Wednesday 14 March 2018

An Interview with Mandy Huggins

Today I welcome to my blog Mandy Huggins whose lovely collection Brightly Coloured Horses we have recently published through our Chapletown imprint.      

What made you become a writer in the first place? 

I inherited a love of travel from my parents, so as well as being a fiction author, I’m a keen travel writer.

What sort of things do you write?

My first writing success was winning third prize in the school literary competition when I was eleven, with a love poem about George Best! I’ve written stories and poetry for as long as I can remember, but I only started writing seriously a few years ago. My partner was tired of me telling him I was a writer when I didn’t write anything, so he bought me a laptop for my birthday to quash all my excuses for not getting on with it! The first pieces I wrote were for specific competitions, as I found the deadlines were a useful incentive. I sent a travel piece to the Daily Telegraph every single week until they published me! 

Do you have  a writng routine?

I have a full-time day job in engineering, so I write in the evenings and at weekends. My partner writes too - a very popular niche music blog - so we both understand each other’s need for creative space!

Do you have a dedicated writing space?

Yes, I do, but I don’t have an office, or even a desk. I sit by the window in my living room and write with my laptop on my knee. All my notebooks and writing books are stashed away in a big wicker box at the side of me. If I think of ideas while at the day job, I scribble them on post-its, which live tucked away inside my laptop until I’ve acted on them. And I carry a tiny Smythson notebook in my handbag at all other times.

When did you  first start calling yourself a writer? Do you in fact call yourself a writer?

I think I decided I could call myself a writer when I was first published. It’s a thorny subject this one! I have had many spats on social media with people who think that if you have a day job then you’re not a writer - you’re a ‘hobby writer’. However, I need to eat as well as write! If someone asks me what I do, my answer is, ‘I work in engineering, and I’m also an author.’

Are your friends and family supportive?

Friends and family are supportive - but non-writing friends don’t always understand why I can’t give up the day job and ‘just write’! And recently, when I’ve been promoting my flash fiction collection, Brightly Coloured Horses, I’ve become a little tired of male colleagues and acquaintances saying, ‘I’m sure my wife would love a copy.’ Grrrrr.

What makes you proud?

I'm very proud that I will have two books published this year. As well as Brightly Coloured Horses, my first full length short story collection, Separated From the Sea, will be published this year by Retreat West Books, I would love to write a literary novel or a full length travel book, but my writing time is limited, and I can’t seem to give up the buzz of writing short fiction and travel pieces.

Which writers influence you?

My fiction is influenced and inspired by many of the great writers that I love - such as Yoko Ogawa, Helen Dunmore, Ernest Hemingway, Richard Ford, A L Kennedy, Helen Simpson, John Steinbeck, Tessa Hadley, Patti Smith, Colm Toibin, A M Homes, Kazuo Ishiguro - the list is endless!

There are many books I would love to have written, such as The Siege by Helen Dunmore, The Housekeeper & the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway, or the wonderful Jane Eyre. But the one that stands out for me is The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I love all his books, but this is my favourite. It is so beautifully written. A story of a life lost to duty; unsentimental and utterly heartbreaking. A masterpiece.

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