Today’s author is Monika Jephcott-Thomas, whose book The Watcher I reviewed earlier. She’s going to tell us something about herself and her book. Enjoy.
I’m Monika Jephcott-Thomas. I grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. In 1966 I moved to the UK, married and raised three children. After a thirty-year career in education, I moved into the therapeutic world. By 1998, along with my partner Jeff, I had established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy, became a founder member of Play Therapy UK, and in 2002 I was elected President of Play Therapy International. Together with Jeff our work culminated in the official recognition of the play therapy profession by 2013, an endorsement of our devotion to help the twenty per cent of children in the world who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts.
Play Therapy still keeps me very busy indeed, but in 2015 I decided to write my first novel Fifteen Words.
We’ve all sorted through dusty boxes in attics full of photos of our parents in their salad days, letters they sent to each other, memories they shared, perhaps even secrets they kept. For those of us over forty those memories, no doubt, are often coloured by the Second World War. It was whilst doing just that in my own parents’ trove of memories that I discovered stories that were the thrilling, gripping, emotive stuff of novels, which is why I decided to turn them into one.
I think it is safe to say, all writers want their novels to be a critical and commercial success, so writing a novel in English about two young Germans struggling to survive the war in Nazi Germany may seem to be commercial suicide when there has been a tendency in recent years to decry any depiction of the German perspective of the war as revisionist in the pejorative sense. But Fifteen Words didn’t seek to suggest a moral equivalence between the Axis and the Allies, or to minimize Nazi crimes, or deny the Holocaust. On the contrary. I felt compelled to write the book in an age when Europe is once again seeing how war can displace and tear apart the lives of families from so many different countries at the same time, just as it did in World War Two. And although it seems almost too obvious to state, it clearly still needs to be stated: not all Germans were Nazis, not all of them supported what Hitler was doing.
But I think my aim with Fifteen Words was to write a human story first and foremost. A story about two people in love, struggling to reconcile their different opinions, being swayed by all the powerful forces vying for their faith, be that friends, parents, religion or political parties; the kind of things anyone around the word can relate to.
The same is true of my new novel The Watcher. This is a sequel to Fifteen Words, but it can also be enjoyed as a standalone novel. It is also inspired by my family history but this time I pull on more of my own memories of growing up in occupied Germany after the war. By doing so I can depict another time and place which is rarely dealt with in English literature and also use it to explore the theme of PTSD in ex-servicemen at a time when it was not even recognized, and particularly its effect on the children of those suffering in an age where children were to be “seen and not heard.” This is an issue very close to my heart both professionally and personally. As a specialist in the field of play therapy I have published various papers on strategies of psychological support for children for the likes of UNICEF; children who are often experiencing psychological and behavioural difficulties as a result of trauma their parents have suffered.
That all sounds a bit academic, but it (and my own memories) gave me a solid factual background on which to build a very human story once again. The Watcher is a family drama. A touching story, I hope, of a family unit which has been torn apart by war, trying to mend itself, trying to be ordinary again after a war that has made everything in their lives extraordinary. Many of the adult characters’ interactions are seen through the eyes of the child protagonist Netta, which is intended to lend a refreshing perspective on the broken relationships and “emotional chess” being played out by the ‘grown-ups’.
So for the reader, I hope, The Watcher is not only a family drama, not only, an eye-opening account of life in occupied Germany after WWII, but also (as if that wasn’t enough!) a whodunit, which will keep the reader turning the page to the final revelation.
Find out more about Play Therapy International at http://www.playtherapy.org
Find out more about the author at http://www.monika-jephcott-thomas.com
It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.
Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/2jpKeBs
About the author: Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published.
Website – http://monika-jephcott-thomas.com/