On January 31st DEMAIN publishes Dave Jeffery’s novel on Amazon (print and ebook), Finding Jericho. Before publication, Dave and Dean sat down and had a chat about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello again Dave, you need no introduction here at DEMAIN, so let’s talk Finding Jericho – your third DEMAIN release.
DAVE JEFFERY: Finding Jericho is a contemporary novel that gives insight to those who have either basic or very little knowledge of mental illness, mental health and the experiences those who endure it. The story is told in retrospect by protagonist Jonathon Dupree, who moves in with his uncle Ronald, a long-term survivor of bi-polar affective disorder. Jonathon finds out how the stigma of mental illness transcends beyond the family and into the local community. The story centres on how he deals with the pressures this kind of oppression elicits on his life. Let’s just say, it’s a learning curve.
DP: Without giving too much away, it’s quite a steep learning curve! Why did you choose to write about mental health / illness…you have some experience in the field I believe?
DJ: I’ve worked as a mental health professional in the UK for 35 years. Ironically this edition of Finding Jericho is being released on the day I retire, so this has an unmitigated level of poignancy for me. The book was a direct response to my ongoing frustration with an apparent lack of public awareness of what mental illness was/is. The contemporary setting was important as this was about grounding the story to maximise the impact for a general audience.
DP: Good luck on your retirement. I agree that there is a lack of general awareness but I will add that a lot of people / organisations are striving to be better, so at least that’s a step in the right direction – though obviously there is a long way to go. Can I ask, did you have to do much research and did you find that challenging?
DJ: I have a Degree in mental health studies and a Master’s degree in health science, so I have a pretty good grasp of the issues. I was, however, keen to make this story real for people. This meant that events had to be something that readers could relate to, irrespective of their personal experiences of mental health. The themes of grief, bullying, social isolation, and family upheaval are common to most, so it is through these aspects that Finding Jericho puts across its message.
DP: And it does that very well. Dave, all the characters in Finding Jericho are extremely vulnerable (in different ways) – was that a conscious decision and again, was that easy to write?
DJ: Vulnerability is at the heart of the story because the message I wanted to portray is that we are all susceptible to the fundamentals of life, and its challenges. Feeling vulnerable, be that physically or emotionally, is a key component to why we surround ourselves with defences, some healthy, some not. Walls are either our fortress or our prison, defined by our need to build them. The book title is a nod to this tenet.
DP: Did you always set out to write a novel such as Finding Jericho? Is it a subject you would tackle again?
DJ: The finished book is exactly how I planned, a first for me, I’ll have to admit. I think the story was so clear to me for such a long time―it seemed a natural process once it came down to the writing. I have another story that I want to tell. The working title is TABOO and explores the relationships between mental health staff and the people in their care. I just have to find a publisher interested enough to take it on. The basic premise of the story is highly controversial, so I’ll need a publisher sympathetic and up for the challenge.
DP: Well, count us in. If DEMAIN can help, you know where to find us. Finally then, can you tell us an interesting / surprising thing which either happened before / during or after writing Finding Jericho?
DJ: I found the whole experience of writing Finding Jericho as monumentally cathartic. It was also easy to write. I put this down to my desire to write it, how long I had thought about doing it. I have had readers get in touch and say the book has changed their life. As a writer, this is a profound endorsement of what you’re trying to achieve in your work. I must admit, I shed a tear when such sentiments are sent to me. On a professional level, having endorsements from the BBC and the Independent Schools Examination Board for English is validation of how the book is perceived from a literary standpoint. I’m immensely proud of this book and what it represents.
And we are extremely proud that you allowed DEMAIN to publish Finding Jericho. We wish you the best of luck with it.
Finding Jericho is published on the 31st January 2020 in both ebook / print.
Some important links which might be of interest:
MADNESS & LITERATURE NETWORK: http://www.madnessandliterature.org/
(cover by Adrian Baldwin)
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Dean M. Drinkel