Blog Tour: Dinah Jefferies Talks About Her New Book, Before The Rains

Dinah Jefferies before the rainsA big welcome today to Dinah Jefferies. Her new novel, Before The Rains was released by Viking in February (2017.)

1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. . .

 

Hello Dinah, thank you so much for joining me today. Your new novel, Before The Rains sounds great. Can you tell me about it and where the idea originated?

I read about and then visited a small palace where, in the past, the royal family had mortgaged the family jewels to pay for an irrigation project. That gave me the idea for the title and one of the themes of the book. I fell in love with Rajasthan and wanted the pages of Before The Rains to shimmer with spice and silk so that the beauty of India would shine through. It’s about an independent female character with an interesting job as a photo-journalist. But above all it’s a story of forbidden love, with an edge to it, and plenty of opposition from either side. I wanted the story to be life-enhancing, despite the mystery of what’s going in the dark recesses of the palace. And so I tried to bring to life the colour and immense luxury of a Rajasthan palace and contrast that with the raw emptiness of the desert that surrounds it. It’s a romantic story that offers something more.

 

What elements do you need in place prior to writing a novel? Do you need a comprehensive plan, do you edit as you go etc?

I usually prepare a fifteen-page synopsis and stick to it as much as I can as I write. Having said that, there will inevitably be changes, edits and shifts as I go along. Sometimes a new idea will come to me, sometimes I’ll need to take the story in a different direction, sometimes something doesn’t work, so I try to remain flexible throughout. I do loads of revisions and love the editing process once the first draft is done.

 

What writing rituals do you have?

I’m not really a ritual kind of a person, but I try to write in the mornings while my mind is still fresh. A cup of coffee is a must, as is a warm room. I have a lovely new garden room where I write now and that has made all the difference. I was in a cramped back bedroom before. I now have my den and I love it.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

My favourite word at the moment is ‘cinnamon’ because it figures widely in the book I am currently writing. I also like the sound of the word and the smell of cinnamon, especially on a cake or pudding. Mmmm! Cinnamon buns and coffee. Now there’s a thought.

 

Best and hardest thing about being a writer?

The best thing is when you hold a finished book in your hand for the first time. I absolutely love that moment. It has usually taken a long process to reach that point and some of the hardest things happen on the way. The very worst thing is when a manuscript isn’t working as it should but you can’t figure out what’s wrong. Then it feels like you’re grappling with a wild beast intent on devouring you. That’s when your editor is fantastically useful.

 

Out of all your books, do you have a favourite passage/section?

I love the section on page 20 of The Tea Planter’s Wife when Gwen sees the tea plantation for the first time and describes the tea bushes as a tapestry of green velvet, where women tea pickers looked like tiny embroidered birds.

 

Do you have any advice for anyone suffering writer’s block?

It has only happened to me once. Before that I didn’t really believe in it. I got through it mainly by keeping on writing, even when my mind was blank, but also by taking a break and doing something different when I was well and truly stuck. It’s a hugely uncomfortable way to be feeling but reading other authors can help too.

 

BannerIf you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

Start writing earlier in my life! And have confidence.

 

Which author do you most admire and why?

Sarah Waters. She is a terrific storyteller and the way she brings a time period to life is exceptional.

 

Can you describe your writing day?

After breakfast, I shower and dress and then go down to my garden room. I write mainly in the mornings and use the afternoons for research, editing, social media and emails. I am very focused and don’t get easily distracted but I do try to get out for a walk with the dog at some point. I usually close my computer at about four thirty.

 

Any advice for new writers?

Writing can be something of a rollercoaster and it’s easy to become plagued with doubt. Try to ignore the negative voices in your head but, equally, be adaptable and willing to take on feedback. When we write we don’t always think like a reader. It’s important to know what you want your reader to be thinking or feeling. Don’t be put off by a blank page. Write anything to get your flow going. For example, ask your characters’ questions or describe what they can see. You can always edit afterwards.

 

before the rainsMy verdict on Before The Rains:

1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. . .

I loved The Separation and so was eager to begin Before The Rains. This book did not disappoint. Dinah Jefferies has such a way of beautifully describing and setting her novels. I felt as though I was in India with Eliza amongst the culture and vibrancy it offers.

We meet Eliza who has gone to India in 1930 for a special photography assignment involving the Royal Family. It is the first time she has been in India since she witnessed the death of her father when she was a girl in 1912.

Whilst staying in the castle, she meets Jay who is second in succession to rule India.

This book was very enthralling. It’s an interesting look at the class system in the 1930’s; the differences and attitudes of both the Indian and British sides are explored in this book. This is also a story where there is a lot of political unrest, jealousy and forbidden love.

As I read, I knew that there was going to be agonizing moments for these characters. All I could do was hope that Eliza and Jay would defy odds. Whether they did, you’ll have to read and find out.

Before the Rains has romance, intrigue and mystery. Like Eliza, I wasn’t sure who I could trust and this only added to my need to keep turning the page to get to the end. The way I got pulled into this novel was amazing. It’s historical fiction but to me, it felt very contemporary too.

Dinah’s writing is so rich, It wasn’t long before I was reading and promising myself ‘just one more page.’ This pretty meant I devoured this book.

Before the Rains is a beautifully crafted novel. Simply put, I loved it.

 

Dinah JefferiesAbout Dinah:
Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her debut novel, The Separation.

Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and their Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off with her grandchildren.

Dinah is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DinahJefferies and her website: http://www.dinahjefferies.com/

 

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Laura
I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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