Today I have the pleasure of sharing a lovely interview with Jacqui Lofthouse as part of her Bluethroat Morning blog tour 🙂
Interview with Jacqui Lofthouse on publication of the digital version of ‘Bluethroat Morning’
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
Lovely to meet you Kerry!
I’ve been writing fiction since my late teens and in my late twenties was lucky enough to study Creative Writing at UEA (University of East Anglia) under Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. I’m now the author of four novels ‘The Temple of Hymen’, ‘Bluethroat Morning’, ‘Een Stille Verdwijning’ (only published in Dutch!) and ‘The Modigliani Girl’. ‘Bluethroat Morning’ a literary mystery, was originally published by Bloomsbury in 2000 – but this is the first digital edition of the book.
I’m so excited that the book will now reach new readers. ‘Bluethroat Morning’ is set on the North Norfolk coast and is a psychological mystery about a schoolteacher, Harry, investigating the suicide of his wife. She was a celebrity author and former model and as the novel begins, Harry at last feels ready to revisit the scene of his wife’s death – with his new lover, Helen. There they meet ninety-eight year old Ern Higham and a tale unravels which has been generations in the making…
On a personal note, I have recently returned to acting. I was a professional actress briefly aged 18 and toured India in a play. Now I’m attending IDSA (Identity School of Acting) and spend my weekends auditioning and taking part in student films…
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I’m often inspired by images in art galleries or historical fragments I pick up in my reading. ‘Bluethroat Morning’ strangely, began, when I couldn’t get a single image from one of my abandoned novels out of my head. I’d written a scene where a Victorian girl walks along Cley beach in Norfolk in a bustle dress, with her dying uncle at her side. Yet I wanted to write a modern novel. It didn’t make sense… Until I realized I should write about someone obsessed with this girl. And of course, this reveals that I’m often inspired by the atmosphere of places that I’ve visited.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Very occasionally, but less so in this book. Sometimes I do use images to inspire characters and in this instance, I had an image of the novelist John Fowles in mind when I imagined my character Harry physically. That image really helped me to bring Harry alive.
How do you pick your characters names?
Sometimes they just float into my head and feel ‘right’ – and for surnames in particular, I do look into my own past – but also look up lists of surnames and browse until I see something that has the right feel for a character. In this novel, the protagonist is Harry Bliss. As soon as I saw that name, I knew it would be right for him.
For my first novel ‘The Temple of Hymen’ the male protagonist’s name ‘Vermilion’ just seemed to float into my head – and only later did I realise its similarity to the name Emilia – the female protagonist – as if one character contains the other and vice-versa.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
Essentially, I think finding the right pace is key. I dislike ‘speed-writing’ and neither do I like to agonise over each word. In advance of writing a scene, I like to get clear on my intention for the scene and to then write it with a sense of direction. As I write, I try to really allow it to come alive in my imagination, so there’s a flow to the writing – I like to be able to really inhabit a scene as I write. Later that evening I print it up and scribble a little on the text to make small improvements and I begin the next day by putting those tiny edits into the text before I move forwards again…
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
That’s such a hard question – but I think like many people, the authors I love most are those that I fell in love with in my teens and early twenties – one never loses the sense of romance that surrounds that first passion! So rather than five favourites, perhaps five most influential – I’d say it’s Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, John Fowles, Paul Auster, and Jeannette Winterson.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’m writing this after a day spent at the Dickens Museum so today I’d love to meet Charles Dickens and to ask him how he managed to remain so prolific throughout his life.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes indeed and I loved visiting the library. I loved Enid Blyton’s ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ and Roald Dahl of course. I remember bringing a hugely fat book of fairy stories home and being incredibly proud that I had such an enormous book. As a teenager I read a lot of romance and horror – Danielle Steel for example and books like Jay Anson’s ‘The Amityville Horror’ – nothing terribly highbrow. Though I do remember when I got into Simone de Beauvoir and turned a bit of a corner…
When did you start to write?
In my late teens when I entered a journalism competition in Cosmopolitan. I used to fantasize about becoming a magazine editor in New York!
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
I read Anna Karenina last year and like many readers would love to have seen the consequences of the ending of that book more fully explored. I can’t say I could write like Tolstoy – but if I could, I’d love to make the impact of the final tragedy more satisfying to readers.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
So many books that I’d love to have written if I didn’t have to go through the sweat of the process!
