What drives me to write – Catherine Jones

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By Catherine Jones

I get asked, quite often, what drives me to write. One answer is a nice advance and a deadline – but of course, when I started out I had neither. And every author – or all the ones that I know – start out from that position, so the answer isn’t quite as simple as that. One of the biggest reasons I write is because I love to entertain people; I love to make them laugh, take them out of their lives for a while, give them something else to think about, show them a different world. It’s a great feeling to know that I have given my readers several hours of sheer escapist enjoyment.

I’ve also had quite an interesting life which has made it easy – well, easier – to think of settings and backgrounds for stories. I was in the army for eight years, got posted around Europe, met amazing people and had to do also sorts of strange things from skiing and gliding (wonderful fun) to potholing and going on exercise (much less fun). But it does mean that I have a wealth of odd titbits of experiences and knowledge which I can draw on to put in my books. Write what you know about, they say. So I do, and I’ve written a total of nine novels which have a strong military background and a number of others that have used things that I learned to do when I was serving, like flying around in helicopters and sailing and orienteering to name but a few.

Another reason I write is that I can create lives and situations over which I have absolute control. That make me sounds as if I’m a bit of a megalomaniac but trust me, with a husband who was also in the army and a mother of three kids all born very close together I had very little control over anything at all for years – certainly not my own life. Things are much more settled now: the children have grown up and left home and I’ve stopping moving from pillar to post (I once moved house six times in under five years during which time I had the three children). My husband then left the army and we have now lived in the same little town for a couple of decades and I’ve really got to know and love it.

My town is partly the reason I came to write Little Woodford – it’s the sort of place where if you live and work in it, it is quite difficult not to get involved. Besides, I like being involved (partly because I’m nosy and want to know what’s going on) but also I’ve always found that the more you put into things the more you get out. So when, a couple of years ago, I got asked to stand for election to the town council, I couldn’t resist. And now I’m on the council – and even more involved with the town – I understand that, like anywhere, if you look behind the chocolate-box exterior, people have the same problems as they do everywhere else, they just happen to live in a pretty place. Which made me want to write about what goes on behind other people’s front doors, what problems they might have to cope with. (I told you I was nosy.)

I decided the best way to find out what was going on was to create a character who had a legitimate excuse to be in and out of lots of people’s homes and see for herself what was what. Enter Amy – a cleaner. She is one of my favourite characters I have ever made up, mostly because she’s naughty. She also says the sort of things I’d sometimes love to say but never dare. It’s very liberating writing about people like that.

Then I needed to populate the town with the usual suspects, the vicar, the doctor and the town councillor (!) etc and their families, and give the place the things almost all towns have, allotments, a school, the local pub and so on. Oh, and I needed a newcomer, Bex, who would look at this little town and its inhabitants with fresh eyes. It was such fun creating this place. Of course my neighbours now ask me if they’ll recognise anyone. I sincerely hope not! Although I hope people recognise the types: Amy – who couldn’t keep a secret if her life depended on it, Olivia – the bossy-boots, Belinda – the listener, Heather – kindness personified….

But most of all I hope that everyone enjoys the world I’ve created in Little Woodford because I have enjoyed writing about it so much.

Catherine Jones lives in Thame, where she is an independent Councillor. She is the author of eighteen novels, including the Soldiers’ Wives series, which she wrote under the pseudonym Fiona Field.


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