5 March 2020
Jane Puddicombe is an MA student at the University of Surrey.
Q: How would you best describe the genre that you write in?
A: I write in a few genres, however, there is always a fantastical element to my stories. I am currently completing a feminist dystopian novel, but I have experimented with high fantasy, Neo-Victorian magic realism, sci-fi and erotica.
Q: What type of research do you do before sitting down to write a first draft?
A: The idea for my most recent project came from a BBC news report about an infestation of toxic moths in Northern Germany. From there I started drafting and researched as I went along – for example, I could now tell you roughly how many female engineers work at power plants in the UK, the fastest working antipsychotic drugs used by the NHS, and the most secure way to tie someone to a chair using everyday household items.
Q: What do you think is the hardest thing about writing?
A: The constant and almost overwhelming desire to stop what I am writing and go and watch Netflix.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self about writing?
A: I always wish I’d written more and been more disciplined about finishing projects. But I’m fairly sure, if I’d suggested this to my younger self, she would have told me to sod off.
Q: Which book or author has inspired you the most and why?
A: Both Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness encouraged me to change how I saw the world. I loved Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale when I read it as a teenager. Years later, I taught it at A-Level. This was a mistake. I was quietly heartbroken every time my students said it was ‘boring’, ‘slow’, ‘pointless’ or that ‘the TV show was much better.’
Q: Have you ever had writer’s block and if so, how did you overcome it?
A: The best advice I was given to cure writer’s block (by a writer who knew nothing of my plot) was to kill someone off. I suspect this only works once per book – otherwise you’d end up with a bloodbath.
Q: What does your writing schedule look like?
A: 1000 words per day Monday to Friday. More if I can. Although, even when I’m not writing, I’m often thinking about what I’m going to write, or mentally redrafting what I’ve just written.
Q: If you weren’t a writer, what other career would you choose and why?
A: I think, like most writers, I’ve had many non-writing related jobs: teaching, marketing, training, temp work, fruit picking, being a bar attendant, parenting. This doesn’t mean I’m not a writer in addition to these jobs. When I was younger, I wanted to be a flight attendant, but I was too short so, instead, I found a job crewing on a dive-yacht in the Red Sea. That was great – I’d do that again.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about the festival?
A: I’m looking forward to listening to Kari Gillespie and Julie Evans. I’ve listened to their work before, and they never disappoint. I plan to wander around and absorb it all. I haven’t attended previously, but I’ve heard that the atmosphere is amazing.
Interview conducted by Rufaro Mazarura.