“I’m the kind of person that would start something and never finish it, “ Jane smiles. “So, when I said to my family one night that I was going to write a book, they all went at first ‘oh, yeah, lovely, right’, and it was forgotten. Because I don’t do things like that.” Jane waves her hand dismissively.
Jane McDermott has invited me for a coffee and a chat at her home in Pudsey, Leeds today, to talk about the motivation behind writing and self-publishing her debut novel ‘Hopes, Dreams & Houses’.
“This story has been in my head for a long time, from when the kids were little really. I’ve always come back to it over the past 20 years or so but I’ve never done anything with it. Then my dad died last year.”
“My grief released some kind of positive energy in me.”
Jane tells me that the death of her father after a long illness was the culmination of a series of tragic deaths of people close to the family over a period of three years. “My dad dying was like the last straw,” she says, “but instead of making me crumble into a heap of grief, it gave me a push. It released some kind of positive energy in me.”
Jane’s dad, whose death last year gave her the motivation to write her book
“I sat down one night at eight o’clock and just started typing away. No plan. Just started with what came to me at that time. And, the next minute I looked, it was two o’clock in the morning.” Jane shakes her head at the memory. “It was bizarre; like something had been unleashed in me.”
Jane’s story is set in Horsforth, a small town close to Leeds in West Yorkshire, where a 15-year old Clare takes us back to the summer of 1986 and on an adventurous journey through to adulthood. Her challenges and escapades along the way make for a fabulous read, written straight from the heart to hit the readers just there. It’s a masterpiece of honest storytelling and identification galore that keeps its audience glued to its pages, complete with laugh-out-loud, teary and oh-my-god bits from start to finish.
“I wanted to live out the life I didn’t have.”
“My dad’s death filled me with an overwhelming desire to relive my childhood, but not in a conventional way. I also wanted to live out the life I didn’t have, the ‘whatifs’, if that makes sense.”
Jane explains, “my parents split up when I was 13 years old, and although I grew up in Horsforth, I had moved away from there by the time I was 15. So, Clare living there at that age gave me the chance to invent what could’ve happened if I would’ve stayed. What could’ve happened if my parents wouldn’t have split up, if everything stayed as perfect as it was before. It was definitely a comfort, a coping mechanism for me to deal with my grief.”
Happy times – A 10-year old Jane with mum, dad and sister in Horsforth in the 80s
“Everything happens for a reason and makes us who we are.”
“My kids are grown-ups now, and I had more time on my hands. I also believed that something good had to happen in our family after all the sadness we’d had over the last three years. It felt like the right time had come to start with the book. And, this mindset, combined with my childhood memories and imagination of what could have been, has been the foundation to writing a positive story, a story with ups and downs, yes, but also one that carries a big message. ‘Everything happens for a reason, determines our path in life and makes us who we are.’ I’m a huge believer in this philosophy, and it hasn’t let me down.”
“Since the book has come out, everything seems to fall into place. Maybe it’s just that I see things differently now, as I’ve got closure, but everything looks so much brighter.” Jane beams at me.
“I was writing my grief away and blossomed through it.”
“By reliving everything mentally and also covering the could-have-beens, I was literally writing my grief away and have blossomed through it.”
I want to know how much of Jane can be found in Clare. Has she created a character that reflects how she is or perhaps would like to be?
Jane ponders over this question. “There is a lot of me in Clare, yes, especially her caring side. I’m always worried about people and about wanting to do the right thing for everybody.”
“The beauty of writing is that you can do anything you want.”
“My mum has always told me ‘Jane, not everybody is going to like you.’ That’s true, and I have instilled this in my children. That’s life. But, you cannot change who you are and if I found that somebody wouldn’t like me it would hurt me. I was always the caring one in the family and, as we see with Clare, a lot of self-inflicted responsibility comes with this that can really weigh you down. You cannot make it right for everybody all the time; that’s impossible. But the beauty of writing is that you can be and do anything you want. So I made Clare out to be this person who is almost always doing the right thing. Creating a character like this was a release for me.”
Had she always wanted to be a writer?
Jane shakes her head. This is a title she is decidedly uncomfortable with. “I feel as though I’m putting proper writers down if I call myself one. I’m a storyteller, yes, but a writer, phew, no way.” Jane grins at me, almost embarrassed.
“I’ve read all these articles on how to write and how to structure a book and I got really bored halfway through. Too intense, I couldn’t process all this. I’m a person who most of the time ‘just wings it’. When I cook and find I’ve not got all the ingredients I need, I just throw something else in. I make things up as I go along and make them work somehow. It was the same with my book. I didn’t say to myself, ‘I want to be a successful novelist.’ I had the attitude, ‘it’s not set in stone. If you can finish it, great, but nobody will be any wiser if you don’t publish it.’ I did, however, want to feel the finished book in my hand and that was at one time the only other motive I had besides wanting to heal from my grief.”
“I had finally accomplished something that I can be known for.”
“Once I had finished it and held the book in my hand, I felt so proud that I had finally accomplished something that I can be known for. Like so-and-so is good at cooking, so-and-so is good at baking. Jane? Oh, yes, she’s written a book, you know! I guess I’m not so modest after all,” she laughs.
“It does feel strange when people are now leaving reviews about my book on social media, recommending it to their friends. I don’t even know these people, and I’m thinking ‘Woa, that’s me! But, how can this be? I’m just not like that’. Well, it is me, and it really is the best feeling ever to see my book in print,” Jane beams.
Has she got any advice for other budding writers, ahem, storytellers, or people who always start something and never finish it?
“Listen to your gut feeling, always!”
“Don’t put pressure on yourself. If it’s meant to be it will be. But, wait till the time is right and listen to your gut feeling, always! Because that’s the thing that will drive you to carry on.”
‘Hopes, Dreams & Houses’ can be bought at Amazon UK. To buy it click here
“Anybody can enjoy Hopes, Dreams & Houses,” says Oliver, Jane’s terrier.
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Caren is a qualified and experienced digital copy & content writer with both a corporate and small business owner background. She runs KreativeInc Agency, a web design, development and content creation agency with her autistic son Callum Gamble.
She specialises in creating Inbound Marketing content for business websites and blogs. Using her expert knowledge, skills and personal experience in business development, personal improvement and autism, she crafts content that makes people take action. Her work is found in retail publications, professional websites, on her writer’s platform StoryBlog and more.
She is also an active advocate of neurodiversity in the workplace and co-founder of the NeuroPool network, neuropool.co.uk. Here, she is organising free educational workshops for employers on how to utilise the extraordinary talent found in people with autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia within their business.
When she isn’t typing away on her keyboard or spreading her mission, you can see her having her nose buried in a book or hiking up and down the steep hills of the Yorkshire countryside with her husband, son and daughter.
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