Interview with Colette Coen

What are your five favorite books, and why?
Oh, only 5, okay, here goes:
1. Has to be The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark - she is such a wonderfully concise writer and her dark, and often comic tales really appeal to me. I'd love to emulate her style, but fear I'm some way off. The subject of this book is quite grim, but the writing is wonderful, which takes me nicely to...
2. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell - a book recommended by my book group and I was totally gripped by it. Again the writing is exceptional and so atmospheric you feel like you need to put on an extra jumper.
3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis - I never had a book out of my hand when I was wee and normally it was one of the Narnia stories. CS Lewis really knew how to take you to another world.
4. Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver - hard to choose between this and The Lacuna. Again a really masterful story teller and you always feel like you come away better informed about the world.
5. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - seminal book by this amazingly gifted author. I had the pleasure of seeing her a couple of years ago at the Edinburgh Book Festival where she signed my rather old Virago copy of this novel. Loved the final chapter which puts a whole new spin on things. ~Veiled woman seemed very futuristic at the time, but like many of her books, Margaret Atwood predicts a frightening future (especially for women).
Ask me tomorrow and I'll probably come up with a different five, but these are the books that spring to mind tonight.
What do you read for pleasure?
I try to keep up with the latest fiction - although it's a near impossible task. My reading lists are on Goodreads, and currently I'm reading a book by a writer from my writers' group - Paris Kiss by Maggie Ritchie. My book group always brings books I won't necessarily go to myself while the review pages and websites keep my shelves of must-reads fairly full.
I'm also a sucker for news and current affairs so there's always a stack of newspapers at the side of my bed, along with short story and other writing magazines - Mslexia and Scribble. Other than that I love a codeword or two, so that keeps me up until the early hours.
How do you approach cover design?
My short story collection is called The Chocolate Refuge and the title story is about friends meeting up again in a coffee house so the cover pretty much chose itself.
I took the photos myself and experimented with a range of mugs, types of coffee and wrapped and unwrapped chocolate until I got the look I wanted. I found out that you can never have too much lighting when taking close-ups, and that you need to play about a bit until you hit on the right feel.
The mugs which were bought especially for the occasion are still in use, but the chocolate is long gone.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Nook with an in-built light which I use when I'm out and about although I'm still a sucker for print.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've been writing for many years and while I've published many short stories in magazines and anthologies, I know that getting a collection printed is next door to impossible. While I was writing my first novel - All the Places I've Ever Been - I decided to publish some of my short stories in an e-book basically to get them out there to a new readership. I'm planning a new collection shortly but am still trying to go down the traditional route for my novel.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
There can be so many things that get in the way of me writing - a washing machine needing filled, a child needing fed, but when I do sit down and start to write I get totally caught up in the world that emerges. No matter how much I plan, I'm always amazed by the way my imagination takes the characters and gives them words and feelings. I love the feeling of getting the words down on paper even though I know they are not all the right words - that's what the edit is for.
Editing can seem like a bit of a drag, but I find it's the time when I get to be more poetic and find exactly the right word to convey an emotion or to describe a setting. I love using linked words within a story: so a story with a knitter can unravel, have people needling each other, or have people's heads feeling a bit woolly. Hopefully I do it a little more subtly than that, but I'll leave that for you to decide...
What are you working on next?
I tend to have a couple of projects on the go at once but top of the priority list at the moment is a script which I would like to develop for radio. I've also been promising myself that I'll put out another collection of my short stories - which I will. And then there's the two novels that are bubbling in the background - one is all plotted and I'm about a third of the way in, while the second at the moment looks like a collection of inter-linked short stories (does that make it a novel, I'm not sure, I'll need to see how it develops.)
Who are your favorite authors?
In no particular order - Muriel Spark, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Saul Bellow (although I haven't read him for quite a while), Umberto Eco (one day I will understand him), Rose Tremain and Tracy Chevalier. I could go on.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm afraid at the moment writing is not my full time job, so I go out to work for 15 hours a week but in a job that is only physically tiring, so I have something left in the emotional/creative bank (which has not always been the case with jobs). Then there's my 3 kids, although they are all getting older and more self-sufficient, and my care commitments for the older generation. I love walking, reading and socialising with friends and family when time allows.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I'm a member of a few writers' forums on Facebook where indie authors promote their material. I also get regular emails from Nook with latest titles and offers. Other than that, it's through friends recommendations, Good Reads or just browsing through the catalogue.
Published 2015-04-02.
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