When I approach an author I am unfamiliar with for an interview, it is usually because there has been something about the way they write that has intrigued me. Dinah Jefferies’ life has presented her with some significant challenges, which is perhaps why she can imbue her female protagonists with such depth of feeling and strength whilst avoiding clichéd or cloying descriptions. Her prose is deft, her characters real.
From the people she has created in her first book, The Separation, I got the feeling that this author is an adroit judge of character as well as an intelligent and talented writer. The steamy setting, with its 1950’s housewives and pompous husbands, could easily have placed her book in that much maligned genre of romantic ‘chick lit’. This is sidestepped cannily, although I suspect that fans of the genre will enjoy her writing. Alongside the passion and intrigue she offers nuance and insight whilst avoiding any suggestion of earnestness.
I was eager to find out more about the creator of this book so was delighted when she consented to be interviewed.
Please welcome to neverimitate, Dinah Jefferies.
Where do you typically write?
I always write in my little work room at the back of our terraced Victorian house. I have a desk for the computer, and a desk for writing notes and for plotting my novels, although by the time a book is complete the layers of notebooks are usually a foot deep. When I have a tidy up at the end it shocks me how much stuff I’ve accumulated. There’s probably enough material for half a dozen books.
Tell us about your writing process.
I start with a location; so far all my books are set in the East. Once I’ve picked a country I’ll read about the history and hope to find a time period that fascinates me. Usually I’ll choose a period of upheaval, where social change is happening or is about to take place, and often that process of reading will suggest an idea for the story. Of course a lot of time and heartache will have to go into developing the idea, and that tends to happen at the same time as I develop the characters. I’m known for strong female characters who undergo an emotional journey during troubled times, so I look for challenging situations for my main characters. My favourite stage is when I’m thinking about how I’ll weave the characters into the time and place I’ve chosen. I don’t plan everything in advance, although I know what my themes are and I know what drives the central story. I usually write a first draft and while reworking it the deeper story unfolds. Sometimes it is a little different from the original idea. It’s a complex process of discovery and it can keep me awake at night.
Tell us about your publishing experience.
Well all I can say is that my publishers at Viking/Penguin have been fantastic and I’ve enjoyed every part of the experience. Their offices are on the Strand in London overlooking the river, so I love going up there for meetings. They’re also extremely friendly people and that helps.
In what ways do you promote your work?
I do all the usual things: blog tours, interviews, signings. Also I give talks at bookshops, libraries and Literature Festivals. I shall be appearing at three festivals this October: Beverley, Cheltenham and Ilkley. I’m also to be found on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I love Pinterest because I tend to think visually. I’ve been interviewed on the radio several times but have yet to do television. Hopefully I will at some point.
What are some of your current projects?
I’ve just finished the edits for The Tea Planter’s Wife set in Ceylon between 1925 and 1934 which will be published by Penguin and in translation next year. I really loved writing it and I’m very pleased with the end result. Now I’m working on my third book – a complex story set in Vietnam – and therefore terrifically hard to write. I’m at the fingers crossed stage. It always happens somewhere along the line and, so far, I’ve found my way through. Writing ‘on the edge’ you could call it!
Where can my readers find you?
On Twitter: Dinah Jefferies (@DinahJefferies)
On Facebook: Dinah Jefferies – Author, Penguin UK
On Pinterest: Dinah Jefferies – Author
Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaya and moved to England at the age of nine. She still loves South East Asia and the Far East and jumps at the chance to travel there whenever she can. She once lived in a commune with a rock band, and has worked as an exhibiting artist. After also living in Italy and Spain, she now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and very naughty Norfolk Terrier where she writes full time. The Separation is her first novel.