Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Author Interview: Jenny Harper

In the interview seat today we have the lovely Jenny Harper. Jenny lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, though she was born in India and grew up in England. She has been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and has written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland, as well as four full length novels and a novella in The Heartlands series (set in Hailesbank), and two short stories that have appeared in anthologies.
Jenny writes contemporary women’s fiction with bite – complex characters facing serious issues.

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Webpage  /  Blog  /  Twitter  /  Facebook  /  Google+  /    Goodreads  /  Riffle  /  Amazon Author Page 
Hello Jenny and welcome to Booky Ramblings of a Neurotic Mom
Thanks – it’s great to be here!

Was there anything particular that inspired you to start your journey of being an author?
I’ve been writing all my life. There was a longish period after university when I stopped creative writing – I thought, I’ll never be as good as Tolstoy or George Eliot, so why even try? After a long time I realised that not everyone wants to read such books and that I do have a voice that people like, so I finally got back to writing fiction again!

The story that got me started was the story of my parents’ marriage. My father went to India to work in 1936 and courted my mother by airmail correspondence. They got engaged by letter – but then the war broke out and she couldn’t sail to India to join him. It was 1944 when she finally made it. They had been apart for eight years, and her journey across the world was very dramatic. I wanted to write a novel very loosely based on all this, but the problem was, I wasn’t skilled enough at that stage to do it well. It’s still in my drawer somewhere! Maybe one day I’ll get back to it again. I’d write it very differently now.

What would you say is the hardest part of writing/publishing a book for you?
Just getting the words down. I tend to write a lot of words that never make it to the final version, which is a real waste of time. I’m getting better, though! Proper planning and more experience are helping to keep me focused on moving the story forward in the right way. I love it once I get to the editing stage! I was a publishing editor for quite a few years, so maybe that background has helped me in this phase of the work.

If you could only read four books for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Probably Middlemarch – it’s a multi-layered, complex book with razor sharp observation and a superb turn of phrase that pays reading and rereading. I might pick MM Kaye’s The Far Pavilions because it reminds me of India – it’s a sweeping love story against the rich panoply of Indian history and culture. Then I’d cheat – I’d pick the Lymond books by historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett and her other series, the Niccolo books (you could bind each series into one big book for me, couldn’t you?…). Those would keep me going well beyond the span of life I still have any right to expect!

Do you and your main character share any personality traits?
My latest heroine, Lexie Gordon in People We Love is an artist, and I’m fairly artistic. She’s very critical of mumbo-jumbo interpretations of modern art by critics or curators – an attitude after my own heart. She’s also determined to make her own way in the world, to be judged by what she produces. So – yes, I guess I do share some traits!

If you could live in any book what book would it be?
Oh my goodness! Nothing historical – I like modern creature comforts! I could see myself running House of Farrell in Penny Vincenzi’s A Perfect Heritage. I ran my own small company for 21 years and loved it – hers is much more lavish and people make much more money. Superb! Though come to think of it, they do have their problems …

Where do your ideas for your books come from? Dreams? Music? 
Neither. I try to write about the kinds of challenges modern women face in their careers (as well, obviously, as their personal lives). One heroine is a politician at odds with her Party, another is a newspaper photographer battling against the closure of her paper. Face the Wind and Fly was about a wind farm engineer tasked with building a wind farm in the conservation village where she lives, amid much opposition.

Any advice for aspiring authors?
Keep writing.
Listen to constructive criticism.
Try not to be disheartened by rejection.

People we love 

Her life is on hold – until an unlikely visitor climbs in through the kitchen window. 

A year after her brother’s fatal accident, Lexie’s life seems to have reached a dead end. She is back home in small-town Hailesbank with her shell-shocked parents, treading softly around their fragile emotions. 

As the family business drifts into decline, Lexie’s passion for painting and for her one-time mentor Patrick have been buried as deep as her unexpressed grief, until the day her lunch is interrupted by a strange visitor in a bobble hat, dressing gown and bedroom slippers, who climbs through the window. 

Elderly Edith’s batty appearance conceals a secret and starts Lexie on a journey that gives her an inspirational artistic idea and rekindles her appetite for life. With friends in support and ex-lover Cameron seemingly ready to settle down, do love and laughter beckon after all?

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