Interview the Writer – Vivienne Tuffnell
Please take a peek at her new novel – Strangers and Pilgrims.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Vivienne Tuffnell. I’m 43, married with a daughter and I live in Suffolk, England, in Britain’s most easterly town. I’ve lived here about three years but I have lived all over England; I was born not far from Cambridge.
When did you first begin writing?
Oddly enough, before I could read. I know it sounds strange but I used to try and write, both with a pencil and with my father’s typewriter, from about the age of three. I used to have the stories going on in my head and hoped that it would be magically transferred to paper if I just tried hard enough. I was always terribly disappointed when it didn’t happen!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m not sure, really. I guess once I started to be able to actually write! That puts it sometime after the age of five. I wrote stories and poetry from then on. I started to write my first novel when I was ten, taking about a year, though I had produced some fairly long stuff before then.
What is your favorite genre for writing
It’d probably be fiction, though in my time I’ve tried almost everything. I have a fairly ambiguous and uncomfortable relationship with facts and truth, so even though I have had a few articles published in an internationally renowned magazine, these were thankfully pretty subjective in nature. I find poetry something that can drive me at times to write, but what I find I do best is fiction, and longer fiction at that.
Who has been the greatest influence in your writing?
I don’t think any single person has influenced me much. I’ve never had a mentor or a teacher. If I had to mention anyone I guess it’d be the writers who I respect and admire.
What inspires you to write?
There’s something almost demonic inside that fights its way out when I am ready to write. It’s often the result of a fermentation process deep in the unconscious that finally bubbles up with a complete idea.
Externally, the world around me is a great inspiration; nature, people, books, work, travel all feed into this process.
Do you read as much as you write?
No, I probably read an awful lot more! I have a fast reading speed, which means I can read a pretty hefty book in less than a day. I write fast too, but can’t match my reading speed. I do think that as a writer you need to have read very widely. One of the courses in the final year of my degree was The Art of the Novel, which meant I got to read enormous amounts of world literature, but at high speed. I read Moby Dick in an afternoon, War and Peace in three days and had to whiz through some fabulous stuff no one touches much these days. I’ve got a fairly solid grounding in the classics of English literature and it makes me sad that people just don’t want the bother of wading through it when they can watch the film version. I’m glad literature has moved on though; while I enjoy the classics, I can see also that the style has had its day and we need something snappier and more immediate. It would be good if people opted for something like Hardy or Dickens as holiday reads instead of the usual blockbusters; that’s the time when you have time to read something more demanding!
What book are you reading now?
There’s a big pile by my bed. I usually have about six books on the go at once.
Currently the pile consists of: Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence, C.GJung’s Four Archetypes, Jonathan Magonet’s A Rabbi Reads the Bible, Simon Scarrow’s The Eagle’s Prophecy, Ed Glinert’s Literary London (this one is partly for work as I do tours of London as part of my job) Adam Hart-Davies and Emily Troscianko’s Taking the Piss: a potted history of pee (again, partly for work. I’m always on the lookout for Horrible History) and Boris Akunin’s The Winter Queen. I have also the collected poems of T.S. Eliot that I dip into. I’ve just finished the final book in Steig Larsson’s Millenium trilogy too, as well as the first draft of my daughter’s fantasy novel.
Is writing a career for you? If not – can you see it as one?
When I was about to leave university, I had a career’s appointment, and I told the advisor I wanted to write. She laughed at me.
I think that whether or not I have earned a living by writing, it is probably the closest thing I’ve got to a career.
I’m about to launch my first published novel so I guess the answer is very much yes, writing is a career for me. Like all but the most successful writers, I’ll need to stick with the day job too, but since I feel there is so much material to be drawn from said day job, this is not such a bad thing.
Where did your interest in writing originate?
I have always loved stories and words. I suspect my interest came from trying to create more of the stories I had running in my head, and be able to share them with others.
Where can readers find your work online?
You can find details of my novel at www.viviennetuffnell.co.uk
My other writing, apart from at Stories without Words is to be found at my main blog, zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com and at cafecrem.wordpress.com which is a co-authored blog full of exciting artists, musicians and writers. I’m not as active there as I used to be but some of my work is still there.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of writing for you?
Losing myself in a story.
Are you connected to an online writing community
Not as such, no. I don’t really enjoy reading or writing about writing, which seems to be what the forums and writing communities are about. But the WordPress wider community is a rather wonderful place and I’ve met some very lovely and extremely talented people out there.
Some random questions here…
What is your favorite color?
Hmm. To look at, shades of blues and greens and purples. To wear – similar but some earth colours as well.
What is your favorite thing to have for breakfast?
Probably it’s a toss up between kedgeree and the typical German breakfast you get in the Youth Hostels over there. I do love croissants and coffee but it takes a lot of them (about a day’s worth of calories) to fill me up! We had a few days in Scotland last year and had a full Scottish breakfast every day, including Haggis; it was rather wonderful and we didn’t need lunch beyond a biscuit!
Whatever it is, it has to have both tea and coffee; tea to start with and coffee to end with.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself?
Now that’s just silly! Nobody would make a film about me!
What super power would you like to have? Why?
I’d like to be able to fly. I often dream about it and I have on at least one occasion accidentally left my body and gone for a fly around. It’d be so useful in traffic jams!
What do you do to relax?
I find relaxation quite difficult. I’m a tense sort of person. I like music, walking by the sea or in a forest, and I do enjoy gardening. I also keep bees, which is very relaxing; you can sit and watch them come and go all day on a summer’s day and it is very meditative and relaxing. I do meditate too. I also drum.