UPSTAGED! is out today! Congratulations to all our wonderful authors who had a hand in creating this anthology. It's been my privilege to work with these writers, and I hope we've created something for readers to treasure.
Today's interview is with Kathleen Jowitt, an author I've admired since my introduction to her work. Her novel Speak Its Name, about the reconciling of faith and queerness, is on my favorites list. In UPSTAGED!, Ms. Jowitt takes us to the opera in her historical short story, "Prima Donna."
What inspired you to write your latest story?
My story Prima Donna appears in Supposed Crimes' anthology Upstaged: an anthology of women who love women in performing arts. When I saw the call for submissions I knew immediately what I wanted to write.
For a long time I've been fascinated by the operatic tradition of travesti, where women singers sang the parts of male characters, and this was universally accepted. This meant that, in the early nineteenth century, two women could appear on stage together as a romantic couple, no questions asked.
Then there are all the stereotypes associated with opera singers – that they're jealous, temperamental, distrustful of other women, and so on. I enjoyed taking those apart one by one. And the love/hate/fidelity/betrayal themes and alternative endings of Rossini's Tancredi felt like the ideal backdrop to explore those ideas.
Tell us a little about any upcoming projects.
Since self-publishing my latest book, A Spoke In The Wheel, I've been giving myself a couple of months off, but I'm just about to start work on two novels. One is a sequel to my first book, Speak its Name, picking up the action a couple of years down the line when the characters have finished their undergraduate degrees and are navigating a PhD and the Church of England vocations process respectively. I joke that I'm thinking of calling it Scandal and Folly. It sounds like a bodice ripper but it's actually a New Testament reference. Scandalous. Actually, it feels weirdly appropriate for the subject matter.
The other is a modern-day Ruritanian thriller. The Prisoner of Zenda is one of my favourite books, and at this volatile moment of European history I'm interested in exploring a fictional country to see what it looks like there.
Having two major projects on the go at once is a new departure for me – we'll see how it works out!
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Speak Its Name was the first self-published book ever to be shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize, which is awarded to the best debut novel by an author under the age of 35. That puts it on the same list as, for example, Tipping The Velvet and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Any time I'm feeling downhearted about my writing career, I remind myself that I have literally made history. A very small part of history, but still history.
Reusable or disposable grocery bags?
Reusable – or else none at all, and I end up with all my groceries rattling around in the front basket of my bicycle.
What are you currently wearing?
A short, sleeveless dress with a double helix pattern in blue and green from Svaha USA, and no shoes.
Do the people in your life know about your writing?
I used to keep it quiet, but since I won a Betty Trask Award everybody knows!
About Kathleen Jowitt:
Kathleen Jowitt is an author and trade union officer. Her first novel, Speak Its Name, was shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize, which is awarded to the best debut by an author under the age of 35, in 2017. She lives in Cambridge, UK, and enjoys train travel, long walks, and live music.