Sunday, 4 June 2017

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Diane Jeffrey

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

My name is Diane Jeffrey. I am from North Devon and I live in Lyon, France, with my husband and our three children, dog and cat. I teach English in a local secondary school.

1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

My debut novel is THOSE WHO LIE, a psychological thriller, published on 27th January by HQDigital (HarperCollins). 

Emily Klein doesn't realise until the day of her husband's funeral that he's dead. When she wakes up in hospital, she has only hazy memories of the car crash that caused his death and her own injuries. 
As she pieces together what happened and remembers some of the details, she begins to wonder if Greg's death was a tragic accident after all. When she receives messages from her husband on Facebook, she even starts to believe he might not be dead at all. 

2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I have always written. I wrote my first novel, entitled "Stowaway" when I was eight! Even then, I dreamt of getting a book published. I have written a few short stories a couple of which have been published or broadcast. I wrote a Chick-lit novel when my son was a baby, but it was unanimously rejected by publishers and agents - quite right, too! In 2014, I took a sabbatical. I suddenly had a lot of free time and I used it to write this novel.  

The idea for THOSE WHO LIE came from a discussion I had with a friend about the Internet. To begin with, I wanted to write a novel in which my main character was the victim of online bullying. My friend sent me an article in which a man said he'd been receiving disturbing messages on Facebook from his ex-girlfriend. They were troubling because she was dead! He didn't know what to make of these messages. My mind went into overdrive. The beginning of the novel was inspired by this.

3) How long did it take you to write your first book?

It took me a year to write this novel and another year to rewrite it several times!

4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I would have read a lot more how-to articles about writing before starting to type! Then I might not have needed to rewrite it quite so many times!

5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

I wanted to try and get noticed from a slush pile before considering the self-publishing route. I tried several agents, and in fact two agents also had my full manuscript when HQ Digital (Harper Collins) rang me with their offer.

6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

Get in touch with authors who write the same genre as you. I am in touch with some lovely people who have given me their advice and time. You might imagine a competitive environment with everyone fighting for themselves, but in fact it's not like that at all. There are Facebook groups where writers encourage other writers and on Twitter, authors retweet for other authors. Writing can be solitary and full of self-doubting moments, and surrounding yourself with other people who know what that is like is very comforting.

Tell us about your first…

7) Book you bought

The first book I bought with my own pocket money was probably Flowers in the Attic. I read it when I was very young, and went on to devour the whole Dollanganger series.

8) Memory

I have a very good memory, but few clear early childhood memories for some reason. I think my earliest recollection is one winter at my grandparents' house in Belfast. I must have been about five or six. My granny asked my brother and me to make the Christmas dinner from Play-Doh. We watched her put our colourful mess into the oven and a few hours later we saw her taking out the turkey, roast potatoes and vegetables. For a couple of years I truly believed we had made that delicious Xmas dinner from plasticine! 

9) Person you fell in love with

I'm told it was a ginger-haired boy called Curtis when I was three or four. He was a bit older than me and he used to come round and play in the paddling pool in our garden. I'm fairly sure it was unrequited love!

10) Holiday you went on

I spent a lot of my school holidays at my grandparents' house in Northern Ireland when I was little, but the first holiday I remember going on was to the States when I was about six. I remember it being hot! We visited the Grand Canyon. I was lucky enough to travel quite a bit with my family when I was little. We went to France, Spain, Romania and I went to Germany and Austria with my school.

11) Prize you won

When I was about seven, I won a prize for a poetry competition at Watermouth Castle, a tourist attraction near Ilfracombe in North Devon. I wrote a limerick and won first prize despite the fact I had illustrated my limerick and sent the picture in too (I am hopeless at drawing.) My poem was published in the local newspaper. The prize was a voucher to go back to the theme park.

12) Album you purchased

Mmm. I had to think about that one. My first single was "Hello" by Lionel Richie, but it was a birthday present. The first album I bought with my pocket money was either "Now That's What I Call Music! 5" or "Fantastic" by Wham!

13) Sport you enjoyed participating in

Swimming. At first, I was terrible and refused to put my head in the water. I even swam in a gala and got out with dry hair! But then I improved. I trained for 3 to 4 hours a day for many years and I still swim competitively now.

14) Embarrassing moment you can remember

At a big family reunion, I came out of the toilet with my skirt and the loo roll tucked into my knickers at the back. The toilet paper was trailing behind me and my aunts, uncles and cousins laughed a lot at this. I still cringe at this memory now!

15) Pet

We'd always had cats, but on my 8th birthday my parents gave me a Golden Retriever. We called him Dan. He had to be put down when I was at university. He was 13. He'd been a member of our family. I really missed having a canine friend after that. My kids and I finally wore my husband down and we got a puppy in September 2014. That puppy is now an energetic 2½ yo black Labrador called Cookie! I'm pretty much surgically attached to my Lab! 

16) ..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author

I actually work full time (with overtime) as an English teacher in Lyon, where I live. I would love to be able to work part-time so that I could devote more time to writing. 

17) …time you had any independence

I have always been fiercely independent in personality, but I suppose the first time I had any real independence was the summer I was 17. I had somehow passed my driving test first time despite stalling the car twice on the three-point turn, and I had a car. I rented a tiny cupboard-sized bedroom in a hotel on the esplanade of Woolacombe beach where I worked that summer as a lifeguard. It was a great summer.

18) …toy that you recall loving

I had a brown teddy, imaginatively named Brownie, that somehow got left behind on holiday one year. I was heartbroken and my parents took me to a toyshop where I was allowed to choose Brownie's replacement. To my parents' despair, I fell in love at first sight with a huge teddy called Yellow (pronounced 'Lellow'). He became my special teddy and he was as big as me. I dragged Lellow around everywhere and my mother had to patch him up several times to prolong his life.

Thank you so much Diane for answering my questions. I am still laughing at your embarrassing moment, and glad you finally got used to putting your head in the water while swimming.

Author bio:

Diane Jeffrey grew up in North Devon. She lives in Lyon, France with her husband and their three children, Labrador and kitten.

THOSE WHO LIE is her debut psychological thriller.

Diane is an English teacher. When she's not working or writing, she likes swimming, running and reading. She loves chocolate, beer and holidays.

Above all, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Readers can follow Diane on 
Twitter @dianefjeffrey 

My book is published by HQ Digital as an ebook. Here are the links: UK | US

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