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Friday, March 2, 2012

INTERVIEW: JENNY TWIST

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Jenny Twist, whose latest release is Domingo's Angel. I asked her to tell us about it.


"It's about an English woman who travels to Franco’s Spain in the early 1950s. Tourism has barely touched the country yet and the people are only now beginning to recover from the deprivations of the civil war. She arrives in a remote mountain village and causes some consternation amongst the inhabitants, who have never met a foreigner before. But Domingo, the goatherd, falls in love with her. When she introduces herself, he believes she is saying she is an angel (‘Soy Ángela’ in Spanish can either mean ‘I am Angela’ or ‘I am an angel’)," she explained. "This is the story of their love affair. But it is also the story of the people of the tiny mountain village – the indomitable Rosalba - shopkeeper, doctor, midwife and wise woman, who makes it her business to know everything that goes on in the village; Guillermo, the mayor, whose delusions of grandeur are rooted in his impoverished childhood; and Salva the Baker, who risked his life and liberty to give bread to the starving children. The events in this story are based on the real experiences of the people of the White Villages in Southern Spain and their struggle to keep their communities alive through the years of war and the oppression of Franco’s rule. Some of these events are bloodthirsty and shocking, but there is a lot of love in the book too. I hope that I have succeeded in portraying for my readers the cheerfulness, humour and exuberance of the Andalusian people. And it would be nice to think that it might do something to dispel some of the ignorance about this fascinating period of Spanish history."


When she was researching Domingo's Angel, Jenny couldn't find anything about life in the mountain villages during the time of the Spanish Civil War and Franco's subsequent dictatorship, although there was a lot of information about the major battles and life in the cities. She was able to glean some information from her neighbours (she and her husband moved to the area when they retired), but this wasn't easy.


"It was very hard to get anyone to talk to me about what had been a very painful time for them," she explained. "I subsequently discovered a definitive book on life in the white village of Frigiliana, Between Two Fires, by David Baird, which reassured me that I had substantially got the right picture. But I am still surprised at what I don't know. A couple of years ago there was a commemorative march between Málaga and Almería. Until then I had been unaware that thousands of Republican refugees, mainly women, children and old men, had walked the coast road from Málaga, trying to escape from the Fascist army. Some of them made it, but many were gunned down, strafed from the air by Franco's friends, the Luftwaffe, and bombarded from the sea by Spanish and Italian ships. How could such an earth-shattering event occur in a European country and go virtually unnoticed? See this link for the full story: http://www.andalucia.com/history/civilwarandalucia.htm.


Jenny has had stories in her head her whole life and, occasionally, would write them down, but she didn't start writing seriously until she retired.


"Life continually got in the way. I was the main breadwinner for my family for most of my life and I always had very demanding jobs. I used to wonder how on earth anyone found the time to write the first book, naively assuming that once you had written a book, the money would start pouring in and then you could afford to write full-time," she told me. "We came to live in Spain in 2001 and I started writing then – all the stories that had been in my head all those years and a lot of new ones. I sent them to a local magazine for ex-pats living on the Costa del Sol and they commissioned me to write a piece every month; articles alternating with stories."


Jenny is currently doing the rewrites for another novel—this one about an old woman who wakes up in a strange room inexplicably furnished in 1940s style. At first she thinks she has somehow slipped into the past, but it is even stranger than that. She is part of an experiment working on a cure for Alzheimer's disease. It seems to be succeeding, but it has a strange side effect. Tilly and her fellow experimental subjects appear to be getting younger.


She has, of course always enjoyed reading, but Jenny told me that there was one book in particular that changed her life—The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.


"It is a story within a story where the protagonist, a police detective, is having to spend time in hospital. He is slowly going mad with boredom and his girlfriend devises an entertainment for him. She brings him a whole series of portraits with the name of the subject on the back and he has to guess who they are. He prides himself on his ability to read faces and is amazed when one man he identifies as a saint turns out to be Richard III, the hump-backed monster who murdered his nephews. Unable to believe he could be so wrong he sets about investigating this ancient crime, employing his long-suffering girlfriend to find and bring him the evidence," she described. "It was this book that made me realise that history is not fixed and finished. You can't learn it like you can learn maths or geography because it all depends on how you interpret the evidence and how representative that evidence is. Realising that history was in fact detective work made me choose it as my subject when I eventually went to university and set me on a career that took me to Oxford, resulted in me meeting the love of my life and eventually stood me in very good stead for writing historical fiction."


While she was in Oxford, she and her sons lived in what she describes as "a really creepy house."


"The wardrobe door used to creak open of its own accord and you frequently felt as if there was a malign presence there. We used to fantasise that the last tenant had murdered his wife and put her body in the cesspit. The house was on top of a hill and very exposed, so damp that we had to rotate the clothes in the wardrobe or they would develop mould and so draughty that the carpet used to billow up in waves when the wind blew," she told me. "One night there was a terrific storm and the big window in the kitchen began bowing in and out. We were terrified that it would smash, and up-ended the kitchen table against it. We weren't just afraid of the glass breaking, we were afraid of whatever was out there. The wind was making a noise like human screams and was rattling at the doors and windows like some manic nightmare figure trying to break in. We huddled together in abject terror in the living room, incapable of doing anything else, just waiting for whatever it was to come and get us. I hated that house. It was like living in Amityville Horror. Nothing actually came to get us. So it must have been just the wind. Mustn't it?"
About the Author:
Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family. She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.

She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic. In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.


Her first book, Take One At Bedtime, was published in April 2011 and the second, Domingo’s Angel, was published in July 2011. Her novella, Doppelganger, was published in the anthology Curious Hearts in July 2011, Uncle Vernon, was published in Spellbound, in November 2011, Jamey and the Alien was published in Warm Christmas Wishes in December 2011 and Mantequero was published in the anthology Winter Wonders in December 2011.


Find Jenny online at:


Website: https://sites.google.com/site/jennytwistauthor/home


Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jenny-Twist-Author/291166404240446


Goodreads Blog: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4848320.Jenny_Twist/blog


Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/jennytwist


Melange: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/jennytwist/jennytwist.html


Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JennyTwist1


When Angela turns up in a remote Spanish mountain village, she is so tall and so thin and so pale that everyone thinks she is a ghost or a fairy or the dreadful mantequero that comes in the night and sucks the fat from your bones.


But Domingo knows better. “Soy Angela,” she said to him when they met – “I am an angel.” Only later did he realise that she was telling him her name and by then it was too late and everyone knew her as Domingo’s Angel.


This is the story of their love affair. But it is also the story of the people of the tiny mountain village – the indomitable Rosalba - shopkeeper, doctor, midwife and wise woman, who makes it her business to know everything that goes on in the village; Guillermo, the mayor, whose delusions of grandeur are rooted in his impoverished childhood; and Salva the Baker, who risked his life and liberty to give bread to the starving children.


The events in this story are based on the real experiences of the people of the White Villages in Southern Spain and their struggle to keep their communities alive through the years of war and the oppression of Franco’s rule.







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26 comments:

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Wonderful post, Jenny, and so many experiences to use in your writing. As you know, I absolutely loved Domingo's Angel!

Jenny Twist said...

You are always so kind and supportive, Rosemary. I appreciate you so much

Paula Martin said...

I KNEW we had a lot in common, Jenny - the Daughter of Time had exactly the same effect on me (as well as making me an ardent Ricardian!) and led to my life-long interest (and career) in history.

Teresa Jones said...

I love Jenny's writing and this book. She has a way with words I can only hope someday to do as a writer. Love you Jenny

T.D. Jones

Jenny Twist said...

Paula, I keep being amazed by our coincidences. I'm sure it was talking about The Daughter of Time that got me my place in Manchester. I and one the two interviewers got in an enthusiastic discussion about it. The other one that really helped me understand medieval history was The Earthworms by Prudence Andrews. I must have borrowed it from the library dozens of times. It is now, sadly, out of print and I wish I'd stolen it when I had the chance!

