Jacqui Penn writes under the pseudonym of Penny Appleton. She lives in England, but has worked and lived around the world. Her daughter, Joanna Penn (The Creative Penn podcast), helped her with the first books.
They say write what you know and Jacqui has chosen to write sweet romance. Her latest book is a senior romance, which I loved as it’s not the typical romance you think about for this genre.
In part B of the podcast, we discuss how to keep writing when times are tough.
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Today, I’m talking to Jackie Penn, who writes under the pseudonym of Penny Appleton. She writes sweet romance, and she writes sr, sweet romance, which I think is great. And I really wanted to talk to her. As an aside for everybody that is a writer listening to the podcast, her daughter is also Joanna pen, which I’m sure you’ve all heard of. When we did the interview and talked Jackie and I chatted for quite a while had a great time, and she suggested we discuss something other than just doing an interview. So you’ll notice this interview is broken into two parts, and future interviews and podcast episodes are going to be broken into two parts. So I think, Jackie, for that great idea. So here’s Jackie. And if you like the podcast, you like what you hear, please give the other episodes Listen, go check out the author’s books, give the podcast some likes to help promote it to get more readers and more writers finding other new writers and readers finding other new books to read. Here’s Jackie. All right. Well, today on the podcast, we have Jackie who writes us, Penny Appleton. Welcome to the podcast. Jackie.
Thank you very much, Stephen. It’s a pleasure to be here and to hear your lovely American voice.
I feel the same way. I interviewed somebody from Scotland and my wife said Oh, let me talk to him. Is your wife Scottish? Oh, no, not at all. She’s Finnish. Right. But she likes the accent. Very much, though. So. Alright. Well, Jackie, tell us a little bit about who you are. where you’re from little bit about your background outside of writing.
Okay, well, I’m 73. That sounds very, very old. I was born in 1947. And thank you my writing and my background. I really am a country girl, not in the American sense of you know, thank God, I’m a country boy, but English country. So me and having worked and lived in the United States. I have lived in parts of the country like Boise and Idaho and Oregon. And English countryside is very rolling and gentle green hills and beech trees and oak trees and birdsong and plowed fields and horses and cows. And so I was brought up in that. And that’s my favorite place to be really, and it’s the background of the books that I write. So from there, I went to university in London, and became a teacher of English and drama. And I’m an introvert, but like many introverts capable of being an extrovert when you’re on stage, to me, and lots of actors and actors, actresses, introverted, but they’re capable of being extroverts. So my preferred way of relaxing is to read and to be very quiet. But as a teacher, my job is to make students interested and to help them on their developmental journey. So I became a teacher of English and drama. And then after five years, I was married and came out to have children. So I have Joanna, who you know, Joanna pen, and the author and podcaster. And then I have a son Roderick, who is a photographer, so both creatives. Sadly, at that time, our marriage broke up that it all worked out well in the end, because my ex husband married again, a very nice person and have three more children. So my kids have got more siblings. But while all that was happening, I got the opportunity to go with the children to Malawi in Central Africa, to teach at the university there. And Malawi, in case you don’t know, no, it is right in the center of the African continent. It’s a small independent country, but it was then an ext. British protectorate. And the Americans built the Polytechnic of the university and the British staff did. And I have friends teaching them. And they said, Well, well, divorce is going through, like Scotland only hot here. Why don’t you come as a job teaching English to engineers, and management students. So the children and I win, and they went to an international primary school with Malawian children and 22 different other nationalities. And I was teaching English and communication skills on the management modules. Anyway, when we returned to the UK, I decided that I really enjoyed teaching on the management stuff. So I did a master’s degree at the University of Bristol in management, particularly focusing on change management, and organizational development. And then I had several jobs in British industry. But then I joined Hewlett Packard company, which has a or did have a branch of HP Labs and HP sales in Bristol and manufacturing. So I was there as a training manager, and then came to the US. Jana had gone to university. By the end she went she won a scholarship to Oxford. But Roderick came with me. And I was facilitating organizational development and change management for Hewlett Packard company, first of all on a three year contract. And then I got a permanent of a permanent position with the inkjet business based out of San Diego. And honestly, Stephen is the most wonderful job. I love Hewlett Packard company. I had 15 years with them have the most wonderful jobs. And sometimes I used to speak at women’s conferences and women would say, you know, I’m having children, I’m never going to get my career started again. And I say well actually is great painos 43. And I went to the US with hp. So from San Diego, I was working in inkjet, and facilitating top teams really all over the world in change management and organizational development. So at the end of that, I was 55 and Jana had married and moved to New Zealand, what Rick was teaching in Indonesia and Japan. So Joe said, don’t go home to England, Mum come to God’s country.
I know the Americans call America that, but the soda the New Zealand that has cool music. And it’s very beautiful, wonderful country. So I went to New Zealand, and became a teacher of English and drama again at high school for the next till I was 63. And Joanna and her husband returned to UK. And I came to not with them, but decided it was time to stop following my kids around the world. So I moved, retired to the UK. And since then I’ve been volunteering, so worked to riding for the disabled unit to hospice. I’ve been a caregiver. I’ve been an examiner for the English schools boards. And then I began to get a bit bored. And Joanna said after 10 years as an indie, author and publisher, why don’t you run you’ve had so many adventures. And I said, Well, what am I going to write? And she said, Well, thrillers are number two in the world for sales. What’s number one? And I don’t know. She said it’s romance. So as you know, Jim, and on Eros, her partner and sidekick, facilitate the alliance of independent authors podcast, just amazing stuff on there. So I had listened to that. And Joe said, Do you want to sell? Or do you want to just hold your book in your hand? And I said, Well, actually, I think I’d like to sell because lo the pension covers the basics. I love to travel, and I love having vacations overseas and visiting other cultures. So five years ago now, Joe helped me publish my first book. And just this month, November, we’ve just brought out the fifth one. So Penny Appleton called to some of your business wedding.
And I love that story. And that’s what attracted me to want to do this podcast in the first place. Because our world is so different than it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 40 years ago, and just the fact that you’ve had a great lifestyle careers, you’ve lived in multiple places great experience. Most people would hit retirement age and say, Wow, okay, I’m done. And you know, that’s it. But you said, Yeah, what else can I do? That’s the those are the stories I’ve wanted to capture and bring out in the podcast and you like, embody that. And the fact that you changed from what you used to do, you know, teaching and working for Hewlett Packard, and now writing, it’s not like, you’re just extending the career you had. It’s a total flip flop. So that to me, I admire that. I love that.
Thank you. And I knew, right, it was some I can, you know, I’ve always journaled, but I’ve never written anything and reading Joe’s books. And now doing it myself as an indie author with her helping me for the first couple. I compare it a bit like being taught to fly Gianna as a flying instructor for me. And she took me up in the plane, and showed me what it looks like from up there. But boy, it’s hard work to learn. Time about how to be an indie author. And I’ve had the secret weapon in jF pen really in the creative pen pod.
I was gonna say if you if you’re going to have a mentor for doing writing and independent publishing, you probably couldn’t have gotten a better.
No, that’s absolutely right. It was really lucky. And wonderful to I have a great relationship with Joe. We’re good friends. And sometimes we drive each other up the wall. But we’re both similar introverts. So we don’t like each other too much. But she’s also quite tough note. So the first couple of books, she really did help me like the first one was 95,000 words. And she said, Mum, if you’re going to publish commercially, we have to get rid of 45,000 words. And I almost went, this was my baby, I just finished my first book. So she showed me she’s here. But there’s also you’ve got to think of your reader, what does your reader want? Lovely ideas, exciting action, fast paced, interesting characters, and you’ve chosen to stay in the in the sweet romance genre. So there’s some stuff in here, you know, that doesn’t work for that your your reader is going to buy it on the blurb and the cover, and you’ve got to deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. So she was a great help. And then after the first three, then she said it’s time to go really independent now. So I wasn’t allowed to ask any more questions. She just pointed via the website. I’ve got a shelf of books, you know, she’s got 12 books on every aspect of indie publishing and writing and, and all the answers are there. So now she doesn’t, she doesn’t let me email her with questions. I’m, I’m cut free.
