Sunday 24 April 2016

Q&A with Amanda Jennings, author of In Her Wake

TITLE: In Her Wake
AUTHOR: Amanda Jennings
PUBLISHER: Orenda Books

PUBLICATION DATE: March 22, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella's comfortable existence.

Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but her life.

Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family - and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

For anyone who hasn’t read it yet, can you tell us a little bit about In Her Wake?

It's the story of a young woman who discovers the life and childhood she thought she knew is a lie, when a terrible revelation upends her world. She retraces her roots to Cornwall and sets about trying to unearth the truth about her past, whilst struggling to work out who she really is.

As a reader, your storytelling makes it so easy to become invested in Bella’s moving tale, but to what extent did you feel the emotions of In Her Wake when writing it? 

That's a good question. I think it's important for a writer to harness their emotions, raid the emotional memory bank if you like, in order to imbue writing with emotional credibility. Anything that made you sad, for example, can be recalled when trying to write about grief. Or something that made you sad in a film or in the news. Empathy is a writer's greatest tool. I think a writer has to really put themselves in the shoes of their characters, and put away their own perceptions and write as if you were that person with their experiences. I felt great sympathy for Bella, but also for Dawn and Henry.

Bella’s story felt completely fitting for the atmospheric and vivid Cornish setting. How much did you enjoy writing a book set somewhere you love? 

I loved it! Cornwall is in my blood - both literally and figuratively - and it's somewhere I'm not only drawn to, but inspired by. My mother is Cornish and has a house in Zennor, and my gran, who sadly passed away last year at the age of 99, died in her bed which overlooked Mounts Bay and St Michael's Mount. My sister and I have grown up with a deep passion for Cornwall and I'm sure, one day, we'll both end up there.

Can we expect more Cornwall in future books? 

Yes, I had such pleasure setting this book there, and people have responded well to it, that I'd love to write more books set there. Maybe I could pave the way for a new subsection of psychological suspense... Cornish Noir. What do you think? Has a good ring to it?

Do you still think about previous book characters when you move onto writing your next novel? Are you glad to see the back of them or do they stay with you?

I don't think about them, no. I am fully absorbed with developing my new characters. But I do miss some of them. I still miss Luke from The Judas Scar. He was so much fun to write. And I will be devastated not to be able to write Phil who works in the St Ives harbour coffee shop in In Her Wake again. He provided me moments of refreshing levity and I enjoyed learning Cornish with him!

Did you have any kind of message you were trying to convey in In Her Wake?

 I was exploring motherhood, grief, identity, and sacrifice (of the self, not goats, I must add!). I also wanted to think about hope, that whatever has happened in the past, of course helps shape a person, but it does not need to define them. But setting out to write one single message? No. Each reader comes to a book with their own tapestry of emotions and experiences, so each will draw something different. It would be wonderful if each reader found something in the book they identified with or recognised.

 Do you manage to read other authors’ novels when you’re in the process of writing your own? 

 Yes, always, but I tend to read quite slowly now. I used to be a speedy reader, zipping through books because I couldn't put them down and I needed to know what happened. But now I have less time, needing to write, look after my children, and leave time for social media and associated writing. I also have to be careful what I read whilst writing. For example, if I'm writing in first person I will only read first person. I don't read psychological suspense when I'm writing a first draft as its distracting and I start worrying that I'm no good and should give up! So I'll read something in a different genre, often something more literary. Reading a beautiful, thought-provoking and well-written book whilst writing can be very inspiring and often fuels my own creativity.

If you could dine with three other authors, living or dead, who would you pick and why? 

 Stephen King because, well, he's The King, Oscar Wilde because he would regale us with fabulous stories and I'm sure he'd be a wonderful sharer of salacious gossip, and Victoria Wood, who was the most talented and inspirational of female writers and because of her recent death I've been reminded just how brilliant she was. She could sing for us and play the piano and I could just fangirl her shamefully.

How concerned would a stranger be if they could view your internet search history during the course of you writing your book? 

 Ha! Not very. I don't, or haven't yet, written about anything too dodgy so my internet searches tend to be for images of settings I'm writing about, mermaid legends, trivia or facts I need checking (like the names of white flowers commonly used at funerals), the Cornish dictionary, that sort of thing. How boring!

If you woke up one day, Freaky Friday style, and found yourself living the life of one other author – who would you want that author to be and why? 

 Hmmmmm.... I think I'm going to say Stephen King. I'd like his discipline, imagination and talent, his ability to write stories and characters that grab you from the off. And the many millions of copies sold would be pretty cool too!

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