Last Thursday saw the release of Jenn Ashworth’s The Friday Gospels in paperback. I’m a huge fan of Jenn and her work (she’s one of those genuinely lovely writing folk) so I asked her if she’d like me to help her celebrate by coming over here and having a little chat. And she has! Hooray for that and hurrah for the paperback publication!
Here we go…
Jenn! Welcome back to the blog! It’s always a pleasure to have you here. So, what have you been up to since your last visit, when you were talking about Cold Light. A new book, I hear…
It has been a while, hasn’t it. But time flies when you’re writing books… or at least, it sometimes feels that way. Yes, there’s a new book. This one is called The Friday Gospels.
Could you tell us about it?
At its heart is the story of Jeannie, who is a fourteen year old Mormon girl with a terrible secret – something she feels she can’t tell anyone but her older brother, Gary. He’s been away being a missionary in Utah for two years and on the day the novel is set, he’s due to arrive home. The other members of the family – Jeannie’s other brother, Julian, her mother, Pauline and her dad, Martin, all have their own reasons for wanting Gary to come home and rescue them, fix some problem, resolve issues for them and they all take turns in narrating sections of the book. But Jeannie’s story is, I think, the one that seems to have been speaking to people the most.
Did you have to approach the writing of it any differently to your previous books?
Well, the book isn’t autobiographical at all, but I was brought up a Mormon and I still have friends and family in the community, so it was important to me that I represented the faith fairly. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel I can’t be critical, or presents aspects of the culture that some people would find abusive or absurd, but it also meant I felt a responsibility to really get inside these characters – to give them the full range of thoughts and feelings, to explore what religious experience and faith might feel like, even if I didn’t share it myself. So that’s how it was different. And in many ways, it was just the same. Lots of inspiration, lots of late nights, and lots of hard slog!
The best reason for reading a (this) book is…
I think the best reason for reading any book to expand yourself in some way. To get to know characters from different walks of life, different countries, different religions. I hope my book does that a little bit, but providing an authentic day-in-the-life of a community that I still think is often misrepresented. It’s also pretty funny in places, even if I do say so myself.
I saw you recently on the TV (I don’t watch it much, I was lucky to have turned it on), how was that for you?
Frightening! Like most writers, I suppose, I’m much more comfortable writing than I am talking about my work. I find the publicity side of things difficult generally, and the parts that I do like – talking directly to readers, meeting people who love books as much as I do – don’t really apply when you do pre-recorded or live television interviews. But it was fun (after writing about it in Cold Light) to go into a television studio and see how it all worked!
What’s next for you?
More writing, of course. I’m working, very slowly, on another novel. And I’m also finding myself writing short stories. I find the short form such a challenge and I’d love to, one day, say that I’ve mastered it. I expect I’ll be waiting a long time!
Anything you’d like to add?
Only thanks for having me!
A pleasure, as always!