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
Well, I do have a memoir on the go, so I might keep readers waiting for that one…
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
Years ago I interviewed the novelist Sybille Bedford (sadly no longer with us). I so admired her novel ‘Jigsaw’ shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989. The world of Sanary-sur-Mer on the Côte D’Azur in France between the wars was so beautifully depicted there. I’d love to meet the young Billi of that novel in Sanary in the twenties and hear her tales about Aldous Huxley, who was clearly such a great influence on her life (it’s an ‘autobiographical memoir’).
What are you working on right now?
A YA novel about a young girl coming to terms with the death of her father who was a war photographer. Also my first play.
Tell us about your last release?
‘The Modigliani Girl’ is a satire about the contemporary literary world. It’s about a would-be novelist Anna Bright who is writing a novel about the artist Modigliani’s mistress. But in the process of writing, she gets pulled into a media circus – a televised literary competition. Will she manage to save her sanity and her relationship, before she becomes a by-product of the literary world?
Do you have a new release due?
The first digital edition of ‘Bluethroat Morning’ is published on 22nd May this year.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
Usually have a lovely lunch with my publisher, in this case Stephanie Zia of Blackbird Digital Books. But this time around we will do it a little later – as on publication day I’ll be recording my actor’s voice showreel and heading onto drama school for a rehearsal!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I run a coaching organisation for writers (www.thewritingcoach.co.uk). You can find out more about my novels here: http://thewritingcoach.co.uk/about/novels/ and sign up for my newsletter on that site.
You can also find me on Twitter @jacquilofthouse Or on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/jacquilofthouseauthor/
Or Instagram @jacquilofthouse
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
I’m an Essex girl; a Joni Mitchell fan; am slowly getting better at yoga; like drinking turmeric lattes; am married to a cartoonist (our children are aged 17 and 21) and when not with my family, am never happier than when writing or in the drama classroom.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Jacqui. It was lovely to meet you too 🙂
‘A thriller full of twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing. Every word is magical, almost luminous.’ – Daily Mail
Alison Bliss, celebrity model and critically acclaimed writer, walks into the sea one ‘bluethroat morning’. In death she becomes a greater icon than in life, and the Norfolk village where she lived is soon a place of pilgrimage. Six years later her husband Harry, a schoolteacher, is still haunted by her suicide and faithful to her memory. Until he meets Helen and they fall in love.
Harry and Helen’s relationship initiates a return to the scene of Alison’s death where they meet ninety-eight year old Ern Higham, and a tale is revealed that has been generations in the making. As Harry pieces together a tragic history and finally confronts his own pain, he discovers that to truly move forward, first he must understand the past …
‘A moving read, threaded through with mystery and excitement.’ – Good Housekeeping Magazine
‘A classic tale of longing.’ – Time Out
‘There are many elements to savour in this novel: the intertwining of past and present; the struggle to write and the responsibility of writing about others’ lives. Best of all, Lofthouse has a fine eye for the bleak Norfolk landscape and how it both reflects and affects characters’ moods.’ – Tracy Chevalier author of Girl with a Pearl Earring
‘Captures the spacey feel of Norfolk well – an engaging read, intriguingly structured, tough in some of its insights, and sexy too.’ – Lindsay Clarke, author of The Chymical Wedding, winner of the Whitbread Prize for Fiction
‘Those who feel the reading public’s love of the 19th century Gothic mystery may be abating will be given pause by this latest entry in the field of pastiche. This is a considerable piece, full of subtle characterization and a well-chosen raft of literary underpinnings.’ – Publishing News
‘The intertwining of the two main stories is very skilfully done, as is the delicacy and understanding she brings to the key themes – suicide, creativity, love and especially paternal love. Very moving.’ – Henry Sutton, novelist and co-director MA Creative Writing, UEA
‘A literary masterpiece.’ – My Chestnut Reading Tree
‘Simply stunning. I absolutely loved it.’ – Being Anne
‘An impeccable piece of fiction that has the feel of a literary classic.’ – The Book Magnet
‘Blackbird Books always have such wonderful authors.’ – Linda’s Book Bag