Your latest novel Into The Trees is an interesting read, in as much as that the forest that it is set in, is almost like a character itself. Was this your intention?
I'm not sure I agree completely when people say setting is another character, but setting, and the handling of it, are important to a novel. Setting, like character, has to convince the reader, and if they find the setting as fascinating, as interesting, as a character, all the better.
And setting gives context, I suppose. We are all living out our lives somewhere, at some time, so whether your book is set in the trenches of World War 1, or in Aberfeldy in the 1980s, your setting has to convince.
Does Bleasdale forest exist, or only in your imagination?
Having spoken about convincing with setting... All of my settings are fictionalised versions of real towns and places shifted twenty degrees to the left or right, scuzzed up, scribbled over and manipulated. So Bleasdale Forest sort of does and doesn’t exist. There is a valley and in the valley is a forest, but not like quite like the forest in the book.
Have you always wanted to be an author? How did your journey begin?
My band split up. I’d always written songs but didn’t have a band to play them anymore so I went solo, but I couldn't sing, so I started writing books.
Any advice to anyone dreaming of becoming an author?
Don't be in love with the idea of being a writer – just write. And don’t wait for anyone to proclaim you a writer – if you write you are a writer. Very few are lucky to have days open to them when they can write all day. If you want to write you make time. And in my experience free days stretching out in front of you can lead to a lot of procrastination and the slowing down of the storytelling.
Work, work, work at it until you can't stand it anymore, then put it away and get drunk for three months, or go running, or go and see friends for three months. Then get back to it and work, work, work at it again. Don’t be in a rush to send work off but don't be afraid to send it into the world either. Don't be afraid to delete but don't delete the heart of the story.
Finally, I'm one for extremes – I tend to believe something is either a triumph or a disaster. I'm slowly learning that the truth is often hidden in one of the duller shades in-between. So, remember that at some point in the writing of your novel you might think it is the worst novel ever written. Every word, sentence, chapter, character, even every space between the words, will seem dead and dull. This is natural, you just can't see the book anymore. Don't panic, it's (probably) not true. If at some point in the writing of your novel you are lucky enough to believe your book is a towering work of storytelling genius don't demand to be carried aloft through the town, it's (probably) not true. But I hope it is.
Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
It quite often starts with a single line or image. With Into the Trees it was a screaming baby who couldn’t be soothed. Then I explore the image or line and find out if there is a story worth telling behind it. If you are lucky there is, if not you can spend six months writing around an image or setting without discovering a story behind it at all.
What are you working on next?
It came out of the blue and I’m very excited about it, but I made a promise to myself not to talk about it until it’s done. It seems to steal the story from the page if you talk about a book that isn’t finished, or even fully imagined and understood, yet.
If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save?
If there was a fire, I might behave differently, but for the sake of this answer let’s say, let it all burn.
What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
Can we go to a bar instead? Marilynne Robinson, Lou Reed, Lyndsay Lohan, Gordon Brown, and Dave, who I used to work with at Waterstones.
Faber & Faber, and Robert, have very kindly given me a hardback copy of Into The Trees to giveaway to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment on here, on my Facebook page or over on Twitter between now and midnight on Sunday 27th July to be in with a chance. Good luck!
Miss Chapter x