Today dear readers we have a special interview!
Not one but two authors and what authors: Stuart Reardon and Jane Harvey-Berrick authors of Undefeated, the just released story that I’ve raved about this past weekend!
Here comes their uncensored interview.
Hi Jane, Hi Stuart,
When Jane told me this morning you were ready to answer my questions I was really overjoyed! I’m reading Undefeated right now (nearly finished) and I have tons of questions for you.
Jane I discovered your work with The Traveling Man recommended by a friend and I fell head over heel in love with that story. It sits among “my little gems” on the blog and I’ve been following and reviewing many of your books from that moment on. I already have one copy with me to get signed at RARE and have preordered Undefeated so you’ll have it ready for me in February.
Jane : “Thank you!”
Now I will be totally honest here I’ve known and loved Jane’s work for years now but Stuart I did not know who you were until December. In December a blogger friend enrolled me for her monthly challenge “Bests of 2017” and one of the daily topic was “Cover Model”. It had me revisiting all the book covers I had read in 2017 and I chose The Gravity of US by Brittainy C Cherry. When I looked into the model I discovered well.. you. Then I looked further and recalled that hot muscled guy on the cover of the soon to be released Undefeated. I had helped to reveal the cover and I had requested the ARC as I love Jane’s work. To my great surprise it was you too! Sold! You made it as my “best cover model of 2017” but I was intrigued. How come an ex rugby player would suddenly work with a romance author to write a book? Yes I know I sound prejudiced here and I swear I avoid judging people but come on, you can’t say it’s a common occurrence.
Jane: “Yep, happens all the time. People seem surprised that Stu can write. He’s laidback about it, but it annoys me a little!”
Even more so that I’m finished with Undefeated and I truly admire your combined work here. That’s why I’m giddy today as I can’t wait for other readers to discover who you both are, how you met, how you worked etc.
After this long introduction let’s get into the heart of the matter.
First let us know you better:
1) Jane (Ladies first) how was your childhood? How was little Jane? The nerd? The daredevil? Walking the line? What did you want to be as a kid? A carnie? An astronaut? A vet? … Did you always know you would write one day?
Jane: “Can I be a nerd and a daredevil? I loved to read and got lost in stories. I remember reading THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE by Stephen Crane when I was eight – about the American Civil War. It made a profound effect on me. I’ve always loved to write.
But I also enjoy martial arts (Judo and Wu Shu), went surfing, and have done two parachute jumps.”
Now Stuart what kind of kid were you?
Not so great at school like Nick or the model student? Do you have siblings? How was it in your family? Like in Nick’s family with fantastic and supportive parents? Did you already wanted to play rugby for a living? Or was it an unexpected opportunity? Did your parent drove you to play or do you have busses in England (here we have to play taxi for our kids and as rugby clubs are few we have to cross the country for matches).
Stuart: “Always outdoors, but I was quite quiet. I still am!
I played locally so there was no problem getting to matches.”
2) How would you describe the other in five words?
Jane: “I would describe Stuart as: funny, kind, thoughtful, hard-working, handsome!”
Stuart:” I would describe Jane as: talented, funny, energetic, a nice person!”
About your careers now
3) Jane how did you begin writing? Was it on a dare? Or some story that you just HAD to write? Writing a story is already a high feat but what made you take the plunge and publish?
Jane: “Writing was part of my work in various jobs, but I’ve been a freelance writer for 16 years. I’ve written a lot of children’s books and guides for teachers. But reading Fifty Shades of Grey made me want to write romance.”
What was the first story that you published? What was your strategy to launch that first book? What was the most helpful? And when you got a first review what was your reaction?
Jane: “THE EDUCATION OF SEBASTIAN was my first romance. I remember watching Amazon’s sales page the night it was published and shouting to my husband, “I sold 65 copies in the first hour!” It was amazing. And then reviews! People liked it!!”
4) Stuart when did rugby become a career? Was it with scouts looking some of your play?
How old were you when you became a professional rugby player? 19?
Stuart: “Yes, I left school at 16 and played for an amateur side at weekends. I was seen by a scout when I was 18 and started playing professionally full time. “
Was it a choice to play rugby for a living or a need? Nick is passionate about rugby and can’t think of anything else he would do was it the same for you? When was the first moment when you really realized that you were a professional? It was no longer a hobby but your job.
Stuart:” I gave it 100% commitment. It was more than a hobby but I loved playing too.”
5) Jane you have published more than twenty books by now could you tell us what your writing process is? Do you have a “routine” now or is it different with every book? Do you begin with the characters? Do they talk to you with loud voices until you put their story on paper? Do they hijack your story? Or do you begin with the plot?
