Wendy Janes recently popped by to tell me all about her new book. It was a welcome break from getting my short story collection ready for publication.
Over to you Wendy…
Thank you to Hugh for inviting me to his blog to talk about my latest release.
What’s the name of the book?
What Tim Knows, and other stories.
What inspired you to write it?
The characters! After I’d pressed ‘publish’ on my previous book, What Jennifer Knows, some of the supporting and minor characters kept popping into my head and talking to me. They kept telling me stories, but those stories refused to be corralled into a novel. At that point I realised I was writing a short story collection.
I loved the challenge of ensuring the stories can stand alone, but also linking them to each other and to the original novel, with Jennifer appearing in each story.
Tell us a little about the stories and the characters
The stories begin in the 1960s when Jennifer is a student, and the last story is set in the 2000s when Jennifer is a grandmother.
Flamboyant art collector, Rollo, is at the forefront of modern art in London in the 1960s, but is at a loss to understand pop music. His life is dominated by his need to surround himself with beautiful things. Will he find the beauty he’s searching for?
Young dancer, Cynthia’s tale has a darker theme than Rollo’s, and essentially looks at the mores of the late 1960s, and I hope readers will question how far we have actually come since those days.
Sue is a new mother in the 1970s, struggling to cope with her baby daughter. Everyone else seems to know what to do with their babies. Why doesn’t Sue?
Gerald’s career as a sculptor has been on the ascendant for over twenty years, but is he still on-song in the 1980s? His initial response to criticism may strike a chord with anyone whose artistic endeavours haven’t appealed to everyone.
Teenager, Blythe, is an only child in the 1990s, who wishes she could escape the focus of her parents’ smothering love and hide within a big family. However, the reality of being one of many children doesn’t turn out to be quite as perfect as she thought it would.
Life is very confusing for young Tim, and his experiences at a friend’s birthday party are a huge challenge for him. He tries so hard not to make mistakes, but sometimes it’s hard to know what the rules are.
Who do you think the book will appeal to?
I hope my book will appeal to those who enjoy a quieter, character-led story. Some themes are quite serious, but there’s always hope and humour to be found in them. I’ve been told my stories are very English (I take that as a compliment!).
I’m currently working on another novel. As much as I love the characters I’ve already written about, it’s time to move on and create new ones, explore new relationships, and tell a new tale. However, I don’t rule out one or two characters from What Jennifer Knows making a brief appearance in my new work. I’m not a big fan of reading sequels, but I do enjoy it when an author gives a nod to previous work, so I take great delight in weaving my own subtle links.
Where do your ideas for your stories come from?
Sue’s story in What Tim Knows is directly based on my own experience. I’m not usually quite so autobiographical in my storytelling, and I generally gather my ideas from other people’s experiences and from localities I’m familiar with. I then take a step or two away and allow my imagination to turn them into fiction. I find old family stories are a fantastic source. My husband’s family, in particular, is chock-full of English eccentrics who, in fact, barely need any additional imagination to turn into fiction.
What three pieces of advice would you give to someone who wants to write and publish a book?
An excellent way to develop and sharpen your skills as a writer is to read the work of other authors.
Network. Networking with authors and bloggers can be a great source of practical and emotional support. You can learn so much about the business of writing and meet some amazing people.
I’m very grateful for all the friends I’ve made in the blogging world – the camaraderie is wonderful. I feel invested in the writing careers of others, cheering along their launches and successes, and getting an equally warm and fuzzy feeling when they reach out to support me.
Get your book edited and proofread. If your book is in the marketplace, you need to have a professional product. A good editor and an eagle-eyed proofreader can help you achieve that. If you don’t have the cash, then consider a trade in skills – a cover for a proofread, for example.
The vast majority of people cannot proofread their own writing. This has nothing to do with intelligence, or knowledge of grammar, or writing talent. You simply don’t see your own mistakes. I’m happy to come clean here and declare that I am a proofreader, but I’m honestly not trying to drum up work for myself (my diary is full!).
I guarantee that readers are far more likely to enjoy your writing, become invested in your characters and your story, and give you a good review if your book is free of errors. I shall now dismount from my soapbox.