Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
At the age of nineteen, having been unceremoniously ejected from a series of private schools across Europe and New England (usually for misdemeanors categorized as `disgracing the uniform'), I headed south on I-95 in a spontaneously borrowed ambulance, of which the big advantage was space in back for a drinks cabinet and a double bed. After a four-month trip and many adventures, I arrived penniless in Florida and took a job in the Kingdom of the Mouse which lasted until a visitor's camcorder happened to capture me and a fellow cast member behaving in a manner inconsistent with the wholesome family values of the resort. Despite the efforts of innumerable lawyers, a clip still circulating on the Web shows just what it's possible to achieve in a chipmunk suit. I fled to Paris, and stayed there for several years, working as a caricaturist in the Montmartre district. Eventually a difference of opinion with the Catholic Church forced a move to Amsterdam, and a new career as a sex-shop administrator and freelance writer. My erotic contributions to the underground lifestyle magazine Puff'n'Stuff came to the attention of an Oscar-winning British actor who commissioned a series of stories in which he got to despoil the lipstick of various glamorous stars from the heyday of Hollywood musicals. The fee for the stories paid for a leisurely year or two touring Europe - doing things, waking up places, regretting one or two choices but generally having a disgustingly good time. I came to rest in London, writing and drawing Blessed Art Thou, the satirical sex'n'horror strip-cartoon featuring Sister Maria Consentua, a rapacious and devout Carmelite nun. In 2004 I returned to the US and traveled a while, spending a lot of time within sight of the Pacific before settling into a rundown old house on an idyllic island off the east coast, within easy reach of the mainland via the Lincoln Tunnel.
If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
Very few of my characters are unremittingly bad or spotlessly good, seamlessly fortunate or constantly unlucky, always right or irreclaimably wrong, so it's difficult to choose. I like the bride in White Wedding (in the Mitigated Filth collection) because, although she's greedy, amoral and promiscuous, she knows that she is and she mocks herself for it. I'm also very fond of the narrator of July 4th who, despite his insecurities, displays a kind of shy integrity. Picking those two, I realize that they have absolutely nothing in common except an honest view of themselves. I think that's what I admire, because it's such a tough gig to pull off in real life.
What's your favorite genre to read?
I'm not very interested in genre. All I care about is the quality of the writing, the use of the language, the compulsion of the story. If I were to say, for instance, that I tend to avoid Westerns or Sword'n'Sorcery sagas, you can bet your life that next week I'd come across a fabulously well-written, intelligent, gripping novel about a dragon-riding warlock pursuing Jesse James across the Yukon in search of the Amulet of Glan-Dra-Foer.
Who or what influences you when you write?
Cabernet Sauvignon, mainly.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
When I need a completely free day to write - for instance, when I'm facing a deadline at nine o'clock the next morning - I am ruthlessly focused on the creative effort.
I roll out of bed at about noon, because I need to be rested to create, and I know from experience that I can't write worth a damn while the sun is in the ascendant. I make an elaborate and filling brunch - eggs benedict, toast, cereal, fruit salad, English tea, juice, perhaps a muffin, plenty of coffee to follow - so that I don't have to stop work later. I find it difficult to concentrate when there are chores waiting to be done, so I shove some laundry in the machine and I straighten the kitchen. It's about three by the time I'm done with all that, and my friends on the West Coast are awake, so I might spend an hour on-line staying in touch via MSN and Yahoo. It's best to get all that social and professional stuff out of the way before plunging into the creative work, so it may well be early evening when I finally close down the chat-screens. Time to open a bottle of something.
I sip the first glass of the day while I peruse all the books and stories that I've agreed to crit. I find that my own imagination is fired by looking over the work of others, good or bad. Another thing that helps me to get going is to read over my own recent stuff, so I will usually review what I've written in the previous week or two, and quite often I'll do some picky editing and peripheral fiddling with that stuff. I'm quite obsessive about attention to detail. I can spend hours just agonizing over the choice of an adjective or the break of a paragraph.
