We asked Tina Seskis, author of When We Were Friends, a few questions about what she reads, how she comes up with ideas and her tips for budding writers
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Did you write stories when you were a child?
I don’t really remember doing so, but I recently came across one amongst my childhood things in the loft, called Dylan the Comprehensive Cat, and when I read it, it was a sweet moral fable (even if I say so myself) that I have no recollection of ever writing.
What books and authors did you read when you were young?
I adored Enid Blyton (especially Mallory Towers) and Nancy Drew, was mesmerised by Watership Down, and then moved onto Agatha Christie, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Catcher in the Rye. The children’s classics seemed to pass me by, and I still haven’t read most of them.
What helps you come up with plotlines? (eg, hot bath, long walks)
Life mainly. I am a naturally nosy person and am always fascinated by people’s life stories; I read the problem pages in magazines and the broadsheets, devour memoirs and biographies of people that interest me. When I sit down to write I find the ideas just come to me. The action is always defined by the character though, not the other way round.
What is your writing routine?
Very erratic. I wrote the first draft of One Step Too Far in two months, writing in bed, at the bus stop, at hospital when visiting my mum, in friends’ gardens watching our children play. Then I didn’t write at all for a year, and started When We Were Friends on holiday. On a normal day I write mainly at home, and follow the sun around the house. At the moment I’m in Noosa, Australia, writing this by the pool at my mother-in-law’s house.
What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
Just write it. Get the story down. Worry about finessing it afterwards. In my opinion there are few things in life more joyful than getting to a point in a novel where you can’t type as fast as the story wants to be told.
Do you have an idea for your next novel?
Yes, but because the idea is usually part of the mystery or twist I can never tell anyone. It is very frustrating.
Do you have a favourite classic novel?
All the ones I mentioned above, plus Wuthering Heights, The Bell Jar, Of Mice and Men, Jude the Obscure, Midnight’s Children, To Kill a Mockingbird, Riders, And Then There Were None.
What novels are you reading at the moment?
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (which I love), and one an aspiring writer has sent me.
What’s your favourite literary quote?
“The problem these fifty-nine years has been this: how can a novelist achieve atonement when, with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also God?” Atonement by Ian McEwan
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