2 February 2012
Author Interview: Polly Williams
Q1. Please tell me about your new book, The Angel At No. 33.
It’s a love story but an unusual one because it’s narrated by a recently deceased wife. It answers that question, ‘What if something happened to me?’ hopefully with lots of humanity and humour.
Q2. What happens to Sophie is probably any woman's worst nightmare, especially when you are leaving a young child behind. As a mum yourself, how hard did you find it to write Sophie's story, and did you get emotional writing it?
I did sniff quite a bit while writing it. But equally I found it cathartic. I think lots of us go to those darker ‘what if’ places in our heads. Fiction is a safe place to explore them, both as a writer and a reader.
Q3. The Angel at No. 33 is very different from your other books, with your choosing to put it a perhaps magical element with Sophie narrating and watching over the action despite her death. What made you choose to write it like this, and did you find it fun to write Sophie as a character who couldn't actually interact with anyone else in the book?
I hugely enjoyed writing the playful afterlife twist – it was a lot of fun to write. But I did try very hard for the book not to feel too magical or whimsical which is why the dead heroine’s voice is gutsy – she’s still vivacious. No, she can't interact but it is her death and the legacy of her love that directs all the action.
Q4. This is your sixth book - do you find it easier to write each book as you go on, and do you have a favourite amongst your books?
My favourite book is this one – I hope it’s both funny and sad, and it’s certainly excited heartfelt responses from its readers so far.
Q5. Your books involve women going through various issues in their lives - where do you draw inspiration from your stories, and are they ever based on things you've experienced in real life?
I’m not wholly sure why I choose one idea over another, other than that something about one particular idea makes me want to write it. I wish I could give you a more intelligent answer! The stories are not always based on things I’ve experienced – not dead yet! – but they are based on scenarios that I’ve pondered and imagined and that I see friends of mine pondering too.
Q6. What is the most challenging thing about being an author?
It’s an insecure profession, if one can call it that, capricious and unpredictable. It makes acting look like a steady job. This also makes it seductive too, of course. Anything is possible.
Q7. Who are some of your own favourite books and authors? Do you enjoy reading 'chick lit' yourself?
I love so many authors I always find it impossible to list favourites but Oscar Wilde, Raymond Carver, Jane Austen are authors I return to again and again. The ‘chick lit’ authors I enjoy tackle big issues with a light touch: Miriam Keyes, Melissa Bank, Jojo Moyes to name a few.
Q8. How do you feel about the term 'chick lit' and your books being classified as such? Are people right to give the term such a slating?
I’m not sure it’s fair to give such a diverse range of women’s fiction the same label, even if publishing needs a shorthand. There are women writers who might not be in that genre if they were male. That said, for me, the most important thing is that readers know about, read and enjoy my books. I'm just delighted if they find me: I don't mind how they get there.
Q9. Are you working on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell me anything about it?
Yes, ploughing into my seventh book. I hate talking about them before they’re finished though as I think I’ll jinx it. Sorry!
Q10. Finally, what's the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
‘A writer writes.’ Not sure who said that but it’s the ultimate advice. You’ve got to sit down, put one word in front of the other…the only way.