Morning and happy hump day! Today I’m delighted to welcome Jo Jackson to Meet the Author. We’re chatting about inspiration, what’s important in a novel, what she wanted to be as a child, her most recent book, Beyond the Margin, and more…..
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am unbelievably lucky to have led a wonderful life. I have a husband and three grown-up children all with families of their own who bring us lots of love. I live amongst the hills in rural Shropshire with my husband, dog, five tame rams and a rescue duck. I write for the sheer love of writing not because I have to, and I appreciate that is a truly fortunate position to be in. I am almost always cheerful, annoyingly optimistic and enjoy walking, gardening, painting, and philosophy but most of all the company of friends.
What inspired you to start writing?
Perhaps before a what it was a who inspired me to start writing. As a teenager I had an inspirational English teacher who was creative, innovative, and fun. She encouraged me to write, delivered honest feedback and gave me a lifelong love of the written word whether it was reading or writing.
The inspiration for my first book Too Loud a Silence came out of experiences encountered when I was living in Egypt with my husband and three children. Especially I wanted to write a story around two baby girls of whom we had become very fond, who had been found on a refuse dump and now lived in an orphanage.
The idea for Beyond the Margin, my second book arose from working with young people who are often forced to live on the edge of society through no fault of their own. Ideas begin as small seeds in my mind and either grow and flourish or fade away. It is the characters who decide. I let them write their own story.
I have now written the two books mentioned above and a novella, ‘It Can’t Get Darker than Midnight’, which have all had brilliant reviews. The two novels each took approximately three years to write. I get a thrill when someone refers to me as an author. I still can’t quite believe it’s me they’re talking about.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with?
It must be Nuala from Beyond the Margin. She was spirited and resourceful. Stranded on an island she would cope with whatever hardships and dangers we had to face. She would curse the world, but she would find a way to get by through sheer determination and the will to survive. I loved her and she stayed with me even after I had finished the book. She represents so many young people who are ‘stranded’ on their own dark islands.
Do you feel its more important to have a) strong characters b) a mind-blowing plot or c) amazing settings?
Strong characters are important to me. The reader must engage and feel something for them and to care about what is happening in their lives. I want those characters to be people a reader remembers long after finishing the novel. Personally, I also like a sense of place. It doesn’t have to be amazing, but I want to be there, experiencing the sights and smells, seeing what the characters see. I read many novels set in countries around the world, some of which I have been to, others I may not have. A plot is important for the structure it brings to a book. It does not have to be fast moving or complex, just real. For those reasons I enjoy a literary novel, my favourite book being God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Gerbrand Bakker and Amitav Ghosh are other authors I enjoy.
What is your favourite time to write and why?
I rise early and that is when my mind is at its most creative and the words flow. In the summer I love to sit in the conservatory, listen to the birds and see the incredible colours in the early morning sky. In the winter, the skeleton of the trees and the view of the beautiful Shropshire countryside is magical as dawn breaks even when rain and wind sweep the valley.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up and what other jobs have you done other than being an author?
From a young age I wanted to be a nurse and probably out of stubbornness never wavered from that idea. I loved nursing but realised that it was midwifery I wanted to specialise in, a profession that gave me great joy up until I went abroad to live and where it was impossible to practice (at least officially!). On my return to England I moved into Education Social Work and ultimately took an MSc degree in Systemic Family Therapy. I have been very privileged to work with some courageous and amazing clients whose lives have been far more complex than mine has ever been.
A qualification I obtained along the way was garden design. It combined my love of plants and gardening with the thrill of seeing my designs on paper come to life and become an outdoor space that gave people pleasure.
My most recent novel is Beyond the Margin published in November 2019
Is living on the edge of society a choice? Or is choice a luxury of the fortunate?
Joe, fighting drug addiction, runs until the sea halts his progress. His is a faltering search for meaningful relationships.
‘Let luck be a friend,’ Nuala is told but it had never felt that way. Abandoned at five years old, survival means learning not to care. Her only hope is to take control of her own destiny.
The intertwining of their lives makes a compelling story of darkness and light, trauma, loss and second chances.
The strength of this novel lies in its authenticity. A gritty, bitter-sweet narrative that kept me turning the pages.
Both novels are available in paperback from my website and in paperback and Kindle from Amazon. The novella is available as a Kindle ebook.
thanks so much for chatting with us jo! It was lovely getting to know you more.
Get in touch with Jo or comment below if you have any questions or comments.
Enjoy your day lovelies