Author Jenny Boyd: “I would like to inspire a movement that encourages creativity within us all”
I had always written poems ever since I can remember, in little books beside my bed or on scraps of paper, but I never thought of them as anything other than a tool I used to express myself.
Jenny Boyd has been on a journey of introspection since the time she had a front row view of the Swinging ‘60’s in London. Raised in Kenya, she, along with her sister Pattie, were among London’s top fashion models and witnessed the evolving British music scene first hand. As Beatle George Harrison’s sister-in-law (and later Eric Clapton’s as well), Jenny accompanied The Beatles on their well-documented trip to India to study meditation, worked in The Beatles’ London shop Apple, helped run a clothing boutique in San Francisco’s North Beach during the momentous “Flower Power” era and became part of the chaotic 1970’s travelling circus that was Fleetwood Mac while married to the band’s Mick Fleetwood (twice).
A published author with a Ph.D in Human Behavior, Boyd’s Ph.D dissertation culminated in a book about musicians and their approach to creativity. It was originally published in America and Japan in 1992 and was updated and reissued in the UK and the U.S. as IT’S NOT ONLY ROCK ’N’ ROLL in 2014.
Jenny Boyd’s new memoir, JENNIFER JUNIPER: A journey beyond the muse (yes, she also was Donovan’s inspiration for the song), will be published on March 26 by Urbane Publications in which she details her extraordinary life as sister, friend, wife, mother and observer of some of the pivotal events of the 20th Century.
For more than 25 years, Jenny has lived in England and worked as a consultant for an addictions treatment center in Arizona. At the same time, she founded Spring Workshops, organizing psychotherapeutic groups for people in need of personal development. She has two grown children, two grandchildren and lives with her architect husband in London. Jenny Boyd now devotes her time to writing and is a sought-after speaker on the subject of musicians, pop culture, and creativity.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
The year was 1948, and I was 9 months old when my mother and father decided to move from England to Kenya with their three small children. The British government was offering grants at the time for people to farm the land. We lived near Lake Nakuru, covered almost entirely by pink flamingos, and the hippos would often make their way into our garden at night. Memories of this wild beautiful country have stayed with me always and have kindled a love of wide open spaces, big skies and horizons that go on forever. My father was suffering from what is known now as PTSD, having been a bomber pilot during the second World War. While taking off one night with his plane fully loaded with bombs, he had a head-on collision with another plane, both at opposite ends of the runway, and both having been given the green light for take off simultaneously. The planes collided, the bombs went off and my father was one of the few survivors, but was left with severe burns. My memories of him are of a man who rarely spoke, often staring at walls, and a sinister looking glove covering his left hand. My mother had another child during the six years we lived in Kenya, and although we older ones were looked after by a nanny, we were pretty feral. Once we all (except for my father, but including a new stepfather) moved back to England, I felt like a stranger in a strange land.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Because of my disruptive childhood, I became very introverted and hardly spoke (except to my siblings), which was not helped by our new stepfather, who, once we returned to England, had become a frightening bully. Once I learned to write, it became the most direct way for me to connect to my feelings and the best way to express them. At the age of seven or eight, I remember writing a very simple poem about a lion. It was my first experience of how writing can also bring you joy.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I had always written poems ever since I can remember, in little books beside my bed or on scraps of paper, but I never thought of them as anything other than a tool I used to express myself. When Mick Fleetwood and I got married in 1970, we moved, along with the rest of Fleetwood Mac, to a communal house in Hampshire. I would listen to Danny Kirwan (their guitarist at the time) playing his guitar in the rehearsal room day after day, singing la la la, beautiful melodies, but without words. Finally, having somehow found out from Mick that I wrote poems, he asked me if he could look at them. He chose one called ‘The Purple Dancer’ to put music to, and it was recorded on the B-side of one of Fleetwood Mac’s singles. Although I was never credited, I felt very proud that one of my poems had seen the light of day!!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was 10 or 11, my classmates and I were given a homework assignment to make up a story. I put my heart and soul into this assignment, following my young protagonist every step of the way, shivering in the cold with him as he pushed his finger into the dike and saved the whole village from flooding. I was so proud of my story, and when I stood up the following day and read it out to the class, sure that everyone would be as impressed as I was, I was told by the teacher that it was plagiarism. I didn’t know what that word meant, but knew it wasn’t the reaction I’d hoped for. And so with my burst bubble and my burning face, I sat down.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
After many years, through blood, sweat and tears, and at one point only having one eye that worked, I have finally completed my memoir!: ‘Jennifer Juniper: A journey beyond the muse’. My story has changed over the years. It began as a memoir, and then it became a psychological look at the relationship between fathers and daughters, then a thinly disguised novel, until finally I went back to writing a memoir, but with a difference. When the hardbound copy of the final proof arrived, I was ecstatic! I thought of all the years, the determination and tenacity that had seen me through all the re-writing and all the rejections from publishers. Nothing could put out the flame of my determination to get my story out into the world in whatever form it took. It was a driving force that held me in its grip, and nothing was going to deter me. I also recently joined a singing/songwriting group. We meet up one day a month for a year. Within that time, each one of us writes our own song — lyrics and melody — records it and sings it to family and friends at the end of the year. In the past, singing to anyone or anything other than the car radio would have made me cringe with embarrassment, but for the last couple of years, I’ve pushed my comfort zone and lived to tell the tale!!
