I’m thrilled to welcome the very lovely and very talented Janina Matthewson to the blog today, to talk about her novella (available as an eBook now), the wonderfully titled ‘The Understanding of Women’. I’ve been dipping into it all week and very much loving what I’ve read.
Hello Janina! And welcome to the blog! A pleasure to have you here. So, you’ve just published (as an eBook) a novella, ‘The Understanding of Women’. Could you tell us a little about it. Who’s it for and what’s it about?
It’s about a guy called James who has an almost supernatural ability to read people. He’s only ever met one person who was a mystery to him, a girl called Imogen, who he fell in love with and then lost. So he tries to track her down, with the unsolicited help of an ex-girlfriend only he can see.
I guess based on the assumption that if you have similar tastes to me, you’ll probably like what I do, people who’ve enjoyed things like Pushing Daisies, Slings and Arrows, Ruby Sparks or books like The Tiny Wife, and hopefully Not So Perfect will enjoy this too.
Why did you write it? What got you started?
It started as an exercise, really, to get myself working better. At the beginning of this year I had a few weeks where I was becoming incredibly frustrated with my writing. I was working on a play but I didn’t have much time to spend on it, and whenever I did I felt like I was writing scraps that may or may not eventually fit in to the story they were supposed to belong to. I started feeling like I would never be able to finish it, and then that I’d never finish anything. So I decided to set myself a challenge to write a small novella, as that felt manageable, and I hoped would help me gain momentum for the play as well. Which it did.
Will it actually help people understand women?
Sometimes I suspect that we don’t actually want to be understood, so I hope not! People are very strange creatures, both men and women; perhaps it’s better to simply understand that we do whatever it is we do, and not waste energy trying to figure out why.
How long did it take you to write?
I blacked out one day for my initial splurge of writing – that was the idea behind the exercise. So in the couple of weeks before that day I did a lot of planning, and then wrote the bones of the story out in one burst. At that point it was only about six thousand words, I think, and obviously incredibly rough. Over the next five months or so I rewrote it several times, with a few weeks in between each rewrite.
What was your process?
I guess I’ve already explained what my process was on this one. What I found really interesting about how I set about this was the impact of deciding days in advance when I was going to work and how. So saying, “On this day you will write this many words about this,” turned out to be a really good way of getting it running in the background before I’d actually started actively working on it. I found I had ideas and plans without having been aware of having had them or made them.
When not writing novellas we’ll most likely find you…
Physically I’m often trying to find interesting London cafes and pubs to take people when they visit from New Zealand. One of my favourites is the Teahouse Theatre in Vauxhall, which is also a brilliant place to get some work done.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a novel at the moment, it’s currently on its severalth draft and has been a lot of fun so far. Also, I have plans to take the play I wrote this year, Human and If, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year, and hopefully stage it somewhere in London too.
Anything you’d like to add?
I have been amazed and delighted by how ready people are to support me and my wee book. So to everyone that’s bought it, to everyone that’s said kind things, whether to my face or behind my back, thank you. There have rarely been beams bigger than the ones that have recently been on my face.
Janina is one of many New Zealanders living in London. She can’t remember the first story she wrote, but it probably involved a unicorn. She writes in many different forms and reads in still more. When she’s a real person she’d quite like to live in a house with a rooftop garden.