Secret life

A way with words

While some holidaymakers sunbathe or swim to relax, low vision specialist, Jane Macnaughton, spends her downtime creating fictional worlds

Jane Macnaughton

I’ve been writing since I was about 16. I wanted to do journalism, but my father persuaded me to go and do a biology degree. From there, I studied optometry and haven’t looked back. Some people bake to relax, others go for a run, and I sit down and put words on paper.

I usually go out for a long dog walk and think about the next part that I am going to work on, then I sit down and write it. When I write academic pieces, I can’t have any noise in the background, but when I write fiction I have music blaring all over the house. I particularly listen to instrumental music from film. If you listen to music, it can take you off in a different direction. The mood of the music plays a part in what you are writing. If you go to a writing class, they always say you need to have a beginning, a middle and an end, but I prefer to follow the story and sees where it goes.

Is a novel ever finished? You can edit it a million times. It’s like a painting – you always want to touch it up


My office: the beach

When I am on holiday, I hate going in the sea. I will be sitting there either with pen and paper, or on a laptop, writing while the boys are in the ocean. They got used to that and so did my husband.

The most recent book I wrote was a fantasy fiction novel about a dragon and two teenagers. I decided to make the dragon visually impaired with one eye. At the moment, I’m working on a novel about an elderly lady who has Charles Bonnet Syndrome. She is having these visual hallucinations which are associated with macular degeneration. In the back of her mind is this hallucination of a boy that keeps appearing at the end of her bed. It is linking up with the fact that she was separated from her baby brother in an orphanage many years ago. She is going to try and find her brother again before she loses her sight.

It’s very different when you are writing a case history or an educational piece, compared to writing fiction. You need to be in the right frame of mind. Some days you find you are better at it than others.

Is a novel ever finished? You can edit it a million times. It’s like a painting – you always want to touch it up.