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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Stephen Jackley shares the inspiration behind his new book, JUST TIME: A Journey Through Britain’s Fractured Justice System.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Stephen Jackley about his life and career, the research that went into his new book, JUST TIME: A Journey Through Britain’s Fractured Justice System, and why he was inspired to write it.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am an editor and project coordinator for the Arkbound Foundation and passionate about supporting people from the most diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds to have their voices heard. I’ve helped mentor people from these backgrounds to achieve publication and also develop sustainable social enterprise ideas. I’m also very active with environmental projects linked to tackling climate change.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I have enjoyed writing since a child and think writing a book has always been something I wanted to do, perhaps since the age of seven. I can remember an elderly friend of my father’s, John, who was in the process of writing a book about Dartmoor – an area I loved to explore as a child – and he was the first writer who inspired me to do something similar.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I kept diaries and wrote poetry when young, but it was only after receiving input from a creative writing tutor that I got properly into it, around the age of 23.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I have written several books that have never been published, so if you count the first one of those then it took around three months. That book was a sci-fi type story. But my first book that was actually published, Good Intentions, took about six months to write.
Most of the writing process is actually re-writing; the actual creation part where you are writing from scratch onto paper (I find doing this directly on a computer very hard) usually takes me less than a month.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
My latest published book, Just Time, took a whopping seven years from first idea to release. There were lots of reasons for that, from having reservations about publishing certain things that could negatively impact me, to working with various people in the process.
Focusing on your latest release, what made you want to write Just Time?
I always wanted to publish the account of my time in UK custody. It was something I vowed to do when in prison, as I felt there were certain essential things that the public should be aware of. Prisons are very rarely shown in a complete, accurate way, and most ‘insider’ accounts don’t really cover certain key themes that I wanted to be understood. For example, there are not really any accounts that depict the huge variations in conditions between multiple establishments, how liable to corruption, abuse of power and maladministration the system can be, together with how important it is for people in custody to access the courts as a means of last resort.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Just Time?
Cutting back! Because it involved a six-year period, across multiple establishments, I had to be quite ruthless in cutting out scenes and characters that were initially in the book. When first written, it exceeded 200,000 words.
What was your research process for Just Time?
As the book is a first-hand account of being in prison and self-representation in the courts, most research was centered on checking the numbers cited were correct (such as number of prisoners, suicides in a certain year, number of judicial reviews brought, etc).
How did you plan the structure of Just Time?
It was planned chronologically, though I did experiment with a more thematic structure that was suggested to me.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Just Time need?
Although I work as an editor and have written previous books, it is unwise to edit one’s own work. Thus, I had help from an editor and proofreader, as well as having an experienced literary agent look over it.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
To read. The more you read, the more you will pick up certain styles and techniques that work – and don’t work. At the same time, it is important to read with an eye on how sentences are structured, rather than getting lost in the story.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I like writing fantasy and sci-fi, and have written several books in these themes (most not to the end). So the next book I write will probably be a continuation of that trend. Whether I’ll publish it or not is another matter.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
‘Pride’ is a difficult sentiment for such a book, but I’m glad that it finally got published. The vow I made to expose certain things in the justice system can finally be seen as fulfilled, though I wish it got published earlier.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
JUST TIME: a Journey through Britain’s Fractured Justice System
by Stephen Jackley (paperback, £12,99) is published by Arbound Foundation –
a charitable social enterprise – and is available through booksellers and through the publisher’s website:
For more information about Arkbound publishing, visit the website:
www.arkbound.com/about or connect with Arkbound on social media:
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