When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing stories as a child and tried to progress to novels in my twenties, but it was difficult to fit in around a full-time job. When I resigned to go sailing, being away from work made me realize that I wanted to take my writing more seriously.
Why do you write?
I want to turn the ideas and themes that interest me into stories that, hopefully, capture something about life. I enjoy the process of trying to bring characters to life through the use of language and plot.
Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?
I found it hard to write in the evenings after work and at weekends when I was tired and had other things I wanted or had to do. I need long stretches of time in which I can write uninterrupted, and when I have that writing is easier and more pleasurable. The downside is that then I have no excuse for making poor progress, and I often feel guilty for not achieving enough.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think well drawn, believable characters are essential to a good story, but something meaningful has to happen to them to make a real impact. And if a story is well written, but left hanging at the end without reaching a satisfying conclusion, the anti-climax can diminish all that has gone before.
What’s your favorite genre to read?
I enjoy reading literary fiction, thoughtful work that is well written and has depth and insight.
Who is your favorite author?
Margaret Atwood is my favorite contemporary author, because her writing is intelligent but also sharp and witty, never dull or pompous. She is also a poet, which I think comes through in the often lyrical quality of her work. She creates vivid, real characters that I can identify and sympathize with.
What books or stories have most influenced you as a writer?
I love the books and short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but it’s Margaret Atwood’s work that I read again and again not just for pleasure but to study the craft of writing. Every book I read, though, teaches me something about writing, be it good or bad, and so I read a lot.
What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
Books and stories that describe what it means to be human, that show we are all flawed, with both good and bad sides to us, and that whatever our circumstances, we are all in this together.
Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
I can be inspired by many different things: real life events, an article in a newspaper, solitude, being in nature, the writing of others, films, or music, especially songs with meaningful lyrics. The difficult part is using that inspiration to create a well developed story that successfully translates a feeling or theme into words.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I work best in the morning, so whenever I can I start early and keep going with short breaks (often too many) until late afternoon. I’m still working on staying at my desk for several hours without stopping, because I feel I have to approach writing with the discipline of a paid job. I tend to disconnect from the internet when I’m behind my computer, because it’s too easy a distraction when I get stuck.
Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
I prefer to write the first draft using pen and paper. I enjoy writing by hand and my mind feels less cluttered when I do. It isn’t a waste of time, because I do the first edit when I type it up.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The most challenging aspect is turning an idea or theme into the well rounded story I want to tell. I often struggle with the first draft, a blank page being harder to deal with than words that already exist and just need reshaping. My first draft is usually quite rough and I get the most enjoyment from writing when I polish the story into something better.
What are your current projects?
I am in the process of editing a novel, but I also write short stories whenever an idea comes to mind.
What are you planning for future projects?
I hope to have enough short stories for an anthology and am thinking about writing a novel set in Namibia.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read a lot of books and short stories, both good and bad ones will teach you something important about writing. Put your book or story away for several weeks after you’ve finished it and then edit it ruthlessly.