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Today I’m on the ‘Don’t You Know There’s a War On?’ blogtour, organised by Book On The Bright Side.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
Janet Todd is an internationally renowned novelist and academic, best known for her non-fiction feminist works on women writers including Jane Austen, Aphra Behn and Mary Wollenstonecraft. In recent years, she has turned her hand to writing novels, publishing Lady Susan Plays the Game, a Jane Austen spin-off, in 2013 and A Man of Genius in 2016. Her novel Don’t You Know There’s a War On! is now available in UK and US.
Janet has published and edited more than 40 books including the complete works of Mary Wollstonecraft (with Marilyn Butler), of Aphra Behn, and, as General Editor, The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen. She has compiled encyclopedias of women writers and written individual biographies: Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life; Rebel Daughters/ Daughters of Ireland; Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle ; Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels; Aphra Behn A Secret Life (2017) and Jane Austen’s Sanditon (2019).
Janet has worked in universities around the world including Ghana, Puerto Rico, North America and India. She was a professor of English Literature at UEA, Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities, before becoming president of Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge (2008-2015), Cambridge where she established the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. She is now an Honorary Fellow of Newnham and Lucy Cavendish Colleges. In 2013, Janet was given an OBE for her services to higher education and literary scholarship.
The Second World War is over. England is losing its empire, world status and old elite values. The Empire strikes back with mass immigration, while the government soothes its people with welfare, the NHS, televisions and refrigerators.
At the centre of the novel is the contemptuous Joan Kite, at odds with all the changes imposed on the country in the post war period. Shut up in a house with her only daughter, she refuses to compromise and adapt, pouring vitriol on anyone who seeks to enter their lives…
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First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I had an isolated childhood which I embroidered by making up stories for myself. I always wanted to be a novelist but was diverted into academics to make a living! I’ve enjoyed my half century excavating once unknown women writers—now I’m back with my first love, novel-writing.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I drooled over historical adventure stories by Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter Scott and DK Broster–as well as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five! I still love historical fiction: Hilary Mantel, Philippa Gregory and Sarah Dunant. Mostly I read contemporary work about eccentrics and outsiders: Coetzee, Magda Szabo, Jaap Robben and Murasaki, and many more. I think I’d read anything advertised as dark and moody!
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I’ve taught, edited and repeatedly read Jane Austen and there’s still heaps I don’t know about her magic. How does she manage to write so economically and so delicately balance story, character and opinion?
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I’d like to invite two of the subjects of my biographies, Aphra Behn and Mary Wollstonecraft, both wonderful women and no doubt great company. Maybe tea with serious Mary Wollstonecraft and cocktails with mischievous Aphra Behn.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I do it almost every day. I’m an insomniac and awake listening to the radio before 5. At 6 I give up trying to sleep and become perfectly happy in front of my computer beside a cup of coffee and a plate of buttered toast. I could be there for hours but try to stop myself after three or four!
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
Except for Radiation Diaries, partly a memoir, my books aren’t intentionally autobiographical. But of course I draw on bits of myself and people I know, as well as places and times I’ve lived in—turbulent post-war England, US through Women’s Liberation, glamorous Venice of expatriates.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
The latter. I begin with a situation, sometimes a place but mostly with characters talking. In Don’t You Know There’s A War On? Joan became so real to me I heard her voice quite clearly. I even thought I saw her once sitting on a park bench!
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
I wouldn’t presume! I suspect that, unless wildly talented or successful, one is always a novice. Each book starts with a blank. I sometimes fear creative- writing courses might push people into formulae, but I guess most beginning writers know how to protect themselves—and there are some wonderful new voices out there.
What are your future plans as an author?
I want to go on writing fiction as long as I possibly can—I have a lot of years to catch up. (I’d also like to come out of locked-down soon, please!)
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
My central character, Joan, is angry and imaginative: what events turn her resentment into energetic malevolence and make her rigid mothering monstrous? When remembering the Second World War, why does she say: ‘You don’t forgive your country for fooling you’?
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Janet Todd.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!