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Jenn Ashworth Interview

Posted on 29 March 2009. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Jenn Ashworth, aka WW member Ladyblackbird

Tell us something about your background.

A Kind of Intimacy is my first published novel, although I've written two others - one which has never seen the light of day, and was finished when I was about seventeen, and another which was lost in 2004 when someone broke into my house and stole the computer I was writing it on. I also write a blog which won an award at the Manchester Literature Festival, and lots of short stories. Many of my short stories are available on line, and there are links to them from my blog.

My main project at the moment though, is another novel - I'm a fair way through, and pleased with it so far. It's about two teenage girls, an adult with Down's syndrome, a newsreader called Gordon, a squid and a traffic jam. I'm having trouble fitting all the parts together, but I think it's going to end up dark and funny and odd. At least I hope so!

Other work besides writing; ie. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring, and how it works for/against your own writing

I work part time as a librarian in a prison in Lancashire. I don't teach creative writing there, but there is a writer in residence at the prison who does creative classes in the library, and I help with that sometimes which I really enjoy. I also teach creative writing workshops privately, and am just getting into mentoring and manuscript appraisal. I'm interested in this kind of work, but my priority is leaving time for my novel and my daughter - it's always very difficult to get the balance right, and at the moment I'm very, very busy with promotion for A Kind of Intimacy, so I don't think I'm there yet. The thing I like best about all my other jobs are the people I meet - I love to chat to people about writing and books, and the fact that I get to do that for most of my working days makes me really happy.

How did you start writing?

I think it's a cliche to say that I always have written, but I really have. I remember stories written in the first two or three years of school about field mice and combine harvesters, and then a long phase of writing zombie and vampire stories. I wrote terrible poetry until I was eighteen or so, and then have been working on novels and short stories ever since. I've also written a journal every day since I was twelve. I don't seem to be able to think unless I have a pen in my hand and I can't ever see myself stopping - it is something I can't describe, although I think many writewordsers will know exactly what I mean. A strange way of looking at the world and of other people which means things aren't quite real until they are written down.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

There is so much I could write here. I read Kazuo Ishiguro when I was sixteen, and that started off an abiding interest in first person and unreliable narrators. I love the economy and depth of Patricia Highsmith's work, and Ali Smith's prose is so vivid and playful that I could read it all day. I've recently discovered Paul Auster, although I think he might be a phase, and my favourite, favourite novel is either Anna Karenina, Moby Dick or Madame Bovary. I don't think these writers are as much influences as they are inspirations. I don't want to write like them, but I want to write as well as them, in my own voice and on my own terms.

How did you get your first agent/ commission?

I did an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester University - after that, I entered a little bit of A Kind of Intimacy into a national competition. It didn't win, but one of the judges of the competition liked it to much she asked to see the whole novel, and then asked if she could send it to her agent. I'd never submitted to an agent before, so I was lucky that he took me on, and still represents me and my work.

What's the worst thing about writing?

The fact that you never know how it is going to work out. I don't plan, I type away in the dark until a shape or a voice appears. It's horrible and frightening to think of how much time I've wasted getting to an idea. I'm a slow and wasteful writer - much more than half gets thrown away, because, as I said, I have to write it out before I can think it or see it.

And the best?

The short bursts of time when I have faith in the process and stop being scared about how long it is taking me or how much I throw away. When it works out. It's the best feeling in the world.

Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.

Well, the novel isn't out yet, so I'm still feeling nervous about the prospect of feedback on it. Those who have read it have either found it very dark, or very funny - I'm going to be interested in hearing what other people think, but I don't think it will influence the work I'm doing now too much. I seek and accept feedback, but most reviews say more about the reviewer than the novel, I think.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Sappholit at 20:24 on 31 March 2009  Report this post
Great interview, Jenn. I would love to know how you grew your ideas tree.

I am recommending your book to everyone I know. And don't know, in fact.

chris2 at 20:51 on 31 March 2009  Report this post
Interesting and helpful interview. Hope the launch went well.


Nik Perring at 23:43 on 31 March 2009  Report this post
Great interview, Jenn.

Account Closed at 12:44 on 01 April 2009  Report this post
Thanks all.

Ah - the ideas tree. I bought the magic seeds for it from a wandering peddlar, I think. Hmm.

x J

Luisa at 13:30 on 01 April 2009  Report this post
Fascinating interview, Jenn. I really enjoyed reading that.

Mand245 at 14:54 on 12 April 2009  Report this post
Great interview.

I wanted to look at your blog but the link from this page takes you to a bible website! (I think it's because there's an "S" missing from the link). The link from your profile works OK. Just thought you should know!


Account Closed at 07:41 on 15 April 2009  Report this post
Thanks Mand.

For anyone who does want to check out my blog, it is here at



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