Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Debut Spotlight: Jenny Quintana

Today it's my pleasure to be shining the spotlight on Jenny Quintana as part of the blog tour for her debut novel The Missing Girl which has just been published.

Jenny Quintana grew up in Essex and Berkshire, before studying English Literature in London. She has taught in London, Seville and Athens and has also written books for teaching English as a foreign language. She is a graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative writing course. She now lives with her family in Berkshire.

The Missing Girl is her first novel.

Follow Jenny on Twitter @jennyquintana95 for news about her books.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey? 
As a child, inspired by Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie, I dreamed of being a writer. I’ve written on and off throughout my life, but have always been hampered by self-doubt and then by the usual pressures of life - in my case working as a teacher and being a mother.  When I gave up teaching and became a freelance ELT writer, I found some time and wrote short stories some of which won prizes and were published in literary magazines. With more confidence, I wrote a novel which to my amazement was picked up by an agent. This was it, I told myself - I was going to be a published writer, but despite near misses and positive comments, the novel was rejected. I was pretty devastated. I wrote another novel which went nowhere and then finally, after doing the Curtis Brown Creative writing course, Sophie Lambert from C + W signed me for The Missing Girl. This time my novel went to auction and we went with the wonderful Sam Humphries at Mantle books. It was an amazing moment in my life.  

If you had to give an elevator pitch for The Missing Girl, what would it be? 
When her mother dies, Anna returns home thirty years after her beloved sister disappeared. As Anna confronts her memories, she is compelled once again to ask the question: What really happened to Gabriella?  

The Missing Girl is the story of a sister's search for answers many years after her sister disappeared - where did the inspiration come from? 
I wanted to write an emotional story about sisters with very different personalities, but with a close and loving bond. My inspiration often comes from stories in the news and this time, I considered tragic cases about children and teenagers who vanish inexplicably from their family’s lives. I wondered what it must be like for the remaining siblings. How terrible must it be to lose a sister or brother especially if no one is able to say what really happened? How must it affect them throughout their lives?      

Describe Anna in three words.
Anna is brave, heartbroken and flawed. 

What lessons have you learnt during the whole writing/editing process?
I’ve learned that patience is the key. The whole process from writing a first draft, to making your manuscript the best that it can be, to having your book published takes an incredible amount of time. Sometimes nothing happens for weeks on end sometimes months. It’s just you on your own with your computer thinking you might have dreamed it all.  Because of that, it’s important, I think, to celebrate each achievement as it happens. I’ve also learned to accept that when the final edit is done, the book is no longer exclusively yours. Suddenly people are reading it – people you don’t know - and they all have opinions about your book!  It’s a very strange and precarious feeling.  

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors who are thinking about writing a novel?
My greatest piece of advice is to make time for your writing. No matter how busy you are with work and family or other commitments, it’s important to recognize that writing is a massive part of your life too.  It’s also important not to think about the future too much. Thinking about how long it takes to complete a novel is too daunting. Write instead line by line, paragraph by paragraph, page by page and you’ll get there in the end.    

Did you treat yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing deal? 
Yes! I had a lovely meal at home with my family (cooked by my husband I should say) along with a bottle of very expensive champagne. (There was quite a lot of champagne in the days afterwards too!) 

Are you doing anything exciting to celebrate publication day?
I think this is probably going to involve another meal - and more champagne. The e-book and hardback publication dates are different so I might have to celebrate twice. (Then there’s the paperback to consider!) 

Finally what can we expect from you next? 
I’m in the middle of writing book two. It’s a similar genre to The Missing Girl - another emotional and psychological read centered around a family, this time set on the south coast of England. Meanwhile, book three is brewing in the back of my mind … 

The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana is out now, published by Mantle in hardback and priced at £14.99.

When Anna Flores' adored older sister goes missing as a teenager, Anna copes by disappearing too, just as soon as she can: running as far away from her family as possible, and eventually building a life for herself abroad.

Thirty years later, the death of her mother finally forces Anna to return home. Tasked with sorting through her mother's possessions, she begins to confront not just her mother's death, but also the huge hole Gabriella's disappearance left in her life – and finds herself asking a question she's not allowed herself to ask for years: what really happened to her sister?

With that question comes the revelation that her biggest fear isn't discovering the worst; it's never knowing the answer. But is it too late for Anna to uncover the truth about Gabriella's disappearance?

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