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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, B.A. Summer, pen name of Jane Peyton, shares what inspired her to write her latest book, Sole Brethren.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed B.A. Summer, aka Jane Peyton, about her life and career, what inspired her to write her latest book, Sole Brethren: If The Shoe Fits, and her creative writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Jane Peyton. I was born in Skipton, North Yorkshire, and currently live in Brighton, UK. I am a professional writer, educator in alcoholic drinks and their non-alcohol equivalent, drinks consultant, and the founder of a business called the School of Booze. I am a certified beer sommelier, cider pommelier, and wine expert through the Beer & Cider Academy, and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
I write non-fiction books about architecture, interior design, and alcoholic drinks, particularly about drinks history, and my latest non-fiction book, “The Philosophy of Cocktails” will be published by the British Library in June 2023. That will be my tenth non-fiction book. My first novel, “Sole Brethren: If The Shoe Fits” was recently published under my pen name B.A. Summer.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Some of my earliest memories are of being fascinated with books and reading constantly. I still have a couple of school exercise books containing stories I wrote as a 10-year-old and I can see I was a nascent writer. The urge to write a book that could be published happened in my twenties. It took a few years but it eventually happened.
When did you take a step to start writing?
As a child I wrote stories and I also wrote plays for my friends and siblings to perform for the family and neighbours. In my twenties I wrote short stories for my friends about our group and the adventures we had together. I travelled extensively in my thirties and, because it was before email existed, I wrote countless letters home to family and friends. I enjoyed the process of sharing my escapades through the written word and I have a conversational letter writing style that makes the reader hear my voice in their head. When I read the letters back after my return to the UK, I realized they were like a novel, and that gave me the inspiration to think of ideas that other people might want to read about.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
My first book is called ‘Looking Up In London’, a photographic treasure hunt of architectural features above eye-level. Most people do not look up when they walk or travel through urban streets, so they miss some incredible sights. It took me around ten years for that idea to be commissioned because it was a subject that did not fit conveniently into a box – was it a book about architecture or was it a travel guide? It was both, and for book marketing that is difficult because it was two genres.
I have no training in architecture and had no track record as a writer so when I was pitching the proposal that made it very difficult to be considered by publishers. I believed in the idea and never gave up and continued sending the proposal to publishers until one day it landed on the desk of the right person at the right time, and it was commissioned by a specialist architecture and design publisher called Wiley Academy.
After that they asked me to write Looking up in Edinburgh, and then commissioned me to write books about food shop interior design, and pub interior design. The fact I had no architectural or design training did not matter by then because they had seen that I can write coherently and that I wrote for a consumer audience in everyday language rather than the often-impenetrable language of architecture.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
‘Sole Brethren: If The Shoe Fits’ is my first novel and is also my most recent publication. I had the idea for the story in 2010 but was concentrating on building my School of Booze business and also writing non-fiction books. I had no time to write fiction until the Covid 19 pandemic lockdowns and I was able to disappear into the glittering world I created for Cordelia & Rex Tanner, Dr Elodie ‘Archambeau and the rest of the Sole Brethren. It was so much fun spending time with those characters and inventing scenarios for them that I wanted to do nothing else but write, but I still had to run the School of Booze and find a way of saving a business that depended on in person events, training, and consultancy which, due to the pandemic were impossible.
Once I had started the writing ‘Sole Brethren: If The Shoe Fits’ it took around 18 months to complete, then another six months until it was published.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Sole Brethren?
For years I have noticed single shoes laying discarded in the street and it makes me wonder what has happened for the owner to lose just the one. In 2010 I started imagining scenarios to explain the question and thought how useful it would be to be a psychic and reveal the answers. Cordelia Tanner came into my head. She has an extraordinary psychic ability and is also a shoe designer obsessed with shoes. I wanted to write the book to tell the stories of the lost single shoes and Cordelia’ss astonishing psychic gift.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Sole Brethren?
I am used to writing to a strict word count for non-fiction books so I distill the information into as few words as possible. When it came to writing fiction and being liberated from a word count I had to keep reminding myself that I could just go for it. Even so, I wrote the first draft in 25,000 words which is not even novella length. I needed a sub-plot and when the character Dr Elodie l’Archambeau, came into my head and enriched the story, there was no stopping me!
