The debut novel by Oxfordshire author Amanda Jennings has KATHERINE MACALISTER clamouring for more

Amanda Jennings’ speech is as frantic and exciting as her new book, drawing you into her world until you’re utterly absorbed. Published this month, Sworn Secret is her first novel, and having stayed up until 3am reading it, I can vouch for its page-turning abilities, and twisting, diving plot.

And yet this Oxfordshire mum-of three, above, is utterly bemused by all the fuss surrounding the book launch, not that she was ever going to be anything other than an author, because writing was always going to be her future.

Unable to contain herself, Amanda, now 40, has been scribbling away at home since she gave up her day job as a BBC researcher to bring up her three daughters, now aged 14, 10, and six.

Living in Binfield Heath with her husband Chris, the writing was on the wall (no pun intended) when she scribed her first and second novels when her children were tiny. “Wherever we were and whenever they were asleep, I would write, whether it was in Sainsbury’s car park or on the side of a road. I snatched every spare second. And my husband has been amazing. “He would take the girls away for the weekend so I could write. But I do tend to leave the washing up,” she laughs.

Not that success has been immediate. The Cambridge graduate confesses that her first novel was so bad she wouldn’t let anyone read it, and her second was only good enough to find an agent. “I think it’s a familiar story of being rejected and not giving up,” she says. But it was her third attempt, Sworn Secret, that had the publishers chasing her.

And when you consider the macabre plot; a family whose lives are torn apart when their eldest daughter dies after falling off a roof, it’s an interesting subject matter for a stay-at-home mum. “I know it’s dark,” she shrugs. “But I had just had to imagine how awful it would be. And I wanted to write about sisters and sibling positioning. And yet it’s still somewhat of a taboo subject. “So while some people might call me a fraud for not having been through it myself, I doubt I would have been able to write about it if I had.”

The plot thickens of course, as with any good thriller, as Amanda totally lost herself in the characters. So how did she manage this while bringing up a family? “I wouldn’t lock myself away, but I learned to write while I was with the kids. I basically taught myself to write anywhere, anytime, and so could equally as easily stop mid-sentence to go and fix them some lunch or help with their homework, as I could re-immerse myself again afterwards,” she says.

I for one can’t wait for her next book, which is already underway and involves two brothers unearthing a dark family secret. More than that Amanda won’t disclose, but I’m already there, waiting to read the first page, and you can’t ask a first time author for more than that.

  • Sworn Secret by Amanda Jennings, right, is published in August by
    Canvas and is priced £7.99. See