WHERE DO YOU WRITE?
Wherever I can. Preferably looking out of a window onto some greenery where the antics of birds and other wildlife keep me amused in ‘down time’. Or a café where the antics of humans do the same!
At certain points in writing a novel, I move to the bedroom with the printed ms and my notebook where I set up camp on the bed to think, doze, write notes and somehow this moves the book on.
TECHNOLOGY? OR OLD-SCHOOL?
Both. I write directly on to a laptop but I have a notebook which sits alongside me as I write and a smaller, ‘portable’ notebook too. I love choosing my notebooks and starting a new one is always an exciting moment. (I don’t get out much!) The notebook is where I hold a dialogue with myself about my characters – their motivations and background; it’s where I explore scenes and settings and figure out my timelines and plots. If I look back, I can see the evolution of a book and my creative practice and preoccupations.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?
I have always loved reading. When I was growing up, I would be the first up – early – getting stuck into a book but it took me a long time to realize that it was possible for me to write them. I was studying French and German at Sheffield University when one day I came across Margaret Drabble’s ‘A Summer Birdcage’. I was supposed to be revising but instead immersed myself in the story for the rest of the day. Not only did it feel wonderful but it reminded me how much I’d missed reading for pleasure and how amazing my own language was. I remember thinking – I’d like to write something like this. It still took me some years before I believed I could be a writer too.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS FROM?
You never know when something will strike home. Sometimes a news article sparks a curiosity, sometimes an overheard conversation touches me. It might be a piece of art which opens an idea or a song resonates with an emotion that I want to capture into words.
ARE YOUR CHARACTERS BASED ON REAL PEOPLE?
For me, the pleasure and challenge of writing fiction is bringing characters to life, accompanying them on their journey and discovering all I can about them. If it is working, it becomes a reality in itself. I hope that people will ‘recognize’ my characters as people with shared experiences. I haven’t tried it but I think basing a character on a real person might make it difficult for me to find the ‘truth’ in the story.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE SETTINGS FOR YOUR NOVELS?
Each novel is different but my settings are the connective tissue in the book and often play a big role by informing character, influencing events and providing motivation. Although I hint at a real place where a novel is set, it is in no way meant to be a replication – my characters make impossible turnings, I invent streets and write about landmarks which don’t exist. Partly it’s because I am rubbish at finding my way around and often get lost. Having to constantly locate my characters when writing a novel would be too stressful! But also, it’s the atmosphere of place which I try and soak up and want to evoke.
In ‘The Other Lover’ I created the ‘Monkey Park’ in Brighton and when a reader said that they loved the park and wished it was real, I couldn’t have been happier.
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO AN INSPIRING WRITER?
Read. As much as you can. Read for pleasure, out of curiosity, to learn.
Understand that both sides of your writing self are important – the uninhibited, instinctive part and the objective, measured one. Write. Then, edit.
If you write, you will always have something to turn to in your life, no matter what.