Jane Davis on the Influence of Reading
Jane Davis is the author of six novels. Her debut, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award and was described by Joanne Harris as ‘A story of secrets, lies, grief and, ultimately, redemption, charmingly handled by this very promising new writer.’ The Bookseller featured her in their ‘One to Watch’ section. Five further novels have earned her a loyal fan base and wide-spread praise. Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’ Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.
When did you first start writing?
I watched a television programme in which the chef Rick Stein described how he came to become a chef as a food enthusiast. I came to writing as an enthusiastic reader and a lover of words. If we are to believe the late Sir Terry Pratchett, becoming a writer is a process of osmosis. You simply read until you overflow and then you become a writer.
There were several reasons why I started to write. The first was that, although I had been an artistic child, my work insurance broking provided no creative outlet. Secondly, it was a question of timing rather than one of time. I didn’t start to write until I was in a relationship with someone who gave me confidence. Finally, I needed something to write about. Something happened in my life when I was in my mid-thirties that I needed to make sense of. I used writing to explore how I felt about it. I think that most writers are trying to create order in a confused world.
I had never been to a creative writing class. I just had a laptop and a little spare time. OK, it took up all of my spare time, but I didn’t know that when I embarked on my first novel, which was four years in the writing and, though it earned me the service of an agent, remains unpublished. Guided by instinct, my aim was to write the type of book I liked to read.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Sadly, no! I have an appalling memory. My sister Anne is less than a year older than me, and her memory is amazing, so I’m totally reliant on her when it comes to family history. I can remember that I was a huge fan of The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay. I also loved Anne of Green Gables and anything written by Alan Garner, whose writing is dark, peculiarly British and blends fact with folk law, myths and spirituality.
How do you discover the eBooks you read?
After spending twelve hours a day on the computer, I prefer tree books for pleasure. I discover them in any number of ways – recommendations, newspaper reviews, blogs, author interviews, by interviewing other authors, social media forums.
Whenever I visit a new place, the first thing I do is check out the independent bookshop and treat myself. And so when I go to England’s Lake District, a visit to Sam Read in Grasmere – Wordsworth country – is essential. What could be better than buying the work of a Cumbrian author and reading the novel in its setting? Last year I fell in love with Haweswater, Sarah Hall’s achingly beautiful fictional account of a real occurrence – the flooding of a valley to create a reservoir to provide water for the population of Manchester. Walking to Haweswater and seeing the secluded valley flooded felt like a pilgrimage.
What are your five favourite books, and why?
My list of favourite books may change but it is always topped by The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. Ignore the terrible film version – it has everything. Family secrets, flawed characters, opportunities for redemption. I return to it time and time again and always find something new. Odd though it may seem, I have never read another book by Pat Conroy. The Prince of Tides is so perfect that I’d be afraid that I would be disappointed.
David Mitchell’s One Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I loathed Cloud Atlas so much that I was put off picking this up for some time, but I heard a discussion about it and was convinced. It is a masterclass in writing. The richness of the detail is enormous and the asides that the characters make are so astute.
Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad blew me away. This author has an incredible understanding of what it means to be human. She is so non-judgemental about her characters’ flaws, and what the reader comes away with is a sense of their struggle to find spirituality and beauty in a rapidly changing world.
I adored All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It has replaced Marcus Zusac’s The Book Thief as my war novel of choice. Two of the most heart-breaking characters of recent years: a blind girl and a German orphan.
Another recent discovery that I adored was J W Ironmonger’s The Coincidence Authority. I like novels with non-linear structures because that is how memory works. I wrote to the author after reading it, saying that I though he was a British John Irving – and he replied, agreeing to be featured on my blog.
What do you read for pleasure?
As much as I love novels, I also enjoy a big biography. At the moment I’m reading Mad Girl’s Love Song by Andrew Wilson which tells the story of Sylvia Plath’s life before she met Ted Hughes. I want to take her by the shoulders and shake her.
Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey, with her Formula 1 obsessed, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she is not writing, you may spot Jane disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Davis/e/B0034P156Q/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
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Twitter account: https://twitter.com/janedavisauthor
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