Name : Jessica Norrie
Age : 57
Where are you from: London
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I went to Sussex University to study French Literature, lived in France for a few years and then trained as a teacher at Sheffield University and as a translator with the Institute of Linguists. I have two grown up children – my daughter is a translator (better than me!) and my son is a teaching assistant, so I obviously had some influence! I’ve been in teaching, teacher training, and languages ever since.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The builders just finished working on my house after over a year! So they may feature – as heroes and villains – in my next book.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As a child. I always wrote stories. When I was five I wrote a political rant against Mrs Thatcher who was our local MP and much hated by my parents. I told everyone to shake their fists at her and stuck it on the window like a poster.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
See above! I never wasn’t a writer. Even when writing essays for my studies or reports for work and training materials, I always cared about the style, and thought it really important to make things clear and readable. I didn’t keep a diary as such, but I often wrote down my thoughts and feelings to clarify them for myself.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I went on a rather strange holiday, and as soon as I got there I thought it would make a great setting for a whodunit. The book didn’t end up a whodunit, but the setting remained similar, though adapted.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My sentences are very long, but I do discipline them with lots of commas and semi colons. I don’t want to talk down to my readers so I’m not afraid of using long words and complex structures, although not just for the sake of it, but because it serves the narrative. For a long time I was scared of writing dialogue but then I just wrote verbatim what I thought people would say, and now I’m told my characters’ speech patterns are well distinguished.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I first came across an infinity pool on another holiday, and thought it was beautiful, so for the story I imported it to the place I was writing about (which doesn’t have a pool in reality), where it caused ripples. Also I thought it added a philosophical tone, an element of more depth (literally!)
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Communities and people are inter dependent and we need to respect and celebrate our differences. Older people are just as interesting as younger ones, and it’s important to nurture feelings and spirituality whether through therapy, creativity, beliefs – that doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t harm others.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
Everything in it could easily happen, and some of the things in it have.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I made up most of the plot devices, but the feelings are based on feelings I’ve had or feelings other people have described to me. I hope all the characters can be empathized with, to some extent. No one is all good or all bad.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
I find I return a lot to books I read as a child – Laura Ingalls Wilder, Joan Aiken are brilliant writers who should not be considered just for children. My favourite classic is Madame Bovary, and I love Jean Rhys and Dorothy Parker.
… a mentor?
That would be both parents. They were both journalists and writers, and my mother loved translating too. She was very precise and constantly revised her work, my father was very flashy and dashed his work off in a trice, often full of errors but always very lively. I’m trying to blend both traits as it’s more practical!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished “A History of Loneliness” by John Boyne, which is a brilliant, understated, poignant study of the Irish priesthood and how so many priests went so badly wrong in their behaviour with children. Now I’m embarking on Elena Ferrante, a fierce Neapolitan feminist writer.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Elena Ferrante, above.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m working with a German and a French translator on “The Infinity Pool”. The French is fascinating because I can have input. For the German I just have to trust the translator! And I’m checking the audio file that has just been recorded by an actor in Canada. I keep jotting down the odd paragraph for a sequel, but it hasn’t come alive yet.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My interdisciplinary degree, in the then school of European Studies at Sussex University, was often brilliantly taught and the courses were so imaginative and exciting. I especially remember the “Modern European Mind” course with the late Professor Thorlby, and Dr George Craig, who gave me a lifelong appreciation of Samuel Beckett and is I think still working on him! I hope undergraduates can still have that wealth of exposure to intellectual rigour and culture, but I fear they don’t.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
You bet! My second career – I shall leave teaching in the next few years and plan to write at least one more novel.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
It’s a classic mistake, but I think I’d try to show more and tell less.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
See above! Parents both writers and journalists, and my father ran a bookshop. It would have been hard not to be keen on writing.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Hmmm… a sequel, probably darker, possibly set in the UK, maybe involving refugees and economic migrants. Or I have some ideas for something set in a wine growing areas of France.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Just getting down to it. And I’m not good at plotting. Characters, settings, themes: yes. Plotting has to be dragged out of me and it’s a painful delivery.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Jean Rhys, AL Kennedy – I like dry humour and sadness.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
For the last one I travelled in my head, once I’d been to the place once. It was lovely – hours on a Mediterranean island when I was really in my study. For the next one – we’ll see.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I was very, very fortunate to be offered a selection of photographs by a friend, and to have another friend who is very accomplished with Photoshop, and an agent who understood what kind of graphics were required. So we were a good team.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I was trying to kill my hero and I couldn’t work out how to dispose of his body! Then I fell for him anyway…but I’d thought I was writing a murder story. I had to rethink it all and move the sequence of events about and that may be why it’s all a bit cross-genre now..
