Jane Davis's Counterfeit Self

Jane DavisWhat a pleasure it is to welcome the talented Jane Davis back as my Thursday guest! Jane is the author of seven 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. Six further novels have earned her a loyal fan base and wide-spread praise. Her 2016 novel, An Unknown Woman won Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year Award. 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’.

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.

Welcome, Jane! You are now releasing your seventh novel, but when did you feel you could call yourself a writer?
It was the agent who first signed me who said, ‘Jane, you are a writer.’ For four years, the 90,000 word manuscript of my first (unpublished) novel had obsessed me, eating up all of my spare time. Being a ‘writer’ sounded so much more glamorous than being an insurance broker, but there’s an enormous leap from writing your first novel and having the confidence to call yourself a writer. I still thought of myself as someone who ‘dabbled’. I left school at the age of sixteen with a handful of O’ Levels, and I’ve never managed to shake off the nagging fear that I’m going to be found out. I don’t think the doubt ever goes away, but you find a way to channel it. Rather like making use of nerves when you speak in public.

Do you set any rules for yourself when writing?
I have only three rules. Whatever my subject-matter, the end-product must be honest, credible and authentic.

Talk us through your writing process…
I never write an outline, but I don’t see the alternative as ‘winging it’. I am a ‘gradual layer-er’, and that takes time. With the exception of Half-truths and White Lies, which virtually wrote itself, none of my published novels bear any resemblance to their early drafts.

I like George R R Martin’s quote: ‘I’ve always said there are two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. Architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.

Personally, I think there are more than two types of writers. I want to be Mary Anning scouring the beaches at Lyme Regis for dinosaur fossils, or Howard Carter discovering the tomb of Tutankhamun, or metal detectorist Terry Herbert digging up the Staffordshire Hoard. What I don’t want to be is a parent deciding on my child’s future, telling my son which subjects he will study, arranging my daughter’s marriage.

Every time you introduce a new angle, each ‘what if?’ question has to be pushed to its limits. Setting material aside and revisiting it allows for greater objectivity. You have to analyse what isn’t working any why, then once you have the structure you go back and make every page shine. The pivotal moment of a novel may not actually reveal itself until several edits in, or until an editor comments, ‘I see the point that you were trying to make.

I’m afraid readers who imagine that words show up in the eventual order that they appear on the page of any novel is usually mistaken. In some ways, the novel in its final form is the rabbit pulled out of the hat.

You interview a lot of authors. Which author interview has been your favourite?
I sent a cheeky email to John Ironmonger after reading his novel, The Coincidence Authority, never dreaming that he would reply, but I told him I thought he was the British John Irving and apparently he was very pleased with that. Since then, he has published his third novel, Not Forgetting the Whale. It’s such a perfect piece of writing that I think it’s probably the better introduction to his work. Its main character is a City hotshot who runs away to an isolated Cornwall village in the mistaken belief that he was responsible for a financial crash. Think Local Hero, Whiskey Galore! or 1000 Acres of Sky and you’ll have an idea of feel of the book.

What’s the story behind your latest book?
My Counterfeit Self tells the story of a radical poet and political activist called Lucy Forrester. She’s a cross between two great British eccentrics, Edith Sitwell and Vivienne Westwood. Having been anti-establishment all of her life, Lucy is horrified to find that she’s been featured on the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. To be honest, the idea of writing about the life of a poet came from reader reviews. Several commented that my prose was like poetry. I had no idea if I could actually write poetry but this gave me confidence that I might be able to convince readers that I could see the world as a poet does.

Where does it sit with the rest of your work?
I’m excited by cause and effect and unconventionality in all its forms. I like to write about big subjects and give my characters impossible moral dilemmas. I’ve packed it with those!

What are the things that have shaped Lucy Forrester?
JDV-MCS2016-Clays-02At the age of nine, Lucy was struck down by polio. With any extended childhood illnesses, the child is set apart, both literally and figuratively. Staring death in the face defines a person, whatever their age. Although she isn’t paralysed, Lucy has that same stubborn determined streak that Roosevelt displayed when he refused to accept the limitations of his disease. The refusal to wear leg braces, to face the world sitting down. She’s looked at differently by family and friends. And, of course, she has to draw on tremendous inner reserves.

Then there is her wonderful governess, Pamela, who responds to her father’s comment that she should be encouraged to do a little light reading by having her read the newspapers, and then teaches her the invaluable lesson that just because something is legal, doesn’t necessarily mean it is right.

There is also the behaviour of her parents. Lucy discovers a trail of betrayals so awful that she no longer feels any sense of duty to live up to their expectations, or to comply with their outdated notions of convention and morality. And that’s not to say Lucy isn’t moral, but she invents her own moral code.

And of course, she meets the two men who will become central to her life – Dominic Marchmont who becomes both her literary critic and on/off lover, and the photographer Ralph who provides her with a sort of stability and security that’s she’s never experienced before. Theirs is the real love story as far as I’m concerned.

Thank you for stopping by, Jane, and good luck with My Counterfeit Self!

You can buy My Counterfeit Self in the following ways:
eBook: https://books2read.com/u/3kZveg  paperback: http://amzn.to/2eeR22j

‘A compelling portrayal of the bohemian life of an activist poet, the men she loves, and the issues she fights for.’ ~ Eleanor Steele

Completely gripping, excellently written and so skilfully put together, I can’t recommend My Counterfeit Self highly enough ~ Isabel Wolff, author of Ghostwritten

Connect with Jane:  website    Facebook   Twitter @JaneDavisAuthor  Goodreads   Amazon Author Page


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIOPERFIDITASSUCCESSIO and AURELIA. The fifth in the series, INSURRECTIO, was published in April 2016.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines…

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