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Joanna Quinn Books In Order

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Publication Order of Joanna Quinn Standalone Novels

The Whalebone Theatre (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Joanna Quinn
Joanna Quinn was born in 1976 in London. When she was seven years old, Joanna moved with her sister and mother to Dorset. She wrote stories as a child, with her first published work being inspired by Dorset, this story called “Kestrel” which won a WH Smith Young Writers Award when she was just 12.

Joanna, after studying English Literature at Salford University, worked as a journalist in the West Country, as she completed her Mphil in Creative Writing at the University of South Wales. She wrote short stories and was published by The White Review, the Bridport Prize, the Bristol Short Story Prize, Comma Press, and others. Joanna was also a Jerwood/Arvon mentee and a finalist for the National Arts Foundation Fellowship for Short Stories.

While she was working for a charity in 2013, she started a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University in London, and, as part of this, started writing a novel. During the lockdown of 2020, she heard that Clare Alexander (a literary agent) was looking for submissions. Despite the fact the novel was still unfinished by this point, Joanna was taken on by Clare and finished her manuscript during the pandemic.

The manuscript would become “The Whalebone Theatre” which was the subject of a four-way bidding war early in 2021. It was published in 2022 in both the US and the UK and became an instant bestseller in both countries, and has been sold to fourteen territories all around the world. The novel was shortlisted for The Authors’ Club Best First Novel award, Best Debut Fiction at the British Book Awards, and The Society of Authors McKitterick Prize. The book was a Waterstones Book of the Month in August of 2023.

Joanna lives in Dorset, where the novel is set. The place is still pretty traditional place in many ways; there are still small cottages and traditional manor houses, so they are sort of a familiar part of the scenery. She had always wanted to write a novel, but could not think of what to write about. She read this social history novel, actually, that was about this small village in Dorset, which got her thinking about writing something about her home country even though she had never thought about it before. It went pretty quickly after that, really.

Joanna wanted to set it in a large house, and during the start of the 20th century since it is just such an interesting time period. She always likes reading about the wars and the time in between wars. But she wanted to write primarily about women. There are so many big house stories that are about boys and men, and the entire exterior and interior of this big house are designed to promote and celebrate men. She thought that she would like to write a big house story which has women in it.

She read Jane Austen while she was pregnant. While she was pregnant, she was incredibly anxious, however nothing bad is ever going to happen with Jane Austen, which is why Austen tidies things up for Cristabel in “Whalebone”. Nobody is ever going to die suddenly or terribly; it is only perfectly formed lovely stories. There is such a comfort in this.

For this novel, Joanna thinks (and it might have been unconscious), there were an awful lot of books she read as a child in there, something that she only realized after she had written it. She didn’t do it on purpose; they just came out of her. Probably a bit of “Little Women” and E. Nesbit. Lucy M. Boston did a series called “The Children of Green Knowe”, about these kids growing up in a 17th century house.

Joanna had never written a novel before, so she didn’t really know what she was doing, which is probably a good thing, actually. She had the idea that she wanted to do a post-Victorian childhood, post-World War I, she knew that she wanted that. She knew that she wanted some stuff during the 1920s which would be bohemian-ish, and she knew that she wanted something in Paris.

This gave her three markers in her head, and she was going to attempt to fit them together. However because she was working full time when she started writing the novel, and had just had a baby and had zero brain space. So she was up late at night doing things. She was working in these chapter chunks, which was only as far as she would see. She would be shaping a single object instead of thinking of something that was a long chain. The work at the end of the novel was putting stuff through in order to make sure there were through lines too.

“The Whalebone Theatre” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2022. This is the tale of this old English manor house located by the sea, with its crumbling chimneys, a library filled with dusty hardbacks, and draping ivy. This is the story about the three kids that grow up there, and the adventures that they create for themselves as the grown ups entertain never ending party guests: the worlds they imagine from books that they’re not supposed to be reading, and the lessons they learn from eavesdropping through the oak panelled doors.

It’s the story about a whale that washes up on a beach, whose bones get claimed by this twelve year old girl with some big ambitions and even bigger imagination. This unwanted orphan that grows up into an unmarriageable woman, who chafes under the confines of her traditional upbringing and fiercely determined to do some things differently.

However while these kids grow into adulthood, there is another story that has been unfolding in the wings. And once the war takes center stage, they find themselves being cast, unrehearsed, into some roles that they never expected to play.

They raised themselves on stories. But now it is time for them to write their own.

Joanna’s circus playfulness of her language, the old story about the great house being dazzlingly refreshed, the witty eye, the kind heart, the deeper understanding about a girl’s need to be the hero of her own life; it’s a novel which will be loved unreasonably and life-long.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Joanna Quinn

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