Interview with Louise Birkett

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Between the ages of six and 10 I moved around a lot. The Bahamas and the Epping Forest were just two of the places I lived. I'm not sure it influenced my writing as such apart from giving me the sense that there are a lot of different experiences in the world. What the moving around did mean was that I did Henry VIII and his six wives in three different schools - that did lead to the subject matter in The Jenny Wilson Show because I liked studying them: by schools number two and three I knew I was good at them!
When did you first start writing?
I've always liked telling stories and I grew up in a house where reading was the entertainment of choice. I can remember sitting and writing my first novel at the age of 11. I'd already decided by that age that I wanted to be a novelist but I never finished that one. I realised you need a lot of words to write a novel and life experiences that, at the age of 11, I just didn't have. So, I decided to train as a journalist to a) learn how to write and b) because you get to meet a lot of people who have all sorts of experiences they share with journalists. I did plan it all out - the only thing I didn't factor in was that when you write all day it's often not possible to write at night as well. Or it is, but I'm conscious the standard isn't the same.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Playing about with the English language. The First World War poet Edward Thomas wrote a poem about words - one of the lines is 'choose me you English words'. That's such a great line because when you're writing away and the characters are alive it really does feel as if they - and the words - are choosing you. It's a strange feeling because it's weird and incredible all at the same time.
Describe your desk
Cluttered. I know a tidy desk is meant to show a tidy mind but tidiness is not one of my virtues. It's L-shaped with the printer and the only computer that the scanner will work on to my left. In front of that computer is a pile of papers relating to the family history that is an ongoing project (great for researching historical stuff). There's also a nearly-empty pint glass of water - I don't drink tea or coffee so water is my tipple of choice when I'm working. I'm working on a laptop with a separate keyboard and that's directly in front of me. To the left-hand side of it is a dictionary, Fowler's Modern English Usage (pocket version), copies of the magazines I'm currently working on and some random notes and photos. A diary, calculator, pocket mirror, hole punch, remote control for the radio and some post-it notes are scattered around. To the right of the laptop are a box of tissues, a couple of reference books, my camera, an exercise book (which may or may not have blank pages in it), production schedules, more post-its (larger ones), dusters (my dog spends the day with me and is the dustiest creature I have ever encountered), a pair of red leather gloves (no idea why) and a pen holder. Obviously, none of the pens I use are kept in the pen holder - they're scattered around all over the place.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The same thing that motivates me to do most things - freedom. Being an indie author gives me the freedom to write what I want to write. It means I don't have to write in a particular genre and I have the freedom to explore the ideas that interest me.
What are you working on next?
Being something of a butterfly brain I'm working on four things at once. One is a sequel to The Jenny Wilson Show. The other three are all straight historical novels, set at different times, One has been inspired by my own family history. These are all demanding quite a lot of research.
Who are your favorite authors?
So many... I love George Mackay Brown, there is a lyricism to his writing that I wish I could emulate. I love Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street series - I think Bertie is one of the great literary creations of all time. I admire Jane Austen's delicacy of touch, I sometimes feel my writing is like a bull in a china shop when compared to hers. I'm also a particular fan of historical novels, so Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick would be in there too.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The dog - she greets each day with such enthusiasm it's difficult not to go along with her. I also have this vague ambition of getting to the bottom of my 'to do' list. One day...
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I design cross stitch patterns. This involves painting, drawing, photography, converting everything into a chart (thankfully there are computer programs these days, when I started I had to use graph paper) and then stitching it up to check for faults. I have a file containing roughly four years of to-be-stitched designs. As I said, one day I will reach the bottom of my to-do list!
What is your writing process?
I allow plenty of time for an idea to germinate - I'll often get some characters in my head and hear them speak when I'm out with the dog (dogs are important for the creative process, the same thing happens for my cross stitch designs). Once I've got the germ of the idea I will plan and plan and plan. I'll sketch out the idea and then break it down into chapters on a spreadsheet. The reason for doing this is that over the years I have had to abandon dozens of novels because I have got lost in the middle. If I know where the story is going I don't run the risk of doing that. That need to work out where I'm going means the planning process can take me years! It's only once I know where the story is going that I will begin to start writing. Often I can find the story changes because the original plan doesn't feel right any more. On the days when I write I always begin by reviewing what I did the day before. As a result, of all the planning and reviewing there's only one main draft which is continually tweaked rather than having to be re-written. That's probably a result of being a freelance non-fiction writer, a novel is a (much) longer version of what I do pretty much every day.
Published 2014-06-23.
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Books by This Author

The Jenny Wilson Show (Featuring Henry VIII And His Six Wives)
Price: $1.56 USD. Words: 68,320. Language: English. Published: June 29, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
Welcome to The Jenny Wilson Show - post-life TV's first ever chat show with special guest stars Henry VIII and his six wives. Knowing what they know now would any of them marry him again? And why did no one realise that producing a TV show would release negative emotions into the post-life?