Jenn and I met only briefly at the South Coast Sapphic Hang Out last May, but I could already tell that we shared a common interest in mental health. Jenn’s day job is as a health-care assistant at a mental health rehabilitation unit, and as such her books often include people on what her author bio calls the ‘fringe’ of society. Her latest book, Love, Nature, is no exception – and doesn’t it have a beautiful cover? And to make things even more exciting… it’s her birthday today!! Hence this bonus interview – yes, two in one day, I’m spoiling everyone.
Happy birthday Jenn! You’re being interviewed!
So… introduce yourself! Tell us a little bit about you - who are you, and what do you do?
I’m a pansexual health care assistant (on a mental health ward) by trade but I recently invented and secured a job in a GP practice as a mental health advisor. I have more time to talk to patients than the GPs and I love helping people who want help! My hobbies include crochet (big fan), embroidery bracelets, comedy TV (Taskmaster, at the moment) and cuddling my pups. My wife and I have a 13-year-old American bulldog cross (aka, the woogle) called Whisper and a Sprockerdor called Cooper; he’s 3. I run Weston-Super-Sapphic (formerly called Weston-super-Lesfic, aka WSL) in November every year, a book fayre in south-west England.
What made you want to sit down and write your first book?
I randomly wrote an alternate universe fanfiction about Berena (Bernie + Serena, Holby City) where they meet at a crochet class. After some significant amendments it became Hooked On You.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Meticulously. I recently tried to ‘pants’ a soft fantasy/romance and failed miserably with it. I have to have each scene scheduled and planned out, where the characters are going, what they feel, and then I create a ‘to-do’ list. I write my books in order, otherwise my poor memory struggles to remember what’s come before.
Which of your characters do you relate to the most, and why?
Harri, from Losing Touch, although she is a butch version of me (at the moment, I’m inhabiting a rather femme identity) with less support and untreated anxiety. We have the same nerve damage; we both have anxiety (although I’m a lot more outgoing I think) and she worked at a fast-food outlet (me circa 2003-2008).
Has your own writing ever made you cry?
Not since my medication kicked in, I don’t think.
Does anyone you know in real life read your books?
Most of my family – my mother-in-law is my current biggest fan. Friends, cousins, and colleagues have.
Imagine your book, or one of your books, was made into a film. Who would play the lead roles?
If we’re talking about Hooked On You, probably Catherine Russell and Jemma Redgrave, although this would probably hedge into copyright infringement as they played Berena in Holby.
When you're not writing, what do you do to relax?
Crochet, watch comedy on TV, and, conversely, watch documentaries and docudramas about serial killers. I also play solitaire, word games, sudoku and 2Dots on my tablet/phone. I’m also in a bit of an obsession with nail varnish – applying to my own nails and selling them on Vinted!
What's the best piece of advice you've been given with regards to being an author?
Don’t panic when you get your first edit back. Take your time mulling over the feelings before making any plans to change anything.
How about in general life?
Moisturise your neck. Thank you, Grandma Matthews – I still get asked for ID (I’m 39 today).
What is a motto you live by?
Everyone is in charge of their own happiness. I don’t mind you complaining, but if you aren’t looking at solutions, I don’t want to hear it.
How can people connect with you?
Finally a light-hearted one. If you were a sandwich, what sandwich would you be?
Something unique. My mum used to make me peanut butter and marmite sandwiches. Alternatively, I‘d be the filling in a Catherine & Jemma sandwich. Squish!
If you enjoyed this interview, then make sure you’re following my social media accounts (@kblakemanwriter on Twitter and @katherineblakemanwriter on Instagram) to get all the latest updates! And if you want to support my own Sapphic Fiction journey while you’re here, my new novel The Summer We’ve Had is available now!