Interview with author Dinah Jefferies

Born in Malaysia and living in Gloucestershire, SoGlos speaks to author and seasoned traveller, Dinah Jefferies, about her local life, bestselling book, and anticipated third release.

From the exotics of India to the comfort of the Cotswolds, Dinah Jefferies’ adventures around the globe – reflected so well in her bestselling books – have been replaced by walks in the Gloucestershire countryside.

Soon to be researching her fourth book in India; awaiting the release of her third title, The Silk Merchant’s Daughter; and celebrating the success of The Tea Planter’s Wife, Dinah’s career has gone from strength to strength.

SoGlos talks to the local author about her fascinating travels, career highlights, and life in Gloucestershire.

Everything else fades away and the ‘storyworld’ becomes more real than the real world.

Can you tell SoGlos readers a little bit about yourself and your life in Gloucestershire?

Before we went to live in Andalusia, we lived very happily in Stroud for nine years. When we came back to the UK we opted for Cheltenham so as to be closer to family.

I used to love walking the dog on Rodborough Common but now we tend to head for Cleeve Hill. Both have wonderful views over the Gloucestershire countryside and, although I love both Stroud and Cheltenham, they are different. Here I love the elegant buildings and feeling of spaciousness, whereas Stroud was fabulous for its quirkiness and hills.

Your books seem to draw upon your experience of other countries; would you ever write a book set in Gloucestershire?

While I do write characters who come from the west – Gwen in The Tea Planter’s Wife comes from Owltree Manor, which was loosely based on Owlpen Manor near Uley – my books are all set in countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and India. I don’t think that’s likely to change for a while.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Being totally absorbed in the world I’m creating. Everything else fades away and the ‘storyworld’ becomes more real than the real world, so much so that when I stop I’m startled by the fact that I’m not in a hot exotic country, way back in the past.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what’s the best way to combat it?

I don’t know what it is. There are times when I feel tired or a bit stuck, and if that happens I’ll take the dog for a walk, or read something different, or maybe watch a film. Ideas can come to me in the middle of the night so I sleep with a pen and notebook nearby.

The Silk Merchant's Daughter

Your books are partly inspired by personal experience; would you ever write an autobiography?

No I don’t think I’d be interested in writing about me. Fiction is my passion and I want to go on writing novels for as long as I can. I have lots of ideas; the hard part is weeding out the ones that won’t work.

After experiencing the loss of your son, did you find it difficult to approach the subject of love and loss in your writing, or was it therapeutic?

My personal loss was many years ago. My son was 14 when he died in 1985 so I have got used to that being a part of who I am. I think that writers are often drawn to certain themes and this is one of mine. I tend to write bitter-sweet novels and I think that’s a reflection of who I am. So no, it wasn’t really difficult but more like something I just do because I am me.

What has been the proudest moment from your career?

I don’t feel proud exactly, but I do feel amazed and very happy. The happiest moments include getting an agent to represent me; agreeing the first deal with Penguin; being chosen for the Richard and Judy Book club; and reaching number one in the Sunday Times bestsellers. These are all such a thrill for me and each one makes me smile.

What advice would you give to budding writers?

Keep writing. Don’t give up. Expect rejection. Read. Learn your craft. Learn your craft some more. I think we go on learning with each novel we write, there’s always a lesson. Do your best to get an agent. Take feedback on the chin and don’t be precious about your writing. Be prepared to cut and edit.

Aside from writing, what are your other hobbies or passions?

I love travel and in 2016 we are going to India. I’m going to be researching my fourth book while I’m there, which I’m very excited about.

So far I’ve only read about the country, but to actually be there will be something else; I want to absorb every detail of the atmosphere so that I can fill the fourth book with sights, sounds and smells.

And finally, what can readers expect from your third novel?

War, secrets and an unbearable choice. The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is a tale of dark secrets, sisterly rivalry and love against the odds, set in colonial era Vietnam. It will be published on Thursday 25 February 2016, just in time for Mother’s Day.

By Kathryn Godfrey

© SoGlos
Tuesday 12 January 2016

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