Harry Hartog Booksellers have been facilitating events on Zoom between writers in a weekly series called, Conversation With Harry Hartog. On Thursday, May 7, we sat in on a conversation between writer and musician Pip Smith and author Jo Lennan.
Jo Lennan is the author of In The Time Of Foxes, her first book, a collection of short stories published by Scriber. Each of these stories are connected through the motif of the Fox. In some of the stories, it features actual foxes and in others there is a metaphorical link to foxes, like a saying or myth or folklore. She wrote a third of the book before the motif of the fox appeared to her, the rest of the book was written in five months.
Jo Lennan spoke about what drew her to foxes as a way to connect her stories. Some of her stories feature themes of survival, adaptation and displacement. The fox resonates with benevolence, and how you deal with people and events in your life. The fox as a symbol wants you to know that you possess a physical and mental responsiveness that makes you escape even the trickiest situations.
”Foxes are interesting proxies in the world. They are urban and feral and wild animals and like humans they are successful colonisers. And when that clicked it became a lot easier to write the rest of the book,” Jo Lennan said.
Having the idea of the fox as some kind of prompt was useful for the writer. Jo finds a usefulness to having some level of restraint, it afforded her a rigidity that wasn’t artificial so that it ended up being too controlled. The illusion of the fox is infinite, which can be taken in many directions.
There is a difference between writing for the reader and writing to establish oneself as a writer and this comes across in this collection of short stories. This comes across in the story that is set on Mars. A science-fiction story that is really intimatly about a protagonist who finds out a cancer has returned and is grappling with the idea of how to live with this knowledge.
“I set this story deliberately, on a Mars like planet. I wrote this while having treatment for cancer and short on time. This made me less precious in terms of what I needed to write. It freed me from the voice in my head and allowed me to write in a different way to who I am. It has a lightness to it, some satire and humour,” Jo said.
In The Time Of Foxes features many characters who are displaced. They are not native to the place they are living in. This displacement is there because Jo wanted to write about characters that are familiar to our lives, there is a sense of mobility to having family in different parts of the world.
“I am interested in life’s puzzles that one will encounter, there has to be an element of curiosity, something that is unsolved that stays with me. I will build a story around that, write it out, step back after the first draft and look at what kind of story this is. I would edit it accordingly and sharpen it and make it evident on the page,” Jo said.
We came into this not knowing what to expect. We weren’t familiar with Jo’s work or her collection of short stories, In The Time Of Foxes. By the end of the conversation we had learnt about what it is like being connected during this pandemic and owning a copy of this book for ourselves.
You can order your copy of, In The Time Of Foxes by Jo Lennan from Harry Hartog Booksellers. Check out their website to find out more about upcoming events with authors and writers as part of the weekly Conversations Tith Harry Hartog.