I’m delighted to welcome Alison Jack back to Jera’s Jamboree today.
I was born in the north of England, but have lived most of my life in and around the beautiful University city of Cambridge. From an early age I developed a passion for books; I’m a voracious reader and I have always enjoyed creative writing. Following many years of full time employment in book distribution I was made redundant in spring of 2012, which gave me the opportunity to realise my ambition and become a published author. Virtually overnight I went from packing books to writing them, and I’m delighted to say my debut novel DORY’S AVENGERS is due to be published by Book Guild on 29 August 2013. The launch will involve a book signing event at Waterstones in Cambridge; more details can be found here.
Aside from books, I’m a huge lover of music; a love which is reflected throughout Dory’s Avengers. I enjoy hiking, particularly in the beautiful Lake District, which provides the setting for much of my story. Interests unrelated to Dory’s Avengers include wakeboarding (like snowboarding but on water!), travelling, exploring our fabulous capital city of London, and watching my local football team attempt to play the beautiful game.
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Welcome back Alison 🙂
Please summarise your latest book in 20 words or less.
In a stifled society, brutally oppressed by the dictatorial Sponsors, hope begins to gather momentum. Dory’s Avengers are coming!
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
The idea came to me while watching a televised football match. The game itself must have been pretty boring as I was more interested in noticing that everything seemed to be sponsored. The front of the players’ shirts, the back of their shirts, their socks, their boots, the managers’ jackets, the seats, the dugouts; each had a different sponsor. Then there were sponsors higher up the food chain endorsing the game itself, or the pundits’ studio, or the advertisement breaks. I flippantly thought that sponsors appeared to be taking over the world, and that idle thought gave birth to Dory’s Avengers.
It has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion I may have scuppered my own chance of attracting sponsorship by vilifying ‘The Sponsors’ in my debut novel. I remain hopeful that there are some sponsors out there with a well developed sense of irony…as well as pots of money, of course!
How do your characters come into existence? Do they have a bio?
Having always been a daydreamer I had a head full of characters, as familiar to me as my closest friends, long before I started work on Dory’s Avengers. I did note down some character bios before beginning Dory’s Avengers, but they turned out to be no use whatsoever. Characters who were destined to be bad turned good, some who were only meant to be peripheral became essential to the story, and new ones popped up as I went along. All the time they were the ones telling me where the story was to go next; I was nothing more than their scribe!
Did you do any research for your book? What resources did you use?
The bulk of my research was for my lead character, Louis Trevelyan. It’s difficult to describe how I go about creating my characters; I test out ideas in my head, and instinctively know when I’ve got it right. Louis became a very talented gymnast, with albinism. Both of these details meant a lot of research, as back then I knew nothing about men’s gymnastics, and I’ve never had the chance to meet anyone with albinism. Thank God for search engines! The albinism was more important to cover in detail than the gymnastics, as it is something Louis lives with on a daily basis. I didn’t want Louis to be an albino who happens to be a nice guy; rather I wanted him to be a nice guy with albinism, but I did need to find out all I could about albinism in order to make him as convincing as possible. Thanks to albinism websites NOAH and Albinism Fellowship of UK & Ireland I discovered a number of blogs and forums which gave me invaluable insight. During the course of my research I discovered that people with albinism are fed up with being portrayed in fiction as sinister, shadowy figures with red eyes. Although I may have occasionally slipped up in my attempt to portray Louis’s albinism accurately, I hope my ‘nice guy who happens to have albinism’ will do his bit to counter the ‘sinister red eyed albino’ stereotype.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
Charles Dickens most definitely. I’m not arrogant enough to put myself in the same league as such a great author, but I love his turn of phrase and I’m sure that must sometimes reflect in my writing. I’m also a big J.K.Rowling fan for similar reasons, and I enjoy reading the Sherlock Holmes mysteries over and over again. Great British authors on the whole, although I do love the American author Dean Koontz. His strong characterisation and excellent dialogue are two things I definitely try to emulate.
Does your book tackle a social barrier? How have you incorporated it into the story?
