FELL by Jenn Ashworth *Blog Tour Q and A*

I am delighted to be participating in the launch of Jenn Ashworth's latest novel, Fell, which is published by Sceptre today (14th July 2016). 


Set on the coast near Morecambe Bay, it features Annette Clifford, who has returned to her disintegrating childhood home.  There the spirits of her dead parents, Jack and Netty, are awakened, anxious to watch over her. We are taken back to the summer of 1963 when Netty was desperately ill and a charismatic stranger, Timothy Richardson, who seems to have mysterious healing powers, came into their lives.




Welcome to my blog, Jenn. Would you like to start by telling us a little about yourself?




Thank you for having me!
I live in Lancaster. Most of the time I'm either writing or reading, but when I'm not, I like to knit and listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I'm a night owl, an insomniac, and I really love reading on the settee under a blanket with my three cats sitting with me. 

What was the inspiration for ‘Fell’?
 The first scene I wrote was the one at the lido. Jack goes down to the water to ask some boys to stop messing about - he's afraid his daughter is going to get hurt - and he meets Tim, who is somehow able to know Jack has a headache, and even more curiously, is able to dramatically fix it. Jack, normally about as far from impulsive as it is possible to be, seizes the opportunity and asks Tim to come around to the house for sunday lunch. His wife, Netty, is very sick and perhaps Tim might be able to do something for her? 

When I wrote that scene I had no idea who those people were - why or how Tim could fix Jack's headache, what was wrong with Netty - nothing at all. All the novel is there though - Netty's illness, Jack's impatient protectiveness, Annette, their daughter, being left out of what's going on, all while they take her out on a treat meant to give her happy memories of her mother. Even the powerful attraction between Jack and Tim - both having something that the other wants, desperately, is there in that scene. When I'd finished it I stared at it and didn't write anything more for six months. When I finally started again, the rest of the novel was all about that single scene - who are these people, how did they get there, and what happens next?

And where that scene came from? I have no idea. It came fully fledged into my mind one day, as if I'd seen it and was now remembering it, rather than inventing it. The rest of the novel was harder work, but that scene just fell into my head. 


Grange- over- Sands and the coastline is very important within the novel. Did you research the locality?



Yes - I went there on lots of days out, walked up Hampsfell and explored Morecambe and the bay more generally, which also appears in the novel. The coastline is a place with an interesting history - the land itself has shifted so much that there's so sand at Grange-over-Sands any more, though there would have been when Jack and Netty lived there. That degree of shift and transformation - the unreliability of the landscape itself - seemed to fit perfectly with the story. It's also a place that historically has been associated with sickness and health - there are convalescent homes there - old TB hospitals that were turned into homes for wounded soldiers during the first world war. It is also a place associated with death - the bay is a really dangerous place - always has been. There really is an old boarded up lido at Grange too - and I couldn't get into it (I tried!) but better climbers than I have managed it and there are pictures all over the internet.  

You have included elements of the myth of Baucis and Philemon. Could you explain how you incorporated them in the story?



The book isn't a retelling or a modernisation of Ovid's myth, but elements of that older story suggested themselves to me as I wrote - the flooded landscape, the two big sad trees the house is named after and the stranger arriving who might be an angel in disguise. Netty and Jack - as these two ordinary people whose life and work is about giving hospitality to others - they run a boarding house - allowed me to explore the theme of kindness to strangers, which is important to Ovid's rendition of the myth and to mine in Fell. For those who know the story of Baucis and Philemon really well there are lots of tiny correspondences scattered through the novel which I hope give it depth and meaning, but which a reader who hasn't read Ovid before can do without.  


Although Netty’s illness is harrowing to read, it is an uplifting if poignant story. Different characters show different ways of giving hope and comfort. Why was this an important part of the story to you?

Netty's illness is the backbone of the novel - it's the reason why she and Jack are so protective of, yet withdrawn from their daughter - which has repercussions into her adult life that the book also explores. It's the reason why they invite Tim into the house, and why he gets away with so much while he's there. It's why Jack and Netty argue, and why Jack finds himself taking on all kinds of domestic and caring responsibilities - work that as a man of that time, he had no experience in at all. It's also the reason why Jack and Tim have this strange, powerful bond with each other - Tim might want Jack's ordinariness, his seemingly orderly and quiet middle-class life - but Jack wants Tim's magic - he'd reach in and grab it out of him if he could. Yes - there's kindness there, and comfort - but when somebody is sick kindness is a very complicated thing - sometimes selfish, sometimes ugly, sometimes frightening. I wanted to explore the hope and comfort of kindness, but also its other sides too.  


What do you like about being a writer and do you have a writing routine?



I love the research  - I was able to go to Saville Row for the day to learn about bespoke men's outfitting, and see the cutters and tailors at work. People are so incredibly generous with their time and when you tell them you are writing a book, people have always been kind enough to answer my questions. I was able to spend time with a retired nurse too, who had looked after women like Netty who were very sick at home - and hearing the detail of that was fascinating too. 

I don't really have a routine. I try to have one - try to make a regular time for the writing, but it never seems to happen. I don't write every day and I never have. I can write anywhere - I wrote Cold Light sitting in my car - but in bed, at night, seems to work best. 


Where is your favourite place to write?



Bed. I know it is terrible for your back, and I get tea and ink on the sheets, and there are always scraps of paper under the pillow, and it's terrible if you are an insomniac to associate the bed with work rather than sleep. But it is where I write. I was trying to finish a story in the library yesterday and I couldn't do it: I had to come home and put my dressing gown on... 


Finally, have you any plans for any further books which you are able to share?



The next one is about illness too, I think. Though I don't think it will be a novel - it feels more autobiographical than that.

Thanks, Marianne.

Thank you for answering my questions today and visiting my blog. I loved reading Fell. It is so evocative and memorable and hearing about how you write just adds to the enjoyment. Good luck with the rest of the Blog Tour!

                                                       About the Author: 


                                                                           Photographs by Martin Figura

 Jenn Ashworth was born in 1982 in Preston, where she still lives. She studied at Newnham College, Cambridge and the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a librarian in a prison. Her first novel, A Kind of Intimacy, was published in 2009 and won a Betty Trask Award. On the publication of her second, Cold Light (Sceptre, 2011) she was featured on the BBC’s The Culture Show as one of the UK’s twelve best new writers. Her third novel The Friday Gospels (2013) is published by Sceptre. Ashworth has also published short fiction and won an award for her blog, Every Day I Lie a Little. Her work has been compared to both Ruth Rendell and Patricia Highsmith; all her novels to date have been set in the North West of England. She lives in Lancashire and teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

                                           Follow the rest of the book tour: 




Comments

  1. This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information...
    Activities To Do Paris

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment