Thanet Writers Question Roger Jefferies
I grew up in South London and after University, where I read Law, I worked in local authorities in a variety of places, latterly in London Boroughs. Then I became the first Housing Ombudsman before I retired. I have been a part-time resident in Broadstairs for twenty years. I am married with four adult children.
I thought I could write when I was a schoolboy and several short stories were well received. At first however I wanted to write poetry but poems were really a way of dealing with adolescent anxiety and the stirrings of love. I didn’t pursue literature but the law and a professional career. In my work I had to write a great deal including some journalism on professional topics, a book on complaining, Tackling the Town Hall, and two pamphlets on local democracy and the conduct of local investigations.
At one point in the 1980s I returned to writing fiction and completed two novels on predictably municipal themes. By then I had abandoned poetry. And then as I approached retirement I completed a third dystopian fiction, but all three I regard as apprentice works. When finally I was able to devote time to writing I started to use a literary consultancy, Cornerstones, and now use a very good copy editor. I also went on some short writing courses.
I’m influenced by the prose style of certain writers, for example, Simenon, Raymond Carver, Sylvia Townsend Warner, PG Wodehouse, Edward St Aubyn. It’s not so much what they write about but how they do it, and that is especially helpful as I like writing short-stories. I don’t write to genre but to please myself, and overwhelmingly about relationships rather than the mechanics of plot, important though narrative drive is.
I’m motivated to write by the technical challenge it presents, but also in order to entertain. I want to be read, I want an audience. And if I’m honest, for my writing to be liked.
My writing habit has altered a bit over the years. My first draft is hand written and then as I go along I transcribe it to printed text. That process is an important first revision en route. Since finding time and energy to write is always a problem, when I sit down I like to know what I’m going to put down on paper. It’s already in my head because I have been thinking about it on and off while doing other things. I don’t have daily word targets but when I have started a short story or a longer piece I try to put down something every day.
The inspiration for what I write is difficult to pinpoint. Ideas are hard to come by. In my case in practice they have come through anecdotes, chance remarks, a news item, family events. Quite trivial things can be embroidered into a story.
Writing is difficult, and life’s other demands, other pleasures, people and ties all hold me back as well as weakness of resolve, doing anything to avoid sitting down and putting pen to paper. I am however greatly encouraged by the writers’ groups with which I am engaged in Richmond and in Thanet, and by friends who write more successfully than me.
I have not achieved very much. I have not found an agent, and only latterly a publisher. But several short stories have been published; my novel Ursula’s Secrets was published as a kindle book online and my new book, I Remain Your Loving Wife Lizzie: Letters in a Skip 1917-1919, published by Greenwich Exchange is not fiction at all. It is the transcription of letters from a wife to a First World War soldier husband which were found in a skip in Broadstairs. But one valuable thing is an achievement, and that is to have kept at it in spite of rejections. Not to give up but always to hope that the next words on paper will find their readers.
Whilst in my opinion advice from me about writing carries no weight at all, I would nonetheless say to others the important thing is to persevere. If you like doing it, learn to accept criticism and do it.
At the moment I am working with the publishers of my new book on its promotion, itself an interesting experience. I am preparing some short stories in the hope that they might be successful in competitions or find publishers in magazines.
My next book is a novella, A Dress Allowance, which has just been edited. I shall be looking for a publisher. And I shall be anxious and have low expectations, but I know it’s good enough!
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© 2018 Roger Jefferies
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
A retired part-time resident of Broadstairs for twenty-five years. Roger writes fiction, especially short stories. He likes France and food.