The year is 1968. The world is changing. Students are protesting, civil rights are being fought and died for, nuclear bombs are being tested, and war is raging in Vietnam. For three women, life must go on as normal. For them, as it is for most ‘ordinary’ people, just to survive is an act of courage.
Rose must keep her dignity and compassion as a St Lucian nurse in London. Amalia must keep hoping that her son can escape their seedy life in Lisbon. And Mrs Johnson in Washington DC must keep writing to her son in Vietnam. She has no-one else to talk to. Three different women in three different countries. They work, they bring up children, they struggle to make ends meet while the world goes around and the papers print the news. History is written by the winners – and almost all of it has been written by men. The stories of women like these go unremarked and unwritten so often that we forget how important they are.
– When and where do you prefer to write?
‘When’ is any time that I can’t not write! Routine is not a natural thing for me (I wish it was), so you’re just as likely to find me scribbling in the middle of the night as rising with the lark. As for ‘Where’, that’s a bit easier. My favourite places to write are coffee shops, especially the ones in railway stations. In fact, my second novel, The Seventh Train, was born over several cappuccinos at Paddington station in London.
– Is there a drink or some food that keeps you company while you write?
This leads on seamlessly from the question above…coffee! I drink far too much of it, but it has to be ‘proper’ coffee and not instant. Coffee is the only thing I’m a proper snob about.
– What is your favourite book?
Since I was a child my favourite book has been Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I’ve never read another book, either for children or adults, that can beat it in terms of imagination, innovation and sheer word-pleasure! A close second is The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono. It’s a very short and devastatingly beautiful book. I’ve bought it as a gift for other people at least half a dozen times. It was written many years ago, but it’s even more relevant today.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
As well as being a novelist, I write plays for theatre. The most popular with audiences always seem to be my comedies. I’d love to write a laugh-out-loud novel at some point in the future. Something that would make a reader laugh so hard that coffee came out of their nose! This happened to me at least twice while reading the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams. I’d love to be able to inflict that on other people.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Sometimes I deliberately base elements of a character on somebody I’ve known, but probably a lot more of it happens unconsciously. Writers are magpies, after all, so we can’t help looking for shiny things to steal. However, I’ve never based a character entirely on one person. There’s always a little bit of me in each one too, but I won’t tell you which bits.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
Yes, absolutely. If you want to be a writer, it’s essential. Ideas are like pickpockets – they’re opportunistic. One minute they’re in front of you, the next minute they’ve vanished. I can’t count the number of brilliant ideas I’ve lost because I didn’t have a notebook and pen by the bed.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I’ve never really found a genre I didn’t like, but I do struggle to read books that describe graphic or extreme violence. I have a strong, visual imagination, so I can ‘see’ what I’m reading very easily. The better written that kind of book is, the more deeply it would disturb me, so I avoid a lot of horror or ‘heavy’ crime novels. Not because that genre is bad, but because I can’t really handle those books. Other than that, I’ll have a go at reading most genres. If a book is wonderfully written, the genre is secondary.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I love this question! If it was going to be a funny book, it would have to be Sandi Toksvig. If it was going to be more serious, it would have to be Margaret Atwood. If it was going to be both, and I could choose a deceased author, it would have to be Kurt Vonnegut. Oh, if only! Mind you, I’d probably end up sitting back so that I could enjoy watching any of those people create a story rather than having to do any of the work myself.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
Anywhere that had lots of people (and wasn’t too cold!). Most of what I write is strongly character-led because, for me, human beings have always been the most fascinating things on earth to research. People never cease to fascinate and amaze me.
Thank you for asking the questions. I’ve really enjoyed trying to answer them.
(Jackie Carreira – August 2019)
Thank you, Jackie Carreira and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Jackie Carreira is an award-winning novelist, playwright, musician, designer, and co-founder of QuirkHouse Theatre Company. A true renaissance woman, or a Jack of All Trades? The jury’s still out on that one. She grew up in Hackney, East London, but spent part of her early childhood in Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Sleeping Through War was inspired, in part, by some of the women she met when she was young. One of her favourite places to write is the coffee shops of railway stations. Her second novel, The Seventh Train (published by Matador in 2019) was born in the café at Paddington Station. Jackie now lives in Suffolk with an actor, two cats and not enough book shelves.
Social Media Links
TWITTER – https://twitter.com/JCarreiraWriter
Link to purchase from Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/sleeping-through-war/jackie-carreira/9781788038539