Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Interview with author Wendy Janes

Hello again all,
As promised, I'm interviewing author Wendy Janes today. If you didn't catch my review of her book What Jennifer Knows on Monday, please click here to catch up!

But first, a little about the author:

Wendy Janes lives in London with her husband and youngest son. A number of her short stories have recently appeared in anthologies, and 2015 sees the launch of her first solo novel, What Jennifer Knows. Her writing is inspired by family, friends, and everyday events that only need a little twist to become entertaining fiction.

As well as writing contemporary fiction, she loves to read it too, and spread the word about good books online and in the real world. 

Wendy is also a freelance proofreader, and a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service.

Wendy was kind enough to agree to be interviewed, so here goes.

I love to hear how authors choose the names for their characters. How did you choose yours and did any have any special significance?
I’m so pleased you’ve asked me this, I love talking about how I choose names for my characters. Let’s focus on Jennifer’s friends, Abigail Winston and Freya Kerr. Abi is the head teacher of a successful secondary school, a no-nonsense professional. She needed a strong name. To emphasise this, I chose her first name for its hard ‘b’ and ‘g’, and her surname for its associations with Winston Churchill and Professor Robert Winston. In contrast to Abi, Freya lacks confidence, and she’s also a softer, more gentle woman, which I think is reflected in the light ‘eya’ sound at the end of her first name. She is a chef, so her surname is a little joke for those of us who may recall the TV chef Graham Kerr (anyone remember his show, The Galloping Gourmet?).
Are any of the characters or facets of the characters modelled on anyone you know? If so, you don’t need to tell us who!
Again, another question I love to answer. Jennifer and her husband Gerald are loosely based on my parents. Jennifer has my mother’s elegance, the wonderful ability to draw people to her, and her love of dance, although my mother didn’t have a Jennifer’s professional career. Gerald has my father’s rather eccentric take on life. They are both wonderful company, funny, clever, holding fierce opinions that they are unafraid to voice. I’m pleased to say that my parents are very happy with their fictional selves.
There are a lot of twists in What Jennifer Knows. How did you go about setting these up and did they come to you as you wrote, or did you have them planned from the beginning?
A real-life dilemma provided the central twist and inspiration for the story, so the biggest twist had been dropped into my lap before I even started plotting the book. The majority of the other twists arose as I developed the plot, with the last one springing forth in a very late but joyous eureka moment as I searched for a way to conclude the story.
Your story is set in 2012. Why did you choose that year?
Living in London during the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics was very special. Using the games as a backdrop to my story allowed me to share some of the excitement. Also, being new to writing novels, I needed something to help me structure the timeline of my story, and so things like the selling of tickets and the opening and closing ceremonies really helped with that aspect of the writing.
The male romantic lead has some pretty appalling traits. He acts rather brazenly during the novel. Do you think there are people out there who would really have the gall to do as he does, or is the point that he is over the top?
Yes, I think there are people who behave as he does. In fact, in the real-life story the romantic lead’s behaviour was even worse, but I didn’t think people would believe it, so I had to tone things down for What Jennifer Knows.
Jennifer’s husband, a minor celebrity, is a total stirrer! The book would have been a lot less rich without him as he liked to play devil’s advocate a lot. Yet, towards the end, I think we see that he cared more for his wife than he perhaps made apparent throughout their marriage. Was he your most complex character to write? If not, who, and why?
As much as I love Gerald in all his complexity, I think Jennifer has been the most complex character to write. It has been quite challenging to work out how to ensure her decisions and emotions feel genuine, and portray her as the moral heart of the story. Her relationships with all the other characters needs to feel authentic, so that her roles as wife, mother, grandmother, friend and work colleague all come together to make a ‘real’ person who readers will relate to. Even if they don’t agree with her decisions, I want them to care about her and her choices.
If you could make What Jennifer Knows into a TV drama, who would you have play the main characters?
Despite many hours of thought and discussions with friends and family I’m disappointed to say that I’ve not managed to find my ideal cast. Suggestions from readers are very welcome.
This is your first novel, although you’ve had several short stories published in anthologies. (More about them later!) What can you tell us about what you’re working on now? I assume you are working on something now?
I had a lot more to say about some of the characters in What Jennifer Knows, but the novel wasn’t the place to tell their tales. So I’ve written six stand-alone short stories, each set in a specific year from the 1960s to the 2000s, describing a crucial moment in the life of a friend or relation of Jennifer. I’ve particularly enjoyed offering glimpses of Jennifer in these stories and ensuring there are no spoilers for anyone reading the novel or the stories first. I hope to have them ready for publication as a single small volume early in 2016.
I’m also working on another novel. It’s another contemporary drama with a family in crisis at the heart of it.
Were you in Jennifer’s situation, would you have found it difficult to come to a decision about whether to speak out or not? And, would you have told Abi and Freya?
I would have found it incredibly difficult to decide whether to speak out or not. I still don’t know what I would have done.
Which character did you enjoy writing most and why?
I adored writing Gerald. His lines were a joy to write, many of them making me smile or laugh out loud. He’s mischievous, mercurial, and adds a spark to whatever gathering he attends/scene he appears in. I make no secret of the fact that he’s my favourite character in the book, and it gives me much pleasure to hear that he’s many readers’ favourite character too – although I know he wasn’t yours, Sooz. J
Fun stuff
As always, my first question, who is your Rupert Penry-Jones? (I am daft about him!)
Rufus Sewell
Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble?

