If you read my reviews you will know that I had a lot to love for Amanda Jennings novel In Her Wake and I am very happy that she’s agreed to have a chat with me on the blog today. It’s chance to find out a little more about In Her Wake and about Amanda’s writing practice.
You can read my review of in her wake here.
Firstly I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved In her wake, Cornwall, the sea, mermaids and a mystery to boot what isn’t to love really!
Thank you so much.
I’d be very impressed if you could, but could you condense In her wake into a sentence?
When Bella Campbell returns to her childhood home for the funeral of her mother, a second family tragedy leaves her struggling to come to terms with information that both upends her world and prompts a journey of self-discovery as she searches for answers to long buried secrets and an unsolved crime. (That’s quite a long sentence, isn’t it…?!)
I love the Cornish element of the novel as I found that the landscape seemed perfect for the novel. Why did you choose Cornwall as the main setting for the book?
My mother is Cornish and her side of the family is Cornish back through many generations. I am fiercely proud of my 50% Cornish blood (the other half is Pinner, which isn’t really as glamorous…) We have spent holidays, Christmases, New years in and around Penzance (where my grandmother lived for 99 years) and Zennor (where my parents have a house) ever since I can remember and the memories associated with the area are both vivid and very fond. I wanted to write about a girl – a variation of myself – who discovers her fairly privileged Oxfordshire upbringing isn’t what it seems. Her identity is called into question, and I felt the weather, raging sea, rich history, legends and passion of Cornwall was the perfect setting. Cornwall has such a strong identity that it made an interesting backdrop to a story about a woman struggling to find her own.
As a reader I have a favourite character in this book, but is there one character who stands out for you as a favourite?
He is only a minor character, but I love Phil. His role in the book is as an anchor, a constant, a breath of fresh air for both Bella and the reader. I enjoyed learning Cornish with him and felt that his upbeat attitude and obvious fondness for Bella helped keep her striding forwards. The characters in my books are always struggling to find a route through the chaos that the discovery of past crimes inflicts on them, and the moments of lightness that characters like Phil the Coffeeshop Guy add are a welcome break.
I didn’t expect this answer, but I love it because Phil is my favourite too and for all of the same reasons. He is the safety in Bella’s storm and I just wanted to reach into the book and hug him.
I found In Her Wake incredibly emotional and will admit to shedding more than a few tears, was it emotional for you as writer?
I would be lying if I said it wasn’t emotional at times. As a mother I was forced to confront some pretty awful eventualities. Having a child go missing is perhaps one of our greatest fears. But I was also moved by the idea of child carers. The fact that there are children out there who, because of things out of their control, end up having to care for a parent and sacrificing so much. There is a section at the end, which I can’t go into in detail for fear of spoilers, that has a passage with Henry Campbell that I still find hard to read without a lump of emotion forming. I think this is to do with subconscious associations, recollections of those emotions and feelings on which I drew to write it.
All authors seem to have writing essentials to survive the writing process, whether it’s copious amounts of coffee or a pile of chocolate big enough to rival the Eiffel tower. What is the essential or essentials for you?
Tea. I must make about six cups of tea a day! Not all of them are drunk though and I often end up putting a cup of cold tea in the microwave only to forget about that one as well. I think I find the process of making tea therapeutic! I also am a big believer in ‘walking a plot hole out’. If I have something I am struggling with, often just heading outside with the dog is enough to kick start my subconscious into arriving at a solution. I also rely on Twitter and Facebook as a welcome break (or should that be extreme procrastination!).
I’ve heard all manner of ways that writers work over the years but I still seem to find new rituals or ways of working that interest me. Would you say that you have a typical day as a writer? Or is there any ritual involved in your writing process like a special outfit or a writing mascot? (I have decided that if I ever get around to writing a book I am going to do it in Wizard’s robes – just because!)
Oooo, wizard robes!!! LOVE this. Sadly, no exciting writing outfits for me, unless slippers and a big overcoat and sometimes fingerless gloves count? (It does seem to get very chilly writing in the winter). When I started writing, my children were small. In fact, my second daughter was a baby. So I essentially wrote whenever she fell asleep. If she fell asleep in the car I would pull over and get out my edit notes, figuring it was easier to drive with a crying baby than to write. Now my children are older, I tend to write after I’ve walked the dog and cleaned the breakfast things up. I will do a few hours, have lunch, and then either write again, or do In Real Life things. I will also write for an hour when my husband gets home, and often, if I’m in the frenzy of a first draft, will write for as much of the weekend as my family will allow.
