Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and sixty-second, is of novelist, short story author and playwright Jeannie Van Rompaey. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Jeannie van Rompaey was born in London more years ago than she cares to admit. At the beginning of World War Two, Jeanie and her mother moved to Weston, a Northamptonshire village, where writer, Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, lived. Jeannie was brave enough to show her stories to him and remembers his comments to this day. He complimented her on her use of language and said she had a particularly good ear for dialogue. Imagine the glow of delight on the face of a ten-year-old receiving such praise. All writers need support and assurance and, inspired by that memory, Jeannie tries to carry on the tradition of encouraging new writers.
Jeannie thinks of herself as an eternal student. Her formal qualifications include a Certificate of Education and another in Speech Drama, a BA, a Masters degree in Modern Literature and an R.S.A. diploma in T.E.F.L. As for her informal education that has never stopped. There is so much to learn about this ever-changing world. Jeannie has travelled in Europe, the USA and Australia. She has met people of different nationalities with differing perspectives on life.
Jeannie could also be considered an eternal teacher. She has taught mainly in language schools and universities. While realizing the importance of children’s education, Jeannie feels more suited to teaching adults, which she has done in England and abroad. Passionate about the theatre and literature, she runs workshops in drama and creative writing, is a theatre director, actor and performance poet. As Jeannie Russell, she is a senior member of the Guild of Drama Adjudicators and adjudicates at drama festivals in Britain and Europe.
Twelve years ago she came to live on the subtropical island of Gran Canaria with her husband, TJ, an artist and historian. They have had several joint exhibitions of their paintings and the walls of their villa are lined with their own work. Jeannie finds painting relaxing but writing is her priority and much of her time is devoted to writing short stories, poems, plays and novels.
In true ex-pat form, Jeannie belongs to the British Club in Las Palmas and runs a very successful poetry evening there, called “Poems Out Loud.” It is attended by various nationalities including Spanish, Canarian, American, Danish, Swedish and German as well as British.. There is a different theme every month and the members of the group bring favourite poems to read aloud and share with the others. She also runs and takes part in play readings and has started a book club.
Exploring this beautiful island and living in a warm climate make for an enjoyable life, but Jeannie does return to England regularly to see her daughter and friends, to visit art galleries and go the theatre. She loves the buzz of London, so different from the quiet location where she lives.
And now from the author herself:
I have written fiction for as long as I can remember and it has become an essential part of my life. My short stories and novels are written in various genres from realism to the supernatural and sci-fi/dystopia, but all of them are character led. The plot is determined by the characters.
It is difficult to say where my ideas come from, but I do see the same themes recurring whatever the story. Ideas and opinions have clearly been shaped by my own experiences but like most writers, I also have a vivid interior life, which could account for the more surreal nature of some stories.
I have written of twins several times and have always had the feeling that I might have been a twin. As I am adopted and have never met my biological parents this could be true. Twins feature in my novel, After, and in my short story, Anna-Belinda. Adoption and feeling a misfit is another recurrent theme.
The most obvious piece of writing about adoption is seen in the short story, Recognition, in which an adopted woman sets out to meet her biological mother. I have never met my birth mother so this story is based on the premise – what if. A terrifying prospect to meet the mother who gave you away at birth. I have written several versions of this story as the concept still fascinates me and I’m sure I will return to the subject again, perhaps envisaging what happens when meeting a complete new family. My work is not biographical. I’ve never been tempted to write a memoir, but that doesn’t mean that the bundle of experiences that comprise my life do not affect my themes and characters.
My views, whether political, psychological or spiritual, also seep into my work, but the joy of writing fiction and, in particular, plays is that different characters express different opinions. The danger that writing becomes a vehicle for some kind of definitive creed is therefore reduced. To me that is a bonus. I dislike moralistic or sentimental storytelling and I consciously work against such tendencies. I aim for believable, flawed characters but that doesn’t mean they have to be predictable.
My work is self-published. I did have an agent and one of my novels got to the final cut of a mainstream publisher, but the disappointment in it not making the final leap to publication made me think it was better to self publish rather than go through the long process of submission again. All my work can be found on Amazon. The novels can be downloaded, but are also “proper books” as well, hedging my bets. I have to say it is good to see my books on shelves – that’s mainly in our house at the moment I have to admit, but you never know…. Self-publishing gives me autonomy: the freedom to present my work as I want to. I do use a professional editor. Those “other eyes” do help to produce the best possible work, but it is up to me to decide which suggestions to take on board and which to ignore. So here I am – dedicated to self-publishing with four novels and seven short stories on Amazon. Of course, if a mainstream publisher discovered my work and wanted to publish it, I might well change my mind and defect….
- Life Drawing, a tale of modern witchcraft and sibling jealousy,
- After about the effect on the parents of missing teenage children,
- Devil Face, a story of a disfigured young woman dominated by her temper,
- Oasis, a sci-fi/dystopia set in a future in which mutant humanoids seek justice.
- Oasis is, hopefully, the first part of a trilogy and I have already started writing the second one.
I enjoy writing short stories, which I consider a slice of someone’s life. The endings are not always definitive but there is always some sort of epiphany for a character and/or the reader. I like to give the reader space to think about what happens next.
- And her mother came too, a humorous ghost story about a dominating mother,
- Anna-Belinda about rivalry between twin sisters. Or are they twins?
- Betrayed, a bittersweet love story and an uneasy friendship among ex-pats in GC,
- Recognition, a daughter plans to meet her biological mother for the first time,
- Swap, a holiday friendship between two couples could lead to disaster,
- The Idealist, in a café in Antwerp, two actors do battle and entertain the customers,
- Afternoons on the Keyserlei, two women on a terrace in Antwerp hope to attract a young admirer.
My plays include:
- Gone, based on my novel, After performed in Totton Drama Festival in 2011, directed by Lorraine Biddlecombe
- Lonely Heart, 1995, directed by John White for The London Bus Company won a prize for best original play in the Southend Drama festival.
- Sunshine Skyway (1995) won first prize in The Barry Hillman International New Play Competition, 1996. It received a rehearsed reading at the Polish Centre, Kings Street, Hammersmith, for Hammersmith Actors and Playwrights Group in November, 1996.
- Afternoons on the Keyserlei, directed by John White in 1999 for Westciff Operatic and Dramatic Society has been performed in various one-act festivals.
- Powergames, a series of short pieces, presented at The King’s Head Theatre, Islington, by JVR Productions, October 1998 directed by myself.
- Rattle, Rattle, was directed by Shelley Atkinson for Union Shorts 2 at The Union Theatre, London, SE1 in 1999.
You can find out more about Jeannie ‘s writing from…
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As I post a spotlight or interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique directly (see Editing & Critique) or for posting on the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
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