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Let’s Just Smash All The Windows!

April 13, 2018

Jane Facebook Profile

I want to introduce you to a fellow writer this week. Her name is Jane Davis and she’s thoughtful and nuanced. Right up a Cold reader’s alley.

Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. That’s when she turned to writing.

Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards.

See…told you she’s worth a shout out.

Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. That’s where I tracked her down to answer THREE BIG QUESTIONS.

Number 1: Why do you write?

John Green says that writing is a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it. I was always the quiet middle child in a family of seven. It’s not that I don’t want to make eye contact, it was that I could never get a word in edgeways. I think that explains why I always have more going on inside my head than comes out of my mouth. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in writing dialogue for characters who are braver and more outspoken than I am. I’m the kind of introvert who can be very sociable, but also needs to balance that with time alone. I’ve always been very comfortable with my own company.

Fiction provides the unique opportunity to explore one or two points of view. It is never going to provide the whole answer, but it forces both writer and reader to walk in another person’s shoes. And, in many ways, it is the exploration that’s important. The idea of a single truth is flawed. I have a sister who’s less than a year older than me, but our memories of the same events differ substantially. There are many different versions of the truth and many layers of memory.

As my collection of books grows, I’m also beginning to see them as my legacy. As someone who doesn’t have children, they are the mark I will leave on the world. So another reason for writing – one that I didn’t think about in my mid-thirties when I started to write – is to create a legacy that I can be proud of.

jane davis

Number 2: What are the themes that most inspire your work?

It took me some time to identify that the common thread that runs through my novels is the impact of missing persons on our lives, how the hole they leave behind can be so great that it dwarfs the people we’re left with. In I Stopped Time, it was an estranged mother. I addressed the theme head-on in A Funeral for an Owl, with teenage runaways. And in These Fragile Things, a mother is obsessed by the child she lost to a miscarriage, almost to the exclusion of the child she has. In Smash all the Windows, given that we have fifty-nine victims, the presence of the theme is again obvious. It almost certainly comes from both my personal history – and that of my parents.

When I was aged seventeen, I had my first experience of a young person – someone I knew – dying. A school friend was murdered, someone I felt a particular connection with because he shared my birthday. The ripples from that single death are still felt today. In my parents’ generation, death was far more common but was seldom spoken about.

My father’s mother died when he was just eighteen months old. Because men didn’t bring up children on their own in those days, Dad and his two sisters were taken into care. As was the norm, he was separated from his sisters, Marian (aged 6) and Lois (aged 4). Six months later, Marian woke to find Lois dead in the bed beside her. Can you imagine that? Lois’s death certificate says that she died of a broken heart. My father has no memories of his mother or his sister Lois, but he feels their absence keenly.

My mother was the first child of her father’s second marriage. His first wife had died in 1937 at the age of 37. We only came into possession of a family tree last week, which shows that there was another half-brother, Patrick, who died in 1938, just six months after his mother. So having lost their mother and a brother, Mum’s older siblings (two half-brothers and a half-sister) were evacuated at the beginning of the Second World War. They returned five years later to find that their father had remarried and that they had two new sisters, my mother and Alma. Alma was killed in a car crash aged 23 shortly before she was due to be married.

All families have hidden histories. Loss is a universal theme.

I’m also very interested in how people behave under pressure. I meet them at a particular point on their journeys, usually in a highly volatile or unstable situation. And then I throw them to the lions.


Number 3: What would you never write about?

While much of my fiction has its basis in fact, I’m wary of writing about recent history. You have to tread so carefully, especially with cases where the survivors and relatives and partners of the victims are still alive. This was the case with Smash all the Windows. I make no secret of the fact that I took my inspiration from the result of second inquest to the Hillsborough Disaster (The Hillsborough disaster was a human crush at Hillsborough footbal stadium in Sheffield, England on 15 April 1989, during the 1988-89 FA Cup semi-final game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.). Twenty-seven years after the disaster, the pain on the families of the victims was still so raw. My gut feeling was that I didn’t want to add to that. If I’d wanted to explore the idea, I would have had to ask myself some hard questions. Firstly, I would have considered what I could add to the material that’s already been produced. A number of documentaries were made by Dr Phil Scraton and the families. Plus there was Jimmy McGovern’s powerful TV dramatisation, which I saw as a call to action, part of the protest. McGovern based his script almost entirely on court transcripts and used eye witness reports. Added to which he had the blessings of the families. You have to ask yourself, would a fictional account be welcomed? Would it be disrespectful to add a fictional character to the storyline? And what right do I have to tell this story? My only connection with Liverpool is that it’s my partner home city. That didn’t seem to me to be a close enough link.

books and time

And now some words on Smash all the Windows

‘A dazzling high wire walk through interwoven strands balanced so carefully you know you’ll never fall.’ Dan Holloway, novelist, poet and spoken word artist

‘Just fricking perfect. An all-round triumph.’ John Hudspith

‘This is an astounding read. I was completely captivated.’ Liz Carr

It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.

It will take courage to learn how to live again.

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of metafiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art.

Written with immediacy, style and an overwhelming sense of empathy, Smash all the Windows will be enjoyed by readers of How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall and How to be Both by Ali Smith.

Get Smash All The Windows Right Here!

And if her want to know more about Jane…

Jane’s Website

Jane’s Facebook Page

And yes, there’s a brand-spanking new vlog episode of Love at First Write. It’s on, appropriately enough, The Art of Redemption in a Story – particularly when a pair of lovers are involved. Hope you enjoy it!


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