A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life. Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.
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About the author...
Amanda Jennings made her literary début with the internationally bestselling novel Sworn Secret. Her second book, The Judas Scar, was optioned by a film and television production company shortly after release. She is fascinated by the ways people react to trauma and deal with its long-lasting effects, and also the complex relationships within a family unit. She used to work at the BBC, but now writes full-time and looks after her three daughters and a menagerie of animals. She writes a popular blog and is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s Book Club. She enjoys running writing workshops, is a judge for the Henley Youth Festival creative writing competition, and is involved with the Womentoring Project, which offers free mentoring by professional literary women to talented up-and-coming female writers who might otherwise not have access to such an opportunity. She is a regular speaker at festivals and book events, combining her childhood love of the stage with her love of writing. She likes to be active, preferably beside the sea or at the top of a snow-covered mountain, and when she isn’t writing she can usually be found walking her dog and enjoying the peace and solitude of the great outdoors.
It gives me great pleasure to share with you the answers to some questions I asked Amanda Jennings about her latest novel In Her Wake. A book I devoured that still resonates with me now, well over a month after reading. Huge thanks to Amanda for taking the time to visit my blog and answer my questions and huge thanks to Karen Sullivan & Orenda Books for the opportunity to get an early read of this amazing book.
In Her Wake is set in Cornwall, quite a distance from where you live now. What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Actually I didn’t find it too challenging. My mother is Cornish and we have been spending summers, half-terms and some Christmases in and around Penzance (where my grandmother lived) and Zennor (where my parents have a house) ever since I can remember. It’s very vivid and real to me, and often evokes strong memories and emotions. I also took lots of photos of St Ives, Zennor, the cliffs and the moors, so that if I needed a more visual stimulus I had it to hand. But to be honest, I’m so passionately in love with West Cornwall that those descriptions - of the sea, of the harbour, the cobbled streets in St Ives, the sand between my toes, and the weather in all its incarnations - came quite easily. The only problem with being so far away when I was writing it was that I constantly wanted to be down there
For me the story was compulsive and I developed an obsession of sorts, staying up half the night to read it.The story and characters stayed with me long after the end of the book.How easy was it for you to detach yourself once the book was finished?
That’s an interesting question actually, because this book has been with me for a very long time. I wrote the first draft about six years ago and it was this book that helped me secure my agent. Sadly we couldn’t sell it to a publishing house, so I put it beneath the proverbial bed, and wrote Sworn Secret. But In Her Wake, or The Merrymaid and I as it was originally called, wouldn't leave me alone, and so after I finished The Judas Scar (my second book) I read The Merrymaid through again and realised it was a story I still wanted to tell. So I sat down with a big red pen, and using everything I learnt from the two books I’d had published, I highlighted the themes I loved and began to develop a slightly more compelling narrative, got rid of some elements which slowed the book down and added a few sub plots. I’m a big rewriter and this book had twelve full rewrites. I do miss the characters now - especially the voice of Tori, funnily enough - but I feel at peace with the book now and am glad it’s finally out and I can move on to a new idea.
Do you have a sister? Where would your loyalties lie - with your sister and blood relatives or with the family you knew?
I do have a sister, and I have three daughters, and my mother had a sister who sadly died as a baby. Sisters play a big part of life and my thinking. I’m very close to my sister and we speak on the phone at least once a day and live about fifteen minutes from each other. Our children are like siblings, and having a close relationship with each other has remained important in both our lives. In Bella’s situation, I think my loyalty would lie with my blood sister and mother. I thought about this a lot while I was writing, but I think that the knowledge that the family I had grown up with had done something so heinous, that any affection I had for them would be tainted. It’s hard though, because of course, you can’t force your heart, so even if I think that’s what I’d feel, you can never be one hundred percent sure.
If In Her Wake was to be made into a film would you want to be on the casting couch and if so, who would you put into the key roles?
I would love to see Carey Mulligan as Bella and Emily Watson as Dawn. Both brilliant actors, capable of portraying emotion without words, which both roles would require. As I wrote the book I saw Alison Janney very clearly as Alice. In fact, Barbara Fitts, the character she plays in American Beauty, is exactly how I imagine Alice. Greg has to be sexy and blonde. He’s a surfer and confident with the opposite sex. I think Heath Ledger, though sadly not with us, would have been perfect. Alex Pettyfer is about five years too young to be Greg, but he’d also fit the brief very well. I would probably have to see a few more handsome, toned men to make sure the role went to the best person, of course…
Were there alternate endings you considered?
Yes, in my original version Bella actually breaks away from both families and strides out on her own. She finally gets to travel - this was much more of a theme in the earlier drafts - and escapes her demons in a beautiful Spanish village surrounded by orange groves and almond trees. I had her moving from the passion and anger of the raging Cornish sea to the sweet, sunlit Mediterranean, where she settles into a routine and is at peace with herself. But I like that she chooses Cornwall now. It seems right.
What is next for you? What are you working on now?
I am working on another psychological thriller set in Cornwall. This time the historical story intertwines much more closely with the present. Obsession is the central theme. There is a house with secrets, a woman who watch the house, ghostly happenings that slowly drive the new inhabitants of the house mad. I love the idea of obsession and I’m enjoying having the opportunity to look at it from all sorts of angles. I’m still at the notebook stage, but I’m about to start the first draft, which is both daunting and thrilling in equal measure (well, perhaps a little more weighted towards the daunting…)