In conversation with... Amanda Jennings

Hi Amanda! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Cliff House. Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: The Cliff House is set in 1986, in Cornwall, not far from Land’s End, and centres around a glamorous Art Deco house and dramatic swimming pool, situated on the clifftop overlooking the sea. It tells the story of two teenage girls - Tamsyn, a local girl still grieving for her father, and Edie, the daughter of the wealthy family who own The Cliff House. Tamsyn has a deep attraction to the house and spends her days watching it through binoculars. To her it is perfection and anybody lucky enough to live there must be happy. Surely? But when the two girls strike up a summer friendship, cracks in the perfection being to show, and soon attraction turns to obsession and things take a darker turn.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page and did something that you were not expecting?

A: I am what’s called a ‘pantser’, which is a term that comes from writing by the seat of your pants. In practice this means I start with a vague idea of a story and an idea of the characters involved, but the details, themes and developments change and alter as I write. It’s a satisfying way to write in that I am sometimes surprised by what my imagination throws up, but it can also be daunting. Without doubt there will be a number of times when I’m writing the first draft where I have serious doubts about whether or not the story will come together.

The Cliff House is not just a setting, it is a character in its own right. The main character of the book, even. What does this house represent for you?

A: This house represents the idea of perfection. I wanted to explore the idea of individuals striving for something they believe will improve their lives and that whatever that ‘something’ is, the concept of it is often very different to the reality. Each of the characters in the story, to differing degrees, is searching for a way out of the lives they are living, desperate to find security and happiness, whether that’s love, companionship, alcohol, moving from the city, finding a job, or, in Tamsyn’s case, spending her time at The Cliff House. I wanted the house to be a beacon of sorts, this gleaming white house positioned on the Cornish coastline both out of place yet dominating. Many of the important scenes, if not all of them, happen around the black-tiled swimming pool. Before I even started writing I had this vivid image of this pool and as the story grew, so did its importance.

If this novel could be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Tamsyn and Edie?

A: I love this question! I would love to see it turned into a film. A dream come true. They are teens, Tamsyn is naive, spirited and full of yearning, and has long flame-red hair. I think Sophie Turner (from Games of Thrones) would be incredible. Then Edie, well, she’s far more worldly and sophisticated, with a cut-glass accent and marked self-assurance with an outwardly rebellious streak. Someone classically beautiful but with a strong wild-child vibe and an on-point hardened glare is what I’d like to see with Edie. Someone like Cara Delevingne would be perfect!

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: I actually really enjoyed writing the Prologue, which is the first time we meet Tamsyn and the house, and also get a glimpse of the Max and Eleanor Davenport, Edie’s parents. It’s written with a voyeuristic feel, and I enjoyed seeing the house through Tamsyn’s eyes and watching the figures move in and out of sight, whilst carrying on with their luxurious lifestyle.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Oh, yes, so much! I’m a chronic re-writer and the first draft is almost a different book to the final draft, which was about draft ten. I get very free and easy with the delete button if I think something’s no longer working or doesn’t shift the story or characters arcs along. I have a separate file called ‘Words I might Put Back In’ which is where I store all the bits and pieces I delete. They never go back in!

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: It’s set in Newlyn, a fishing town just outside Penzance in Cornwall, and tells the story of two people living with the fall-out of a tragic accident fifteen years before. It’s about friendship, love, and coercive control, but at the moment is in its very embryonic stages and will no doubt change hugely!

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: It’s really hard. I love Twitter and Facebook and can lose hours - literally - on both platforms. I have to be quite firm with myself. I take breaks every now and then, during which I sign off from both. It’s hard but I always value the time away. The internet is a magnificent invention but it can also take over my life, and I need to reset occasionally and concentrate on my writing. I will take a break soon, once The Cliff House has quietened down a little. Probably over the school holidays so I can concentrate on the children and the book, and not have any distractions.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Finish the book. Once you’ve got that first draft down you can tinker and shape and polish and perfect to your heart’s content, but until you finish the book you have nothing to work with. So get that first draft finished!

Thank you for your time!
The Cliff House was published on May 21st and you can now buy it in store or online! You can also click here to read my review and find out how you can win a copy of this book!

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