Writer Of The Week: Jennie Gardner

Our Writer of the Week is Jennie Gardner. Jennie’s story, “A Burning Issue”, appears in the September 2 issue, on sale this week.

Where did you get the idea for “A Burning Issue”?

A few years ago I asked for some writing coaching for my birthday. “A Burning Issue” was the result of those sessions with the wonderful writing coach Della Galton.

Della asked me to come up with five ideas and this was the one we decided to develop. It was initially based on something my husband and I had been bickering over – if we had a shed would it be my writing shed or his tool shed? Or could we compromise in some way and how would that look?

The characters and their emotions in your story feel real. Is this a process that comes naturally to you?

I’m quite an emotional person. You will always find me weeping at the end of a story, or grinning away like the Cheshire Cat, depending on the ending. And I suppose all of this seeps into my writing, too.

I tend to write from the heart and that is quite an emotional place. I also like to write from a position of truth – say from an event that happened, or a thing that I have felt, in the hope that it will resonate with the reader, too.

In your mind, what makes a great story?

Well, I suppose it’s all of those things in the writer’s tool box, that taken together become more than the sum of their parts. I love a gorgeous setting and characters that we recognise or whose flaws feel so familiar we step right into their shoes.

I enjoy clever plotting, a creative theme and a well-written twist. I love colour and emotion, but most of all I like writing that resonates. If a story lingers, I know it’s spoken directly to me and that I’ve been changed by it. When a story crosses that line from the imagined to the real, that’s when I feel it’s truly great.

What type of genres do you like to read? Any favourite authors?

I’m happy to read pretty much anything apart from sci-fi and horror. However, I think my first love is romance.

Certain authors have become firm favourites: Sally Rooney, David Nicholls, Daphne du Maurier, Charles Dickens, Kate Morton and Maggie O’Farrell. Their writing is so delicious; I never want it to end.

I also enjoy non-fiction, particularly travel writing and nature writing. And I’m very partial to a self-help book. The idea of self-improvement is very seductive. And learning about living better always makes me feel uplifted, just like when I read the “Friend”.

Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?

I love scribbling down ideas in a notebook and will often write a rough first draft in pen, along with other key points and snatches of inspiration. Then I’ll use a laptop for the endless rounds of redrafting and editing.

Writing by hand takes place anywhere comfy (usually the sofa or in bed), but when I’m working at the laptop, I’ll be sat at the kitchen table with a blank wall in front of me and a window to my side.

But really none of this matters because when I’m writing all of this fades away and I’m just living inside my head, totally absorbed in the story and how it’s arranging itself on my screen.

​P.S. What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?

Write from your heart – then your words will always ring true.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.