So, Joanne… what does the ‘M’ stand for?
Michele – my Dad doesn’t exactly have a way with spelling!
Where did you grow up, and how did your childhood influence your writing?
I grew up a stone’s throw from Sherwood Forest – my early childhood was a careless haze, full of the stacks of storybooks I kept at the foot of my bed, the chalked pictured drawn on the pavement, the bike rides with no destination in mind, days of grass-stained kneecaps and gleeful laughter, the bliss of homemade Cola lollies and sprinklers in the garden. With such wonderful distractions, I never thought about who I was; who I wanted to be.
It was at age 11 that someone saw the writer in me. A secondary school English teacher used to kids reading Shakespeare with dead eyes and slack jaws, he saw something different in me; a quality of ‘writerliness’ (as he once put it). He told me something else that day: that, as a writer, I read with the eyes of a thief – that we were all thieves, looking for shiny things to pull apart and put back together in a way that was different, that was ours. He taught me that day that all writers are magpies.
I have never forgotten this childhood revelation – it has become an integral part of my understanding of who I am as a writer; my purpose, my function, and why I love it so damn much!
When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first book aged 8 – it was called ‘The Magic Bubble’. Seems silly looking back on it now, but that was the first clear sign that my love of books went further than just reading them. I first dipped my toe into poetry aged 11, when I was published three times in a poetry anthology, and produced a hand-printed book of my own, called ‘The Poet on the Corner’.
I’ve certainly come a long way since then – two books already published, paying my bills with professional writing projects, and building my online following by the day.
What do you enjoy reading the most?
I’ve got quite an eclectic library, but I find that I tend to gravitate towards science fiction and more experimental novels, such as the likes of 1984, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Oryx and Crake, Riddley Walker, A Clockwork Orange (I could go on for a while here)… I really respect a writer who is prepared to commit themselves completely to the creation of their fictional world. I have a particular love affair with Blake, and there’s enough Stephen King novels on my bookshelves for them to count as room insulation!
Describe your desk.
My desk is – well, I say ‘mine’… mostly, I have to share it with an affectionate but rather stubborn black cat, by the name of Marley – set beside a window, has two plush dinosaurs astride it (my mascots), and sits beside a pin board containing a whole manner of inspirational drawings, postcards and quotations. I have a Banksy mousemat, and I need a comfier chair…
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I also work as an academic marker and researcher, so I spend a lot of my time (when I’m not writing) marking essays and dissertations, and supplying feedback on how work can be improved. I would count academia as a hobby as well as a job, though, and so I’m lucky that I can do this for a living!
In my free time, I like to settle down with a good book. I’m also a bit of a film nerd, and so I wile away many hours watching everything from Studio Ghibli to Grindhouse. I’m particularly fond of old samurai films, manga animations and thought-provoking documentaries.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The fact that each day is different, and there are still plenty of things out there that I have not yet seen – there are people to talk to, sights to see, and books to read.
Well, that and the persistent mewing of a very hungry cat.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
My latest eBook, ‘Never Too Late: A Mature Student’s Guide to Going to University’, is full of hints, tips and anecdotes intended to help you to make the most of both the social and academic elements of University life, and to let go of the fear that comes with deciding to go back to school.
I wrote it because when I started at University as a mature student (aged 25), I was extremely nervous about becoming a student again. I had always been an overachiever and prided myself on my ability to excel, but it had been a long time since I had completed a piece of coursework, sat an exam, or even so much as attended a class. Despite only being 8 or so years older than the other students, doubts had already begun to seep into my mind: I bandied around phrases like ‘too old’ and ‘past it’, wondering if my time had come and gone. I imagined turning up on the first day to stares, whispers and sniggers; to people wondering what on Earth I was doing there.
Four years on, these fears seem ludicrous: I am now the proud recipient of a first-class honours degree, and I even got a couple of academic prizes thrown in for good measure! I can say with all honesty that going back was the best decision I ever made. However, I have never forgotten just how scary it was taking those first few steps towards returning to University. That’s really why I wrote the book – I wanted other mature students out there to know that University doesn’t have to be scary, overwhelming, or take over your life. It can actually be very rewarding and a lot of fun!
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a guide for the different citations styles used at UK and US Universities, and a book explaining how to learn the art of critical reading. Both books should be available within the next few months, so keep an eye out for them!
You’ve mentioned your love of science fiction. Any fiction projects in the works?
Yes, actually – I’ve been working on a novel called ‘The Light Station’, but it’s still in bits and pieces at the moment. In a nutshell, it’s a story about sex, death and time-travel.
View the interview on Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/interview/JMWeselby