Nuts and Bolts
My name is Sarah Ann Juckes. I grew up in Leicestershire, UK inside a bubble made by my wonderful family. As I write about such dark issues as an adult, I often get asked about my childhood. There’s nothing much to say other than it was what every childhood should be – fantastic and ever so slightly boring. I graduated from Loughborough University last summer and it was here, whilst studying literature, that I discovered that I wanted to write novels.
As a kid I would make up great imaginary games with multiple characters and plot lines. As I grew older, I began to write them down. I could do anything on the page. That excited me. University allowed me to see that writing isn’t just a pastime for me. It’s my life.
After working in a public library for a couple of years, I now live in Brighton, UK with my boyfriend, Joe. Although Brighton is quite far away from my family in the midlands, I love the creativity and energy of ‘London-by-the-sea’. I currently work full-time in a small self-publishing house and am learning all I can about the publishing world.
I completed my first novel when I was sixteen years old – a young adult novel called ‘Written in the Stars’ that I hope to come back to one day. I did the agent round and then got pushed aside under the excitement of my new novel, ‘The Existence of Jonathan’. Currently, I am all about this book! I finished it around December 2010 and have since been sending it out to various agents hoping to hear something positive back from it. I believe in this novel and will not be brushing it aside any time soon!
My writing tends to mimic my favourite books. I like fresh voices, different perspectives, fantasy and adult words mixed and warped. My top five books are constantly changing. At the moment, Room by Emma Donaghue, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audry Niffenegger and The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold are up there (to name a few!).
Rave About What You Do
My pleasure J
‘The Existence of Jonathan’ is a literary novel aimed at adults and a YA crossover readership. It tells the dark tale of a young adult named John, who was abused by his brother as a child. When his brother dies, John becomes obsessed with the idea that he too will abuse children. The more he tries to repress his new, adult self and its desires, the more his world seems to force him into the role of a paedophile. Little does John know that his entire world is made from paper and ink, controlled by a jealous writer who is determined that John follows her path. The more John tires to escape his ending, the more forceful the writer becomes.
I’ve had some really good feedback from people in the business so far. I believe in this novel. It is complex, but different, and explores dark themes about a subject that I am passionate about. The subject is told sensitively. I opt for the ‘less is more’ approach. I have posted the Prologue on my blog page for those interested J http://sarahannjuckes.wordpress.com/the-existence-of-jonathan/
The Art of Writing
I write quite strangely, actually. I’m yet to meet another writer who does exactly the same! That’s the beauty of writers though, we are all so different! I tend to spend ages ‘chewing’ the novel over in my head – working out ideas and aims. I may jot down small notes here and there. Then I research the themes and issues in my novel. For instance, I researched the effects and statistics of child abuse for ‘The Existence of Jonathan’ before I wrote anything. Then, I might write a bullet-point-plan for the novel – detailing major events. I like to know how it is going to end before I begin, but the middle is mostly a mystery. Then, I write. I spent 4 weeks writing Jonathan. All that planning just purged out of me. It was fantastic. I would sit in front of a blank chapter, the curser blinking expectantly, and I would have no idea what was about to come. The thrill of possibility tingled my fingertips. I would write the first sentence that came into my head and the rest would spill out. I’d learn so much about my character that way. It was like I wasn’t even deciding – he already lived.
When it comes to writing my tip is to find what works best for you and run with it. Try to write a little every day. AND JOIN A WRITERS GROUP! Especially one that gives you homework and exercises. It’s a great way to keep writing.
Believe Me, it is Real Even if it is Fiction
I like to base all my worlds upon reality. I really admire fantasy writers who can concoct entire universes in their mind. I am just not that organised. I normally find that a house or setting will form automatically as I write. I do not intentionally base settings on real places, but I have no doubt that they become that way! John’s house in my novel, for example, is a mixture of my house, my grandma’s house and a strange house I cannot quite put my finger on. I would hope my fictional worlds are believable, but meta-fiction and believability creates a bit of an oxymoron!
Ideas have come to me in all sorts of ways. A sentence in a book. A statue in a garden. Dreams. More often than not my ideas start by me forcing my brain to be creative. I remember sitting on my bed, having an hour to write a story before my creative writing class and desperately trying to pop out and idea. Unfortunately, whenever I try to think of a word, ‘Finger’ is the only one that appears (who knows why?!). So ‘finger’ was combined with the ‘tree’ I saw out of the window and it made this story: http://sarahannjuckes.wordpress.com/stories/ called The Mummy Tree. It has won two prizes so far. I have a dark and strange mind. That’s usually enough to come up with something.
I am very lucky to have an amazing support group around me. My family are great, although not at all creative or literary. My friends and co-workers are brilliant, too. I’m lucky enough to have a bf who is equally as creative as me. It’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas around with, and to provide support when the rejection letters come through. Writer’s need that. Twitter is also amazing. So many people going through the same thing! Follow me at @sarahannjuckes (shameless plugs in here, sorry! :p)
Nightmare! Editing always feels like the science behind the creative bit. I spill my ideas onto a page and then ‘editing’ makes me undo all the knots and try and work out what the hell I’m going on about. Rubbish. But very necessary! I’m still correcting my novel, even after countless re-writes, edits and proof-reads. There is always something!
I see a lot of work in my office (a publishing house) that clearly has not been looked through or re-read. I know everyone says it, but read work aloud! Whether on your own or at a group. If you can’t read it, nor can your reader.
The Elusive Agent
Elusive indeed! I have been looking for an agent for 5 months. This isn’t the first time – I went agent hunting for my first novel, to no avail. I mainly get standard rejections which is annoying because I tend to doubt that they even read my query. I think my novel might be a bit scary for agents. It’s not genre fiction and the plot is hard to summarize. So is The Curious Incident by Mark Haddon though, and look at how brilliant that it! I have had one request for a full. Best day ever. Still waiting to hear back from that one J Fingers crossed!
My tips for queries are: be professional and don’t sound desperate (even if you are!!!). Also, try to tailor-make each one to suit the agent you are sending to: mention books and authors already on their lists. Keep is short. If something comes to me at work and the cover letter is dense, I don’t read it properly. Harsh, but true. My tips for dealing with rejection: http://sarahannjuckes.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/5-tips-for-dealing-with-rejection/
I’m looking for an agent who is in the UK and can get my novel on the desks of the big, named publishers. That would be very nice indeed 🙂
@sarahannjuckes on twitter
I have been blogging since I first discovered I wanted to become I writer. Follow my journey and learn more at www.sarahannjuckes.wordpress.com
Lastly, I want to thank Elizabeth for this. It’s a great idea 🙂 I found it so helpful to read about other’s working processes when I was writing my novel, and it’s so important to know others are going through the same things! Writing is a very solitary thing to do, and so networking is essential. If I can help anyone with anything, please let me know – I love learning about the journeys of others! I hope you enjoyed mine 🙂
Keep writing! x