Interview with Grace M. Jolliffe

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in the city of Liverpool in an area called Toxteth. It was very much an inner city area and I think it was the colourful Liverpudlian characters and humour that influenced me most.
When did you first start writing?
I first started writing as soon as I was able to. I liked to invent whole new universes and strange characters to live in them and still do. My mother encouraged me and I often sat on the step of our house making things up.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is Piggy Monk Square and is set in Liverpool. Liverpool was a tough place to grow up in and we were skint especially when my Dad was on strike - which during the 1970's was quite often. We were lucky enough to have a few books in the house and access to the well-stocked Lodge Lane and also Picton Road Library,
In the early seventies, due to the infamous ‘stop and search' tactics employed by the Merseyside Police a growing atmosphere of mutual hostility emerged between some of the residents and some of the police.
Later, in 1981, Toxteth became famous for its violent riots and the subsequent destruction of many of its buildings and landmarks including, I believe, my beloved Lodge Lane Library and my favourite shop the ‘Pic n Pay.’

The riots occurred around the time the book is set and were integral to the writing of Piggy Monk Square as they set the scene for the story.
Was there a particular event that inspired you to write Piggy Monk Square?
The idea of writing Piggy Monk Square emerged long before I actually wrote it and it was at the forefront of my mind when I returned to college as a mature student to study film and television.

I had a long bus journey to get to the college so I began using this 'down' time to write Piggy Monk Square. I remember I wrote in some cheap yellow notebooks I got free every time I spent more than £5 in the local supermarket!

At the time I was a very skint single mother and had no computer at home so I used the college computer to type it up at break times but I wasn’t happy with the results. I couldn’t get the central spine of the story right and I knew I needed more time to focus on it.
I was very busy trying to juggle my college work with free-lance writing jobs and sometimes having to resort to door-to-door selling to get the money to pay the electric bills. (Worst job ever - although I did sell a magazine to 'The Edge' from U2 one time.) In the end I had to leave the book aside and get on with everything else.

But, the story became one that would not go away, no matter how hard I tried and there was part of me didn't want to write it. Eventually I got round to doing it, and in keeping with the atmosphere of the book, I re-wrote and typed up the story in a damp bare-brick shed at the back of my house in County Wicklow.

Although it is a work of pure fiction, there was a specific incident that inspired the book. Like the book, it all happened in a derelict house in Toxteth. I was around nine or ten years old. My little friends and I had made a hiding place so we could play hide and seek, eat sweets, and swap comics away from adults.
One day, we were engrossed in reading our comic when two policemen marched in to the building - they found us, searched us and threatened dire consequences if they found us there again.
These two grown men were rough as they searched us, and verbally intimidating. They treated us small children like we were hardened criminals.

Just like my fictional character, Sparra, we were absolutely terrified. Even worse, the police also confiscated our sweets. Unbelievable now but sadly true. They were bad times for that area of Liverpool.
I had nightmares about these men for weeks. Like Sparra, I could never tell my Mum because she would have been annoyed that I was playing in the derelict house.

Although the behaviour of these two policemen was outrageous I have to thank them – without that unforgettable incident I might never have written Piggy Monk Square.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords is an amazing innovation. It has contributed to the success of many authors and puts readers in touch with a wide variety of writers.

It provides a fresh publishing platform and makes our books widely available in just a few easy steps.

There are lots of publishing options available and Mark Coker's Smashwords Style Guide is a wonderful reference book that takes writers step by step through the publishing and marketing process.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
For me writing is a way of life. You can do it anywhere you want and all you need is a pen and paper. Stories are very possibly the only place a person can be totally free. You make all the decisions for all your characters - you control who they are and what they do.

There are ups and downs, but fortunately the ups are so great that they make the downs bearable. I think the greatest thing about writing is that the more you write the more ideas you have and ideas are fun.

Of course some writers say it's great to be able to write in their pyjamas or tatty old tracksuits but I'm not one of them. ☺
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I am not making things up I love walking around the country lanes and seashore where I live on the wonderful Wild Atlantic Way. I find walking clears my 'writing head' and refreshes my mind ready to start again.

I love taking photographs of nature and its natural magic inspires my Ballyyahoo series of children's stories. I take all my own photographs for the Ballyyahoo website.

I also love gardening and have a wild overgrown garden. I grow my own vegetables and flowers and I spend a lot of time planning and working on this. I also take photographs and write about it regularly on

I am a bit of a hoarder but only things I find on the beach. I have a large collection of shells and stones and enjoy polishing the stones in my stone tumbler.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I read a lot and over the years I have developed a habit of scouring the newspaper reviews of a weekend and circling the books I want to read.

I also search on Smashwords for ebooks and I love the fact that Smashwords have made ebooks so easy to access.

As for ebooks themselves - well I know some people miss the smell and feel of a book and that is nice, but to be quite honest I think that being able to carry around as many books as you like, or bring hundreds of books on holiday in something the size of one thin paperback is just about as good as it gets.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes I do - it was about a strange tribe of people who had three eyes and hair that stuck up in tufts. They wore colourful clothes, ate rainbow coloured food and lived in a secret place - somewhere in the universe. I think I was about seven when I wrote this and my mum loved it. :)
What is your writing process?
My writing process is to start writing immediately after breakfast. I write on my laptop and aim to have a minimum of 3000 new words down by the end of each day, five days of the week. If I haven't achieved that by the end of each day I make it up over the next few days.

I keep several ideas books - one in my bag, one in my car and one beside the bed. You never know when an idea will arrive and it is so easy to forget them.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't think this is the first story I ever read but it certainly had a huge impact on me. It was the Diary Of Anne Frank.

I remember being so amazed that a young girl had such a terrible life and had written such an amazing story about it. I was shocked that she had not lived to see adulthood. It was the first time I realised that children could die at the hands of adults and brought home to me the harsh realities of the world. I think it made me grow up.

The Diary of Anne Frank showed me the importance of writing and I learned how it saved Anne herself. How would she have endured her imprisonment without her diary to keep her sane and organise her thoughts and perceptions? She inspired me to want to be a writer and taught me that when things are tough there is always something you can do - as long as you have pen and paper.
Published 2015-10-23.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

When The Sun Shines
Price: Free! Words: 16,500. Language: British English. Published: November 20, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
A heartwarming, nostalgic and funny short novel from 1970s England. Be careful what you wish for. Josie longs to escape because her boring job and horrible boss are driving her mad. A stranger might have the answer, or he just might have a secret. Laugh and cry with this funny, nostalgic tale of family, love and struggle. Grace M. Jolliffe is the award-winning author of Piggy Monk Square.
Fiction Street - A Short Story
Price: Free! Words: 15,480. Language: English. Published: October 26, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
A terrifying glimpse of a child predator - through the eyes of a young girl. An encounter with a kerb-crawling predator leads a child into a confusing and terrifying world she cannot understand.
The Real Halloween
Price: Free! Words: 6,090. Language: English. Published: October 23, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Holidays & Celebrations / Halloween, Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
(5.00 from 1 review)
Sean loves Halloween. He's not afraid of anything - until he hears the terrifying story of his disappearing uncle and the terrible secret of Dancer’s Well! When you own a Ballyyahoo book - you don’t just get a book. You get access to a whole world of Ballyyahoo magic - for free and this edition includes another free book from Ballyyahoo