Today I’m very pleased to welcome local author, Toni Jenkins, to the spotlight feature. Toni’s book The Sender was published by New Generation Publishing on 1st June 2015 . Toni kindly gave me a copy which I read recently and really enjoyed. You can read my review here: The Sender Buying links are at the end of the Q&A.
First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?
I’m Kiwi by nature and British by nurture. I moved to the UK twenty years ago and fell instantly in love with the northern hemisphere. I have a BA Hons degree in Educational Policy and am a CELTA qualified teacher. These qualifications have allowed me to travel and work in a variety of interesting jobs, including working for the Sheikh of Dubai’s construction company. All my family live in New Zealand but I am very lucky to have my Dutch partner’s family just over the water and wonderful friends here in the UK. Edinburgh has felt like home since the moment I stumbled upon it twenty years ago. I dream of being a full-time author, churning out a novel every year, and dividing my time between Italy and the UK. I’m working on it…
What inspired you to start writing?
I was nine years old and bored on a long car trip so started writing comedic poems to pass the time. It grew from there. Over the years I wrote dozens of poems, ventured into short stories, then eventually produced my first novel in my early thirties. It was something I always dreamed of doing – I just needed to take the plunge. Writing is my addiction. I carry a notebook with me at all times to jot down random thoughts, ideas for storylines or a quote I’ve concocted. I’ve been collecting and writing quotes since I was fifteen and have amassed hundreds of them (that makes me sound very old!). They’re my go-to place for inspiration or comfort.
Tell me about your journey to publication?
The Sender is the third novel I’ve written but the first to be published. I wrote The Gift in 2009 while in Italy on my ‘mature gap year’ and am currently editing it to publish in 2016. The Sender was written in 2014. I submitted to a number of literary agents and duly waited. When an agent requested the full manuscript I was beside myself! I sent it off and waited again. She replied to tell me she liked my writing and that the storyline was interesting having strangers or acquaintances connected by an anonymous card. However, she would have preferred the story to be about friends reunited. That’s when I decided to self-publish. The premise of The Sender is about paying a kind deed forward to people outside your close circle of friends so that the ripple effect widens and makes the world a better place, not just the world around you. I’ve had so much support and positive feedback since publishing this story so I’m very happy that I forged ahead down the self-publishing route.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
The Sender follows the journey of a mysterious and inspiring unsigned card, interconnecting the lives of four women from different backgrounds and cities who are all facing unique adversities. The card instructs each woman to hold it in their possession for six months before choosing another woman in need of its empowering quality to send it to, and invites them all to meet in Edinburgh two years after its inception. The card seems to hold an extraordinary quality that helps the women face their challenges head-on, though none of them can imagine who the anonymous sender is or why they were the chosen ones.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yes, I’m editing The Gift and preparing the plot for my next novel, which is very noisy at the moment! The Gift is about the fallout that occurs in two families on opposite sides of the globe when a historical secret is exposed. It takes place in Dubai, Scotland and New Zealand and questions how much we really know about our loved ones.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past year? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I have two and they’re very different from each other. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was harrowing at times but so beautifully delivered. And, The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year by Sue Townsend. This book is both hilarious and touching and confirmed she is a genius. What a gift to hold the attention of a reader for over 400 pages about a woman refusing to get out of bed!
What are you reading just now? (December 2015)
I often have two on the go at the same time and choose which one to pick up depending on my mood. At the moment I’m reading The Treacle Well by Moira Forsyth, and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Tell me about your reading habits: book or kindle, bed or bath, morning or evening?
It’s always a book. I love the look, feel and smell of them. There’s nothing more pleasurable than looking at your bookshelf and seeing all those coloured paperbacks you love lined up. I find e-books lifeless, I’m afraid. The advantages are indisputable, especially when travelling, but turning the pages of a book in bed at night is pure relaxation for me.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I have an author page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/tonijenkinsauthor), a Twitter account (https://twitter.com/@tonijenkinsauth), am on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/tonijenkinsauthor) and my website is www.tonijenkinsauthor.com. I also have profiles on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7203444.Toni_Jenkins) and The Writers Room (http://www.thewritersroom.co.uk/page/toni-jenkins-the-sender) and am very happy for readers to contact me through any of these avenues. If any book groups would like me to attend an author Q & A session, either by Skype or in person, I am very happy to do that too.
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
If I can call Elizabeth Gilbert a character, then I’d want to be her! Eat Pray Love came into my life at exactly the right moment and it had a profound effect on me. After I was made redundant in Dubai in the credit crisis, reading about her journey gave me the push I needed to take a year out and write my second novel in Italy. It’s one of the most precious experiences of my life. And if I could really be her, then I’d have all the success she’s had and my dream of being a full-time author really would have come true!
How to buy The Sender:
At Blackwell’s Bookshop Edinburgh
On Amazon UK
On other Amazon and online bookseller sites
Order at your local bookshop