A chat with Jenn J McLeod
Jenn J McLeod has become something of a regular on my interview list and chatting with Jenn is always filled with wisdom and humour–just like her books. I’ve read them all and was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy of her latest gem The Other Side of the Season.
As always, it’s filled with great characters, the flavour of Australia and lashings of family secrets. And as always, it made me laugh and cry. Once I started I couldn’t stop.
The novel slips between the present day, in which we follow Sidney and her search for her lost grandparents (plenty of mystery there, too), and the late 1970s when … Well, I’ll let Jenn tell you all about that.
Something’s happening and I’m not sure how to stop it.
While I plan on staying fifty forever (thanks to the author photograph taken five years ago) my characters are growing older. In this story, my latest release (as well as the new manuscript I’m working on) I have a woman over the age of . . . wait for it . . . fifty!
Yes, she’s the big five-oh!
I’ve been told older characters stop younger women from reading my books. Definitely not! I think because my stories are very much focused on the mother/daughter relationship, with both having equal point-of-view. The Other Side of the Season is as much Sid’s story as it is her mother’s. In fact, thirty-five year old Sid’s narration opens part one of the story as she and her brother (ten years younger) arrive in Watercolour Cove—an undeclared detour on Sid’s part. This leads to some typical sibling banter. The conflict in the story is largely the mother/daughter relationship and I think it’s this type of family dynamic that most readers can relate to; so age doesn’t matter. It’s conflict that makes good fiction—especially emotional conflict and impossible situations.
By overcoming, or by dumping any baggage, a character grows, learns and generally become better, stronger, happier. All this will usually play out in a novel over varying time frames of the author’s choosing: a single day, weeks, months, or years. This transformation over the duration of the story is referred to as the character arc.
In the dual time period piece, like The Other Side of the Season—one spanning three decades—a character will not only experience some kind of personal awakening or improvement, they will also grow older physically; in the case of my lead characters that’s thirty-five years older in current day. To remain relatable and authentic, these characters have to show both visible and non-visible signs of aging.
As teenagers in the seventies, David and the teasing and tantalisingly pretty Tilly from the neighbouring property, are free-spirited dreamers. But when they see each other for the first time in three decades, I had to imagine that moment between two damaged people, and contrast it to those blithe beach days. But how?
Obviously a character’s physical attributes change over time (unlike the eternally youthful author you see in the picture). In current day they might also talk or sound different—no more youthful speech patterns and vocabulary (with the exception of a favourite expression or two perhaps. I mean, we all still say groovy—right?)
The ageing process for characters with emotional depth and heavy-duty baggage will affect more than their language/dialogue and I really embraced this part of the writing process.
Rest assured, male characters are not immune to this aging caper in my books. In fact I’ve enjoyed (maybe too much) writing the male point-of-view and creating some really troubled men in all my stories. Maybe it’s my age, but I’ve also had way too much fun going back to the seventies and eighties and having the characters grow up and change, in both my imagination and on paper. In fact, I found them hard to leave behind after typing: The End.
I hope you enjoy meeting each and every one of them. And if you have a favourite, please let me know.
A final note on ageing:
If you haven’t read Jenn’s books, do yourself a favour (as one 70s Aussie icon would say) and grab them right now.
Book information and BUY links – www.jennjmcleod.com/book-room
Read my other interviews with Jenn.
Read my reviews of Jenn’s books