Well, hopefully, if there’s new authors listening to the podcast, that they look up the creative pen and look up Joanna’s books, because I think most of us that take it seriously have the full collection. I don’t know an author that I’ve talked to that doesn’t have at least most of them. Now, Jackie, um, that’s what I love. Also, your chosen book was or chosen genre is cozy romance, which I think you’re the first romance author I’ve interviewed on the podcast. But you not only did cozy romance, you said it with more senior adults, people that we don’t think of as dating people that aren’t in the dating scene, which is a completely different story. You know, if you’re 5560 years old, that’s a totally different romance than if you’re 2025. So I love that you did that. Was it something you consciously did or it was just felt more natural to you to write with for that age group?
I think it was both Steven, because by the time I started writing under 65, and frankly, when my hormones had gone, I couldn’t remember what in love 20 I mean, I’ve got some pictures, but all the all the feelings are different when you’re older. And not in that, for most of my characters that second time around, either someone their partner has died or they’re divorced. And all of us carry baggage with us. So when you meet someone that you’re attracted, in the senior age group, it’s no different from when you’re younger and that you’re still longing for tenderness. And you’ve got a lot of love to give, but sweet romance. You call it cozy romance. I’m not COVID cosy meaning like, you can sit by the fire and immediate sort of thing.
Yeah, that’s that’s a term I’ve heard more often. But I think I could be wrong. I’m sure people correct me, but I think they basically are about the same thing.
Okay. And I guess what I’m aiming for is what I like to read. I do not like to read stuff with a lot of sex and violence in it. So sweet romance does not have sex and violence. It has warmth and love and attraction and tenderness and families and animals and the English countryside and fun and laughter and stuff that makes love, but it doesn’t have the passion. It has more. I don’t know if you know the books of Thomas Hardy is an English writer. One of his was far from the madding crowd. And there’s a character called Gabriel oak, and he’s talking to his love. And he says, and at home when we are by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be. And whenever I look up, there will be you too. And there’s more companionship of love. Less passion, more companionship.
Yes. Yes. And we talked about this a little bit. That’s the great thing about our world. And the independent publishing is stories that a traditional publisher and agent would have said, Oh, yeah, no, this will never sell, there’s a place for it in the market. And a lot of times a very good place. And SR romance, I think is one of those genres. I mean, I don’t buy romance, or maybe a million of them out that I just don’t know about. But it’s one of those more defined niches that there are people that want to read that, and authors can reach those people now more than ever.
I think you have to write what you’re comfortable with, certainly that you can be proud of. Yes. Because I am the age I am. The writing itself is very lively, but it’s targeted to. So on, Joe, Joe mentioned to me that I should have a look at my reviews. When we were preparing for this. There are 129 reviews on the penny Appleton website. And they have a point average of 4.4 out of five. And there are 120. There’s 102 reviews for UK. So the 129 are for the US. And people have written things like I bought this book for my nanny who is in the care home, because you can buy them in large size print. So Joe has printed them have them published for me in Kindle and ebook but also in large size print because many older folks love to hold a book in their hands. I’ve got hundreds of books here in my apartment. I love books. And whilst I listen to kindle and audio, they don’t comfort me like a real book does. So you know that for older people, often large print is good. And these kinds of stories. I want to go to sleep, having read a chapter of it and go Well, that was interesting. That’s That’s fascinating. And I really resonate with this character, but not with my head full of images that are going to give me bad dreams. There’s enough of that in the news isn’t?
Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely. You don’t need to live in the States right now. So
it’s the same in the UK. Stephen was going through a great period of turbulence in the history of humankind. Yes.
Yeah. It’s been an interesting year and a couple years. Yes, I was. So you know, we’re in lotso. At the moment. Yeah. Yes, no, yeah, we’re working on it. But there’s
so none of the stores and well, the food stores are open. Essentially, essential medical services are open. But you know, nobody’s moving about and you can only go out for the day out for your walk each day, and you can’t mix with other households. And everyone’s wearing masks and our numbers are coming down. And it’s, it’s kind of scary, but then I was reading things. And Shakespeare, you know, we had terrible plague here in the time that William Shakespeare was right. And every time the plague hit, everyone would lock down. So he would go back to Stratford on even where his family were. And then, in the very worst time of the plague, he wrote the play King Lear. And I think, okay, if Shakespeare can write King Lear during lockdown, maybe I can write another romance.
And the other great thing is your book I think a lot of people are looking for need, you know, especially if like my, my parents, you know, they’re older. And these times are scary because of the health issues. So it’s nice to escape and read something that you can relate to, which, again, is something that wouldn’t have been there, if it was just traditionally published. So you’re definitely providing something needed. In this time being independent, traditional publishing,
I think to be published traditionally, now, you have to be rather spectacularly avant garde or something’s got to be very different, isn’t it? for traditional publishing, because their costs are very, very high. But what I love about being an indie author and that Joe had been doing it for 10 years before, she then said to me, Look, when you write something, even if it’s small niche, and you publish yourself, using Amazon, you don’t you pay all the upfront costs, but the money from that intellectual property comes to you, you own it. So I don’t know if you, right. Have you seen the Netflix mini series? The Queen’s gambit? Is it on there? The Queen’s gambit? Yes,
it’s on my list. Actually, my wife and I were talking about it last night.
And the original book was written by Walter TELUS tevis. And then it’s been made into a Netflix miniseries, which is just absolutely sweeping the UK. And it’s brilliant. I’ve watched it twice now. brilliantly written, brilliant screenplay. But Walter tevis has passed away. So he didn’t know that that piece of intellectual property has now caught fire in another sort of way. And for many writers. So if I’m looking at romance writers, do you know the book or the or the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? You ever heard of that? Yes, yes. Deborah moggach. So a senior romance and it’s set in two groups of British pensioners can’t afford to retire in the UK. So they go off to live in India. And it’s very funny, but it’s also very real, and it’s romantic. And when you got made into a book from Deborah made into a film from Deborah’s book, it just lit up the sky, here with older people, because it’s funny and tender, and real. And so that that’s what I think about intellectual property in the indie field is you do the work up front. And then you own the intellectual property for all time, which is pretty special.
And that’s why I, I would have a hard time getting an agent, and traditionally published, I know somebody who’s like that, and he had a trilogy, he was writing halfway through Book Two, they told them, book one didn’t sell good enough. So they weren’t go do Book Three, he had to wrap it all up. So he rewrote a lot of book two. So it was like, two and three together, finished everything up and send it to him. And then after two came out, they said, Oh, well, now both of them are doing really well. We want you to do three and maybe even more. So they completely controlled that for him, which would probably drive me crazy.
is sort of distracts you from the writing, doesn’t it? So if you can only take some pressure off, right? We’re putting on a different pressure. I agree.
Well, true, but I at least I can choose which pressure I want. Yes. And I don’t
think my kind of mills and boon might might 10 publish my, my sweet romance at some point. But at the moment, I don’t think I’m special enough. But I have got a little niche. And Penny Appleton is making enough money. If we weren’t in lockdown to send me on a couple of very nice holidays per year. That’s wonderful. You know,
I think that’s actually more success. Let me ask you, Jackie, um, what were some of the things you learned, working with Joanna, on your first book in that, that you’re doing different now? Hmm.
