I’m very pleased to have novelist Bev Spicer on the blog today. I have read three of Bev’s books and enjoyed all of them very much. My reviews are here:
You can also connect with Bev on Twitter.
Tell me a little about your writing history/background. What inspired you to write?
I’m not someone who can say I always wanted to write. I did enjoy project work at school and also wrote short stories to terrify my sisters (they liked end-of-the-world scenarios – the scarier the better!). But it was only when I moved to France in 2008 and couldn’t get a teaching post at La Rochelle University, that I decided to try writing. My first attempt was called ‘A Taste of Lemons’ and was the story of a girl trapped in two parallel universes. I believed it was brilliant but was sensible enough to listen to criticism (it hurt – the first book is a labour of love). Thank goodness I didn’t publish it. I might go back to it one of these days and give it a ruthless edit.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
I can never stick to a plan. Rather, I have an idea centred around one or more characters. So the problem for me is balancing the freedom to invent and the discipline necessary to produce a plot that has integrity. Endings are the most interesting part of writing, for me. I love the subtle balance required to give the reader just enough to bring everything together.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Writing is like anything else in life: you learn how to do it by doing it! Advice rarely makes sense unless you have experience and can relate to what people are trying to tell you. And if you have experience you know that your writing can always be improved. When I started writing I had tunnel vision. I was unable to take criticism well. The thrill of creating something just took me over. I suppose I would say that it’s better to keep moving forward and at the same time be prepared to go back and edit work as you improve as a writer. And listen to criticism – it really does help to have other writers give you feedback on your writing. The negative stuff is usually more helpful than the praise, even if it is poorly delivered or downright brutal there will be truth in it. I put a YA novel on a writers’ website in order to get feedback before I published. A couple of people said nice things about it and offered constructive criticism. One person slammed it in an angry tirade of abuse. He hated it and told me exactly why. I must admit, I was shocked. My first reaction was to dismiss what he said, but I didn’t publish and still haven’t. The book is verbose at times; the fear in the first chapter is over-stated. It will be a better book because of the hefty dose of criticism it received on a public forum for authors. I must say though, that I try to give criticism as kindly as I can – you have to KNOW that you are trusted.
And of course it’s important to read, read, read.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just published my new novel ‘What I Did Not Say’.
Jessica Morley is on her way to meet with a man she hasn’t seen for fifteen years. In her bag there is a package she must deliver. As she travels south, she remembers Jack Banford, a boy who captured her imagination as a child and made her believe in a future that could never happen. Now it is time for her to set the record straight and finally put the past behind her. ‘What I Did Not Say’ is a story of loyalty, cruelty, and love at all costs.
Who is your favourite author and what is it that you love about their work?
I must say that I enjoy a lot of different authors. If I had to choose one, it would be Margaret Atwood. When I read ‘Cat’s Eye’ I was thrilled and terrified. She captures the venomous nature of childhood friendships and is a master of conveying mood.
Who would you choose to have over for dinner and why?
I’m going off piste on this one… Someone who can cook, obviously. Probably Jamie Oliver because he’s fun, friendly and doesn’t make a fuss. He’s made a huge difference to society’s attitudes to food and nutrition too.
Desert Island Books – what five books would you choose to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?
‘The Nation’s Favourite Poems’ (BBC) – I have two copies to dip in to, ‘Oryx and Crake’ (Margaret Atwood) – I have to move on from ‘Cat’s Eye’, ‘Ghost Story’ (Peter Straub) – it’s terrifying, something by Shakespeare – probably ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’ (I’d learn all parts and perform the whole thing on the beach), and I know this will sound pretentious but I learned Latin at school and I enjoy a good challenge so I’d take ‘The Iliad’ and work out a translation – after all, I’d have plenty of time and no one to tell me I was wrong.
Tell us something unusual about yourself.
I don’t know whether it’s unusual, but I love astronomy and astrophysics. Can’t get enough of ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’, ‘Does God Play Dice?’ or quantum theory in general. Oops! I’d need more than five books on my desert island…unless there were multiple universes.
Oh, and I spent most of my weekends as a teenager with my father on a Welsh mountain learning to fly gliders. Cold, wet, and wonderful.
Find a copy of Bev’s latest book here.