Further to our book review, we are happy to have interviewed Jane on the background of her book, and her own personal story behind the inspiration and charectors in ‘Flight of the Kingfisher’. Please find our interview below:
Jane, your latest book, ‘Flight of the Kingfisher’ had me completely engaged. Can you tell us about the inspiration for the story?
The inspiration came from the events that took place after my brother died in 1984. Stephen had inoperable cancer and we knew when his time was drawing near, but it was still such a shock when he passed away just two months after his 30th birthday. Not long after his funeral strange things started to happen in my brand-new house and when I mentioned this at work a colleague told me her mother was a medium. I went to see her and was introduced to a world I really had known nothing about! (an article covering these events was published in the Daily Mail in March, and is available on my website). This led me to research mediumship and all kinds of paranormal phenomena, including ghosts, psychic senses such as clairvoyance, near death experiences and afterlife beliefs. I met people with the most incredible stories, and was provided with stunning evidence about the continuing existence of my loved ones and so the story began to form in my mind. Following the death of my father from heart disease and the most amazing reading some years later about him from a medium I had never met before, the full story finally came together.
The characters in the book are so believable. I particularly loved Alex and Maisie. Are they based on any one you know?
It is interesting that you particularly loved these two characters, because I know from other comments I’ve received that they seem to stand out. Alex always meets with firm approval, but Maisie divides opinion! She is loosely based on someone I used to work with many years ago, a lovely, funny lady who always seemed to know all the gossip and liked to get involved in everyone’s business. I interviewed a couple of mediums about what it is like for them to be able to do what they do as the basis for Alex, but he pretty much wrote himself. I became so fond of him it was actually quite difficult to put him through this story! Usually, though, I take various character traits from people I know or even meet very briefly and I jumble them up, always taking care to create credible personalities. I am known in the village where I live for talking to myself when out walking my dog, as I work out plotlines and try out conversations between my characters to make sure they are realistic!
Your reflections on the characters’ individual experiences of loss and grief was, I felt, sensitively portrayed. How did you research or manage this?
Thank you for saying that you felt loss and grief are sensitively handled in the book, as this was at the forefront of my mind as I wrote it. If we are fortunate enough not to have first-hand experience of loss, I think we all know someone who has had a bereavement – as I’ve said already, I’ve lost a brother and a father, and I have been a volunteer for the Stroke Association and a hospice so I’ve seen the effects of losing a loved one from many sides. I wanted to show how far-reaching grief is, that there are no shortcuts, everyone reacts differently, and that, rather than ‘get over it’, you have to learn to accommodate it and do the person who has died the honour of living your life well.
I asked some friends to read it when it was still in the draft stage, and when they told me they’d really felt the emotions of my characters, I was satisfied I was getting it right.
In my years of supporting people in bereavement, I have heard mixed reports from people who have visited mediums hoping to hear from loved ones. When you were researching the book did you come across any not so successful stories?
I have met so many mediums in the last 30 years, and in all that time I have only met one who did not impress me (having said that, though, mediums have off-days just like the rest of us). People do write to me after reading ‘Flight of the Kingfisher’ for advice about seeing a medium, and my answer is always this: be sure it’s what you want to do – if you have any doubts then please wait; ask around for personal recommendations (you’d be surprised how many people visit mediums but don’t talk about it); research the websites of mediums you are told about and see if they appeal to you; if you decide to make an appointment tell them nothing at all other than your name, and only speak to verify any information you are given. A good medium will not want you to tell them anything anyway, and if the session does not go well then you should not be charged for it. It is always useful to record the reading, and many mediums do this for you anyway. Keep in mind the importance of receiving evidential and verifiable information. Here’s an example: a medium tells you that your gran is proud of you. Is this evidence? No. But if the medium says your gran is laughing as she remembers how she tried to teach you to knit a blue scarf and you were hopeless, then you have a positive message. I was very sceptical in the beginning (and still maintain a healthy stance of scepticism even now), but the first medium I sat with gave me some information about my own family that I actually had to research. When I found it to be true, my whole belief system changed.
Are you a believer in mediums and psychics yourself?
Absolutely yes. I wish I could be a medium! The evidence I have received since my brother died has been so amazing, and I am fortunate enough to count some wonderful mediums as friends now. I am slowly putting together my own story, which has the working title ‘Reason to Believe’, but I want to get the next novel finished first.
Jane it is rare to come across such a well written fictional book from the perception of the psychic medium. Thank you for sharing it with us. Do you have a new book underway? It would be great to hear more about Alex?!
I get quite exasperated when mediums in films or television programmes are portrayed as eccentric at best and completely mad at worst, so Alex is written as an ordinary man with an extraordinary gift, just like the mediums I have come to know.
I do have a new book underway featuring Alex, and it’s just lovely to be back in his world again.
In closing, I’d just like to say this to anyone going through bereavement: allow yourself time to grieve, do it in your own way, and when you feel ready, try to live the rest of your life to make your loved ones proud.