Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Author Interview: Diana Jackson

Today it's my pleasure to welcome author Diana Jackson to the blog to talk about her writing and her latest book Missing, Past and Present which was published last week.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how your writing journey started? 
I’ve always written stories and poems since I was a teenager, inspired by a fantastic English teacher, Mrs Yates, who used to critique my poems just because she loved doing it. She encouraged my love of the classics too. An inspiring woman!

If you had to give an elevator pitch for your latest book Missing, Past and Present, what would it?
Is life just a roll of a Dice? Dot, a homeless character in my novel thought so as she grappled with memories of the past and survival as a homeless person in the present. Her own sense of loss led to her writing the story of an eighteenth century aspirant nun, Millie, who also went missing; parallel lives.

Following the mysterious disappearance of her husband, Dorothy Gibbons, affectionately known as Lady Pink Hat, trudged the lanes around Drumford, homeless and directionless. Alone she rolled a dice, reflecting on her life, times both painful and pleasant. She stumbled upon The Grange, which changed the course of her life. 

In her isolation Dot began to write ...Millie, an 18th Century aspirant nun, ran away from The Grange ...Jamal Hussain, a Syrian refugee and asylum seeker, was fostered under the careful wing of Dorothy until leaving school and finding work. He and his brother settled in a nearby flat until the misguided Ahmed Hussain also disappeared. With three missing people, who will discover the truth? Is Millie still haunting The Grange until her story is told?

Missing, Past and Present is the second book in your Murder Inspired by History series, where did the inspiration come from for you to write timeslip stories in this way? 
I was writing a short murder story set locally when a lady from Guernsey emailed me about a young lass from Jersey who was murdered in 1919 near to where I lived in Bedfordshire. As I researched down this, what I thought was a blind but interesting alley MURDER, Now and Then evolved naturally; the short story from the present weaving into the unsolved murder from the past.

This might be a bit of a cruel question but which character did you have the most fun creating?  
I get to know all of my characters quite well but I am very fond of Dot, or Lady Pink Hat as the school children affectionately named her. She has a sense of humour and the resilience needed to see her through the most traumatic events in her life. She also loves nature and has an enquiring mind, even at her lowest points. Lovely lady!

If any of your books were to be made into a film, which would you choose and why? And who would you cast in the main roles? 
All of my books are films in my head, especially MISSING Past and Present but if Riduna, my first novel, was made into a film I think Keira Knightley would make a wonderful Harriet. I’ve watched her progress since Ballykissangel. Kiera’s demeanour would play the joys, loves and tragedies of Harriet’s life with equal heart-felt realism. Set on the barely altered island of Alderney, with local folks doing the small parts, would be wonderful for the island’s economy too.  Several readers have said it would make a great period drama or film.

What do you think are the ingredients needed for a good timeslip novel? 
There needs to be enough to link the timeslip all the way through the novel in order for it to be a coherent read. One rule is never to slip in the same chapter, but for reasons I will not share I needed to break this rule towards the end of MISSING, Past and Present. Parallel lives are fascinating. I’ve just read The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie. Like Natalie I try to put some surprising but believable (just) twists or coincidences towards the end of the novel. 

What is the first book that you read that made you think 'I would like to write something like that one day'?
Writing Riduna came naturally as my parents were discovering fascinating facts about our family’s history. Harriet, my Great Grandmother, was born on the island of Alderney in the mid 19th Century, was orphaned, brought up by her grandparents until she was shipped off to an aunt in neighbouring Guernsey when she became too much to handle at sixteen. Like the conception of most of my novels I was inspired by Harriet, researched about life on Alderney in the Victorian age and found I had a story to tell. After Riduna I was hooked on writing but all of my books are inspired by history in some way.

Other writers have influenced me and inspired me but I think you have to read a great deal to write novels. I don’t think I ever thought, ’Oh, I’d like to write like that.’

What would you say is the best thing about writing? And on the flip side, what is the hardest?
Being in a world of my own making ~ pure escapism ~ being in control. (although that’s not strictly true; I often feel led by my plot in a way that can feel a bit supernatural. 

The downside is juggling the actual writing, which is a delight, with editing and promoting. Where does the day go to?

If you could write in a collaboration with another author, who would you like to write with and why? 
If I were to time travel and write a novel set in Scotland I’d like to collaborate with Nigel Tranter who could set me right as far as historical detail and maybe write the yesterday chapters, whereas I could add a bit of fantasy or reality and write the today chapters. 

What novel(s) have you read that you wish you had written?
I read a great deal, both indie and main stream. New authors who have left an impression on me are Liz Harris with ‘The Road Back’– reading it was certainly a wow moment for me, but I was also spellbound by the novel Corrag by Susan Jenkins. Another author to look out for is Sarah Maine, whose debut novel I read recently. The House Between Tides. It was most enjoyable. In each case I don’t think my knowledge of the locations written or the history would be sufficient for me to write the novels. We are all unique. I’m not sure I could truly say I wish I’d written any of them, although I would love a bit of their magical success to rub off on me!

And finally, what can we expect from you next? 
I’m researching for the third book in this ‘Mystery Inspired by History’ series. I’ve decided to write it from the point of view of another interesting character in MISSING, Past and Present, whose story is quite intriguing but up until now she has only played a minor role. Then the reader can also hear what happens to Dot next too. (although MISSING Past and Present happily stands alone)

Before that is ready though, I am completing a book of encouragement for late teens who do not know what to do with their lives and also formatting a book of memories for the folks at Kinghorn Lunch Club. 

I would also dearly love to return to my Riduna series, but that involves at least one trip to Alderney and Southampton and a great deal of research, difficult from here in Fife. One day!

You can find out more about Diana Jackson here:

@Riduna on twitter
Author Diana Jackson on Facebook

MISSING Past and Present: http://viewbook.at/MISSINGPastnPresent

All book links in bold are Amazon UK Affiliate links which will earn me a few pence if anyone clicks through and makes a purchase - any money earned will go towards buying books or gifts for giveaways.

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