Interview with Vivienne Tuffnell – part 1

PART 1 – the writing

Here is the first part of my interview with Vivienne Tuffnell, author of Strangers & Pilgrims!

B: Where do you live and write from? Tell us a little about yourself.

V: I live right now on the Sunrise Coast aka, the Suffolk coast, in a small town called Lowestoft. It’s main claim to fame is being the most easterly point in Great Britain. I’ve lived all over Britain, but was born about fifteen miles from Cambridge. I’ve done a variety of things with my life so far, but currently what brings in the shekels is two jobs. I teach English part time and I also work as a courier and a tour guide for an educational travel company that runs tours all over Europe for school groups.

B: When did you first become interested in becoming a writer? What was the deciding moment for you?

V: I don’t think there was a deciding moment; I also don’t think you can decide to “be” a writer. You just are. I believe that writers are born not made.

B: I totally agree with you! Sorry, go on…

V: I started writing before I could read: literally. I used to hijack my father’s typewriter and bash out the stories going on in my head. I was pretty disappointed that no one could read them, but then when you’re three or four, life doesn’t make a lot of sense! I wrote my first novel when I was ten.

B: Where do you find your inspiration?

V: You make it sound as if one might go browsing in a special store for inspiration! “I’ll have a quarter of adventure and a sprinkling of humour please!” and the girl fills up a bag of literary dolly mixtures…

You don’t need to find inspiration, because it usually finds you. I’m being serious now. When people set out to write a book about whatever, it’s usually because the thoughts, the ideas and so on were already there in some form. If they set out to write it without that core of inspiration then the result is sometimes a little lacking in passion and sparkle and becomes like the school assignments- “Write a story about a girl who finds a magic mirror.” You can write well enough in technical terms on subjects others or yourself dictate to you and in some ways, it’s a way of exercising the muscles of writing but it’s not the same as writing from the soul.

In terms of where do ideas come from, well, everywhere and nowhere. I’ve woken in the morning with an entire plot raging through my head and have been at a loss to understand where it came from. Dreams are a good source of material as is life but when you write(well, I can only speak for myself) there is a mysterious alchemy that is going on. You never know quite what is going to come out.

B: I find more and more common things, that’s my view of writing too! Do you put yourself in your stories?

V: The answer is a little complex. In psychological terms, one can only create with whatever is inside oneself, at least to do so convincingly anyway. So characters all come from aspects of self, whether the author recognises this or accepts it or not. Some characters in other novels have made me quite uncomfortable because I have been forced to accept that in certain respects they are me. When you are writing about someone who has done dreadful things and is a truly terrible person, it’s quite humbling to consider that this character has emerged from your own psyche, in some way. Of course, a lot of authors would disagree with this but I stand by my thoughts. “Know thyself” becomes unavoidable when you write; accepting this is perhaps the hardest part.

B: What do you love most (and then least) about what you do?

V: Most? When it flows. Least? When it doesn’t!

B: When and where do you write? Do you have a specific routine?

V: I write at my desk here. I would prefer to have a window to gaze out of but the room won’t allow my desk near it and the window is only small. I couldn’t write “properly” in a coffee shop or anywhere where anyone can see me. I talk to myself, I run my hands through my hair till I look like the Gorgon Medusa after ECT and I mutter and grimace and tap my fingers and sing out of key to whatever is playing on the pc. And I can’t concentrate if there are people around me. I feel as though they might see my thoughts as I work. I have written the odd short story sitting at stations and airports as part of my job, but a thousand or two thousand word tale doesn’t get me as involved as a novel does.

Special routine? No. Because of my two jobs, and my home life, basically I work when I can. The only thing I aim at is that when I sit down to write, I have a minimum word count for a session. I don’t write daily, I don’t write when I have nothing to write. But when I do have a book on the go, I tend to get completely focussed on it to the exclusion of many other things. My greatest word count in one day was 11,000 words; at that time, I had a book burning its way out of me and the whole book took seventeen days to complete.

B: Yay! I love writers who pour out their first draft at high speed (like me!)! Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

V: Quite a few, yes. We aim to release another novel either later this year or early next, but we’re waiting on a cover design. You can find out about that at if you are interested.

B: Thank you, Viv, that will be all for today…

Stay tuned for the second part of this brilliant interview!

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  1. I love author interviews…so interesting to hear how everyone goes about the writing process, and what works for them. Barb, I’m also one to write first drafts “at high speed.” I’m afraid I’ll lose all of the “good stuff” otherwise. Looking forward to Part II of the interview~


    • really, we are kindred souls! 🙂 First drafts at high speed, reading the end first… nice meeting you! 😉


  2. J

     /  07/07/2010

    I enjoyed reading this Barb, thank you for doing it in such a lovely way


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