Deception, Lies and Chocolate Muffins is her debut novel and was released by Book Guild Publishing in September 2013. We chat with Jennie about her writing process, her ideal dinner guests and superpowers…
What was the experience like writing your novel alongside running your own business?
Writing in my shop was – overall – the ideal location. I had a nice flat surface, and a strategically placed display and pot plant behind which I could hide my notebook. Also, there are many times when you don’t get a customer in the shop for twenty or more minutes and it was great to ignore the dusting and speed on with my writing. Sometimes a customer might tell me something that gave rise to a spark of an idea. I never quote anything. I’d hate to think that I might be reprimanded about disclosing part of a private conversation. I don’t work full-time in the shop – although I run it and am responsible for ordering, paying suppliers, doing shop display – so I’d type up the latest chunk of story when I got home.
Did having a previous job as a teacher help also?
Yes, I was a primary school teacher and worked for part of the time as a supply teacher, so know exactly what it feels like to arrive at school and find the place in the throes of preparation for Ofsted! The camaraderie of the staff room that is portrayed in the story has to be lived before it can be written about. Choosing the job of schoolteacher for my main character gave me firm ground and authenticity in my plot.
Do you plan?
I do a huge amount of planning before I write, and also during the process when I discover the characters are taking on a life of their own and leading me into unchartered territory. I spend a lot of time trawling through telephone directories looking for interesting surnames so I can draw up a character profile. I also like to construct a timeline for the plot, with key points of the lives of main characters added to it. After sketching out the main plot, I add the secondary themes to it, but it could all change as I write, as new ideas pop into my mind. That’s the wonderful thing about the creative flow.
What makes you laugh?
Witty sayings and clever use of words makes me giggle. I’m not a fan of slapstick – so Mr Bean stuff leaves me cold.
Mr Bennett in Pride and Prejudice – so I can ask him why he was such a wimp.
If you can admit it, what’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told?
About the existence of Father Christmas – to my children when they were little.
Do you edit as you go?
Writing out by hand in the first instance was good for me. I could savour the words and play around with them, and keeping the opposite page of my notebook gave me room for alterations. So, yes, I edit as I write, but then, I may make further changes when I get to the typing stage. With my debut novel, I rewrote the whole thing two years after completing it. The rewriting was absolutely essential, although I didn’t realise it at the time.
Which book has had the most impact on you?
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Best writing moment so far?
The final word – knowing that I’d finished at last.
What’s your favourite word?
Chuckled. It portrays fun in a guileless and old-fashioned way and has a better sound than laughed.
If you could have a superpower, which one would you have?
To be able to undo the unfortunate ‘foot in mouth’ moments of my life.
Ideal dinner guests?
Friends whose kitchens and cooking standards are about the same as mine and are not fussy about the use of old casserole dishes and mismatched wine glasses. Being able to talk about subjects other than football is also a key point!
Which three things would you need with you on a desert island?
A magnifying mirror, a pair of tweezers and Roget’s Thesaurus – I’d need to be in good mental and physical shape for my rescuer!
Five tips for new writers?
1. Be determined and persistent.
2. Write about subjects you enjoy.
3. Don’t be afraid a bit of yourself in the story.
4. Be prepared to revise and rewrite – especially is a professional editor tells you to do it.
5. Run your story past a trusted friend or relation – but only ones who understand the genre – and listen to advice.
Deception, Lies and Chocolate Muffins is available to buy now from Amazon in paperback and e-book format.
Follow Jennie Ann on Twitter.