@MandaJJennings

I was lucky enough to work with Amanda on a short story competition I ran last year. As a judge for all the entries she was a joy to work with. Along with @motherventing we ensured that the decision was fair, honest and not taken lightly. Her emails often had me howling with laughter. Not only this she is a curious, tender and devastating writer with a host of questions to ask. Nearly all of them we often ask ourselves. Here Amanda talks to me about her children, finding creativity and death.  

Amanda Jennings

Amanda Jennings

Is it fair to say that you would be a very different writer (if a writer at all) if you hadn’t become a mother?

I think that’s a very good question. I’d like to say I wouldn’t be any different, but I don’t think I can in all honesty. I rail against women being defined by our children and husbands all the time – it’s one of my pet hates in British media! – but at the same time these children, my three fantastic daughters are in integral part of my life. I had my first daughter at 24, before I started writing. In fact, I began writing because I wanted to be at home with her, so gave up my job at the BBC and to keep myself sane (whether or not I’ve managed this is arguable) I began to write. My first book was all about a family coming to terms with the death of one of their daughters a year earlier. She was sixteen and they discover all sorts of secrets about her that tamper with their recovery process, not to mention raise questions over the circumstances of her death. I couldn’t have – and wouldn’t have thought to have – written this book if I hadn’t been a mother. The emotions, the fears, the love, the shifting from self-centredness to the feeling that you would do anything for this human being who you care about above all others, these are the things that strike you after you’ve had children. This is a very long-winded way of saying: yes, I think I’d have written differently if I wasn’t a mother.

Death appears to have a consistent voice in your writing. Why?

I have been obsessed with the concept of death, and the grief that goes with it, for as long as I can remember. It’s genetic. My father is, my middle daughter is and just recently my youngest daughter, who is eight, asked ‘Mummy, I’m worried about what it will FEEL like when I’m not here any more, when I’m dead.’ My mother, sister, husband and eldest daughter aren’t so afflicted and I’m often jealous of them. My husband merely says: ‘when you’re dead you’re dead, you won’t know any different. Don’t think about it.’ Hmmm…more easily said than done. I am not religious, but I consider myself spiritual and I am prone to over-thinking, I do believe that if I had religion in my life, that if I believed in the afterlife, or some greater purpose, that death wouldn’t fascinate me so much.

What is your favourite part of the day?

Well, I tend not to generalise like that. I’m a big avoider of generalisation. Some mornings are fabulous, some are rubbish. Some evenings can’t come quick enough, some days I never want to end. Sometimes lying my head on the pillow – especially if there are clean sheets on the bed – is the best time of day. Wine o’clock is up there though.

When do you find yourself most creative?

I used to wake up in the middle of the night when I was in my late teens and paint a picture or write a poem. Ha – the thought of that now, in my sleep-deprived, post-40 state? Ridiculous! I tend to think that if I waited for my creative muse to appear I would never get anything done. I’m sure my creative muse is a lazy so-and-so who would probably be asleep under a tree somewhere. I don’t rely on her. I write when I sit down at the computer and make myself do it. Writing is a job and I have to see it like that or else I’d procrastinate continuously. Having said all that, I do a lot of my thinking on my dog walks every morning. The routine and exercise and fresh air are good for thoughts and it works well because I know exactly what I’m going to write that day by the time I get home.

Describe yourself in five words

Five words? Erm, haven’t you gleaned from previous answers that brevity isn’t my strong point. But if you insist: energetic, maternal, fun-loving (is that two words or one? Let’s go for one), hug-loving, smile-giving. (Hyphen-user…)

What was the first thing you did after finishing writing The Judas Scar?

Made a cup of tea.

Amanda’s impressive resume includes publishing two books, the first Sworn Secret (Constable and Robinson, Canvas) featured in Vogue Online as one of their Best Summer Reads of 2012. It reached number 4 in the Kindle Bestseller chart and has been sold to the US, Taiwan and Italy. The Judas Scar (Cutting Edge Press) is her second book published in May 2014. She has three daughters, far too may pets and a husband, living in a cottage in the woods between Henley and Reading. Before she wrote she was a researcher at the BBC. She been known to drink wine and eat chocolate and occasionally go on Twitter… @mandajjennings. Find out more about Amanda at www.amandajennings.co.uk.

 

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