The ten questions that I get asked the most!
- What are the best and the worst parts about being a writer?
For me, the best part about being a writer is at the very beginning of a story; the fizz of excitement as a new idea takes hold, spinning it round and round inside my head. I love seeing the characters emerge and take their places waiting for their stories to unfold. The worst or perhaps hardest part about being a writer is the actual writing. Thinking up the ideas is fun and fast, but the writing is slow and requires discipline. I have to sit myself in front of the computer and have a word count for the day. Sometimes it’s hard to translate the images in my head into words on the page. However, nothing beats the feeling of holding a finished book in my hands and so, however hard it feels at the time, I try to remind myself it’s worth it.
Do you miss being a vet?
Yes. I loved my work as a vet. I loved meeting different people and their animals and visiting wild places in the world. It has been the inspiration behind my stories. However, I also love writing and I don’t have time for both. Being a writer is great too, as I get to stay in my pyjamas all day and daydream and make things up. The icing on the cake is when both worlds collide and I receive emails and letters from readers who share their love of animals and the natural world.
Are any characters based on you?
My characters are often a mix of different people; friends and family, people I have liked and disliked. I don’t base my characters on myself, but maybe I give them qualities I would like to have.
If you could save any wild animal what would it be?
There are too many animals on the list to mention. But trying to save just one animal in isolation would be unsuccessful. To save any one species we need to save the habitat where it lives. So perhaps if I could save one wild place, I think it would be the sea. We depend upon it for life on earth; it is connected with all the other ecosystems, yet less than 1% is protected. We pour our waste into the ocean as if it is some bottomless rubbish tip. We take too many fish and acidify its waters through increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. We forget about sea because what’s beneath the surface is out of sight and out of mind. In doing so, we forget that we rely upon it for food and water and the air we breathe.
- Why do you write?
That seems a simple question, but isn’t easy to answer. Sharing experiences is a very human trait. Telling stories goes back thousands of years, to a time even before early man began painting on cave walls. We are all storytellers at heart. It’s inbuilt into our DNA. Sharing stories gives us an insight into other people’s lives and have empathy with ones different from our own. Stories make us human. So I think that’s why I write; to share my love of the natural world and our place within it.
- What are your top three tips for budding authors?
- Write what you know. Write about things that interest you, things that make you happy, sad, scared and excited. Put all those feelings into your story and you will find your own unique voice as an author.
- Get to know your characters. Find out what makes them tick. Ask them questions and delve into their past. Don’t make them perfect. Give them flaws your reader can identity with. Characters drive the story and the plot and give your reader the reason to turn the page.
- Writing is re-writing. Have you ever worried about the writing the first chapter? The first few lines? Well don’t. The first draft of a story of a story is like a lump of clay. It’s all there but you have to work at it to find the shape. So don’t worry about trying to make the first draft too perfect. Sometimes only by finishing a story you find out how you want it to begin.
Are you a dog person or a cat person?
Both! I love cats’ independence and aloofness. They live life on their own terms. Yet, I love dogs’ companionship and loyalty to the family pack.
What’s your favourite book as a child?
I found reading quite difficult as a child. However the book I loved and one I still have now is a Reader’s Digest copy of The Living World of Animals. This book was my window to the world. It took me to far-flung places and described animals in their habitats. It even had a key to the classification of the animal kingdom. My favourite fiction book was The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. I loved the watercolour illustrations by the naturalist Sir Peter Scott.
Where do you get your ideas?
From anywhere and everywhere. From my own experiences, from newspapers, TV, overheard conversations and snapshots of other people’s lives. One idea leads to another, and the more questions I ask, the more research I do. The more research I do, the more questions I ask. One idea leads to a cascade of ideas. However the story only really begins to take shape once I find the main character. That’s the magical part of storytelling…letting a parallel reality come to life.
Do you plan your story before you write it?
All authors are different when it comes to planning. Some plan meticulously before they even begin to write. Others write organically, just starting with an idea and seeing where it takes them. I think I am somewhere in between. I tend to know the overall arc of the story. I usually have a fairly strong idea about the beginning and the end, and a few key events that happen on the way. It’s a bit like booking a travel ticket to a destination, knowing a few stops, but discovering places and characters as the journey unfolds.