We’re ‘getting older in a younger way,’ as Janet Ellis said at the beginning of the event with Kit de Waal and Jo Nadin. I’ve not heard it put so well before, but have often thought something similar. Kit de Waal had had the idea for her book as a teenager, but discovered at the age of 58 that 60 is nowhere near as old as her 16-year-old self had imagined.
She also found that the place where she set part of her story, based only on the memories of a childhood trip to Ireland, wasn’t quite as she remembered it. Much smaller for one thing. Reading from her The Trick to Time, she described a scene with a father talking to his young daughter about her mother who is ill. I’ve never heard it put better; why one should do something now even if it feels uncomfortable, because the time will come when you will regret not having done it.
Kit also finds YouTube excellent for teaching her almost anything, from hedgehog racing to drawing with vegetables. She is an ‘anal plotter’ who writes in fragments, and when it goes wrong she has to go back and rewrite.
Jo Nadin is also a plotter, but puts her pieces together sooner, comparing it to that awful feeling when you’ve knitted lots of little squares and find yourself facing sewing them all together.
Her novel, The Queen of Bloody Everything, features a dream mother, the total opposite of her own. She wanted the kind of childhood she read about in books, even if it would have been chaos. Jo has based characters on people she knows, and admitted as much at her book launch!
She has also deleted a couple of books completely, so now has some safety measures in place, in case she gets trigger-happy again.
Kit reckons there is love and kindness in everyone. She has a past working with criminals, and says they can be hard, but still cry over Bambi. Noting that bad behaviour is always blamed on mothers and never fathers, she discovered when her mother died recently that the theory of losing your mother isn’t the same as in real life.
All books are proper books, whether chicklit, crime or children’s. If a book will make you turn the pages, it counts as a good book and is worth someone’s £6.99.
Asked what made them turn to teaching writing, Jo said she needed to earn money. Kit wants to help other disadvantaged people to write, because she was one herself. Having been advised not to set up an award for working class writers, she has crowdfunded a collection of memoirs, where she asked 17 well known writers to write 2000 words, and then paired this with 17 unknown people’s memoirs. Kit wanted to show that working class does not equal only drugs or a dismal life.
Both Jo and Kit write books while visualising what the characters look like, based on famous actors. So Jo’s next book is set in Fowey and ‘stars’ Dominic West and Ben Whishaw, while Kit’s next work has Brendan Gleeson in it!
Unavoidably, there were spoilers if you hadn’t read the two books, although it was obvious that many had. And I hope Janet Ellis gets her copy back. Never lend books!
(Photos Helen Giles)