Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and fiftieth, is of novelist and short story author Jenny Worstall.
Jenny Worstall is a teacher, musician and writer. Born in Portsmouth, she spent her childhood years in Dartmouth, Bath, Shaftesbury and Naples, and is now settled in London with her husband and two teenage children.
Singing in choirs has always been a passion and Jenny has performed most of the standard choral works with various choral societies (including the London Choral Society when Simon Rattle was Chief Conductor and the BBC Symphony Chorus where she met her husband).
Jenny’s first teaching post was in an East London comprehensive; she moved on to a grammar school in Surrey and then became Head of Music at a girls’ school in Kent. Starting a family meant giving up full time work in schools, giving her the chance to build up her piano teaching and at last find the time to do some writing.
Her first novel, Make a Joyful Noise, is the sparkling and sharply observed tale of a choir preparing for a Christmas performance of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast in which we follow the adventures of a host of characters who are mercilessly sent up by the author: Tristan the lecherous anti-hero, Lucy the staggeringly trusting young music teacher, Claire the shameless and scheming temptress, Miss Greymitt the elderly, slightly confused and arthritic choir accompanist and a host of singers with nothing but resonance between their ears.
And now from the author herself:
The idea for Make a Joyful Noise came from my involvement in the world of classical music, a rich source of inspiration as it tends to nurture mighty egos. I decided to take a performance of one of my favourite choral works, “Belshazzar’s Feast” by William Walton, make it the backdrop for a pair of love stories and then inject it with comedy. “Make a Joyful Noise” is a line from the libretto of Belshazzar’s Feast (selected and arranged from the bible by Osbert Sitwell – a terrifically dramatic and colourful libretto), and it is true to say that just as all does not smoothly for King Belshazzar and the inhabitants of Babylon in Walton’s score, so the characters in the novel suffer from hopeless yearnings, romantic misunderstandings and the unfortunate consequences of their own misguided actions.
I started the first draft of Make a Joyful Noise when my children were very young; the main thinking and planning went on in my head, then when I could find the time, I scribbled it down. I played the piano a lot before I had children but once they were around I found that when they were awake, they wanted to join in with the music and I always had an extra pair of hands “helping “me play, but if I played when they were asleep the music woke them up. In a strange sort of way, I think writing took the place of the piano for me for a while.
The novel falls into both a musical and choral genre but is also unashamedly a romcom. I love reading Barbara Pym, Katie Fforde and Jilly Cooper, and these writers have certainly influenced me to write about affairs of the heart in a light and humourous way. The musical influence comes from the score of Belshazzar which I always had beside me when writing. The chapter headings in my book are taken from the libretto: “The Idols and the Devils”, “Yea, we wept”, and so on.
Many readers have told me that they recognise characters in the novel as various musical types and have certainly met people just like them (good, so it seems realistic). Others have told me they know exactly who the characters are (for example Tristan is apparently “definitely” Simon Rattle – he isn’t by the way! Nothing like). Make a Joyful Noise is a work of fiction. That means it is all made up.
If my novel was made into a play for radio then I can suggest a voice that would be perfect for Tristan – Bill Nighy. His voice is just the right combination of honey-strewn gravel with a hint of depravity. I wonder if he is free?
At the end of Belshazzar’s Feast, poor King Belshazzar is slain in a mysterious manner after yet another evening of debauchery involving praising false gods, music and feasting. At the end of my novel Make a Joyful Noise, Tristan…well, you will just have to read it to find out.
You can find more about Jenny and her writing via…
- Link to Make a Joyful Noise: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Make-Joyful-Noise-Jenny-Worstall/dp/1478325542
- Jenny Worstall website
- Jenny Worstall UK Author Page
- Jenny Worstall USA Author Page
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with multi-genre author Cyra McFadden – the six hundred and first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words (and post stories of up to 3,000 words). Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts, then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.