Jackie Parry is addicted to travel, adventure, and writing, Jackie doesn’t sit still for long. Originally from the UK she is now an adopted Australian. She’s sailed around the world one-and-a-half times and trekked in the bush with five rescued horses for months. She has trained as a professional maritime captain and teacher. Currently she is exploring the European canals on a 1920s Dutch barge with her Australian husband, Noel. She’s written about her sailing and horse trekking escapades, and is an encourager, ‘there are far too many critics in the world already!’
What inspired you to start writing?
I was first inspired when I was about nine years old – I just loved writing stories. Also, not long after that I remember starting to read adult books and feeling the rush of adrenaline, the prick of tears, the clutch of stomach laughter – all from a book!
That amazed me.
At school I loved English lessons (my friends ribbing me endlessly about being the teacher’s pet!). Then, at work, I joined the team that wrote the bi-monthly company magazine. I progressed to writing destination and technical articles for sailing magazines all over the world as I sailed around the world – to help fund the trip. It felt a natural progression to write books about what I knew – inspirational travel and living life to the full!
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
Ironically, it was mostly the school books that I read. I grew up with horses and being outdoors was more important than anything.
But I enjoyed most of the books I had to read for English lessons. At junior school I could hardly wait for our weekly session of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Later, in senior school Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck really stuck with me. I can’t say I enjoyed Shakespeare’s Macbeth, however, the story and the pictures I conjured in my head by the words (once I had worked out what they meant) were vivid and really got me thinking about how black words on white paper are so powerful.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
Every part is a challenge, but what struck me most was, that on completing my first book, the next challenge commences – getting it seen!
As for ‘writing’ the book – for me it is the sequential part. I tend to jump in here and there within the story when I am drafting. So, to jiggle the contents into a meaningful and true timeline is a task I don’t really enjoy. My brain jumps from subject to subject (often driving my husband nuts!) and that’s how my initial draft of the book is written!
Funnily enough, I enjoy the editing process. Working the bulk of the book into order, initially, is a lot of work – once that is done I feel great pleasure from manipulating and massaging the paragraphs.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
So far my books have been about subjects I am fully acquainted with – non-fiction books (1) “A Cruisers’ AA (accumulated acumen)” a book with over 1,800 tips, tricks, and, advice on living on board a boat. (2) “Of Foreign Build – From Corporate Girl to Sea Gypsy Woman” a nine-year odyssey sailing around the world (3) “A Standard Journey – 5 horses, 2 people, and 1 tent” we adopted five horses and trained them (they trained us) as one team. We all set out into the Australian bush together for several months – an extraordinary story of 5 horses and 2 people becoming family and relying on each other. (4) “This Is It – 2 hemispheres, 2 people, and 1 boat” Our two-year escapade, buying a boat in San Francisco and sailing back across the Pacific, via Easter Island, Pitcairn, etc, to Australia.
So, I knew my subjects inside out. I am, however, planning a fiction book. The research so far has been immense. For me, the actual writing will not start until I have most of the research completed – several more weeks, maybe months to go! And then I am sure there will be more.
What motivated you to write the book “This Is It: 2 hemispheres, 2 people, and 1 boat”?
It was an extraordinary adventure. We’d previously sailed around the world for almost nine years. So, one would think that a two-year voyage across the Pacific Ocean again (albeit a more southerly route), would be an easier trip.
The journey was tough but dappled with extraordinary events. I wanted to show that our life of travel (Noel and I have been travelling most of our 18 years of marriage), is not always fun! It’s okay to have difficult days. I wanted to show my theory on why some ordinary days are so difficult but extremely important.
I worked especially hard on the ending, which is a culmination of the theme throughout the book, which summarises why people do what they do – why we did what we did. What makes a good/happy/successful journey (and it isn’t about good weather and nice people!). How you have to be happy with yourself – that’s the first step in the adventure, no matter what you are doing.
I’ve received many personal letters from all over the world thanking me for highlighting the positive and negatives of a travelling life. My words are ringing true for a lot of people, who couldn’t figure out where they were going wrong, or what was tarring their experiences! I’ve helped them in a little way – so it’s been a complete success!
Can you tell us more about your latest book “This Is It: 2 hemispheres, 2
people, and 1 boat”?
This Is It is a story to show that although journeys can be hard, they should still be appreciated – This Is It – right now, we all have to appreciate, more, what we have and make the most of it. That’s the underlying premise and from the letters I regularly receive the story is inspiring people to do what they’ve always dreamed of.
