Words were my earliest fascination. From my earliest years I was a precocious reader. Even now when I see a flashcard or a Ladybird book, I feel a little thrill. I was a kid with a very active imagination and spent most of the time in a fantasy world of my own creation. From about the age of six, I was travelling on the bus to school and if I wasn’t reading I was imagining myself in stories I’d read, and bigging up my part of course. I could see everything in cinemascape in my head. I was very visual in that sense, and I wrote loads.
And then all of a sudden I didn’t.
I was bright, and I focused on my academic studies at school, then I studied English and Theatre between 16-18 years, and trained as a stage manager at 18. I channelled all my creativity into my theatre work, and then when I failed to find theatrical employment, I kind of lost myself, and the next few years were all about music and motorbikes. Eventually I went to University and spent eight years pursuing academic excellence, and honed my academic writing skills in history.
I taught University level students for 16 years, but was never very happy. At some stage I saw a counsellor and realised that I was lacking creativity in my life. I changed the way I taught – stopped using PowerPoint and smartboards, worked on creative teaching and learning strategies and loved it, but my managers didn’t appreciate my innovation at all. When I was offered redundancy in 2012, I was pretty scared of being penniless, but I took it.
I started writing again at that stage. Looking back, what I was producing was pretty poor, but I haven’t stopped writing since. It’s now the most important thing in my life after my family.
What keeps me writing?
It makes me so happy! When I’m writing well, I feel the way I did when I was a little girl and I would lose myself in a world beyond reality. I can inhabit this place temporarily and push the boundaries there.
I also find that writing is a wonderful intellectual and emotional exercise. I am a plotter, rather than a pantser so I like to know my characters quite well before I start writing, but I also enjoy it when they take over and start playing by their own rules. Those occasions when I am in the character’s head, and recognise the character wouldn’t react the way I planned they would, and I have to pause and reconsider – that’s fun. It’s a problem solving exercise. Often, I have to then loop back and rewrite chunks of story, but again, I really don’t mind because I relish making a story work. In Crone, I’d written two thirds of the story when Mr Kephisto suddenly made an appearance. He had such a dynamic presence that I couldn’t ignore him, so he suddenly became a big part of the novel and is a real favourite with my readers.
As is Aefre, the Crone herself. I want truth at the heart of all my writing, and so even though I’m dealing with horror, dark fantasy, magic, murder and mystery, I strive to ensure everything is grounded in truth. I need my characters to be flawed and multi-dimensional, and I want heart and emotional depth in my stories. There is far more to the witch in Crone than just her evil persona. I like the fantastical to be juxtaposed with reality. For me, that way horror lies.
This year has been amazing. I decided to really go for it and achieve my publishing dreams. Crone came out in May, and I’ve written a non-fiction book about dog bereavement (Losing my Best Friend), compiled my collection of short stories (Deadly Encounters), and I’m currently editing my next novel, tentatively entitled The Jumpers.
I don’t think I will ever stop writing now. I split my day between copywriting for clients, and creative writing for myself. My mind is constantly full of ideas, and plots, and characters, and situations. Every day is a writing day and once again, the movie screen in my head is constantly running. I’ve never been so content.
When I was in employment and at my unhappiest, a colleague asked me what I’d choose to do if I could. “Oh, I’d like to write,” I said. Her response? “If you wanted to write, you’d write.”
I’ve never forgotten that. Writers write, that’s about the crux of it. Put your backside on your chair and get to it.
Thanks for letting me chat about writing, David. I could do it all day!
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