Definitely and I think it encourages empathy as you have to be able to identify with your characters and their motivations to be able to write convincingly about them. Writing can be a great way of exploring themes that intrigue or anger you and getting those feelings out on paper can be amazingly healing. The clever bit is to do that via characters without making it seem like a rant and that it’s all part of a story. Writing has meant I’ve gone to conferences and met friends, taken part in writing exercises where you produce work on the spot and then read it out, been shortlisted in a national award so I attended the Gala evening (it was nice to put on some glitz!) so yes I think it’s safe to say writing’s changed my life – for the better. And I’ve seen my name in print once and have stories and poems on the web which I would not have done otherwise. Whilst I would like the novels published, I still feel as if I’m achieving something in getting work out there. That feeling of achievement is so helpful because I try to use it to spur me on to better writing. I enjoy having work out in the post or en route to online competitions – it’s always good to be in with a chance and when anything is shortlisted it can go on my writing CV.
If writing was banned on pain of death for one month, what else would you do?
Scream?! No, seriously, I’d be working out ideas in my mind so when the ban was lifted I could get straight on with the next writing piece. Thinking time is always good. (I’d probably cheat and make discreet notes while preparing something else but so once the ban was lifted I’d be straight back on to my writing projects again). If I was allowed to take notes I’d have jotted down some of my thoughts. I’d catch up on my reading as that’s the very enjoyable flipside to wanting to write. To want to write means having to read and you can figure out what works in a book and what doesn’t so you can “copy” the good bits and ignore the weaker elements. Also you need to know what you like and dislike to know what you want to write (or not write as the case may be).
If you were on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, what books would you take with you (instead of music) and which luxury item? As per the show you would be given the Bible and Shakespeare. (Isn’t it time they added Dickens and Austen to that list incidentally so you get to take 4 classics?)
The Complete Wodehouse – if I must choose one, I’d go for The Best of Wodehouse which gives wonderful tasters of the novels and short stories.
The Complete Discworld – if I must choose one, I’d go for Reaper Man. I’m not sorry if that’s cheating (but I’d do my best to sneak in Men at Arms as well).
Pride and Prejudice
The Lord of the Rings (hardback, three volume edition)
The Narnia Chronicles
Murder on the Orient Express – my favourite Christie novel
The History of Britain by Simon Schama
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
My luxury item would be endless paper and pens (though I’d prefer a PC, a mains supply and an endless supply of memory sticks!). I’d happily not have the internet on it given that would break the “not be able to communicate with the outside world” rule. It’d be such an aide to getting more writing done.