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film, television and music? How can that potentially affect our culture?
One of the great gifts of film, television and music is its capacity to connect audiences to other cultures and different perspectives, to create an understanding of each other and to accept these differences. We are all influenced by film, music and television and so it is through the entertainment industry that we can begin to eradicate the biases and creating of stereotypes. A lack of representation of different types is isolating, and it causes a feeling of being different, marginalized groups need to know they are included as a regular part of the world. The entertainment industry has the opportunity more than any other form of communication to include diversity amongst characters in terms of race, religion, sexual orientation; minority groups.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Because my book is a memoir, I could tell you the things I wish someone had told me about life, but then again, because I wasn’t told, many of the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned (although hard at the time) gave way to golden opportunities I might never have had if I’d taken the sensible and well-trodden route. It depends what you do with those mistakes, and how you use them to give meaning to your life. What part does fate play or timing? I left school prematurely at age 16 without finishing my 6th form year. I got head hunted by two fashion designers in Carnaby Street (Foale and Tuffin) who were looking for a House Model to show their collection. After meeting them after school, I was told I had the job. I don’t remember telling my recently divorced mother, who was too busy bringing up the rest of my siblings. I just left school, and although that job led me to being a well-known photographic model in the “swinging 60’s,” it stopped me from continuing my education. I took drugs and alcohol in the heady Fleetwood Mac years, which I soon realised didn’t suit me. I wish I’d been told don’t do drugs, but then I used the positive side of this mistake (if there is one) during the twenty-something years I worked in the addiction field, doing assessments, talking to addicts about going into treatment, all the things I felt passionate about. I became the helper, through helping others, that I didn’t have for myself, but it was at quite a cost. I wish someone had told me as a child that they believed in me. It would have given me more confidence as I was growing up. I wish someone had told me to keep working or doing your own thing when you’re in a relationship. When Mick and I first started living together, I was offered a job with Vogue Magazine, but Mick wanted me free to go on tour with him, and so my sense of self worth and sense of identity were not easily located.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Be kind to others, and be true to yourself. Also, I wrote a book about musicians and the creative process where I interviewed 75 iconic musicians about their creativity. One of the questions I asked was did they think we all had the ability to be creative, and every one of them said a resounding “Yes!” I would like to inspire a movement that encouraged creativity within us all.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I first met my future-husband, David Levitt, on a trek in Nepal in 1995, I didn’t know that he would be the one, after my many years in the rock and roll world, who would be so instrumental with his on-going support of me as a person that allowed me to do the things I felt passionate about, and that was my writing.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My former brother-in-law George Harrison spoke my favourite “Life Lesson Quote.” I was in a car with my sister Pattie and George. We were on our way back from Bangor in Wales where we’d been staying at the Maharishi conference with the rest of The Beatles. It was when we’d heard that The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, had died that we cut our visit short, and each of the Beatles headed for home. We all felt very sad. The car stopped in London to let me out. Just as I was about to close the car door, George jumped out and a said to me, “Would you like to come to Maharishi’s ashram in India with us all in January?” I couldn’t believe it, a dream come true! “How can I ever repay you?” I asked. “Just be yourself.” George said. This has been my “Life Lesson Quote,” and it is the story of my book: the journey to finding myself.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with the Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. I have read many of her books, some more than once, and she is one of my heroes.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!