Friday, March 04, 2016

Scribbling Sisters

I come from a very literary family. My father was an English teacher and writer manque (he wrote us amazing plays when we were little). We recently discovered my grandmother, Jane Henry, after whom this blog was named had written but not published short stories, and her mother was a poet. Among my siblings I have a poet, translator and a philosopher.

Then there's me and my twin. I have been writing now for eighteen years, and published for nine (this year unbelievably I am having my tenth book published.) It took me eight years to get that first deal, but I was able to write when the children were small because I went freelance and was able to carve out some time.

My lovely twin, Virginia Moffatt has not had that option. She has been writing a novel for ten years, while bringing up three children and having a full time job.Quite frankly I don't know how she has done it, but she has worked away steadily attending writing conferences and courses, and crafting and recrafting her story so it is good as it can be. She has worked very hard, and stayed true to the vision of her story, and I'm delighted that she now has the opportunity to get it published by the amazing team at But  dear reader, she needs help...

If you don't know how Unbound works, it's a brilliant way of helping bringing books to market through crowdfunding. Authors pitch their ideas on the Unbound website and if one takes your fancy you can pledge money to help get the book published.

Here is Virginia talking about her book Echo Hall, part ghost story, part historical, part antiwar - it's a brilliant book for our times, and one that will stay with you long after you have read it.

Pledges go from getting your name in the back of the digital edition, to a Bespoke Literary Tour of Oxford with Virginia as your guide.

Ginia has always supported my writing, so it is with great pleasure I can now return the favour., by offering a Tea with Twins in London in which we will talk about our writing and being twins, and how the two things are interconnected.

With that in mind I thought I'd share some thoughts on twinniness.

Ginia and I had very similar experiences growing up. But you know that nature/nurture debate? I would say 100% nature, EVERY time. Why? Because from the off, while we look similar and sound similar, and share many similar views and thoughts and characteristics we also have very different personalities. I sometimes wonder if at some point in the womb, we made a mutual decision to say, ok, I'll do that bit, you do the other, because despite our older brother spending our childhood teasing us that we were one person, we really really aren't (as various wannabe boyfriends found out to their cost - choosing one twin thinking we were exactly alike and then finding out the bitter truth.)

So from an early age I was the conventional, goody two shoes one, and Virginia was the daring one, more likely to get into trouble at school. The main reason she was in trouble, was because she had and has a very strong sense of justice, and couldn't resist pointing out to teachers where they'd been unfair (which they frequently were), which invariably led to her being sent to the Head's office. I swear she spent a whole term sitting outside the Head's office aged 9. I, on the other hand, would be equally cross, but took the more pragmatic approach of keeping my mouth shut and head down. I always admired Virginia's courage though, as I was a massive coward and hated getting into trouble.

At school we were very similar academically, but I learnt a harsh lesson aged 5 when Virginia overtook me by miles in the reading scheme we were following, and I never quite caught up with her after that. She always had the edge on me in everything, particularly Maths, which I found baffling but she could manage with ease. On the other hand, though neither of us were particularly sporty, I was the one who played tennis obsessively and would go swimming, when Virginia would rather read a good book.

At A level we started off sharing two subjects, English and Biology, but I later swapped the latter for History. Being the sciencey twin, Virginia chose Chemistry to my French. Yet I have always had a yen to understand Science better, and Virginia has never stopped loving History, evidenced by the fact that she has written such a good historical novel.

We have both always shared a love of stories, but when we were growing up, writing for a living didn't seem a thing you could actually do, so it wasn't on our radars as a possible career.  Our dad was horrified when I said I wanted to go into publshing which he thought was an unstable career, while Virginia's choice of going into social care was even worse. During our twenties then, when we were establishing our careers, writing was the farthest thing from our minds, although I always scribbled away at things, and I suspect she did too.

Then I started publishing teen romance, and discovered a hitherto unknown love of the genre. My company generously allowed me to publish a couple of short stories with them and I was hooked. When I went on maternity leave in 1998 it was a complete no brainer to use it as an opportunity to start writing.  Virginia came to the same conclusion a bit later than me, probably starting her writing journey around the time I was first published. During that time she has been my most enthusiastic cheerleader, encouraging me with all my endeavours even though romance isn't a genre she particularly likes.

And herein lies another significant difference between us. We have many shared tastes in literature: Dickens, the Brontes, Virginia Woolf , Margaret Atwood, to name a few, but we also have wildly varying loves too. So I don't really understand her obsession with David Mitchell, and my love of Terry Pratchett leaves her cold. This difference extends to our writing. Virginia has spent many years writing flash fiction, and writes wonderful short stories, the like of which I could never do. You can read some of them here: or buy them in this collection I partly helped her put together
She often explores a darkness that leaves me breathless. I do do dark - my favourite of my own books are the ones that touch more on the pain and difficulties of life (The Bridesmaid Pact and Make a Christmas Wish are two I love particularly) - but writing in the romance genre, the upbeat, positive side always wants to come through, and I cannot go as dark as Virginia sometimes does.

Virginia is much more political then me, being active in the peace movement, and that too informs her writing. My politics are on a much more local scale, so my books tend to draw on the things that matter to the people in their daily lives, rather than the bigger world issues that Virginia likes to tap into.. But I like to think we share a view that flawed and difficult as people can be, life always offers hope and the chance to make amends, though I suspect her stories will always end more ambiguously then mine.

If you are someone who likes my books, I hope you will give Virginia's a chance. You won't find the same stories I write (we aren't the same, remember?), but I promise you vivid rich writing, with real well drawn characters, and a cracking and compulsive storyline.

I have been lucky enough to be published for the last nine years, and I can't wait to crack open a bottle of bubbly for when Virginia finally does it too. So, if you can't help personally by pledging, please do support her by tweeting and sharing on FB the posts we put up about Echo Hall, so it can reach the widest audience possible.

And if, perchance any of my witterings here have interested you to discuss it further, do feel free to pledge to join us for tea. We would love to meet you!


Anne Booth said...

This is a lovely post. Is there a tweet and Facebook button so it can be easily shared?

Jane Henry said...

I don't know ! I have tweeted it tooxx

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