Name: V. M. Jones
Date of birth: 23 August 1958
Place of birth: Luanshya, Zambia – a little copper mining town in the middle of Africa
Now living in: Christchurch
What is your favourite food?
Steak – but not dried-out, chewy, gristly steak. Perfect, tender steak, still pink inside. Yum.
Do you have a nickname and if so what is it?
The V.M. in V.M. Jones stands for Victoria Mary. I hate being called Victoria, though – everyone calls me Vicky.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
I've had so many that I had to ask my son which he thought was the very worst. With no hesitation, he reminded me of one I'd (almost) successfully blotted out of my memory altogether!
I was about 20, and was making a long-distance phone call to a friend in America. A deep, masculine-sounding voice answered the phone. All of a twitter at speaking to someone so far away, I bleated, 'Hello! Is that – um – Mr Campbell?' 'No,' the voice replied, somewhat tersely: 'it’s Mrs Campbell.' And it was only then that I remembered that Mr Campbell was dead!
How do you relax?
I read heaps, and I go for long walks in the Port Hills. I adore sleeping, and dreaming is one of my favourite hobbies – better than going to the movies! I love sitting doing absolutely nothing with a cat (or two, or even three!) on my lap.
Who inspired you when you were little?
I was lucky – I had a series of truly inspirational teachers (almost all male, interestingly enough), all of whom I remember vividly. But there were dreadful ones too – the sort that haunt your worst nightmares. More of them later!
What were you like at school?
I was a real tomboy. I questioned everything, and must have made the teachers' lives a misery! I spent most of my school life – most of my childhood, in fact – in the private world of my imagination. Most of the time, I wasn’t Vicky at all, but someone completely different!
My favourite subject was story writing – to me, that’s always counted as fun rather than work.
My most hated subject was geography, because of the teacher. She was a little round butterball of a woman with dyed black hair. Her way of teaching geography was to run off pages and pages of illegible notes on a special machine with smudgy purple ink. Lessons consisted of reading (or trying to read!) the notes, and writing in the bits you couldn’t decipher.
It’s hard to imagine someone making the study of the world around us boring, but she managed it!
What was the book you most loved as a child?
Until I was about nine, I read nothing but fairy stories. Then one day I suddenly branched out and started devouring anything and everything. I've always adored the Laura Ingalls Wilder books – the Little House series – and the Jennings and Derbyshire school series. The Narnia books … and of course, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. My Mum read the whole of The Lord of the Rings aloud to me and my two older sisters when I was about ten – that was a wonderful introduction to what must be one of the most wonderful books ever written!
Which person from the past would you most like to meet?
I'd have to say Jesus Christ. Whatever your religious beliefs are, an encounter with a charismatic spiritual leader who has influenced so many people world-wide would be an incredible experience.
Who is your favourite author/children’s author?
It changes from day to day. At the moment, my favourite children’s author is probably Louis Sachar.
I love reading about real life, and families, and relationships – about problems, and how people deal with them – and the way they grow and develop in the process.
Why did you want to be a writer?
It suddenly occurred to me that it was something I might be able to do well, on my own terms, and independently of other people. I've always hated being bossed about!
Do you have a special place where you write your books?
I have a little study with a view out to the sunny back garden. I do all my writing on computer – that way, it’s easy to make changes, and I don’t have to deal with the problem of trying to read my terrible handwriting. Often, one of our cats will come in and help me – though it can be hard typing with a cat on your lap!
My best ideas seem to come to me either in the bath or in the middle of the night. I write them down quickly on little scraps of paper which lie around the house like confetti – fragments of dialogue, twists to the plot, an adjective that’s been eluding me. Everyone is very good about not throwing them away by mistake!
What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?
The best thing is when it’s going really well, and your fingers can’t type fast enough to keep up with the story as it unfolds. And when you write something that makes you laugh out loud, or you find that you have tears on your cheeks.
It’s wonderful when suddenly a character comes to life and starts doing completely unexpected things – things that take you, the author, totally by surprise!
The worst is when, quite suddenly, that magic process stops happening, and writing each word is like wading through treacle. And the terrible thing is, you can clearly see those parts when you re-read what you’ve written!
If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?
A psychologist, I think. I find the secret things that happen in the dark recesses of people’s minds endlessly fascinating.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read heaps - and write heaps, too. It’s like any exercise – it gets easier the more you do it.
Listen to your internal voice, and believe what it tells you – what’s real to you will be real to other people too.
Keep asking two questions: Why, and What next?
This interview is from 2005.