Jessica Gregson’s novel After Silence sounds absolutely fascinating and is due out from Deixis Press next week.
Today she’s sharing #TenThings about herself and her writing.
- I’ve written for as long as I can remember, and it was the first thing that I can remember ever wanting to be as a child. I don’t really have any sort of “process”, the way that other writers seem to – every book I’ve written has been done in a totally different way: sometimes I write chronologically, and sometimes I don’t; sometimes I do a huge amount of research and planning up front, and sometimes I wing it completely. The one approach that’s been constant for the last few years, though, is that I make sure to write every day – even if it’s just five minutes of disconsolately moving a comma back and forth. That constant engagement keeps the book alive in my own head, and makes it much easier to progress.
- I’ve published three historical novels but I never specifically set out to be a writer of historical fiction, and in fact the projects I’m working on right now are quite different. A big part of my drive to write is around exploration – of different times and places and mindsets, and I think that’s what’s drawn me towards historical fiction in the past – but I’m writing fantasy now, for much the same reason.
- I used to be a real intellectual snob and would only read “literary” fiction and non-fiction, until I started to realise how much amazing writing I was missing out on by not exploring genre fiction more. (It’s a pretty artificial distinction anyway.) These days, there’s not a single genre that I don’t read, and some of the best books I’ve read over the past decade have been from genres I would have avoided when I was younger.
- Like almost all writers these days, I have a day job which pays my bills: I work as an education technical adviser for a large international NGO, and as part of my role I’m often deployed to parts of the world that are in crisis. I absolutely love what I do, and have no desire to ever giving it up, even if I were to somehow make a fortune writing. I do think having a day job that’s entirely unconnected to my writing makes me a better writer, as it keeps me connected to the world and to other people whom I’d never meet if I was a full-time writer.
- My work requires a lot of travel, and I travel a lot for enjoyment, as well. My single favourite thing to do is to spend a few hours wandering around in a place where no one knows me, occasionally taking breaks to read in cafes. It was probably the thing I missed the most during the pandemic.
- I have ADHD, which wasn’t diagnosed until I was well into adulthood. It’s definitely caused me some problems in the past (e.g. losing several passports within a year), but I’ve learned to harness it and work with it, and these days I think of it as more of an attribute than a disadvantage (though I realise that’s a privileged perspective).
- I moved to Glasgow initially in 2007, and have been based here since 2011, when I bought my flat on the southside. Although I spend a lot of time elsewhere for both work and pleasure, I feel more at home in Glasgow, and in Scotland as a whole, than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. Making the decision to move here permanently in 2011 is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
- One of my favourite things about living in Scotland is proximity to such stunning scenery. I’m a keen hiker and I’ve written huge chunks of books in my head while on solo walks, both in Scotland and elsewhere. I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2017, and planned out the best part of a trilogy in my head during that time.
- My new book, After Silence, is about an orchestral performance, and it was really important that I weave as much musical imagery into the book as I could. I’m not a musician myself but I’ve sung in choirs since I was a child and there’s something truly magical about collective creation of music, which I hope comes out in the book.
- I really, really love bats, and have done since I was a child. There are the most diverse mammals in the world, at over 1400 different species; they are pollinators and therefore vital for the ecosystem – and they’re also just delightfully weird little dudes. I got a bat detector for my birthday a couple of years ago and it brings me a great deal of pleasure.
After Silence by Jessica Gregson (Deixis Press, £12.99) is available from all good book retailers from 9th August.
From the back of the book
Leningrad, 1941. German forces surround the city at the start of the most harrowing winter in its history. The siege becomes a battle for survival. Bodies fill the streets, and the crushing horror of cold, starvation and bone-deep fear is relentless.
Set against this background of tragedy and suffering, a remarkable group of musicians — soldiers and civilians, all of whom have been wasted by war and hunger — come together to perform Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony. They scarcely have the strength to carry their instruments, but their performance of this haunting and defiant new piece provides a rare light of hope in the darkness. Friendship, love and a vibrant passion for music combine in this ambitious, absorbing and richly sensuous masterpiece.
About the author
Jessica Gregson was born in London in 1978. She is now a humanitarian education specialist and writer. She has a degree in Anthropology from Cambridge, a Masters in Development from LSE, and a Masters in Education from Glasgow, and previously worked as a policy advisor for the UK Government. She has lived and worked in a variety of places, including South Sudan, Myanmar and Azerbaijan. Jessica is the author of The Angel Makers (2007) and The Ice-Cream Army (2009).