Today I’d like to introduce you to Kathleen Jowitt. Kathleen self-published her book, Speak Its Name. I have a copy on my reading list, so watch this space for my review. In the meantime, Kathleen very kindly agreed to an interview.
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
My name is Kathleen Jowitt and I’m the author of Speak Its Name, which was published in February 2016. It’s the story of a (closeted) lesbian evangelical Christian and her experiences at university, set against the backdrop of the drama of student politics.
I have a day job, working in the education department of a major trade union, and much of my writing gets done when I’m on the train to work. I enjoy experimenting with a wide range of genres, but a constant in my books is (as one of my friends put it) ‘people sorting their heads out’.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
All over the place! The book I’m currently working on came from a throwaway comment that my husband made when we were watching the Tour de France, that an endurance athlete would be more likely than most of the general public to understand the ‘spoons’ analogy of chronic illness. Speak Its Name is lightly based on my own experience at university. And I have one in the pipeline that seems to be the direct result of thinking too hard about seashells over the summer.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
If anyone, they’re based on me! And by that I don’t mean that my novels are full of clones of myself, but that I extrapolate from my own experience to make the emotional landscape convincing. I take an aspect of myself and throw it as far as I can. This can produce some pretty varied characters – for example, of the religious attitudes of three major characters in Speak Its Name, Lydia’s struggle with legalism, Peter’s love of ritual, and Colette’s penchant for doing her own thing all came from my own. As did Olly’s secularism, for that matter.
I do recycle snatches of conversation, but they’re usually borrowed from strangers – it’s too weird trying to get into my friends’ heads.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
For major, sympathetic characters, I pick names that I happen to like, and then think what that means for their background, their family history, their political or religious affiliations, and so on. Sometimes a character just shows up with a particular name. Sometimes I have to change a name because it’s just not plausible in terms of age or culture – or, as happened more than once with Speak Its Name, because I meet someone with the same name and things just get too confusing. For minor characters, I just go for something vaguely believable that starts with a letter of the alphabet that I haven’t used yet.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
Alice in Wonderland is told to ‘start at the beginning, and go on until you get to the end, and then stop.’ I simply can’t do that. My writing process is less like laying a road than it is connecting up islands of an archipelago. I start with two or three very definite pictures or ideas in my head, and will probably have a basic idea of their position in relation to one another. Writing those down will induce five or six other islands to erupt from the seabed. And they drag more up behind them. After that it’s a matter of building bridges, or causeways, perhaps throwing in an artificial island, perhaps bypassing three or four of the early ones, after all.
It means a reasonable amount of rewriting, to ensure that character development and such things are consistent. But that’s probably good for me anyway, and anyway, it’s the only way that I can do it.
Do you have a favourite author?
I can’t possibly pick just one! (I bet everybody says that!) If you were going to leave me on a desert island with the complete works of only one author, though, it would be Dorothy L. Sayers, who was equally good at mysteries, theology, and translating medieval Italian. I always find something new when I reread her books.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
It would have to be the ancient Greek poet Sappho – so I could ask her for another copy of her poems to replace all those that have been lost over the intervening centuries.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Very much so. We didn’t have a television until after I’d left to go to university, which, combined with living way out in the countryside, meant that books were my main source of entertainment. Fortunately, my parents provided me with plenty of them.
When did you start to write?
In my childhood. I remember having ambitions to be Ladybird’s youngest author – and their youngest author ever was Jayne Fisher, author of the Garden Gang books, and she was nine. So I must have been younger than that. The first time I made a serious effort at a full-length book was when I was thirteen or fourteen, and the first time I finished a draft of one was when I was twenty-one, ten years ago.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
Oh – what a brilliant question! A couple of Mary Renault’s contemporary novels come to mind immediately – I could delete the last chapter of North Face or the trainwreck that is the end of The Friendly Young Ladies. I’d have to toss a coin to decide which one got fixed.
What are you working on right now?
I’m on the first draft of a book whose working title is Wheels – it’s a sort of screwball romance between a disgraced ex-professional cyclist and a young disabled woman. It’s rather a steep learning curve as I’ve never written anything this long with a male first person narrator, but I’m enjoying it.
When can we look forward to a new release?
I hope to have Wheels out in summer 2017 – probably not under that name, but we’ll see! The only alternative I’ve thought of so far is Bonk, which is a bit, er, misleading… It makes sense in a cycling context, but I fear I’d disappoint a lot of Jilly Cooper fans.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I’m on Twitter at @KathleenJowitt, and my website is at www.kathleenjowitt.com.
Thank you for having me!
Thanks for answering my questions, Kathleen 🙂
Paperback – Publisher: Kathleen Jowitt (22nd January 2016)
Kindle – Publisher: Kathleen Jowitt (28th January 2016)
A new year at the University of Stancester, and Lydia Hawkins is trying to balance the demands of her studies with her responsibilities as an officer for the Christian Fellowship. Her mission: to make sure all the Christians in her hall stay on the straight and narrow, and to convert the remaining residents if possible. To pass her second year. And to ensure a certain secret stays very secret indeed. When she encounters the eccentric, ecumenical student household at 27 Alma Road, Lydia is forced to expand her assumptions about who’s a Christian to include Quaker Becky, bellsandsmells Peter, and bisexual Methodist Colette. As the year unfolds, Lydia discovers that there are more ways to be Christian, and more ways to be herself, than she had ever imagined. Then a disgruntled member of the Catholic Society starts asking whether the Christian Fellowship is really as Christian as it claims to be, and Lydia finds herself at the centre of a row that will reach far beyond the campus.
Buy your copy HERE
Happy reading 🙂