I met Amanda Jennings for the first time at Crimefest this year and I am hoping that our paths will cross again soon. For me one of the pleasures of moderating a panel is when I get to read the work of authors new to me. Once I’d started reading Amanda’s novel, The Judas Scar, I couldn’t put it down. Amanda has kindly agreed to be my guest on the blog today. I’ll begin by asking, In The Judas Scar a terrible crime casts its shadow over the present and threatens to destroy a marriage. How did you come to write it?
It all started with a phone call my husband received from a police officer whilst he was at work. She was investigating historical abuse at his old school. It was a boarding school, and it wasn’t the happiest of times for him. Though he wasn’t directly affected by what went on there, he knew some of his peers were having a difficult time but didn’t understand what they were experiencing or why. The phone call unearthed a lot of buried emotions and watching him recall those memories was profoundly inspiring. I became fascinated with taking one childhood incident and creating characters who deal with that incident in very different ways, then throwing them together twenty years laters and watching how their presents are affected, how their coping mechanisms are challenged.
What’s your writing routine?
Once the children are at school, I head out with my dog, Saffie – a husky collie cross – and go for a long walk. I love being outdoors and having space to think is good preparation for writing. I tend to think about the scene I am about to write, try to work through any sticking points, and then when I get home, I load the dishwasher, drag a cursory cloth over the kitchen worktops – missing a lot of crumbs – and then sit down to write for a couple of hours. I’ll eat lunch at my computer. It’s a bad habit, but I like to catch up on Twitter and answer emails, and it seems like a good way to multitask, and then I’ll either write for another hour or two, or, more likely, procrastinate hugely whilst making endless cups of tea. I think most writers are dreadful procrastinators. I blame all the daydreaming we did as children!
What single thing would make your writing life easier?
A second ‘me’. I think I doppelganger would be brilliant. My doppelganger would do all the house work, see friends, keep fit, go to Tesco, answer emails, handle all my social media, talk at book events, cook for the children, and also have time to lie in the sun and read. That would leave me just needing to walk the dog, write all day then watch Game of Thrones in the evening with a glass of wine. In fact, that sounds great. Do you know where I can buy a second ‘me’?
What a great idea! I’d like one too!
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
I have two local bookshops which I love. The Bell Book Shop in Henley is where I shopped as a child, where I now buy all my Christmas presents, and where I occasionally go to see my books resting on the shelf near PD James. Chapter One in Woodley is amazingly supportive and I often go in, always with cake, to chat to shoppers. They organise author events and are incredibly proactive when it comes to selling books and sharing their love of the written word. But my all time favourite bookshop is Goldsboro Books in London. I have had both my book launches there and David Headley who owns and runs it has become a dear friend. They host amazing events there. Crime in the Court was a few weeks ago – hundreds of crime loving readers, writers and industry professionals spilling out on to the cobbled street, drinking wine and catching up. Brilliant. Goldsboro is also home to the most stunning collection of books. Well worth a trip for any book lover visiting central London.
What are you working on now?
My third book, In Her Wake, a psychological thriller set in Cornwall, is due to be published in Spring 2016 with the ebook coming out around Christmas. I’m about to get the final edits through and then I’ll be finishing up over the summer. I’ve just seen the first idea for the cover. And I love it! This is such an thrilling stage, the best bit perhaps, when you have a deal with an editor who loves the book and is excited about it, but before the mayhem of publication kicks in! The calm before the storm.
Thanks, Amanda. It’s been lovely getting to know you better. There is more about Amanda on her web-site http://amandajennings.co.uk
One of the pleasures of Crimefest – surely one of the friendliest conventions on the circuit and almost certainly the best organised – is making new friends. This was the first time I had met the writers on the panel that I moderated. They are from left to right: Amanda Jennings, me, Stav Sherez, Linda Regan, and David Mark. If it looks as if we were having fun, it’s because we were. Thanks to Amanda for the photo.
Our topic was ‘Playing God with Your Characters.’ There was a lively debate between Stav and Linda, about whether their characters take on a life of their own. Stav felt that he was always firmly in control, Linda that her characters did have a life beyond the page. We wondered if justice always has to be done. Amanda felt that there should be justice of some kind, but it need not always be justice according to the law: the criminal in her latest novel had already been punished enough. We pondered the ethics of basing characters on real people. David has come across plenty of criminals and police officers in his time as a crime reporter for the Yorkshire Post, but none of them are to be found between the pages of his novels.
The discussion never flagged and there were interesting questions from the floor. Thank you, Amanda, Stav, Linda, and David, for being a great panel. See you next year!