Welcome to another AccessAbility Arts interview! I'm delighted to be able to shine a light on the fantastic work being done by inspiring women, multicultural groups, LGBTQIA+ community members and disabilities in the sphere of art and accessibility. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our guest, Julia Wood - an accomplished writer of Comedy/Women's Fiction and short stories. With a lifelong passion for writing, she is currently working on a novel titled "The Adventures of Jenny Bean, Aged 49 and an Awful Lot," showcasing her wit and charm. Julia's talent has already been recognised with her work being shortlisted for the prestigious CWIP (Comedy Women in Print) Prize. Her academic achievements include a Master's degree in Continental Philosophy from the University of Warwick, and she has also authored a non-fiction book, "The Resurrection of Oscar Wilde, A Cultural Afterlife." As an active member of the Leicester Writer's Club, Julia is dedicated to fostering growth within the writing community. Join us as we delve into Julia's writing journey and discover the stories that have touched countless hearts.
If you're on social media, give her a follow. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julia.wood.1232. Instagram: @victorianscribe. Website: http://julia-wood.com/ YouTube: https://youtube.com/@edwardianspice1?si=FKE-AJtuxRFKa5wa
Here is the interview
DK: What inspired you to start writing at such a young age, and how did your early experiences shape your passion for writing?
Julia: I have written and been calling myself a writer for as long as I can remember. At Primary school, the head, who recognised my talent, gave me a book to write in called Julia’s Gems. He said I could write about anything I liked. I mainly wrote poetry but also stories about my life, my grandparents visiting, quite innocuous things really.
Like many creative people I didn’t have an easy time at school. I was bullied by other girls and never really fitted in. That has stayed with me through a sympathy with the outsider and an identification with those who have had similar experiences. I also grew up with Coronation Street and my family are from Lancashire, so my humour and wit evolved from that, from northern humour and was shaped by the northern sensibility, even though I am actually from Northamptonshire.
DK: Poetry and art can be a great tool for society and looking back at history. What do you think is the power of poetry - or any art - and what role do you believe artists have in modern society?
Julia: I think art has always had a tremendous power to instigate social change, (look at the recent ITV drama, Bates V the Post Office for example. Who would think a drama could resurrect a decades-old scandal and instigate a political campaign for justice for the Post Office workers!). But not all art has to be a vehicle for social change. I think what is just as important is art as a tool for coping with a difficult and challenging world – let’s face it we live in pretty scary times one way or another. Art can transport the viewer/reader/listener into another world; it can be a force for healing and transformation and that door into another world, the escapism is just as important; entertaining people is important as it boosts morale. It can also help people who are struggling, especially with mental health issues such as depression and loneliness because through it we can discover that we are not alone and we can transform ourselves from victims int the heroes of our own life narrative.
For me, humour is important due to its cathartic value, which is why I use it so much in my own work.
DK: Can you tell us more about the themes and characters in your novel "The Adventures of Jenny Bean, Aged 49 and an Awful Lot", and how they were influenced by the works of Alan Bennett and Sue Townsend?
Julia: The first in the Jenny Bean series was written during the Lockdown and I always describe it as ‘a light-hearted take on a dark-hearted time,’ because I wanted to write something that would mitigate the feelings of isolation and misery I and many others felt throughout the pandemic.
Alan Bennett’s northern humour has been an influence on my work, as has the humour of Victoria Wood. I think that mainly comes out in the dryness of my humour, that deadpan wit and wry humour where one can be saying something ostensibly ‘serious’ and yet infuse it with a twist.
For example, when Jenny is pondering why she should write a blog she says,
‘why would anyone want to read a blog by a scatter-brained nymphomaniac with half an O Level, and a C.S.E in Home Economics? (I only got that due to an uncanny ability with a prawn vol-u-vent).’ Jenny’s self-deprecating humour prevails throughout the novel. The blog idea evolved from reading the Adrian Mole series as a teen and it stayed with me. I’ve always liked the idea of doing something similar but liked the idea of a more contemporary take on it, hence the blog. Also I have been able to use the blog format in a multi-media way, to make Jenny more inter-active with her subscribers and create sub-plots from the responses to her posts.
DK: We all know how important it is to look after our mental health, so tell us, do you have any strategies you use to maintain positive mental health in your daily life?
Julia: I work out regularly; I try to manage my ADHD by not overloading myself, so I have to keep an eye on whether I am over doing it as I suffer with burnout regularly, which is annoying!
DK: How did it feel to have your novella shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize, and what message do you hope readers take away from "Jenny Bean, Calamity Queen"?
Julia: The shortlist success was really exciting, and I started to feel that my hard work was paying off after all these years! Calamity Queen is a fun piece of writing, with hopefully lots of laughs in it so if people come away from it revitalised, less jaded and just a little inspired I will feel it has done its job.
DK: What are some of the central themes that you often explore in your short stories, and how do they reflect your personal experiences and worldview?
Julia: I write many pieces about the paranormal, as I have always cultivated an interest in ghosts and such phenomena. I am also drawn to points of view that are unconventional. One of my short stories, The House Whisperer, is about a house that is up for demolition taking revenge on the developers. It is told from the point of view of the house. I like to write stories that send that shiver down the spine, that remind us in an over-rationalised, science-dominated world, there are still things out there that we cannot explain or understand.
DK: How did your background in Continental Philosophy influence your writing, particularly in your non-fiction work "The Resurrection of Oscar Wilde, A Cultural Afterlife"?
Julia: It was a research-based MA so it taught me the understanding of how to collate and synthesise information and spin theories from it. It also helped me to get a publishing deal as I think they took me more seriously!
DK: What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?
Julia: Writing, like the arts in general, is in many ways intrinsically rewarding, but I would say that seeing my work in print, knowing it is out there, is the most rewarding part. Also since I began getting involved in Spoken Word performing last September, that connectivity with an audience, having people coming up to me afterwards, quoting or singing my pieces (some pieces have singing bits in them) – is hugely rewarding.
DK: Can you share with us some insights about your involvement with the Leicester Writer's Club and the impact it has had on your writing journey?
Julia: Being an LWC member has enriched my understanding of editorial craft. That ‘s the main way in which it has helped to transform my writing. It has given me an awareness of writing not merely as an art, but as a craft; being able to edit my own work and feeling that I know what I am doing. It is also a valuable support network for a writer as we all share our experiences and encourage each other
DK: And lastly. We all need to relax, chill, and switch off sometimes. So how do you relax?
Julia: A glass (or two) of wine usually. And a dash of opera, usually Mozart or Puccini. And I like to sing along with it! Singing is fun and releases tension and stress.
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