Friday, March 23, 2012

Jenny Twist is today's Friday Friend

Please welcome my friend, Jenny Twist, as our Friday Friend today.

Jenny was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.

She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.

She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.

In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat

Her first book, Take One At Bedtime, was published in April 2011 and the second, Domingo’s Angel, was published in July 2011. Her novella, Doppelganger, was published in the anthology Curious Hearts in July 2011, Uncle Vernon was published in Spellbound in November 2011, Jamey and the Alien was published in Warm Christmas Wishes in December 2011 and Mantequero was published in the anthology Winter Wonders in December 2011.

What is Romance, Exactly?

I always knew I would be a writer one day. It was just a matter of finding the time. I have had my head full of stories for as long as I can remember.

But I always assumed that I would write ghost stories or science fiction of the John Wyndham type. Perhaps a little bit of mild horror. So I was rather surprised when I eventually did start writing my stories down to discover that they refused to fit neatly into those genres. Or indeed, any genre.

I was recently asked to categorise my first book of short stories and when I confessed I was stumped, the review site asked, “How does your publisher categorise it?”

Good question. I had never checked. Feeling rather foolish, I looked it up on my publisher's site and discovered that it is categorised as 'speculative fiction'. How clever of them! I shall always use that in future.

You see, the trouble with writing is, you start off knowing exactly what you're going to write and how it is going to end and then the story seems to take on a life of its own and off it goes in another direction, with the poor author running along behind, hoping to catch it before it gets itself into some kind of trouble and trying desperately to appear to be in control.

One of the things that most of my rather peculiar stories have in common is an element of romance. I have come to realise that I rarely enjoy reading a book unless it has some love in it. It doesn't have to be romantic love. It can be the love of a parent for a child, the love of a pet, a loving friendship. But it is so much more interesting for me if the characters love each other. So it creeps in when I'm writing.

I'm trying to write a time travel story and I find it's all about a couple who love each other and are going through a bad patch, or a woman who is suicidal after discovering her husband's infidelity and who finds a new love in very unexpected way.

So I decided I might as well try writing proper romance. I did actually succeed in writing two stories that set out to be romance and stuck to it – A Castle in Spain and Jess's Girl, both in the anthology, 'Take One At Bedtime'. But the others went wandering off down other paths.

Take 'Domingo's Angel', a perfectly straight-forward story of a Spanish goatherd falling in love with an English girl. What could be simpler than that?

Well, it would have been all right if this bossy old woman hadn't shouldered her way into the plot and taken over. Before I knew it I was fascinated by her and I wanted to know her life story. It turned out she had this on-going power struggle with the mayor who was a pompous, over-bearing and completely unlovable person. But I fell in love with him and wondered why he was like that. It turned out he'd had a terrible childhood and it was a miracle he'd survived at all. And then there is this very unusual marmalade cat. I swear I have no idea where he came from.

You see what I mean? 'Domingo's Angel' IS a romance – sort of – but it's also a chronicle of the lives of the villagers. It ranges back and forth across time, telling how the village lived through the atrocities of the civil war and the unspeakable dictatorship of Generalissimo Franco. It tells of heroism and cowardice and it keeps breaking out into humour. I think it's trying to be a Spanish version of 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'.

It also made me do endless research. I knew nothing of the Spanish Civil War before I came to live here in Spain. 'Domingo's Angel' forced me to learn. I have become something of an expert. Well, at least in what went on in the mountain villages. And I have come to greatly respect my neighbours. They lived through Hell and came out the other side cheerful and full of love for life and other people.

I think that's very romantic.
How would you categorise it?

When Angela turns up in a remote Spanish mountain village, she is so tall and so thin and so pale that everyone thinks she is a ghost or a fairy or the dreadful mantequero that comes in the night and sucks the fat from your bones.
But Domingo knows better. “Soy Angela,” she said to him when they met – “I am an angel.” Only later did he realise that she was telling him her name and by then it was too late and everyone knew her as Domingo’s Angel.
This is the story of their love affair. But it is also the story of the people of the tiny mountain village – the indomitable Rosalba - shopkeeper, doctor, midwife and wise woman, who makes it her business to know everything that goes on in the village; Guillermo, the mayor, whose delusions of grandeur are rooted in his impoverished childhood; and Salva the Baker, who risked his life and liberty to give bread to the starving children.The events in this story are based on the real experiences of the people of the White Villages in Southern Spain and their struggle to keep their communities alive through the years of war and the oppression of Franco’s rule.

Nobody ever goes upstairs in Margaret’s house. So what is making the strange thumping noises up there? And why is there a toy rabbit under the kitchen table?
Margaret’s Ghost is just one of a collection of short stories consisting mainly of horror and science fiction, ranging from a classic gothic tale – Jack Trevellyn – to the Wyndhamesque Victim of Fortune, and the modern Waiting for Daddy, with its spine-chilling twist.
There is also the occasional excursion into romance with A Castle in Spain and Jess’s Girl.
But most of these tales take you to a place which is not quite as it seems.
It’s bedtime now. Time to go upstairs. Time to take a look. Just one look.
WARNING: Do not exceed the stated dose.

