Jemma Wayne is an author, playwright and journalist.Her first novel, After Before, was shortlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award, and longlisted for both the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize, and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in a variety of publications, and her journalism can be seen most frequently in The Jewish News and at The Huffington Post. Her first stage-play, co-written with Rachel Sternberg, ran to critical acclaim at Hampstead’s New End Theatre.
Jemma is also a keen athlete, and mum to two daughters aged 5 and 2.5 years.
1. Describe a typical day for you?
It hugely depends on whether it’s a school day or not, and if it’s a nanny day or not! We have a nanny three days a week, so during those days, I sit down at my desk straight from the school run around 9am. And I write. (Actually, I spend the first 20 minutes answering emails and wasting time on the Internet, but then I write.)
Depending on what I’m working on and where I am in the project, I either will be researching – which may involve calls or meeting people to interview, as well as reading lots and making copious notes. Or I’ll be writing or editing at my computer.
Because time is so precious, I do try to lock myself away during these periods and really focus – although my youngest will often dance into my home office to show me something, to say hi, or most often to steal a bit of my afternoon wake-up chocolate.
Around 3pm, I knock off to collect my eldest from school and then spend the afternoon with the children before usually grabbing another hour or two of writing time once the kids are in bed. And then crashing out with my husband in front of some decadent TV.
2. What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Work-wise, the Baileys Prize was a huge thing for me, and certainly my biggest professional achievement to date. It’s a list that I’ve always looked to when I need inspiration for books to read, so to be amongst those authors that I love, was special and extremely affirming.
Life-wise…if I get to the end of a day and feel that the kids are happy, and secure, and connected, and if I haven’t lost my patience with them, and if I’ve managed to be at least 70% of the mum I want to be, then it’s a big achievement.
3. What’s in your handbag?
Right now…my wallet, phone, keys, pen, diary, lippie and tissues. I should pretend to be chicly minimalist and stop there, but there are also: plasters, a Goodies bar, three multi-coloured hair bands, a sticker, something that looks like it might be part of a Lego set, and a pink pair of toddler-sized knickers.
4. What are your ambitions in life?
To be happy. I might used to have said to be a best-selling author, and to have children, and to have a play on in the West End. All things that are still important to me. But these days happiness seems to appear in surprising guises. And achieving a goal doesn’t necessarily bring the lasting satisfaction I’d imagined. So now I think that ambitions can’t be an end point, they can’t be a destination; life has to be about the journey. And for that journey, surely the only sensible ambition is happiness.
5. What advice would you give your pre-baby self, that you now know?
Be spontaneous, be adventurous, dare. Also, stop watching TV. My approach to parenting means that I am very present at home, and most of the time that’s exactly how I want things to be. But just occasionally there are times when it means I can’t be spontaneous. And I can’t suddenly uproot everything and make some wild change.
And I feel a bit more cautious about throwing myself on skis down a mountain, or doing a bungee jump, because there are little people depending on me. So I would tell myself to do lots of that, lots more of that. And lay off the TV ‘cos at the end of days that start at 5am, that’s all you’ll be doing for a while!
6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I’d like to have published a third novel by then, and to be developing myself as an author in each one. I’d love to do some more writing for theatre. And to contribute articles to some of the publications I love and haven’t yet written for.
My personal imaginings are so tied up with hopes for the kids, and they grow so fast that it’s impossible to imagine what they will be like by then, what they’ll be interested in, what our dynamic will be. But I hope that we’ll be thriving.
7. What advice would you give a budding author?
To write. I did some work experience just after university at Vogue magazine. For the most part, it was exactly like The Devil Wears Prada, but on the last day each intern got to have a meeting with the editor, and I vividly remember her telling me that if you are a writer, you write. You don’t need a license. You don’t need a commission. It’s part of who you are, it’s how you express yourself, it’s what you do. The road can be long. There can be a huge amount of rejection. But if you are a writer, you have no choice but to keep going.
8. Finally, happiness is…
What happens when you’re not looking.
Please include anything you would like me to plug and social media handles and site. My new novel, Chains of Sand, is published on June 1 st . Chains of Sand is a novel about identity, family, and clashes of culture. In the heat of an Israeli summer, amidst fresh attempts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, Udi struggles to fill a UK immigration form.
At 26 Udi is a veteran of the Israeli Defence Force and has killed five men. He wants a new life, in a new country. Daniel is 29, a Londoner, an investment banker, an Arsenal fan, and a Jew. He wants for nothing, yet he too is unable to escape an intangible yearning for something more, and for less. He looks to Israel for the answer.
But as the war with Hamas breaks out, Daniel cannot know that the star-crossed love of Dara and Kaseem, a Jewish girl and an Arabic man in Jerusalem ten years earlier, will soon complicate all that he thinks has become clear.
My first novel, After Before, is available on amazon and at all good book stores! Readers can find out more about me at www.jemmawayne.com or tweet me