Happy Friday! I love it when the snow starts falling on the blogs – even though it was nearly 70 degrees a couple of days ago. Welcome today’s indie author, Kathleen Jowitt with her novel, Speak Its Name!
A new year at the University of Stancester, and Lydia Hawkins is trying to balance the demands of her studies with her responsibilities as an officer for the Christian Fellowship. Her mission: to make sure all the Christians in her hall stay on the straight and narrow, and to convert the remaining residents if possible. To pass her second year. And to ensure a certain secret stays very secret indeed.
When she encounters the eccentric, ecumenical student household at 27 Alma Road, Lydia is forced to expand her assumptions about who’s a Christian to include radical Quaker activist Becky, bells-and-smells bus-spotter Peter, and out (bisexual) and proud (Methodist) Colette. As the year unfolds, Lydia discovers that there are more ways to be Christian – and more ways to be herself – than she had ever imagined.
Then a disgruntled member of the Catholic Society starts asking whether the Christian Fellowship is really as Christian as it claims to be, and Lydia finds herself at the centre of a row that will reach far beyond the campus. Speak Its Name explores what happens when faith, love and politics mix and explode.
What do you wish you’d known before you were published?
That I could trust my own judgement, and that there isn’t necessarily a correlation between the quality of a book and whether or not it gets published. I went through years of rejections before getting fed up and self-publishing – and winning a Betty Trask Award as one of the best debut novels by authors under the age of 35. These days – well, it’s an amazing ego boost to know that authors of such stature as Joanne Harris, Michèle Roberts and Simon Brett have read my book and liked it, but I’m glad that I’ve got beyond the point where I’m dependent on the approval of others. I write to please myself these days, and if anybody else enjoys it, well, that’s a bonus! I know now that I can trust that what I write is good.
What are your favorite books in your genre?
Mine’s a bit of a specialist genre. If I have one at all, it’s Barchester – named after Anthony Trollope’s classic series of novels – in which the interplay between religion, politics (usually, but not necessarily, local) forms an important part of the plot, in which faith is dealt with critically but sympathetically, and in which the Church is very much a human and fallible institution. My favourite Anthony Trollope is probably The Warden. More recent examples of the genre are Susan Howatch’s Starbridge series and Catherine Fox’s Lindchester – both very addictive, and populated with characters you want to hug or to slap, sometimes both at the same time.
What is something memorable you’ve heard from your readers/fans?
Readers have told me that I’ve made them laugh and that I’ve made them cry. That’s pleasing – I have always tried to look for humour and to make my characters human and relatable. What surprised me was that several people called it a ‘page-turner’: they neglected their work, they stayed up well past their normal bedtime, to find out what happened. I suspect that this was something to do with my very ruthless editing: I took out everything that didn’t need to be there, so what was left ended up more suspenseful than I’d expected.
What’s your favorite kind of cookie and why?
Oatmeal and raisin. They’re not too sweet, and they have an interesting texture. I like the cinnamon, too. Although if we’re talking about classic British biscuits, then it’s a toss-up between lemon puffs and fig rolls. Fruit, spice, and texture seems to be a running theme here!
What’s the last thing you watched on TV/Netflix?
I’ve got into figure skating recently, and have been following the Grand Prix series on Eurosport. This afternoon’s event is the Internationaux de France, so that will be the next thing! The last thing I watched was Only Connect – a quiz show where contestants have to find the connections between sets of clues. It’s one of the more difficult quiz shows on TV, so if I get anything right I feel quite pleased about that!
Book you’d want with you if you were stranded on a desert island?
A long one! I usually say The Count of Monte Cristo, but I think that perhaps a very comprehensive anthology of poetry would be better: I could keep going back to it and always know that I’d find something new.
Kathleen Jowitt was born in Winchester, UK, and grew up deep in the Welsh Marches and, subsequently, on the Isle of Wight. After completing her undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of Exeter she moved to Guildford and found herself working for a major trade union. She now lives in Cambridge, works in London, and writes on the train.