PERSONAL: Female. Education: Attended Slade School of Fine Art.
ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Bloomsbury Publishing, 38 Soho Square, London W1D EHB, England.
Sex Education (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 2002.
Yellow (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 2004, Viking (New York, NY), 2005.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A new novel, set in the near future, that features a love triangle complicated by aspects of mystery and the supernatural.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist Janni Visman is the author of Yellow, a psychological thriller in which "claustrophobia, sexual obsession and paranoia are the linchpins" of the story, commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Stella, the protagonist of Yellow, is an aromatherapist and massage therapist who suffers from a litany of fears and phobias, including severe agoraphobia. She refuses to leave her apartment, and her entire world is contained within the walls of her London flat. Stella's clients come to her, and she has food and necessities delivered. Even Ivan, her boyfriend, is willing to coexist with Stella on her terms and within the boundaries of the world she has created for herself. "I wanted her various obsessions to be her 'magic' to keep the world (and herself) at bay," Visman remarked on the Backstory Web site.
Stella and Ivan decide to take their relationship to the next level, and he moves in with her. Part of the rules of cohabitation are that there will be no stories told about their past and no questions about anything that occurred before they met. However, Stella finds these rules too difficult to follow when Ivan begins wearing an identification bracelet inscribed with the initials "S.L."; a gift from a former lover with the same initials as Stella. She begins to ask about the other S.L., and her obsession with her grows into a strangely thrilling sexual game with Ivan. She enlists the aid of her sister, Skye, to follow Ivan around the city and report on what he does. Unexplained discoveries, such as a photograph of an unknown woman and a large sum of hidden cash, complicate matters. As the stress of the mystery exacerbates Stella's phobias and odd behaviors, she strives to transform herself into what she imagines the other S.L. to be. The reader is led to wonder if Ivan is really cheating on Stella, or if she is simply descending further into uncontrolled madness. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "captivating … but with a mordant hipness that marks the welcome U.S. debut of British novelist Visman."
Some critics responded well to Visman's storyline and writing style but found Stella to be a difficult character to embrace. A reviewer commented in Publishers Weekly that Visman delivers a well-written, taut narrative, "but Stella is too grating to hold readers' sympathy, even when she deserves it." Even Visman herself reacted to the unpleasantness that surrounded Stella; admitting that writing a novel with a character as dysfunctional as Stella was draining. "When I finally delivered the manuscript I was relieved no major rewrites were required," Visman remarked on the Backstory Web site. "I was so desperate to get out of Stella's head and her flat."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Herizons, fall, 2004, Jillian Ridington, review of Yellow, p. 34.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2005, review of Yellow, p. 450.
Library Journal, May 15, 2005, Elaine Bender, review of Yellow, p. 109.
Publishers Weekly, May 2, 2005, review of Yellow, p. 176.
Backstory, http://mjroseblog.typepad.com/backstory/ (October 9, 2005), interview with Janni Visman.
BookBrowse, http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (October 9, 2005), interview with Janni Visman.