Today on Meet the Author we’re talking to the lovely Jennifer Peacock-Smith…..
Memoir and non-fiction
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Jennifer Peacock-Smith was born in South Africa in the late sixties to passionate parents struggling to find their place and to make a difference in their worlds of apartheid, feminism, and strict religion. Little Jenny quickly found herself falling through the cracks in their battle to be different, better, and “cleverer” than those before them or around them, and her mother’s fight to break the moulds. Born a girl instead of a boy, bubbly instead of serious, fun and talented instead of academic, everything about her was “wrong”.
Neglect doesn’t always look like dirty or starved or diseased or beaten. Neglect is chronic and often invisible. In a small bubble entirely cut off from the rest of the world, scrawny little Jenny’s voice, squashed by her parent’s need to find their own, is swiftly silenced, again and again. However, her shine refused to die and survived within her as a spark, a fighting spirit, and a sense of hope that defies logic.
It took five decades, six countries, multiple diagnoses, and ultimately a physical and emotional collapse for Jennifer to successfully find her voice, to thrive, to get the medical and psychological care she needed, and to begin the journey to a place of sanity and peace. Her story is one of crushing loneliness and isolation, but more than that, it’s ultimately a story of resilience, hope, and redemption in ways that she could never have imagined.
A mentor, counsellor, artist, and now a successful author, Jennifer writes for various blogs, The Mighty, and other public spaces on neglect, emotional abuse, anxiety, disability and chronic illness. You can find her on most social media platforms under @JPeaSmith.
What inspired you to start writing?
Having been silenced all my life, I eventually found my voice through writing rather than telling. I had no idea so much would pour out, and I can barely keep up with the process, but I’m thrilled to have found my calling in such an amazing way.
How many books have you written and published?
So far, i’ve hd two books published and two more are out on preorder, due out in May and June.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
My characters are all real people, but in order to protect the innocent, I’ve needed to rename them all (except myself of course). That’s a really interesting process, as I wanted to continue to reflect each person well, and as they are in real life. Some were easy, others I found difficult, and some went through phases of names before I finally settled.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
My husband, for obvious reasons, but he hasn’t appeared in my published books yet. He will turn up soon though, and I’m really looking forward to sharing that story. I think there will be quite a few shocked expressions when that launches!
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
I absolutely love Kerry Fisher. She’s a UK based author who writes fictional stories with brilliant twists, a great sense of humour, but covers really important, real-life topics around family relationships. I’m always waiting for her next book.
I first read The Silent Wife a few years ago, so I think it will always be my favourite, but I’m open to her changing my mind on anything new she brings out. Her intimate description on experiences and feelings was incredible, and her way of building characters into deeply personal beings is incredible. Find out more about Kerry here.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
Letters. I never thought of it as writing, or in a book sense, and I certainly didn’t grow up thinking I’d become an author. But having spent half a life time away from loved ones, my tens of thousands of letters over the years have become the experience I didn’t know I needed. I’m always surprised to hear of someone else who’d been saving them for me.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
I’m also an artist, art teacher, and wife and mother. I joke that I’m a King Maker, but you’ll have to wait for that book to understand what I mean.
What are your favourite things to do?
At the moment we’re travelling in a WV camper around Europe. It’s a wonderful way to see the world and to write in the comfort of my wonderful bed, watching the world go by.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
You’ll have to read the books to find out! It’s a very long list of some truly extraordinary things.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
I’d tell myself to keep everything I’d written. I’m dyslexic, so I write by hand quite poorly, with lots of repeated and missing words. When I read back old work I feel embarrassed so I’d throw them out. I really wished I’d had more confidence in my own abilities and was able to look past the mistakes.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
Scrawny, and straw-haired, seven-year-old Jenny wakes up frozen. Her eyes won’t open, her voice refuses to work, she can’t even move her lips or her tongue. In fear, she grasps for her face, but her arms are both tied down, splayed out at either side. Why can’t she move? Where is she? And how did she get here? Her immediate assumption is that this is a punishment. But what was her crime? She searches through a mass of fear and fog, and as a blurry picture begins to form, of noise and drama, snot and tears, horror and panic …. she finds it. That must be it. She’d ignored the rules, fractured the silence, made a scene. She’d broken the cardinal rule; she’d been disobedient. Publicly. She’d broken free of “invisible” and caused all this terrible trouble. Was she finally paying the price?
In this, the first book in the Fault in the Family Memoirs, Jennifer shares her gripping story of chronic neglect and loneliness in her teeny-tiny-bubble-of-a-world, slap bang in the middle of white, privileged, apartheid South Africa in the seventies. In My Africa My Home, Jennifer sets the tone and the background for this epic journey that will transport the reader through five decades, two families, eight international moves, multiple diagnoses, and a shocking hundred-year-old legacy that underpins it all, in her search for identity, “home” and a place to belong.
You can find all of Jennifer’s books via the Amazon links below:
Thank you so much for taking part in this blog series Jennifer! You sound like one amazing woman!
Any questions/comments for Jennifer, either contact her on social media/email or drop us a comment below.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day all.