Author Jen Faulkner Answers all our Questions
- Latest Book: Keep Her Safe
- Can you give us the ‘elevator pitch’ version of your latest book.
I can try! Keep Her Safe is about single mum, Catherine, and her 18 year-old daughter, Anya. Anya is about to leave for university and Catherine has developed an irrational fear that if she falls asleep, her daughter will die. She then becomes obsessed with keeping Anya safe. The book follows their journeys before revealing the real reason behind Catherine’s fear. It’s only taken me two years to perfect that pitch, i’m sure all authors out there will understand why!
- Tell us something about yourself that we likely don’t know! The more obscure the better!
Something you don’t already know, but that I don’t mind being made public… hmmm…. When I was younger I made up my own language. Every letter had a corresponding group of letters, for example a was es, b was pa etc and so Jenny became Mastekatwai. And I loved my language so much that I would sit in bed at night and write out every word I could think of in my new language into a notebook, like a dictionary. I did this for so long that eventually I became fluent in Mastekatwai. I still have all of those notebooks now… there were quite a few!
- Do you write in silence, or with music? If you write to music, give us the top three songs on your writers’ playlist this week.
It depends, sometimes I crave silence (I am VERY oversensitive to noise) and other times I love listening to loud music when I write. My current WiP is partly set in 1995 and so I am very much enjoying listening to the Backstreet Boys (The Call), Chumba Wumba (I Get Knocked Down) and Ten Sharp (You). Safe to say I’ve never had the best taste in music, my first concert was Chesney Hawkes after all.
- Are you a plotter or pantser?
I think a little bit of both. My first two novels (currently unpublished, but one got close) were pansted and it showed – I couldn’t seem to pull them together after they’d be written and they never fully worked. With Keep Her Safe I planned using the Save the Cat beat sheets as advised by an agent I really admire after she’d politely declined my second novel. My current WiP is also planned out, but every now and again I’m still obviously a panster at heart because even though it’s all plotted out already, something unexpected will often happen when I am writing and I’ll go off on a tangent and have to have a rethink..
- Have your characters ever ‘gone off-script’ – hijacked your story and taken it in a direction you didn’t expect?
I do love it when the magic happens and my characters become real people who have minds of their own and I just know instinctively what they’ll do in any given situation. One of the characters in my next novel is a bit unpredictable, but that makes writing her all the more fun! There are several scenes that have been an absolute joy to write because she is in control and I’m never sure what she’s going to do next.
- If you could spend time with any character from any of your books, who would it be and what would you do?
Ooo very good question. After A LOT of thought I’d probably have to say Catherine from Keep Her Safe because I find her and her motivation really fascinating. I’d love to be able to talk to her as she tries to rationalise her behaviour and thoughts. There were times when she frustrated me as I was writing the novel, when her behaviours were driven by this very real, visceral fear. To be able to spend time with her in the midst of that would be eye opening I think. Her behaviours at times might seem entirely irrational, but to her they always make perfect sense. .
- Which of your characters can you say you would least get along with in real life?
You know what, I honestly don’t know. That’s a really tough question because I like all of the characters I have created, or more so, I empathise with them and understand their behaviours. But if I had to choose then I think maybe Grace, but can’t say too much without spoilers…
- Do you read your reviews?
*laughs manically* No. Of course not. Nope. Not me. Never. Well, maybe every now and again. Okay fine, daily. Hourly. All the flipping time! Doesn’t every author?
- What has been the toughest criticism you have been given since becoming a published author?
People saying, ‘oh, your book is actually quite good isn’t it?’ as though they all thought my writing and wanting to be published was some kind of fantasy or hobby up until this point and that they’d been merely indulging me in their support without fully believing I was actually any good. I know they mean it as a compliment, but still!
- What is the best compliment you have received?
I think that my main character, Catherine, in Keep Her Safe is nothing like me at all. That she is a person in her own right and is entirely believable. I was worried that as Catherine is a single mum, and I was too, people would think her and Anya were my daughter and I, so the fact that she is believable in her own right and not associated with me at all is a huge compliment. Means I’ve done my job well. I’m also touched when people say I’ve given them something to think about, and that I’ve handled mental illness sensitively.
- Do you have a day job when you are not writing? If so, what do you do?
I do, I tutor post 16 students for their English Language GCSE resits and I LOVE it. It is honestly the best job I have ever had and I am so grateful I get the chance to work with the most amazing colleagues and the most inspiring students. .
- Can you name three authors who have inspired your writing?
I know lots of writers say this, but… Agatha Christie, Daphne Du Maurier and Dick Francis. Love ‘em.
- What was your favourite book as a child?
The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm. Oh how I wanted to be one of those princesses disappearing off at night to dance and dance and dance, and defy their father! (This was before I realised that I didn’t need to marry a handsome prince in order to be happy of course.) I just loved the magical underground world and the illustrations in my copy were stunning. Enid Blyton’s adventure books were always a firm favourite too – I desperately wanted a pet parrot because of them.
- What scene in your latest book was the hardest scene to write (without giving away too many spoilers!)
It has to be the opening scene. I fiddled and edited it so many more times than any of the other chapters. There was a certain tone I wanted (but can’t put into words) and I couldn’t stop until I felt that I’d achieved that, which hopefully I have.
- Do you have any other author friends? If so, can you name a few and have any of them given you a piece of advice you would consider invaluable on your publishing journey?
Emily Koch has to come first here as I would not be published without her – she has picked me up after rejections more times than I can remember, and has always believed I would be published one day even when I didn’t. I owe her everything. I also HAVE to thank Heather Fitt because she is the most supportive writer in the world. Her book Open Your Eyes is out now and is a must read!
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For Bonus Points – Answer five fabulous frivolous questions!
- What is your biggest fear?
Flying. Hate it. Scares the bejesus out of me, even when there is no turbulence. Haven’t flown for years.
- If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?
Teleportation – then I wouldn’t have to fly.
- If you could write one line to be etched into your tombstone, what would it read?
I told you I was ill!
- If you could give your younger self ONE piece of advice, what would it be?
What’s meant for you will not pass you by – cheesy but true. Also (sorry, I know you said ONE) you cannot change anyone or anything, only your reaction to them/it.
- Finally – Who are your latest Cover Crushes?
The Push by Audrey Audrain and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. Also brilliant books.