**Q&A** Jackie Buxton "Glass Houses"
Fifty-one-year old Tori Williams' life implodes when she sends a text while driving and allegedly causes the horrific crash in which three people die. Public and press are baying for her blood, but Tori is no wallflower and refuses to buckle under their pressure and be a pariah.
Etta, another driver involved in the fatal accident, saved Tori's life at the scene. She's a hero, so why is her life falling apart?
Perhaps by saving Etta using any means, Tori can save herself—and in doing so, protect her own future and the future of those she loves.
This incredibly topical and contemporary morality tale appeals across generations and will find favor with fans of authors such as Liane Moriarty, Marian Keyes, and Kathryn Croft.
I'm thrilled to be able to welcome Jackie Buxton to my blog today to talk about her new novel "Glass Houses".
Where did the inspiration come from for this novel?
I've always been interested in the human psyche, particularly when it comes to our foibles and hypocrisies. We jump a red light because we're late, for example, but conveniently forget about this as we rant at the tale of somebody committing a similar traffic violation which has more serious consequences.
Years before I wrote the first words of Glass Houses, a couple of, 'wrong place, wrong time' articles in the news where press and public had demonised the perpetrator of a foolish but not malicious act, had really got my mind buzzing with the contradictions of human behaviour. I found myself asking: if there are no unfortunate repercussions from our 'crime', if we escape without incident, are we any less guilty than the person whose 'crime' does have consequences and whose life is thrust into a desperately dark place? In a caring, cohesive society, what should the appropriate punishment be for somebody who has done something stupid but not through malice or cold-blooded evil?
It was only when I was struggling with a different story during an inspirational week of writing and tuition courtesy of The Arvon Foundation, that the penny dropped and I realised that a contemporary story of crime, punishment and redemption was what I really wanted to write. And that is where Glass Houses began.
Can you tell me a bit about
the difference between writing this novel and your previous title Tea &
Chemo? Either practically or emotionally.......
That's a great question because the writing processes were so very different and yet strangely alike. Where Glass Houses took several years to move from the idea to published novel, Tea & Chemo took eleven months. Working with fictional characters is tricky. You’re the puppeteer and sometimes the strings get tangled up or you can't get their feet to do what you want them to do and you have to unravel everything and start again. I had none of this with Tea & Chemo. I didn’t have to come up with a story because it was my story, I knew it very well, and the bloggy writing style flows easily because it's much like having a chat on page. That said, I had a similar fear for both books which ensured I never skimped on research and this was the fear of getting my facts wrong. For both books, I'd constantly stop what I was writing, check something and check it again, before I could continue. For both books I'd be musing way after I'd logged off for the night, if I could have said anything that might upset or be misconstrued.
Emotionally? Both books brought me to tears on several occasions but, as you can imagine, the tears with Tea & Chemo were so much more raw because they were real. Where the general narrative style of Tea & Chemo was straightforward, the emotions weren't. I will always wonder if writing the book in the year following treatment, 'kept me in the moment' longer than it might have done. But even if this were true, I think that I had the opportunity to write so much that was positive regarding love and support (both in friendship and professionally) that it wasn't necessarily a 'bad' moment, at all.
Glass Houses tackles a very emotive and heavy subject. Do you have any techniques or things you do to protect yourself when writing the more harrowing or intense scenes?
You know, I have cried many times when writing scenes for my characters but generally, I'm so happy that the words have had this effect on me when I already know the story, that I generally move away from the words ecstatic, optimistic that my readers might also cry which means that they're totally engrossed in the story.
I think it was the research which hit me hardest. I read lots about coma and spoke with coma victims and their loved ones and it's not the simple – person is ill, person gets better – scene you sometimes see on screen. Some of those stories of love and loss were very difficult to listen to. I also did lots of research into texting at the wheel and the effects on lives of this and other anti-social driving practices. I'm not sure I could say I have a strategy for dealing with this but it's certainly had an impact on my own behaviour. I had never texted at the wheel before, but I had lifted the phone to my ear. Some of those pictures of the crashes and the resulting impact on lives, even for those who survived, have stayed with me and I can safely say that after doing the research I've done, I would never now touch my phone in the car.
Which character did you find hardest to write and why? Which was easier and why?
Another great question. I think Gerald was probably the hardest to write. He's not a very pleasant character. He's a narcissist who characteristically blames everybody but himself for the less than perfect events in his life, but who can also be very charming, at least to the uninitiated. 'All bad baddies' aren't good in literature, I've learnt, because there's nowhere to go with them, no character development to be had, no questions to ask: they're just 'bad'. And so I spent a long time researching narcissism and revising Gerald's scenes in the hope he didn’t appear too one-dimensional. We also had to believe that his new wife, Sophie, could fall for him, at least in the first place – even when I was practically shouting at the page, Don't do it!
I notice at the beginning of the novel there is a lot of description of glass and also it is in the title. Can you talk about this a bit?
I'm so pleased you noticed that. Obviously, I hope the title, Glass Houses, conjures up the proverb: People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Additionally, I also became quite fixated when I was writing Glass Houses with the concept that it doesn’t matter how hard we try to repair our house (for house also read: life) if we smash it all up, it will never look the same again. But this 'not the same' doesn't necessarily need to mean 'inferior'. So yes, I had a bit of fun with 'glass' and all its metaphors and I'm chuffed to little pieces (do you see what I did there…?) that you picked up on it.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I am. Its working title is The Treehouse and it's the desperate story of one woman who kept running away.
Which authors are you inspired / influenced by?
So many! Maggie O'Farrell is right up there at the top of my list. She could wring the emotion out of a dishrag – as could Jill Dawson, another fave. I like Ian McEwan, Anita Shreve and Rachel Joyce – all wonderful story tellers, and John O'Farrell for humour. Bryce Courtney is the author who took my breath away with The Power of One and Tandia, two books which have stayed with me forever.
What are you reading at the moment or can you recommend a good book you read recently?
I've just started SJ Watson's second novel, Second Life and am totally hooked already. Before that, the most recent novel I've loved with a passion was The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. It's the most touching of tales and written with great observation and humour. The ending is the best I've read in a long time.
Thank you so much Jackie! It's been so fantastic to hear so much more about the book and about the writing process. Thanks so much for your detailed answers and the time you have given this interview!
If you would like to read more about Jackie then have a look at her website:
"Glass Houses" is available through Amazon and Urbane Publications from October 2016.
For my review of "Glass Houses" please click here:
For my review of "Glass Houses" please click here:
For more recommendations and reviews, please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)