What sorts of books were in your family home?
My childhood home was packed with books. There were a lot of scripts and poetry collections as well as books that my parents used for research. I remember flicking through a book about witchcraft when I was about six or seven and asking Mum if I could take it to school. I imagine at the time my father was doing a production of ‘the Scottish play’ as he’d call Macbeth.
Who were early formative influences as a writer?
As a teenager I tried to read everything that Simone de Beauvoir ever wrote. She remains a ‘patron saint’ to me. I started writing when I lived in New York in my twenties and fell in love with Raymond Carver’s work. Many of my heroes are playwrights and lyricists and I spent a lot of time picking apart Sondheim songs or Arthur Miller plays to try to understand the magic. I’m a third-generation feminist so had access to and was informed by many women who wrote about the female condition – Greer, Walker, Friedan.
Do you write every day, and do you write many drafts?
I write every day. I often spend all day writing in my office and then come home and write some more. I’m hooked. I stick print outs of songs or poems on my fridge so I can live with them and tweak them each day, as needed, until they’re ready. This also helps me memorize them for performing. With my novel Three Women, I made changes as I went along so there was only one draft.
Books that changed your life?
I didn’t read much at school because everything felt like homework and that was desperately unappealing. When I left school, a friend gave me a copy of Flaubert’s Sentimental Education and it was the first novel I remember reading under my own steam. I loved it. I then read every book listed in the back, and then every book listed in the back of those books. I was methodical. That novel set me on a path of discovery that I’m still on.
Your views on book publishing?
I’m learning. I was lucky enough to work with a publisher while I was writing Three Women, so I didn’t have to struggle through slush piles. My experience with Starhaven Press has been extraordinary, I know. Many of my friends have self-published and done well with that route. But I would not have had the support I needed to get the book to its current state if I hadn’t worked with a publisher throughout the process.
How important are editors? Have you had much encouragement from your editor(s)?
Few authors will have had as much support as I have had. Chip Martin, publisher at Starhaven Press, met me often to discuss the book over a nine-month period. We’d sit in an Italian restaurant and talk about structure or fret about the characters over arancini and white wine. Chip is a wonderfully generous editor and gave me so much support that the book simply wouldn’t have been written without him.
What’s the most incredible thing that has ever happened to you?
I was born into a family of talented artists and that gave me license to strive for a creative life. I learned about storytelling over Sunday lunches when my mother’s friends would have us laughing until we cried, or our jaws agape in horror at the tales they’d tell. Actors are great company. I also think that having a hard-working talented mother was an inspiration. Yes, I’ve swam with turtles in the Galapagos Islands, but nothing has been as incredible as being born her daughter.
Your views on the explosion of creative writing courses? How helpful are they?
I’ve been on creative writing courses in New York and London and they can be very helpful. You can find like-minded people to befriend and learn from them too. Especially about where to send your work or which pub has an open mic night. I did an evening course at NYU and befriended the teacher, Susie Mee. I joined her writers’ circle and it was through her that I had my first short story published. Professional dancers go to class all through their careers to keep fit and learn new styles of dancing. I look at creative writing courses in the same way. A necessity to top up the creative tank.
What are your favorite literary journals?
Review 31 is the one literary journal I read. I like Monocle (magazine and radio) coverage of art and literature and also listen to BBC radio’s ‘Front Row’.
Your views on how new technology, and social media, have (or have not) changed your writing life?
Social media has been massively helpful. I promote my act, ‘Lucy Lyrical’, through Facebook and have secured gigs in this way as well as making many great contacts. There are also some useful writers’ groups on social media where people generously share advice and contacts. I’m lazy with Twitter and only so-so with LinkedIn, but Facebook is a daily habit.
If you could go anywhere in time for one day, where would you go and why?
Another day with my Mum, in any location, to share a great bottle of wine and chat about nonsense.
What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Netflix is wonderful and, like many, I’m hooked on the box sets. My sons are both filmmakers and they recommend things for me all the time to keep me up to speed on what’s happening in the movies. But when left alone, I do spend far too much time watching shows about serial killers – that Ted Bundy programme on at the moment is incredible. When my boys come in, I flick over the channel or they joke about my nasty habit.
How would you convince someone to do something they didn’t want to do?
I work as a PR agent so convincing people is my job. Sorry, not going to give away my trade secrets.
Five favourite prose authors?
James Kelman, Carrie Fisher, Elena Ferrante, Ann Patchett, Jane Austen.
Five favourite feature films?
The Apartment (Billy Wilder), The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson), Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly/Stanley Donan), The Goodbye Girl (Herbert Ross), Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright).
Five favourite bands or musicians?
There’s a lot of music in Three Women. I’m nostalgic about music, so listen to many songs from my childhood, show tunes and folkie stuff. However, favourite bands/musicians to enjoy live include: Tankus the Henge; Ed Tattersall; Ned Dylan; Christine & The Queens. I once queued up overnight to hear Ella Fitzgerald.
Your bedside reading?
I’m part of the Mortimer House Book Club so am usually reading something for the next meeting. Currently, Valis by Philip K. Dick.
Your chief characteristic?
‘Be yourself, that’s enough’
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