Saturday, 17 December 2016

Jennifer Young - Role Model for Aspiring Romantic Thriller Writers

  1. Have you always seen yourself as a "writer" and created stories and non-fiction from an early age, or is there something that happened to inspire you to put pen to paper?

Jennifer Young: I resisted the description “writer” for years and still do at one level. I have never seen myself as a writer but as someone who writes. You don’t call someone who breathes or eats a “breather” or an “eater”, and writing is just something I do. And yes — I’ve written, or thought about writing, for as long as I can remember. And that’s a loooong time!

2. You write both fiction and non-fiction, but which do you prefer?  

Jennifer Young: Fiction. Don’t get me wrong — I love writing non-fiction (for those who might be interested, I’m a science writer and I specialise in Earth science) but fiction sets you free in a way that non-fiction doesn’t. My scientific background has taught me that you should check your facts, be accurate, go back to the source material. In fiction, as long as you can keep a certain amount of realism, just about anything goes.

3. Writers write for both pleasure and for money. Do you have certain areas of your writing committed to making money and others where personal pleasure is the main motivation?

Jennifer Young: See my answer above! I have always written, always will write. It’s nice to get a wee bit of cash for doing something I do anyway, but the hourly rate for most — almost all — writers would have any union rep up in arms. It’ll be pennies by the time you’ve accounted for plotting, research, writing, editing and so on. Sometimes I wonder whether, if I depended on writing for money, I’d do it better — or I might not be able to do it at all!

4. What do you think about perceptions of romantic novels being formulaic? Is this fair comment? Isn't this how you started?

Jennifer Young: This is something I think about a lot. (I know — that sounds desperate!) All fiction genres are formulaic to some extent, because readers choose a genre that gives them what they want. For example, most romance readers expect a happy ending. Write a love story without a happy ending and it’s fine — but it isn’t a romance, and the chances are that anyone who buys it thinking it’s a romance will be disappointed, no matter how good it is. Imagine if you read a detective novel in which the criminal confesses halfway through, and with the rest of the book examining his tortured background. That ceases to be a detective novel and becomes something else.

So no. I don’t have a problem with a formula. Now, stereotypes in fiction are a whole different matter…

5. You describe your latest novel Blank Space as a "romantic thriller" - how much more scope does this give you to produce richer material, perhaps with more layers of meaning?

One of the reasons I enjoyed writing Blank Space was that it gave me the chance to dig a little deeper into characters’ challenges and motivations. It’s based around an undercover policing operation in which our heroine gets caught up, and it ends up challenging her prejudices and placing the hero between the demands of his heart and his head.
It’s the first in a series and, as I’m planning and writing them, each has a different issue at its heart. The second is about revenge; the third deals with modern slavery; and the fourth will look at antiquities smuggling. On all of them, I try to use the characters to reveal the complicated ethics and perspectives on things which we may consider black and white.  

6. Where do you go from here? Are you intending to focus on romantic thrillers?

I don’t know. I love romantic thrillers so I can’t see myself giving up on them, but I also like to push myself in different directions and try different things. (Apparently this is a terrible move for marketing purposes.) I’d like to try pure suspense, if I can be twisted enough. And I have an old and very poor attempt at a psychological thriller which I love despite its faults, and which I like to think would be better if I went back to it with the benefit of a quarter of a century additional life experience. So…who knows what’s next?

7. Do you edit much? How many revisions would you expect to make of each novel, or do you correct as you go along?

It varies. Generally speaking I belong to the don’t-get-it-right-get-it-wrote school of thought, so my first drafts almost always require huge rewrites. But the process of writing the first draft almost always reveals the problems, so the second draft is usually the major one. After that I generally just keep tweaking — add a bit, take a bit out. My first drafts are always pretty poor, though!

9. Are you inhibited when you write, thinking of your family reading what you have written?

I write very little graphic sex and no graphic violence, so in theory there shouldn’t be a problem — but of course, there is. I’m not inhibited when I write, but I do cringe with embarrassment when I think of my friends and family reading what I’ve written.
If you want to create even half-realistic characters, you have to invest them with at least something of yourself. I don’t mean that my books are in any way semi-autobiographical; they certainly aren’t. But you have to reveal something about the way you think and the way you see things. That makes me feel very exposed. Though of course, in actual fact my friends and family know all that stuff about me anyway!

10. Any advice for would-be romantic thriller writers? Maybe compare that with advice for non-fiction writing.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Be afraid of taking your characters into terrible places, because if you aren’t afraid they won’t be convincing. Be sad when they are sad and happy when they are happy, and cry when their pets die. Oh, and fall in love with both your hero and your heroine.

You should be afraid writing non-fiction, too, but for a different reason. In non-fiction you should be afraid of getting your facts wrong.

That said, in both fiction and non-fiction, there’s one thing you should never be afraid of, and that’s writing a bad first draft. It’s the first step to a good one.

Buy Jennifer's New Romantic thriller, Blank Space:

When Bronte O'Hara finds an injured man in the kitchen of her flat, the sparks fly. And the police are interested - not in him, but in her anarchist ex-boyfriend. One thing she does know about that mysterious stranger is that he has a lot of enemies - and she has some dangerous friends.

Blank Space by Jennifer Young is available on Amazon and Smashwords


John Erwin said...

Fascinating interview. I always enjoy getting insights into the inner workings of writers' minds, especially writers whose work I enjoy reading. Thank you, Janet and Jennifer.

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview.

Karen Warren said...

Great interview, Janet. Looking forward to reading Jennifer's new series...

Jennifer Young said...

I thought Janet asked some really thought-provoking questions. I'm still thinking about some of them!

John Jaksich said...

Beautifully done, Janet and Jennifer. You are a true role model, Jennifer! Much admired --both of you!

Frank Parker said...

Fascinating interview + it sold Jennifer's latest book to me as something I would probably enjoy reading so it is now on my TBR list. I'm happy to join the queue of would be interviewees. Your questions force the interviewee to look a little deeper at his/her motivations and I like that.

Janet Cameron said...

Yes Frank. I only just saw this so sorry for the late response. I know you're a great historian and lots of Irish history. Is there anything else I should know about your writing experience (just so I can ask all the right questions) Let me know and I'll send you a list of ten or so.