Welsh author Carol Lovekin on the transformative power of Virginia Woolf and the joy of writing in bed with a pot of tea.
My Earliest Reading Memory
Beatrix Potter. My mother read to me when I was a little girl and I had a complete collection of the books. The book I remember best from my girlhood is Ballet Shoes by Noel Stretfeild. (Possibly the most misspelled author name in history.) It had a profound effect on me, as a touching story about orphaned sisters; and it was probably where my love for ballet began.
The Author Who Changed My Mind
Virginia Woolf died three years before I was born. When I was seventeen, I read Mrs Dalloway and although I wasn’t old enough to properly appreciate or understand the subtle nuances of her language, I knew I was in the presence of something – someone – remarkable. Mrs Woolf quickly became a regular part of my reading life. I dip into her diaries on a regular basis – in particular, her writing ones. I love her erudite and often scathing sarcasm, and her authentic honesty about her writing. Once I began taking my own writing seriously, I reread Virginia Woolf with a different eye: reading her process, and realising it often mirrored my own.
“I write two pages of arrant nonsense; I write variations of every sentence; compromises; bad shots; possibilities; till my writing book is like a lunatic’s dream.”
It’s also possible this is where my love for the semi-colon originated.
The Book I Keep Returning To
I read Jane Eyre every year. I love it for its subtle, revolutionary subtexts. Charlotte Brontë was ahead of her time and a protofeminist. She had a genuinely subversive and satisfyingly ambivalent relationship with the nature of romantic love. There was nothing predictable or safe about the life she conjured for Jane.
The Last Book I Bought
At the time of writing – Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford.
Most Recommended Book
So many! I recommend books all the time. Kate Atkinson’s Human Croquet perhaps? It’s one of her lesser known works and, in my view, underrated. And Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
An Unexpected Pleasure
Discovering a ‘new to me’ author and finding out they have written more than one book!
I Would Love To Have A Drink/Dinner With …
Suzanne Moore, Joanne Rowling, Maya Forstater, Julie Bindel, Rosie Duffield, Jane Garvey and Jenni Murray.
My Favourite Writing Place
My bed. Most mornings, I’m inordinately happy with an unlined artists’ sketchpad, a couple of sharp pencils and a pot of tea on a tray. I do a great deal of writing by hand.
I Wish I’d Written …
There are no books I wish I’d written; they are other people’s stories and for me, sacrosanct. I do however – and frequently – read a sentence or a paragraph and think, ‘I wish I’d written that.’ Reading someone else’s excellent prose enhances my reading experience and it the way, as a writer, I continue to learn.
Carol Lovekin: The Lowdown
Carol Lovekin was born in Warwickshire and has worked in retail, nursing and as a freelance journalist and a counsellor. She is now a full-time writer living in Wales, a country she views as her adopted home and which has a strong influence on her fiction.
She describes her stories as ” touching the Welsh Gothic & its most powerful motif: the ghost. They concern the nature of magic & how it threads through the fabric of our lives. I set my stories in Wales, where I’ve lived for several decades: a place whose legends & landscapes inform my writing.”
Her debut novel Ghostbird was published by Honno in 2016. It was a Guardian Readers’ Choice that year and longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize (run by The Guardian) in 2016. Her third novel , Wild Spinning Girls published in 2020 was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year (Rhys Davies Trust) Fiction Award.)
Her lates novel Only May will be published by Honno on May 19, 2022.
You can follow Carol via her blog Making It Up As I Go Along and at Twitter @carollovekin
I’ve read two of Carol’s novels. My review of Ghostbird is here. I’ve also reviewed Snow Sisters.
Synopsis of Only May
Listen. The bee walks across my finger, slow as anything and I can see through the gauzy wing, to the detail of my skin. You aren’t looking in the right place. If you look her in the eye and tell a lie, May Harper will see it. And if she doesn’t see it, the bees will hum it in her ear.
Her kind mother and her free-spirited aunt have learned to choose their words with care. Her beloved invalid father lives in a world of his own, lost in another time, the war he cannot forget.
On May’s seventeenth birthday, a casual evasion from her employer hints at a secret hiding at the heart of the family. Determined to discover the truth, May starts listening at doors… She begins watching the faces of the people she loves best in all the world, those she suspects are hiding the biggest lie of all.
Publication date: 19 May 2022