I’m delighted to have another ‘new’ author here today, Jenny Blackburn.
What inspired you to start writing?
My father told us amazing bedtime stories. Surprisingly, most farfetched were about his real childhood in post WW2 England and the Isle of Man. Through his words we had adventures with the Phenoderie (similar to fairies or magical entities, native to the Isle of Man), Ben-varry (Manx mermaids) and other Manx myths and folklore. He sparked a fascination with finding evidence of the Pythagorean theorem in nature, the art of codebreaking and small overlooked clues that can solve a crime (aka how to cover your tracks to get away with one).
Then along came my sister, Annelise. The honourable role of storyteller was placed upon my young shoulders and with the warning “Tell her calming stories”, I set about inventing thousands of characters. With unique voices and personalities, I set about entertaining Annelise until her ‘calmness’ had her racing to the toilet. Later I discovered my parents would hide around the corner, sniggering as they listened in.
I devoured books, but found far too few adventures in which the girl saved the day. So I read the boys’ adventure stories and changed them in my head; throwing in more malexmale camaraderie and bonding. I later found yaoi manga and suddenly it made sense.
I had a breakdown from bullying and harassment in the workplace and during my time off, escaped to the worlds in my head more than ever. Then one day I finally took the advice of family and friends to write it down. But every night my dreams would bring forth more stories and as I tried to jot down the outlines during the day, even more boys tried to escape my head to have their tales told. My sister enjoyed reading them, when she could interpret my writing, so I carried on in this rough fashion.
For every plot scribbled on napkins and scraps of paper, there are hundreds more lost due to lack of time and a fading memory.
What did/does it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?
It is rather scary, to tell the truth. I have a large fear of failure and have often settled for knowing I could do something rather than just doing it. I fear the judgment of others; of having something I think is good or special being shown as mediocre and scorned. It felt amazing to finish the first story and know I was actually going to submit it – this is why I whipped up the second story.
Both were accepted and after the initial excitement eased, I waited nervously in fear they changed their minds. It wasn’t until I saw the feedback from the talented proofreaders that it really hit me that this was happening.
And now they are published – wow. It is done. I have achieved something I have admired in others and finally shared a little bit of myself.
Why this particular setting and era?
When I read the submission guidelines, I thought back to any recent stories that fit. It happened to be Ben and Jesse’s story (It Feels Like…). I am addicted to caffeine so many stories bubble away as I wait in line for my daily fix. Having a café as a setting was not a stretch of the imagination.
Brady and Dale had starred (in my head) in an adventure further along in their relationship that featured a different Valentine’s Day and Brady’s obliviousness threatening their happiness. I decided to tell the story of how they came together.
Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
Both. My brain either introduces me to a character that NEEDS a story to highlight how awesome/broken/special he is, or develops a scenario that is intriguing and starts growing its own plot and characters around it.
In my undisciplined state (especially in my dreams), I usually let the story develop in a natural way. Sometimes it wanders off to a point I have to rewind and start at the last place it made sense. When linking several key plot events, I nudge them back in line a little when my characters try to take control and lead me astray.
If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
It would really depend on the situation. They would all do what is right, just a couple of them wouldn’t have the muscle to back it up. I can see Dale using his money to solve the problem and then call in the favour when he needed something done for Brady. Brady would help with no reciprocation expected. Jesse would have the physique to step in like a knight in shining armour – as long as his actions made him look good in Ben’s eyes. I think I would seek out Ben’s assistance the most; choosing the next book to read can be torturous. Seriously.
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
This is a really good question. I have some darker stories featuring people with extra sensory abilities, where your soul can be stolen and there are many things worse than death. The ‘heroes’ are flawed, abused or broken but are sometimes all that stand between the innocent and evil.
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?
No. The only books I have not finished were so badly written I could not understand them. I could hold a strong dislike for the characters, the plot, the premise etc, but as long as I can understand it, I need to finish it. I need closure or it bugs me, wondering how the author ended the story. It is a curse. This is starting to sound like a session on the psych’s couch.
What’s your favourite gay fiction book? And why?
This is the easiest question to answer – I have read so many great MM stories that I can’t isolate a single one as my favourite. I can’t even create a top 10 list. I do hold some authors in higher esteem than others but that is more to do with the interactions I have had with them. I still would not be able to create a top 10 list of authors, though.
What’s your next project?
At the beginning of the year I had 5 superhero stories bugging me and a couple of Australia themed contemporary stories. The 5 have grown to 7 against my will. I have decided to set my sights on a smaller goal and continue writing shorter stories or novellas as I hone my writing and editing skills, to ensure I put out work that is worth reading.