I was born in a castle, but I am not royalty. I was born four days after the end of the Second World War in Bernried Castle in Germany. The reason for this is that my mother was evicted from her home by Allied troops the day the war ended (they decided to commandeer the house for their own purposes with no warning). My pregnant homeless mother then found out that a hospital for wounded soldiers had been set up in the nearby castle. She went there and begged the doctors (who had no experience of midwifery) to let her give birth there. Luckily they did, and I was born without a hitch, just about, thanks in part to my mother’s own manual on childbirth which she took with her, being a doctor herself.
I have lived in England since 1966. I grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany, but began visiting England at the age of fifteen to learn the language. In ’66 I married there and soon had three children.
I wrote my first novel called Fifteen Words at the age of 70. We’ve all sorted through dusty boxes in attics full of photos of our parents in their salad days, letters they sent to each other, memories they shared, perhaps even secrets they kept. For those of us over forty those memories, no doubt, are often coloured by the Second World War. It was whilst doing just that recently in my own parents’ trove of memories that I discovered stories that were the thrilling, gripping, emotive stuff of novels, which is why I decided to turn them into one. My unceremonious birth in Bernried Castle is one such memory which made it into the novel.
Apart from being an author I am a leading figure in child mental health training, using the creative arts to alleviate emotional, behavioural and mental health problems in children. I am CE of Play Therapy UK, which I run with my partner Jeff. Please go to www.playtherapy.org.uk to find out more about this invaluable therapy.
My second novel The Watcher is also based on true events which happened in my family. It deals with the return of Max, a German medic, from a Siberian POW camp to his family in occupied West Germany, and his struggle to relate to his wife and child after so many years apart. This mirrors closely my own experiences as a child when my father returned from the war. The central child protagonist in The Watcher is called Netta and she is heavily based on me.
Not long after my father returned from the war my baby sister was born. Unfortunately she died whilst we were on a holiday island in North Germany. In order to get her body back home we had to hide her coffin under a blanket in the car with me pretending to be asleep on top. It was illegal to transport a body in your own vehicle and so passing through the Allied forces checkpoint back on the mainland was one of the tensest experiences my parents and I ever endured. Not surprisingly this is one of the real events which I’ve assimilated into The Watcher.
As a specialist in the field of play therapy I have published various papers on strategies of psychological support for children for the likes of UNICEF; children who are often experiencing psychological and behavioural difficulties as a result of trauma their parents have suffered. I used my professional and personal knowledge to inform my research for The Watcher and explore the condition of PTSD and its effect on the children of sufferers in a time when it was not on anyone’s medical radar; when children were to be ‘seen and not heard’; and men were to be men not ‘mice’, and keep a stiff upper lip despite the atrocities they had witnessed and endured during an horrific war.
The Watcher is a sequel to Fifteen Words, but I have made sure that it can also be enjoyed as a standalone novel.
There is a whodunit element to The Watcher. A member of the protagonists’ household is murdered. This really happened to my own household when I was a child. However, the culprit in the novel is not the real life one!
You can find out more about me and my books at www.monika-jephcott-thomas.com
About the author: Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published. Her second novel The Watcher (published by Clink Street Publishing 10th October 2017 in paperback RRP £8.99 and ebook RRP £4.99) will be available to buy online from retailers including amazon.co.uk and can be ordered from all good bookstores. For more information please visit http://monika-jephcott-thomas.com