Welcome to Celtic Connexions. Come in, make yourself comfortable. I know you under two different names – JB and Debbie. Which would you prefer I used?
Hi Melanie, thank you so much for having me as a guest. I honestly don’t mind which name you use. I will answer to anything! Most people online know me as JB so I suppose that one’s okay. At book events I attend I get called by both names. Whatever anyone is comfortable with. The name JB is a shortened version of two names – Jontybabe, which was my original online name, and Just Books Johnston! A little joke about when asked what I bought on a shopping trip I always say, ‘Just Books!’ My real name is of course Debbie but I do most of my writing under the name J.B.
I made sure to have Doritos and wine on hand since I know you enjoy them. One of the wines is from the Niagara region of Ontario, the other from somewhere in South America, Argentina I think. Hope you like red. I don’t have a lot of white wine, although I can send my manservant, Donald, to the wine cellar to see what’s there.
Oh thank you Melanie. Doritos are my guilty pleasure but I have to restrict myself to one bag a week now otherwise I’d be hugely fat! Friday nights are the nights that I settle down on the sofa with my Doritos and wine and I watch a movie with my son. I’m more of a rose or white wine girl myself but I have been known to partake in a glass of red although I do avoid it as it makes me very giggly and even more silly than I normally am. Also, it makes my face go very red too.
It is only Thursday, but then it’s a special occasion – and these Doritos are virtual so you can have as many as you like.
Ah, the manservant says we have some Jackson Triggs Sauvignon Blanc in the cellar. Shall we open one of them? It’s a very nice wine. * gives manservant the nod and a few minutes later, the wine appears in a cooler with two glasses already filled for us*
Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself? The readers at Celtic Connexions know Brook Cottage Books but not necessarily the woman behind the brand.
Oh gosh! It always feels funny talking about myself! I’m so used to promoting other people. Well, I am 45 years old and a bit of a book freak in case anyone hadn’t noticed. I am a fully qualified and practicing social worker in the real world although I am desperate to have a full time career in the bookish world and hope that one day someone notices me and offers me a job! Although not based in England, I’d be more than happy to fly to the mainland for meetings! Yes I’m that desperate for a job in publishing. I’d love to start branching out also and start writing magazine articles. I have some great ideas for articles and the plan is to start compiling them into a folder and pitching them to magazines.
I love walking and running and I used to be a real gym bunny until a shoulder injury slowed me down a little. I’m waiting for surgery to correct that. I’m always looking for new challenges and have turned into an adrenaline junkie. I abseiled down a very large tower a few years ago for charity and I’m always on the lookout for an adventure! Until my shoulder injury I was always taking part in charity runs but I’ve had to stop doing that for a while as apparently I swing my arms a lot when I run and that’s not good for my shoulder!
I’m very family orientated and have a real interest in special needs and parenting issues as my daughter has autism and a learning disability. I am very happily married to a wonderful man who is an accountant! I have 2 children and 2 step children and a mad dog. As well as Brook Cottage Books I have a personal blog www.thedebbiediaries.blogspot.co.uk and I have just started a product review site www.crazyatthecottage.blogspot.co.uk
What made you decide to start a book blog?
Well, a number of years ago I originally had a special needs blog called IT’S A CRAZY WORLD. That blog no longer exists now as I was concerned that now my daughter was much older someone in the real world would recognise that I was writing about her and tell her about it. On that blog I used to write some book reviews. I’ve always been an avid reader and constantly have my nose stuck in a book. However, the requests for reviews became so great that I knew I needed a dedicated site just for bookish things. I was really interested in having authors on the blog with interviews and guest posts too and I wanted to take part in book tours. And so, Brook Cottages was born and has evolved into something way beyond what my original expectations ever were for the blog. Now, as well as book reviews and author spots I coordinate and run virtual book tours which I absolutely adore. Although, this means never having a day off! But, I can live with that. Brook Cottage Books has taken over my entire life and made me realise that being involved in the book world is actually my dream job. I have met so many wonderful and generous people through the book world that I feel this is where I belong.
You were shortlisted for an award for your blog, were you not?
Oh yes I was! In 2013 I was shortlisted for Romance Blogger of the Year at the Festival of Romance. That was a great feeling and a wonderful black tie event to attend. Everyone was spruced up in their finest and to be honest I was more than a little nervous! Unfortunately I didn’t win but my lovely friend Sharon Goodwin did win with her blog Jera’s Jamboree. However, the lifestyle magazine I am involved with www.loveahappyending.com did win an industry award for Innovation in Romantic Fiction so that was a proud moment for those involved. At that event it suddenly dawned on me that book bloggers were at last receiving recognition for all the hard work they do. It was amazing! In 2014 I was honoured to be asked to present the award to that year’s winner Sophie Hedley for her amazing blog Reviewed the Book.
If memory serves, you’re from Northern Ireland. What sort of things do you and your family do to celebrate St Patrick’s Day?
