Jun 20, 2014

Our Beautiful Child Interview

 When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?
I’ve always written stories, even before I realised it could be a job! I definitely remember telling a friend I was going to be a writer when I was about nine.

Is being an Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen? The best and worst thing about it?
Because it was always something I had to do, I never really considered what it would be like. The best thing is seeing my words take shape on the page and, afterwards, hearing people’s reactions. The worst is probably being very reliant on inspiration. A lot of authors can sit down every day and write something, but I end up binge-writing until my hand and brain hurts.

What was the very first thing you ever wrote?
I wrote about a golden, flying horse when I was about eight – I have no idea why, I didn’t even like horses. Sadly, I had acute embarrassment a couple of years later and ripped it up.
The first short story I wrote to submit was called The Walking Dead (and appears in my short story collection That Sadie Thing) I went to sleep one night with the opening paragraph in my head, and when I woke up – thankfully – I remembered it. The whole story tumbled out and it barely needed editing – apart from changing it from being randomly set in the future to present day.
That dream thing, though, hasn’t happened since!

What made you create (your book)?  How did it come to you?
My current collection, Our Beautiful Child, consists of three short stories that came to me independently. Two of them had very similar settings – a pub – I just tweeked them a bit so they are the same  pub. Once I had two stories, I knew I wanted a third – but that story took some searching for. In all three cases though, I knew the title and first lines before the rest of the story was formed. Without a title, I flounder.

Who is your literary hero?
Margaret Atwood. I read her collection Wilderness Tips, then Cat’s Eyes, then The Handmaid’s Tale. And the reason she’s my hero is that she can write such a variety of genres and still take her readers with her. She has such a wonderful grasp of the English language, and although she’s literary writer, I think she’s very accessible.

How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
Bearing in mind I have written over 25 short stories, three novellas and a novel (not all of them published), there is a little piece of me in all of them. A thought, a feeling, a conversation, a mannerism… I can’t help it. I have never been able to recreate people I know in my writing, though.

Describe your main character in six words.
I’ll pick the character from the title story: dreamy, timid, talks to dead people.

Describe the world you’ve created in six words.
My home town, with some tweaks.

What scene was your favorite to write?
The scene where Rona, the main character, realizes she can speak to the deceased. Ghosts in this world (I don’t have a set idea about ghosts, I make it up as I go along), hang out with each other – people from every era just sitting around. When they realize Rona can really hear them, they all start talking to her, but there’s so much pain. As I was writing it, I could actually feel the weight of their stories.

What scene was the hardest for you to write?
In the second story, The Traveller, the final scene was the hardest. Sally has two choices, and for a long time I couldn’t decide which was the right one. I stopped writing for a couple of weeks while I had that battle.

What are you working on now?
I took part in NaNoWriMo in 2012, for the first and last time, and I’m currently thinking about that one. Thinking is a big part of my writing process. I have the idea – I have a great hook – but I just need the story to hold up. That’s my goal for the rest of this year, to get a decent second draft down.

Goals? Accomplishments? Improvements?
My goal was to write things people want to read, and I think I’ve achieved that. And everything I write will be a small improvement on the last – I will keep on learning and growing as a writer. My ultimate goal is to win the Booker Prize, but I’ve given myself another 15 years or so to achieve that!

Are there any authors or books you recommend?
I know so many wonderful indie writers through my blog, so I’m afraid that if I start listing them, I’ll never stop and I’ll still miss out a few. So instead, I’m going to name the books that I’ve read more than three times (not counting Pride and Prejudice, which I’ve read annually since I was 22):
·         Madeleine’s Ghost by Robert Girardi
·         The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
·         The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
·         The Little House by Philippa Gregory (before she started writing historical fiction)

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
Walking with my kids. I live in a beautiful part of the world. I have moors and the sea within a car journey, and a beautiful nature reserve at the end of my road.