As my first interview of 2017 I speak to Val Poore, author of several memoirs and a novel set in my part of the world- Dorset! Val discusses life on her barge, her background before she took to writing professionally and how the two combine to inspire her varied and fascinating work.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. How do you draw on your previous life experiences when you write?
When I first started writing, I never really thought about my style, so I tried different approaches with each of my first three books. I’m still not sure I have a specific style, but I try to write with attention to both accuracy and artistry, if that doesn’t sound too pompous. I love words and language, so this has a strong influence on my writing. Whether I succeed or not is another matter. Being predominantly a memoir writer, my past experiences are the meat of most of my writing, but that said, I have written a novel about country life in Dorset that leans heavily on my own youth there.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?
I lived in South Africa for nearly twenty years and worked in marketing and communications, so you could say that professionally, writing has nearly always been part of my life. It was only when I came to the Netherlands in 2001 and had to switch from working in communications to teaching it that I started writing for my own pleasure. I wrote my first memoir about my life in South Africa in 2006, although it was only published on Kindle in 2012.
How do you adapt your writing style when composing books based on your own life?
Again, I haven’t thought much about it as I just get on and write, but there is a clear pattern. Two of my memoirs, the ones about my barge life in Rotterdam, are written in the first person present tense. I think that gives them a deeply personal and immediate feeling. The other two are also written from the ‘I’ POV, as is the novel based on my youth in Dorset, but these are in the past tense, so they have more of a narrative feel. My other novel is written from multiple POVs, so I guess the pattern is that I tend to write in the first person when it’s based my own life, and not otherwise.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
I’ve been lucky enough to live in some very interesting places and living on a barge is a constant joy, so material and inspiration are never an issue. For instance, I’ve just finished editing the first draft of a travelogue about cruising in France on our barge this last summer. However, if I get writer’s block about one project, I just switch to one of the others, so it doesn’t trouble me very often. I currently have three books in progress!
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
I’m not sure I’d want to collaborate with anyone on writing, but I’d love to have an artist illustrate my books for me. One of my favourite indie writers, Peter Davey, is also an artist who does wonderful pen and ink sketches. I’d love to include some of his work in my books. We are talking about the possibility actually, but I’ve no idea how to do it yet. It’s on my ‘to do’ list!
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
Well, one of my projects is to write a World War II novel about a Dutch skipper and his wife who get involved with rescuing allied soldiers and helping them to escape. I’m still in the research stage of this book and I really hope I’ll be able to start writing it soon. For me it’s the book I’ve wanted to write for several years, so I’m very excited about the prospect.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the New Year?
I’ve got a list as long as my arm of books I’m looking forward to reading. I’m a voracious crime fiction reader. At the moment, the most eagerly awaited are Carol Hedges’ Rack and Ruin, Christina James’ Rooted in Dishonour and Deborah Crombie’s Garden of Lamentations. I’ve also got three of LM Krier’s DI Darling books to read, but I’ve never read any Val McDermid, and I believe they are great, so that would be a new one for me!
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Just to thank you very much for having me here! I know your blog is mostly given to crime fiction, so I’m honoured to be here as a memoir writer first and foremost. Nevertheless I should mention that being a lover of crime fiction. I am also a Henning Mankell fan, which was what first drew me to your Twitter page, so I can thank crime fiction too for leading me to you!
Thanks ever so much to Val for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been a real pleasure to read about her adventures and I’m always happy to speak to a fellow Mankell fan! You can find out more about Val and her work HERE.