Regular readers of my blog will know by now how much I admire the stories of my good friend and fellow author, Jenny Twist, so they will understand me wanting to shout out a few words of congratulations to her on her recent success. In fact, I shouted so loudly, I managed to rouse her from her beautiful idyll in Spain, and persuade her to come and tell us a bit more about her award-winning book, 'All in the Mind'.
Welcome Jenny, and many congratulations on your win. Before we talk about the winning novel, do tell us about the competition, how you came to enter it, and your reaction when you heard the news.
My very good friend, Tara FoxHall, did a radio interview for TheAuthors’ Show and told me that as well as doing interviews, they were running a top female authors competition. You couldn’t enter yourself but had to be nominated and it was FREE. So naturally I wrote to all my friends asking if they would be prepared to nominate one of my books. It turned out they all were (I have some lovely friends) and between them they nominated all my books. I also nominated all my own favourite authors.
So I duly filled in all the forms they sent me and then forgot all about it. On Monday morning Tara emailed me to say I’d won. I thought she was joking. I’ve entered so many competitions and never got further than the shortlist before. So thank you so much, Tara.
What a great friend! All in the Mind is a beautiful story and a worthy winner. When I read it, I described it as 'a sweet and haunting feel-good story, which will immerse you totally in its fictional world and leave you feeling deeply satisfied'. Would you like to outline the story in more detail for us.
All in the Mind is the story of Tilly, who wakes up from a dream of her youth, dancing in the street on VE Day, to discover she is in her 80s and has been suffering from Alzheimers. Miraculously a new treatment has restored her memory and she wonders if it can be applied to her beloved husband, Johnny, who has had a stroke. But the treatment has an interesting side effect. Soon she realises she is gradually getting younger.
It's a fascinating idea. I'd love to know what inspired you to write this.
Years ago I read about an old folks’ home where they did the experiment of making the resident’s environment like that of their youth. I can’t remember where I read this or what they were attempting to achieve but I do remember that one surprising result was that the subjects’ hair darkened.
I’ve had this idea lurking in the back of my mind ever since. What if you carried the experiment to its logical conclusion?
Spookily only the other night I caught the tail end of a ‘Horizon’ programme. They were doing an experiment with old people – surrounding them with things from their youth and treating them as if they were still young. Result, they became fitter, their cognitive ability improved and, to the amazement of the scientists, even their eyesight and hearing improved! Maybe this isn’t science fiction but science fact.
Will you share an excerpt with us?
“What? This weekend?”
They were in the hospital cafeteria; Tilly leading the way, looking for a free table, Johnny following on behind with a tray of tea and cakes.
“I'm being posted next week and I don't know when I'll get another chance.”
Tilly found a table and sat down, placing her bag carefully between her feet.
Johnny placed the tray on the table and sat opposite.
“I'm supposed to be on duty,” she said.
“Supposed?” Johnny began, taking a mouthful of tea. He spluttered, but managed manfully to swallow it.
“For f – heaven's sake,” he exclaimed, suppressing the more robust army oath which had risen to his lips. “What on earth is this?”
Tilly smiled. “The general consensus amongst the staff is that it's the floor sweepings from the tea warehouse, but some of us think it comes from a less salubrious place – a stable, for example. Of course,” she mused, “its unique flavour is enhanced by making it with lukewarm water and leaving it to stand for at least twenty minutes.”
“Jesus,” Johnny muttered under his breath, afraid the other customers might hear him blaspheming, “It's worse than the stuff they give us in the NAAFI.”
“You should try the cakes,” Tilly said sweetly.
Beneath the merry banter, she was in a terrible stew. She was terrified of meeting Johnny's parents. She saw them in her mind's eye – his father, stern and forbidding with a military bearing and mutton chop sideburns, looking, now she came to think of it, very much like Kaiser Bill - his mother very stiff in bombazine, her grey hair piled on top of her head, a lorgnette held before her piercing grey eyes – both of them scrutinizing her with obvious disapproval.
She found herself tracing the rings on the table left by countless tea cups and wondered how long she could postpone the fateful meeting. Her instinct was to put it off as long as possible. There was no way they could possibly find her acceptable. She had been foolish to even consider it. The minute they met it would be all over for her and Johnny. They would put a stop to it and look around for a more suitable daughter-in-law.
“I can't wait to get home and have some real food for a change.”
“What? Tilly said, startled out of her thoughts.
“Real food, you know. Fresh eggs, proper meat, butter.”
She fixed her eyes on his face, searching to see whether he was joking. He wasn't.
“Fresh eggs,” she repeated in reverential tones.
Suddenly they were sitting in a circle of silence. Tilly realised that the customers at the nearby tables were all looking at them with an identical hungry look. She could feel the same expression on her own face. It wasn't that they were starving exactly, the ration was adequate, but that was all it was and everyone craved more interesting food.
“Yeah.” Johnny seemed entirely unaware of the effect he was having. “I can't wait to get my teeth round a nice pork chop or a leg of chicken.”
Tilly felt her mouth water and was afraid she might begin to dribble.
“How come?” she whispered.
Johnny looked startled for a moment. “Well, the farm, you know.”
“I didn't know your parents were farmers,” Tilly said, the image of Kaiser Bill wavering somewhat.
“No, not at all.” Johnny shook his head. “It's just a home farm, you know. Attached to the house. Just for the family. We don't sell the produce or anything.” He hesitated. “Although I expect my mother does swaps and things. She's very good at organising.”
“So what have you got on the farm?” Tilly's mouth was now very dry and she took a long drink of the odious tea. Johnny put out a hand, too late, to stop her.
“Don't drink that! I'm convinced it's poisonous.”
Wonderful stuff, Jenny. In fact I'm going to re-read All in the Mind immediately. As always, it's been a real pleasure to host you on my blog, and thank you so much for taking the time to share your great news with us.
Buy Links for 'All in the Mind'
About the Author:
Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history, at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dogs and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.
Jenny's published works include: Take One at Bedtime, Domingo's Angel, All in the Mind, An Open Letter to Stephen King, The Mantequero series, The Owl Goddess, For the Love of a Child, Doppelganger, Flipside, Tales from the Dark Side and Six Tales of Christmas.