Well, would you look at that. I’m writing a blog post… and it’s not a monthly reading round-up. What in the name of my sizeable rear end is going on?
Actually, even though I’ve been writing on this blog for years (more or less to myself) I feel like I need to introduce myself once again. I’ve had a glut of new followers lately, and somehow, despite only posting once a month when I ramble on about what I’ve been reading, I’m getting more views than I have ever seen in my life. Wow. Cheers for that. I’m both touched and baffled that you’re all so interested in my rambling opinions!
So, I feel like I should give some kind of indication as to who I am, seeing as I haven’t done so for a while. Alternatively, I do have an About page that sums it up in short, if short is what you’re after. If not… well, let’s just say I like a nice chat and I will blather on and on, so do be aware what you’re letting yourself in for.
My name is Jess, and I’m currently somewhere between the ages of ‘goes clubbing three times a week’ and ‘covets personalised gardening gloves’. I live in the north-east of England with my husband and four-year-old son – I quite like them both, but I don’t want another one of either, thank you very much. In my day job, I am the person you see standing on a railway platform blowing whistles and waving at trains (I do get paid for this, I’m not just a really dedicated enthusiast). Oh, and ‘Leather’ isn’t some kind of marker of my personal predilections, it is indeed my real name; well, all right, if we’re being picky, it’s my maiden name and I always knew I’d have it as a pen-name, whether I got married or not.
I’ve been writing stories ever since I could hold a crayon. From mushy love stories based heavily on the characters from Casualty (I was an odd nine-year-old) to collaborative attempts at epic fantasy (if your definition of ‘fantasy’ involves large be-kilted Scottish men who use teaspoons to read the future, hit me up), I’ve always been working on something. Or other.
When I was fifteen, I was marched into the school hall and given a class on ‘careers’. Part of this class involved creating my own personal timeline, showing where I wanted to be at eighteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, etcetera. There were some crackers on that list. ‘Achieve a First from Cambridge University’ – oh, lovey. ‘Qualify as a lawyer’ – er, nope. ‘Enter the diplomatic service’ – HA! But there was one thing on the timeline that stuck. By the time I was thirty years old, I was determined I would hold my own published book in my hands. That one was an absolute given.
Then, of course, real life happened. Between the ages of fifteen and nearly-thirty, although I kept writing, actually querying and pushing to find an agent or a publisher all got shoved a bit to the sidelines (a couple of false starts aside). All of a sudden, that self-imposed deadline was nearly upon me. Having achieved precisely nothing from my original planned timeline (I’d like to think I’ve achieved plenty, actually, my life just went in a rather different direction) I felt a bizarre kind of loyalty to my fifteen-year-old self to get something done of which she’d approve.
And that’s how The Bean Jar came about. I decided to take one of my longest-standing WIPs, my book baby and ode to the beloved island where I grew up, and self-publish it on Amazon. It’s been on there a couple of years now, and even after the glut of friends and family buying it out of loyalty when it first came out, I’m still getting modest sales. Apparently people quite enjoy reading about the adventures of drunken twenty-something Guernsey girls with a mild-to-moderate lack of responsibility or morals (where could I possibly have got my ideas?).
Now, I am of course still writing. As a terminal procrastinator, I’ve got a Dropbox groaning with unfinished novels – at last count, nine that have made it past the ‘planning and brainstorming’ stage; six of which are well over 50,000 words long (one is at approximately 180k and not finished yet, that’s going to take a ferocious edit). I’ve partaken in NaNoWriMo many times over the years, with varying degrees of productivity, and I’d recommend it to anyone who fancies getting the bulk of a first draft out of the way with a good bit of healthy competition. I do love a good bit of healthy competition (fun fact: I once set a kitchen on fire after losing a game of Trivial Pursuit).
My main project right now is tentatively titled ‘Heavy Metal Mama’, the essential theme of which is ‘after the happily ever after’. Katy is an unfulfilled wife and mother, dreaming of her years as a reckless and wild heavy metal groupie. From fishnet tights to bobbled leggings, from leather jackets to baby slings; she can’t even wear kohl eyeliner any more, because it would settle in her brand-new wrinkles. When her husband grows a man-bun and attempts to turn into an oat-milk swilling, uncommunicative hipster, is there more to it than meets the eye? After her recently-divorced best friend demands her supportive presence in Finland, Katy needs to work out whether her priorities lie with her present or her past – and whether said past might end up becoming her future.
Ooh, that was a bit blurb-y, wasn’t it? Quite like it.
I came up with the idea for this book in early 2020, and found myself more inspired than I have been in a long time – it seems like for years I’ve been chugging slowly through the same projects, not making a great deal of progress before losing connection with the characters. With Heavy Metal Mama, it’s not like I’ve been moving at light-speed, but I’ve been consistent, right up until the last couple of months. I’ve been at the point of ‘the last few chapters’ since the end of November’s NaNoWriMo (incidentally, the first NaNoWriMo I’ve managed to officially ‘win’ since having my son). Without giving too much away, I am at a huge turning point in my main character’s story, and I keep chopping and changing as to which course she’s going to take. Not even that, really – I know what she’s going to do, but I need to work out how the other people in her life are going to react to her actions and how that will affect the ending.
I did have a major breakthrough a couple of days ago, though. While watching one of my favourite heavy metal DVDs, I wrote 2000 words between approximately six songs, and I feel like I’m finally on track once again. Hooray! Then it’ll be… the second draft. And the editing. And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually go for some full-on querying this time around. Oh well, the work of a writer is never done!
Anyway, you didn’t ask for a deep and meaningful insight into my writing process – rest assured, it’s moving along. If you happen to have bought and enjoyed The Bean Jar, you will be graced with some more of my writing again, oh, sometime in the next decade, I’m sure.
Writing aside, what else can I say to turn this post back into an introduction as opposed to one big whinge about my own book characters disobeying me?
I’m a voracious reader, as will be obvious from my other blog posts, and I’m also relatively active on Bookstagram. I am an avowed feminist, love getting tattoos, drinking cocktails and getting into trouble. I’m a nerd, obsessed with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter in particular, though I have a soft spot for Marvel, Jurassic Park and The X Files. My favourite bands are Sonata Arctica, Nightwish and Amaranthe, and the pandemic shutting down live music has been a genuine struggle. If you see me out and about and I’m not wearing eyeliner, you should probably declare me legally dead. And I won’t wear anything that doesn’t have pockets.
And that, folks, is that. Welcome to my blog, I’m very pleased to see you here. I hope you enjoy my oversharing and my bookish rambling – I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again soon!