The most common questions strangers ask after "And what do YOU do...?" or when they're interested in writing. Not because I feel especially qualified to give advice, but because I'm asked for it, and searching for answers is something I can certainly relate to...
Where do your ideas come from?
How did you start writing?
How do I start writing?
How do I get into journalism?
What makes someone a writer?
Do writers just write about their own lives?
Do you need personal experience to write about something?
How do you know when something you’re writing is really finished?
Do you self-publish / crowdfund your writing? Everyone does now, don’t they?
I want to self-publish / crowdfund my book, can you help me?
What kinds of books / stories / culture do you enjoy?
As a child, any book in front of me. As a teenager, films, sitcoms and nineties soaps. In my twenties, any play I could get to, and the webcomic Hyperbole and a Half. Now, novels and Netflix. I like stories involving plucky outsiders, difficult conversations, and women doing things in general. Authors I like include Zadie Smith, Zoe Heller, Bernardine Evaristo, Naomi Alderman, Taffy Brodesser-Akner and Naoise Dolan. Two books I wish I’d written are Allan Hollinghurst’s THE LINE OF BEAUTY and Zoe Heller’s NOTES ON A SCANDAL. I’ve named a character Vonny after Veronica Mars – joint-favourite TV character of the century, along with Nadia Vulvukov. I’m not into heavy romance or violence, in fiction or in life. I love music: the dwindling amount I listen to which was released in the last decade includes Ladyhawke, La Roux, Rumer, Lorde, Saint Saviour, Little Dragon, London Grammar, Christine and the Queens, Jain, Mattiel Brown, Georgia, Jesca Hoop, Nadine Shah and Rina Sawayama. I occasionally have cultural opinions for Hustlers of Culture.
What kinds of work have you done other than writing and journalism?
What else are you good at doing?
Not much, although my post-30 revelation that it might be emotionally healthy to try something else led to a love of running and horses. Like Vonny in my WIP, I built small websites and kept blogs throughout my late teens and twenties, although, unlike her, mine were mostly for quoting song lyrics. I can sing but I don’t take drugs and I like getting paid to work, which doesn’t get you far in the music industry. Or in music journalism for that matter, although I got far enough there to make the shortlist for Chief Sub at Record Collector magazine at 24; and for The Quietus to let me commemorate 20 years since one of my all-time favourite singers released her debut album. If I was more practical, I might have gone into performing arts. If I was numerate, I might have gone into clinical psychology or forensics. If I wasn’t a writer with opinions and a Twitter account, I might be a spy.