Interview with Jackie Griffiths

What's the story behind your latest book?
A woman is troubled by philosophical questions. She mulls them over in private, and spends hours discussing them with her grandmother over hot cups of chamomile tea. When her grandmother dies, she leaves her granddaughter a perplexing note: "seek and ye shall find." Thus starts an incredible journey into strange lands, meeting unusual people, undergoing challenging situations, and discovering various and alternative theories of the meaning of life. As she passes through the ten stages of enlightenment, the main character has to sing in a concert performance, wrestle with a mighty ox, overcome her desires to become a world-renowned guru, and come to terms with the silent sacred space at the centre of her being, over which there is no authority - not even herself. She finally finds peace in the garden of Eden, but even this she must eventually abandon to live truly in the here and now.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I work on individual characters and their situations, their places of work, where they live, their politics, cadences of speech, personal habits, politics, desires, and everything about them, before I write a single word of the plot - and by then they have become like real people to me, and I care deeply about how they develop.

This is the greatest joy - being able to create people who become almost real, being able to craft and engineer their lives, philosophies and outcomes in an elegant and satisfactory manner.
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on my third novel; working title: 'Breaking the Chrysalis.' It starts with a prologue about an ordinary, married woman who goes out to sunbathe in the privacy of her back garden, but is spied upon by the old man next door hiding behind a newly planted oak tree. As he gazes lustfully upon her body, Susanna has no idea she’s being violated and continues to innocently relax in the sun. This unfortunate episode in the garden sets the tone for the novel; the neighbour likes to remind her that he's seen her naked each time they cross paths, with the air of someone boasting about his achievement. He gives the impression of being unaware that it could embarrass or even offend Susanna to repeatedly hear about it, even in front of her children.

Susanna’s life is stable and established. She's married but it's a loveless relationship, and at times emotionally damaging. There are difficult neighbours, would-be lovers, friends that don't make her happy, and all around it appears that people are enjoying illicit and legitimate passions, tenderness, and affection. At one point, she herself becomes peeping tom at a dinner party, when she catches a couple embracing and becomes mesmerised, watching and longing for it to be happening to her. She yearns to feel something, to be infused with the fire of desire, to be excited and full of life once again. But this unattainable paradise seems denied to her. She talks earnestly to her friends about feminist issues, about sex within marriage, outside the marriage, moral dilemmas... She searches for something to connect with, to give her life meaning. She has a brief affair with a married neighbour, who makes an outrageous proposal, but her heart’s not in it and she ends the relationship feeling no better off.

Does she eventually break out of her chrysalis? Does the pupa finally metamorphose into a butterfly? If so, how does she do it? What inspires her or causes her to suddenly make a bid for freedom after years of accepting the situation? And what impact does this have on her marriage, children, and friendships?
Who are your favorite authors?
Khaled Hosseini (A Thousand Splendid Suns)
Yasmina Khadra (Swallows of Kabul)
Tim Parks (Italian Neighbours)
Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger)
Indra Sinha (Animal's People)
Jennie Erdal (Ghosting: A Double Life)
Siddhartha Mukherjee (The Emperor of all Maladies)
Da Chen (Colours of the Mountain)
Joan Brady (Prologue: An Unconventional Life)
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Nothing! :-D I'd rather stay there all day, snug, warm, and relaxed... but I have to arise early because two five-year-olds need me.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Housework! :-(
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, in the first year of senior school I wrote a prize-winning short story - I was about eleven years old. It was about twin babies inside the womb, written from their perspective as if they could think and communicate. One dies and the other is left to live on alone until birth (which is when the story ends). I won a brand new pack of colouring pens for my efforts, and was extremely proud of myself. I have no idea what on earth inspired me to write such a morbid story at such a young age, having never experienced death or tragedy, nor had a twin brother or sister. And yet... at the age of 39 I went on to have twin babies myself.
Describe your desk
Small but organised.
My large 'Alienware' laptop dominates this little space. It sits on a wipe-clean blue & white checked oil cloth. (Obviously I like to eat and drink at my desk. One needs to be able to easily wipe off spilt cottage cheese/curry/cereal etc)
There is also a well-worn thesaurus, my glasses, a neat pile of notes, a pot of pens, and a wooden coaster.
No trinkets, no ornaments, no tat. Utilitarian. A place for working and eating.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing when I was very young, still at junior school. I wrote stories in my spare time, and dreamed of the day I would be a writer for real. My best subject at school was English - I was once told that I had too much imagination! I started a detailed, daily diary at the age of 16 and continued this for a decade. It's fascinating to read back on now. A true insight into the workings of a young teen mind and the problems, worries, hopes, and desires that occupied me nearly thirty years ago.
Published 2014-11-12.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Ox Herding
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 56,470. Language: British English. Published: September 24, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Inspirational
After a mysterious note 'Seek and ye shall find' was left to her in a will, Jae embarks on a fateful philosophical adventure to uncover the meaning of life.