I don’t usually go in for blogging round robins or memes. But Vivienne Tuffnell asked nicely and I was needing a break between two projects, both equally unappealing, so I figured, why not?
It’s about being a British author – a concept I confess had never occurred to me before. About looking at whether national characteristics (whatever they may be) influence our ‘work’. Now, see, I don’t really feel of myself as British, or English, or anything really, so I’m on a sticky wicket (ho ho) from the start. But I’ll give it a whirl. There were questions and I like being asked questions, almost as much as I like ticking boxes. Click here to read Viv's responses (and do check out her books).
|Carshalton Park - there was a river when I was small.|
Q: Where were you born and where do you live now?
A: I was born in Surrey, in a place called Carshalton, which has now been swallowed up by Greater London. When I look at it with my adult eyes (which is not that often) I see bland suburbia. It seems so small, so trammelled, so claustrophobic. But, as a child, I managed to find endless magic. I poked around old Iron Age works, explored grottoes and springs, climbed hills, mapped woods. I saw minute worlds in walls and wasteland, in parks and back gardens. I made myself a small fiefdom in the arms of an apple tree; a cave under the roots of a lilac bush.
Now I live in Dulverton, a small town in the Exmoor National Park in South-West England. It’s wild and really just ridiculously beautiful – a land of echoing moors, steep combes (valleys), tumbling rivers and the crashing sea. You should visit, you really should.
Q: Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere?
A: I have mainly lived and worked in England. Apart from a year’s sojourn in the USA. However I have severe travel lust. Both for places inside the British Isles and Ireland and also abroad.
Q: Have you highlighted or showcased any particular part of Britain in your books, a town, a city, a county, a monument, well-known place or event?
A: My non-fiction books are, by necessity, universal, not tied to place. However the Somerset Levels were inevitably an influence on the books written while I lived there – The Natural Year in particular charts a year of living consciously with nature.
When it comes to fiction, Exmoor is a natural muse. Both Walker (my shamanic novel) and Samael (the as yet unpublished first part of my YA Angelsoul trilogy) are, in part, extended love poems to Exmoor. The second part of the trilogy shifts to London, a city I lived in throughout a large part of my twenties and which I also love.
Q: There is an illusion – or myth if you wish- about British people that I would like to discuss. Many see Brits as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is this correct?
A: What is British? Britain is a melting pot. It’s a mongrel country on the whole now. I feel that ‘stiff upper lip’ idea is well and truly defunct. It describes a clichéd view of an upper/middle class Britain that no longer really exists. However, where I live on Exmoor, there is a certain reticence, a pretty well entrenched sense of privacy. People tend just to get on with life; they don’t whine and, when life goes tits-up, they tend to turn quietly to the bottle or just get out the shotgun. Anything rather than go talk about it. Psychotherapists don’t tend to set up shop here.
Q: Do any of the characters in your book carry the ‘stiff upper lip’ or are they all British Bulldog and unique in their own way?
A: No. No stiff upper lip, no British Bulldog. There are some characters who are, reserved, shall we say – the strong silent types…Ruth in Walker and Eden and Zeke in Samael come to mind but then they are, variously, shamans and mages, and those types tend to keep their own counsel. And my books also contain characters with less savoury characteristics - small-minded racism, sexism and a tendency to domestic violence. Sadly those aren't just prevalent in city life.
Q: Tell us about one of your recent books.
A: Let me talk about Walker . I wrote it because a few things collided. I started practicing shamanism and, at the same time, I discovered an amazing place on the Exmoor coast – Culbone – it was just numinous. On a subsequent visit, I found a small hut offering DIY refreshments and some very old books for sale by a woman who’d lived there which confirmed my conviction that it was seriously magical.
Walker is the story of a teenage boy, Hunter, who nearly dies in a car crash and comes to live on Exmoor with a grandmother he has never met. It’s a pretty classic quest yarn – on the outside Hunter has to find the lost kashebah, a non-physical temple that can help protect the world’s soul. On the inside, he has to find himself, or – if you like – his own interior kashebah. That makes it sound a bit worthy and it’s not (at least I hope not). I’d like to think it’s a fast-moving adventure yarn that just happens to be based on esoteric fact.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: Making money to fund my travel habit. *smile*
Q: How do you spend your leisure time?
A: Meditating, exercising, tramping the moor, sitting by the fire musing, listening to music, mind-wandering.
Q: Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?
A: I’d like to think global. Certainly my non-fiction books have sold all over the world – The Detox Plan was translated into over 20 languages, if I recall (it's now available in an updated e-edition).
Q: Can you provide links to your works?
A: Of course. The easiest place to find all my books in one place is via my Amazon author page. As I said before, my fiction titles are still books in search of a publisher – but you can read the first few chapters here and here.
Q: Who’s next?
A: Ah, I’m not good at picking and choosing. A lot of people who read this blog are writers, I know, spread across the length and breadth of the British Isles. I’d love to know their thoughts. If anyone takes this and runs with it, let me know and I’ll post a link to your answers.