Howdy lesfic fans. Today, I’m thrilled to host Kathleen Jowitt author of the novel Speak Its Name. The novel was shortlisted for the 2017 Betty Trask award. Kathleen is giving away one paperback copy of Speak Its Name to one lucky winner. You can enter the contest below.
Please welcome, Kathleen Jowitt.
You know how they say that people write the books they want to read? Doubly so, if nobody else is writing the books that they want to read?
That’s what I did. I wanted to read the books where a young woman could reconcile her religious faith with her lesbian identity. So often the discourse seemed to assume that the two are mutually exclusive. I wanted to show that this isn’t necessarily the case.
Of course the trouble is, when you’re writing a book that you’ve never read, because it’s different from anything else on the market, it’s that much more difficult to sell. I always knew that I was writing in an obscure genre. It made it a bit difficult to describe.
I did my best:
‘It’s a bit like the Barchester novels – you know, the ones by Anthony Trollope – but set in the modern day, at a university, and with a same-sex romance.’
‘It’s like Dear Bob – have you read Dear Bob? – except in this one she really is gay.’
I’m not sure that anybody except me has read Dear Bob.
‘University politics. Christian politics. LGBT politics.’
‘Have you read anything by Alex Sanchez? It’s the sort of thing that he might write, if he was British, and if his lead characters were female.’
I did all the things that people tell you to do. I went through five or six rounds of edits. I got knowledgeable and ruthless friends to edit, too. I did my research. I approached agents who I thought might be interested. I approached publishers who I thought might be interested.
After the umpteenth ‘thanks, but no thanks’, I put it aside for a couple of months, until it occurred to me that really, there was no reason why I shouldn’t self-publish. I knew I’d written something that I wouldn’t be ashamed to have under my own name, something for which I was prepared to take full responsibility.
It took me about four months to get from the point where I had a manuscript that I was satisfied with to the point where I had a book that I was satisfied with.
All the things that I’d vaguely assumed that a publisher would be doing for me suddenly become things that I had to organise yourself. I became my own type-setter, cover designer and publicist. It wasn’t as much work as I’d feared, but it still wasn’t something to be undertaken lightly.
But my decision to go for it on my own was vindicated this spring when I was shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize, which is awarded to the best first novel by an author under the age of 35. This year it was judged by Joanne Harris, Michèle Roberts, and Simon Brett. I spent a good week muttering, ‘Michèle Roberts has read my book. Michèle Roberts liked my book!’
The lovely thing about the Betty Trask Prize is that even if you don’t come top overall, you come away with a Betty Trask Award. And I’m immensely proud to have that certificate on my wall.
The other lovely thing is that it’s presented at the Society of Authors Awards, and you get to meet all sorts of interesting people. In fact –
‘The Betty Trask Prize? I won that one once,’ said Sarah Waters.
SPEAK ITS NAME
A new year at the University of Stancester, and Lydia Hawkins is trying to balance the demands of her studies with her responsibilities as an officer for the Christian Fellowship. Her mission: to make sure all the Christians in her hall stay on the straight and narrow, and to convert the remaining residents if possible. To pass her second year. And to ensure a certain secret stays very secret indeed.
When she encounters the eccentric, ecumenical student household at 27 Alma Road, Lydia is forced to expand her assumptions about who’s a Christian to include radical Quaker activist Becky, bells-and-smells bus-spotter Peter, and out (bisexual) and proud (Methodist) Colette. As the year unfolds, Lydia discovers that there are more ways to be Christian – and more ways to be herself – than she had ever imagined.
Then a disgruntled member of the Catholic Society starts asking whether the Christian Fellowship is really as Christian as it claims to be, and Lydia finds herself at the centre of a row that will reach far beyond the campus. Speak Its Name explores what happens when faith, love and politics mix and explode.
Kathleen Jowitt was born in Winchester, UK, and grew up deep in the Welsh Marches and, subsequently, on the Isle of Wight. After completing her undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of Exeter she moved to Guildford and found herself working for a major trade. She now lives in Cambridge, works in London, and writes on the train.
Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a copy of SPEAK ITS NAME!