Featured Interview With Grace M. Jolliffe
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I grew up in Liverpool’s inner city. My father emigrated there from Ireland in the 1950s.
This influenced my 1970s based Liverpool series. I write about real people who struggle to survive in poverty but I do this from the inside out because I lived there too.
I aim to capture the humanity, wit and humour of my characters as well as the community spirit which is one of the best things about Liverpool.
We returned to live in Wicklow, Ireland in the early 80s and now live in Galway on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
I have a pet dog, Eppie, a tiny terrier who sits on my lap while I’m writing and we keep hens and ducks.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I wrote my first novel when I was nine years old.
It was not a success. I remember it was about a nine-year-old girl (funny enough she was quite like me) getting lost in a haunted house.
Later I began to write late at night and into the early morning.
I started with short stories and encouraged by a great creative writing teacher I began to send them away.
I won some awards for these stories and had many of them published in literary magazines etc. This encouraged me and I began to write novels.
The first two of these efforts remain in a drawer and rightly so. I don’t regard them as failures but prefer to see them as practice.
The next one, Piggy Monk Square, was published by Tindal Street Press, short-listed for the Commonwealth New Writers Prize, optioned for film by Willy Russell, and broadcast on Ireland’s RTE Radio One.
Since then I have written more Liverpool based novels.
When The Sun Shines, The Sunshine Girl, Sweet Little Things, Tell Me Magic Lies and the soon to be published, Kindness and Strangers.
All these books feature strong women characters surviving and struggling with wit and humour against the odds.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
When I think back to my childhood I think the book that influenced me most was ‘The Diary of Anne Frank.’
I was so impressed with her. She wasn’t just my first heroine she influenced me hugely and made me want to be a writer.
I love John Steinbeck’s East of Eden because it says so much about human nature and makes me ponder the questions of good and evil and what makes us who we are.
My reading choices are hugely influenced by my mood – when I need cheering up I read Tom Sharpe. His books never fail to make me laugh.
I love to read thrillers for the escapism – legal ones like John Grisham’s are a favourite.
I always enjoy reading books about human beings who don’t quite fit in but can’t figure out why.
Anne Tyler does this beautifully and ‘The Accidental Tourist’ is one of my favourites.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest book is Kindness and Strangers. This is another in my Liverpool series and took me about three months to write the first draft and I spent a year rewriting.
It took me a lot of rewrites to be finally happy. Frankie is a strong character and in some ways a flawed human being but when you read her story you understand why. I wanted to do her justice, to get the heart and humour of the character across as well as to tell a compelling story.
Frankie’s life was already difficult but when she arrived home one day to find her father packing his bags and with one violent act her life was thrown into chaos.
Her father’s abrupt departure launched the family into a spiral of debt and it became up to Frankie to save them.
Kindness and Strangers will be published very soon.
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