Jane: “I usually have a kernel of an idea – a title, a word, a phrase, a picture in my head. With Undefeated, it was an image of Stuart staring out and saying, “I will rise and I will be undefeated.” I knew it was a strong idea, but it was months before I did anything with the idea.
After that, I usually write the Prologue, then the Epilogue, then the story in between LOL
Yes, my characters talk to me ALL the time! It’s really annoying in the middle of the night. I’ve learned to take notes in the dark so I don’t disturb my husband!”
Where do you get your ideas from? Who (aside from Undefeated of course) inspires you to write your characters? Some people you know? Some actor? Others?
Jane: “From life. I never know where the next idea will come from. Having said that, I have a good friend who’s ex-Army and worked in bomb disposal. I have a two-book series based on his experiences that I want to write.”
6) Stuart what was it like to be a professional rugby player? Did you keep a cool head like Nick or got a big inflated ego and burnt all your money, drinking every night (but I can hardly fathom this as your coach would probably have you kicked in the behind or make an extra hard training the day after a drunken night)? Did you have all the women falling over you? And was it for your hot bod, for your brain or for the money? Or for all of it?
Stuart: “I don’t think I’ve ever had women falling over me LOL. I think because I had two years of working in a factory when I left school, I knew what an amazing opportunity I’d been given.”
That’s only the outer layer, the glamour but what I would really like to know is about the nitty gritty. The bad days. The dark days. How can someone cope to put his body through such hard training? What I adored in Undefeated was the “other side” of the story. The first lines are eye opening (I chose them yesterday for my First Lines Friday). You say it like it is: brutal. With injuries. So yes, do tell us how you can cope with it and come… undefeated.
Stuart: “You get injured every season, it’s inevitable. Yes, when your team has lost, it’s hard to pull yourself up again, but that’s part of it. Being strong inside.”
7) Now about hardship, failures and missed opportunities.
Jane was it easy to get published or did you face rejection? What are some of the hardest moments that you lived through and what helped you? Do you have some work you regret or rather would you do things in a different way for some books? How do you consider failure? As the end of everything or just as an opportunity to do better?
Jane: “Failure is not trying. I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved. Even the books that haven’t sold as well, I wouldn’t have published them if I hadn’t fallen in love with the characters.
I don’t believe in regret – there’s no point to it. I try to take the path untaken, so that I won’t look back and wish I’d tried something.”
Stuart if my sources are correct I think you were injured and forced to retire. How did you live it? Nick is literally destroyed when the injury threatens his career as he was not ready in his head to retire. Was it the same for you? Did you suffer from other severe injuries before that one and how does a professional athlete cope with it? I’m not a professional athlete but I do some exercise (walk, swimming, boxing…) every day and I know that when I’m forced to stay calm because of a torn ligament or sprained ankle or.. I become crazy and in a real fool mood. So how did YOU cope?
Stuart: “I had several serious injuries, lots of surgeries. It’s hard, because something like an Achilles tendon is 6-9 months not playing. I retired 18 months ago when I had surgery on my shoulder (rotator cuff).”
Were you already modelling and coaching while playing professionally? Was it a smart move to prepare for the “after
Stuart: “I think players should prepare for that more. I was already doing some modelling, but now I can add writing to that, too!”
The making of the story
8) Now let’s get to Undefeated and the making of it.
First how did you two meet? At a photo shoot? At a book convention while Stuart was advertising his modelling job? Jane are you a die-hard rugby fan and you followed Stuart’s career for a long time? Or did Jane’s car get stranded in the mud and Stuart you helped her out with your bulging biceps and all? Something else?
Jane: “Haha! At a book convention in Edinburgh. I was collecting money for a military charity and I asked Stuart to pose with the collecting tin. He said yes right away, and then we kept meeting at other conventions.
It was in Dublin in 2016 that I had the idea for Undefeated.”
What pushed you to collaborate and write a book? You just clicked “on the spot”? Had a drunken night out and swapped book ideas? You told Jane some life story? Other?
Jane: “That sounds fun, except I don’t drink! Now, if you were talking chocolate… and I happen to know that Stu has a soft spot for dark chocolate!
We got along from the start, and I think that connection strengthened as we worked on the book. Respect led to friendship … and I learned that Stu has a great sense of humour. So many times he made me laugh when we working together!”
9) How did you build the book? What was your writing process for this book?
Stuart wrote from Nick’s POV and Jane from Anna’s POV? Nick oversaw the technical aspects of rugby and Jane was more into the flow and the romance? Was it a “we built and fleshed out all the characters together” kind of collaboration?
