Interview with Jane Corry – Author of I Looked Away
Peter: Jane, I have read a few of your books over the years and it was a pleasure to get the opportunity of reading ‘I Looked Away’ prior to publication. I found this book full of depth and emotion and I’d like to congratulate you on its release. I am delighted that we have the opportunity to conduct this interview. Many thanks for making the time available.
Peter: What inspired you to write your book ‘I Looked Away’?
Jane: Three ‘things’. Love for my grandchildren. A childhood trauma. Finding a dead body on the beach. Tragically the latter belonged to a local homeless man. This led to the setting up of a committee to make sure it didn’t happen again.
Peter: Both your characters, Ellie and Jo, are fabulously well drawn. Each face very difficult and precarious lives with deep psychological issues. How emotionally challenging was it to write these characters?
Jane: At the time, it seemed perfectly natural to step inside their skins. Now when I look back, I’m not sure how I did it. That’s the thing about writing. It’s automatic – at least for me. Very hard to analyse. I just get into the character and it comes.
Peter: With Ellie and Jo, do you hope you delivered an important message and that your characters speak for people who endure similar circumstances?
Jane: Absolutely. With Ellie, I wanted to reach out to any woman (and man) in a difficult relationship. And with Jo, I wanted to show that homelessness can happen to almost anyone.
Peter: Homelessness is a sad blight on our society, how much research and involvement did/do you have with this group of our community? What connections or engagements had the greatest impact on you?
Jane: I grew up in London and have always, for as long as I can remember, bought people food and drink on the street. I’ve taught my children to do the same. When I moved to the south-west, I became involved with a local group after I discovered the body on the beach which I mentioned earlier. This had the biggest impact on me. I also interviewed the poet Ben Westwood who described what life was like for him on the streets.
Peter: Your character Ellie, had such long-standing and deep psychological issues. What did you learn about psychological abuse and how cruelly it can damage a person, especially a child or spouse? Did you research this area and what was alarming to discover?
Jane: I know a little about psychological abuse, both personally and through interviews I did as a journalist. However, I also did a great deal of research and spoke to several experts. The alarming point for me (although I suspected it all along) is that childhood traumas can remain hidden for years.
Peter: You brought wonderful vivid imagery to the locations in the story. How much had you planned to characterise the locations in Devon and Cornwall? Does the seaside have a special meaning or reward for you?
Jane: I moved to Devon with my second husband ten years ago. Since then, it has taken a big role in my writing . I grew up in a leafy London suburb but always wanted to live by the sea. In fact, I once did some past life regression and was told I used to be a mermaid. One of my grandfathers, who died before I was born, was a merchant seaman and I honestly think it’s in my blood. I swim regularly in the sea.
Peter: Do you use story boarding or mapping processes to develop your plots and interactions, or do you go with the flow and follow your instinct and gut feeling? Would you therefore describe yourself as a plotter, pantser or plantser?
Jane: I used to be a pantser but my wonderful Penguin editor suggested that I plotted in detail before writing. Now I come up with a detailed outline but will sometimes change this when I’m writing as the characters grow.
Peter: Do you use particular software applications or utilities to support your writing activity? For example, Scrivener or Grammarly.
Jane: No! Just my own imagination and intuition. I cut out photographs and pictures of people who remind me of my characters in my head. I pin them on a noticeboard and glance at them every now and then when writing.
Peter: What are the greatest benefits and restrictions to being a published Author?
Jane: Benefits include self-respect and also acknowledgment from friends and family that I am doing this seriously. It is a dream come true to be published by Penguin, the Harrods of the publishing industry as far as I’m concerned. I can’t think of any restrictions. I’m so lucky to have a ‘job’ I love. Do you get involved in finalising other aspects of the book, for example the cover design, narration and the promotion of the book? The Penguin team is amazing. They always ask my views on cover and promotion etc.
Peter: How much time do you spend on writing compared to promoting your books?
Jane: When I’m writing a novel, I’m at my desk for four hours every morning. I write about 3000 – 4000 words. Then I revise later on in the day. I also spend about one to two hours a day on social media. On ‘granny’ days when I have the grandchildren, I write in the evening.
Peter: What authors have you most admired and have had an influence on you?
Jane: I love Maggie O’Farrell and Diane Setterfield. Also the classics such as Jane Austen. Oh – and all the Virago Classics!
Peter: What is your favourite book you’ve read over the last 12 months?
Jane: Clare Mackintosh’s After The End. It made me cry but also filled me with hope. I was given a proof copy to read. It’s out soon.
Peter: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Jane: Write about something you’re passionate about. Try to give it a different quirky angle so that the agent sits up when reading the first line. Write every day – even if it’s a few words. You need to keep that story in your head. Consider writing from more than one viewpoint. It moves the plot along and gives insight into different characters.
Peter: If you had a dinner party and could invite 3 personalities from any period in history who would they be and why?
Jane: Frank Romer, my great grandfather. He was a doctor but I found out recently that he also had four crime novels published. My cousin David recently gave them to me. They are one of my most precious possessions. I’d also invite Mark Lemon who was the first editor of Punch. He was my great great great grandfather. I grew up in a family where there was very little money but lots of books. I didn’t realise until a few years ago that writing was in my blood. I’d also invite Virginia Woolf because she has guts. I like strong women. There’s a sign in my kitchen which I bought after my divorce. It says ‘A woman is like a teabag. You only know how strong she is when you put her in hot water.’
Peter: Can you give us any insights into any future books or projects that you’re working on?
Jane: I’ve almost finished next year’s book. I can’t reveal the working title but I can say that it’s about a feisty heroine who battles against the odds.
Peter: How can readers learn more about you and your work?
Jane: My website (designed by my youngest son!) is www.janecorryauthor.com. I’m on Twitter @janecorryauthor and Instagram .
Peter: Jane, I appreciate you taking the time for this interview. If there are other snippets of information you wish to provide, please feel free. I would like to congratulate you on your wonderful books and I wish you massive success for the future.
Jane: Thank you so much for asking me to do this. If anyone reading this likes my books, I’d be thrilled if they could post a review on Amazon. It’s so important for an author nowadays. I’d also like to encourage everyone who feels deep down, that they want to write. Follow your intuition and go for it!