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Monday, April 30, 2012

INTERVIEW: JENNY TWIST

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes back Jenny Twist, who has a new book scheduled for release this fall—so be on the lookout for it! The title is All in the Mind, and I asked Jenny to tell us a little about it.

Tilly wakes up in the dark, alone and very frightened. She finds she is in a strange room inexplicably furnished in 1940s style. However did she get here? Has she somehow slipped into the past? Has she been kidnapped? Of one thing she is absolutely certain, she has never seen this place in her life before.

All in the Mind is a fascinating tale exploring the human capacity to overcome any obstacle, no matter how great, as long as you believe you can.

Tilly is part of an experiment working on a cure for Alzheimer's disease. She and most of the other patients taking part in the experiment seem to make a full recovery, but there is a strange side effect.

Tilly and her fellow experimental subjects appear to be getting younger.

Can the same experiment be repeated for Tilly's beloved husband so that he can recover from a stroke? Tilly thinks it can and she will move heaven and earth to make sure it happens.

A charming and thought-provoking story full of reminiscences of a bygone age, All in the Mind also deals with the dilemmas posed by new developments in a society whose culture is geared to the idea that the natural span of a human life is three-score years and ten.
Jenny's favorite author is Stephen King.

"He uses language beautifully with no horrible grammatical errors. His characters live and breathe and I really care about them. He knows how to terrify without being gory and revolting. He knows how to portray human love without resorting to torrid, tasteless, explicit sex. And he knows how to take his readers into that other world where you lose all sense of self and surroundings and just live in the story," she explained. "He has also done something for me that no other author has done. Hundreds of authors have taught me to love stories, but only Stephen King taught me how to write my own. On Writing takes you through the process step by step. My story, "Waiting for Daddy", in Take One At Bedtime, was my first attempt at writing by the Stephen King method and I am still pleased with it, especially the twist at the end."

Before she came across Stephen King, her favorite author was John Wyndham.

"I have all his books and have read them over and over again. My son, incidentally, thinks this is really weird. He asked me how I could keep reading the same thing again when there are so many books in the world to read. I don't see how that is any different from listening to the same music over and over again. If it is beautiful and satisfying, why shouldn't you enjoy it more than once?" she asked.

With other authors, such as John Steinbeck, Robert B Parker, Louis de Bernières, have also influenced her own writing ("if we're talking individual books rather than authors, I think I might vote Captain Corelli's Mandolin the best of all time," she told me) and just recently she discovered Kate Atkinson and loves everything she's written.

For Jenny, the most important part of good writing is the language. She wants it to flow; she wants it to be right.

"Beautiful prose is such a joy to read," she told me. "I hate it when poor grammar makes me lose the gist of the story, but I never mind pausing to appreciate a piece of superb prose."

The second most important thing is the characterization. If the characters are not well drawn or if she cannot empathise with them, she soon loses interest in a story. She likes the plot to be believable and hang together well, but it's less important than the characterization and the language.

In her own writing, the idea for a story comes first and she keeps thinking it over at odd moments in the day, especially during that period between sleeping and waking.

"Sometimes it doesn't go anywhere, but more often than not it starts to take shape almost of its own accord. I regularly wake up in the morning with the whole plot sorted out," she said. "The characters seem to come from nowhere. I suppose they must ultimately be based on people I have known but I have never in my life made a conscious attempt to develop a character. They just walk into the story apparently full-developed and then proceed to behave in their own way, Long before I start writing a story down I know exactly how each character will act in a given situation and from that point on they virtually write themselves. Maybe muses really exist and I've got one."

Jenny shared with me that she often thinks of good titles and keeps a record of them, but have never used any of them. The stories she writes never seem to correspond to the titles she's saved, so she always has to think of a new title. Take One at Bedtime was suggested by her brother-in-law, along with the idea of putting: Warning: Do not exceed the stated dose in the blurb.

"I must say this was absolutely inspired," she told me. "Virtually every reviewer has picked up on this and commented on failing to stick to the stated dose. Thank you, Nick."

When Jenny's not writing, she and her husband enjoy going for a drive and exploring places—they live in a very interesting area, and there is always somewhere new for them to visit.

"There are hundreds of little villages, each with its own personality and special history. An example is Acebuchal, which became a ghost town during Franco's rule. Franco decided the villagers were helping the freedom fighters in the mountains and he had the village evacuated. Since these people were peasant farmers who made their living from the land, this amounted to a death sentence for those who had no relatives in other villages to support them. It was still a ghost town when we first came to Spain, but it has been slowly repopulated, mostly by foreigners, and restored very tastefully to something resembling its original condition. Although I suspect it is now much cleaner and tidier than it was in the past."

"What did you want to be when you grew up?" I asked.

"I’m not convinced I have grown up. I know as a small child I wanted to be Doris Day and I used to practice singing and dancing for hours, using a hairbrush as a substitute for a microphone. But I think I also expected to be a writer. I did work as a professional singer for many years but the dancing never really took off. I don't really have the physique for it. And now, of course, I have at last achieved the other ambition of writing. I am having such a good time. Like Terry Pratchett, I can't help feeling that somebody will find out how much I'm enjoying myself and stop me."