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I wish I could obey rules and write to fit exact genres , but I can’t. I learnt how hard it is to craft a book so that everything is coherent (at one point I realized my poor heroine had been pregnant for thirteen months!). I’m much more daunted than when I was writing the first one because I now know how much precision and research is involved.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Avoid spending too much time on social media or you’ll get nothing done! Revise, revise, revise, check, check, check.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading me! It’s very humbling that so many people want to.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Ant and Bee, probably. Back in print now. Lovely.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Bill Bryson. Ian Hislop. Anything relating to Syria.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
I’d like to talk with Ian McKewan about his experience of starting to write at Sussex University – he was there a few years before me.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I’m going to be cremated. Why would I need an epitaph when I’ve written a whole book?
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I sing top soprano in a big choir – brilliant therapy, for me if not for anyone else around me..
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Not many, but I’m addicted to “The Bridge” for the photography and the character of Saga, and I love anything like the Sewing Bee, the Pottery Throwdown, the Hotel Inspector… They’re like sociology without the textbooks.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Anything someone else has cooked that isn’t too heavy. Blue/green. Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Verdi and jazz. And anything my “children” play on all their various instruments.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Oh I would have been an opera singer. A real prima donna who was also a dab hand on a Steinway.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it? https://www.facebook.com/Jessica-Norrie-1617940365158063/?ref=hl
The Infinity Pool by Jessica Norrie
Published on Kindle direct publishing July 15th 2015 & as a POD paperback July 29th 2015.
and in Australia at http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B011RA8QZW?ref_=pd_ybh_1
Usual price £3.99 for Kindle or £8.99 for paperback but features in frequent promotions too.
Some background thoughts for blogger’s information – not for publication
I wrote “The Infinity Pool” between 2008- 2012, inspired by the setting of a holiday I took, but the characters are entirely fictional. There’s an element of whodunit and howdunit to keep the reader interested, but it’s more of an exploration of psychology, of the decisions people make and what happens as a result, of older men and younger women, and of the clash of a traditional culture with an apparently much freer one. Are the second group of people really any freer than the first, though?
The setting is really important, because I felt as though I was there when I was writing it – and that meant I had a really long, sunny, basking holiday, even though I was actually in my study all the time.
I hadn’t intended a sequel, but several readers have asked for one, with varying ideas about which character (s) to propel forwards. I’m not sure yet, but I do know it will take place in the UK, in a nice place because otherwise I wouldn’t want to spend time there, but even so a place with tensions and conflicts just as in the Infinity Pool, because it’s those tensions and conflicts that I’m most interested to explore.
I’ve been amazed and humbled by the generosity of people I’ve never met, and those I know only slightly, as well as friends and family, in welcoming this book and making it such a success – even number 1 in Australian Literary Fiction for several days. So thank you to everyone for your interest, and I do hope you will download or buy the book, enjoy it, and post a review. I’ve loved the discussion so far.
Adrian Hartman is the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community set among pine trees on a sun baked island. His job is to ensure the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. His guests return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity.
But this year Adrian isn’t there, and nobody knows the reason why. Things have changed: staff and guests are bewildered without their leader and the simmering hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is the atmosphere of menace connected with Adrian’s absence? And will life on the island ever be the same again?
As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative novel explores the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and questions the real meaning of getting away from it all.