It is a year since author, Anne Goodwin, published her debut novel, Sugar and Snails. An intriguing novel which explores the sense of being different and feeling not quite right in one’s skin. I am delighted to welcome her as today’s interviewee and to catch her during her anniversary tour.
Anne Goodwin loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and longlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, is scheduled for May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger, author of over 60 published short stories and was recently awarded First Prize in the Writers’ Bureau short story competition.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the edits of Underneath and trying to get to grips with the second draft of what I hope to be my third novel, Closure, about lives wasted through psychiatric incarceration.
What has inspired your most recent novel?
Sugar and Snails emerged from a strange interaction between my response to a newspaper report about a distinguished academic who died of anorexia without anyone in her immediate circle being aware of her difficulties; questions about gender fluidity and my attempts to reconcile myself to my own traumatic adolescence. Underneath stems from my academic and personal interest in attachment, and particularly the terror of being totally dependent on someone who is unreliable. Closure builds on my interest in family secrets and on my first job as a qualified clinical psychologist as part of a team tasked with resettling long term psychiatric patients to the community.
How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
I live so much in the fictional world, I’m not sure I can separate them! It’s something I continually puzzle about, but I think a lot of my fiction starts with my own experience of the world as I see it. Yet, both for my own privacy and because, as a reader, I prefer a gap between author and narrator, I don’t want that link to show. If your writing has deep emotional resonance, which is something I aim for, it’s highly likely to connect with themes that interest, energise and disturb you in “real life”. But I’d like that to occur on the level of metaphor, rather than in the nuts and bolts of the writing.
Any tips to aspiring writers?
After a blog post questioning the creative writing industry, I’m loath to advise others on how to write. However, Sugar and Snails has taught me a few things about writing about diversity and on crafting the awkward character which I’m happy to pass on (via the links).
Another thing I’ve learnt, and am still learning, is that when there’s a choice – be it regarding character, plot or use of language – go for the simpler option. The best piece of advice I got regarding my novel, Sugar and Snails, was to cut two of the three point of view voices. As a book blogger, I read too many debuts that would have been better had the author had been less ambitious. It’s very hard as a novice writer, as we are trying to distinguish ourselves and impress, but I’m increasingly discovering that less is more in this business.
How would you describe your writing process?
I like to play with the ideas in my head for as long as I can, be that hours, days or months, before committing anything to page or screen. The benefits of playing with the ideas seem to outweigh the risks of losing a good idea. I start to write when my thoughts are overwhelming and I have sufficient space to channel them, uninterrupted, onto the screen. I’m not a planner, and I like to take my time. However, last winter, partly inspired by National Novel Writing Month, I surprised myself by producing a fast first draft. It hasn’t altered my overall approach, but it was a bit of a revelation that I could keep going at an average of a thousand words a day.
In terms of the mechanics, I’m proud that my mother taught me to type the quick brown fox runs over the lazy dog way, using all fingers and thumbs of both hands. But too many dissertations left me with repetitive strain injury, so now I type by voice. The manufacturers claim their voice recognition software is faster than typing but, until they produce a version perfectly attuned to my Cumbrian vowels, I have to disagree.
What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
I have the usual love-hate relationship with social media, especially Twitter, through which I’ve gained the support of lots of lovely fellow-writers, as well as a few book sales, but it does eat time. Bad weather that keeps me indoors is helpful – although I can go a bit stir crazy if I don’t get out for a walk.
What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
I’m a lazy researcher, and tend to write about topics I already know something about, just checking facts and details on the internet. Also, my husband is the kind of person who knows all those obscure facts that come up in pub quizzes, so I often ask him. I’ve also recently taken to asking Twitter for answers to factual questions; you get a great sense of the supportive community when someone comes back with exactly what you need to know.
Please say something about your publishing journey.
I’m published by a small press, Inspired Quill, which has worked well for me. I have a post on Writers and Artists website advising others considering that route to learn about self-publishing; not to be afraid to ask questions of the publisher; negotiate a contract; and be realistic about the limitations of what the publisher can do.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve done to promote your work?
An interview for Bay TV Liverpool, which has recently been broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAnBqfEIGmc&feature=youtu.be. It was the first time I’d ever been filmed for TV, yet only ten days later I was involved in some filming for an event in the Peak District where I volunteer.
How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?
My next event is at The Bakewell Bookshop, Derbyshire, on 6 August 2016.
In honour of its first birthday, Sugar and Snails is available in Kindle format at only £0.99 / $0.99 until 31 July 2016.