© 2013 Clive Eaton
Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat
Her first book, Take One At Bedtime, was published in April 2011 and the second, Domingo’s Angel, was published in July 2011. Her novella, Doppelganger, was published in the anthology Curious Hearts in July 2011, Uncle Vernon, was published in Spellbound, in November 2011, Jamey and the Alien and Uncle Albert’s Christmas were published in Warm Christmas Wishes in December 2011, Mantequero was published in the anthology Winter Wonders in December 2011 and Away With the Fairies, her first self-published story, in September 2012.
Her new anthology, with Tara Fox Hall, Bedtime Shadows, a collection of spooky, speculative and romance stories, was published 24th September 2012. Her new novel, All in the Mind, about an old woman who mysteriously begins to get younger, was published 24th October 2012.
Book title: All in the Mind
Tilly wakes up in the dark, alone and very frightened. She finds she is in a strange room inexplicably furnished in 1940s style. However did she get here? Has she somehow slipped into the past? Has she been kidnapped? Of one thing she is absolutely certain, she has never seen this place in her life before.
All in the Mind is a fascinating tale exploring the human capacity to overcome any obstacle, no matter how great, as long as you believe you can.
Tilly is part of an experiment working on a cure for Alzheimer's disease. She and most of the other patients taking part in the experiment seem to make a full recovery, but there is a strange side effect.
Tilly and her fellow experimental subjects appear to be getting younger.
Can the same experiment be repeated for Tilly's beloved husband so that he can recover from a stroke? Tilly thinks it can and she will move heaven and earth to make sure it happens.
A charming and thought-provoking story full of reminiscences of a bygone age, All in the Mind also deals with the dilemmas posed by new developments in a society whose culture is geared to the idea that the natural span of a human life is three-score years and ten.
What do you do to relax when you are not writing?
I read a lot. Whenever I sit down I read, except when I’m driving, obviously. When I can, I knit at the same time. I know it sounds really sad, but I like to have my hands occupied. I knit for all my friends and family and when I run out of victims I make small stuffed animals.
What, or who, inspired you to become a writer?
I have been writing since I learnt how to read. It never occurred to me that I would be anything except a writer. Well, maybe a famous all-singing, all-dancing film star. The first story I remember writing I was about six and it was about 2 little mice. The first books I read were by Enid Blyton, so I assume she was my first inspiration, but in later years my heroes were John Wyndham and Stephen King. Still are.
What or who inspired you to write your current novel?
Years ago I read about an old folks’ home where they did the experiment of making their environment like that of their youth. I can’t remember where I read this or what they were attempting to prove, but I do remember that one surprising result was that the subjects’ hair darkened.
I’ve had the idea lurking at the back of my mind ever since. What if you carried the experiment to its logical conclusion?
Tell us three interesting facts about your book which are not covered in the synopsis.
1) The protagonists are from very different social backgrounds – the son of a wealthy industrialist and an orphaned girl from the East End of London.
2) One of the doctors running the experiment is Indian and there is a whole subplot about his family virtually kidnapping him to force him to marry the woman of their choice.
3) The woman in the photograph on the cover is my mother, who was a nurse at the end of the second world war. She was not, however, a model for Tilly. It’s just that when I was looking for a suitable cover picture I realised my own mother had the ideal face.
What research did you need to do for this book?
I had to do a lot of research on the second world war. I knew a fair bit already from reading and television documentaries, as well as the experiences of my own parents, but I needed to know things like what branded goods they used, how the rationing system worked, etc.
I also realised, when one of my characters suddenly got completely out of hand and decided to return to India, that I was woefully ignorant of Indian culture. I knew some from reading, and I had studied a lot of Indian history at university, but I had no idea whether my knowledge would suffice for modern day India. The problem with something like that is you don’t know what it is you don’t know. I did not realise, for example, that a Hindu would be unlikely to understand Urdu. In the end I followed Stephen King’s advice and just wrote it. It practically wrote itself, anyway. Then I appealed on Twitter for experts on Hindu culture to read and correct it. I had four responses and checked their comments with Google.
God bless them and God bless Google. I was saved weeks of work!
Are any elements/characters of your book based on real life experiences or people you’ve met/known?
