About the author. Please tell us about yourself, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?
Aha, you may have done. My first career was as an actor. I left Scotland to go to drama school in London when I was 19. I was incredibly fortunate that my first acting job was playing Lizzie in the film of Trainspotting, so you may remember me sitting on a couch in my bra and knickers, screaming about video shops to my boyfriend, Tommy. I’ve worked in TV and theatre, and seen a fair bit of the world thanks to my acting career. It was also an excellent way of spending time with texts and learning about dialogue, pace, structure, and the plain old human condition. Being an actor very closely informs my writing.
Welcome to Mrs Red’s Review, please can you start by telling us about your latest book?
What kind of research did you do? How long did it take to write?
For Armadillos, I did some pretty extreme researching. I won a writing prize through Glasgow University and used the money to take me to Texas, where the story is set. Half way through writing Armadillos, I made a promise to myself that my second book would be closer to home. Wildest of All is closer to my own experiences and required less research, but produced its own unique obstacles to overcome.
How did you go about writing the story? Did you know how it was going to end when you started writing?
Armadillos was written in a pretty linear fashion. I started at the beginning, and, bar a few detours, I kept going until I reached the end. With Wildest, I just dived in. It’s been a really messy write, told in first person, then third person. I experimented with multiple points of view, and then brought it tighter. I didn’t know how either book would end when I started out, though I had a vague idea of what direction the characters were heading in. Everything is wide open for me when I’m creating, which is probably why it’s such a messy business.
Are there any characters you particularly loved or hated?
I couldn’t fail to love Aggie, my protagonist in Armadillos. She’s smart, vulnerable, damaged, and a fighter. In Wildest, my favourite character is called Anne. She’s a wily old lady who causes havoc within her family.
Aggie has quite a troubled life, was that difficult to write about?
Hmm. Good question. You do have to go to quite deep places sometimes as an actor and as a writer, but ultimately it’s only research. Let’s not be precious about it. When writing or playing any character, empathy is everything, so you do feel things that would otherwise pass you by, but at the end of the day, I step away from the keyboard and there are two kids waiting to be fed, driven to an activity somewhere, or just plain desperate to give me a hard time in time-honoured kiddy fashion.
What’s next for you?
I’m deep in the editing process for Wildest at the moment, and will be until April. After that, who knows? It’s exciting. I’ve been suffering greatly under a host of syndromes, including Second Book Syndrome, and Imposter’s Syndrome (they deserve the capital letters!). Wildest is the first book I’ve written under contract with professionals waiting to read it. It’s been a great lesson in pushing through the pain. A deadline’s a deadline. I’d hate to let myself and other people down, especially when they’ve demonstrated faith in your abilities. Having said that, I’m looking forward to taking a deep breath and exploring a little more. I have lots of ideas and a sense that some of them would be better suited to theatre. I’d like to play and see where it takes me. Having said that, I do have an idea for book three that I rather relish.
What was the last book you read?
Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things. All white people should read it.
If you could recommend one book for us to read, what would it be?
Impossible question! Maybe Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks if you like a dense read. Otherwise We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a stunning piece of writing about forgiveness and the extent of a mother’s love. (I didn’t just choose two, you’re imagining it.)
Are you on Twitter? How can we follow you?
Yep, I’m @lynchpinpauline on Twitter. I’d love to engage with more readers and writers