Ooh, difficult one because I love both. If I have to choose, I’ll say Scrabble.
Favourite author of all time
This question is even more difficult! OK, if I really have to choose one, it has to be Jane Austen.
Favourite Christmas tradition (it’s that time of year)
When my children were little we always read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ on Christmas Eve as a bedtime story. My eldest son is carrying on the tradition with his daughters. 
Takeaway or fine dining
Takeaway from our favourite Indian restaurant round the corner.
Fave holiday destination been to and not been to
Been to: Cornwall (for the beaches and the waves)
Not been to: Hawaii (for the beaches and the waves)

Favourite genre (outside of your own) to read
Literary fiction
Period dramas or romantic comedies? (movies)
Romantic comedies

Do you play any sports? Which? or watch?
Oh, can you hear me laughing? And now can you hear my family laughing too? I’m the least sporty person, ever. I think it stems from shivering on a freezing cold hockey pitch when I was at school, or maybe it’s due to my lack of talent. I do enjoy watching sports, mainly athletics.

Can you cook? If so, what’s your best dish and if not, what would you most like to be able to cook?
I’m an OK cook. I used to cook a lot more when all the children lived at home. I love preparing a Sunday roast when they visit. Actually, it’s the chatting around the dinner table and seeing my children and grandchildren tuck in to their food that I enjoy more than the food preparation.
I don’t have a best dish, but I’d love to be able to make a juicy carrot cake.

Well, that's that - thanks so much for taking part, Wendy. Great to learn some more about you.
Ooh, and we have a treat for you now - here's the trailer for What Jennifer Knows

And you can catch up with Wendy and follow her writing via the following means:-

 and buy the book from Amazon UK -
and Amazon US -

Tune in on Friday when I will be revealing the blurb for Return of the Christmas Spirit. Only 11 days to go until launch day!


  1. Thanks for interviewing me, Sooz. I had such fun coming up with answers to your great questions! All the best with the launch of Return of the Christmas Spirit.

    1. it was a pleasure hosting you, Wendy! Come back any time - perhaps when you've finished those spin-off stories! And thanks for your best wishes for my new book

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  3. Great interview, girls.
    Love reading about how you came up with the xharacters and their names, etc, Wendy, and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you a little better.
    I can add my recommendation for What Jennifer Knows. It's a great read. Beautifully written and an interesting dilemma.

    1. Thanks, Christine. So pleased you enjoyed reading the interview and the book.

  4. Great interview, Wendy & Susan! I am now intrigued about the book. It sounds like something I'd enjoy reading. I love how you base your characters and plot ideas on real-life stuff, I do that too. It's interesting how you choose your characters' names. I tend to just pick them out of the air LOL :) You made me laugh with your answer to the 'sporty' question. I am also rubbish at sports x

    1. Thanks, Maria. Isn't it fun to take incidents from real life and turn them into fiction. Glad you laughed at my response to the 'sporty' question. Good to meet a fellow non-athlete.

  5. Looks superb. Great interview. Thanks Wendy and Susan :)

  6. Thanks. Lovely to hear you enjoyed the interview.