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Teresa
I am so pleased with your lovely comment. I love your stories, too.

Linda Acaster said...

I found it very interesting to learn of your journey to Domingo's Angel. Thanks for sharing that.

The Alzheimer's story sounds *fascinating*. Can't wait!

Jody Vitek said...

Your current work sounds very intriguing and full of hope for those with Alzheimer's. As for the house in Oxford, I think there's a story to be written about it. Just reading your snippit had chills creeping up on me.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I love your concept for the story about the old women. I can't wait to see how it turns out.
Very interesting piece of history, too. I didn't know about that tragedy.
I wish you all the best.

misskallie2000 said...

I enjoyed your post. This sounds like a great story and I would love to read Domingo's Angel. Thanks for stopping by to chat and share with us.

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Linda. Thank you so much. It's so gratifying to get nice comments from an author I admire so much

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Jody
I could have sworn I'd replied, but the comment hasn't appeared, so I must have pressed the wrong button. If this comes up twice, I apologise. The Alzheimer's thing is really weird. I sent the first draft to my readers and one of them came back with a news report on a place in Switzerland that is doing a very similar experiment to the one I thought I had invented!
There is a story about the house in Oxford, or rather an idea for one. I'm so glad you reminded me. It might do for the anthology I'm writing with Tara Fox Hall - due out in August. xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Sarah
So nice to hear from you. I'm just giving All in the Mind a final once-over before I submit. Melange Books has already accepted it provisionally, but I haven't signed the contract yet. Fingers crossed!
xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Hello, misskallie2000
How nice to meet you. I'm so glad you like the look of Domingo's Angel. xxx

ManicScribbler said...

What a great interview Jenny - it's always fascinating to learn something new about my favourite writer!
I was so interested in the description of the Oxford house - you must be aware by now how much houses figure in all my stories, and I sort of 'collect' them (or their histories).
I also want to say to anyone who hasn't yet read 'Domingo's Angel' that it is a truly wonderful read and an absolute must.
I wish you all the best of luck with 'All in the Mind' - another really excellent story I know readers will love.

Jenny Twist said...

My Darling Manic Scribbler,
You are always so kind and enthusiastic. I am longing to see your own wonderful haunted house story, Unworkers, published. How is it going?

Suzie Tullett said...

Lovely post as usual, Jenny. I love the little snippets you reveal about your life as much as I do your writings... Wishing you the best for 'All in the Mind' and as well as with the upcoming anthology x

Brenda Whiteside said...

Enjoyed the interview. I have Domingo's Angel on my TBR list and can't wait to get to it!

LKF said...

Loved your interview and getting to know a little more about you. Domingo's Angel is on my list to read and your next story sounds great. It to will be there.
Lynda

Jenny Twist said...

Hello, Suzie, my dear friend. What a delight you are! Thank you for your lovely comment

Jenny Twist said...

Brenda, I know exactly how you feel. I'm desperate to read Honey on White Bread but I've got so many books I've promised to review I don't know when I'm going to get the time. Sigh!

Jenny Twist said...

Hello Lynda
Thank you so much. It's very heartening that so many of you think the new book sounds interesting. I wasn't sure it would be a popular subject.

Rose Anderson ~ Romance Novelist said...

What a nice interview Jenny. I love the history detective part of being an author too. :)

Best wishes,
~Rose

Jenny Twist said...

Hello, Rose.
Thank you so much for dropping in. I'm so glad we share a love of history 'detection'.

StephB said...

Jenny, how exciting! I loved hearing about your attempts to research Franco's Spain. I love historicals, especially ones set in Europe/England and I especially like the time period. Domingo's Angel is going on the TBR pile.

Best wishes with your book
Smiles
Step

Jenny Twist said...

Hi, Steph. I'm SO pleased. Just read The Faberge Secret and loved it!