Today we’re traveling to rural Shropshire in central England to chat with Jo Jackson about how an orphanage in Egypt, views of Wenlock Edge, a large wildlife pond, the Israeli secret police, Wembley Stadium, and spending the night in the Gaza strip come together as part of Jo’s past and current life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Jo Jackson. I am the author of two books, ‘Too Loud a Silence’ published in 2016 and ‘Beyond the Margin’ published in 2019. Originally from Birmingham U.K., I now live in rural Shropshire with my husband and dog. Our three children are grown up, married with families and careers of their own. My own career was as a nurse, a midwife and ultimately as a family psychotherapist.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Even as a child I enjoyed writing and English was a favourite lesson. My first book was typed, illustrated and bound by my junior school and put in the school library. I read it out in the school assembly as a very proud ten year old.
Fast- forward twenty years and inspiration was ignited when I returned to England after living in Egypt for two years with my family. Events there – abandoned twin girls, an orphanage, and a situation that for me was never resolved became the inspiration for my first novel. I still have the handwritten manuscript that I wrote at the time but career and family took over and it lay unfinished.
On retirement I joined a writing group and the story that had lain dormant for thirty-seven years was rewritten and became ‘Too Loud a Silence’. I set it in Egypt with a backdrop of the Arab Spring with a backstory based thirty years earlier. It was a story I needed to write for those little orphaned girls and for me. I then went on to write ‘Beyond the Margin’, three years later.
What is your favourite writing place?
I am lucky to live in a house in rural Shropshire with stunning views of Wenlock Edge from every window. My favourite writing place, in summertime is sitting with my laptop beside a large wildlife pond in the garden. I share the space with birdsong, mallards, moorhens and their chicks all busy foraging among the reeds. In winter you’ll find me in the conservatory or curled up beside the log burner. I love nature and it inspires description in my writing. My best time to write is early morning and I witness many beautiful sunrises.
Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.
– Driving home from Egypt in a car with Egyptian number plates we were stopped and made to get out while the car was searched by the Israeli secret police. They thought my husband, myself and our 3 blonde haired children, aged 4 – 11 may be Lebanese terrorists!
– We were once marooned on a small island off the coast of Taiwan for 5 days because of a storm. Eventually we were taken back to the mainland by boat, through mountainous seas – and survived to tell the tale!
– I have stood on the seats of Wembley Stadium singing ‘We are the champions’, after watching my son lift the FA cup with Everton in 1995.
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
My most recent book, ‘Beyond the Margin’ arose out of two short stories I had written. Within my work as a family psychotherapist I was privileged to meet many people whose lives were lived on the edge of society. The novel is a tribute to their courage and resourcefulness. I used the setting of a timber yard because I walk above one almost every day with the dog. The ordered rows of tree trunks and the quiet of the place in the evening when work has ceased inspired me. I began to write the novel when I was in Ireland for a month and the wild scenery in the west seemed the perfect backdrop to the story.
What do you do when you’re not writing or marketing your books?
I have a wonderful life! I paint, I study philosophy, I read, I garden, I walk and travel in both the UK and distant places in the world, Africa and India being particular favourites. We have lots of friends and seven grandchildren all of them a joy.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
That I have the ability to deeply touch people emotionally through my characters and writing.
What is the craziest / most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?
Spending a night in the Gaza strip, with my family, in the home of a very kind taxi driver who generously made the offer when we found ourselves stranded at the border. We have the fondest memories of him and his family and the wonderful Palestinian hospitality showed to us that night.
What do you miss most about being a kid?
Playing out in the street until it was dusk.
Lying in bed, reading a book until lunchtime on a Sunday morning.
A penguin knocks on your door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?
‘”I know I look ridiculous but climate change is real. Don’t let anyone pretend it’s not.”
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
My brother and I were always told, ‘if you start something, you finish it’. This message has stayed with me and fuels my determination. The other thing is I am always positive. I like people and see the best, not the worst, in them.
Describe your perfect solo date.
Somewhere in the tropics where I could walk through the rainforest and enjoy the songs of the birds and hear the call of the monkeys.
Tell us about your most recent book.
‘Beyond the Margin’
‘Its strength lies in its authenticity. A gritty bitter-sweet narrative that kept me turning the pages’. ‘Emotionally raw and brutally honest’. ‘A stunning piece of writing – and one of my books of the year’. These are just a few of the phrases used by reviewers of my most recent book. My thanks go to all of them for their encouraging words.
It was incredibly interesting learning more about you and your writing, Jo. I immensely enjoyed our interview. You have had some amazing and wild adventures. Wishing you all the best! –Camilla
Blurb: Beyond the Margin
Is living on the edge of society a choice? Or is choice a luxury of the fortunate?
Joe, fighting drug addiction, runs until the sea halts his progress.
His is a faltering search for meaningful relationships.
‘Let luck be a friend,’ Nuala is told but it had never felt that way.
Abandoned at five years old, survival means learning not to care. Her only hope is to take control of her own destiny.
The intertwining of their lives makes a compelling story of darkness and light, trauma, loss and second chances.
Where to find the books:
Both books are available from: https://www.Amazon.co.uk in paperback or kindle
Stepping into Books on Amazon
Direct from Jo’s website https://www.jojacksonwriter.com and
Shropshire bookshops, libraries and Waterstones
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