Today I’m pleased to welcome Jackie Buxton to the blog. Her debut novel, Glass Houses was published by Urbane Publications on 7 July 2016.
Jackie kindly answered some of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Glass Houses
Glass Houses is a tale of contemporary fiction about two women who make stupid mistakes, the repercussions and the silver linings. It’s dark and heavy, been described as a cautionary tale, but is not without hope.
2. What inspired the book?
Years before I wrote the first words of Glass Houses, a couple of, ‘wrong place, wrong time’ articles in the news, where press and public had demonised the perpetrator of a foolish but not malicious act, had really got my mind buzzing with the contradictions of human behaviour. I found myself asking: if there are no unfortunate repercussions from our ‘crime’, if we escape without incident, are we any less guilty than the person whose ‘crime’ does have consequences and whose life is thrust into a desperately dark place? In a caring, cohesive society, what should the appropriate punishment be for somebody who has done something stupid but not through malice or cold-blooded evil? And I couldn’t help thinking that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…
3. Are you a plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
I would say I’m slightly more pantser than plotter, but only just. I toss ideas around in my mind a lot but if I can’t sketch out the first chapter and the ending, then the ideas don’t get further than the notebook.
Once I start writing the first few chapters, I write quickly in an excited fashion with little re-reading and re-writing, until it all grinds to an inevitable halt. This is when I realise I need to stop, think carefully about who these characters are and where they’re going. I’m forced to curtail my ‘chuck-it-all-down-on-paper first draft madness in order to do some research.
So, in the case of Glass Houses, after writing my beginning and ending (which haven’t changed an awful lot, plot-wise during the process from idea to publication), in addition to much reading around the topics, I met with police, a lawyer, road traffic accident victims and perpetrators, emergency services and hospital staff, ex-coma patients and their carers etc. I do this to make sure I’m writing with some authority but it invariably informs the plot, too. And it’s fine by me because I love the research almost as much as I adore first draft ‘splurge’ writing.
How long from first line to completed novel? Are you sitting down?? Glass Houses is actually my second novel and the first is stashed in a hidden folder somewhere, never to see the light of day unless I pay it some serious attention. With both Glass Houses and the novel, the first draft took about a year to write (including initial research) which doesn’t seem too bad, does it? But the editing, at least of Glass Houses, took many, many years. I was working on other projects as well at the time, and sometimes would wait six months for the response to a submission before I’d respond to suggestions made by the rejecting agent or publisher, and start the submission process again. But nonetheless, I think I’d have raised an eyebrow if anybody had told me it would take eight years to move from the first word to published book…
4. What did you discover about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
How long it takes!
And that I really do love every aspect of novel writing – from ideas forming, to research, the first draft, re-writing, re-writing some more, final editing and polishing and the promotion once it’s finally out there.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I also teach and edit and help with a tiny business which means my working week is pretty crammed and my evenings and weekends, too. So, when I’m not writing or working (or reading – generally in the bath late at night) I try to get outside and socialise. I try really hard to keep in touch with my lovely friends and family but it’s a constant battle to find the time. When I’m not lolling around drinking coffee (or Prosecco…), I can often be found running or cycling, being slightly addicted to both. I’m lucky that I live in a gorgeous part of Yorkshire and love to run on cold winter days with the wind on my face. My perfect day would be a morning of writing, a chilly run followed by a coffee with friends and then a long leisurely meal with the hubbie and children. It does happen – sometimes!
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which book would it be?
Oh, that’s tricky, particularly as I’m not someone who reads a book twice – my To Be Read pile is generally too big for that. But one book that worked for me on so many levels was The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. Beautifully written, the two main characters have stayed with me for the 20-ish years since I read it and although there are parts of the story which are almost too sad to read, it’s a fantastically life-affirming tale of the goodness of humanity in very trying circumstances. I think this is one of those book which if I were to re-read it, I’d see more and more in it every time.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done, what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
This is such a great question! I’m not just schmoozing when I say that the questions I’m asked are excellent and often really make me think. But one particular question I’ve only been asked once and it was by a student working on a course assignment. It really had me thinking for days and I haven’t been asked it since. It’s this: Why do you write? The answer is because it’s one of the few things I do where I become totally immersed, single focused, without a single wandering thought. And that’s very refreshing and really quite relaxing. It’s because I like to tell stories and they’re better when they’re edited than when I waffle on real-time. And I love language and seeing what I can do with it and there is no better feeling in the world than when that story is just pouring out of your fingers as you race to write it all down.
About the book:
“51 year old Tori Williams’ life implodes when she sends a text while driving on the M62 motorway and allegedly causes the horrific crash in which three people die. Public and press are baying for her blood but Tori is no wallflower and refuses to buckle under their pressure and be a pariah. Etta, another driver involved in the fatal accident, saved Tori’s life at the scene. She’s a hero, so why is her life falling apart? Perhaps by saving Etta using any means, Tori can save herself. And in doing so protect her own future and the future of those she loves.”