This week, we caught up with Gaynor Jones to talk about her upcoming book, Among These Animals. Available for pre-order now, this new novella-in-flash will be available from 1st March.
We spoke to Gaynor about what led to her writing this latest collection, and how these beautiful new stories see her evolving key themes that readers will recognise from her earlier work. There’s plenty of the unexpected in these intriguing tales; we think you’re going to love them.
How did you come to write your novella-in-flash?
I read The Neverlands by Damhnait Monaghan and I was blown away by it – if you’re only looking at word count, then it’s a small book, but to me that’s not what defines a novella-in-flash. It has a tight character focus, is packed with incredible emotion and is beautifully written. I was still writing fairly dark and bitter flash pieces at the time, and I wondered if I had it in me to write something with a really strong emotional connection to the reader. So it wasn’t about a shift in length or form for me, it was about exploring if I could take my craft to the next level. I then saw that Michael Loveday was launching a novella-in-flash course and was offering a discount to people who signed up early – so I did! I had two pieces that were set on a farm (Amongst These Animals, which had been published by The Forge and Apart From the Flock which had been longlisted in the TSS flash quarterly competition) and I’d already been thinking that the man and the woman in them were connected somehow so I decided to use that as my starting base.
What challenges did you come up against while writing Among These Animals?
One particular challenge for me was that I was sharing the pieces with Michael pretty much as soon as I had written them. I think he would agree with me that I powered through the course (though the book and edits took a lot longer to complete). Obviously, it was incredible to have that one-on-one input, but it was also pretty vulnerable to work so closely with someone, though since then I’ve done it again with my short story collection and my New Writing North mentor CG Menon. So I’m guess I’m used to it now! The biggest challenge though, was that I wrote an entirely different book initially, with a central plot event which I then decided, for various reasons, I wasn’t happy to write. That version was a good book, it was well written, and it was quite emotional deciding to let go of that version, but I know myself well and I know it was the right decision. I am very happy with the final version and have no regrets.
You tweeted that this book isn’t strange, supernatural or scary. Why do you think this is different from your earlier work, and are you concerned about how previous fans of your writing will react?
I’m still editing my short story collection, which is definitely heavy on the strange, supernatural and scary! And I think if you look at a lot of my writing, and particularly my own reading tastes, the strange definitely wins out. There is definitely some strangeness in this book, in terms of how Derfel and Carys interact with the animals, and some of the imagery in the book, but it’s not what I describe as the ‘splat’ of some of my earlier stuff – talking cheese graters, sentient belly buttons, a ticket machine that tells you when you’ll die … these are all things I wrote a good few years ago now, and I think my tastes have just changed a little. I don’t know if people will be disappointed or surprised, but I can’t control that, I have to write what feels right and true for me at the time. What I ideally want to do is write a novel which combines the strangeness of my short fiction, with the emotional depth of my novella-in-flash. And that’s what I’ll be doing for the rest of this year!
For more about Gaynor and her work, visit: jonzeywriter.com
‘Gaynor Jones is surely one of the most deft and skilful flash fiction writers we have. She does the hard, hidden work needed to make the page feel effortless, and has a fine-tuned instinct for knowing what not to name or say. It is one of the most powerful and assured novellas-in-flash I’ve encountered in recent years – defiant, passionate, and seething with life.’
– Michael Loveday, author of Three Men on the Edge
‘A beautiful and deftly-told tale of a family attempting to navigate grief. Jones’s trademark precise prose and potent imagery combine to create a strong current that flows beneath the surface. Quietly powerful, this is a collection of stories that whisper their way into one’s mind.’
– Lucie McKnight Hardy author of Water Shall Refuse Them
‘Among These Animals explores a rural existence far from the country idyll, deftly sketched in Gaynor Jones’s vivid and unflinching prose, and darkly laced with tendrils of fairy tale. This is a shiny gem of a novella.’
– Chloe Turner, author of Witches Sail in Eggshells