Jiggery Pokery (Author Central)



Jiggery Pokery looks like an exciting story.  Can you tell us a little about it?

Jiggery Pokery is the story of Reverend John Gaule, the priest who famously stood up to the Witchfinder Matthew Hopkins during the English witch-craze in the 17th Century. My novel follows John Gaule over the course of three years during which he gradually falls deeper and deeper into an obsession with Mr. Hopkins. Jiggery Pokery is populated with a huge cast of characters, all of whom Gaule meets as he pens anonymous letters to Matthew Hopkins, publishes a book in London, is attacked by peasants stricken with ergot poisoning in King’s Lynn, and many other exciting encounters, one of which occurs at the end of his long life. Based on a true story, Jiggery Pokery is sure to please those with a hankering for historical romps, replete with jokes and a modicum of horror.


Any plans to turn it into a series?

Seeing as I’ve told the story of John Gaule, there aren’t any plans to turn Jiggery Pokery into a series. But in terms of my career, Jiggery Pokery is the first in a series of novels which deal with the old maxim that great men are not necessarily good men. I’ve written a novel about a gay Japanese linguistics professor that is due to come out later this year. I’m really excited about Nakadai because it touches on the same ground as Jiggery Pokery, but this time in present times. Another novel of mine which has been accepted is Fibber, which won’t be out for a while. I’ve found a publisher, but these things take time—but in the meantime, it’s sufficed to say that Fibber is about another flawed man: a poet whose punishment is being forced to work as a bureaucrat in a building that is, in fact, a mass grave…So much to look forward to!


How long did it take you to write Jiggery Pokery?

I started writing Jiggery Pokery in 2020. Much of the dialogue was written in verse, and it wasn’t until I dived into Dostoyevsky that I re-wrote the novel into the version we have today. It took me two years in total to write book—including re-writes and thinking holidays, so to speak.


What inspired you when writing Jiggery Pokery?

I’ve always been fascinated in the (First) English Civil War period because it was almost entirely bad. I wanted to write a novel that was longer than what I usually wrote, and where the language was elevated to the same grassland as the characters were. I find other novels inspiring and fell in love with books like The Idiot and The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. I wanted my writing to sing like theirs did, and I tried very hard to pull it off.


Can you tell us a little about John Gaule?

John Gaule is a loner, and is someone who believes that as long as he fulfills his moral obligations to himself that everything will be okay. This all changes when he takes on a project that involves nothing but other people, and requires him to exercise a level of empathy that he’s never had to exercise before. I think he’s spiritually squeamish in the sense that he’s happy to read about good deeds in books, but is rather frightened when it comes to doing good deeds in reality. Despite the fact that he’s middle-aged, we see Gaule grow up over the course of the novel, and see how a man who doesn’t believe in miracles, and true Godliness, finally comes round to the idea. He’s certainly selfish, but it’s his self-centeredness that gets him involved in the plot to smear Matthew Hopkins. And by the time we reach the end of the novel Gaule sees that reliance on self-will isn’t enough. 


What motivated you to become a writer?

I’ve always written stories but I started out, professionally, as a poet. I had some success in that, but there came a point when the poetry dried up and I returned to writing stories and novels. At heart, however, I am a filmmaker, and I see myself as a filmmaker who writes novels. There’s an emphasis on visual aspects that you perhaps wouldn’t find in most novels. When I don’t write I get sick for some reason, and so the process starts again: but most of all, I love reading.


How did you come up with the story and ideas in Jiggery Pokery?

I’d never written anything like Jiggery Pokery before, so I turned to several history books on the subject of Matthew Hopkins that I had collected over the years. I kept a scrapbook of sorts, filled with events garnered from the various books, that eventually became a timeline. I saw things that I could re-create, events that I could invent entirely, and people who I could probably just ignore. The emphasis was always on telling the kind of story that would feature in a Victorian novel. In other words I looked for the melodramatic, and the religious, and worked from there.    


Did anything stick out as particularly challenging when writing Jiggery Pokery?

The whole book was challenging, but in particular the writing of the first draft. I found the subsequent drafts, where I expanded the novel greatly, to be rather simple for some reason. I dictated a great deal of the book using Microsoft Word in order to give the book an oral quality. And it was this that was, perhaps, most difficult to edit—because we don’t write how we speak! 


What do you like to do when not writing?

My favourite thing to do when not I’m writing is either reading Doctor Who novelizations that you can get real cheap online, or watching whatever strange film I’ve come across in my cinematic travels. I’m not a fan of modern films because they lack a creative intelligence that the old masters—Kurosawa, German, Tarkovsky, Lumet, Kubrick—seemed to live by on pain of death. Lynne Ramsay is probably the best living filmmaker, and I enjoy her films very much. But there’s more to life than screens, whether big or small, and I enjoy going for long walks with my partner: we live in Cornwall so there are beautiful places to go in every direction. I’m very fortunate to live in this part of the world. And I’m even more fortunate when I get to do some teaching for my university. I think teaching is the best pleasure in the world. I take it far more seriously than writing novels, and I love it.         


Where can readers find out more about your work?

The easiest way to find out about my work is by Googling my name, or by searching for my author profile on Amazon. All I have to offer is in my novels, so I don’t have a website, but I’m always happy to do readings and answer questions. Come Christmas I will have published three novels, and I’ll be posting the trailer for Nakadai in the coming months on my “Walker Zupp” YouTube page (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrrTCjkH5DziURdWLw3GKWg). Go ahead and subscribe, because that way you’ll see all the trailers for upcoming books I’ve written, as well as any appearances I make at conferences.  

I’ve also included the little trailer I did for Jiggery Pokery: