Jill Dawson is the best-selling author of eight novels, including Fred & Edie (short-listed for The Whitbread and Orange Prize) and Watch Me Disappear (long-listed for the Orange Prize).
Her novel The Great Lover, about the poet Rupert Brooke, published in 2009, was a best-seller and a Richard and Judy Summer Read. Lucky Bunny, which tells the life of Queenie Dove, East End thief and good time girl, won a Fiction Uncovered Award. Her latest novel is The Tell-Tale Heart, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘an uncanny and atmospheric novel by a skilful storyteller’. All her novels are published by Sceptre.
In addition to the fiction, Jill has edited six anthologies and won awards for poetry and screenplays. She has held many fellowships including the British Council Writing Fellowship at Amherst College, Massachusetts and the Creative Writing Fellowship at University of East Anglia in Norwich, where she also taught on the MA. Her Creative Writing teaching spans twenty years and she is a popular tutor and writing mentor.
In 2006 Jill was awarded an honorary doctorate by Anglia Ruskin University. She has been an Advisory Fellow to the Royal Literary Fund for ten years.
She currently teaches creative writing for the Faber Academy and the Guardian/UEA Masterclasses as well as mentoring new and emerging writers under a scheme she founded: www.gold-dust.org.uk.
Website? Jill Dawson
Contact email: [moleandruby]@aol.com ( remove square brackets before emailing)
Synopses of books :
The Tell-Tale Heart -paperback published August 2014
'Dear Donor Family.
A terrible truth: your good son’s heart is probably wasted on a man like me.’
Patrick, a fifty-year-old professor of American Studies, drinker and womaniser, has been given six months to live. In a rural part of Cambridgeshire, a teenager dies in a motorcycle accident. When his heart is transplanted into Patrick’s chest, two strangers are forever conjoined.
Patrick makes a good recovery, but has the strange feeling that his old life ‘won’t have him’. Discovering that his donor was a local boy named Drew Beamish, he becomes intensely curious about Drew and what shaped him, from the ancestor involved in the Littleport riots of 1816 to the bleak beauty of the Fens. Patrick longs to know the story of his heart
Watch Me Disappear (2003) is the first of Dawson’s documentary novels to have a modern-day setting. Inspired by the 2002 Soham murders of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman (Dawson herself lives close to Soham), it is a disturbing but brave exploration of young girls on the verge of adolescence and sexuality, struggling with society’s contradictory expectations of them as they are subjected to both the myth of childhood innocence and the allure of being sexualised. Through the story of Tina and her family, Watch me Disappear skilfully and subtly evokes the sinister darkness that can lurk beneath ordinary life, in both domestic situations and the wider social sphere. Tina, a British woman from the Fens who now lives in the US with her husband and daughter, returns to her childhood home for a family wedding.
Posters about two missing girls bring back horrific memories of Tina’s childhood friend, Mandy, who disappeared 30 years ago at the age of 10.
As Tina experiences flashbacks of the memories she had repressed, Dawson’s skilfulness in evoking place and character creates a detailed and poignant depiction of 1970s’ life and the friendship between these two young girls, and the subsequent trauma that Tina’s mother never allowed her to talk about. The novel’s most chilling element, however, is Tina’s gradual and horrifying realisation that her own father – who has since committed suicide – may have been involved in Mandy’s disappearance. Watch Me Disappear offers more questions than answers, as Tina learns to accept that she must live with her hazy, unclear memories and lack of certainty and closure.
The Great Lover (2009) is an ambitious work, based on the life of the poet Rupert Brooke, particularly the period leading up to his nervous breakdown.
Dawson’s metaphorical prose creates a rich, sensual portrait of Brooke and his pre-war life in Cambridge and later in Tahiti. Dawson has emphasised that this is a novel, not a biography, but once again she has based her imaginative fiction on detailed research, and she suggests the complex personality behind the public image. Brooke, described by W.B. Yeats as ‘the most handsome man in England, was adored and worshipped throughout his short life (by men and women), and after his death in World War I he was glorified as a patriotic English hero. Dawson, however, peels away the layers to present a young man who was deeply troubled.
The title, taken from Brooke’s poem, ‘The Great Lover’, is somewhat ironic: Brooke experimented with both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, but never found satisfaction. Dawson perceptively explores the burden of being worshipped, as her character voices his (albeit egotistical) desire to escape: ‘There is something, so choking, so suffocating, about being adored. The oxygen of indifference is what I need.’
Pitch to Publishers & Festival Organisers:
Jill Dawson is a lively and engaging speaker, at ease in informal settings or panel discussions. Her experience of teaching Creative Writing spans 25 years and she is eloquent on writing, and many other subjects. Her novels which cover: domestic violence, Asperger Syndrome, historical fiction, The Fens, feminism, biographical fiction, Rupert Brooke, themes of nature vs nurture and what makes a person who they are.
Awards & Prizes:
2012 Fiction Uncovered Award for Lucky Bunny
judged by Professor John Sutherland, Katy Guest, Matt Thorne and Jasper Sutcliffe.
2008 Award from Arts Countil for The Silver Banks
2006 Arts Council Award.
2006 Watch Me Disappear long-listed for the Orange Prize
2006 ScreenEast award for Watch Me Disappear screenplay.
2004 Wild Boy becomes the first ever novel to be long-listed for the British Academy Book Prize (for a work which makes scholarly ideas
2003 Arts council of England award for Half of England (Watch Me
2001 ScreenEast award for Stunner screenplay.
2001 Long-list of Dublin IMPAC award for Fred & Edie
2001 Short list for Orange Prize for Fred & Edie
2000 Short list for Whitbread Novel of the Year for Fred & Edie
1996 London Arts Board New Writer Award for Magpie
1996 Kathleen Blundell Award
Literary Festival Appearances:
Many many appearances over many years but recent ones are:
Oxford Literary Festival 2014 2012 2009
Cambridge Wordfest 2014 2013 2012
Dartington words on the water 2013
Tahiti Book Salon 2014
Ubud Literary festival 2012 2013 2014
Sri Lanka Galle Literary festival 2010
Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival
Write Idea Tower Hamlets
Hay on Wye literary festival