Conversations with Colleen: Meet Author, Anne Goodwin, @Annecdotist
Hello everyone! This week, I’m thrilled to bring you another award-winning author, Anne Goodwin. I asked her to pick three or four questions from my huge list HERE, which she did.
I believe the best way to learn more about writing is to learn from other successful authors. What do you think?
Writing is a difficult trade which must be learned slowly by reading great authors; by trying at the outset to imitate them; by daring then to be original and by destroying one’s first productions. (Attributed to André Maurois, 1885-1967)Writers on Reading: ThoughtCo.com
Please meet my guest author, Anne Goodwin.
Anne Goodwin writes fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil. During her career as an NHS clinical psychologist her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Once her short fiction publication count had overtaken her age, her new ambition is to write and publish enough novels to equal her shoe size.
Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize and won the inaugural Nottingham Writers’ Studio Book of the Year (Fiction). Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who seeks to resolve a relationship crisis by keeping a woman captive in a cellar, was published in May 2017.
Her short fiction has been published by Baltimore Review, Bridge House, Fictive Dream, Foliate Oak, MIRonline, Open Pen, The Honest Ulsterman, and many others, and placed in several competitions, including recent firsts in the Ilkley Festival and Writers’ Bureau short story competitions. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, was published in November 2018.
Her fiction explores themes of identity, mental health, marginalisation, attachment, gender, adolescent development, troublesome bodies and other psychological and social issues.
Anne is also a book blogger with a special interest in fictional therapists.
Anne’s articles have appeared in print in The Author, Writers’ Forum, Clinical Psychology Forum, Psychology of Sexualities Review and on various blogs and websites including the Counsellors Cafe magazine.
Anne juggles her sentences while walking in the Peak District, only to lose them battling the slugs in her vegetable plot. As a break from finding her own words, she is an avid reader and barely-competent soprano in an all-comers choir.
Hi, Anne. I’m glad to share your insights with my readers. So, what works best for you: typewriters, fountain pen, dictation, computer or longhand?
I completely understand those who swear by the mind-body link and write longhand but, since developing RSI, that’s not an option for me. Similarly, although I can touch type, my mother having taught me the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy fox way, I’m also obliged to limit my keyboard use.
So, voice recognition software is my constant companion and, like conjoined twins, our relationship is a mixture of love and hate. I wouldn’t be a writer without it, but it’s like having a toddler in my laptop who, after almost 20 years, refuses to grow up.
Did you ever think you couldn’t finish your first novel? How did you finally complete it?
When I moved from writing short stories to novels, I thought it would be a simple matter of getting to the end of 100,000 words. It’s not a spoiler to say that wasn’t the case. In fact, my first completed novel is consigned to history, on painful but sensible advice. But my second novel wasn’t much easier as I played around with different structures trying to get it right.
I was about to shelve it all together when I signed up with a mentor who quickly deduced I was over-complicating an already complex story by trying to tell it from three different points of view. It felt like committing matricide and patricide to cut out the voices of my main character’s parents, but it got me a publisher and a lot of happy readers.
Having a second pair of eyes is invaluable advice for all writers. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
My husband is extremely supportive of the overall process, soothing me through the ups and downs and safeguarding my time to write. He’s also very patient in talking through plots.
However, as he prefers crime to the literary fiction I read and write, he’s less interested in critiquing my words. I don’t think that distance is necessarily a bad thing. He has read both my novels, although only when they’d reached the proof stage. My two sisters, who are also writers, are helpful with critiques, proofreading, and general cheerleading when a book is launched.
Anne, do you believe it is more challenging to write about beliefs that conflict with the ones you hold yourself?
It depends! Most of my characters have a little bit of me in them—often the less admirable parts! With my debut novel, Sugar & Snails, having created a character with a marginalised identity, I tried to make it a little easier on myself by giving her some of my biography and my former home.
But I’ve also learnt that, when a character’s too similar, it can be harder to make her come alive. When writing in the first person, I often find it more effective, and more enjoyable, to put my words into the mouth of the confidant or antagonist and make the narrator skeptical of those views.
This was particularly the case with my second novel, Underneath, where the narrator, Steve, is scathing of the psychological theories I personally espouse. As I believe it’s important to represent a range of attitudes in fiction, I’ve also created sexist, racist and homophobic characters, trusting (hoping) readers will be able to differentiate between my views and my fiction.
Don’t you think most writers have had their hearts broken? Does that remain true for you as well? How does that pain affect your writing?
I think it must be very difficult to write convincingly about emotion if we haven’t experienced the full emotional range ourselves. But not every writer, or every book, has to mine the depths. However, that happens to be my personal preference and I feel sufficiently qualified on the heartbreak side: part of the inspiration for my debut novel, Sugar and Snails, came from my own traumatic adolescence.
But I think writers need distance as much as emotional turmoil: those hearts need to be more or less mended to transform the experience into something worth reading. There’s nothing worse than a writer on a mission to settle old scores.
Sounds like sage advice, Anne. Glad you stopped by.
How to Connect with Author, Anne Goodwin
Website (Annethology): https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/
Blog (Annecdotal): https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal
Twitter @Annecdotist https://twitter.com/Annecdotist
Author newsletter: https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/sign-up-for-my-newsletter.html
Amazon universal link: viewauthor.at/AnneGoodwin