The View From Here Interview:
For Part 1 of this interview click here.
A Kind of Intimacy was written prior to you working in a prison library; have you found inspiration since from those you meet giving new life to characters for upcoming tales?
Well, I’m very interested in unreliable narrators, and I’ve certainly met a lot of those while working at the prison!
I found myself wincing, cringing, laughing and at times almost screaming at Annie, her character is so believable you just want to grab her by the shoulders and tell her to wake up. How hard was it for you to tell her story without doing exactly that?
I think the experience is very different for a writer. The whole time I was trying to push Annie and the situation as far as I could – make every situation more and more embarrassing – I was more concerned with writing it so it was funny without being implausible, so I think my attention was more focused on the technical aspect.
Is Annie mad or misguided?
I think that’s up to the reader to decide. Annie says some very reasonable things, especially about her relationships with men and her experience of motherhood – I’d hate a reader to ‘diagnose’ her, decide she isn’t really culpable for her actions and then write her opinions off as nonsense. But she isn’t quite normal either, I suppose.
A Kind of Intimacy has been the recipient of rave reviews leading to your inclusion in Waterstone's New Voices 2009. What has surprised you most?
The reviews I’ve had, the emails from people I’ve never met, the Waterstone’s Promotion – they’ve all been lovely. I know I’ve been very lucky. I still find the fact anyone would like Annie surprising. And I’m very glad about it.
Being an Author
Did you ever rewrite ‘The Balloon Novel’ which was stolen with your laptop and ultimately lead to rise of ‘A Kind of Intimacy’?
No, I haven’t. I don’t have any plans to return to it yet, although I certainly know everything there is to know about the history and construction of hot air balloons, so you never know where it might crop up in my writing in the future!
What are the best and worst things about being a published author?
The best thing is the validation – you always wonder if what you write is any good or not, but if people are willing to give you money for it, it’s easier to think that it must be okay. The worst thing is how busy you get with other things that aren’t writing, and the pressure to write number two. But these are small problems and don’t outweigh how great it is to realize that the book is out there and being read by people.
I’m much busier, and I feel a bit more confident about talking to people about what I do. I’m also in the position of being able to give up my work at the library and concentrate on my next book for the next few months. The luxury of time is something I only wished for before, so I’m incredibly excited about this new phase beginning.
When writing your novels do you sit with a story plan or do they simply erupt onto the screen and paper?
I try and plan, but because I’m so interested in character and narration, things tend to get out of hand. I’m a slow and wasteful writer, doing lots of drafts and throwing lots of versions away before I finally hit on the story and the right way to tell it.
In order to be an author what is the most important trait a person can have?
Single-mindedness. It’s too easy to get distracted with friends or television or blogging or whatever it is other people do in the evenings. I think writing involves a lot of sacrifice, and being willing to do that is almost essential for getting a large project like a novel finished.
What advice can you give someone reading this with the dream of becoming a published author?
Read, constantly – and get used to being on your own. I think some writers can combine hectic social lives with an active inner life, but I don’t think I can.