J. A. Hopper (We/She, No Spider Harmed in the Making of This Book) interviewed by
Sarah Lawson (Vindication, The Other Side of Sleep, Departures.)
Sarah: Did you always want to write, or did the urge come to you later in life? Was there an early influence? Was there a moment when you said to yourself (if not to many others) “I am a writer!”? (Or has this moment yet to arrive?)
Jane: I always loved to read, and fooled about with poetry a bit when I was a teenager, like lots of people do, as well as keeping an on-off diary over the years. I read everything when I was younger: romance, thriller, literary, nonfiction, but started getting into short stories on my maternity leave, because when you have a newborn in the house you’re never more than half an hour away from being interrupted. And then when my daughter started sleeping through and I had a bit of time in the evenings, I thought I’d have a go at writing something. That was in 2015, so with some stories now published in actual printed books I can start to call myself a writer, but sadly it’s not a full time job.
Sarah: Apart from spiders, what subjects attract you?
Jane: Most of my stories are about or inspired by parenthood or kids. Write what you know! And also there isn’t a huge amount of short fiction out there about the lonely, funny, weird experience of first-time parenting, or not much that I’ve found, so I thought that could be my “thing”. My spider story for No Spider Harmed was inspired by the Anansi stories I read as a child, which my daughter also loves.
Sarah: Some writers need special circumstances to inspire them to write – solitude or public places, home or abroad, an attic workroom, a cabin in the garden, the kitchen table, a corner of a library, a pen and paper or the latest Apple. Do you have any ideal requirements for writing?
Jane: I use a laptop because I type faster than I hand-write, but that’s necessity really. The main thing is that my daughter must be out of the house or sound asleep. That’s all I need, but boy do I need it! Nothing creative can get done, by me at least, with an energetic, demanding kid in the house. Special circumstances, the right sharpness of HB pencil and any other requirements are wild luxuries. Joyce Carol Oates said that the great enemy of writing is interruption, and she’s completely nailed it. Uninterrupted time is all I need: everything else is superstition and window-dressing.
Sarah: Have you found memories a useful source of material? Childhood memories, perhaps, or some experience in the more recent past?
Jane: I think a few childhood memories creep in to my writing sometimes, like remembering the Barbies I played with as a little girl for We/She, but usually I write about contemporary, current, personal stuff: the things that are right in front of me.
Sarah: Do you like to read your work to an audience, or even “perform” it? (Actually, I am not sure what “performance poetry” is, except that one must read it in a dramatic way. I don’t think I am a performance poet, although I quite like to read to an audience.)
Jane: No! The idea brings me out in a cold sweat. I love listening to stories and audiobooks, but I’m not a good reader-aloud myself at all, which is why I sent some of my first stories to Liars’ League. They get actors to do it, which is much better for everyone.
Sarah: How do you picture your readers? What response would you hope them to have when they read your work?
Jane: I hope anyone can enjoy my stories, but especially that they appeal to stay-at-home and working mums like myself who are doing their best and sometimes feeling the stress. I love funny stories and think there should be more of them in the world, which is why I try to write them: I want readers to laugh and to relate. I might also find a select audience in women who’ve developed a mild crush on Daddy Pig through watching too much Peppa Pig. His voice is definitely too sexy for children’s TV.
You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.
Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August for our eighth anniversary!
If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. Now VAT free! We recommend Hive for ePub.