Jones, V(ictoria) M(ary) 1958-
JONES, V(ictoria) M(ary) 1958-
PERSONAL: Born August 23, 1958, in Luanshya, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia); married; children: two sons. Education: University of Cape Town, B.A.
CAREER: Novelist and marketing consultant. Worked previously as a desktop publishing and promotions manager for McGraw-Hill in South Africa. Certified gemologist. Active in the New Zealand Book Council's Writers in School program.
AWARDS, HONORS: Esther Glen Medal shortlist, Library Information Association of New Zealand, 2003, for Buddy; New Zealand Post Book Awards for junior fiction and best first book, both 2003, both for Buddy.
Buddy, HarperCollins New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand), 2002.
Juggling with Mandarins, HarperCollins New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand), 2003.
The Serpents of Arakesh (first book of the "Karazan" quartet), HarperCollins New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand), 2003.
Beyond the Shroud (second book of the "Karazan" quartet), HarperCollins New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Born in Zambia, educated in Zimbabwe, and currently living in New Zealand, V. M. Jones has seen and lived in many exotic and beautiful places in the world. She was born in Luanshya, a tiny mining town in what was then Northern Rhodesia, now known as Zambia. As a child, she lived in Pietermaritzburg, Durban, and Welkom in South Africa and Redcliff in Zimbabwe. "Many people have commented that my books seem to lack a sense of 'place,'—perhaps the amount we moved round when I was a child is partly responsible for this!" Jones said in an interview in Magpies.
Jones attended the University of Cape Town, in South Africa, where she completed a bachelor's degree in English, anthropology, and social anthropology. A certified gemologist, Jones worked in this field while she was in South Africa as well as in the publishing industry, as a desktop publishing and promotions manager at McGraw-Hill.
A highly imaginative and literate child, Jones spent most of her childhood "secretly pretending to be someone else—not one particular person, but an endless succession of alter egos," she said in the Magpies interview. "That was far more interesting than being an ordinary little girl growing up in a small mining town!" It was this trait, she believes, that helped her develop her early writing skills and her ability to imagine how her characters think, act, and feel. She also read frequently, but noted that "I'm not a particularly fast reader. I tend to wallow in books, rather than devour them, reveling in the rhythm and flow of the language," she said in Magpies.
Whether done quickly or slowly, reading widely and constantly is one of the best pieces of advice she gives to aspiring writers. "Read heaps—and write heaps, too," Jones said in an interview on the Christchurch City Libraries Web site. "It's like any exercise—it gets easier the more you do it." She also advises hopeful writers to "Listen to your internal voice, and believe what it tells you—what's real to you will be real to other people, too." To develop a writer's inquisitive mind, Jones advises beginners to "Keep asking two questions: Why, and What next?"
Jones's novel Buddy demonstrates the results of her advice. In the book, teenagers Josh Cranford and Shane Hunter enjoy a fierce rivalry in athletics. The two thirteen-year-olds are both good students, popular with the other kids in school, and extremely good at a variety of sports. But behind the friendly rivalry, Josh's life is not as happy as it seems at school and on the playing field. His parents have divorced, and he does not approve of the new, younger woman that his father has invited into their home. She is no replacement for his mother, and there is little about her that he likes at all. Josh has a great deal of difficulty adjusting to the presence of this new woman in his life and in his house.
The announcement of an underage triathlon at school appears to offer Josh a distraction and a way to again challenge Shane to see who is the superior athlete. But a deeper family secret threatens to disrupt Josh's plans to compete. Years earlier, his twin brother, Buddy, was seriously injured in an accident on the beach. Josh subconsciously blamed himself for the accident, and because of that, he developed a terrible fear of the water and never learned to swim. To compete in the triathlon, however, requires a swimming phase, and Josh must overcome his fear if he hopes to beat Shane in the competition. Calling Jones's first effort "an extraordinary book," Neville Barnard wrote in Magpies that the author delivers the theme "you don't have to come first to win." "It's a powerful message told in an easy, fluent style that will snare young, fully independent readers—and hold the attention of older ones, too." The novel "deserves to be widely read—books this good are rare and should be shared and enjoyed by as many readers as possible," Barnard concluded.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Magpies, July, 2002, Neville Barnard, review of Buddy, p. 48; July, 2003, Trevor Agnew, interview with V. M. Jones.
Christchurch City Libraries Web site,http://www.library.christchurch.org.nz/ (October 1, 2003), interview with V. M. Jones.
HarperCollins New Zealand Web site,http://www.harpercollins.co.nz/ (August 21, 2003).
New Zealand Book Council Web site,http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/ (October 1, 2003), profile of V. M. Jones.*