I have been exploring the world of words for as long as I can remember. It took decades before I dared to think of myself as a writer even more as an historian, but for much of my waking life, this is what I do – write about and research the past.
I was eleven when I wrote my first book, a girlie tale of a pony called Princess and winning prizes at gymkhanas. Of course, I didn’t have a horse in real life, but I made up for it later.
I returned to writing in what I will call “middle age.” This was before computers, indeed before word processors and communication was by letter, carefully typed out, an envelope addressed and a stamp attached to the top right-hand corner. Writing as Janet Mary Tomson, happily I found a publisher and my first novels, hardback editions intended mostly for the library market began to appear.
Much as I enjoyed writing novels and inventing things I also wanted to write more seriously about the past. Truth is indeed often stranger than fiction and I found myself digging into the sometimes turbulent history of the Isle of Wight. The Island is in my blood, literally, with ancestors on all sides coming from these shores and going back at least to the 16th century.
Researching history, it is not the events so much as the people that fascinate me. I became interested in the life of Robert Hammond, the poor man who happened to be the governor of the Isle of Wight when King Charles arrived here spending a dramatic year before being forcibly removed, first to London and then to execution. Little was written about Hammond and I made it my business to find out, writing a biography To Serve Two Masters, published by Caliver Press and also as an e-book.
I became equally obsessed with the life of Georgian prize fighter Jem Belcher whose career was short lived when he lost an eye in a freak accident. His descent into drunkenness and early death inspired me to dramatise his life and time in a novel Alas! Poor Jem is also published as an e-book.
Perhaps the most fun was in researching a book on Animal Graves and Memorials. It was published at the time of a world cup and Waterstones manager had great fun in creating a window display Unfortunately it is now out of print.
My personal favourite is The Accidental Assassin, a tongue in cheek story of Victor, an unmarried tax officer who inadvertently kills a stranger thereby letting loose gang warfare on the Isle of Wight.
The older I get, the more there is to write about. Lately, I have indulged my passion for history by writing articles for 0n-line magazines. You might try WordPress – Jan Toms Brief Biographies; or the writers’ site Wizzley – Jan Isle of Wight; or my Vistaprint website :www.janisleofwightnovelistandhistorian.co.uk Maybe I can’t write as fast as one can read, but I try to keep up!
3 thoughts on “About me – Jan Toms: Doodles, Daydreams and Digging up the Past”
You certainly have had a varied writing life, Jan, and I admire your dedication. Such a varied output must give you great satisfaction. I’ve enjoyed all your articles on here and will look out your e-books now that I know there is more to read.
Thanks Mari, so much to do, so little time!