I imagine everything I write is based to some extent on people I have met, my own experiences and those I have read about, but I have never consciously based anything on a particular person. The experiment itself was based on a real event and the background events are true.
Tell us a little about your current work-in-progress.
I’m writing a novel based on Erich von Däniken’s theory that the gods were spacemen, written from the point of view of the Olympian gods, particularly the goddess Athena.
What process did you adopt from inception through to the finished book?
Basically I shut myself away in my study and wrote.
What do you need (or not need) around you whilst writing?
I prefer no distractions at all. I can’t write with music going on in the background. If I like a song, I want to listen to it rather than write. If I don’t like it, it irritates me.
How easy did you find it getting a publisher?
Until September last year, all my books bar one were published by Melange Books. The other was a contribution to an anthology for Whimsical Publication. The story was shorter than Melange’s minimum, so I sent it to a different publisher.
It was NOT easy to find a publisher. I sent my first novel to dozens of publishers and agents over a period of several years. Most did not respond. The others sent a form rejection. All except one very enthusiastic response from a company which turned out to be a vanity publisher!
But towards the end of 2010 I came across Melange Books. When I checked their submission guidelines, I noticed they seemed to specialise in anthologies and also sent them my collection of short stories. Initially it was the short stories they were interested in and they accepted the book within a period of a few weeks. I was so overjoyed I decided not to pursue the submission of my novel, but a few weeks later they came back and accepted that as well. So I ended up having two books published within a month of each other. I am so grateful to Melange for giving me the chance.
What were the three biggest challenges you faced when writing your book?
1) Finding the time. I spend so much time promoting my published books I have very little left for actually writing! In the end, I shut myself in my study, turned off the internet and just wrote.
2) Doing the research, especially on India.
3) Dealing with the editing process. I cannot bear having my work pulled to pieces and I NEVER agree with editors’ corrections. Well, hardly ever. So I always end up fighting my corner to keep the book the way I wrote it and not have it rewritten to suit the editor’s conception of what the market wants.
Every author seems to suffer with writer’s block at some point. How do you overcome it?
I have never, thank God, experienced this. I never have time to write down all the ideas I already have floating about in my brain, without having to worry about where the next one is coming from. I sometimes can’t quite remember the exact word I want and then I just leave a gap and carry on regardless. Usually when I go over it again, the word comes. If not, I consult my husband, who has a brain the size of a planet.
What single piece of advice would you give to any aspiring writer?
Keep going. Just write.
What genre does your book fall into?
It doesn’t. This is always a problem for me. None of my books fit into neat genres. I would have to describe it as speculative fiction.
You as a reader
Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?
1) Stephen King. He is not only a brilliant writer but he is also a teacher. His ‘On Writing’ inspired my first published story and has been my bible ever since.
2) John Wyndham. Another amazing writer. What really inspires me about his work is the sheer breadth of his ideas. Who else would have thought of having an invasion from space by beings the size of insects, or by creatures that could only inhabit the deepest part of the oceans?
3) M R James. The undisputed master of the ghost story. I have loved ghost stories all my life and have collected hundreds. He really knew how to tell them.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Anything by Enid Blyton.
What is the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months?
‘A Perfect Husband’ by Douglas Wickard.
What was the last book you recommended to a friend, and why did you think it was worthy of recommendation?
The above. Superbly well-written thriller. Kept me guessing (and shuddering) right to the end.
Kindle (or other e-reader) or paperback, and why?
Kindle. You can carry 3,000 books with you all the time. I love the feel and smell of real books and will never part with the thousands that line the walls of my house, but I find I read mostly on Kindle these days.
Hollywood is calling
You’ve had the call from Hollywood and they want your opinion on who should play the leading roles in the film based upon your book. Who would you choose, and why?
Judi Dench for Tilly. Sean Connery for Johnny.
The film of your book is now going to need a soundtrack. Which musician(s) would you want to write and play it?
Nick Hooper. A dear friend of mine. He wrote the music for the first two Harry Potter films. Wonderful musician.
Drink – Gin & tonic
Meal – Fillet steak
Holiday destination – Santorini
TV programme – QI
Film – Angel Heart
Method of travel – Sailing
Sport – I HATE sport. I can only answer this if you include knitting.
How can people connect with you?
Where can readers find your books?
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