Name Diana Jackson
Where are you from
I’ve lived and worked in the home counties of London for most of my life ~ born in Croydon, Surrey, grew up and went to school in St Albans, Hertfordshire and worked as a teacher in Bedfordshire.
Since redundancy and taking early retirement I have moved, with my husband, to Fife, Scotland ~ an exciting but rewarding new life, living alongside the rhythms of the Firth of Forth. Volunteering in my local community including working towards the opening of a community library and my other passion gardening with Kinghorn in Bloom gives me pleasure as well as saying thank you for such a warm welcome.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I have just released ‘The Healing Paths of Fife,’ a memoir ~ fantasy which tells the story of our new beginning in prose, poetry and conversations with famous people I ‘met’ whilst walking along the beautiful Fife Coastal Path. It also gives graphic descriptions of my surroundings along the forty miles of coastline between The Forth Bridge and St Andrews, Fife.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing stories and poems all my life for my personal pleasure.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
On the publication of ‘Riduna’ by a small Cambridge publishers back in 2009. Little did I know that I still had much to learn ~ and am still learning.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I was inspired to write my first novel nearly twenty years ago while on holiday on the island of Alderney, Channel Islands, UK, ~ a great family reunion. My father shared intriguing stories about my Great Grandmother for the first time. She was born on the island back in 1865, became an orphan and was shipped to nearby Guernsey to live with an aunt at the age of sixteen, after she became too much to handle for her grandparents.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I aspire to be classical, writing a variety of works including historical fiction, mystery and memoir ~ my love of social history linking them all. I certainly see my writing as women’s fiction, although many men have said that they have enjoyed my books.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
All of them are different. I chose the title for my first novel, Riduna, because it is allegedly the Roman name for Alderney. I continued in this classical theme with Ancasta – my second novel. Otherwise I play with a variety of titles that come to mind until I find the one that says ‘yes’ to me and then I ask the opinion of those around me.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
For the majority of readers the message is ‘Things happen when you truly let go,’ but above all live life fully in the world around you.
For writer’s everywhere I’d say, ‘don’t fret if you need to have a break from the writing world to make room for other areas of your life, but when you do return, write with a passion.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Ha ~ this is a good question. I had such fun with ‘Healing Paths of Fife’. It is certainly a memoir but one with a difference. I have conversations with many folks, from St Margaret in Dunfermline to Robert Louis Stevenson, all folks who visited Fife in their lives, I even meet a Selkie! I leave it to the reader to decide which is real and which is fantasy.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
In my early days I would say the classics ~ Jane Austen, Emily Bronte and even Thomas Hardy. More recently I believe that this book sits with allegories including The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho or The Great Divorce by CS Lewis (which has nothing to do with marital divorce) but it also has a touch of Elizabeth Gilbert about it, but only a sprinkling of its star dust!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I read a great deal, both indie and main stream. New authors who have left and impression on me are Liz Harris with The Road Back – reading it was certainly a wow moment for me, but also Peter Laws with Purged. This debut novel has lived with me for many days after I completed the book ~ quite a different genre.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The Ampthill Writers are a group who have evolved, grown and blossomed. I love the way we just sit, share, catch up and listen to each other in such an informal way. Rachel Lewis now runs it so well. I miss them all. On line I’ve recently found Women’s Writers. There’s nothing like a supportive bunch of like minded people.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, writing is now my career. It is my passion but having said that my break from the writing world taught me to put it all in perspective.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would not have rushed to release Part 1 ‘From Redundancy to Rejuvenation’ back in the winter of 2015. I would have listened to my inner voice and paused, knowing that I needed to focus on our new life here in Fife. I had no time or energy to promote it. Releasing Parts 1 and 2 together at this point feels just right.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I had an inspiring English teacher, Mrs Yates, who encouraged us and was happy to read anything we gave her, while we should have been doing our English Literature course work! She always made time to give me valuable feedback. I will always remember her.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
“A week sped by before the need to continue my personal journey compelled me to walk the coastal path between Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy, our nearest large town. Just above Kinghorn harbour, following the coastal path signs, I took a tunnel under a railway which led behind Kinghorn caravans. Before long I was walking on a more natural coastal path following the rocky shore’s edge. Occasional ruins appeared just above the water-line, reminders of local ship builders. Hand-cleaved rock pools were clearly visible too – wash pools for the railway construction workers and almost certainly enjoyed by local children in more recent times. Well maintained steps, slopes and a zig-zag path passed small pebbled inlets which led to Seafield Tower, an imposing 16th Century ruin – one of many scattered along this coast adding interest and intrigue. Looking down towards the tower I paused for a few moments enjoying the view over the water to North Berwick. Suddenly movement on the rocks near-by caught my attention. Did that rock flap and slither? Were those splashes more than just waves hitting the shingle?
I was jubilant. This was my first memorable sighting of seals – so close to civilisation too. I raised my camera but the animals kept diving out of sight or lying so still that they were barely indistinguishable from their bed of rock.
