Author Feature | Jenny Thomas
Name: Jenny Catherine Thomas
Featured Book Title: Awakening Worlds
Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism / Sub-genre(s): Literary Fiction, Coming of Age, Contemporary Gothic
Book Status: Published and available on Amazon.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m twenty-six. I live in Bristol in the UK. I work full-time in pension administration as well as writing poetry, short stories and working on my novel in my spare time.
2016 has been a big year for me – I said goodbye to my childhood home in February, I became an Auntie in March, I bought a house in July and by the time this interview goes live I will have self-published the book I’ve been working on for a large chunk of my life. In between work and writing I love to travel, sing, laze around in the sunshine with friends and go on solo adventures into the unknown.
Over the past ten years I’ve been developing the concept behind my debut novel, Awakening Worlds. I started writing Awakening Worlds in October 2009 while studying at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) on an academic exchange year. I picked it up sporadically before deciding, you know what, I’m going to finish this book!
Its themes are close to my heart. I thought a lot about spirituality, the planet, and the meaning of life when I was a teenager and for a long time I’ve been mulling these ideas over in my mind.
In 2013 I left the UK to travel solo around the world. I went inter-railing in Europe for one week before heading to Thailand where I volunteered to teach for one month at a school for Burmese refugees, aged eighteen to twenty-three. I returned for the final few weeks of teaching and exams four months later. I taught creative writing and ran a drama workshop at the school, situated in Mae Sot.
Now that I’ve published Awakening Worlds, I want to focus on finishing my two-part Novella, Pangs of Birth Giving.
Is the piece a standalone novel or part of a larger series?
It is a one-off novel. Short and sweet! I do have an idea for a sequel though…
Do you prefer to outline a plot or just go where the words take you? Tell us your method.
For 6 years between 2009 and 2016 I allowed myself to write and re-write. I was writing for myself until I started to get serious about finishing my book a couple of years ago when I hired an independent editor. It was a wake up call. I had a lot to cut, re-write, and re-structure. In her initial manuscript evaluation my editor said that I had a “manuscript length discussion on theme.”
She was right. But I wasn’t too put off by what she said and I’ve continued working with her for over one year now. We’ve now worked on two manuscript evaluations and a copy and line edit. Now I’m almost there! I love the freedom to be found in the creative process but now I know more about how to structure and plan a story I will use the resources I’ve been given to ensure I don’t ‘overwrite’ to such an extent again.
My editor gave me a document called a ‘beat sheet’. This was really useful in making sure I nail all the plot points in the right places throughout my book. I love getting into the language. Writing is like algebra with words. You can keep playing around with the phrasing of each sentence but at some point you’ve got to be able to say to yourself, “that’s it. Finished.”
What other projects are you working on?
In May 2014 I was ‘WOOF’ing (working on organic farms in exchange for food and accommodation) near Deloraine, Tasmania. I had a lot of free time and my host was kind enough to let me use his laptop. The isolation in such beautiful scenery inspired me. I thought about how the events in our lives continually shape who we are.
I started writing. Pangs of Birth Giving is a two-part multi-perspective novella inspired by the lives of women, the loves and losses and everything in-between. The events of the past are framed by the present.
In my mind I had already decided on the type of image I wanted to use as cover art for this novella. I wanted an abstract image suggestive of the theme of motherhood and birth.
In June on a sunny afternoon my friend and I were drinking rum and coke and enjoying the sunshine in my garden. One of the flowers on my geranium plant was dying so I plucked it and put it in a pint glass that had a little water in. Some of the petals fell off onto the wooden table. I stopped for a moment to look at the flower in the glass. It was perfect. The round glass was the body of a pregnant woman and the geranium representative of the fleetingness and fragility of life. I took a picture and I knew that I had just captured the cover of Pangs of Birth Giving. I’m excited about developing this project now that I’ve finished my debut novel.
I’m currently compiling a poetry collection called Radiowaves, which will be illustrated by my mum with poems written by my grandmother. It’s an exciting project and one that’s personal to me. It’s a collaborative effort between my grandmother, my mother and me. Three generations of women from the same bloodline. I feel it will be something special, even if it’s just for us.
