Romantic Novelists' Association

Jill Barry – The House Sitter

3 December 2020

A warm welcome to Jill Barry to the blog today. Jill is here to talk to us about The House Sitter. Jill, can you tell us more about it?

Thank you for inviting me. The House Sitter is a psychological suspense novel. Why did this romantic novelist decide to desert her usual genre?

Having once lived in a remote Welsh village, I learnt how life in such a community can have a dark side. Someone living nearby wanted to move house but his neighbour was ‘bullying’ him to stay. I decided to use this situation as a story theme though it took several years before I wrote it. Strangely, I enjoyed creating tricky situations where my character Ruth used her wiles to put off potential purchasers, while displaying a loyal, caring attitude towards the vendors.

How did you decide on the names for your characters?

I enjoy naming characters. Sometimes I check trends at the time of their birth. Sometimes a character comes to me as a name. My house sitter was always Ruth in my head. Ruth means ‘friend,’ ironic, given the plot. I wanted my estate agent to have a Welsh name and so Bethan emerged. Ray isn’t an obvious hero name, yet somehow it suits him. The vendors arrived as Eddie and Suzanne and I have no idea why. Their dog is called Sparkles – she snuggled into her basket beside the Aga so I didn’t have the heart to rename her.

Two of my favourite minor characters, Zoyah and Jalil Sarani, are consultants, planning for retirement. Here I’ll share a priceless moment when, working on my edits, I spotted the surname Sarani had emerged as Salami! I can assure you no cured sausages were harmed in the publication of this novel.

What is your writing day like?

My writing day sometimes begins at six but during these dark days it’s nearer nine o’clock. Sometimes I ignore the internet and write until I decide to come up for air. I don’t often decide on a target word count for the day, but there are occasions when I write thousands of words and other days when I’m lucky to achieve 500 single, distinct and meaningful objects of speech.

The most rewarding days are when my characters take over, creating that magic where the story flows through my fingers.

What was your journey to publication?

After hearing a local radio programme in the year 2000, I decided to submit a couple of short stories. To my surprise they invited me into the studio to record my work for transmission over two Saturdays. But it wasn’t until after I moved back to Wales that I really got going.

Someone in the writers’ circle I joined commented upon a sensuous quality in my prose. I didn’t take much notice but two things happened shortly after. A writing friend suggested I might study for a degree and the idea appealed. Having no Bachelor of Arts degree, I gained a place on the MA course via sample stories submitted.

The second thing was meeting Welsh author Catrin Collier when she did a local library event. I chatted to her afterwards, joking about the ‘sensuous quality’ and she suggested I start writing erotic romance. So, as Toni Sands, I went on to have numerous publications by Accent Xcite, including a full-length historical novel with a bi-sexual heroine. I’m happy to say Orchid Pink topped various Amazon charts.

Obviously, a formal qualification isn’t necessary for publication, but I wanted to run my own creative writing sessions. My degree gave me the street cred and confidence to work as a tutor. After I was offered a position with an online school, from 2010 to 2018, I helped students all over the world to let their imaginations fly.

Who were your favourite childhood authors?

I adored Enid Blyton’s Mary Mouse series before moving on to Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s and Malory Towers series. Elinor M Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School series was a huge favourite.

I joined our local library and at age 13, was let loose in the Adult section. I became a fan of Mary Stewart but read Agatha Christie, Dickens and Galsworthy amongst others.

Two things: I read any comics I could lay my little paws on. I listened to Children’s Hour radio series like Mossy Bank Theatre or Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes. Radio was an important part of my childhood and encouraged me to write my own plays or mini magazines.

Can you tell us what you are working on now?

Finally I’m working on ‘The book of my heart.’ After years of thinking about it, I began on it a few years ago and am currently tackling my first draft.

My heroine is a fictional version of my late cousin, born in the 1920s. She was glamorous and attracted much male attention. She was also good fun and I still miss her and hope she’d approve of my novel. I have lots of stories in my memory bank, but of course I’m researching the fashions, slang, etc of the WW2 era.

Thank you so much for joining us to talk about The House Sitter, and all the best with your next project.

About the Author:




Jill Barry began her career by writing short stories for magazines and anthologies. She is a multi-published romantic novelist who also writes Pocket Novels for D C Thomson and who draws on her varied career and her travels for inspiration. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, she enjoys mentoring new writers and is convinced she will never stop learning.





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Jill was talking to Ruby Moone

Ruby Moone lives in the wilds of Lancashire with her husband and writes historical and contemporary romance. At school, her teachers said that she lived with her head in the clouds and if she didn’t stop daydreaming she would never get anywhere. She never did stop daydreaming, and after years of happily living in the clouds, decided to write the stories down.