Today I am delighted to welcome Jackie Buxton! 🙂
Hi Kerry, thanks so much for having me on your blog. You’ve asked great questions and I apologise in advance for going on and on and …
…Not at all, Jackie, thank so much for your lovely answers.
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’m lucky, my life is pretty much immersed in words. I write fiction, edit other people’s fiction and teach creative writing. When I’m not doing that I’m reading, although I am also slightly addicted to running and cycling so I spend my days seeing how I’m going to fit one or other of those in.
My latest book is Glass Houses which is contemporary fiction, the tale of two women who make stupid mistakes and what happens after that. It’s dark and heavy but not without hope. I’m also the author of self-help memoir, Tea & Chemo, based on my headlong collision with cancer and the difficult, doable and sometimes, downright amusing journey through cancer treatments.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I can never place where my ideas come from when I first sit down to write but it will then become blindingly obvious that something in the news, for example, perhaps years before, had sparked the idea. I would say that most of my ideas come from the news, community, the funny things people do and say, the idiosyncrasies, our contradictions, or rather, the downright bizarre and wonderful way of the human species.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
No, I don’t think they are. It tends to be an idea for the plot which gets me writing and it’s only when I’ve decided that the idea might have legs that I consider what kind of person I’d need to get this story told. It’s quite a clinical approach to finding character at first, more like a compiling of traits which I then package up into a person, rather than taking someone I know and trying to slot them in to do the job. Very quickly however, my characters become as real to me as my friends and family so they sort of join the clan, rather than being a duplicate of any one of them. I realise this makes me sound every slightly barking…
How do you pick your characters names?
Again, quite clinically in the beginning. I use a baby naming book or website to research the top hundred names in a given period to make sure they’re credible, then I see which one would suit my character. Next, in an effort to avoid reader confusion, I check that the characters’ names don’t begin with the same initial or have the same amount of syllables, particularly if they’re going to be introduced at a similar time. That said, I failed somewhat in Glass Houses because I know some people have wrestled with Tori and Etta – which one caused the crash and which one saved her?? Note to self for next time!
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I err slightly more towards the pantser than the plotter but only just. I toss ideas around in my mind a lot and if I can’t sketch out the first chapter or the ending, then the ideas don’t get further than the notebook. I might then write the beginning and get very excited for the first 10k words but there comes a point where I have to stop, think carefully about who these characters are and where they’re going and compile a list of what I need to think about. I then abandon the wonderful ‘chucking the story down’ stage for a while, in order to do a heap of research. So, in the case of Glass Houses, I wrote about the initial car accident and wrote the final chapter, and they haven’t changed too much during the looong writing process, but in between I did a lot of reading. I met with road traffic accident victims and perpetrators, emergency services and hospital staff, ex-coma patients and their carers etc. etc. I do this to make sure I’m writing with some authority but it invariably informs the plot, too. And it’s a great excuse because I love research!
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Oh, this is tricky. I think the fairest way to do this is let them spill out. Maggie O’Farrell, Rachel Joyce and Jill Dawson for their brilliantly concise but oh, so evocative storytelling, Anita Shreve for plots which pack a punch and for being my reading mainstay in my twenties. Finally, it has to be Ian McEwan who always has me thinking way beyond the book. There are so many others, of course.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
It’s a close call between George Orwell and Aldous Huxley (and other dystopian writers for whom I have enormous respect). I’ll plump for Aldous Huxley and ask how he saw so much of what was to come and whether he’s looking over now, worrying about what’s happened or nodding sagely and saying, ‘I told you so.’
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes. I loved everything from Enid Blyton to CS Lewis to Nina Bawden (particularly loved Carrie’s War) to Roald Dahl. The book I remember above all others was James and the Giant Peach because I read it in one night and thought that my parents hadn’t realised that I was still reading at midnight. Midnight! I was only eight, can you imagine?! I devoured that book and it started a pattern of good intentions of early nights which end up at 3am, usually in a cold bath these days.
When did you start to write?