Jenny admitted to me that she's become addicted to her Kindle, because for day-to-day reading it's so convenient. However, she did admit there's nothing like the feel and smell of a real book.

"I used to work for a recruitment agency and I once went on a client visit to a printers. I almost fainted with delight at the smell of new books - paper, ink and glue. And old books smell just as wonderful. I can rarely pass a second-hand bookshop. All those rows of dusty books, maybe containing some gem that I have never read, or an old friend I thought I would never see again. And, of course, if you have written a book yourself, an e book is no substitute for holding your own baby in your hand. Also, you can give an e book away, but you can't sign it. Oh, and something else. I don't think e books can ever replace print books entirely because some types of books just won't work as e books Maps, for instance. A map needs to be huge, so you can spread it out on the table and trace the route for the benefit of your friends. No atlas or guide book will be half as satisfactory in e form. And what about children's books? They have to be big and bright with pictures and pop-ups and tabs to pull through. How could you reproduce that in an e book?"

"What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?" I wondered.

"If they were new readers, they might be surprised to learn that I used to be an escapologist’s assistant. I was the lovely Tanya. All Tommy James' assistants were called the lovely Tanya, so he didn't have to change any of the advertising. The first time we rehearsed he hired a concert hall to set up the equipment, but the ceiling wasn't high enough to accommodate his full-size guillotine. Consequently, I felt very insecure on our first performance. After chopping a cabbage in half to demonstrate that it was a real guillotine, I hauled the blade back up to the top, using a rope on a pulley, secured it, locked him in the stocks, pulled a curtain in front of him to conceal him from the audience, and counted down thirty seconds on a stop-watch before letting go the blade. Unfortunately, the curtain also concealed him from me. I couldn't tell whether he had managed to escape in time! There was a sickening thud, then..... silence. I stood in front of several hundred people, still holding the end of the rope, convinced I had killed him. After an unconscionably long time, he threw the curtain aside and came out bowing and smiling, whilst saying between his teeth, 'Got you there, didn't I?' My reply, also between my teeth, whilst smiling at the audience, is unfortunately not fit for a mixed readership."

Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

She had a list:

  • Read Stephen King's On Writing.
  • Write about what you know.
  • Keep your paragraphs short and don't get carried away with purple prose.
  • DO write in grammatically correct English. Spell check everything and get other people to proof-read/edit your work before you send it anywhere.
  • DON'T listen to anyone who tells you you should: A) Stick to only one point of view. The whole point of writing in the third person is so that you can tell the story from more that one viewpoint or B) The story should be told through the thoughts/speech of the characters. This advice has resulted in some dreadful passages where the author either makes the character talk to himself incessantly or writes reams of conversations where the characters tell each other vast chunks of information that they must already know. For example, a character telling his best friend whom he has known for years that he has a daughter.
  • Before you even begin to send your story to publishers and agents, join author groups on the web. Other authors are incredibly supportive and helpful. They will tell you who the good publishers are, how to set up a website, how to promote. Some will even give you a critique or review.
  • A lot of publishers put out submission calls on these sites and when you submit in response to these, the chances are your story will actually be read. If I had known about them before I got published, I would have joined the sites before I even began to approach publishers and agents.
  • And finally, don't give up. Most publishers and agents don't even read your stories, so getting rejected doesn't say anything about how good they are. Stephen King, who is surely one of the best-selling authors of all time, papered his wall with rejection slips when he was just starting. I've just used all mine for scrap paper for my grandchildren to scribble on.
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.

35 comments:

Jenny Twist said...

Thank you so much, LASR, for once again giving me this opportunity. I am SO grateful
xxx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Another great interview, Jenny! Love the fact you were an escapologist's assistant, and I'm looking forward to that next book.

M. Allman said...

Wow, Jenny. You are just so full of interesting stories and advice. I enjoyed reading your interview, and I am looking forward to reading All in the Mind.

Neecy said...

Great meeting you, Jenny. Loved your advice for new writers!
Good luck with your sales,"All in the Mind."
Neecy

Celia Yeary said...

You are an amazing lady, Jenny. I've been told many times by one of my writing friends that On Writing is THE best book about writing on the market. And the short paragraphs...I always keep that in mind. Many authors do not!
Your entire post was intriguing--I read every word, and honestly, I don't usually. Interviews can be quite boring.
I also keep a list of possible titles--songs are the best source of a line or phrase to book titles. And I keep a list of names.
Excellent post, my dear.

Suzie Tullett said...

Another great interview, Jenny and good luck with 'All in the Mind'. I must say, it sounds fascinating x

Su Halfwerk said...

When I wake up tomorrow I want to be you ;-).
You always manage to share something new about yourself, keeping us interested all the way to the final full stop.
I'll definitely wait for your fall-release. Good luck and happy writing

Jenny Twist said...

