|Jill grew up in coastal Northumberland, but has lived in the US since the age of 22, all of it, alas, far from the sea. A mother of two and grandmother of two, she is an avid consumer of novels and has always enjoyed telling stories. In her awkward teens she discovered that the most humiliating and embarrassing events made for hilarious stories afterwards.
Jill is a Professor who teaches Psychology, Linguistics and Philosophy of Mind. Her academic specialty is in language acquisition in children and its effects on how the mind develops. Her work inspired the central ideas in the embedded story, about the young girl who forms a false belief based on a minor linguistic error. But most of the story simply reflects her pleasure in taking a child’s point of view, with all the partial understandings of the world from which the child is trying to create theories.
Jill wrote the core of The Larcher during a dreary winter break twenty years ago. After carefully concealing it among academic files on her laptop, and deliberately choosing not to back it up on the campus server, she then lost it. Two years ago she was invited to give a prestigious academic talk at Newcastle University, and on a whim decided to renew her internet sleuthing to find her childhood best friend Jean, whose address she had lost. They had exchanged only Christmas cards, intermittently, for forty years.
A year later in a massive lab clean out, one of Jill’s students approached bearing a very old Mac Probook covered in dust. Might this be the one? Astonishingly, it started up, frayed cord and all. There were the chapters, with weird names like “Frances” that Jill had forgotten. But there was no way to extract the files from the laptop- no internet connection could work, no disk drive, the CD-Rom drive long gone. Fortunately, Jill is a hoarder and had kept every full floppy disk for 30 years. Armed with the names of the chapters and another old computer with the right drives, she found a disk with almost everything on it, with the stupid label “More Stuff”. Another internet search revealed a computer geek in Boston who promised to extract data from any old disks, and so the core files were recovered.
|Jean spent the first sixteen years of her life in a small seaside village in Northumberland.
She studied languages at Bristol and Newcastle Universities and then began her teaching career in an inner-city comprehensive school.
After fifteen years, she moved to an English Language school as a TEFL teacher and after twelve years there, she took a course in Early Years Education and worked in a local After School Club for younger children.
Now retired, she and her husband still live in Northumberland-and when she’s not reading, she’s writing, sometimes in their allotment shed when rain interrupts digging. And she still visits the rockpools whenever she gets the chance!
Whatever the age or nationality of her students, Jean told stories, always fascinated by the power and possibilities of language and imagination, and wrote some of them down whenever she found time.
Her daughter and, later, her grandchildren grew up familiar with one story in particular, that of Jill and Jean and their childhood adventures.
But it wasn’t until a wonderful reunion with Jill in 2015 that she realised she’d never written it all down. It was about time to start, and Jill had actually produced her own version years earlier but had mislaid it!
At the end of that visit, Jean’s last words to her childhood best friend were “Jill, find that novel!”
|Making two stories into one was the biggest writing challenge the two friends had faced, but a new story miraculously emerged, and so The Larcher was born. It came about in a very modern way, over Skype sessions that were full of laughter.