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Inspiration from India; interview She was brought up in a Wirral suburb, but in India, land of many moods, Jae Watson found the inspiration to write.

Byline: David Charters reports

THE father was a Man from the Pru, whose muscular legs pounded the beat from door to door, collecting money from those who had insured their lives, while his keen mind wandered over the frontiers to strange and distant lands.

But as an amateur athlete, he could cover real ground quickly as well - a mile in a whisker over four minutes in his prime.

The dark-haired daughter, who had a rare turn of speed and could thwack a hockey ball through the mud of a suburban field on a grey afternoon, was also a romantic dreamer.

And her athletic frame would one day tremble to the vibrations of a mechanised rickshaw, careering on all three wheels between beggars and cows, as she clung to the seat, sensing in the whirl all the exotic colours and multi-sourced smells of India.

So it was that Jae Watson found inspiration for writing in a country which over the decades has attracted thousands of Britons, including The Beatles - many seeking the spiritual wisdom they feel has been lost in the West.

In truth, the pursuit of material values is just as strong in urban India, now throbbing with commercial enterprise and energy as it strives to become a world leader in the new technological industries.

But in the rural parts, the old India of Gandhi and Kipling, of holy men, flies, bare feet, spinning wheels, fishing nets, Ashrams and cows with their ribs showing, is still much in evidence - along with the clinging ghosts of empire, those teas served on forgotten verandas.

Now, in her first published novel, Journey Jae, 39, uses India as the setting for a yarn which embraces bombings in London and Delhi, murder, sex in generous measure, the perils of friendship, loss, drugs and emotional discovery

Although her book is not autobiographical in the strict sense, you suspect that Jae has something in common with her main character, Marianne, who travels to India with her new friend Sara after the London bombings in July 2005.

Marianne is also disappointed in love and in her failure to find a place on a journalism course.

Both women are escaping their recent past, but when the beautiful Sara is found floating on the Ganges in the Hindu city of Varanasi everything changes.

Indeed, it is a long way from the Wallasey suburb of Liscard, where Jae was brought up with her parents Kevin and Anne Mather and her elder brother Geoff and younger sister Lynda.

Until she was 13, Jae attended St Hilda's Secondary School, Wallasey but then the family moved to Frodsham, Cheshire, and she went to the hockey-playing Helsby Grammar School.

With A-Levels in English literature, religious studies and general studies, she advanced to Manchester University where she studied theology graduating with a BA (Hons) after three years.

"It was fascinating because it was world religions," she says. "There was also quite a lot of emphasis on philosophy and that side of things. It had a big impact on my thinking and my view of the world."

An understanding of religious ideas permeates her novel and even in her student days, Jae, who was brought up a Catholic, knew she was destined to write.

Before that, however, she trained to be a social worker in Liverpool, specialising in children and then moving into therapeutic work.

There was always the yearning to write, which to some extent was assuaged by travel. After university Jae went "inter-railing" around Europe. "I got the travel bug from that," she says, "I I was back-packing and camping. My big trip was 1999 and over the millennium when I took a year out from work to travel all around the world. I spent four months in India and that is really where the inspiration came from for my book."

For most of this journey Jae, whose marriage had ended, was with her partner, James Jones, a 41-year-old social worker, specialising in problems caused by drugs and alcohol.

"We did the standard routes, but also went to villages which were off the tourist track," she says. "Of all the places I have been, India has had the greatest impact on me. It is an amazing country I wouldn't say that all of it was enjoyable because it is such a difficult experience being in India. You are constantly having to re-adjust your thinking, reacting to what's going on.

"The whole of life in India is lived out of doors. There is so much poverty People want to talk to you and come up to you. It is a constant battle with your western ideals and what you have grown up with, I suppose. In places, it is like medieval England. But the other side of it is that I absolutely loved it and have been back twice since. It just got under my skin. We are so protected in the West. It is the nanny state and everything is health and safety"

Jae and James now live in Islington, where she works for four days a week as an adoption social worker and writes for the other three. Her next novel is set in Liverpool. Since retiring from the Pru her dad, a quiz buff, has turned his dreams into reality travelling through China and Thailand.

davidchaiters@dailypost.co.uk

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Jae by the River Ganges, and back on Merseyside, right Pictures: JAMES JONES and FRAZER BIRD
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 12, 2007
Words:904
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