Cynthia Jefferies was born in the market town of Cirencester in Gloucestershire. She attended Cirencester Grammar School and went on to the Froebel Institute in London. She has tried her hands at
pig and poultry keeping, bar work, being a D J, working in a china shop and dealing in junk antiques. She started and built up a school book supply business, which eventually went on to be bought
by Scholastic, but all she really wanted to do was write.
She was first published by Barry Cunningham at The Chicken House. For some years she was published by Usborne and A & C Black. Most of her books are still in print and some of her Fame School titles were translated into sixteen languages. After her children had grown up and left home she began working on her
Photograph. Linda Newbery
first novel for adults, The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan, which was published by Allison & Busby in November 2018.
Cynthia has three children and three grandchildren. She lives in Gloucestershire and delights in her friends and family, travel and the natural world. She was artistic director of the children's events at Stroud's first Book Festival and was involved in starting the Children's Festival in the same town. She may be found sorting donations in her local refugee aid shop, drinking coffee in one of the local cafes or looking at sculpture in exhibitions and ancient churches. She has no religion or pets, but does have several favourite hats. She is also a strong advocate of convivial conversation as well as staring out of windows and thinking.
Messing about in Boats
For a writer to bring ships and seafaring into her writing, surely she must enjoy messing about in boats? Time for a confession. I used to! Honestly I did. I enjoyed sea canoeing off the west coast of Scotland, and at one time had a beautiful little dinghy, an elderly, clinker built boat that I loved rowing about on the fresh water loch near my home. Scraping down and re-varnishing her every year was worth it, she looked so lovely when it was all done.
However, and there’s always a however in confessions I find, there came a day when someone offered to take me out on a nearby sea loch for a sailing lesson. In short, before I had done any more than sit quietly, watching my teacher get the old red sail full of wind, and thrilling at how fast we were heading across the bay… we capsized.
I had a life jacket of course, and I’m not sure how I did it, but I found myself on the upturned bottom of my little boat, with only my feet having got a bit wet. My companion wasn’t so lucky. She was right in the water, finding it difficult to find anything to hang onto. It was impossible for her to climb up to join me, and I soon became very worried that she was going to lose her tenuous hold, and drift away.
If we had been on a small boating lake all would have been well, but we were near a place called the Falls of Lora, where the tide raced with a lot of turbulence. We were drifting in the direction of the Falls, and if we were pulled into them our situation would be much more dangerous. In addition, my companion was getting very cold. Without a wet suit, even in summer, spending much time in the sea in the Highlands of Scotland one gets chilled extremely quickly.
We were very fortunate. Someone had seen us in trouble, a boatman had been alerted, and he came straight out to find us. Both our lives were saved, and all I lost was a shoe.
The next day, I decided I ought to get back in the boat, rather in the spirit of remounting a horse after falling off. But it was no good. The evening after our narrowly avoided disaster I had remembered another occasion when I had been close to drowning. That had been as a child in Wales when I had tried to swim in a rough sea and had been overwhelmed. On that occasion my father, who had managed to grab me said “Don’t tell your mother, will you?” Which made me realise how frightened he had been.
Twice was enough. I still like boats, but I have too much respect for the sea now to chance my luck again. Instead, I research what I need to know by visiting old ships from Aberdeen to Cornwall. And perhaps, when writing about ships in the C17th I can imagine, just a bit, how brave those mariners were, and how drowning must have been feared. No helpful boatman then, with a powerful outboard motor, to come to their rescue.