Jane Allison was born in Pontefract, where the liquorice comes from – she even had a vacation job at the factory! She studied for O and A levels at the Girls’ High School and participated in school drama productions there. Leaving school, she chose to attend the new University of Sussex, which enjoyed some notoriety during the 1960s. Jane benefitted greatly from a glorious three years there. Having spent a year out before university, teaching in a tough primary school in Pontefract, Jane knew she wanted to be a teacher.

She took the Cert Ed in English at Durham and went on to teach English at several schools. However, Jane took 8 years out when her children were born and then returned part-time until she finally got a full-time post as an English teacher at Garstang High School in Lancashire. Four years later the family moved to Durham. Her husband’s career as a Methodist Minister involved them in several moves to different churches during these years and they ended up in Colchester in 2005. It was then Jane finally retired from teaching and began writing the story that she had been meaning to write for many years.

Find out what Jane’s favourite under-appreciated novel is, plus the answers to other writing related questions.

  1. What is your schedule like when you’re writing?

    I am afraid to say that I am not in a close schedule at all! My writing happens whenever I find I have a clear morning or afternoon in a very busy life. The most frustrating thing of all is if there is no clear space until 4 pm. And then I work until time for evening dinner. Sorry! It’s all a bit random.

  2. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

    I do a lot of cooking, curries in particular, so friends often come to be fed! I am also a Methodist Lay Preacher so I have a number of appointments ie. preaching services, to fulfil. This involves a lot of preparation of prayers, hymns, and sermons with which to lead worship. I actually think of preparing an hour’s worship like carefully writing a poem!

  3. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

    I think that in creating characters within a story, you find yourself really loving your people. Sounds daft! But you get very closely involved as you write and begin to care about how their lives will be moulded by you. This is, in fact, a huge responsibility!

  4. What is the first book that made you cry?

    A difficult one. But I think it may be “The Railway Children”. The cry of Bobby when she sees her father coming off the train, “Daddy, my daddy!” never leaves me with dry eyes. And I have a feeling I echoed those words when I saw my father on the undertaker’s slab. Oh my!

  5. Do you want each book to stand on its own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections with each book?

    I am enjoying following up my characters, whom I have already admitted to caring about! So for now I am happy about dealing with a family saga. However, there must be an end eventually and then we’ll see!

  6. What is your favourite under-appreciated novel?

    Although Dickens is highly valued and praised, I still believe “Our Mutual Friend” may not be given the acclaim it deserves. I love it!!

  7. What does literary success look like to you?

    I suppose all I really want is for people to enjoy my book and feel they can’t put it down! I want them to care about the characters as I do. For a publisher to want to publish my book is golden! The financial aspect means very little though, obviously , it would be nice!

  8. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

    I give a clear “Yes” to this. In a way you are revealing part of your self – shall we say that it is like writing a poem, which comes from the heart and soul.

  9. What is your favourite childhood book?

    “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, though I have many favourites and Enid Blyton’s books were adored by me!

  10. Do you believe in writers’ block?

    Yes. I think there are times when a plot is overburdened with characters and storylines which become tangled. Then clarity of purpose gets lost.