One thing we love about writing and publishing Hometown Pasadena is that we read in order to write book reviews. Since reading is one of our favorite pastimes and a perfect vehicle for endless procrastination (which legitimately can be labeled “work”), we snapped up Jacqueline Winspear‘s new novel The Care and Management of Lies, headed straight to Vroman’s for her discussion and signing, and were delighted when she consented to an interview.
HP: We read your essay “From a Railway Carriage” on your website. Our grandfather and father are huge train enthusiasts and the wonder and beauty of historic train engines and cars all the way down to Z-scale models has slipped into our blood as well. In the essay, you mention riding your bicycle from Ojai to Ventura. First, congratulations. That’s impressive (20 miles or so, yes?). Secondly, any rides lately?
JW: The short answer—No!
HP: Is there an American characteristic that happily surprised you, disappointed you, and did or didn’t live up to the hype/stereotype once you moved to the States in 1990, or is that going back too far to remember?
JW: The number of Vietnam veterans on the streets. When I first visited America in the mid-seventies they were young men. Now they are old, and still haunted.
HP: What part of the writing process do you particularly enjoy? The actual writing, researching, character and/or story evolution, editing, having the final draft in hand, seeing it in hard cover, book tours, restaurant food and hotel beds?
JW: I enjoy every step of the way; it’s my job as well as my passion, so I had better like it. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard though—but the challenge is part of the reward.
HP: What area of writing do you find difficult or least enjoy? Writing dialogue, having the characters display and express emotion, describing intimacy, describing location/scenery/environment?
JW: I don’t think any aspect of writing is any harder or easier than the other—I never think of it in those terms.
HP: Do you feel there is or was a weakness in your writing from where you began with your debut Maisie Dobbs that you’ve managed to improve or master after 11 novels?
JW: I haven’t read the book since I wrote it. I don’t intend to re-read any of my novels until I’m an old lady and perhaps not writing any more. The truth is, any novel is what it is—lessons come through the writing process. I would expect to improve as time went on though—I’ll see in about twenty-five years.
HP: What is your favorite time of day and, if you don’t have prior commitments, what do you like to do with it?
JW: First thing in the morning—I walk my dog.
HP: Favorite vice?
JW: No such thing—if I do it, it’s OK with me. What’s the point of worrying about whether something is a vice or not if you’ve done it or just about to do it? If you’re worried, just stop what you’re about to do!
HP: Least favorite chore?
JW: Anything to do with dishes—even loading or unloading the dishwasher. Hate it.
HP: What have you learned or experienced that has become the core life lesson or value that is essential to your life and/or who you are?
JW: Know your values and know what makes life worth living for you and do it every day, if even in a small way. Knowing your values makes even the most difficult decision easy – ask yourself if a certain decision reflects who you are and if it doesn’t, well just don’t do it, because if you do, it will only haunt you. Remember the words at the entrance to Delphi in Greek mythology: Know Thyself It’s worth doing the work.
HP: We’ve heard that readers will get to enjoy another Maisie Dobbs novel; will we hear from Kezia again? Will we learn about a mistake of identification in regard to Cecil holding Tom’s “last” letter to Kezia? (Or are we imagining that, with hope in our heart?) (Said without any malice toward Cecil, who we like very much.)
JW: Maisie Dobbs returns in a new series next April with the novel A Dangerous Place. I am not planning any sequel to The Care and Management of Lies. Yet.