Kathryn Ledson talks about the influence of classic TV shows on her writing.
Since Rough Diamond was released I’ve become really interested in the story behind my novel – even a little fascinated. I know that sounds a bit, well, narcissistic, but until the first time I was asked, it hadn’t occurred to me to consider where my novel “came from”. What inspired it. Where I got the idea. All of that. My first reaction was to say, “Well, it just came!” I found out pretty quickly how unsatisfactory that response was. So I spent some time thinking about it, and realised there most certainly was more than just a spooky apparition that appeared one day in the form of Erica Jewell.
I think the Erica Jewell series is a concoction of (that spooky apparition plus) a few early influences that came through reading and television watching. For a start, there was a show back in the early 1980s called Scarecrow & Mrs King about a divorced suburban housewife (Kate Jackson, fresh from the original Charlie’s Angels) who, through a chance meeting, becomes involved with a secret US spy agency and in particular, a very handsome operative codenamed “Scarecrow”. The series ran for a few seasons and it was great fun – adventurous but light – and I loved how the romance played out over those years until finally, the spy and the housewife acknowledged their love for each other and got married. Of course, as soon as the characters realised they’d be together, forever, happily-ever-after, that was the end of the show.
And rightfully so. I did some investigating recently to find out when the show was first aired and discovered that it was on my 22nd birthday! Well, that’s serendipitous enough for me to figure that a seed had been planted all those years ago for the Erica Jewell series. Shame it took me so long to work it out, but in my heart I know I wasn’t ready back then for life as a novelist. One bad review and I would have gone scampering, never to write again. Whereas now, I scamper and my husband sends me back to my desk.
My novel’s genre is difficult to name, I think. When I first submitted it to Penguin, I really struggled to describe it (and that’s such a no-no when pitching to a publisher). Rough Diamond was called everything from commercial women’s fiction to chick lit to thriller to romantic adventure to comedy to straight-out crime. The influences came from far and wide. As a child I adored fantasy and adventure stories. The Magic Faraway Tree and The Silver Brumby series. I gobbled up the entire Famous Five collection, several times over. Then, as a teenager, I discovered The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It was such a thrill for me to realise that anything – absolutely anything – was possible in fiction.
I think another major influence on my writing style were the hilarious shows of the 60s and 70s – my family loves a good laugh – in the form of Monty Python, Get Smart, even I Dream of Jeannie. Certain characters and even snapshots of scenes or images helped me from a very young age to understand that “silly” – if done well – can be very very funny. Do you remember that scene in Life of Brian, when Brian fell, landing in an alien spaceship? The very surprised aliens engaged in a galactic battle, then crash landed back on Earth, right where they’d collected Brian! Brian emerged from the crash site, brushed himself off and went about his business. And what about the “Cone of Silence” in Get Smart. Yes, it was very silly. But we didn’t shout angrily at the telly, “You idiot! That thing never works!” Instead we laughed (well, I did), every single time.
In comedy I adore irony – when the opposite of what’s expected happens. In I Dream of Jeannie, my favourite character was Major Healey, who, as an astronaut, you’d expect would be a highly educated, intelligent person. But, like Maxwell Smart and even Inspector Clouseau in Pink Panther, Roger was a bumbling fool and SO funny!
Of course, romance has always played a huge role for me when it comes to choosing fiction – from Cinderella to Pride & Prejudice – I’m a sucker for a great romance. In Jeannie – apart from the comedy – I adored the romantic tension between Major Nelson and Jeannie (which was shattered of course when they got married, which is what we all wanted but then, when they did, curses on them!).
So there you go – the reasons my novels are what they apparently are: romantic, funny, adventurous. Actually, I think I just learned a few things about them myself!
Erica Jewell reckons being a part-time vigilante is stressful enough, without the added pressures of a demanding day job, annoying family and bossy cat. Now her mysterious lover has vanished on some clandestine mission, without leaving aforwarding address. Erica thinks that’s pretty typical of hired gun Jack Jones – he’d rather risk his life than his heart.
Then Erica discovers with a shock that Jack is M.I.A. on the jungle-infested island of Saint Sebastian. When no one seems willing to help find Jack or even acknowledge his existence, Erica knows she’s his only chance. But negotiating her way around lawless and sweltering Sebastian, where monkey business abounds, proves far more dangerous than she expected.
Melbourne-based Kathryn Ledson has worked as a PA in the corporate world, for Hayman Island’s PR team, and as Peter Ustinov’s PA during his Australian tour. She has also been on the road with rock bands Dire Straits and AC/DC. She now works as a freelance editor but her passion is writing popular fiction. http://www.kathrynledson.com