Jenny also has horror/science fiction stories in the following anthologies:

When Christine wakes up in a sumptuous white room with silken hangings, she assumes she is in heaven. But she soon finds out she is not in heaven. And before too long she begins to wonder if she is even still Christine.

There’s something very peculiar about Uncle Vernon. Nobody knows what he does in the cellar. But he’s quite harmless, really. Isn’t he?

Jamey only wants one thing for Christmas. He wants his Daddy to come home. But first he has to kill the alien.

Nobody had ever wanted to kiss June until she met her holiday romance.
Ignacio couldn’t get enough of her, though. But was it just kisses he wanted?
Or did he have a more sinister purpose?

Follow Jenny on:
my Website:
Goodreads Blog:
Or email her at

Thanks so much for being our Friday Friend today, Jenny - and we wish you continued success with your writing!


  1. Thank you so much for having me on your lovely site, Paula

  2. Great post. I love your writing. I wish you were my neighbor... Would love to sit on the porch and talk! Love T.D. Jones

  3. Another great post, Jenny. It's always a pleasure to read an article (or a book) by you.
    I did notice that some authors have a hidden theme in their writing, an element that unifies their books. JK Rowling had "Love" in general, like mother's love. You have romance.
    All great authors have it :-)
    And like T. D. Jones, I wish we were neighbors as well.

  4. When I started writing my husband would always say, "Why romance? You should write a children's book. It would be a lot easier." HA! What little he knows about the writing world. It's difficult to write and publish any book, no matter what genre. I write contemporary romance because I believe in the happily ever after. Who doesn't want to be loved? Great post, Jenny!

  5. How lovely to meet you, Jenny! What does an escapologist's assistant do? I love that your stories take such interesting twists in the process of birthing. Speculative fiction is a great term! I'm writing a reincarnation timetravel that has a non-linear twist. It would fit under speculative fiction.

  6. So glad you visited today, Jenny. Your books sound great--I can't wait to read them! I'm a huge control freak, and it's hard for me to let my characters take over. But when I do, the story is so much better! It's like they get together and say, "hmm, we need to fix this" and then they do. No, I'm not crazy, not at all! :)

  7. I love it when my characters take over - and also when a new character invents him/herself. One of my favourites was a Nile boatman who sang Elvis songs - no idea where he came from, but I ended up giving him a larger role to play in the story - or maybe HE decided he wanted to play a larger role?

    You know I loved Domingo's Angel, Jenny - and Rosalba was an amazing character! So was the marmalade cat!

  8. Hi, T D. I'd love to be your neighbour. When I'm rich and famous I'm going to come and visit all my friends in America and we can talk properly

  9. Su, you are on my list. I would love to meet you in person. Maybe you and TD could hop on a plane and come and visit me here

  10. Hi Jody
    Another hopeless romantic, I see. I suspected as much! And how right you are about writing. It really doesn't matter what genre you write in. It's not as easy as it looks!

  11. Dear Ana.
    I'm very pleased to meet YOU. Another speculative author! I LOVE reincarnation/time travel themes.
    An escapologist escapes from things as a public entertainment, usually on stage - like Houdini. I was the Lovely Tanya, dressed in a red velvet bikini and blonde wig, I tied him up, stuffed him in a straightjacket, locked him in a trunk and - the piece de resistance - put him in a full-size guillotine, counted to 30 and dropped the blade. Luckily, he always escaped in time!

  12. Jennifer, what a lovely thing to say! Thank you. I, too, am a control freak, which is why I get so cross when the characters go off on their own. But, just like yours, once they have a life of their own I get so interested in what they're going to do next that I just have to let them have their own way.

  13. Paula, which book has the Elvis singer in? I want to read it.
    I am convinced the characters actually take over themselves. Have you read Stephen King's 'The Dark Side'? The character literally comes to life. I think Stephen must have the same experience as we do.

  14. It's not published yet, Jenny. It was accepted last December but I still don't have a release date!

  15. Hi, Jenny!

    Love this post and your writing, which is speculative. "Speculative" is a fabulous genre because absolutely anything can happen.
    I agree with TD, that having you as a neighbor would be quite wonderful. Add Michigan to your stops in the US when you arrive! :)

  16. Hi Nora. Thanks for your lovely comment. You're on my list, too. Lots of love

  17. I love it when a character intrudes or even takes over the plot. At the end of my typing "The End" of my romance/adventure novel, The Unexplored Heart, one of the minor characters snorted, "Now that you've got that plot out of the way, I want a book of my own."
    Esther Wooster is the wife of the intrepid archaeologist who does much of the research for her husband, deciding whether or not his latest trek is worth pursuing. Long in the background, she came out of those pages demanding a sequel, with her as the main character.

  18. Hi Marilyn
    How lovely to meet you. It is almost spooky, isn't it? Good luck with your sequels. I hope your characters are happy with them!

  19. I'm with you, Jenny. I like some romance in my stories. Best of luck with your books.

  20. Thanks, Linda. It's nice to meet a fellow romantic

  21. Jenny - thanks so much for being such a super Friday Friend! And best of luck with your future writing career!