That’s a lovely question. And the first book, there was a lot of autobiographical stuff in there. Now it’s more story with a little funny incidents. Because sometimes things happen in life which is so rare and beautiful. You got to put it in a book somewhere. My characters right For me in one way or another, but the first one was more autobiographical. And so we cut a lot of that out. When I first started, I was writing a lot by hand, because the computer typing on the computer is not the way I work. But I’ve changed over to using a dictaphone, and the dragon software, so often I get an idea in my head, grabbed the dictaphone talking to it, and it alters my style makes my style more colloquial. And then you plug that into the computer, and it comes up as type written script. I love it. So then we’ll have to do is edit it. Yes, and put it into its file. What else am I doing differently? Oh, man, there’s lots of things I’m doing differently. And I can’t think of them all right now.
That’s fine. I use different. Now you’ve instead of a real person, being your mentor, you’ve got all the reference books. So I don’t know if that’s a an improvement, but it’s different.
I think Joe taught me everything she knew in person. And then you have to go on your own journey, don’t you?
before you go. Do you have any quick last minute advice? And then tell us again, where to find you online?
Thank you very much. Advice. Well, I think in this pandemic, I don’t know if your your listeners and you also feel this. But I know that we’ve been in the plague. And I know we’ve had the influenza after the First World War and everything, and they were massive pandemics. And when I get a bit low, I think well, in those days, we didn’t know what it was the technology and the microbiology was not advanced enough. We didn’t know how to tackle it. And we didn’t know how to develop a vaccine. Whereas with this pandemic, it’s a novel virus, but we know what it is now. And we know how it spreads and vaccines are being developed. However, because it shut down so much of the worldwide society, it’s easy to get the kind of low level of depression, sometimes token panic, but in the main a kind of low level of depression. So I’ve been reading some poetry, because poets touch your heart, very much more. And one that I I think has helped me is a is a poet called Gerard Manley Hopkins, who was actually a Jesuit priest and poet. And he’s writing about how the woods at this time of year all the leaves are falling. And, and he asks this child, Margaret, are you grieving over golden Grove and leaving, and the poem goes on at the end, he says, you know, hold on to your emotions, because it isn’t the word you’re grieving for it, it is yourself. It is Margaret, that you grieve for. And I think that we should forgive ourselves and allow ourselves at this particular time, to be a little bit less cheerful, you know that we should forgive ourselves for being a little bit depressed and support each other through this time, but not expect that we’re going to be at our very best and most productive.
That’s great. I appreciate that. And tell us again, where to find you online.
So it’s Penny appleton.com. And or go just go to Amazon, under Penny Appleton did did I did we tell you the story of how we got Penny akhaten? Because obviously, my name is Jackie Penn, but there’s
I think you told me. Yeah, so um, with that, like you got a moment. Yeah, that’d be great.
Yeah, like, why does one write under a pen name? Well, there was already one famous pen author is Joanna pen. So because I’m Jacqueline pen. That was one reason that I she was She’s the author of the family. And I was just starting out, so but also, I’d already had two careers. And if I was going to write was talking rubbish, at least you could quietly disappear on Amazon by not selling anything. And so I said, Well, look, I’ll turn it around the other way. And there’s still a Jackie pen. I’ll make it Penny Jackson. But then, as a new author, you then have to go and search to see as if the name that you have decided, has already been taken by someone else. And there’s not only the Jackie pins spelled exactly like mine, who’s an author but also a penny jack. So I said okay, well I quite like penny. And Joe said well make it something to do with an A because people will search Amazon and start with the And also make it because it’s sweet romance make it clean and sweet and English countryside. So we picked Penny Appleton and that’s who she is. So that’s it. Steven,
Unknown Speaker 30:13
thank you very much. Great. Yeah. Speaking with Jackie, it’s wonderful to talk to you and to talk to you to you have a good rest of the day.