Jennifer Wells explores her life as a published author.
When I was a child I often wondered what it would be like to spend a day as a real published author. I would imagine myself as a woman called Pearl who wore a beret, even indoors. Pearl would spend her day on a chaise longue in a beautiful sun-dappled room with French windows that opened on to a leafy garden. She would always carry a battered notebook and her stories would flow on to the pages from her gold fountain pen. She would write in the mornings and in the afternoon she would take her old bicycle down the winding streets of the town and return at dusk with her basket laden with pastries and dusty second hand books. Pearl’s life seemed perfect and I longed to be her.
As a young adult I would read a regular newspaper feature about the rooms of famous writers. There was always a photograph of the room and it typically contained floor-to-ceiling shelves stuffed with leather bound volumes, and mahogany desks; their surfaces empty but for strategically placed artefacts gathered from the author’s world travels. These photographs took me back to my childhood daydreams and the world that I had imagined for Pearl. Once more I was captivated by the idea of becoming an author but I was older now, and wiser, and I started to doubt the dream. I began to realise that, if the owners of these rooms were skilled at creating imaginary worlds, then maybe the photographs themselves were also works of fiction.
Even to this day, part of me believes that Pearl exists somewhere, but she is the kind of myth that novelists would like us to believe in and, after all, it is a novelist’s job to make fiction seem real. Unfortunately for most novelists, our lives are nothing like Pearl’s.
As I type this, am I sitting in a pokey room with a flickering lightbulb. My plywood desk is littered with abandoned notebooks that jostle for space with an assortment of dirty mugs and sweet wrappers. The ‘inbox’ towers above my head; toddler’s artwork that is yet to be ‘filed’, the unread newspaper, and those blank forms that I really should have completed by now. I think the passport that I never got round to renewing might be somewhere in the pile but I cannot face searching for it. I am on a deadline and I try to write a few sentences but then something inane pops up on social media and the cat jumps up and knocks over my tea. This is my writing time – a couple of hours squeezed into the evening once I have got back from the office and put the kids to bed. I am an author and this is my reality.
What I have learned over the years is that a true writer is not someone who is in love with the idea of being a writer but someone who loves writing itself. I used to fantasise about Pearl writing in her perfect room with the dappled sunlight and the chaise longue, but now I know that it is just one story and that there are other, better ones.
My latest novel, The Murderess, is about a young woman called Kate who witnesses her mother push a stranger off a station platform into the path of an oncoming train. While I was writing the story I found that my desire to be a writer was overtaken by my desire to write. Writing novels and reading them is the way that we can become someone else. A character in a novel might not always have a pleasant life, but I soon realised that Kate’s life was more exciting than Pearl’s and, for a couple of hours every evening, I got to be her.
I am now writing my third novel. My head is full of new ideas. I am thinking about plots and new characters and I realise that, although I am not sitting on a chaise longue with a gold fountain pen, none of that matters because it is the writing itself that I love and that is enough for me… but deep down part of me still wants to wear the beret.
The Murderess is a heart-stopping story of family, love, passion and betrayal set against the backdrop of war-ravaged Britain.
1931: Fifteen-year-old Kate witnesses her mother Millicent push a stranger from a station platform into the path of an oncoming train. There was no warning, seemingly no reason, and absolutely no remorse.
1940: Exactly nine years later, Kate returns to the station and notices a tramp laying flowers on the exact spot that the murder was committed; the identity of the victim, still remains unknown.
With a country torn apart by war and her family estate and name in tatters, Kate has nothing to lose as she attempts to uncover family secrets that date back to the Great War and solve a mystery that blights her family name.
Jennifer Wells works in market research when not writing. She lives in Devon with her young family and cat. The Murderess is her second novel.