In her wake has received many five stars reviews, what is it like to see those five stars rolling in? What did you do when you got your first ever five star review?
It’s lovely to get good reviews. It’s strange though. You can have 50 five star reviews, and then get one two star, and all you can hear is that two star. I immediately know that every one of those glorious five star reviewers was misguided and that the two star reviewer is the one to be believed. I have to admit to not ever leaving a bad review on a book. I only ever share reviews of books I’ve loved. I am so aware that what I hate, someone else might adore, and vice versa. Reading is such a subjective activity and no two people will have exactly the same reading experience as a reader brings their own experiences to the table. The themes and images described will resonate differently with each person. What did I do when I got my first five star review? I’m not sure I can remember but I’m pretty sure it would’ve been cry with relief!
If you could give any budding writers out there any advice what would it be?
Get your first draft written and then edit, edit and edit again. You can’t do anything until you have a first draft. All first drafts – even from the greats – are rubbish, so don’t worry too much. You want to get that story out and then you have something, a lump of clay, to work with, to sculpt, into something beautiful. Editing is important. This is where the magic happens. Don’t be tempted to finish a first draft and send it out to agents and editors. You want to make sure it is the very very best it can be before anybody else sets eyes on it.
A few just for fun:
Would you rather end hunger or hatred?
That is a HARD one! Hatred and unkindness is the scourge of humankind, however the thought of children, anyone in fact, going hungry? I think I’m going to have to end hunger and hope that this will have a knock-on long term effect of lessening the hatred out there.
Cats or dogs?
Even HARDER! I have both and love them both very much. In fact, both keep my company when I’m writing, the dog at my feet, and the cat beside my keyboard. But, if pushed, I wouldn’t be without my dog for anything. So I’m choosing dogs. And now my cat hates me. If you could just see the way she is glaring at me…
I feel really bad now, if your cat trips you down the stairs now it’s totally all going to be my fault! 🙁
Would you rather take on one horse sized duck or one hundred duck sized horses?
A horse-sized duck! I love horses and grew up riding, so I’d be super-excited about trying to ride a duck. That said, duck sized horses would be pretty cute. But one hundred of them?! No, Ill take the massive duck, please.
Would you rather be stuck in a room with a spider or a snake?
I’m not really scared of either, but I have no fear whatsoever of spiders. I rescue them, even big hairy ones from the bath, at every opportunity. Spiders are amazing. Without them the world would be overrun with flies, for starters. Also, I am obsessed with spiders’ webs. So beautiful, intricate and what an incredible food-catching system to have evolved. Yup. I’ll go with the spider. And you can even make it a duck-sized one. (I might baulk at one the size of a horse though.)
You’re a bridesmaid at a close friends wedding. What’s worse wearing the ugliest and worst fitting dress known to mankind or being the clumsy bridesmaid that trips down the aisle and knocks over a fellow bridesmaid?
This is going to make me sound vain, which I really hope I’m not, but I think being in the ugly, badly fitting dress. I’m used to tripping over and making a fool of myself and as long as you style these things out all is usually well. And at least I’d be in a gorgeous, well-fitting dress when I caused a scene…!
This answer is so me, the first thing I asked when a friend recently hypothetically asked me if she ever got married would I be her bridesmaid and the first thing I said was not if I have to wear a hideously ugly dress!
Thank you ever so much for having me. I loved answering your questions. x
If you want to get to know Amanda a bit better, and let’s be fair as you can tell from this chat she is absolutely hilarious why wouldn’t you want to? She is on Twitter so give her a follow, you can also check out her website.
Amanda has kindly donated a signed paperback of In Her Wake for one lucky winner, so if you fancy being in with a chance to win then check out the rafflecopter giveway below and have a go.
The giveaway is open to UK only.
The winner will be notified by DM on Twitter and I will tweet to let you all know who won!