I strolled towards the tower and sat on a large boulder, as close to the seals as I dare, mesmerised by their antics, until suddenly I felt a damp fishy breath, as if someone had dared to creep up on me in my reverie and brush past, his face barely inches from my own. I glanced around to find a ‘man’ settling on a rock nearby, his alluring face and deep brown eyes gazing into my own. I might have been smitten by his sensuous touch or unnerved by his audacity to invade my space, if it hadn’t been for an over-riding fishy scent which made me smile.
‘Hi,’ I said, as casually as anyone could, face to face with a Selkie, whilst stifling a giggle. No, not a Selfie, I’m not that vain. A Selkie! The seal-man turned away as if disappointed by my nonchalance and peered over his shoulder as he slipped back towards the sea, his round eyes full of heartbreak and rejection.
‘Please wait,’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, but you startled me.’ His eyes flickered behind long lashes.
‘Well, I might,’ he said, lounging on the nearest rock and gazing at me intently. I shuffled, avoiding his unnerving glare. He seemed to relax at my embarrassment. I took courage and stared back. Before me was a handsome man, early 50’s with extremely short soft brown hair with wisps of white and, unusually so, he wore a long feathery moustache. I stifled another laugh as it dawned on me that he was certainly quite seal-like.
Undeterred he moved closer, reaching out for my hands. He grasped them between his cold damp fingers and pulled me close. I was adrift in the moment, overwhelmed by a sense of lost, unrequited and rejected love, as if my past, present and future feelings and desires all rolled into one, washed away on the waves.
He let go and blinked at me, holding the silent moment in his deep brown gaze.
‘Let go,’ he said, pausing for effect, ‘is my message for you.’ Then he was gone. My eyes watered. Suddenly desolate, I was aware only of my loneliness. As my salty tears fell into a rock pool below, each droplet shed a great burden.
A few moments later a lone seal slipped into the sea. I sighed; a hint of relief seeping into my soul.
It was with lighter but thoughtful steps that I continued towards my destination. Shopping seemed incongruous to the moment, so I headed directly to the station to catch the train home. Home? It is strange how excited I was to be returning to Pettycur, my adopted home.
Ode to my Selkie
We met quite by chance,
With your sea faring nonchalance
Yet boyish sensitivity
You charmed me
by your words of simplicity.
The depths of your round brown eyes
Pierced the history
Of my heart’s deepest mystery.
Shedding your human form
You slid back into the sea.
As I shed a huge burden
Setting me free.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
At the moment I would like to return to my original series and write the third and final book, but I find every excuse – or new idea to distract me. The thought of organising all the research I have already carried out, making sense of it and filling in the gaps leaves me scurrying to the garden or even into the kitchen to do some cooking. One day the time will be right ~ I hope!
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
With my series I spent a great deal of time in The Channel Islands and down in Southampton. My murder mystery was local in Bedfordshire and my latest is set in Fife, where I now live. I have yet to be inspired to travel further afield although my novels touch on India, France and even Port Said in Egypt.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
All of my book covers have been designed by local artists who live in the appropriate settings except for Murder Now and Then. This became a competition for design students at a local college of Further Education, hence two different covers.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Revealing my very self.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learnt to listen to my own voice in a way that I’d never done before and it was enjoyable to have conversations with my characters. We writers do live in a world of fantasy most of the time, don’t we?
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
If ‘Riduna’ was made into a film I think Keira Knightley would make a wonderful Harriet. I’ve watched her progress since Ballykissangel. Her 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. Easy to imagine and a lady was only saying this morning how she loved it, borrowing it from the local library here in Kinghorn, when it was open.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Every now and again try and reach out to new authors and when you like what you read do tell others and write reviews. I love receiving emails from readers too. They make my day bright!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Wrong Box by Andrew C Ferguson. Another debut novel from a small Edinburgh publishing company but I’ve only just started it.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first books I remember reading to myself were Winnie the Pooh.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
The news ~ so much war and evil in the world, but a good weepy film or even a love story has me reaching for a handkerchief too.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Mother Theresa would be my overall choice ~ a person to learn from and aspire to ~ a humbling experience I should think. The poignant photograph of Mother Theresa with Princess Diana stays with me.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Diana Jackson ~ beloved wife and daughter, an author too, and certainly a friend.
It sums me up in its simplicity.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Gardening ~ painting landscape with flowers and plants.
Walking and enjoying the natural world.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I watch so little TV or films although I’m enjoying the Maigret series at the moment. I loved ‘As Time Goes By’ and watch the repeats.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Eggy bread and maple syrup!
Yellow ~ the colour of spring.
Anything from Genesis to folk music
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would like to have taught English abroad.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website is being revamped at the moment at (www.didnamaryjackson.wordpress.com)
My old one is www.dianamaryjackson.co.uk
My main blog is www.dianamj.wordpress.com
My amazon.co.uk author page: