking about it.

    Although I do try and have a routine, I find writing is never far from my mind whatever I am doing, it really is a way of life for me now.

    Where do you find inspiration?
    Inspiration seems to come from everywhere! I have heaps of notes— overheard—remarks, interesting items picked up on the radio; a place we have been… I have enough ideas to keep me in story plots for the rest of my life. My article for Writers’ Forum magazine was on how to get inspiration from graveyards—but inspiration is all around if you look.

    I did my family tree some years ago, and am inspired to one day fictionalise some of the stories I pieced together there. I tend to get drawn in by the abstract, the forgotten pieces of history or the underdog—rather than the “usual suspects” as I would deem them.

    My latest novel More Than Gold is about the Klondike gold rush, but rather than write the predictable, the story is about a photographer, as I became intrigued by the fact that there were hundreds of photographs of the event but little known about the men behind the camera.

    In my experience the very best inspiration comes when you are not looking for it and from the most surprising of places.

    What exciting projects have you got underway for the future?
    It has been a very exciting year so far, the decision to publish More Than Gold and Marigolds In Her Hands as an independent publisher was unexpected and is still quite recent in its inception. I am revisiting my manuscript To Tame The Hawk with a view to publishing it later in the year, and I am working on a collection of my short stories.

    There is also a new project—well I say new, I have actually been researching it for over five years now—a family saga, trilogy which follows the feuding between the Earls of Mercia and the Earls of Wessex in the eleventh century, a feud which was not only responsible for losing England to the Normans in 1066, but also to the Vikings 50 years before. It is a part of history that has almost been forgotten and rarely written about. The first of the trilogy Land of Heroes should be out this Christmas.  

    Nicholas and I are also working on a collaboration The Book Barge which is a fantasy novel….but the list of future works is endless – watch this space, or should I say Wilton End Publishing!