It is with great pleasure that I am bringing you a brand new author interview on my blog today. I recently had the chance to learn a little more about Jo Jackson and her latest book, Beyond the Margin, which was published in October 2019.
Hello Jo, welcome to Cup of Toast! Can you tell me a little more about yourself?
My childhood was spent on the outskirts of Birmingham. It was at Grammar school that I met my husband and we have been married for forty-eight years. We have three children, two boys and a girl who are all grown up, married and with successful careers of their own.
On leaving school I trained as a nurse at Guys Hospital in London, then undertook further training as a midwife which was a job I loved. My work led me to become interested in the interconnectedness of families and I decided to undertake an MSc degree in Systemic Family Therapy and became a psychotherapist. After qualifying I had my own private practice as well as working for GPs, large corporations and Social Service Departments in and around London. After moving to Shropshire I worked as a psychotherapist in a boarding school for boys with autism. It was a hugely challenging role but a very rewarding one.
Now retired, I love writing, painting, philosophy, gardening and reading. We live in a rural location amidst beautiful scenery and spend many hours walking with the dog and enjoying the countryside.
Holidays are spent travelling and experiencing cultures different from our own. India, Ethiopia and Middle East are favourites.
I read that you had your first book bound when you were at junior school! What inspired you to start writing?
As a child I was an avid reader and as a family we told each other stories. In my teenage years I was taught by an inspirational English teacher and she further encouraged a love of writing.
Apart from a brief spell in my thirties it wasn’t until retirement that I had time to write. My first book Too Loud a Silence was a story I wanted to write for twin baby girls I knew well when I lived in Cairo. The orphanage where they lived was suddenly closed without explanation. I never knew what happened to them. They were my inspiration.
What sort of research do you put into your books before or perhaps during their creation?
Too Loud a Silence, was largely set in Egypt with a background of the Arab Spring. Although I had lived in Cairo my knowledge of the political background and tensions of the Arab Spring came from observing events as they unfolded, researching articles and reading newspapers.
Beyond the Margin required less research as the experiences and lives of the protagonists were an amalgam of people I had met, and stories told to me in my work.
Beyond the Margin is a combination of two short stories. What made you decide to bring them together?
When my first book was published It left a void. What to do next? I wrote a few short stories and it was in conversation about two of those that it struck me that the main characters, Nuala and Carlo were important to me and both lived on the margins of society and might form the basis of a longer piece of work. In the final draft Carlo’s story was removed as it was felt it detracted from the two main characters, Nuala and Joe.
You mention that your first novel was inspired by your time living in Cairo and the twin baby girls you met there. What inspired Beyond the Margin?
One of my regular walks with the dog is on Wenlock Edge and the path goes across the top of a timber yard where rows and rows of tree trunks are stacked. This setting was where I determined the original characters from the short stories could meet and so I wrote the first chapter. Like all first chapters it later was revised but the setting of the wood yard still featured.
I began to write the book when I spent a month In Ireland. Joe’s story was inspired by the wild and beautiful scenery of the west coast perfectly reflecting his fragile vulnerability.
The characters have very complex backgrounds, how did you decide on these when writing your book?
I have been privileged to meet and work with children, young people and adults often when they have been at their most vulnerable. I have been humbled by their resilience and courage and their ability to emerge from horrendous experiences. These are the people who inspire me. Beyond the Margin was for them.
What do you find the most difficult aspect of writing a novel?
When I begin to write I usually find the words flow. I let the characters determine the course of the story and they never let me down. However, like Oscar Wilde, in the morning I put in the commas and in the afternoon I take them out! Fortunately I have a writing group and a copy editor who advise me on the punctuation.
Who will Beyond the Margin appeal to?
The book is dedicated to ‘All those who work to make the lives of children better.’ It is a story relevant to our time, a contemporary literary novel that addresses some of the social injustices of society. It has been enjoyed by both male and female readers, young and old and requested by many of the book groups who read my first book.
I quote from part of an Amazon review: ‘Her novel may strike a chord with anyone who has experienced or had experience of vulnerable people. People who have been abused, abandoned, placed in inadequate foster care, succumbed to substance abuse. People whose lives have spiralled out of control for reasons out of their control’.
How do you hope your readers will feel when they’ve finished the book?
I hope they will feel they have read a humbling story, sensitively written that has left them thoughtful but uplifted with an increased understanding of how other lives may be.
Finally, what’s next?
I will carry on writing with my writing group and see what transpires. I am currently researching my Grandmother’s life story – she was admitted to a mental institution shortly after my Dad was born with what would now be diagnosed as post-natal depression. She remained there for the rest of her life. Could I write about it? I don’t know.
Huge thank you to Jo for joining me today and sharing a little more about herself and her writing.
Beyond the Margin
“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.”
Author website – http://www.jojacksonwriter.com
Giveaway to Win signed copies of Beyond the Margin
and Too Loud a Silence by Jo Jackson. (UK only)
*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.a Rafflecopter giveaway
N.B. I have not received anything in exchange for this interview, which has been organised by Rachel’s Random Resources. Huge thank you to Jo Jackson for answering my questions so thoughtfully, I hope you enjoy reading this interview. For more information on how I work with others, please see my disclosure page.