Some Thoughts with ... Jane Hennigan

21 Mar 2023

The Author/s

Jane Hennigan

Jane Hennigan

Jane is a forty-something mother of two living in Surrey in the UK. She finally made it to university at the age of thirty-four, studying philosophy and English literature. After graduating, Jane began teaching English and philosophy, squeezing her passion for writing into any spare time she could find.

The Interview

1.- What inspired you to create the world of Moths?
It started with a love for the apocalypse. I don’t know why, as a kid, I was obsessed (possibly something to do with the cold war at the time) but for ten-year-old me, the end of the world was a case of when - not if. I read Stephen King’s The Stand when I was in my early teens and I think that every apocalyptic book or TV show I've consumed since then has been an attempt to re-experience the feeling of reading that novel - that heady mixture of the personal stories played out against the apocalyptic background. The notion of dismantling the patriarchy and engaging with gender politics came as a reaction to my own experiences growing up in the eighties and nineties and the experiences of my female friends and family. I was frustratingly aware of the double standards and the way I was expected to manage sexism rather than call it out - how it seemed that I was responsible for the actions and feelings of the men around me.

2.- How would you say the COVID pandemic influenced you in your writing process?
The fantasy of an apocalypse and its reality are very far apart. In 2019, I was thoroughly enjoying writing and editing a story about a plague. When COVID hit, I completely went off my story. For most of COVID, I worked on something else - something lighter and more fantastical. But at the beginning of 2021, I went back to editing Moths and, of course, by that time I was able to add in a lot more about what would happen as a world-changing event spread across the globe, how governments might react, what life would be like in those first terrifying, bewildering days.

3.- Moths was first self-published, and after that, it was picked by Angry Robot Books. Could you tell us a little bit more about the process behind the scenes?
I tried to get an agent in 2021 but at the time, books about a pandemic were not very popular with agents or publishers. I had no luck and so decided to go it alone. I really enjoyed self-publishing - it’s dynamic and you have full control over the process. Moths did surprisingly well, and when I uploaded a pre-order for its sequel, Toxxic, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of readers who seemed invested enough in the world I'd created to want to buy a second novel. However, I was unable to get the novel into book shops and my social media presence was really only set up for personal use - even now I’ve not ‘grown’ my social media platforms to the extent that makes a large difference to selling my novels. In December 2021, six months after I first published, I was approached by a TV production company. At that point a friend of mine suggested I contact Mushens Entertainment and explain the situation. Liza DeBlock at Mushens read the novel, loved it, and took me on as a client. She secured a two-book deal with Angry Robot Books in August 2022 and here we are. Moths was published on the 14th of March - Angry Robot took care of the launch which was a whirlwind. Last year we had to pull the preorder of Toxxic from Amazon, but aim to release it in March 2024.

4.- Moths is told in a dual timeline. How has this changed the process of writing it?
I wrote the different character’s flashback scenes in one chunk - I didn’t alternate between characters or timelines. Each is like its own mini-story. I then spliced them all in afterwards. There was a lot to consider regarding consistencies - characters' ages then and now, for example. What I found really interesting is writing the segways into the flashbacks. Mary is an older protagonist - in her seventies - so I leaned into that and had her mind wander off into memories, or she fell asleep and that would be when a flashback would occur. I tried to make it so that each flashback or present section finished with the reader wanting to know more. Hopefully, they were a little disappointed being dragged away from that section, but also pleased that they would rejoin a storyline that had been left in a tense situation. 

5.- Mary as an MC is kinda uncommon. Why did you choose her as the main character?
As mentioned, Mary is in her seventies. I wanted a character to show continuity over the 40 years since the infestation. I also wanted that character to have sons, as this would have the most impact on the character. These days seventy is no longer considered ancient. Many seventy-year-olds play a full and active part in society and often, especially older women, lack positive dynamic representation in books, TV, and film. That being said, Mary is no superhero. She has bad knees, an aching back, and her choice to pursue the truth costs her a lot physically. Also, she is living in a world that is vastly different from the one in which she was raised. The younger women in the present time, her colleagues at work, have no concept of a world where men were powerful. They have no fear of men and no desire to please men other than to fulfil their duties as carers. I needed a character old enough to appreciate the irony of the world in which she found herself. 

6.- Which books would you recommend to somebody that has enjoyed your book?
The Stand, as mentioned - also Alderman’s The Power. Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness is a very nuanced look at gender, and for the best creepy end-of-the-world vibes try Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind.

7.- Okay, so Moths was released recently. How did it feel the traditional publishing release of your book? How have those days been?
Fantastic - I’m having a ball. I’ve done readings, been on blog tours, and tweeted and posted more than I ever have before on social media. There is nothing like holding your traditionally published book in your hand for the first time. And when people come to me wanting me to sign their copy - it blows my mind and I forget how to use a pen.

8.- What can we expect from Jane Hennigan in the future?
Toxxic - is due for release in March 2024. The sequel to Moths follows what happens when a small section of men are allowed out of their confinement and into the matriarchal community nearby. Initially thrilled to be free - they are heartbroken to discover that they are not wholly welcome. In fact, they are met with resentment, discrimination, and mistrust, and some women will go to extreme lengths to ensure that progress in men’s integration is abandoned. The novel reflects a reversal of toxic masculinity and scrutinizes societal predispositions and prejudices concerning gender, particularly the perceived risk posed by non-traditional gender identities.