Our Writer Of The Week is debut author Jodi Beaver. Jodi’s story, “Sea Treasures”, appears in the September 18 issue.
There is a message of hope at the end of “Sea Treasures”. In your stories, is it important to leave the reader with a sense of optimism?
Yes, I think a sense of optimism and hope are really important themes. Before I write, I think of what would make my characters feel more in control of their lives, more able to take on new challenges that life brings. What is going to bring them a sense of happiness?
This could be something relatively small, but often it’s the small things that make us feel safe, hopeful and optimistic. It’s important to me that my readers feel a sense of warmth at the end of the story, the reading equivalent of a big hug, I suppose. Or a “cwtch” as the Welsh say.
What books inspired you the most growing up?
I grew up in the late ‘80s/’90s and, perhaps like a lot of other young girls at that time, was obsessed with “The Baby-sitter’s Club” series by Ann M. Martin. I remember having them all lined up in order on my bookshelves in my bedroom. There is a real sense of hope, positivity and friendship in each story, and the characters were great role models. The key messages and themes in the stories are timeless; I know that they are still popular today.
I also loved “Anne Of Green Gables” and the Point Horror series. The book that inspired me the most was Jennifer Donnelly’s “A Gathering Light”. It is historical fiction, but interweaved throughout is the retelling of a murder mystery based on true events that took place at the turn of the century. I read this later on in my teenage years whilst I was sitting my A Levels and it certainly kept my mind off my exam nerves!
As a debut “Friend” author, did you have to hone your writing style to suit the reader?
In some ways, yes. I find that naturally I write in quite a modern style and often merge characters’ viewpoints in my first drafts. I’m always up for a challenge so it’s been great to hone my writing style to a more traditional storytelling structure, which I think is more enjoyable for the reader. I would love to attempt a short story set in a different time period so that is my next challenge.
What does writing mean to you?
A safe space and a sense of calm. I’ve always found solace in writing, whether it be journaling, story writing or making lists. Writing is definitely an escape for me and it is something that can be done anywhere and at any time. I think writing in all its forms has great value – from jotting down detailed ideas for my next story to making a quick list of goals to achieve for the day.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I actually use a bit of everything. I have a notebook that I use solely for my short story ideas. It’s a really beautiful, lined book that I picked up from Greenway (Agatha Christie’s holiday home) and the front cover itself inspires me to write.
I also use the Notes app on my iPhone to record ideas if I’m out and about and I’m not carrying my notebook with me. I have a small study at home where I write and edit my stories. I don’t have a view, sadly. However, I am surrounded by shelves and shelves of my favourite books, so that’s quite special.
P.S., What’s your one top tip for an aspiring Writer Of The Week?
Don’t be afraid to just sit and write. The editing process can come later – sometimes it can be really productive to just set a timer and type/write what you can within that time. I often use the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 mins and start writing, even if it is just a series of notes and ideas. Then, come back to it at a later point and start editing.
Sometimes, a story just flows and you naturally find a starting point for your character and know exactly where they are heading from the off. However, this isn’t always the case. And that’s fine. A collection of messy/unstructured ideas is still a valid starting point and will eventually be magically transformed into a story worth telling.