JQM LITERARY CHAT Welcomes Jenny Lees
Tell us about yourself:
I was born on the island of Malta and spent my first seven years in an idyllic Mediterranean family. My father was English and my mother Maltese. I adored my Maltese grandmother and spent most of those early days with her, hence O soon became bi-lingual.
My father was in the royal air force and after the age of seven I led a nomadic existence. We lived in Germany, Cyprus and various parts of the uk. My education was a hit and miss affair. Arriving at schools, just as end of term exams were being taken, meant I would stare at questions I didn’t have answers to and the results would relegate me to the bottom of the class. Staying anywhere for a reasonable amount of time would elevate me to being in the top three. Like most service children I learned to cope with the constant change of view from the windows, one day blue skies and palm trees, the next driving rain and bare skeletal trees. I thought this was way everyone lived their lives.
I was born with a passion for horses that has sustained, my parents thought I would grow out it, but once I reached the age of 60 they conceded it was a permanent affliction. In my late teens I lived in the Middle East and there the passion was heightened when I met Arabian horses. Their history was fascinating and integrated was the romance of the sheikh in the desert and battles fought on these beautiful horses.
Since a very young age, in the class room, I loved being given a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and being told to ‘write a story’. When other children would still be struggling with the first sentence I would be half way down the page. No matter which topic or subject the teacher gave, I found it easy to let my imagination run freely through to the pencil and on to the page.
Tell us about your book:
My book, is a love story. It follows the formative years of a very naïve convent school girl(sally) as she blunders through her first love affair, finds and loses love, discovers the joys of sex (satisfactory and less so). Sally is taken on a roller coaster of emotions by three very different lovers.
I wrote the first draft of the book during 2001/2002 and it lay on the shelf in my office for ten years.
Satisfied that I had ‘written a book’ I had contacted several publishers with no success. I despaired when I received contradicting letters in the same post i.e. ‘liked the story line but not the characters’ and, ‘loved the characters but not the story line.’
Eventually I met a lady publisher who wanted to open a ‘fiction’ side to her non-fiction publishing house. I sent her the manuscript and she liked it, but pointed out 700,00 words was not ‘a book’ it was a door stop so I would need to re-arrange the manuscript into three or possibly four books. I suppose that’s the result of having a wild imagination and letting it out onto a blank page!
Available on Kindle UK
What influenced you to write your current genre?
Over the years my passion for horses, especially the Arabian horse, has led me on many adventures and into unusual situations. A friend once suggested that I write a book about my adventures with horses and it set me thinking. I decided I would attempt to write a book, but I would involve my imagination. Personally, I find books about horses quite boring. So I decided to let my imagination in on my ambitious assignment and wrap my horse experiences in a love story.
There was no point in writing about what I didn’t know. Setting a love story in a hospital would soon reveal my lack of knowledge of the medical profession so I set the novel in areas of the world that were familiar to me, the Middle East, Scotland and Wales and of course used my knowledge of horses to create a background to the love story.
Who are your favorite authors?
As a child Anna Sewells ‘Back Beauty’ travelled the world with me even though it made me cry every time that I read it.
Gilly cooper has to be high on my list, easy reading that makes me laugh. I met her at Hay festival this year (2018) and managed to chat to her. Loved her open honesty.
In recent years I haven’t really developed any favourite authors as I have been deliberately trying to read as many different authors as possible to see how they put words on the page.
Maeve Binchy. I love the character descriptions in her books, she brings whole villages to life.
What are your favorite books?
I don’t think I have specific ‘favourite books’. I read a book and then move on to the next one.
I enjoy love stories, laced with humour and with happy endings.
I enjoy non-fiction especially auto-biographies and history books.
I don’t read science fiction, murders or detective stories.
Who are your favorite literary characters?
Bridget jones Ii can relate to her.
Is there anything you want to share with potential readers?
I think it’s true, everyone has a book in them, whether it be long or short or just a compilation of short stories. My Mediterranean grandmother was illiterate, but to sit by her side and listen to her story- telling was a constant source of education as well as entertainment. I have written those stories down. She raised ten children in Malta through the second world war. Two daughters were killed in the barrage of bombings. But it wasn’t all death and destruction, amusing tales of life in those hard times would come through in her stories.
Granny told me how when the sirens went off for a raid, she would go onto the roof, if it was the Italian air force, she would tell the children not to worry, it was well known that most of the time the Italian’s would drop their bombs in the sea and return home! If it was the Luftwaffe they would run to the shelters.
My father was a ‘tail end Charlie’ (rear gunner) in liberators during WW2 I got him to hand write his experiences. Contrasting stories but rich in history and detail.
Don’t be afraid to put down your thoughts and weave them into stories. The first time you hand them to someone else to read is quite daunting and akin to walking up the high street naked, but that feeling soon goes!
Where can we go to learn more about you and your literary works?
I am a first-time author so there is not much in the way of ‘literary works’ out there however I have a Facebook page and a website.