Like so many, I was a diary writer. I have journals and journals written between the age of 13 and 23 (when I had a Forrest Gump moment and just decided there and then that I didn’t want to write a diary any more). I sorted my life out in those diaries and they definitely made me realise that writing was therapy for me. Tragically, my first love died when he was 17, falling from Ben Nevis and I was, as you can imagine, absolutely devastated. Writing my diary really helped. For years I had the idea of writing a book for teens who found themselves in the same situation. It would be fiction but it would have a positive thread, how life could become ‘good’ again, that, in a period of your life when everything is so black and white, time really would help. I wanted to write that book because it was something I needed to read, when I was going through it and I couldn’t find it. I never wrote the book because I always felt I’d need to ask my boyfriend’s approval and of course, that wasn’t possible. But it was certainly this period in my life which sewed the seed that writing something for other people to read, would be something I’d love to do.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
This is difficult because I don’t want to be negative about an otherwise wonderful book and with all novels, there’ll be many readers who’ll disagree. But here goes! I felt a little under-whelmed by the very last line to A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray, having devoured every word up until that point – definitely a getting-out-of-a-cold-bath-read – but I felt sad about Claire, grieving mother and wife to a pretty dysfunctional and unaffectionate partner, turning back to the life she’d had. I’d have preferred her to take a different path altogether. I hope that isn’t a spoiler for anyone who’s lucky enough to still have this otherwise gem of a book in their TBR.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
I go back to the dystopian novels, the science fiction which is so cleverly conceived that you can absolutely imagine how a society might think it were a good idea to go that way, but that the end result is terrifying. I think I’ll say Animal Farm by George Orwell because to write a book which will be read by O-level and GCSE pupils for decades, which is almost universally respected and enjoyed by even the most anti-establishment of pupils, has to be commended in my opinion.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
I struggled to choose for a while but suddenly remembered half-gypsy, Kizzy, in The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden. She was horrendously treated by her townsfolk but happy because she had the love of her grandmother and horse. But then her gran died and I was heart-broken for her. As if that wasn’t enough, Kizzy’s wagon burnt down. It was the last straw – I’d have cheerfully had Kizzy come and live with us, and not just taken her out for coffee! I guess it wouldn’t have been a coffee back then, but a hot chocolate with marshmallows, crucially bought with my own pocket money because reading that book was an early salutary lesson in how lucky I was.
What are you working on right now?
I’m half way through the first draft of a novel with the working title of, ‘The Tree House’. It’s the story of a little girl, much misunderstood, who ends up in prison, and why she’s quite happy about it. I need to work on my two sentence pitch – I’m hoping the story isn’t as dark as that might sound.
Do you have a new release due?
No, thankfully! I’ve had a madly busy two years with Tea & Chemo being published only six months before Glass Houses and all the edits and promotion that entails. I’ve loved every minute of it but combine all that with my editing, teaching and mum responsibilities and I’ve taken my eye off The Tree House somewhat. But I’m back with a vengeance in 2017, determined to write at least ten hours every week and managing it so far. Wish me luck!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
@jaxbees and https://www.facebook.com/jackiebuxton40/
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
I’d just like to thank you for having me on your blog and to your readers for reading this far – hope you had a cup of tea with it, was a bit of a long one…
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Jackie, and good luck with The Tree House 🙂
Publisher: Urbane Publications (7th July 2016)
‘When she sent that text, all our lives changed for ever…’
51 year old Tori Williams’ life implodes when she sends a text while driving on the M62 motorway and allegedly causes the horrific crash in which three people die. Public and press are baying for her blood, but Tori is no wallflower and refuses to buckle under their pressure or be a pariah in society.
Instead, she sets about saving the nation. But can she save Etta, the woman who saved her life? Or will Etta’s secret be her downfall?
This incredibly topical and contemporary morality tale appeals across generations and will find favour with fans of authors such as Liane Moriarty, Marian Keyes and Kathryn Croft.
Buy your copy HERE
Publisher: Urbane Publications Limited (25th November 2015)
At the age of 45, wife and mother Jackie Buxton was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lurching between the crippling fear that the cancer had spread, and the great comfort of knowing she was one of the lucky ones who could be treated, she did what she always does when life presents her with a challenge: she wrote it down. Jackie quickly realised that even with cancer, life was far from bad. Never known for her scientific prowess, she nonetheless became a ‘bit of an expert’ – at least in the field of hair loss, water retention and biscuits – and decided to use her writing to share experiences and help others recognise you don’t have to be defined by your cancer. Tea & Chemo is full of laughter, tears, honesty and hope, and offers inspirational words to everyone facing the life challenges that cancer inevitably brings. All proceeds from the sales of Tea & Chemo will go to three incredibly important charities, whose compassionate care and professionalism make the difference to so many lives: The Haven, Breast Cancer Now and The Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre, Harrogate.
Buy your copy HERE