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Interview with Paddy Richardson


Paddy Richardson is the acclaimed writer of 'The Company of a Daughter', 'A Year to Learn a Woman', 'Hunting Blind', 'Traces of Red' and 'Cross Fingers', delighting readers with her thrilling psychological crime novels. Paddy has lectured and tutored English Literature at University level and has taught on many creative writing courses. She has won numerous awards, including the University of Otago Burns Fellowship in 1997, the Beatson Fellowship in 2007 and the James Wallace Arts Trust Residency Award in 2011. She has also been a finalist in the Ngaio Marsh Awards. In 2012 she was invited to attend the Leipzig and Frankfurt Book Fairs. 'Swimming in the Dark', released in April 2014.

What is a typical working day for you?

I like to write in the morning, so, first comes coffee, breakfast and then around nine I'm facing that screen. How long I write very much depends on how the writing's going but generally I work into the early afternoon and then I like to have a walk on the beach or a swim. I often find the best solutions to problems or just moving on with a story and finding out about a character happens when I'm away from the screen and thinking about something entirely different. I think creative work needs a lot of conscious effort - the task of facing the blank screen on a regular basis - but you also have to let the unconscious have a go! I also incorporate reading into my day - reading other writers is part of what helps hone my own craft and is constantly inspiring.

What are your three favourite books of all time? And why?

Only three.... well, here goes.I have to select Janet Frame's autobiographical trilogy - 'To the Island', 'An Angel at my Table' and 'The Envoy from Mirror City'- because of her own story of how she overcame huge adversity on her way to becoming a writer. As well as that, I love the wonderfully sensitive way she places words together, the creativity of her descriptions and her honesty in the way she depicts her family and childhood. She also has a very sharp sense of irony and humour. 'Plumb' by Maurice Gee because of the layers of meaning and the imagery and the way he so skilfully shows character. I read this novel again from time to time and find something new every time I read it. The character of Plumb, himself, is compelling; idealistic, wanting to create a new and marvellous society and yet so sadly missing the everyday realities of his own family. A new book I've just found and utterly loved is 'The Chaffinch'. So skilfully written, wonderful characters, a story that keeps you turning the pages but enough skill and depth and richness in the writing to read it again and again....great stuff!

Which author do you admire most? And why?

This is so difficult because it's hard to leave out the 'classics' but I'm going to select a contemporary writer, Sebastian Faulks. His writing is perceptive, lyrical, sharp and his novels are often so very different in subject matter yet he manages to create authenticity in each one of them. For example,' Engleby' is so different from 'Birdsong' and then we have his latest, 'Jeeves and the Wedding Bells' which is utterly different again. I admire the range and depth of his writing and, besides that, I've been so absorbed in every one of his novels that I've had that awful feeling heading towards the ending that, oh no, it's about to finish....and to me that's the sign of a great book.

What tips would you give aspiring writers?

Everyone has their own ways to write, of course, so what worked and works for me may not work for everyone. I found, though, that going to a writing course was initially good because of the information and experience you can pick up about the craft of writing and, also, because you meet and talk with other writers. After that, either joining a writers' group or making up your own can give you both support and feedback. Other than that: read widely and critically,taking note of what other writers do well. Set aside space and time to write in and guard it. Keep a journal recording your ideas, thoughts and observations; some days you may only have the time to write a fragment, but that fragment may grow. A first draft can come freely from the heart but the following drafts need to be governed by your head. Believe in your unique interpretation of your world. And keep writing!

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