Saturday, August 30, 2014

Author Interview: Dinah Jefferies: The Separation: The Tea Planters Wife

Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaya (now Malaysia) 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 and will be followed by The Tea Planter’s Wife in 2015.
Dinah on atrip back to England aged three

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

My most vivid memories are of the years I spent in Malaysia, then called Malaya. Best of all was spying on the monkeys who nipped in through our kitchen window to steal the meat and bananas. I adored the Chinese circus and our holidays on a deserted tropical island with white sand, turquoise sea and gluey jellyfish.
Dinah mother and sister 1952

About your education

I went to Grammar School and have a degree in English Literature.

What career did you plan during your education days?

I wanted to be a fashion designer. It didn’t happen!

What languages you can speak and write?

When I was a child in Malaysia I spoke a hotchpotch of different languages. Now it’s only English and a little Spanish.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

I write about loss. I write about how hard it is to move on when the past won't let you go. I write about families torn apart. I write about slices of 20th Century history with all its intrigue and social upheaval. I sometimes have fun with a little dash of romantic love. But above all I write about the unbreakable bonds of love. That's the heart of my writing and it comes from the heart. My son died 29 years ago and his loss is my greatest inspiration.


What hurts you most in this world?

Seeing children die from starvation, disease and lack of clean water. All of which could be fixed.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?

That would be the death of my son. I overcame it by putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, week after week, year after year. Until the point came when I began to feel alive again. My writing has been one of the most healing things I have ever done.
When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?
I began writing nearly six years ago and I’m now writing my fourth novel. The first one was unpublished although the second was, but the first was a fantastic learning experience. On one level the purpose is to explore themes, places and periods of history that fascinate me. On another level it’s simply the joy of creating something from scratch. I write because I love it.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

The Separation was published this year 2014 in English by Penguin, and also in six foreign languages. It is available all over the world. Set in Malaya 1955. Lydia Cartwright returns from visiting a sick friend to an empty house. Where is her husband Alec? Her young daughters, Emma and Fleur? Fearful and desperate, she contacts the British District Officer and learns that Alec has been posted up country. But why didn't he wait? Why no message? Lydia's search takes her on a hazardous journey through war-torn jungle. One that only the power of a mother's love can help her to survive. Forced to turn to Jack Harding, a man she'd vowed to leave in her past, she sacrifices everything to be reunited with her family. And while carrying her own secrets, Lydia will soon face a devastating betrayal which may be more than she can bear..

What are your forthcoming writings?

The Tea Planter’s Wife, set in Ceylon 1925 will be published by Penguin and internationally in 2015.

What are your future plans?

I’m currently writing my third book set in Vietnam.

What four top most things do you take care of while writing a book?

Tension. Emotion. Compelling characters. A strong narrative.
The Separation card - back

How much real life goes into a fiction writing?

I’d say quite a lot, though it is always transformed into something new. It’s as if an alchemy takes place where you bring together reality and imagination to create fiction.

Is high level of imagination important to have for an Author?

Absolutely. You have to be able to imagine, picture and feel the scene as you write it. I think a strong visual imagination helps a lot.

Your dream destination on Earth?

Well at the moment that’s India. I’ve never been and am longing to go.

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?

Born in Malaysia. Recently I’ve been to Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Loved them both though we stayed on a tea Plantation in Sri Lanka, where my second book is set, and it was out of this world. In Vietnam it was harder to uncover the past.

Your zodiac/ sunsign?

I am a roaring Lion.

What is the last book you finished reading? What is the current book you are reading?

I read a novel about dementia. I won’t name it because I didn’t think it was a particularly strong work of fiction, though it taught me a lot about early onset dementia. I am now taking a break from reading as I’m in the early stages of writing book three and I don’t want to be distracted. All being well it will come out in 2016.
Your favorite movie and why?

I don’t like Hollywood blockbusters all that much. I do love independent and foreign films ‘Incendes’ was shocking and moving and took my breath away. I also loved ‘One Half of a Yellow Sun’ because, like my own novels, it takes a slice of history and tells it through the relationships of the central characters.  
What comes to your mind when you think of India?

What comes to mind is that I can’t wait to go there. My husband loves cooking Indian food from scratch. His mother was born in India and taught him how to grind the spices himself. Our house often smells amazing. First and foremost I think of the smells. Second the amazing colour of the saris. Third the beauty of the country and its people. Fourth the railway and the history. And sixth something mystical that I can’t name yet. I need to go there and hope to set book four in India. Any suggestions of locations?

Some quickies:

Sun or Moon, Sun
Laughter or Smile, Laughter
Morning or Evening, Morning,
Mountain or Sea, Mountain
Silence or Conversation, Both
Water or Fire, Fire
Air or Earth, Air

State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote:

 “I imagined a fine line that wound half way round the world. It was the invisible thread that stretched from west to east and back again; one end was attached to my mother’s heart and the other to mine. And, I knew, whatever might happen, that thread would never be broken.”

The last line of your autobiography would be… 

‘I may not have always got it right but I never lacked courage.’
Plan for The Separation version 2_edited-1

Links:
Twitter handle: @DinahJefferies



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