Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in 1967 in Bedfordshire in the south of England. I was raised in a seventies-Lego-flares-page-boy-haircut-and-Angel-Delight-suburban semi detached house. I went to a good girls/clever girls’ private school in a cathedral city. And I played and wrote and drew my childhood out. University, then Japan, then London.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I wanted to be a children’s writer.
At eighteen I wanted to be a children’s writer
and at thirty I wanted to be a children’s writer.
At eighteen I wanted to be intensely fashionable and of, and engaged with, my time. Now, at forty-four, I feel that many times, many epochs, have their wisdom and richness.
4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
The painting would be something by Rothko, because his work points to something other, something transcendental and ineffable beyond what is known: and that fascinates me.
The music would be Dylan Thomas reading his play, Under Milk Wood, It isn’t strictly music, but it sounds like music to me with the voices woven together in a polyphonic harmony. Nor, to me, is Under Milk Wood a piece of fiction. I listen to it – most days actually – and know, ‘life is like that, just like that, in that wet, wild, west corner of Wales.’
The book would be The Death of Ivan Illych by Tolstoy. It’s so shockingly real and unadorned, as if Tolstoy needs no ornamentation or trickery to make his near plot-less novel a great work of art.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I don’t know. I didn’t choose it, just one night it was as if my unconscious broke through and I started writing a novel.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
It’s about an undertaker, Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals, in a small town in Wales in 1924. He proposes to Grace at a picnic, but immediately realises he has made a mistake. It’s about a call to love, an inner connection, that pulls and brokes with no argument. And what happens to the undertaker when he feels this, despite the fact that he has proposed to the wrong woman. As well as being about who Wilfred Price loves, it’s about his work and the people he buries.
(BBGuru: Booktopia BUZZ Editor-in-Chief, Toni Whitmont, read and loved Wilfred…
Wendy Jones has written a surprisingly restrained and moving book. There are secrets which aren’t pretty, there are shocks without sensationalism. This is a novel about duty, love, loss and responsibility and it deserves a very wide audience. An added bonus is that it comes as a lovely demi-hardback edition. Wilfred is just about perfect. Read Toni’s review in full here…
…and here is the publisher’s synopsis:
A charming and moving depiction of love and secrecy, set against the rural backdrop of a 1920s Welsh village.
Everyone has to make decisions about love. Wilfred Price, overcome with emotion on a sunny spring day, proposes to a girl he barely knows at a picnic. The girl, Grace, joyfully accepts and rushes to tell her family of Wilfred’s intentions.
But by this time Wilfred has realised his mistake. He does not love Grace. On the verge of extricating himself, Wilfred’s situation suddenly becomes more serious when Grace’s father steps in.
Up until this point in his life, Wilfred’s existence has been blissfully simple, and the young undertaker seems unable to stop the swirling mess that now surrounds him. To add to Wilfred’s emotional turmoil, he thinks he may just have met the perfect girl for him. As Wilfred struggles in an increasingly tangled web of expectation and duty, love and lies, Grace reveals a long-held secret that changes everything…
Wendy Jones’ charming first novel is a moving depiction of love and secrecy, set against the rural backdrop of a 1920s Welsh village, and beautifully told.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope they feel comforted.
So many people. Marilynn Robinson is extraordinary. She puts inexpressible, fine, existential experiences into words. Sue Townsend, author of the Adrian Mole books, takes the most mundane characters and writes hilarious and moving books. Jacqueline Wilson for her plotting. Lady Murasaki, for creating genres. Hans Christian Anderson for his audacious creativity and power, Saint Augustine for his honesty, the Asterix books for their energy. Gerard Manley Hopkins, T. S. Elliot: the list goes on and on!
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’d like my writing to have a humility and generosity to it.
The novel is the first in a series, and I would like go with the characters and see where they take themselves and are taken, and for me to unfold with them.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
To persist intelligently.
Wendy, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.