Meredith Jaffe discusses her debut novel The Fence about feuding neighbours.
Did a particular neighbourhood feud inspire your story?
Well feud might be too strong a word. However, we did have new neighbours who wanted a fence and let’s just say that things got a tad heated. It was a very revealing experience.
Do you expect your readers to take either Gwen or Frankie’s side or stay on the fence?
It is interesting that no early readers have been able to stay on the fence. Let’s face it, neither Gwen nor Frankie conduct themselves in an admirable way. I think the mood shifts. Sometimes they are hilarious in their awfulness and sometimes they are just plain appalling.
Is it daunting for you as a book critic to now have to put your own work up for review?
Not really. As a book critic, I never saw it as my job to shoot writers’ work down in flames but rather to shine a light on books that moved me. Any writer who secures a review is one of the lucky ones. So I’m happy to take my chances.
Did you always want to be a writer and when did you start writing The Fence?
I always wanted to be a writer but life has a habit of getting in the way. Or perhaps I should say, sometimes it takes a lot of courage and tenacity to actually commit pen to paper. Self doubt is a plague with writers. Good ideas can fizzle and die left unnurtured. I started writing the first draft of The Fence last June after a few months of research and developing the structure.
Which authors do you most admire?
I admire so many authors and for so many different reasons. Liane Moriarty because she is funny and modest and who wouldn’t want a tenth of her success? Lionel Shriver for her biting wit and her clever way of tackling contemporary issues. Margaret Atwood is a constant source of joy and discovery. Such a way with words! Such an inspired storyteller!
Tell us about your involvement with the Footpath Library.
The Footpath Library is all about putting books in the hands of homeless people. You don’t need a library card or a fixed address as we give away the books donated to us. We also run the annual EPIC! short story competition for school children. It is all about fostering literacy and encouraging a love of reading. Books sustain us, transport us and are a constant friend. That is a habit for life, don’t you think?
What type of person would constitute your nightmare neighbour?
Gosh there are so many types, aren’t there? I don’t think you can ever underestimate the destructiveness of noise pollution. People invading my privacy would drive me nuts. Or people who destroyed my property. Luckily, we live on a farm so our neighbours are a fair distance from our house. For that, I am entirely grateful!
“I promise you one thing, young lady. Building a fence is not going to keep the world out and won’t keep your children in. Life’s not that simple.”
Gwen Hill adores Green Valley Avenue. Here she has built friendships, raised her children and nurtured a thriving garden. So when the house next door is sold, Gwen wonders how the new family will settle into this cosy community.
Francesca Desmarchelliers has high hopes for the house on Green Valley Avenue. More than a new home, it’s a clean slate for Frankie, who has moved her brood in a bid to save her marriage. To maintain her privacy and corral her wandering children, Frankie proposes a fence between the properties, destroying Gwen’s picture-perfect front yard.
To Gwen, this is an act of war. Soon the neighbours are in an escalating battle about more than just council approvals, where boundaries aren’t the only things at stake.
Meredith Jaffe is a writer and occasional book critic. For four years she wrote the weekly literary column The Bookshelf for the online women’s magazine The Hoopla; sharing literary news, reviewing books and interviewing writers. Meredith regularly chairs panels, presents workshops and interviews fellow authors for various literary events and writers’ festivals. She is currently working on her next novel in between riding her horses and enjoying farm life with her family on the beautiful NSW south coast.