Yes Melanie, I am from Northern Ireland. I live about 14 miles outside of Belfast. To be honest I don’t really do anything to celebrate St Patricks Day. It does mean a day off work so I usually spend it being quite lazy with a big lie in, daughter permitting! My husband can usually be found on the golf course every St Patricks Day as there is usually some sort of golf competition on that day. St Patrick’s Day celebrations always involve lots of Guinness though!
I’ll put on a bit of music for us to listen to while we sip our wine.
I hope you like corned beef and cabbage. It’s a staple here on St Patrick’s Day. If not, I won’t be offended. I also have a vegetable curry simmering in my slow-cooker. I know it’s not Irish but hey, why not?
Well I’m afraid I’m going to have to go for the vegetable curry being a vegetarian. I do love cabbage though and often stink the house out with it! It does not make me popular with the rest of the household!
You took part in this past November’s #NaNoWriMo. Can you share any of this project with us?
Oh my goodness what a stressful but exhilarating time that was! When I was in the throes of it and people asked me about the book I froze with fright, terrified to talk about it in case I jinxed myself! I’m pretty sure a lot of people thought I was a little bonkers! Apologies to the lovely Carol Cooper who asked me about the book when in a lift with me in London and I looked like I was ready to climb out the roof of the lift! I’m a little less dramatic about it all now. At the moment I am trying to find the time to do some revisions and edits on the book and its currently sitting at over 60,000 words. After NaNo I couldn’t look at it for months! I was so traumatised! Lol. Anyway, the general gist of the book is this………..My main character runs away from a life that is already planned for her by a very domineering mother. She returns to her home town 10 years later after living in Italy all that time. She comes back with some secrets and attempts to rebuild relationships with those she left behind 10 years ago which doesn’t prove easy. It’s kind of a sad story about lost relationships and wasted time. It’s also about forgiveness, love and hope. I’m not altogether sure it’s any good and whether I’ll ever share it with anyone but I was sobbing writing the final chapter!
Anything else you can share with us about the woman behind BCB?
I’m not too sure there are too many interesting things to say about me but here goes –
- Last year I co-wrote a book called Little Kitty, The Cat Burglar and all proceeds raised from sales go to charity. It’s a children’s book and was written by myself and a group of authors and illustrators to raise money for Alzheimers Research. The book was the brainchild of author Suzan Collins who does a lot to raise awareness of dementia issues. I was honoured to be asked to participate.
- I used to have a spot on a radio show with author Nicky Wells. The show was called Books Rock and combined wonderful music with book news, author interviews and reviews! I miss doing that and hope that one day the show airs again! Nicky was brilliant as a DJ as well as being a fantastic author! She’s one of my favourite people!
- I edited a book in 2013 under my real name Debbie Johnston– Little White Lies and Butterflies by Suzie Tullet. The book was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize award. It’s a brilliant book! Go and buy it!
- I’m afraid of the dark and always have been! I have a candle app on my phone that I switch on when I am staying away from home in a strange hotel so that I am not sleeping in complete darkness!
- When I was 23 years old I was paid to be a model in a tourist board photo shoot for my town and had to dress as an Austrian milkmaid as the town is twinned with a town in Austria. I’d not long given birth to my son so was looking quite voluptuous in my outfit when the photographer offered me a glamour shoot! Needless to say I turned him down!
- I got drunk when I was 15 years old and stole a horse as a dare, rode him about a field without a saddle or bridle and eventually fell off when he jumped over a hedge. My house was built in that very field many years later!
- I have had the same group of 5 friends since I was at school. We are a close bunch and are always there for one another. I don’t know where I’d be without them. My next NaNoWriMo project may have characters based on each and every one of them. They are all a bit worried about that! I can’t think why!
- When I was 17 I very nearly joined the Navy. But then I met my first husband and the rest they say is history. I did try to join the naval reserves last year but apparently I am too old now.
I’m not sure how Irish this is, but sometimes after a meal, especially if it’s a special occasion, we indulge in a dram of single malt whisky. So, if you’d like to carry on in our tradition, I have a selection of Irish ones to choose from.
Usually, I invite my guests to kiss my ‘Blarney Stone’ as they come in. I thought I would see how well you do on your way out… Think you can manage? I’ve added a twist this year. It’s lower to the ground and you have to bend backwards over a railing. Don’t worry, the manservant will be your spotter.
Well it’s a good job I am double jointed! And, you should know that I can do the splits too so this will be no problem to me! Although, I should add that once on the floor, I usually require some assistance to get back up again!
Thanks for stopping by. It’s been a treat to have you here after being a host in so many of your book tours.
Thank you for having me here Melanie. It’s been wonderful being here and thank you for being such a valued member of the Brook Cottages family.
And how about a tune suitable to the occasion when many of your have partaken in copious amounts of green beer and/or Irish Whiskey.
I’ll close this post with the Irish proverb…
May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.