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
There were two things. One was shoes. I have always adored shoes and as a student I worked in a designer shoe store. In my first job as a graduate in a fashion PR agency two of my clients were world-renowned shoe designers. I am also fascinated by the symbolism of shoes and the fact that they are not just for protecting the feet. Footwear also sends visual messages about a person’s status in life, their aspirations and self-image, and often their profession.
In a previous career I was a producer of TV documentaries. I once interviewed the man who had been director of the CIA’s Operation Stargate during the Cold War. Operation Stargate used a psychic phenomenon called remote viewing to supply intelligence and give the USA an advantage over the Soviet Union. I wanted Cordelia Tanner, my protagonist to have a unique ability that was an enhanced version of remote viewing/psychometry so she could do more with her psychic gift.
Shoes and psychic phenomena were my inspirations for Cordelia Tanner who is a designer of luxury shoes. She has an extensive collection of shoes owned by notable historical figures. Thanks to her psychic gift which gives her the ability to hold an object and glimpse into the life of whoever owned it she would be able to tell stories about the original owners of the shoes in Shoeseum, her museum of shoes.
I had been doing some research into the use of holograms in brand marketing and wondered if holographic footwear could ever become a reality. I decided that Cordelia would have orthopaedic foot problems and be unable to wear the fabulous creations she designs for others, and so to help other people with similar foot problems she invents ‘Footloose’ a 3D wearable holographic shoe technology.
I had the idea for holographic footwear before the metaverse existed and with the expansion of what is possible in digital technology maybe wearable 3D holographic footwear will become a reality. As long as it does not have the negative consequences that I outline in Sole Brethren!
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
Richard ‘Call me Rich ‘cos I am’ Nailer had to be the most vulgar and bombastic human and the absolute opposite of witty, intelligent, talented Cordelia and her glamorous life. He needed to be a pantomime villain but still believable. Looking at some of the unscrupulous and narcissistic businessmen and politicians now and in history, characters like Richard Nailer really do exist.
What is the inciting incident of Sole Brethren?
When Cordelia and Rex (her twin brother and business partner) invent Footloose, the wearable 3D holographic shoe technology, almost immediately it becomes popular throughout the world. Unfortunately, this has unintended consequences and millions of people stop buying real shoes because they prefer the virtual creations of Footloose and this leads to the collapse of real shoe manufacturing and retailing, and all associated businesses.
What is the main conflict of Sole Brethren?
The competing interests between people who revere real shoes and those who venerate the virtual and the lengths both sides will go to support their beliefs.
Did you plot Sole Brethren in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I did both for Sole Brethren. The first draft was carefully plotted but it was more of a novella length than a full-length novel so when the sub-plot came to mind and I introduced a fascinating and engaging character called Dr Elodie l’Archambeau I wrote freely and the story developed in ways I had not planned as I saw in my head how she interacted with the existing characters. I enjoyed both styles of writing – partial plotting and partial freestyling.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Sole Brethren need?
I’m quite an unsentimental self-editor and can delete text and scenarios that do not work without being precious about them. I also asked a professional writer friend to look at the manuscript and she made some excellent suggestions in editing and tightening the story.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
It’s advice I was given when I started out and it is ‘Writing is rewriting’. It’s true! Writing can always be improved. Always.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I am currently writing the second in the Sole Brethren series. It is called “Sole Brethren: Left To Their Own Devices” and it features the same adorable central characters with some new nemeses to contend with. There will be plenty of adventures, fun, shenanigans, and of course, shoes!
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’m pleased to know I have produced something that makes my family proud. Yes, I am satisfied with my accomplishments, especially “Sole Brethren: If The Fits” because the reader reviews demonstrate they have really enjoyed it and really like the characters and atmosphere of the story. I love my characters too so I’m very relieved that they are popular with others. It’s a wonderful feeling to know I have produced something that people value so thank you to all the readers who have left such fantastic feedback. It makes all my efforts worthwhile.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
For Sole Brethren (fiction) I am @BASummerWriter on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
For my non-fiction work about alcoholic drinks I am @SchoolofBooze on Twitter and Facebook, and on Instagram @School.of.Booze
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