Writer interviewing a writer
Where do you even start when you are a new writer interviewing an author? Well, I am that new writer and to be honest, interviewing an author is nerve wracking. Where do you start? What do you say?
Thanks to covid and the fact that Araminta Hall and myself live on opposite sides of the world, a face to face interview was never going to be a possibility. So, interview questions were emailed. Responses gathered and my interview was born.
Araminta Hall is the author of “Imperfect Women”, her latest release that hit bookshelves in August. It is a stunning piece of writing about three women who have been best friends for years. Tragedy befalls the group, leaving a puzzle to be solved. Twists and turns leave you guessing throughout the thriller.
I read the book and loved every page. I was left with a burning question, one which I set out to answer. One which culminated in this interview. My question…”who is this author that I had never heard of before?”
Who is Araminta Hall?
Araminta tells her story. ‘I live by the sea on the South coast of the UK in a town called Brighton, with my husband and three children, although my oldest has recently gone to university’ she said. I went on and asked what she liked to do. I could imagine her smiling to herself, thinking of all of her favourite things. ‘I love going on long walks with my dog, swimming in the sea, chatting with friends and reading, reading, reading.’
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
This is a question I ask every writer I speak to. When I look at my own path, it is something I always wanted to do, but I got diverted to another job. I wondered whether Araminta had been the same.
She was! Araminta explained that when she met her husband at university, he asked her what she wanted to do. She continued ‘I said, I want to be a writer.’ Her husband then asked her what will she actually planned to do.
Araminta told me that it was then that she considered the fact that she might not immediately become a writer. She realised that he was right, she did have to do other jobs first!
At what age did you know you wanted to write?
I asked Araminta when her writing interest first materialised. This was a very easy answer for her and again, closely mirrored my own experiences. It was easy for Araminta to find the words for this answer. She recounted how she could not remember a time when she wasn’t writing or reading books. She explained ‘One of my earliest memories is sitting at the kitchen table writing a story in a pad that was basically a blatant plagiarism of Danny the Champion of the World.’
Did you write as a child?
I was interested to know how she perceived her childhood writings? She informed me that she wrote constantly as a child, although has little memory of showing what she’d written to people at that stage, it was more just lots of notebooks stuffed in drawers in her bedroom. She did remember this ‘ I did however like to write plays and put on a performance.’
You were a journalist prior to turning to fiction?
While researching prior to this interview, I discovered my subjects foray into journalism. I wondered how she found this. She commented ‘My time as a journalist was great fun as I worked on women’s magazines in the nineties, so we were all having an amazing time going to gigs, getting taken out for lunches and going on exotic photo shoots.’
She continued on and explained that she went freelance after the birth of her first child. At this time she worked more for newspapers.
What instigated the change from journalism to fiction?
I was curious to find out how and why the leap was made from journalism to fiction writing. Araminta said ‘I had always wanted to be a novelist and had always written in my spare time. But it was after the birth of my second child that I decided to really try to make it happen.’
Her journey continued with a combination of freelance journalism and the completion of an MA in Creative Writing, which really helped me to work out what story I wanted to tell.’ It was then that she spent a bit of time working on her book and submitting to agents.
How many books have you written?
Araminta has had four published and has just submitted her fifth. Those four are
- Our kind of Cruelty.
- Everything and nothing.
- Imperfect women.
Of course , every author has other work that they have done. Araminta told me her book total is probably closer to eight or nine.
How do you find your subject matter?
Finding subject matter as a writer can sometimes be all or nothing. Struggling for an idea versus too many ideas! Every author has their own process, their own way of of managing their creativity. Araminta is no different.
Her process is simply this. ‘I always start with an idea of something that I want to think about, then I develop the characters who I want to inhabit the story and finally I start thinking about the plot. I always say that you can change a plot right up till the last minute, but you can’t change your characters or they will become unauthentic and then no one will care what happens to them.’
Araminta continued ‘ theme is really important, which I guess comes from stories , or news items. I’m a real magpie when it comes to listening to people and you can pick up so much just by listening.’
How long does it take you to complete a book?
As I worked through Araminta’s responses I continually saw reflections of myself. This was another of those times. She informed me that she felt she had a process. ‘My process is, she said, that I often get an idea and write a draft, realise it’s terrible and put it away. Then I start something else, realise that’s terrible, then go back to what I was working on before. This can make the process quite slow and usually means by the time I’ve finished a book it’s been ticking away for a few years, although I haven’t been actively working on it all that time. If you put all the time together I’d say an average for me is probably about 18 months.’
Do you prefer writing books to columns in papers?
Simple question of preferences. ‘Books, which is also what I prefer to read.’
Do you have a “place” that you write/read?
I have found when I have spoken to writers and journalists, everyone has a place to write. Whether that place be a kitchen counter, the dining table, a desk or a sofa, everyone has a place. I sit myself writing this article on my recliner in the family room while it’s quiet.
Araminta has her space. She told me about her cabin. ‘I had a cabin built in my garden a couple of years ago which is where all my writing stuff is, she said. She went on to say ‘ I work out there. But I often end up sitting on the sofa in my living room just because it’s more comfy and my back hurts if I sit in a hard chair for too long. I can’t write in public or with distractions, so unfortunately no cafes for me.’
Do your family read your books?
With a sense of pride that could be felt even across the world via email she said ‘Yes, all my family do and at lots of different stages. They’re all great readers.’
If you could give advice to a new writer or journalist what would you say?
This is a how long is a piece of string question. Every person that you ask will offer differing advice. This is Araminta’s advice.
‘Keep going! Writing really does need to be a passion because everyone, however successful has lots of rejections and disappointments, so you primarily have to write because you love it. Be prepared to put the time in as well – I have never heard of a writer publishing a first draft and most re-write their books 3 or 4 times, so it’s a long, hard process. But getting words down on the page is so important as you can only start re-working if you have a base to start from.
So don’t worry too much about your first draft – I think of it as nothing more than telling myself the story (which might change and usually does) and really getting to know my characters. You won’t do any fancy writing until at least the third draft.
Also be open to criticism from professionals and be open minded about making changes. Finally, read, read, read. In fact, I’d go as far to say that if you don’t love reading you probably won’t be a writer.’
From a writer of one year, I send my deepest thanks to Araminta Hall and wish lots of luck for future endeavours.