Interviewed by Sue Leonard.
Published in the Irish Examiner on 15th June
Beginner’s Pluck Gemma Jackson.
Brought up in poverty in Dublin, Gemma always adored reading. She went to a technical school at 12, where she learned to type. At 17, she escaped for England. And in the following years she lived in Belgium, France, Canada, Iran, and America, where she married.
“I was left a widow at 28, with a two year old and no money. In my thirties I returned to Ireland, and ran a health food restaurant in Bray.”
Gemma has written numerous, unpublished, books over the years, but it was a comment from Gay Byrne about the need for more nostalgic books based in Dublin that got her started on the debut.
She was helped, too, by the Romance Novelist’s Association.
“They brought in a scheme where they developed your writing and coached you,” she says.
Who is Gemma Jackson?
Date of birth: 1953; Dublin tenements.
Education: Mount Sackville until 12, then Parnell Square for typing and bookkeeping. Left at 16.
Home: Annalong; Northern Ireland.
Family: Widow with one daughter, Astrid.
The Day Job: Full time writer.
Interests: “I love travel; people; cooking; walking in beautiful places; and handcrafts.”
Favourite Writers: Eric Van Lustbader; Tom Clancy; Norah Roberts; Anne McCaffrey. “I use books to turn off my brain. I don’t watch TV.”
Second Novel: “It’s finished. It’s the follow on.”
Top Writing Tip: Show. Don’t tell.
Web: www.gemmajacksondubliner.com Twitter: No.
The Debut: On Streets Broad and Narrow. Poolbeg Press: €18.75. Kindle: €5.83.
This tells the story of Ivy Rose Murphy; a girl brought up in the tenements of twenties Dublin. It opens on New Year’s Day 1925, when Ivy found her Da dead. Although she’s distraught, his death brings freedom for Ivy. Since her mother deserted the family, Ivy has had to become the provider. Now, turning from a life of begging, she starts to mix with the well to do.
“It’s factually based fiction,” says Gemma. “Where Downton Abbey is upstairs,’ I write about downstairs.”
The Verdict: Written with insight and humour, this reads like a memoir.
© Sue Leonard. 2013.