Jon Ransom grew up in Norfolk. Queer and working-class, Jon is currently a mentee on the 2019 Escalator Talent Development scheme at the National Centre for Writing, revising his debut novel The Whale Tattoo – selected for the TLC/A.M. Heath Free Reads anthology. His short fiction has appeared in SAND Journal, Foglifter Press (Lambda Award Finalist – LGBTQ Anthology), Five:2:One, and others.
Your work has recently been featured in the A.M. Heath TLC Free Reads anthology, tell us a bit about that!
The Whale Tattoo is a novel about belief. Joe Gunner is in his early-twenties and works in a chip shop with Fit Lad, when a giant sperm whale washes up on the local beach and tells him that death follows wherever he goes. With no other choice he makes the fifteen mile trip home to figure out why. Coming home to the river won’t be easy when the water speaks to him. There, he is confronted with his dead sister, Birdee, Fysh – a troubled local fisherman he still has feelings for, and the arrival of a pregnant woman at his backdoor. Her name is Dora, and her secret will either ruin him, or save him. As Joe navigates his own story and learns the truth about the river, he finds we all have the capability to hate, and that we can all make the choice not to.
Having received a TLC:ACE Free Read early last year for The Whale Tattoo, I qualified as a previous recipient for the first ever TLC Free Reads Anthology, sponsored by A.M. Heath Literary Agents, as part of their centenary year initiatives. I was blown away to be one of twenty writers selected.
What have you been working on since then?
I’m outlining my second novel Roaring with Lions, about queer voices and the lengths we go to hide them. But mainly I’m revising The Whale Tattoo as part of the 2019 NCW Escalator mentorship scheme with Anjali Joseph.
Tell us a bit about your experience of taking part in the NCW Escalator mentorship scheme?
Working with Anjali is a brilliant opportunity for me. I’m working-class and don’t have an MA in Creative Writing. With hours waiting around, I initially started writing stories on my mobile phone while my parents where terminally ill in hospital. Now with Escalator, things are structured in that every six weeks I send Anjali a bunch of chapters and we talk about how my novel is progressing. It’s a little unreal having a successful author discuss my writing. At the moment, because the story has a somewhat surreal quality, we’re focusing on creating a balance of sorts between comfort and challenge for a reader, by anchoring Joe in everyday routine. It’s pretty exciting to see the writing grow and develop!
What would you say are the main benefits of mentoring for emerging writers?
Now in the final third of the Escalator scheme, it’s clear to see how a mentoring programme creates a unique and supportive space to explore my writing without any pressure. Our discussions help me believe that what I’m writing has value. Outside of a programme like Escalator, especially coming from a working-class background, it’s hard to measure your progress in any real way.
Favourite books at the moment?
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata.
History of Violence by Édouard Louis.
The TLC Free Read anthology launches on Thursday 5th September at the The Literary Consultancy in London.