Jennifer K. Oliver

Speculative Fiction Writer

Category: Personal: About Me

Writing What You Know

Researching your favourite places and writing what you know is one of the best parts of the writing process. I’m currently re-visiting a trip I took to India over a decade ago because some of the locations will feature in a story. I went to southern India for three months back in the year 2000 as part of a conservation programme. Honestly, I wanted to see a wild tiger, but I also wanted to do something completely different and it marked my first ever trip outside the UK.

I mostly lived in a small city called Puliangudi with a family who were volunteers on the programme. They made me and the other British girls feel like part of the family, and when I had photos taken towards the end of my stay, mummy lent me her wedding jewellery to wear. She also asked some of the girls from the local school to dress me in a lilac crepe sari and weave fresh jasmine flowers into my hair (because I would have made a complete hash of it if left to my own devices).

Alas, I didn’t get to see my wild tiger, though I did see a couple in captivity, as crocodiles, countless monkeys and birds, elephants and boars. Oh, and during a weekend excursion, a small island inhabited by lions whose roars drifted eerily across the lake to my hotel balcony at sunset.

One of the coolest things about staying in Puliangudi, apart from the amazing hospitality, was that I was close to the Ghat Mountains which run along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau—a 62,000 square mile deciduous rainforest. My most memorable place in the Ghats is Periyar National Park, where I could have happily stayed forever. I vividly remember taking the boat ride across Periyar Lake, barely blinking in case I missed the flick of an orange and black striped tail. Here is a video highlighting some of the area’s wildlife and flora.

Anyway, what I’m basically saying is that this is my favourite type of research because it takes me right back to that time. Sometimes I can almost smell the towns in the air, a mix of dust and cooking spices and heat and open sewers; there are so many great memories attached. I love that I can take my characters there and relive it.

I’m linking to the main theme to a Tamil political thriller movie I went to see while in Chennai (Madras). The movie was Mudhalvan and it was epic.

 Kurukku Chiruththavale, composed by A.R. Rahman.

Reblog: Tate Modern and the Damian Hirst Exhibition

I am reblogging this from an old journal. In 2012 I visited the Tate Modern while in London and saw the Damian Hirst exhibition. I’ve never been the biggest fan of (a lot of) modern art, so I was dubious going in, but open to try it and hopeful that I’d come away with a newfound appreciation. Well, I did. Mostly. The exhibition was interesting and beautiful and grotesque and frustrating all at the same time. Not all of the pieces worked for me, but a couple of them worked strongly enough that I came away with a general good feeling. I’m still not sure if modern art is my thing, though I’m much more amenable to giving it a whirl.

Pieces that were hits: the shark, the butterfly room and Black Sun.

Pieces that did not hit: The medicine cabinets lost their charm after the third or fourth. I get that our bodies ultimately fail us, and they may have provided a thematic thread through the whole exhibition. But! I didn’t need three roomfuls of this. And I admit, as much as I loved the concept of the butterfly room, I could only stick it for about three minutes before I had to duck out (literally). A lot of them were tropical butterflies and they were bloody humungous! One landed on my head as I went in and gave me the wiggins.

He’s very focused on birth/health and death/decay. You go from the butterfly room, with its canvas-lined walls embedded with pupae that the butterflies hatch from and carry out their life cycle, to the black sun room which is a gigantic mural made of dead flies caught in resin. Yum.

Another piece of note—one I’m still not sure whether I liked or not—is A Thousand Years. A massive glass box houses a smaller white box filled with hidden maggots. These maggots are continuously hatching into flies, which fly out of the white box and feed on a severed cow’s head. There’s also an electric insect-o-cuter in the box which draws many of the flies and obliterates them. Others just die naturally—they litter the floor like a black carpet. I must say, I felt a bit squiggly looking at that one. Plus, you could smell this faint undercurrent of flies and rotting cow’s head. Conceptually, it’s a well-executed piece.

