Author Interview: Jacqulyn Frith / Unwritten Letters


Welcome Readers, to another edition of author interviews. Today we welcome Jacqulyn Frith to talk about history, writing, and her new book. 


JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Jacquelyn. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

JF- Hello, thanks for taking the time to ask about me and my book. I live in the north of England, where contrary to belief it doesn’t rain that often! Well, I would say Brittany is where we have a lot of our fun but this year it’s been difficult for everyone hasn’t it. I have a six year old son and I’d say that Sunday’s with him are my best sort of fun. Last Sunday was a perfect day probably, we made gingerbread biscuits and watched cartoons and did his homework together, we built a castle for a project and went for a walk in the autumn leaves and talked about Christmas plans... if everyday could be like that! 

JMR-Whats your favorite historical time period? Why?

JF- Although I’ve studied and written about monastic medieval and WWII time periods, probably the Victorian period is the most spectacular to me, for innovation, new branches of the sciences, discovery and exploration. There’s a darker underside to that time in terms of poverty and colonialism, but as an archaeologist, historian and writer, there’s hair raising adventure, new species, new breakthroughs and invention at every turn, and of course, at the heart of it all- there’s stories.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

JF- That is an impossible question, choose someone from each century perhaps? Where would you begin?  - Herodotus? Tacitus? Emperor Augustus? William the Conqueror? Da Vinci? Shakespeare? Brunel? Tennyson? Darwin? Kipling? Wilfred Owen? Sagan? Plus, if I met any of them I’d have to ask many questions, not least of which would be what can you tell me, and also as these are all men, who were the women in your time who went unrecognised for their potential or achievements? (I cheated here, choosing a selection and asking two questions in the guise of discussion!)

JMR- Jacquelyn you took a circuitous route to writing your first novel, can you share your story with us?

JF- I’ve always wanted to write, and wrote short stories and plays at primary school but changed to a artistically stifling school at 11 years old so it was buried for a long time. Probably in common with many writers I began building a story in my head that simply demanded to be told after discovering my great uncles wartime experiences. I had been on holiday and found myself in a museum to the men of the Thai Burma Death Railway in Kanchanaburi and was devastated by what I saw, and my ignorance of these events. I recalled my great uncle had been a PoW of the Japanese and as I walked the path at Hellfire Pass, Konyo cutting I felt, despite my not believing in such things, that he shadowed me along the crunchy gravel, and asked me to look deeper.

JMR- I read the description of your book and it gave me chills. Historical novels can teach, entertain, shed light, or provide enjoyment and enrichment. What do you want you readers to feel as they turn the last page?

JF- Thank you, it was intended to do just that, and although not presented chronologically the final chapter is laid out in the order I discovered the facts of Jacks life. With each subsequent discovery I would want the reader to feel as I had, but I suppose I shouldn’t prescribe what that emotion should be.

JMR- What motivated you to write this book, what is your ultimate goal?

JF- Over the last ten years I’ve scribbled in dozens of notebooks, and on various computers and sent myself email notes of phrases, conversations, moments in time and scenes I knew would eventually form the book. The motivation has been to try to bring this story to a wider audience, and that ultimate goal will never be complete. That said, I am campaigning for a formal apology in connection to the events in the book, and am currently awaiting a response from my MP who contacted the Ministry of Defense who replied this was a matter for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and also the Ministry of Justice. I have also, in 2013, had a memorial built to remember the events in the book, at the NMA in Staffordshire. So, I suppose there are several ultimate goals.

JMR- Jacquelyn, tell us about your new book, Unwritten Letters to Spring Street.

JF- Unwritten Letters to Spring Street is thus far my only book, although I have written a framework for a second unrelated WWII historical novel. Unwritten Letters to Spring Street is really the story of a young boy of Spring Street, Manchester, whose life would have followed the path of his father but for the Second World War. His capture and subsequent captivity at the hands of the Japanese was a quiet background story in my family, and like a half lost memory I hadn’t previously tried to remember and hadn’t asked the people I could have. There are hundreds of oblique references to my own family within the story, hundreds of threads and moments that are taken from my own flickering remembrances of my youth. It has been a very long journey to write, quite literally as I also visited Java and the tiny Moluccan island of Ambon and swam in the sea where the PoWs were permitted to wash, but also the book felt somewhat ghost written by Jack himself. If I took a day off there would be some reminder of my task, some coincidental nudge to return to the story. So, each page is to give him, and his brothers in arms, a voice.

JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

JF- Well, aside from the campaign for an apology, the book is currently being recorded in New York for an audiobook, I have begun a PhD in history looking at international war crime investigations in the Far East, and still have that second book to develop. I have written the first two pages...

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

JF- Theres Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and my website for my book:

Facebook @unwrittenletterstospringstreet

Instagram @unwrittenletterstospringstreet

Twitter @UWLTSS


JMR- What question were you hoping Id ask but didnt?

JF- I was pleased to be asked about it in any detail, but perhaps if asked about a moment or a quote in your book that you’re most proud of, I’d have said our books are like our little ones we send out into the world and hope they make friends. There are always parts we’re more proud of and things we hope no one else will notice. I’m not pointing out the latter, but of the former there are a few moments that will stay with me forever. If I had to chose two they would be found on pages 53-4, and page 158.

JMR- We now we all have to run off and buy your book so we can look up your quotes! Readers, I've added a convenient link to Amazon, just click on the button below.  Thank you Jacqulyn for stopping by and sharing your thought with us today. Good luck with your book and your mission.

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