The poems span the formative years of my grandmother’s life, from being a child and hearing the king’s abdication on the radio in 1936 to being mother to six children in the fifties onwards. The central themes of this poetry collection are family life, nostalgia, loss and womanhood.
I’m excited to be able to do this for my grandmother and my mum. Here’s a link to some of the illustrations my mum’s already completed.
A quote from a magazine competition my grandmother won: “A moment from the past, subtly evoked deceptively simple and unpretentious language. Family life and political history neatly counterpointed – events of national momentum ironically equated with domestic trivia, as in the rhyme, ‘irritation/abdication’.” Magazine competition.
Do you enjoy writing/reading any other genres?
While I was travelling I loved to write poetry. To me travel is the ultimate source of inspiration because everything is fresh and new and constantly changing. I want to capture everything as it happens because things change so quickly. I was never without something to write about. Here’s a link to my poetry blog
Which authors inspire you?
When I was a child my mum used to read fairy tales to my sister and I. Being read to as a child activated my imagination. I love the beauty, magic and how the battle light and dark is constantly played out in fairy tales. Fairy tales and folk tales are emblems of our culture and it’s so important that we hold on to these tales for they are a part of our identities, discourses, and collective consciousness.
I read Stephen Harding’s book, Animate Earth, in 2006. This was around the time I first began thinking about the planet and the meaning of life. This book fascinated me – and still does! I recommend this book to anyone interested in the metaphysical, philosophical and ecological studies of the Earth and humanities place within the cosmos. Stephen Harding developed James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis and took it in a slightly different direction with his studies focusing on consciousness down to the molecular level.
I studied the Gothic Tradition in A Level English Literature and again in my second and third year of University. I loved studying Hamlet, Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights in A-Level English. I remember going home each night and watching the 1948 Olivier version of Hamlet. Sounds a bit nerdy but I really loved the epic scale of the story with all its revenge, madness and tragedy. I am inspired by writers’ use of monsters that reveal our social concerns and anxieties.
In 2013 I worked on an academic resource for ZigZag Education. A friend and I completed twenty-eight mind maps for A Level English students who study Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein. I relished the opportunity to revisit my student days and indulge in a bit of gothic.
I love Angela Carter’s use of language in her collection of stories, The Bloody Chamber. She has a way of rejuvenating old stories and folk tales to make them relevant to modern audiences with such beautiful chewy descriptions. Her prose completely consumes me.
I read Oscar Wilde’s collection of short stories, A House of Pomegranates, earlier this year and I was completely blown over by his imagination and the fairytale like quality of his writing. His writing definitely inspired me to push on with my own book. His stories are magical. When I went to Paris I visited his grave in the Père Lachaise Cemetery and laid a rose. He is an inspiring writer.
Tell us more about your main characters.
Roselyn is a goddess born from the planet Venus. She is sent to the human world to save her unborn sister, Earth.
Marion is an elderly widow who rescues a mysterious child she sees walking along the beach in the middle of the night. She names the child Olivia and raises her with love and affection.
Olivia grows up and she meets Joe, a gardener who works at Honey Bridge House. They fall in love and Olivia gives birth to a baby girl, who they name Zara.
Zara expresses an affinity with Nature through dreams and visions. There is more to Zara than first meets the eye.
I wouldn’t want to say anymore…
If you could be one of your characters for a day, who would it be and why?
I think I’d be Roselyn because she is a goddess and has the power to transform into any human or see through the entire energy spectrum as the magical bird.
Are there any other places to find your work?
Any final words for other authors or readers?
If you have an idea it’s important to never give up. Keep thinking, writing and reading. When my editor first read my manuscript over a year ago she said, “what you have here is the icing on the cake and all the decoration but you need to crack some more eggs into the mix”. Everyone has a different creative process. We take a different route to get to the same place so as long as you trust in your own intuition and follow your own guide, you’ll get to where you need to be. Be perseverant and resilient and never give up!