Today I welcome author J.E. Rowney to the blog to join in the publication day celebrations of her latest book I Can't Sleep, welcome Jayne.
I grew up in the North of England, reading everything I could get my hands on and writing short stories from as early as I can remember. I had a vague idea that I would like to be a journalist, but somehow I ended up being a midwife and then a project manager. I carried on writing in my spare time. When I started working in London, commuting from Yorkshire, I spent a lot of time travelling on trains and writing on my little laptop to pass the time.
My writing journey actually really got into motion on those actual journeys! I self-published and my debut, “Charcoal” went viral and made it to the bestseller list. I’d like to say that ‘the rest is history’ but writing really took a back seat until last year when I released my second book. Now the time is right for me to commit to writing, and I’m not looking back!
If you had to give an elevator pitch for your latest book I Can't Sleep, what would it be?
You know that time, when you’re not quite asleep and you’re not quite awake? You’re not quite sure where you are, or whether what you just heard was part of your dream, or if it is real. Now imagine living your life in that in-between haze…that’s the life that Becky lives. Written from Becky’s point of view, I Can’t Sleep keep you awake at night searching for the truth.
Traumatised by the events of her past, exhausted by insomnia, Becky Braithwaite believes that a new start will help her to recover. She leaves home to fulfil her brother’s dreams, and honour the life he never had but she soon finds that escaping from the past is not as easy as she imagined.
Is her fatigued mind playing tricks on her, or is danger really lurking in the shadows?
I Can’t Sleep is a switch of genre for you, what attracted you to writing a psychological thriller especially one with Insomnia as the central theme?
I love reading psychological thrillers but I have noticed a lot of the same themes and plots being recycled. I wanted to do something different. There’s a famous quote that says something along the lines of ‘if the book you want to read hasn’t been written yet then you should write it’. That’s how “I Cant’t Sleep” began.
I actually suffered with insomnia myself in the past and although I didn’t suffer quite as much as Becky does I did have some experiences that made me question my own mind.
Did you do much research about Insomnia? And if so, did you learn anything that surprised you?
Even though I had personally experienced insomnia I still had to do a lot of research into the disorder and its effects. I wanted the book to be believable. One of the things that I found surprising was how many people actually do suffer with insomnia.
You recently won the 2020 Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction with your short story Protect and Serve, how did it feel to receive the news that not only had you made the shortlist but the eventual winner?
It was a huge thrill to be shortlisted, let alone win the prize! I had written the story “Protect and Serve” specifically for the competition. The competition had a theme of “Artificial Intelligence” and I thought that they were probably looking for sci-fi stories. My submission was more like ‘women’s fiction with a robot’. I wanted to make the story emotionally moving and contrast the human experience with a rise in technology how our AI helpers may evolve. Okay, now it sounds like sci-fi!
I found out that I had won during the peak of the Covid lockdown. Whilst I was sad to miss the awards ceremony that would have happened in a non-Covid world, the news certainly made me very happy.
How different is the writing process for writing a short story as opposed to writing a fuller length novel?
When I’m writing a short story I tend to have a very specific idea of an image or an idea that I want to portray. The language that I use and the way I approach the story is a lot different in a short story because of the constraints of the word count. I think a short story has to pack its punch in a concise and direct way. In a novel or a series there’s a lot more space to give details and wander along subplots that you can’t do with a short story.
If you could give some advice to your younger self about writing, what would it be?
I always wanted to be a writer, but I thought it was something people did as a hobby rather than a job. I was probably right at the time. Before self-publishing became so accessible there was only the traditional route – or vanity publishing, which I would advise all authors to avoid! I would advise younger me to keep writing, and not give up on the dream of being an author. If you want to be a writer, write.
What would you say is the best thing about writing? And on the flip side, what is the hardest?
For me, the best part about writing is discovery. I have the basic concept for a book, a character, an idea of the plot, and usually I know how it will end when I start writing. Beyond that I find out much of what happens in my stories as I write, research, rewrite and edit. I love the journey.
The hardest part for me at the moment is deciding what to write next. I have a lot of ideas and I want to write them all. Right now.
And finally, what can we expect from you next?
I have the final book in my Lessons of a Student Midwife series releasing at the end of November. I’m currently working on a psychological thriller which has a lockdown vibe, but it’s not about Covid. I also have a psychological thriller called “The Woman in the Woods” which will be up for pre-order very soon.