Jenny Quintana grew up in Essex and Berkshire, before studying English Literature in London. She has taught in London, Seville and Athens and has also written books for teaching English as a foreign language. She is a graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative writing course. She lives with her family in Berkshire. The Missing Girl is her first novel.
Hello Jenny! Many thanks again for agreeing to answer some questions for our Ink Pantry readers. Many are aspiring authors and I’m sure they will learn a great deal from your experiences. May I start by asking you about your childhood literary influences and what books in particular gripped your attention?
I was lucky enough to have parents who took me to the library when I was a child and bought me books, which meant I gained an early passion for reading. I loved Little Women, What Katy Did, The Famous Five, Malory Towers. I moved on to Agatha Christie and when I was twelve, wrote my first novel called The Imposter. It was a detective story influenced by Agatha Christie, of course. My dad marked it and gave me an A. I went from there to Thomas Hardy, the Brontës and Shakespeare and all the classics which I loved.
At what age did you begin writing seriously, in the knowledge that this could become a career, rather than a hobby, Jenny?
I wrote stories from a very early age, but confidence stopped me from believing that I had anything worthwhile to say, and then circumstance – work, family and other commitments – gained more importance. However, the need to write didn’t go away and in my early thirties after I had my first child, I felt that I would be forever unfulfilled if I didn’t do something about it. I joined a local creative writing group and started writing short stories. I entered competitions, had some success, and that spurred me on to start my first novel.
Your 2017 début novel, The Missing Girl, (published by Mantle Books) attracted a lot of positivity from the literary world. Can you tell us more about how the seeds of the idea began for this novel, and how long it took to piece everything together? Also, how daunting was this project initially?
The characters in The Missing Girl came to me first. Two sisters – the younger one, Anna, idolizing the older, more popular and outgoing, Gabriella. I imagined what they were like and put them in the context of their family and the village where they lived. I decided the story would be from Anna’s point of view and then considered what was going to happen. By then I had written two unpublished novels and was beginning to understand what themes and ideas I wanted to explore. I was interested in ordinary people who are affected by tragic events and how they manage to make sense of them. I considered what it would be like if Gabriella went missing. Often in news stories we mostly see the effects a missing child has on the adults of the family, but what must it be like for the siblings? How heartbreaking for a child to not know where their brother or sister has gone and whether they will ever come home? I