The fully-formed birth of Vina Jackson

As I write, EIGHTY DAYS YELLOW by Vina Jackson is no 6 on the Sunday Times bestseller list and has been in the top ten for the last three weeks.

But if a computer hadn’t engineered for two total strangers to sit quite by chance on opposite seats on a train from London to the provinces, John Grisham’s new novel might be no 6 instead and, worse, Vina Jackson would not exist at all!

Fate certainly moves in mysterious ways.

Vina Jackson is actually two writers, writing together under a pseudonym.  Yet until a few months ago we had never even met.

It all began when one of us was invited to attend a literary festival outside London, while the other decided to attend at short notice and purchased a ticket, on the recommendation of a friend.

So, on a very early Saturday morning as winter was turning into spring, both of us arrived at Euston station, with tickets booked online, only to find a train which was at best barely 10% full and our allocated seats facing each other while the rest of the carriage barely housed half a dozen other travellers. Any of us could have moved elsewhere in the carriage to enjoy more privacy, but then this is Britain and we all probably felt it would be rude to do so.

For hours we all sat together, respectively reading, daydreaming, listening to music on iPods or eating, saying not a word to one another only to discover, several hours afterwards at the literary festival while drinking the welcoming coffee, that the three of us that had all been grouped together by the bookings computer were attending the same event… and had all taken separate taxis from the station.

Several weeks later one of us contacted the other for some professional advice and thus two strangers who had met by chance on a train began emailing regularly.

We were both writers with a penchant for racey romance, and in passing one of us mentioned an unusual story about an antique violin that they’d read in a newspaper. Perverse minds think alike and we both thought there was a stub of an idea for a novel there, ready to be written. And then we moved on to other matters, stories to write, lives to live, other things to do.

A few months passed and the idea to write a novel together  kept bubbling away so we decided to meet up at London’s Groucho Club and later exchanged ideas and suggestions over meals in Chinatown.  And it was then that we agreed to write four opening chapters, in alternate voices, and to then send it to a literary agent to see if there was anything there to interest a publisher.

We came up with the character of the violin player busking in the Tube and the university professor who is captivated by her playing and we improvised some way they could meet. Thus Summer and Dominik were born. And so was Vina Jackson. Along with a proposal and several sample chapters for two novels, featuring their adventures in the world of sex and BDSM.

The literary agent Sarah Such loved the material and signed us up, submitting to London publishing houses within a few days. And overnight the first offers began coming in. As the level of interest grew, so did the size of the offers as well as the suggestion that it could even make a trilogy. So Vina Jackson agreed to write a third volume, and soon a six-figure deal was done with the wonderful folk at Orion.

By then, of course, the collected works of E.L. James were weaving their magic on the bestseller lists and Orion suggested we could maybe write all three books in 3 months. Vina didn’t protest too much and agreed, to ensure the trilogy would be published within weeks of delivery of the respective manuscripts, and catch the zeitgeist.

The first volume EIGHTY DAYS YELLOW was published in early August, and its sequels EIGHTY DAYS BLUE and EIGHTY DAYS RED are out in September and October. It will soon be published in the USA by Open Road Media and so far has sold translation rights in ten territories, including Germany, France, Italy and Japan.

It was never meant to rival Fifty Shades of Grey, as neither of us have even read it! But we did want to write a strong erotic romance, with believable characters and non-stop action, which we hope is well-written and entertaining. And that you enjoy reading the EIGHTY DAYS trilogy.

Meanwhile beware who you sit opposite next time you take a train.  You may end up writing a racey romance trilogy with a complete stranger…