I didn’t address social barriers head on. Instead, any characters in Dory’s Avengers, like Louis for example, who could be open to bullying for having the temerity to be different, are simply portrayed as ordinary, likeable human beings. There is a same sex couple in Dory’s Avengers, and in the interests of realism they do come in for some homophobic abuse, but only from characters the reader is clearly supposed to loathe. I long for the day when people will be accepted exactly as they are. If one homophobe grows to like my lovely same sex couple, and as a result realises that gay people are PEOPLE, with great qualities (such as humour, intelligence, compassion and loyalty in the case of my characters), then I will be delighted. If not, then I may have to introduce a bigot into my next novel who gets constantly ridiculed for being so ignorant!
What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Learning to write in the first place perhaps? Seriously; although I’ve written all manner of pieces over the years, it’s always been for my own pleasure, so there was a little bit of doubt that I’d be good enough to write a novel worthy of being read. With that in mind I suppose the best bit was discovering I really can do this. It wasn’t long after starting Dory’s Avengers that the ideas began to flow at an amazing rate, and I don’t need to tell a fellow author just how good it feels to read back over your day’s work and know you’ve achieved something really special.
What has been the worst part of your writing journey so far?
Without a doubt, the sleepless nights. The downside of my imagination going into overdrive was that my brain never knew when to switch off. Throughout the three months it took to write Dory’s Avengers I’d be awake for hours in the dead of night, yawning with tiredness, while my characters ran their latest adventures by me for approval. Bless them!
Do you make use of local resources for promoting your book? ie local book groups/bookshops/libaries How does that work?
I’m still on a huge learning curve when it comes to promoting Dory’s Avengers, as I’ve never done anything as daunting, or exciting, as marketing my own published work before. At the beginning of the year I joined my local book club, and was treated by the members as a local celebrity! That was great fun, and on a more practical level the book club members have decided to make Dory’s Avengers book of the month for September. They have also hinted that they will be encouraging members of other book clubs to do the same. Living in Cambridge is a huge bonus as people in this city really do love books. My initial launch is in the local branch of Waterstones, but I have the potential to follow that up with book signings and talks in local independent shops, colleges and schools. My friends have been fabulously supportive, coming forward with useful contacts and great ideas, and I’ve already had a full page advert in a programme for a popular event at the world famous Kings College. Wow, I’m almost as good as endorsed by Cambridge University… I wish!
What is your WIP?
My work in progress is a little neglected at the moment as I concentrate all my efforts into launching and promoting Dory’s Avengers, but I certainly don’t seem to suffer from ‘Difficult Second Book’ syndrome. While all was quiet following the editing of Dory’s I made a start on book number two, which has the unimaginative working title of ‘New Book’ at the moment. New Book centres around Jenny Trevelyan, who features in Dory’s Avengers as a six year old. In New Book she is nineteen, and travelling the UK with her friend Alex. The two girls settle in Brighton and begin work in a quaint little cafe, but all is not as it appears. Jenny encounters more and more people who have the power to manipulate situations, and sometimes other people. Everyone seems to have a hidden agenda, some are downright sinister, and simmering in the background is an undercurrent of evil. New Book is aimed at young adults, as is Dory’s Avengers, but it is a lot more mystical and may well take my characters somewhere a little unearthly. I’m brimming with ideas for New Book, and look forward to the opportunity to resume work.
Thank you very much for inviting me to take part in an interview for Jera’s Jamboree. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope I haven’t rambled on too much!
I’ve enjoyed your interview Alison, it’s been really interesting. You haven’t rambled at all!
Thank you for being in my hot seat 🙂
In a stifled and oppressed United Kingdom, nothing can be achieved without the approval of the dictatorial Sponsors, at whose head is the malevolent and cruel Lord William St Benedict. In Britain s cities the Sponsored live narrow, if privileged, lives, while the Unsponsored are confined to menial roles and to less desirable districts. Among the Sponsors many victims is Lord William s own son, the forthright and charismatic Theodore Dory held captive by his father since he was a boy. In the unassuming town of Applethwaite, in the shadow of the Cumbrian fells, an unlikely revolution is brewing. Albino gymnast Louis Trevelyan and his motley group of friends are fiercely proud of their Unsponsored status and gradually forge a plan not only to liberate the beleaguered Theodore but the whole of the United Kingdom. Dory s Avengers are coming!
UK customers can pre-order DORY’S AVENGERS on Amazon
Alison wrote about The Curse of the Epilogue as a guest on Jera’s Jamboree.
You can read that post here.