"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Sunday, 6 January 2013

An Interview with Jenny Worstall

The delightful, multi-talented
Jenny Worstall
The Independent Paperback Gift Shop Catalogue has, thus far, been viewed 18,000 times in just over two months, which isn't bad in a packed, information overload world. 

Whether or not it achieved its goals is not clear, but for me, its main purpose anyway was to get to meet some immense authors I would otherwise never have met. 

Case in point: Jenny Worstall, breezy writer of gentle chorus comedy, "Make a Joyful Noise." 

Remember your music teacher at school? Along with the drama teacher, they were the yin yang opposite of the hard core Chemistry teacher (with his rubber tube) or the malevolent Maths teacher (with his slide rule), and if I remember correctly (it's been a while), they were loved. 

Always tinkling with the xylophone, organising the glockenspiels, strumming the harp, or encouraging you to blast the trumpet as if you were a herald at the gates of Rome, music teachers were great fun. 

Those lessons, (now, in many cases, abolished outside private education), provided light in a world of grim shade.

Jenny is also involved in the world of mass choirs; a world I have virtually no experience of except at football matches.  That's the best thing about this job...the people you get to meet! Jenny was happily gossiping with friends over a mocha latte in a coffee shop somewhere in South Kensington when the trusty Wizphone tracked her down. Here's what she had to say.

Hi Jenny!
Hi Wiz!

Tell us about yourself?
I am a musician, teacher and writer and live in London with my husband and two teenage children. Singing in choirs has always been a passion and I have performed most of the standard choral works with various choral societies, including the BBC Symphony Chorus, where I met my husband. 

What Jenny used to do on
Saturday nights...

I taught class music in schools for many years, then when I started a family I took the chance to build up my piano teaching and find some time for writing at last. 

Mr Stiebley - everyone's favourite 
Music Teacher - apart from 

I started with short stories then found that one of them grew into a novel.

 Short stories or novels? I love both.

I find short stories incredibly hard to write.
Oh no, Wiz. For me, they sail off the pen. I've written three anthologies!

I can never shut up, as anyone who has read The Ritual can attest
There's an art to it, Wiz! Hahah.

Here's two of the anthologies you made earlier!

Lemon  and Lace -
a terrific combination

How long have you been writing? Can you remember your first story? I have always kept notebooks with observations in and wrote the usual stories through my childhood that we all write. I can’t remember the first story but I remember writing about the night my brother was born. I also remember my father reading ‘James and the Giant Peach’ by Roald Dahl to me and my sister – we were horrified and fascinated by the behaviour of the wicked Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge, and then thrilled when they came to a sticky end.

 Who are your influences as a writer? I love Barbara Pym and think it is a shame that she is pretty much out of fashion now. Jane Austen is perfection in my world. Then of course I enjoy a lot of lighter fiction – Jilly Cooper, Katie Fforde and so on. I used to read a lot of poetry as a teenager – endless Tennyson and Browning – and always enjoy writing that has plenty of musical rhythm. 

I set myself the task of reading all Dickens’ novels when I was 12 and thoroughly enjoyed them, probably more for the plots than the language at that age. 

"Ooo doesn’t that sound insufferable! The truth is that there wasn’t much to do at boarding school and so we all took refuge in reading  the school library was fairly traditionally stocked and so I read all the classics."

If you had your time over again, would you rather have been blessed with sublime musical or literary talent? 
Are you implying that I am not already blessed with both?! But seriously, in another life I would have loved to have been an opera singer and travelled the world, singing in all the great opera houses and wearing fabulous frocks every night of the week. Sheer glamour!

Verdi's  epochal La Traviata

What is your latest project? Tell us a bit about it. 
I've just written "Make a Joyful Noise" which many readers are enjoying so far.

I am currently working on a novel that starts with a murder and has plenty of music in – perhaps a few characters from Make a Joyful Noise will pop up along the way. 

There will be Mozart, possibly The Messiah and hopefully plenty of fun.

Three rogue members of your choir, upset at your decision to leave them on the bench before a big sing song, kidnap you after evensong one night and take you to darkest Frinton. You are thrown in a darkened crypt with just a sleeping bag and a pipe of Hobnobs for company. While you are contemplating the error of your ways, Griswold, the ancient keeper of the crypt and a big fan of Joyful Noise, drops in a sack of three books, two CDs and a DVD. What would you like them to be? 

First of all, I am so glad that Griswold is a big fan of Joyful Noise and so I would offer him a Hobnob. I hope that in his sack I would find:


Jane and Prudence’ by Barbara Pym

Possession’ by AS Byatt

‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen.

CDs: ‘The Goldberg Variations’ by Bach (played by Andras Schiff) 

Tchaikovsky’s ‘Serenade for Strings’.

DVD: The wonderful ‘Call the Midwife’ series, from the books by Jennifer Worth.

 Cats or dogs? Sadly I am allergic to them and also horses. This really upsets my children who have always wanted a dog. We have compromised with a fish tank but fish are a bit, well, dull, aren’t they?

An example of an exciting Fish Tank

Wiz notes: One of the finest evocations of British
high rise urban life by Indie tyro director Andrea Arnold. 
Your head will be in your hands after two minutes. See also
Andrea's magnificent "Red Road", but avoid, under any circumstances, her
version of "Wuthering Heights"  Sanctimonious, ill judged, rammel which has
set her career back a decade.

How have you found Independent publishing? What are the high spots? And what are the lows? I have found that independent publishing is a brilliant way to reach out to an audience and I would recommend it to everyone.

Highs: I can write what I want and be my own editor. 
Lows: I find the technological side rather daunting but luckily I have a long suffering husband who is a bit of a whizz at all that sort of thing.

How do you relax away from the typewriter? Listening to music, reading, playing the piano and endless gossiping with my friends.

Chinese or Indian - and what is your favourite number on the menu? (If you like neither, say so!) Don’t like takeaways! I love Italian restaurants though...

Home cooked Italian food with some
lovely people

 What do fans of Jenny Worstall have to look forward to in 2013? Mozart, Murder and Messiah...but it might take longer than this year to finish. Perhaps I will have a go at some more short stories as well.

Jenny, thanks for popping into see us here at the Cauldron. I wish you every success in the future and make sure you keep in touch.

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Mark. What a great set of questions! May I be released from the darkened crypt now?

Oh, I don't know about that...Griswold's stolen the Hobnobs...

Griswold's favourite
Jenny Worstall short story anthology



Jenny Worstall is also available on Facebook and other social networks on a laptop near you.


  1. I love the BBC Symphony Chorus, especially with the "classical thunder" masters! Great youtube selections - love Verdi - love all your choices. Great job as always from the great Wizard!

  2. Excellent interview - our music teacher was never like Jenny - nowhere near as talented!

  3. I'm still waiting to know if I can be released from the darkened crypt...

  4. Jenny, I thought I had bribed Griswold to let you out! He must still be eating those Hobnobs (chocolate, you know).

    Tinksaid, thank you. I'll bet Jenny is a fine music teacher. Are teachers still allowed to bring biscuits into class? :-)

    MAB, thanks for the big ups! You are most excellent as always.

  5. Lovely, upbeat interview with Jenny Worstall ... fantastic. La Traviata one of my aunt's favourite operas ... thank you Wiz for the trip down memory lane.

  6. Griswold has finished the Hobnobs now and released me at last.

    Thanks for a great interview, Wiz. You have a unique style.

    1. Jenny, you were great fun! A pleasure to chat and don't be a stranger if you want some publicity for any new stuff! Best of luck!


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