How did you become a writer? Although I’d always written fragments of stories and overheard conversations in notebooks, it didn’t occur to me that these might be signs of becoming a writer until I was in my early twenties. Then I moved out of London to a farm in the countryside and began to write more purposefully.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers etc). Poetry was my first love and if I had to choose ten books to take to a desert island, probably half of them would be poetry: Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Tennyson, Shakespeare’s sonnets. I love short stories and especially American writers of the form: Scott Fitzgerald’s beautiful clear language and lovely sentences and John Updike, too. I very much admire William Trevor and Alice Munro. I love Elizabeth Bowen. And George Orwell’s rules for writers are indispensable.
When and where do you write? In the mornings as soon after breakfast as I can. Sometimes in my kitchen, sometimes in my study. I pace around a lot between paragraphs. A lot of my last novel was written in my car, because my sister was sick with lung cancer and I didn’t want to disturb her by clattering around downstairs.
What are you working on now? A novel about three sisters. It’s about betrayal: the sister who you think is the nice one turns out to be the worst. They’re awful! It’s very enjoyable to write.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Well I’ve only published three books in over twenty years. That was partly because of bringing up three children and partly down to being blocked.
What’s your advice to new writers? Read. Read as much as you can, across as many different kinds of work as you can. When a book is especially vivid to you, take some time to consider why that is and whether it has something you’d like to incorporate into your own writing.
I believe that artists need three things: talent, industry and self belief. If you have at least two of these, you’ll be OK. The most successful writers have all three.
Cressida Connolly is the prize-winning author of a novel, My Former Heart and a short story collection, The Happiest Days. Her acclaimed life of 1920’s Bohemians the Garman family is called The Rare and the Beautiful. Cressida also reviews extensively. She is married and lives on a farm in England.