Anna and Jacqui Burns – Poles Apart

I am really delighted to be welcoming not one guest author, but two onto my blog this week, and they are the lovely writing duo, mother and daughter team. Jacqui and Anna Burns to talk about their new novel Poles Apart, which is out in hardback today, 21st March 2024. (published by Allison and Busby).

Jacqui and Anna Burns are a mother and daughter writing team. Anna, a doctor and trainee psychiatrist, and Jacqui, an English teacher, visited Montenegro in 2019 and were captivated by its beauty. Living over two-hundred miles apart, they wrote their first book Love at Café Lompar by writing alternate chapters and emailing them to each other, keeping each other’s spirits up through lockdown and fulfilling a life-long dream. Poles Apart is their third book.

Poles Apart

Four women, one sleepy village … It’s time to give life a whirl.

The Pembrokeshire village of Morlan is undoubtedly a beautiful place to live, but four of its female residents find themselves in search of something more.

Gwen seems to have it all but in reality, her marriage is on the rocks. Meg has struggled with her health and her love life has barely got a pulse, but is she ready to shake things up? Recently widowed Ivy is fed up, but at seventy-two can she put herself first and revamp more than just her home? Mum of two Summer dearly loves her young children but is desperate to escape the sleep-deprived fog that has settled over her.

The announcement that pole dancing exercise classes run by the mysterious Feather Starr are coming to the village hall offers something fresh and exciting to each of them, as well as the discovery of previously hidden strengths. As the group come together, a bond is formed that will allow them to overcome the censure of the village and the trials and tribulations that lie ahead.

Anna, Jacqui, thank you both for joining me today to talk about your new book, I loved reading it. 

Jacqui – We’re very excited about this book. The novel explores how their friendship helps them face and navigate the challenges life throws at them. I envisage it as a BBC drama similar to the recent Men Up. We really hope people love it as much as we do.

I’m sure they will, but before we hit our first pole-dancing class, tea, or coffee? And, what would be your preferred cake to have with it?

Jacqui – A cup of tea and nothing like Earl Grey or Green Tea, just an ordinary cuppa. I’m a biscuit lover so I’d prefer that to cake. Anything with chocolate on and I love shortbread.

Anna – I am still breast-feeding so I drink decaffeinated these days – tea and coffee. My favourite cake is either coffee and walnut or carrot cake.

Okay, I have to ask, it feels very well researched, is pole dancing a form of exercise you’d choose to do?

Jacqui – No, it’s not my thing. It’s supposed to be good for you and it is very athletic. We chose pole dancing as it seemed risqué and would likely draw disapproval in a small village setting. It’s a great way to bring the characters together and they do have to let go of their inhibitions. All of the women gain something from the classes, especially Meg. However, I don’t want to give too much away!

I loved the mysterious Feather Starr, whose idea was she?

Anna – I can’t remember who first had the idea for her character and she evolved as the book went on. My mother wrote the epilogue, which I love, and it fleshes her character. She was great fun to write and I really enjoyed her theatrical manner. She is intuitive and there’s something magical about her. One early review said, ‘I’m seriously hoping Feather turns up to a village hall near me soon,’ which was lovely.

So, when this book gets picked up for a BBC drama or a film, who will play your main characters?

Jacqui: That’s a difficult one. I really admire Alexandra Roach and loved her in Men Up and The Light in the Hall. I think Eve Myles is great. The ages of our characters are varied in the novel – from twenties to seventy-two – so finding actors of the right age would be important.

Can you tell me something about your writing process?

Anna – We tend not to be big planners. If we like an idea, we have a chat about it and then briefly plan the first few paragraphs. As the novel progresses, we plan a bit more and we usually have an idea of where we want to get by the end of the book. We both take a different character and write from that person’s perspective, or in the case of Poles Apart, we had two characters each. In this way, we hope that the novels we write have a more widespread appeal. Poles Apart has a young woman struggling with motherhood, another coming to terms with a life-changing operation, a middle-aged woman cheated on by her husband and a widowed older lady who has the life and energy of someone half her age. It’s nice to upturn stereotypes. Anyway, I write a chapter and send it to my mother and then she writes the next and sends to me. It’s worked really well so far and has given us a sense of accountability. We can’t plead writer’s block when the other is waiting for the next chapter.

Do you ever read the other’s chapter and think – wow, I didn’t see that coming?

Jacqui – We do occasionally surprise each other. Sometimes when you write, even if you plan carefully, the character takes you somewhere else. It’s exciting and we usually respect that in each other. 

Any advice for would-be writers?

Jacqui – You’re never too old to follow your dream. I was sixty last year and I thought it might be too late to embark on a writing career. Life experience is an advantage, in fact. I’d also say that you should never give up hope. You have to have a degree of self-belief or otherwise you’d never send off your work. However, it is a hugely crowded market and nowadays celebrities are taking up a fair bit of space on bookshelves. You have to persevere. I worked my way through the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book. Keep going, keep sending your work out and keep entering competitions. Lastly, you must, must get your head around social media. I’m still a novice, but I have attended courses such as Anna Caig’s with the RNA. Seek advice and support from other writers and, failing that, pin down any teenager in your family to help you!

Anna – If you really want to write, you’ll find a way. No one is too busy. I have a very lively one-year old baby boy and have just returned to my demanding career as a psychiatrist. I write on my phone when my baby takes naps and I gather inspiration from other young writers like Beth O’Leary and Gillian McAllister.

What’s next from the Burns’ stable?

Jacqui – Our fourth is out in September – the second with our publisher Allison and Busby. It’s called Escape to Pumpkin Cottage and is set in the Wye Valley. It’s about rival B&Bs, but at the heart it’s about family, connections and the importance of love. We’re currently writing our fifth book and hope to finish some time in the summer. There’s no rest for the wicked!

Thank you both for joining me today and good luck with your book. Ax

Social Media links for Anna and Jacqui:



Instagram: @annaandjacqui

Facebook: Anna and Jacqui Burns

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