Mother’s Day Creativity 2018

My mother always loved that I made her cards in school when I was little. This is something I’ve never grown out of and I still try to make her cards whenever I have time. To mark Mother’s Day 2018, I spent Saturday afternoon making cards. One is for my mum and one is for my boyfriend’s mum.

Mother's Day Cards

My mum loves cats and sparkles, and my boyfriend’s mum loves labrador dogs (she got sparkles too, regardless of whether or not she loves them). Can you guess which card belongs to whom? We took my mother out for lunch and gave her the cat card, then went to see Jon’s mum afterwards. I’m so happy they like the designs.

Materials used: card stock, a glue gun, brush pens and some diamantes that I originally bought for my fingernails.

Graphic Design for Writers

My graphic design website has had an overhaul, with an updated portfolio and option to contact me using a contact form. Graphic design is a huge part of my life. It is my day job, an on-the-side freelance business, as well as something I do for pleasure. I prefer graphic design for writers and can create logos, infographics, as well as story and book covers. I’m going to share a few of my graphics here over the next few weeks, but if you are already interested check out my alter-ego J. Oliver Designs.

This first design was made for fun, simply because I a) love bunnies, b) love texture and vibrant colour, and c) wanted to try my hand at creating a mandala. I’m rather proud of the outcome. The texture used in the background was also custom-made by me for this design. It’s available to download as a texture on my Instagram. Eventually I plan to have a dedicated resources section on my other website for textures and vectors, so keep an eye out!

Run Rabbit Mandala | Adobe Illustrator CC

J. Oliver Designs

Run Rabbit Mandala by J. Oliver Designs

Meme: Seven Things About Me

This is a re-post of an old blog entry from 2011. All of it is still relevant (the past hasn’t changed) and I thought I’d share a few things about me in case anyone who has read my stories or seen me on social media is curious. Originally I was tagged by Helen Ginger at Straight From Hel to do the Seven Things About Yourself meme. Here are mine.

1. I have two tattoos. The first I got during the summer of 2000, and is of the Indian symbol for OM. I chose this because I spent a blissful three months in India and while there got a henna tattoo. Once I returned home I decided to have the henna version immortalised with a real one, a memory of my time travelling. My second tattoo I got a year later and is a small black and red dragon on my stomach, but alas, I do not have photos.

2. When I was thirteen I wrote a short story about a murderous demon dentist. This says a great deal about my feelings toward going to the dentist at the time. Those feelings haven’t changed much over the years–I still hate it and get that nervous wibbly feeling beforehand.

3. I spent my 20th birthday riding an elephant through a jungle in southern India. Best, and bumpiest, birthday ever.

4. An ex-boyfriend had a star named after me when we were together. I have a chart and certificate and everything; it’s something I just can’t throw out. If you’re wondering where the star can be found it’s 47m13s +19°34’43, in the Pisces constellation (apparently).

5. My first job when I was 15 was as a kennel maid at a boarding kennel and cattery. I basically got paid to walk, feed, groom, and snuggle dogs all day during school holidays and at weekends. It remains one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

6. When I was but a wee young thing, I would remove a small drain cover outside my house and dangle my feet down the well. My parents have photos of me doing this. It signalled a lifelong love affair with water. Sadly, I also lost a wind-up toy fish originally intended for bath times, which wasn’t so great.

7. Possibly my favourite book of all time is The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. To me, it is unadulterated epic dark fantasy, unhindered by pasted-on romance and silly narrative devices. For this reason, I can forgive its sometimes long-winded descriptive passages. Jack Sawyer and Richard Sloat are two of my favourite coming-of-age characters, and their pure, bittersweet friendship moves me every time I read it. And lovely, loyal Wolf! Wolf! I was devastated by the sequel Black House (not even going to link to it). It was like reading a book from an entirely different fictionverse.

Feel free to take this meme and run with it on your own blog. Drop a link here too and I’ll check it out.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén