Losing herself in an imaginary world is quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to Author Jeannie Wycherley. She can travel far and wide with an array of wonderful people and creatures and when it gets interesting, she can share it with everyone else. Bliss! Please welcome Jeannie to No Wasted Ink.
I’m Jeannie Wycherley. I live by the sea in East Devon in the south-west of the UK. Over the years I’ve worked as an academic, a waitress, a library assistant and as a stage manager. I have a doctorate in modern and contemporary British social history. I run a seaside gift shop with my husband (or try to at the moment, things are not great). I have two dogs that I love above all creatures and I’m fanatical about forests and wildlife.
When and why did you begin writing?
I always loved to write but I lost the urge when I started working. I was busy, I was young, I had a life. Then in 2010, during counselling for a bout of depression, I uncovered my desperate need for creativity. I started to fiddle with words again and wrote a play that was performed by a local theatre company. I then found an online virtual writing bootcamp in June 2012 with a group called Urban Writers. I loved it! There were lots of exercises to do, something everyday, and by the end of the month I had a long short story that I was quite proud of. After that I began to write every day. It became a habit. I submitted short stories everywhere and gathered quite a collection.
I took part in the Six-Month Novel challenge, again with Urban Writers, and produced my first novel. It has never seen the light of day, but I proved I could do it.
I was made redundant in September 2012 and over the next few years, I balanced freelance copywriting work and working in our gift shop with my creative writing.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Relatively recently! I published two novels, Crone (2017) and Beyond the Veil (2018) but felt like an impostor. It wasn’t until I started to work on my Wonky Inn series (first published September 2018), when the writing and the characters totally consumed me, that I realised I was a proper writer. Now I drive my husband mad because I don’t talk about anything else. He’s currently in the process of getting a proofreading qualification so he can help me out!
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
It’s called The Municipality of Lost Souls and, put simply, it’s a ghost story where some dead sailors want vengeance for their wrongful deaths. But it’s far more complex. It’s about greed, power and manipulation, love, lust and loss. It’s about the way we treat others. It has shades of Jamaica Inn and The Old Curiosity Shop and The Woman in White about it.
What inspired you to write this book?
It started life as a short story, published by the Society for Misfit Stories. It was a story that would not let me go. I knew there was far more to it, but the complexity of it put me off. It requires quite an ensemble of characters and that proved difficult to balance at times. I take much inspiration from the landscape around me. The town of Durscombe—a fictional name—is based on Sidmouth, where I live. I wanted to write about the power of the sea and have this kaleidoscope of people’s lives unfold in front of a tempestuous, glowering backdrop.
Do you have a specific writing style?
People have often remarked how immersive my descriptions are, that reading my work, whether it’s dark fantasy or cozy mystery, is a little like going to the cinema. They can see the world through my eyes.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
I have absolutely no idea! It just popped into my head. I have had some criticism for it, because of its length, but to me, The Municipality of Lost Souls, has a whole different meaning to Lost Souls. It adds place, context, era and specificity. There are so many lost souls in this book, but the most important ones, are in the town.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, but it’s not spelled out. Part of me wants readers to understand what drove me to produce this story, but not everyone will. I’m perfectly happy if they read it and enjoy it without getting ‘it’, though.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’m getting on. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve observed a lot. I’m ravenous for people-watching. Obviously, this is a historical fantasy novel, so it’s not true to life, but I’ve used my experience as a historian to add flesh to the bones. I like my characters to be flawed. This bunch certainly are!
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
So many. I drew on my love of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins for The Municipality of Lost Souls. I love their use of language. Both of these writers have wonderful villains too. Dastardly! I have several Dickensian type villains in this novel. I would add Elizabeth Gaskell and Edith Wharton to that list too. Gaskell is my favourite author of all time. She has a gentle touch, but she really packed a punch when it came to unpicking the social issues of the day.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
The beautiful cover was designed by Anika Willmanns of Ravenborn Covers. She does the most magnificent work. I wanted something ghostly and tempestuous and I wanted to show vulnerability. I think Anika did an amazing job.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Commit! And believe in yourself.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks so much for reading! I can never quite get over the fact that people actually read my words! I’ve never been happier and it’s entirely down to people like you!
Sidmouth, East Devon, UK
The Municipality of Lost Souls
Cover Artist: Anika Willmanns