Amanda Jennings read History of Art at Cambridge and spent sometime post-university working at the BBC. She is an active user of social media and has an entertaining blog www.amandajennings.co.uk. She is married with three daughters and lives in Henley.
Your new novel is called 'The Judas Scar' please could you tell me about it?
It’s the story of Harmony and Will whose lives are turned upside down when Luke, an old school friend of Will’s, arrives on the scene. Bullying, betrayal, love, desire, guilt and revenge; it’s a tangled old web that develops.
Both in 'Sworn Secret' and 'The Judas Scar' the reader is taken on a journey of loss and discovery. What is your writing process for writing something that is traumatic and heartfelt?
This is a hard question. I don’t think it’s a process so much as a period of time, a long period, spent empathising with each character. I have to forget my own emotions and submerse myself in the past and present of each character and imagine how I would react or feel if I were them. It can be quite draining, and on occasion I’ve been known to write a scene with tears pouring down my cheeks! Empathy is one of the writer’s most important tools, in my opinion.
What can we expect next, is book number 3 in the making?
Yes, the first draft of Book 3 is written and awaiting its first big edit. As The Judas Scar focuses on betrayal, this one take identity as its central theme, what identity really means, what defines us as an individual. It’s set in Cornwall, around St Ives and Penzance where my mother’s family is from, which is an area I’m emotionally very attached to and I’m thoroughly enjoying having this story set here.
They say the journey to being published is one of the hardest an author can take, please can you describe the journey that you went on?
It was quite long and beset with rejection, which I’m sure you hear a lot! Someone who offered me early advice said to get a book traditionally published a writer needs three things: talent, hard work and a little bit of luck. Of those I believe hard work is the most vital. It’s difficult to motivate yourself sometimes. Most of us write as a secondary occupation, fitting it in around jobs and families. But unless you make yourself (force yourself on occasion) sit down and get the words out, it will never happen. My journey was pretty standard. I wrote a book. It was rejected by all the agents in the world. I wrote another book. I was signed by an agent (a Champagne moment). That book didn’t find a publisher. I wrote another book. I signed a publishing contract (another Champagne moment). Eighteen months later I saw my book on the WHSmiths bestseller stand (yup, you guessed it... Another Champagne moment). The whole process from start (the moment I decided to officially start writing a book) to finish (the last Champagne moment) took just over seven years.
Writers put so much time and energy into their characters and I have been told in the past that a writer carries their characters around with them. So my question is if you could go out for a day with any one of your characters: who would it be, what would you do and why did you pick this particular character?
I think I’d go out with Frank, the man who helps in Will’s wine shop. We’d sit in the sunshine and play with his cats, drink tea and dunk biscuits, then go for a walk into Chiswick and buy some delicious food for lunch, which we’d eat in the park. Then we’d go home, open some really good wine and chat long into the night about everything and nothing. He would relax me and make me remember that the relationships we have with family, friends and our animals is what’s important in life.
If you could choose one book that you think everyone should read, what would it be and why?
Tastes in fiction vary so much and I believe wholeheartedly that there is no one book that all people will enjoy to the same degree, or even all like. I, for example, hated Wuthering Heights and loved Perfume. Both these opinions would have violent opposition! However, if you like writing, want to write or, indeed, want to do anything that requires perseverance and inspiration, do read Stephen King’s On Writing. It is a fabulous book. Half of it describes his journey to publication, the other half offers brilliant writing advice that in many places can be applied to the pursuit of any dream. He’s a great writer and this is a great book.
If there was one saying that could sum up your life to date, what would it be?
Smile and the world smiles with you.
What or who in life inspires you?
I’m lucky to have an inspiring family. My great grandmother was the first women to qualify as an optician in the UK, my grandmother was also an optician and worked full-time until she was 84, my mother is an architect who, along with my dad, brought my sister and I up to believe we could do anything we wanted to, that gender wasn’t important but that hard work and reliability was. My husband’s an amazing support and the energy he has when it comes to being dedicated in both the workplace and our family home is incredible and very inspiring.
What is your all time favourite book?
This is too hard! The Poisonwood Bible springs to mind, but then The Dark Is Rising Sequence was the first book to fire my imagination in a visceral way. And The Book Thief is up there. My Family and Other Animals? Oh hang on, Animal Farm. Oh, but then there’s Romeo and Juliet and James Herbert’s Magic Cottage. Arggghhh...Little Women! Nope...can’t do it.
If 'The Judas Scar' was to become a movie, who would your dream cast be?
Luke would be Michael Fassbender, fully sexed up with his darker side primed, Will would be Paul Bettany, but he would have to put a bit of weight on, and Harmony would be Cate Blanchett, she has that striking handsomeness that Harmony has.
Please would you share who your 5 dream dinner party guests would be?
Sir Patrick Stewart, Tim Minchin, Stephen Fry, Oprah Winfrey and Nora Ephron.
Quick fire round:
Cupcakes or Ice cream? Cupcakes
Books or e-books? Books
Cinema or DVD? Cinema
Staying in or going out? Going out
Email or letters? Oooo...letters but an email will do.
A big thank you to Amanda for talking to The Love of a Good Book