Brought to Book – Alison Jameson: ‘Your own inner voice might be the biggest challenge facing you. Learn to “shush” it’
‘I wish I’d read The Catcher in the Rye earlier as I think I would have written more then. I had things to say as a youngster but I didn’t think they would be worth reading’
Alison Jameson: “There are grey days when the publishing industry feels like a long slow decline – and others, like when you spend a few happy hours reading a great novel or browsing in a good bookshop or attending a brilliant reading – when the demise of publishing is impossible to imagine
Alison Jameson grew up on a farm in rural Ireland, a remote and beautiful place that continues to inspire her work. An English and History graduate of University College Dublin, she worked in advertising for many years before becoming a full-time writer. Home is Dublin where she lives with her husband and son. Her third novel, Little Beauty, about an unmarried mother on a remote Irish island in the 1970s, was published by Transworld Ireland earlier this month.
What was the first book to make an impression on you?
Mick, The Disobedient Puppy. Now a vintage Ladybird book but read to me when I was three – I still remember the pictures.
What was your favourite book as a child?
The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton.
And what is your favourite book or books now?
I’ve just finished Blue Nights by Joan Didion and loved it. Also Joan (Forty Years of Life, Loss, and Friendship with Joan Didion) by Sara Davidson. I would have gladly stayed in bed all day to enjoy them. Some of my other favourites would be Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Asylum by Patrick McGrath, A Passage to India by EM Forster, Love for Lydia by H E Bates, The Hours by Michael Cunningham and The Maytrees by Annie Dillard.
What is your favourite quotation?
“Stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage.” Apart from the sentiment, which I like, it evokes a childhood memory when my father offered me and my siblings £5 if we could find the origin of this quote. There was no internet and I don’t think we ever got the fiver. It’s from To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace.
Who is your favourite fictional character?
One of my favourites is “Scout” Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, followed closely by Jem and Atticus. Three brilliant characters and as a result such a great book. I also love Olive Kitteridge in the novel of the same name by Elizabeth Strout.
Which do you prefer - ebooks or the traditional print version?
I love the original print version but find ebooks great when travelling. I also like that you can read a free sample chapter before buying.
What is the most beautiful book you own?
Inside Paris by Joe Friedman and Robert Frost (The Illustrated Poets/Aurum Press)
Where and how do you write?
I write in the attic of our house when my son is at school in the mornings. I’m generally more productive when the weather is bad. I’m also very good at listing reasons why I can’t write ie the heat, the need for tea, the noise, the cold feet, the need for air, the neighbour’s dog – but it’s all part of my peculiar “working myself up to it” process.
What book changed the way you think about fiction?
The Catcher in the Rye. I discovered it quite late – I was about 18 – and the voice was different from anything else I’d read. It felt like a door opening.
What is the most research you have done for a book?
I spent six weeks in Paris in 2003 and the following year six weeks in New York. I’m not sure I’d call it “research” but both trips did influence my first two books, though. Little Beauty was sparked by a long, very wet weekend on Achill. It is about motherhood and I had a baby while writing it .., which was very useful.
What book influenced you the most?
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard,Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.
What book would you give to a friend’s child on their 18th birthday?
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Anabel by Kathryn Winters.
What book do you wish you had read when you were young?
I wish I’d read The Catcher in the Rye earlier as I think I would have written more then. I had things to say as a youngster but I didn’t think they would be worth reading. I also wish I’d seen to Middemarch and Proust when I had a bit more time to spare.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Your own inner voice might be the biggest challenge facing you. Learn to “shush” it.
What weight do you give reviews?
Managing your moods and self-confidence is a very big part of the writer’s job. I would just say that I try not to take reviews – good or bad – too seriously.
Where do you see the publishing industry going?
There are grey days when it feels like a long slow decline – and others, like when you spend a few happy hours reading a great novel or browsing in a good bookshop or attending a brilliant reading – when the demise of publishing is impossible to imagine.
What writing trends have struck you lately?
People keep talking about “hooks”, ie the idea behind the book. It used to be all about the writing but the idea or “hook” seems to have taken over the publishing world.
What lessons have you learned about life from reading?
That all writers – and therefore many, many people – feel like outsiders observing the rest of the world. Also that behind every seemingly calm surface, there is an intriguing story.
What has being a writer taught you?
That I need to become more comfortable with ambiguity.
Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Daphne Du Maurier, David Sedaris and Anne Enright
What is the funniest scene you’ve read?
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris is pretty funny throughout. I can’t think of any one scene. (I’m quite pleased when I remember both the title and the author)
What is your favourite word?
Farblondjet (far-BLUN-jet), which is Yiddish for lost, confused or wandering around. (I can relate).
If you were to write a historical novel, which event or figure would be your subject?
The Famine or the Titanic. I find both completely fascinating.