(short-listed for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2014)
My real name is Bill Spence. Jessica Blair came into being when my publisher, Piatkus, accepted my first historical saga and declared that, for various reasons, they would prefer to publish it under a female name and they suggested Jessica Blair.
I was born in Middlesbrough in 1923. I trained as a teacher but never followed the profession as war intervened. I served in the RAF as a bomb aimer doing thirty-six operational flights in Lancasters of 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron Bomber Command. After the war I was sent to Rhodesia by the RAF.
It was on the voyage to Durban that I wrote my first short story and was bitten by the writing bug. On return to England I wrote articles for newspapers and magazines and fulfilled my desire to write a novel by using some war time experiences as background.
My second book was a Western and 36 were published between 1960 and 1993. During that time two more war novels and a romance appeared in print. Along with my wife, Joan, I wrote three books dealing with aspects of Yorkshire. I started a review column in the Yorkshire Gazette and Herald and that is now in its fiftieth year.
Visits to Whitby, on the Yorkshire coast, sparked off an interest in whaling and ten years intermittent research into the subject resulted in the publication of an illustrated history. It was from this study that the Jessica Blair novels arose. The first of these appeared in 1992 and a new phase in my writing career began.
There have been twenty-three Jessica Blair novels published to date (May 2014). Two more are in the publisher’s hands: Whispers in the Snow (4th December 2014} and Just One More Day (February 2015) All Jessica Blair novels are available in hardback, paperback, ebook, audio download, and Large Print.
Writing was a part-time occupation until 1977 when, with the full support of my wife, Joan, it became full-time. Throughout my whole writing career I have had her, and my four children's, unstinting support, advice, and inspiration.
I moved into the computing age very early on when I purchased a word processor which had everyone amazed at the ability to manoeuvre words, sentences, paragraphs and whole pages at will. Since then I have updated the equipment three times in order to keep abreast of the wider facilities for authors offered in the modern world of computing. That equipment came with me when I moved to a family home in the village of Ampleforth on the death of my wife in 1999.
The purchase of an iPad has added versatility to the use of my computer in furthering my writing career.
Though much of my writing life revolves around the computer I realise it is essential for
a writer to keep personal contact with people. As part of this I attend the meetings of
the Northern Branch of the Romantic Novelists' Association near Harrogate once a month
when we catch up on what we are all doing, exchange ideas, meet new authors and share the
exchanges over a pleasant meal.
I was nominated for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2014 and had to attend a prestigious ceremony in London.
Even though I did not win the outright prize my publisher, Piatkus, did me proud and the nomination brought me lots of publicity.
That made it a superb addition to the publicity I received in 2013 when the media took up the fact that a writer of Romantic novels, published by Piatkus, is a ninety year old man who served as a Bomb Aimer in Lancasters during the Second World War.
Publicity appeared all over the world and I was interviewed via Skype for American TV via Atlanta Georgia.
I am a member of
the Society of Authors,
the Romantic Novelists Association,
Bomber Command Association,
National Geographic Society,
Scarborough Writers Circle.