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Jane Mitchell

As a child

I was born in London, then my family moved to Strabane in Northern Ireland. It was at the height of the Troubles and I remember our Town Hall being blown up on my way to school. When my dad opened the car window to look out, the heat of the blaze burnt my cheeks. I wrote and illustrated my first ‘book’ of poems in Strabane, and continued to write essays and stories right the way through school. My parents, my brother and I moved to Dublin when I was almost eight and I’ve lived there ever since. I read lots of books, and when I visited my cousins in County Westmeath, they would hide all theirs, so I’d have to play with them and not spend the entire visit curled up in a corner, reading. I learned to play the recorder and the flute, and went to ballet lessons. I was also a girl guide, and we went camping and hiking. I swam with a competitive swimming club and ran a girl guide troupe for children with disabilities.

As an adult

I studied Education and taught for a few years before deciding it wasn’t for me so I worked with early school leavers and young offenders in the community. I used to visit detainees in remand centres and sometimes, when I was out with friends, gangs of scary-looking teenagers would rush up to say hello. My friends were terrified, but the teenagers were just being friendly. I worked with teenagers with disabilities and we went on trips to Greece and the Netherlands, and I spent a year studying in London. In between work and study, I wrote books and travelled to lots of countries, including Thailand, Guatemala, Bolivia, New Zealand and South Africa. A few years ago, I left my job, filled a backpack and travelled the world for a year. That was an amazing experience! I visited lots of countries and was able to spend time exploring them properly and meeting lots of interesting people, rather than just doing the tourist thing. Now I’m writing stories about some of the fascinating places I visited and the remarkable people I met.

As an artist

When I bought my first computer, I decided to write a book. I’d always written stories and poems, but what was the point in having a computer unless planning to use it for something significant? I was living in an apartment then, and whenever I visited my parents, I’d tell them what I was writing. My mother thought it was all a big yarn: "You’re writing a book? That’s great. Now, eat your dinner before it gets cold." She was astonished when I finished the book. And even more astonished when the first publisher I sent it to accepted it for publication. I don’t think I’ll ever learn all there is to know about writing. Whenever I read great books by other authors, I’m blown away by the amazing characters they create, or by how they manage to crank up the tension or to structure the plot to lead to a startling climax. I first think "how did they manage that?" and then, immediately afterwards, "I want to do that" and that sets me off tackling something new because I want to make my writing better.

Things you didn't know about Jane Mitchell

  1. I love trees and think everyone should protect them, care for them and plant them everywhere.
  2. The aroma of coffee is wonderful, but it’s a deceptive drink because the flavour is nothing like it should be – it’s horrible. I think pretty much the same about tea.
  3. I’m a very good swimmer and love anything to do with water.
  4. I play classical flute and traditional Irish flute.
  5. I love custard – it’s probably my favourite food, followed closely by yogurt, and chocolate ice-cream. And maybe rice pudding.
  6. I hate killing any creature and always try to save stranded ones, even woodlice, spiders and moths.
  7. When I was in school, I rescued an injured pigeon, who I called William. He never flew again and the vet said he was very sick, but he lived with us for almost a year before he died.
  8. I once visited a Rat Temple in India where everyone worshipped the rats and shared their food with them. The rats scurried and crawled everywhere and the stink was unbelievable.
  9. I have a small tattoo of a bumblebee, but I don’t show it to anyone.
  10. As a child, I wanted to be a ballerina or an artist.

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Jane Mitchell

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