Foolish Heroines by June Wentland

by Valley Press

I am so pleased to welcome June to my blog today!

  1. Hello June! Thanks so much for chatting to me today. ‘Foolish Heroines’ is your debut novel – how long had you been sculpting the novel before you found the right home for it, and what was that process of publication like?

It took me years to sculpt the novel into its final form. The first draft was quite different to the published book, for instance there were some characters who were edited out. In  my head they still exist going about their business in the story world but nobody in the ‘real world’ knows about them. One of them is a woman called Cooper who’s a jewellery maker. Well, now you know about her too!

The process of publication was exciting. Jo Haywood, my editor, was great. We got on really well from the start and the whole process felt fun and collaborative. That’s probably one of the advantages of being published by a small press.              

  1. What was the editing process like for you – what major changes did the novel go through once accepted for publication by Valley Press?

I thought I’d edited the novel to within an inch of its life before I sent it to Valley Press but of course it still needed more! We started with a ‘structure edit’. Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot that needed doing for this so that was the easy part. Then we moved on to the ‘line edit’. I think we went through this process about three times. This involved my editor going through the whole manuscript suggesting edits and then me making changes. It’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes picks up especially when those eyes are as keen as Jo’s.

  1. I know you’re not supposed to have favourites, but which character from ‘Foolish Heroines’ was the most fun to write and develop – and why?

Lily. She’s so open to new ideas and develops so much during the story. She’s full of optimism. I think it’s a bit nosy to ask someone their age so I’ve never ‘asked’ Lily how old she is but she’s probably in her eighties. It’s inspiring that after so many years of living a self-denying life she starts to blossom again and not only change her own life but helps other younger women change their lives too.

If you had to spend a day with a character from the book, who would you choose?

Fatima. I’m intrigued by her ‘biographies’. I’m also going to cheat a bit and say that I’d like to spend that time with her in Lily’s forest. It would be so exciting to step in amongst those otherworldly trees and I’d also get to meet Lily who might provide us with one of her incredible mouth- watering picnics. I’d love to know what sugar-apple flummery tastes like and guava and honey tartlets with chocolate marshmallow sauce!

‘Foolish Heroines’ contrasts the strange with the reassuring – you suggest the book should be consumed with a cuppa and a biscuit, but what’s the perfect biscuit pairing for this weird and wonderful tale?

I’m a great fan of marzipan. As far as I know there are no biscuits that incorporate marzipan but I think there ought to be. If you know of a marzipan biscuit,  please let me know or if you’re a keen baker please, please invent one. It would be an unusual biscuit but in a wonderful way!

  1. Lastly, what’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

When I was doing my Creative Writing M.A. at Bath Spa University and I felt stuck with my writing, one of my tutors said that I should disentangle myself from the work and gain distance from it by imagining myself walking along a beach and discovering a chest that’s been washed up by the sea. Inside is my manuscript but it’s been written by a stranger and I’m reading it for the first time. This really helped and I often use this strategy now.