Hello Araminta! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of your first novel, Everything and Nothing. Can you tell us what it is about?
A: It is the story of a couple run ragged by work and children – one of whom doesn’t eat and one who doesn’t sleep. Into the chaos comes Aggie, a seemingly perfect but very flawed nanny. My initial idea was to write a story about modern marriage and parenthood, but after a while I wondered if it would be engaging enough and so I introduced the character of Aggie. She was meant to shine a light on to Ruth and Christian, but ended up becoming a main character herself. I tried to explore themes of madness and responsibility and your past catching up with you. It is basically about a family imploding and trying to understand what they want out of life.
How does it feel to be a published author? And not just a published author: you were also selected for Richard and Judy's Autumn Reads 2011!
A: It feels really great and Richard and Judy has been the icing on the cake. You work so hard on your own when you’re trying to get a book written that you stop believing anyone will ever want to publish you. I think I went into a state of shock after Harper Collins offered me a deal and kept having dreams in which it was discovered that I hadn’t written the book! And now of course Richard and Judy have such a massive influence I keep seeing it everywhere I go, which is a fantastic feeling.
What inspired you to write Everything and Nothing and what kind of journey led you to its publication?
A: I was really inspired by the life I was living – a mother of three young children (well, only two when I started writing it) and a husband who worked away a lot. Not that any of the events which happen in the book are true to my life, just the general feelings. You have such a dichotomy of feeling as a mother, this intense love for your children, but also a complete loss of self, which can be very damaging. I had been a journalist for ten years and I’d always wanted to write novels, so after the birth of my second child eight years ago I decided to dedicate a bit of time to actually doing it. I ended up taking an MA in Creative Writing and Authorship at Sussex University, which was amazing and taught me so much not just about writing, but also about the world of publishing. After it had finished I spent about a year re-writing and then sent it to two agents, one of whom was interested, but took so long to make a decision, I sent it straight to Harper Collins and was amazed to get an offer within a week.
I almost neglected my job to finish your book as quickly as I possibly could and I can’t wait to read your next novel. Have you already started working on anything new?
A: Thank you, that’s very kind. I am working on something new. Strangely I know exactly what my third novel is going to be about, but am having more trouble with my second! It is coming together at the moment though and I hope to have it finished in the next couple of months.
Due to the popularity of social networking websites, it seems that interacting with readers – be it via a Twitter account, a Facebook page etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?
A: Before I was published I was a complete luddite when it came to social networking, but now I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think I’m very good at either of them – I should probably buy a book on how to increase your followers or something, but I can absolutely see what a brilliant tool they are. There are writers out there with thousands of followers and they are able to talk directly to their readers, which is a wonderful experience. Like everyone else, it’s easy to get lost in the Internet when you should be working!
What is your one fundamental piece of advice for aspiring writers?
A: To keep going and develop a hard skin! I do think that people who end up getting published are often those who have persevered. It takes years to get published, unless you are ridiculously lucky, and those years will be spent earning little money and being rejected by agents and publishers. I always wanted to write and I think I would have gone on forever. Doing the MA however made me take myself seriously and think that I actually had a chance, which made a massive difference. I would also recommend subscribing to a magazine dedicated to writing like Mslexia. They always have a section listing competitions – entering them is great as it focuses your mind and gives you a deadline and, if you win or get placed, it’s a great calling card to take to agents. It’s also essential to read as much as you can. I think if you’re not in love with reading you probably won’t ever be a writer.
And lastly, is there anything that you would like to share that I haven’t asked?
A: Just that Brighton is a brilliant town to be in for anything creative and there are lots of writers living here. It’s great to get involved with all the things that go on – there are two great nights I go to regularly and sometimes read at – Speaky Spokey at The Latest Bar and Short Fuse at Komedia. And of course the Small Wonder festival at Charleston each year is fantastic. And there are so many writers groups, it’s really worth joining one, as it can be a lonely process doing it all on your own. I still meet up regularly with two good friends I made on the MA and in the course of a couple of hours we can often solve problems in each others writing which seem insurmountable when you’re sitting in front of a computer screen on your own.
Thank you for your time!
And now, for a chance to win one copy of Everything and Nothing, click here and complete the form. The competition is open to UK readers only and will close on the 12th December at 1pm.