Writers of WHQ: An Interview with Amanda Jones

7 minute read
Author: Jo
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In case you didn’t know, the Writers’ HQ writing community is the actual, literal best in the universe, full of amazingly talented and generous writers who make our little corner of the internet a very nice place indeed.

And so, we decided to show some of ’em off as a part of our monthly Writers of WHQ interview series.

Get to know our amazing WHQ members — how they write, what makes them tick, their influences, inspiration, top tips and favourite stories — and see just how different each and every writer is. ‘Cause there’s no one ‘right’ (write?) way to do things, right?

So come and meet novelist, multi-media writer, and lovely WHQer Amanda Jones!


Tell us about your writing journey — where did you start, where are you now, and how did you get there?

I started late. I was 58 when I got going. I knew that I wanted to write, but I’m a bit of an ‘all or nothing’ obsessive and, while I was working, I didn’t have the headspace to think about writing. When I was advised to retire early (health stuff) I decided to try again and hope this would become the ‘silver lining’.

In 2019, I had the chance to undertake some free taster courses as part of a social prescribing programme. This was my opportunity to find out whether I could write fiction and whether I enjoyed it – both scary questions in their own way. As the course-leader said, the words poured out of me. Good or bad, they were definitely lurking in there and I loved wrangling them onto a page. I still do.

These tasters led to an opportunity to apply for the Canterbury Christ Church MA in Creative Writing. The part-time, distance-Iearning option fitted my physical limitations, and I graduated with merit last year. During my MA, two short pieces formed part of collaborative projects for Margate Bookie and I have recently had a short story accepted for the Pure Slush anthology, Appointment at 10.30. I am also learning to embrace rejection.

I was introduced to Writers HQ through Twitter and loved what I saw. I started to take part in Flash Face Off and took some of your free courses. It was only after I had been accepted for the MA that I realised that I had not done any Creative Writing since my English O-level in 1976, and you gave me confidence in the early days.

Now, after the MA and still fully committed to writing, I count myself very lucky to have received a Writers’ HQ bursary that means I can use all your resources to continue to develop this year.

Gif of a group of people celebrating in a rain of confetti

Do you have a writing routine? How do you work best?

I aim to write every day. Going back to the ‘all-or-nothing’ trait, I feel unsettled if I miss a day and I’m trying to decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Ideally, I write for an hour, but sometimes it is forty minutes to fit in other writing-related activity – Writers’ HQ courses or seeing my ‘writing buddy’ who I met on the MA course. We are swapping our WiPs and giving feedback to each other.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am writing the final 20,000 words of my WiP, Passing Fair and resisting the urge to go back and start the many edits that I know it needs. I’m working through the WHQ ‘First Draft’ course and looking forward to a segue into ‘Plotstormers II’ to help guide me through the editing process.

I’m mixed-race and it is giving me a chance to trawl my memories of growing up between Barbados and Essex in the 1960s and 1970s, and its impact on working in the 1980s and 1990s. I’m not my protagonist, Kat, who has no idea that she could have one of two fathers and that she might be inadvertently ‘passing as white’, nor am I her black friend, Manda, but some of my experiences are the starting point for events in both their lives, and I hope that gives them authenticity.

What advice would you give to a writer starting out?

I’d like to pass on the advice I got from a writer when I was trying to figure out how to get words, any words, onto a page. I had a lovely old desk, a decent computer and a head full of stories, but the moment that I sat down, flexed my hands in the manner of a concert pianist, opened a document and tried to write a sentence, there was nothing but tumbleweed. She told me to scrap all that lovely preparation and said, ‘just plonk yourself down when you have an idea and write for ten minutes, and I bet you find you’ve written for an hour before you know it.’ She was absolutely right.

Gif of a pair of hands poised over a blank page with an animated loading circle that says "thinking" in the middle

What’s the piece of writing you’re proudest of (and why)?

One day, I hope it will be Passing Fair, but for now it has to be a short story, One Night in Margate, which deals with the logistical and emotional consequences of taking a seal home for the night on a whim. It had its first public outing as part of Margate Bookie 2020 and is shortly to be published in the next Margate Bookie Zine, The Open Arms. I’ve been invited to read it at the launch event on 4 June and I’m very excited to do that and to see it in print.

What are the main challenges you face with your writing?

It’s boring, but it’s my health. I have to be careful not to get overtired as it’s ultimately unproductive if I do. Apart from that, all the usual confidence related things – deciding that I’m writing rubbish and having to step away from the delete key before I do something terminal.

What are you currently reading?

At the moment, I’m reading When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo. There’s a dizzying use of magic and interwoven stories, and she writes in language that makes me more confident that my Bajan characters voices work as I remember them

What’s your favourite part of the Writers’ HQ Community?

This will sound like the class swot, but it has to be the courses – those that I have done and those to come.

And finally, give us three recommendations of writers or stories you love.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith which I have loved and re-read for decades

Kate Atkinson – I’ve read most of her work since Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Ian McEwan – especially Saturday, which is the one I read time and again. Or, then again, William Boyd…


READ AMANDA’S WORK HERE:

One Night in Margate (audio) — part of A Different Lens, a collaborative project for Margate Bookie.

open the link above and click on the pin indicated in the image to listen to Amanda’s story

The story was published in the Margate Bookie zine, The Open Arms (pg 29-31) and you can watch Amanda read her story at the zine live launch here!

Poor Bunny in Pure Slush Vol. 22: Appointment at 10.30

Ponytail and Smoky Eyes (audio) — part of The Listening Post collaborative project for Margate Bookie

Amanda Jones
Amanda Jones

Amanda Jones began writing in 2019. Since then, her short stories have been published as part of collaborative projects for Margate Literary Festival (Margate Bookie) in 2019 and 2020, and in Pure Slush Volume 22Appointment at 10.30 anthology (2022). She is writing a novel, Passing Fair, into which she is weaving some of the experiences of her mixed-race heritage from the 1960s to the present day. Amanda graduated from the MA Creative Writing programme at Canterbury Christ Church University in 2021.
 
Amanda lives on the coast in Kent, across the Thames Estuary from the Essex coast where she grew up. A seaside junkie who doesn’t swim, you will usually find her walking by the sea, writing stories in her head.

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