As some of you may remember I attended a six week writing course from October to November 2015 at Waterstones Nottingham. My tutor was author Megan Taylor and the classes were an introduction to short story writing. I attended them because I wanted to know if my writing was on the right track, as I tend to look at sentences and think about what I can cut rather than what I should add in, and I was wondering if I was writing enough.
Megan has a gift for writing scents, textures, atmosphere and detail without wasting words, which is what I wanted to learn from her. I was nervous attending those classes, as it was the first time I’d really put my writing in a place where it would be judged by a professional author. Megan was kind, generous and pushed boundaries. She encouraged me to be brave, dig deep and write fearlessly, so I did.
She also challenged me to write in the second person, which I’d never tried doing before and a piece called An Education flew out. I showed it to Megan and she recommended that I send it somewhere. In the end I entered the full piece into the annual Galway RCC writing competition, which I spotted on author Paul McVeigh’s Facebook timeline, and this week I learned that it had made the shortlist. I did cry when I opened that email, to know that a writer like Celeste Augé appreciated my story was an amazing feeling and has boosted my confidence. Entering this competition has also introduced me to some great writers as I congratulated my fellow nominees on Twitter. Whatever happens I will keep writing and putting my work out there.
In Her Wake is a profoundly moving story of loss, grief, depression, acceptance, forgiveness and renewal that is beautifully written and deeply humane. Jennings dives beneath the surface of her characters to reveal heart-breaking and tragic moments of self-awareness that lead to the decisions they make, characters who have no concept of the waves of physical and emotional devastation that they will leave in their wake at the time. It’s one of the most subtle and immersive psychological thrillers I’ve read in long time.
After Bella’s father dies she finds herself in possession of a terrible secret, one that has had repercussions throughout her life. Compelled to leave everything she thought she knew behind, including her controlling husband, Bella embarks on a search for the truth and arrives in St.Ives in Cornwall full of fear and hope.
There is a dreamlike quality to the writing as the story of Bella is woven through the myths of St.Ives. Jennings draws you into a sea of complex emotions as Bella goes in search of half-forgotten truths and a sense of identity. This is also a multi-sensory tale as the stunning expanse of the Cornish coastline is evocatively evoked and contrasted with the cosseted, suffocating and claustrophobic environment that is all that Bella has known before she embarks on her journey, albeit in the name of love.
Storms of anger and misunderstandings roll in and explode with the ferocity of a Cornish thunderstorm, then recede with the tide leaving a clear path formed from the light of new understanding. Bella is not the only character who has lived in the shadows of what might have been, letting in the light is a key them in the novel as the darkness of the past is gradually washed away. Stunning and unforgettable, Jennings has truly found her voice.
Published by Orenda Books
Follow the author on Twitter: @MandaJJennings
Find out more about the author: Amanda Jennings
The novel will be published as an ebook on 10 February and in paperback on 1 April. Limited, first edition, signed hardbacks are available from Goldsborough Books from 29 February but you can pre-order now.