Today, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome the lovely Jenny Blackhurst to my blog. Jen and I met a couple of years ago on the peer review site YouWriteOn and it has been a real joy to follow her progress ever since. I was thrilled for her when she was signed to an agent and even more so when Headline published her debut novel.
Jen has a Masters degree in Psychology and, when she isn’t writing, she works as the Fire Safety Systems Administrator for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
It’s fab to host you here today, Jen. Are you a morning person, or a midnight candle burner?
I’d love to have a choice! I have a one year old and a four year old so unfortunately sleep is a distant memory for me, but if I had the choice I would be a midnight candle burner – it reminds me of my student days where assignments were started at 5pm the night before they were due.
Ha! Tell me something you would like your readers to know about you.
I’m a massive nerd and very proud of it. I love spreadsheets and formulas, new notebooks and organisation apps and above all…Doctor Who.
Yay! Another “nerdy and proud of it” person. If you could morph into any creature what would it be?
A cat. I don’t particularly like cats (!) but they undoubtedly have the best lives. And they are cleverer than they make out. It’s not that they can’t be trained to sit – they just refuse to bow to mere humans.
I’m a complete cat slave, and mine purrs me to sleep at night. At bedtime, do you like “relaxing so you can sleep sounds” or do you prefer white noise, TV, soft music, ocean waves, forest or meadow sounds, babbling brook, or something else?
Right now I could sleep at the side of the motorway! When I was a student and my head was too full of exam anxiety to sleep I’d listen to Harry Potter, narrated by Stephen Fry. His voice is so hypnotic it would chill me out enough to sleep in no time.
I remember those days. What kind of music do you listen to, Jen? Do you have an all-time favourite song?
I have quite eclectic tastes when it comes to music – my iPod will skip between Miley Cyrus and Jessie J, Paramore, Wiz Khalifa, L’il Wayne and then back to Jess Glynne. With some added Junglebook and Chu Chu Ua thrown in. I don’t have one favourite but certain songs remind me of certain moments in my life – Lonestar, Amazed and Stevie Wonder I just called to say I love you, as well as Bryan Adams Everything I do and anything from Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album.
Great choice. Now let’s move on to your books. When did you start writing?
When I was about 11 – it was a teenage series to rival Sweet Valley High! I started it with a friend and I think we had some good ideas but I never managed to get past a few chapters.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Anything that happens around me. It always starts with a ‘What if?’ and I’m constantly listening in on people’s conversations (sorry work colleagues) and watching the news. Inspiration is everywhere.
What do you think is the hardest part of writing a book?
All of it! I think you get to a certain stage where you’re convinced it’s awful but it’s too late to turn back and you just have to tell yourself this happens to everyone – just finish the damn book and sort it out in round two.
What is your favourite part?
I love the planning stage, that’s the bit before the self-doubt creeps in and you are convinced that this is THE idea of a lifetime. You can go crazy with spreadsheets and mind maps (I did say I was a nerd) and you create people and worlds and you know you have a bestseller on your hands. Then you sit down to write and your carriage is a pumpkin and your butler is a mouse.
Ha! Tell me, what is your least favourite part of the process?
About 30,000 words in. Before that the blank page is full of opportunity, after that barrier the end is in sight but around 30 – 40,000 words is horrid. I don’t mind edits as much as some people I know but finding time to get the words onto the page in the first place is tough at the moment.
It must be with a baby to look after. Would you ever consider a joint project?
Yes, I’d love to! I’m not sure how good I’d be at it, I can’t understand how joint writers aren’t constantly changing the other one’s work but I love the idea of writing being a less lonely business and having someone to hammer around ideas with when you’ve got a niggly plot point. Mark and Louise (Edwards and Voss) manage it so well I’d be very tempted after seeing their work.
How do you handle a writer’s block?
I get out my trusty paper and pen. Writing longhand for me is a wonderful cure for when the words are clogged. It’s like I’m taking away the barrier between me and the words, my fingers are so much closer to my work and the words flow out of the pen onto the paper so quickly that it’s impossible to feel blocked.
Great! Are you a sit down and play it by ear kind of writer, or do you need a structured guideline, or maybe a little of both?
With my first novel I completely pantsed it. No outline, just me and a computer. It took so much editing and tweaking, went through about thirty drafts before I submitted it, and was a lot of work. This time I have an outline which I have deviated from but I try and revisit it every 10k or so the work out where the story is going. It’s not fool-proof, there are still plot twists that surprise and delight me but I have more of a sense of structure and hopefully there will be less work at the editing stage.
What are you working on now? Would you like to share anything about it?
My next novel is another psychological thriller called Before I Let You In. That’s all you’re getting for now!
Hahaha! How can readers find you, Jen? Do you have a Facebook page or any buy links?
I certainly do:
And you can buy my debut How I Lost You here.
I’m also on Twitter as @JennyBlackhurst and I love to talk books so come tweet me!
Fab. It’s been a joy to chat with you today, Jen. I wish you every success with your next novel. I loved How I Lost You and can’t wait.
Thanks for having me, Siobhan.