I reveal the marvellous and rarely visited destinations we sailed into (Suwarrow for instance) and how the mind plays tricks at sea, how we dealt with filling with water 2,000 miles away from the nearest land – and a couple of terrifying incidents of wild weather that tested our resolve and fortitude to the limit.
We are two ordinary people living an extraordinary life. Our story shows that anything is possible if you want it badly enough. Living on your terms is within reach and you can ‘survive’ when you make every aspect of your life an adventure – and fun – even the bad bits are important! For we all need those struggles in life because that’s what makes the good bits even better!
It’s about life and the reason we do things. What scares us silly, what makes us feel alive. Deep fears, dynamics of a close relationship – how we turned our lifestyle into our work, so we make a living doing what we love.
It features a bit about sailing, but it’s not a technical book for only those who enjoy the water. It’s a book for adventure seekers, or those who are just happy to live vicariously via others’ adventures. It’s also inspirational, an eye-opener and quite often funny! It’s a real look at life.
How did you come up with the idea of writing adventure fiction genre book?
My books appear (and have been noted for) reading like fiction. But they are non-fiction. Every event in those stories happened, getting run over in Paris, sinking, pirates, whale collisions, man-eating crocodiles, working in a Barbados brothel, muggers….
Initially, I wanted to have a record of our adventures, just for Noel and I. Then my stories started taking shape and my dream of publishing a book became reality with a lot of hard work. Initially, a publisher was interested in my first two books – however, I chose independent publishing to maintain control of my life’s story. Since publishing four books, three have now been picked up by a publisher who is producing audio books for my stories. (Of Foreign Build is already available in audio).
Actually, I am still amazed at the things I’ve witnessed, the places I’ve been and how much my life changed when someone very close to me died. I wanted to show everyone that there are alternatives to the 9-5 trudge – there really is, if you really want it.
Who are your favourite authors?
I read a lot of fiction. My favourite genres are thrillers and historical fiction. Favourite authors are Albert Facey who wrote A Fortunate Life, Dick Francis, Steinbeck.
Also, I have joined a wonderful FB group called We Love Memoirs (WLM). It is a group of both readers and writers – and many of the authors there are becoming firm favourites too. Anyone can join – it is one of the friendliest groups on FB.
How much time do you dedicate for writing on a daily basis?
I am not that organised! I travel, almost constantly and most days are unplanned.
Noel and I currently live on a 1920s Dutch barge in France. If we are moving I maybe busy working the lines, or on the helm, in and out of locks, or just watching the world putter by at five knots. If we are in port, we maybe bike riding to the shops, keeping on top of boat maintenance or taking shelter from the rain.
Rainy days can give me time to write, but there is a compromise. Take right now for example, as I write. We thought we’d be moving today, but the rain over-night has added to the flood rains (of two days ago) to cause the canal to rise again. So we are stuck on a floating jetty in the beautiful green countryside near Ypres. It is all very nice, we have everything we need, but little power. Boats are a mini village, with their own power, water, heating etc, but our solar panels do not work very well when it is so overcast. (Actually, they work surprisingly well, but struggle with TV and two laptops and a fridge running!) We can tap away on our laptops but then, at some point, we’ll have to run the engine.
It’s a wonderful life, but with few certainties, (except adventure), which is just the way I like it.
I snatch time to write: Early in the morning, late at night – or when stuck in a port due to weather. It really is as and when for me.
If I have moments of planned days, I will try 1-2 hours per day. But that never works out! I’ve been known to write all day long.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. Keep going. That sounds over simplistic, but let me explain a bit more.
It’s not until you’ve tried to write a book that you have any inclination how hard it is – it is tough. Most writers start okay, then reach the stage where it becomes tricky and you need to find real resolve and fortitude to continue – most writers stop there.
Those that get over that ‘hump’, acknowledge it – work through it – go on to finish their book. Each day (if possible) work on what you can. Some days you will feel able to tackle the tough parts, other days you won’t. On those days that you can’t face the tough bits, work on something easier – a different chapter, the contents, spelling, front cover, back cover blurb, research, marketing plan – anything – as long as you are moving it forward, somehow, each day.
If you keep going, one way or another, you will get there – I promise. It is tremendously tough, even once you’ve completed your book too, but all so worth it.
Best of luck!
You can buy her book now: