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Writer Wednesday: Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie was born and lives in London. She has two grown up children. She studied French Literature and Education at the Universities of Sussex, Sheffield (UK) and Dijon (France). She had a long teaching career in France and the UK, teaching age groups from 3-85 years old and any subject they could persuade her to try.

She’s also worked as a freelance translator and occasional journalist, and published a languages teaching textbook. She’s just left teaching to concentrate on writing, and she blogs here. She also enjoys singing and playing the piano, but she hardly ever cooks.

The Infinity Pool is her first novel, drawing on many years of travel and encounters, and she is working on a second which is based closer to home.

1. Why did you want to become a writer? 
My parents were both journalists and writers and we knew other writers. I just thought that was what people did until I was about ten. Then I began to realise you were really privileged if you had the luck to be able to express yourself well in writing.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
Getting down to it. As soon as I start, I’m fine, but I can faff about on Facebook or making trifle or cutting the already short grass for hours first.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing? 
Sometime a phrase suddenly comes to me and I think, YESSS! That’s it! It’s a thrill like finding the right dress for a party or falling in love across a room.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?  
It varies with my mood, but I’m a huge admirer of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, because he expressed the boredom and waste of middle class or rich women’s lives, as did Tolstoy in Anna Karenina and Ibsen in Hedda Gabler. Strange those authors are all men! But there’s Virginia Woolf in Mrs Dalloway, she expresses it very well too. So there’s a bit of a theme going there.

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
Maria, my young heroine. But if I’d saved her there wouldn’t have been a story, and in the long run the result of the “calamity” makes her very fulfilled.

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do? 
I should think it would be fun to go shopping with Mrs Dalloway, or any Jean Rhys heroine on a good day when they’re in funds and haven’t just split up with some caddish bounder…

7. What can we expect next from you? 
I try to provide a blog article once a week about writing, travel, society, teaching, childhood…and I hope people enjoy them. I’ve also finally started work on a second novel, which draws on living in multicultural cities and how the communities interact. There’s a particular slant that makes the subject more fun, but I’m superstitious about telling you what it is as it might stop working for me if I go public too soon.

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out? 
I loved writing at school, and at university, and then I allowed life, work, babies to get in the way and didn’t write again for ten or fifteen years. I shouldn’t have dropped it. Always keep on with your writing, and then you’ll get better, get more done, and be more likely to find you’ve produced something worth publishing. Also, never think you can’t learn a lot from the classics.

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you. 
The one I should spend would be: get up early, write for two hours, coffee, go out for fresh air, revise and do a bit more in the early evening. But I’m completely chaotic so I write as and when I feel like it – several hours a day at present, because I’m on a roll. I need to be more disciplined.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment? 
I’m on the first volume of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s The Cazalets series. On one level it’s 20th century family saga, complete with fashion details, romance, war looming on the horizon, in the Forsyte Saga genre. But gradually you realise it has a lot of bite to it – she dares to speak of (at the time) unmentionable things like periods and not liking sex, and I think something dramatic is going to happen any minute. Very readable but also tells you something new.

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In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. 

But following an affair with a local girl, Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

Follow Jessica on Twitter | Buy The Infinity Pool on Amazon |
Like her on Facebook | Visit her website

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