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Jane takes a pen to love
9:26am Tuesday 14th February 2012 in Features
To mark St Valentine’s Day, MAXINE GORDON meets the North Yorkshire mum of five who’s made a career from romance.
JANE LOVERING’S day job is about as unromantic as it gets. As a technician in the biology department at Lady Lumley’s school in Pickering, Jane is responsible for keeping the freezer well stocked with animal organs for the pupils to dissect.
“If someone sees me carrying a bag of eyeballs, I say: ‘Here you go, these will see you through the week’.”
Her lively quips are matched by her striking appearance: a shock of dyed red hair and a trim figure that belies her 51 years.
She has five children, aged from 23 to 15 and she jokes that they weren’t planned. “They just turned up and I didn’t want to send them back. It seemed rude.”
Funny anecdotes and amusing one-liners are Jane’s conversation model, and they come at you thick and fast. This love of language is best served by her second job. While her mornings are spent stocking the school freezer with animal hearts, her afternoons are dedicated to the dissection of the human heart.
Jane is as a writer of romantic fiction. She has published four books with another three waiting in the wings, and several more in the pipeline, including a vampire trilogy set in York.
The latest novel, Please Don’t Stop The Music – a tale of secrets and love set in York – has been nominated in the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards (RoNAs); the winners will be announced next month.
Funnily enough, Jane doesn’t consider herself to be romantic. “I’m horribly pragmatic,” she says. Twice divorced, she reveals she will probably be spending tonight with her new boyfriend, Steve Quinn. “We’ll probably go out for a meal.”
Romance, she says, is important; it’s just not all about chocs and flowers.
“The worst thing a couple can do is take one another for granted,” says Jane, who is from Devon but settled in Great Edstone, near Kirkbymoorside, 18 years ago. “That’s been the death of my relationships. The most important words partners can say are: ‘thank you’. It’s lovely to feel appreciated and to appreciate what someone does for you.”
You won’t be surprised to learn that Jane’s books are not crammed with the clichés of chic lit.
“They are not about sex and shopping,” says Jane. “Spending your month’s rent on a pair of shoes isn’t really funny. My books are more thoughtful.”
Which doesn’t mean they won’t make you laugh, she adds quickly. “I write romantic comedy. It’s not slapstick funny; it’s more witty. And dark. Please Don’t Stop The Music is best described as a dark psychological romance – with jokes!”
In the novel, jewellery designer Jemima Hutton is determined to build a new life and keep her past hidden. But when she meets the enigmatic Ben, a semi-recluse who used to be a successful Indie musician, her secret is under threat. Ben too has his own skeletons to hide; especially the reason why he deserted his band on their US tour.
While Jane is disciplined in her writing, fitting it around looking after her children, household chores, and tending to her menagerie of two dogs, four cats and five hens – the flow of her novels is more organic.
“I never plan them,” she says.
However, she derives great pleasure from ordering the lives of others in her novels. “I like to impose a sense of order on chaotic events,” she says. “I like to make things look a lot neater than they are in real life.”
Jane has been praised for the fresh dose of realism she brings to the romance genre.
The hero in her first novel, Reversing Over Liberace, has cerebral palsy; in the follow-up, Slightly Foxed, she centres on the trials of a single mum with a 16-year-old daughter, and in Please Don’t Stop The Music, Jemima’s friend and flatmate is struggling with post-natal depression.
“I let people see that you don’t have to be perfect to have a happy ending,” she says.
And yet, these are romantic comedies. “Life is enduringly funny,” says Jane. “Even if something terrible has happened we still have to get on with life.”
But she won’t deprive her readers of a feel-good finale.
“The reader wants to know there will be an ending that is satisfactory. That doesn’t have to mean wedding bells or a pregnancy or even a happy ever after, just a happy for now.”
Jessica Hart shortlisted too
• York based Mills & Boon author Jessica Hart has also been shortlisted in the RoNAs for her book Ordinary Girl In A Tiara which is set in Yorkshire. The judges will announce their decisions on March 5.