author of A Little Love, Clover’s Child, What Have I Done? and more…
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in East London (for anyone that hasn’t been there, think of the glamour of the West End, the shiny lobbies of smart hotels and the plush department stores – well, where I come from was the exact opposite, grubby, poor and cramped. But we was ‘appy!) I lived there surrounded by my loud extended family until my mid teens when my life ended.
My parents uprooted me from my friends, Saturday job at Camden Market and all that I held dear and moved me to North Yorkshire – the countryside aaaagh! Where I swapped make-up for wellington boots and live gigs for farmers markets, it was bliss. I have 3 brothers to whom I am very close. My parents had me when they were in their teens and my childhood was one of noise, laughter and the sense that we were all figuring it out as we went along, which was sometimes exciting, often a little scary.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was twelve I wanted to be Jennifer McCulloch, she was in my class and had big boobs and a big house, nuff said.
When I was eighteen I wanted to change the world, fight social injustice and make a difference (at 46 I still do!) I thought I would do it via journalism and raging against the machine.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At eighteen I genuinely believed that a movement based on ‘Niceness and Compassion’ could be so infectious that it might start the change the planet needed. ‘Enough For All’ if everyone played fair – be it with food, money, love… I now think there are some people with so much that the idea of sharing and ‘giving something up’ is so terrifying that it’s impossible. This makes me sad. (and won’t stop me trying!)
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
As a teenager I devoured music with passion, absorbing as much as I could. I still do, but am much more particular about what I listen to. It was not unusual in my teens to find me listening to Depeche Mode (Speak & Spell), Bowie (ChangesTwo) and then crying on the sofa at the magic of Etta James. One of my brothers would then punch me and tell me to snap out of it and normality would be restored.
I guess through my love of music, I learnt that what you love and what will shape you, is dependent on your mood and circumstance. It’s no different with writing – you have to keep it fluid and accessible.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I guess primarily because I am singularly useless at anything else! But also because I have a love of words, the way they look on a page, the way they can stay hovering in your mind long after that book is shut and because for me, it’s the easiest way to paint a picture.
My latest novel is called A Little Love and has been described as a fairy-tale for the modern woman – which I love! It is the story of Pru Plum – a successful baker and businesswoman who falls in love for the first time at 66.
The backdrop is the rich, indulgent world of gourmet cakes and dough and I hope sends out the message that you never know what twist or turn your life is about to take – love and adventure can strike at any time if you are brave enough to let it!
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope that I write tales that stimulate debate and discussion. What would you do in my heroine’s shoes? Did you approve of her choices? But mainly I hope to create stories that stop you from turning off the bedside lamp at night, no matter how early that alarm clock is set because you have to read one more chapter…
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Phew – so many! I repeatedly return to the work of Isabel Allende and I learn something new every time I re-read her novels. I love her style, characters and the sensory feast that awaits me on every page. However, as I have stated before my favourite book of all time is The Book Thief . It moved me, it changed me and I know there is a movie out now, but if I’m being honest, I’m frightened to go and see it for fear of damaging the imagery in my head. It is a perfect novel and I can only throw clichéd statements at it a rollercoaster, a page-turner, it stayed with me. All however are absolutely true.
My goal is simply to continue writing as I consider what I do to be an absolute privilege. I don’t deserve accolades I’m not driving an ambulance or serving my country, I simply write stories, but to earn a living by doing something I love so dearly – now that’s really something.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
I have this sign on my kitchen wall ‘Persevere – never, ever, ever give up.’ And I so I think it would be that.
It’s really tough to get your work read and I am sure that many wonderful novels never get to break through the surface. Every writer gets rejected; use that criticism and feedback as fuel and act on all the advice. Tenacity, luck and honing your craft can only help in your quest.
Also, you don’t need to be a bestseller to get an enormous amount of joy from writing – whether it’s keeping a journal or writing a letter, do what brings you joy!
Amanda, thank you for playing.
Pick up a copy of A Little Love here