Somewhere around midnight and about an inch from the bottom of the second bottle of wine, it'll dawn on me that I'm ravenously hungry. I'll throw together some kinda pasta dish and a green salad, which I'll eat watching TV - usually Bilko or The Honeymooners. They tend to show four or five of those on the bounce, and I get completely sucked in, so it might be two in the morning when I wake up on the couch still holding a forkful of spaghetti.
I stagger back to the office with a large mug of coffee and a slightly smaller vodka, and I start typing. I just let the ideas come. I'm pretty much in the zone at this point, despite having had such a grueling day. I'm alight with inspiration and the prose flows like molten chocolate.
At 08:59 I press Send and the new story zips off to the editor who commissioned it. I collapse into bed and sleep the sleep of the emotionally-spent creative artist. I am empty, blanked. It's not easy, being a writer. I mean - it really is not easy.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
I don't believe in writer's block. I don't understand why a writer is permitted a get-out for not doing the job. If you called a mechanic to fix your car and an hour after he arrived you found him in your driveway, sitting on the hood and smoking a cigarette, you'd be pretty pissed if his excuse was that he was suffering from mechanic's block and he just, y'know, couldn't get the whole engine-fixing muse to work with him right now, so rather than force it he was backing off and staying cool and waiting for inspiration to strike him in such a way that he felt like perusing the spark-plugs. Can you imagine going to a restaurant and finding that none of the entr‚es were available because of the cook's attack of chef's block? How much credence would you give to brain surgeon's block? Or firefighter's block?
Sometimes writing comes without much effort, and sometimes it's a terrible slog. But there's no real excuse for not doing it.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
I'd love to. There's an entire story available at: www.fennerjekyll.com/html/free_filth.html
Please tell us what you have planned next?
Planning isn't a strength of mine, to be honest. I was thinking I might take a walk in the park later - but that's about as far ahead as I can sensibly map my life out.
In 5 years, where do you see yourself? -In general and in you're writing career
Had you asked me five years ago where I saw my writing career five years hence, I'd've said, "Career? I get a career?" I still think that way. I'll keep writing as long as I enjoy it, and if people keep publishing what I write then I guess I'll look back one day and it'll appear that I had a career.
In general terms, I have no idea where I'll be in five years. As long as I'm not bored, I don't care much where I am.
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
Artistically, Joni Mitchell - who has always done exactly what she wanted to do but has still managed to keep her audience interested.
What do you do for inspiration?
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
Not until this afternoon - but then I came up with this great idea for a Sword'n'Sorcery Western.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
Not much, because I find it wearisome to find stuff out for no reason other than to write about it. I do it the other way round. I write about stuff that I happen to have found out.
Anyway, when you write erotica, it's very difficult to tell the difference between research and having fun.
Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
If I had a muse, I think she would just be irritated by deadlines.
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
I've never really submitted anything. Almost everything I've had published - in magazines, comics, e-books, print - has come about because a friend who saw something I'd done showed it to a woman who knew a guy who was a reader for an editor who. You get the picture. I've just been very lucky.
What would you like to tell your readers?
Have the very highest expectations of what you choose to read. Hunt down and kill any writer who doesn't live up to them.
What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
When I first started writing, I bought a book called 38 Mistakes That Writers Make, or something like that. Mistake #1, Sentence #1, Page #1 was `Don't kid yourself that there's something else you have to do before you can start writing'. I tossed the book into the trash and turned on the computer.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
If I knew how they finished, I'd have no reason to write them.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
The only critique group that matters is the readership. If people like the stuff, you get to hear about it. If they don't, there's no reaction but merciless silence.
What was your first published work and when was it published?
I'm not sure. I think it was a short story in a fetish magazine in Amsterdam. I remember being paid for it, but I don't think I ever saw it in print. It's possible that Inflatable Latex Goat-Mask Squirt-Queens Monthly never made it past one edition.
What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
The website is www.fennerjekyll.com, and there's a Contact Me page there. You can also enter a competition to have me write an erotic short story just for you.
Alternatively, you can write direct to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
The website's a good place to start. If you see anything about me anywhere else on the web, assume it's untrue until you hear otherwise from me. In fact, let me know what's being said about me. I do like a laugh.
Thank you for this opportunity!
Interviewed by Tammie King