Jane: “We didn’t have one way of working, it was organic. I interviewed Stu, he educated me about rugby, we plotted out scenes together, we used voice messages, different scenarios, skyped and typed. It was exciting and creative. It’s not like any other way of working I’ve ever done, but it worked for us.”
How was it different from writing other books solo? The “plus” and “against”.
Jane: “I’m very protective of my characters, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get possessive, but that didn’t happen. We worked together and it was fantastic. The huge plus is working with someone where you can share ideas, and knowing that Stu has my back. We have different strengths, so we create our own synergy. There are no ‘against’ points! Honestly!”
10) What were the hardest and the easiest parts to write? And if you disagreed how did you solve it? Playing darts and the winner got to keep his/her idea? Beer contest?
Jane: “We didn’t disagree. Boring answer, but true! We enhanced each other. If we disagree in future… toss a coin? Have a chocolate-eating contest? Suggestions, please!”
11) Is Nick really “you” Stuart? Or how close to your personality does Nick is? Or maybe he looks after Jane! Jane are you our undefeated warrior?
Jane: ”Yes, definitely! There is a piece of me in every character I write, male and female. I’m sure Stu would say the same: he has shaped Nick and Anna.”
Stuart: “Parts of the book are based on my life, but I’m not as violent as Nick! And I didn’t use alcohol as a prop.”
Are there scenes inspired by your “real life experience”? How much of this book is a mirror of your life? Did you fall in love with your therapist? Got in jail? When I told jane this morning that the scene in the physio room was HAWT she told me that you “had a few stories that never made it into the book” so now is your time to dish!
I’m 100% certain our readers would love to read one of these never published stories. So feel free to share with us now 😉
Jane: “The story has some aspects that are real, but not all. It’s more about the world that Stuart was in. It’s not his autobiography.
Yes, he did get into some trouble when he was younger. Not like it is in the book, because that’s rather violent and dramatic! But enough to get him sent to court. There was no jail, just a fine and community service. He says that experience has shaped him. If you’ve seen any of his fb messages, many end with the words, “Peace! Stu x”
I think that says it all.
Sorry, no hot therapist!! But Stu said the physio room sex does happen – and that’s all you’re getting!”
Stuart: “The court case is public record. It happened and I learned from it. “
12) Now tell me, face to face: what is your next project? Is it the beginning of yet another career for you Stuart? Do you have other projects aside your modelling career and your fitness coaching career? Jane was it a one time collaboration or do you now want to do it again? With Stuart? With someone else? What will your next book be about?
Jane: “We’re planning a sequel! Entitled MODEL BOYFRIEND – it’ll be out this June! We had so much fun writing together, we hadn’t even finished UNDEFEATED when we decided to write another. And I don’t think we’ll stop there! “
Stuart: “Yeah, can’t wait! And we’re doing a novella, too: TOUCH MY SOUL”
Time to have some fun!
13) Most embarrassing moment of your life?
Jane: “Losing my skirt in a nightclub. The heel of my boot caught in the fringe of my skirt and pulled it right down!”
Stuart: “First time I did a nude photoshoot.”
14) Greatest fright you’ve caused your parents? And something you’ve never told them (crashed their car, partied all night when they believed you were asleep? Else?)
Jane: “Bad relationship and they had to come and get me out.”
Stuart: “Getting injured.”
15) Advice to your 18 year old self with what you know now?
Jane: “Don’t be shy. Everyone else feels like an outsider, too.”
Stuart: “Keep your head down and work hard.”
16) Your best recipe, the one your family can’t resist? (Cottage Pie for you Stuart?)
Jane: “My husband hates my cooking! I’m vegetarian and he’s not. But he likes the cakes I make!”
Stuart: “I do most of the cooking. I’m vegetarian, too. I tried going vegan but I wasn’t really enjoying it.”
17) The talent you wish you possessed?
Jane: “Buffy strength”
Stuart: “Invincibility – then I wouldn’t have got injured all the time.”
18) Secret crush (yes you too Stuart as this book is also a romance story!) It can be a celebrity, your first grade teacher, the boy/girl next door…
Jane: “None of my crushes were secret! I told all my girlfriends LOL
Um, okay. A hot surfer that I met at the beach. I wish I’d asked him out. I never did and I never saw him again.”
Stuart:” My fiancée, Emma.”
A HUGE thank you for answering my crazy questions. I hope I did not make you uncomfortable and I want you to know that this book is really something else as to my great surprise I enjoyed reading about the technicalities of rugby! Who would have guessed LOL. I’m really happy you’re coming to RARE London and expect my visit.