Thursday, 6 July 2017

Q&A with author Jennifer Weeks

I was lucky enough to read The Perils of a Literary Life by Jennifer Weeks a few weeks ago and I found the novel to be a thrilling read. Jennifer was kind enough to join me on my blog to answer a few questions about her writing processes.

What was the inspiration behind The Perils of a Literary Life?

I think I've always been fascinated by the way literature has embedded itself in our national psyche, particularly the classics. People regularly make references to great writers; indeed the words of Shakespeare, for example, are frequently invoked by everyone - yet many will not realise that, when they speak of being 'bloody-minded', of a 'laughing stock' or of 'fair play', they are using phrases created by the Bard himself. We are also influenced by ideas in the books we read, and so I thought, 'What if the works of literature formed the basis of a person's life, allowing them to guide her thoughts, not necessarily appreciating that the tremendous powers of the imagination could lead to trouble!'

I've also been intrigued by the phenomenon of  identical twins - what must it feel like to have someone who looks exactly the same as you and could be mistaken for you? How does it affect your sense of individual identity? And what sort of sibling loyalties does it perhaps create?

Another source of interest for me has been the whole concept of acting - people pretending to be who they're not. In Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, there is the clear concern that acting out the play, Lovers' Vows, could break taboos in the performers' psyche, and so lead to evil. Could performing the part of, say, a sadistic tyrant, as Alice speculates, 'leave bruises on your soul'? 

All these thought-provoking aspects of life have helped to inspire The Perils of a Literary Life.

Is Alice similar to you in character?

I do share Alice's Romantic attraction to the countryside and her idealistic vision, another Romantic ideal at least as old as the Ancient Greeks, of finding a soul-mate. I don't think I'm quite as dreamy a person as Alice, though.

Why did you choose the Yorkshire Dales to be the location for your novel?

I moved to the Yorkshire Dales at the age of 6 from Birmingham and it had a huge impact on me. We lived in a huge Victorian house built from millstone grit hewn from the quarry on the moor above the house. After years of going for a walk in the local park on Sundays to being able to roam freely over the beautiful moors, this experience was hugely important to me. The love for the countryside is a common one, particularly reflected in the numerous magazines, such as 'Country Living' and TV programmes like 'Escape to the Country'. Maybe this vision of a country idyll is false, as Mr Locksley claims, but it has a potent attraction in people's lives and is one  which I wanted to explore in The Perils of a Literary Life.

Are you a town or a country girl?

That's a difficult one to answer as my husband and I love walking long distance walks, such as the Coast to Coast, the Cotswold Way and the Glen Way. but I also enjoy days out in the city, visiting art galleries, museums and the theatre. I really couldn't do without either!

How did you think of your characters' names?

I chose the name Alice because of the connotations of Alice in Wonderland - a way of enabling her sister, Becky, to attack her for her dreaminess.

Are you working on another novel?

I've already written a children's novel called The Witch Who Wouldn't (about a witch who defies her fellow witches in her bid to do good)  but I am now working on another adult novel -  although it'll be a while before it's ready for publication - but watch this space.
Thank you so much Jennifer for joining me today on my blog. I have really enjoyed listening to you talk about your novel and the inspirations behind it.
Buy Jennifer's novel 'The Perils of a Literary Life' here: 

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