Saturday, 4 June 2016

'Chains of Sand' Blog Tour: An Interview with the Author Jemma Wayne

Jemma Wayne graduated from Cambridge University with an academic scholarship for her achievements in Social and Political Sciences, and went on to obtain her PGDIP in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Westminster before becoming a journalist and writer.

A very warm welcome to you Jemma, and can I thank you, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.

For the benefit of our International readers can you tell us a bit about the part of the world that you are currently resident in and why do you like living there?

I live in North West London, in a leafy suburb that is close enough to the countryside where I grew up to feel like puddle jumping will be a normal activity for my children, too, but near enough to Primrose Hill, where I spent my 20s, to pop into cafes and theatres and still relish a taste of urban culture.

Do you think the books that you read as a child have influenced your writing in any way? 

Hugely. The books you read as a child are so formative in developing your imagination. They stay with you in ways it is hard for anything else to do, and I am currently enjoying the rediscovery of some of my favourites with my daughter. I will always wish to be as simultaneously dark and fantastical and inventive as Roald Dahl. I will always wish to create the tense secrecy of Tom’s Midnight Garden, or the raw, unfussy emotion of Goodnight Mr Tom. I may not always but sometimes wish to channel Judy Blume.

Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?

Being a mum of two, for all my writing, I work a somewhat flexible three and a half days a week, attempting to cram as much into those child-care-sorted times as possible, but usually continuing into snatched evening hours when the children are in bed.

Where do you do your writing best? 

At my desk in my home office. My grandfather gave me his ancient wooden writing desk when I was a teenager. It is full of cubbyholes and drawers, and a vast surface perfect for spreading notebooks upon. And it reminds me of him.

What else apart from your obvious deep interest in journalistic writing helped you decide to write your novel ‘Chains of Sand’, which is described as dealing with identity, family, and clashes of culture?

Identity is always a fascinating idea to me because it’s this constantly shifting process of sifting between who you have been, who you perceive yourself to be, and the way in which others see you. We’re all made up of composite parts drawn from our backgrounds and our experiences. Sometimes these parts merge, sometimes they run in parallel, and sometimes they clash, and then we have to work out which of those parts is most salient. In 2014, seeing the chaos in Israel, the surge of anti-Semitism in London, and the way that this conflict pushes people to extremes of opinion, it was fascinating for me to create characters who are attempting to unpack their identities, their collection of parts, amidst these very raw and confronting moments.

Did you find this a difficult or complicated type of story to actually write?

It was confronting and difficult because although it is fiction it is rooted in reality, and challenges the way people on different ‘sides’ of this conflict feel. I was very aware that my portrayal may cause some anger or offence. It also forced me to examine how I personally feel about the war and about my own identity.

When you are writing a novel, how do you place yourself into the time period that you are actually writing about?

I love the research side of writing. Months before I lift the metaphorical pen, I immerse myself in reading and interviewing, and developing characters and constructing plot. Talking to real people who actually experienced a time or place or event is immensely useful for me, and I am very grateful to those who gifted me with insights I would have been hard placed to draw from books alone or from my imagination. During research for Chains of Sand, a number of IDF soldiers shared with me their stories and feelings about war and the terrain of it, and these conversations were particularly helpful.

How do you go about imagining, developing and give real lives and personalities to the characters that we read about within in your book?

My stage-writing partner Rachel Sternberg, who is also a wonderful actress, once shared with me a practice she learned at drama school. You pretend to be a specific character, and then you kind of go into free thought mode – you talk about what you like, what you don’t like, what you can see, what you can smell, you utilise your senses and your feelings. It’s been a very useful tool for me at those starting points of character development, especially in imagining quirks and personalities that help create a more realistic depth.

Did you encounter any difficulties in getting you book accepted and published?

This time around I was very lucky in that Legend Press, who also published my first novel After Before, are very supportive of my writing and wanted this one too. The first time round…yup!

Did you have to undertake any research for your novel?

Yes, and lots of it. I read a great number of texts about the history of the conflict. I poured through news articles. And I have reams of notebooks full of interviews with people from all sides and all walks of life who very generously shared their insights with me. I also happen to live in North West London, where much of the book is set, so I did steal a few locations and moments from real-life experiences.

What is your favourite book and why?

'In Between the Sheets' by Ian McEwan. It is dark, gripping, it pushes you to the places you didn't dare look, and McEwan writes with an effortless flick of the pen that ensnares you from beginning to end.

Are you currently reading a book at the moment, and if so what is it?

I am reading 'One Night, Markovitch' by Ayelet Gundar Goshen, who is a fantastic Israeli author I was lucky enough to do a panel event with this year.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you enjoy in order to give you a break from your normal routine and your writing?

Spending time with my family is always my number one interest. But I also love sport, in particular athletics. I used to compete fairly seriously. Now I go for the odd road-run, but it’s still my favourite way to clear my mind, and take a literal deep breath.

Can you give us a hint about any other books that you may have in the making at the moment?

Sorry, no! Very early ideas are only just emerging ;)

To conclude our interview can I ask what do you hope readers will get from your book?

Hopefully a good story, emotion, and food for thought.

Jemma, I have been absolutely delighted and very honoured that you agreed to be interviewed for my literary site. I would also like to thank-you again for taking the time to speak to us today.

Thank you for featuring me! It’s been a pleasure.

Book Synopsis
Chains of Sand is a novel about identity, family, and clashes of culture. 

He has always been good at tracking down things that are hidden, like cockroaches in his mother's kitchen cupboard, or tunnels in Gaza.

At 26, Udi is a veteran of the Israeli army and has killed five men. He wants a new life in a new place. He has a cousin in England. 

Daniel is 29, a Londoner, an investment banker and a Jew. He wants for nothing, yet he too is unable to escape an intangible yearning for something more. And for less. He looks to Israel for the answer.

But as the war with Hamas breaks out, Daniel cannot know that the star-crossed love of a Jewish girl and an Arabic man in Jerusalem a decade earlier, will soon complicate all that he thinks has become clear.

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