Jenny Roman is a judge in the short story category of the Hysteria Writing Competition 2017. Her stories have appeared in a variety of magazines including Writers’ Forum, Woman’s Weekly, Scribble, The People’s Friend, The Weekly News and Yours. Her fiction has been published online, and as e-downloads, including ‘Snowball’, a story for Young Adults published by Ether Books.
She has been short-listed in numerous competitions; ‘Beyond Words’ was 2nd in the Writers’ Forum competition in July 2014, ‘The Bluebell Wood’ was voted 3rd by readers of the Scribble Summer 2015 issue, and in December 2015, ‘Bit Part’ was the winner in the Pens of Erdington creative writing competition.
Which writers or poets inspire you and why?
Too many to list, but here is a selection of favourites:
Julian Barnes – his writing is economical, but well observed, and creates such a vivid picture. And his short stories based almost entirely on dialogue are genius – they shouldn’t work, but they do.
Donna Tartt – when I read the first page of The Secret History, I puffed out my cheeks knowing I could write for a hundred years and never be as good. On the other hand, she gives me hope as it seems to take her about 10 years to write each novel!
Alan Bennett – a master of the narrative voice, and creator of real, complex characters in an often deceptively humdrum environment – a writer who can always both entertain and deeply move his readers.
Sophie Hannah – this is someone who knows how to plot – how to lay a trail of clues and conundrums to keep her readers turning the pages.
Jasper Fforde – the exception to my “I don’t like fantasy” rule. His Thursday Next and nursery crime novels are a joy for us bookish types.
Arthur Miller – his plays are like onions – layer upon layer of misunderstanding and half-truths until the real truth is exposed.
If you are a writer or poet, how did you get started?
My first short stories were published by PONY magazine when I was a teenager. Without knowing it, I did everything right in those initial submissions – I knew the magazine inside out (having been a regular reader for years) and I was passionate about my subject matter. I thought “That’s it – I’m a writer – this is easy!” Then there was a change of editor, and the new one didn’t like my stuff, and then they stopped running stories altogether, so that was that. I tried sending normal teenage-girl stories to normal teenage-girl magazines but they were all rejected (I knew a lot about ponies, but not much about being a normal teenager). As I didn’t know what I’d done right with PONY I didn’t know what I was doing wrong with these other magazines. It took a long time to pick myself up from that. I’m talking like 20 years. (If you think I’m kidding, take a look at my writing credits on my blog!) Yes, I still wrote in those 20 years (on and off) but I didn’t get any fiction published.
Where and when do you do most of your reading?
I’m an avid fan of audio books for the car, but I do most of my real reading in the evenings, curled up with the cat on the sofa, or occasionally in the bath (not with the cat, obviously), or tucked up in bed just before going to sleep. You need to be warm, comfortable and quiet to enjoy a good read. Before we moved, we had a hammock in the back garden which was glorious for reading, but there’s no suitable hammock space in our new garden.
Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an online owl?
I’m passionate about public libraries – they are such a valuable resource and it’s a great shame that so many of these great physical spaces filled with real, tangible books, and manned by helpful, knowledgeable staff are in jeopardy. I’m a regular library user – particularly for the aforementioned audio books. That said, I think the internet has opened up a wealth of opportunities for readers and writers – particularly for genres such as the short story which tends not to be favoured by traditional publishers – and I’m a convert to the Kindle.
Which genre of writing do you prefer and why?
I generally prefer contemporary writing – and generally like fiction to be realistic (I say “generally” because writers like Jasper Fforde create worlds I’m very happy to jump into). People often say they read for escapism, and like to be carried away on an adventure, or a romance, or fantasy, but I’m not sure I read like that. I’m interested in how other people deal with the normal stuff of life – and I think that’s what reading allows you – a glimpse into someone else’s mind. Perhaps it’s simply so you can say, “Oh, thank goodness – it’s not just me!” Or because they’re better at putting into words something you’ve felt but haven’t been able to describe even to yourself. I also like fictional situations that are intriguing – I enjoy psychological thrillers for the twists and turns. More important than a particular genre, I love a good strong narrative voice. But the best thing about reading is discovering something new you didn’t think would be your thing, and loving it!