‘What Jennifer Knows’ is Wendy Janes’ first solo novel which she recently self-published. Wendy has written a guest post for my blog.
From Enid Blyton to Anne Tyler by Wendy Janes
I was one of those children who would always be found reading a book. I loved Enid Blyton, and then progressed to Helen Dore Boylston’s series about a nurse named Sue Barton. An obsessive devouring of Agatha Christie followed. My reading tastes may not have been adventurous, but you couldn’t fault my enthusiasm for the written word.
Each weekend I’d spend my pocket money on paperbacks in WH Smith, return piles of books to our local library and gather another armful to take home. I must have stood for hours in front of bookshelves, head tilted to one side, reading titles on spines, plucking a book from the shelf to admire a cover and read a blurb. Making the right choice was very important because these books would be my companions for the next few weeks, some staying with me for much longer. Adventures and mysteries entertained me into my early teens, although Alice in Wonderland gave me nightmares.
During my late teens, with school exams in English literature looming, my reading choices were influenced by the curriculum. Luckily I loved classic English authors such as Graham Greene, George Orwell, E.M. Forster and Jane Austen. Perfectly crafting their words down to the last syllable, these people could write!
In addition to those books from school, I found others at the library. I discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald. He took me to the 1920s, where I would dance and drink champagne while falling in and out of love.
My regular trips to bookshops and libraries continued through teacher training, numerous office jobs, marriage and children. Searching for stories that reflected my own experience, and tales that took me abroad and to other times, I was attracted by contemporary women’s fiction, literary fiction, and what came to be known as chick lit.
I spent many satisfying hours in the company of Maeve Binchy, Helen Fielding, Kazuo Ishiguro, Maggie O’Farrell, Vikram Seth, Carole Ann Shields, Anne Tyler and many other gifted writers. I didn’t realise it at the time, but they were teaching me how to write, how to craft a story, develop a character, hone a sentence that touches someone’s heart.
I’ve always sought education, solace and enjoyment from the books I’ve read, although since becoming a proofreader, I admit I’ve become more critical of the books I read for pleasure. Often I have to remind myself to stop actively looking for typos and inconsistencies. Now that I review books and write stories myself, I’ve become more analytical, which unfortunately has diminished some of the natural joy of reading. However, when I find a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter or a book that transports me, it’s still a wonderful treat and possibly even more precious.
I do not have any pretensions that I will ever write as beautifully as the very best authors who have kept me company over the last decades, but I look upon all my years of reading as a vital element of my apprenticeship in writing.
Now I’ve published a novel and some of my short stories, my apprenticeship continues. I hope it never ends.
About Wendy Janes
Wendy Janes spends her time running her freelance proofreading business, writing novels and short stories, and volunteering for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. She has recently published her first solo novel, What Jennifer Knows. You can connect with Wendy online and discover more about her writing via Twitter, her Facebook author page, Goodreads Author page and Amazon author pages (UK/US).