Dear Rosemary.
You always cheer me up immensely.
Thank you
Love
Jenny
xx

Jenny Twist said...

Thank you, Molly.
I could say the same for you. I always enjoy your posts, not to mention your wonderful stories
Love
Jenny

Jenny Twist said...

Dear Neecy
Lovely to meet you, too.
And thank you for your kind words
Love
Jenny
xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Hello, Celia
What a satisfying comment! Thank you so much. It's people like you that make blogging worthwhile!
(I also find myself flagging when I read these things. So I'm so flattered that you stuck it out)
I must get 'On Writing' in English. That way I might be able to find the bits I want more quickly.
Lots of love
Jenny
xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Suzie
I've just about finished tidying it up. It's just about ready for advance reviews.
Are you game?
Love
Jenny
xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Darling Su
That's the nicest thing anyone ever said to me. Although I have to warn you, it IS the plot of one of my as yet unwritten short stories!
Loads of love
Jenny
xxx

Suzie Tullett said...

Of course, that would be lovely x

Nora Weston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nora Weston said...

Typo! Sorry...

Okay, so great interview. The stories about your life are wonderful! Maybe you should put them all in a book.
Call it Twisted Tales...

I'm looking forward to All in the Mind!

LKF said...

I loved your post and I'm already a fan of your writing. :} The comment about the short paragraphs is so true. I had to re-write so much because I'm so wordy and thought I needed long paragraphs. In this one sense I will admit...bigger is not better. :}
Thanks for sharing.
Lynda

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Some very sage advice, Jenny.
I thought it was funny that you think of all these titles and then don;t use them. LOL Titles are a stumbling block for me. I spend lots of time in contemplation about the dang things--but they are so important.
Lovely interview.

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Nora
You are SO fab! Sadly, most of my life is unprintable, although 'Twisted Tales' would be a great title!
Love you lots
Jenny
xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Lynda
It is SO nice to meet you. I have a tendency to be wordy myself, which I try to control, and then sometimes I go too far the other way. Duh!
Love
Jenny
xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Dear Sarah
My life is full of stuff like that. It's a bit like the way you accumulate bits of string and cardboard boxes in the garage. They might come in handy some day.
Shall I send you the list?
Loads of love
Jenny
xxxxx

ManicScribbler said...

A fascinating post, Jenny, interesting, fun and with some very good advice.
(I will keep my paragraphs short; I will keep my paragraphs short!)
Dare I tell people that I've had the privilege of reading an advance copy of 'All in the Mind' and that it's excellent - a clever and really heartwarming story. No one will be disappointed.
You are a first-rate author.
PS: Could I borrow some of your spare titles, please?

Jenny Twist said...

Dear Manic
Thank you so much. I am emailing you my titles forthwith. I hope you're not disappointed! And thank you so much for the plug for All in the Mind.
Loads of love
Jenny
xxx

Paula Martin said...

Great interview, Jenny. I love the concept of 'All in the Mind.' Excellent advice too. I really must buy Stephen King's book!

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Paula
I'm so glad you like it. I value your opinion so much.
Yes, Stephen King's book is beyond price. I must get it again in English.
Loads of love
Jenny
xxx

Tara Fox Hall said...

I had the joy of having an advance copy of All in the Mind, and LOVED it! It was one of the most magical love stories I've ever read! I'm also a WWII buff, so I really enjoyed the historical aspect as well :)I know its months until it comes out, but I can't help recommending it now anyway!

Scarlett Rains said...

I couldn't agree more about your POC comments. Recipes are for the kitchen...

Scarlett
http://scarlettrainssistersoftheheartsblog.blogspot.com/

Jenny Twist said...

Tara, Sweetie, you can recommend me any time. I feel very flattered. Thank you so much, you angel.
Love
Jenny
xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Scarlett, my newest friend! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment here. And how delighted I am to find someone who agrees with me about these formulaic theories of writing
Love
Jenny
xxx

Eva87 said...

Yet again I've learnt something new about you! How do you do that?
Thank you for dispelling those writing myths that I have heard so often.
I too have had an advance copy of 'All in the mind' and I can tell you all that as usual Jenny has us hooked from the start! I'm not telling you anything else though, but just keep an eye out for it's release!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

All in the Mind has a wonderful story premise. I can't wait to see what you've done with it.
While we may be a society of youth obsessed people, it is a shame that, just when a person has wisdom and have something to give us all, their bodies give out--or worse, their minds.
Well Jenny, I for one, believe.

Jenny Twist said...

Hello Eva, Darling
I didn't think there could be anything you still didn't know about me! Amd thanks for the plug for All in the Mind. So glad you liked it.
Love you lots
Jenny
xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Dear Sarah
What an inspiring comment! I think so, too. One of my friends is in her nineties now and is the wisest person I have ever met. She has helped me through many a bad patch with her unfailing good advice. I am going to dedicate the book to her when it comes out. I wish SHE could live forever!
Thank you so much for your kind words
Love
Jenny
xx

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