"I'm a writer on the loose after twenty five years in prison. It's true, and I really do still appreciate my days without bars and gates and keys. I'm also a mother of two grown ups, a failed artist, a Francophile, a southern girl living in exile in the frozen but beautiful North.
My novel Sometimes a River Song, is set in 1930s Arkansas and it’s the story of a young girl, Aiyana Weir, and her struggle to learn to read and to escape the brutal, masculine world of the river community in which she lives. The story is told in her voice and it has it origins in Eating Words, a short story I wrote which was shortlisted for the Manchester Prize for Fiction.
I write what is generally described as literary fiction, both short stories and novels. I'm interested in: landscape, the place we come from and how it shapes us, our dark past, life on the margins, childhood, women's struggle, the desire to escape. Whether I like it or not my books are always full of water - I grew up on a tidal creek in the Somerset Levels - and full of the women I met in prison."
Do you have another job or are you a full time author? If you do something else (surgeon? Chicken sexer?) what is it and do you like it?
I'm a full time author now but in my previous incarnation I worked in a women's prison in County Durham, first of all as a teacher, later as a senior manager.
Why did you start writing?
I started writing because a writer in residence, Wendy Robertson, was appointed to the prison and she worked a lot in my classroom. We hit it off instantly. She persuaded me to join a writing workshop she'd started for the staff, and that was the beginning. Until then I’d never thought of being a writer, although looking back I see how I was always writing as a child and reading, sometimes two books a day. Wendy told me she thought I was a writer. I didn't think too much about it at the time but a seed
What 3 things are guaranteed to make you smile?
The three things that make me smile are: my kids, a rainy day and a box set.
I'm currently watching House of Cards on Netflix but my favourite is probably Breaking Bad or the Sopranos. And last but nowhere near least, people watching on a market day in the Languedoc : cafe, notebook, glass of cold, cold, white and sun, all the way. I'm thinking that's more than 3 but I'll let it pass...
Do you have a secret never published (and never will be published) novel hidden somewhere?
If I did and it was a secret I wouldn't tell you would I? I'm thinking that's a yes then, though members of the jury, you should disregard this evidence.
Do you have any pets? If yes, what, and do they help or hinder the writing process?
No pets. We used to have a family cat, called Daisy. She was a rescue cat, the best cat ever and totally irreplaceable.
Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
There are just too many authors I love to single one out. But authors I love or have loved include (straight from the bookshelf behind me) : Thomas Hardy, Martin Amis, Helen Dunmore, Alice Munroe, Alice Hoffman, T C Boyle, Simone de Beauvoir, Michele Roberts, Bob Dylan, Ken Kesey, Rose Tremain, Ian McEwan, Bruce Chatwin, Raymond Carver, Siri Hustvedt, Lawrence Durrell, Robert Hass, Esther Morgan, Kathleen Jamie, Sharon Olds... (As you can tell from this list my bookshelves are totally disorganised - likewise my Kindle)
I think all these writers and many more influence what I write and the way I write it. Reading seeps in. You have to love reading to write. Since I started writing whenever I read anything I love I'm always asking how did she/he do that? How can I do that?
Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
I've just finished reading We Are Called to Rise, by Laura McBride. Wow! It's fabulous and I wish I'd written it for all kinds of reasons which I've posted about on my blog. I'm also reading a raft of books on Georgian England. I've got a feeling my next novel might be set in London 1756 - but we'll see.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I write anywhere, everywhere: in my room, cafes, hotels, hospitals, waiting rooms etc. But I guess all the serious work is done in my writing room which is on the second floor of the house, it has open views of gardens and trees and the hills beyond. I like to write in the light by a window. Windows are really important to me, probably because in the prison all the windows, including those in the offices, had small cloudy panes of toughened glass and, of course, bars. There was never enough light or fresh air.
Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
My favourite character is Isa, Millie's sister in my Costa winning short story Millie and Bird. She's sixteen and life is tough, even though she's just fallen in love. She's a child carer of sorts. I know her very well.
What is your favourite biscuit?
Favourite biscuits - Rich Tea. Once upon a time it would have been Custard Creams but I had to wean myself off them, too many calories. hmm sounds like are lying to yourself, calories or not I'm taking custard creams as your favourite, rich tea may just be what you eat most!
Tea or Coffee?
Mostly tea but I'm useless without my morning coffee hit. aren't we all
Could you survive in a technology-free world?
My instinct is to say yes, I sometimes dream of escaping to the wilds, and I think there's a me that could survive there, but then I'm really thinking more about what technology carries with it eg social media - this! I sometimes wish it would all go away. Others I love it. I think we all have something of a love hate relationship with it, or maybe not, maybe it's me. I don't do Facebook - I can't bear to live my life out like that but I love the Internet and I can't see me living without it. I love blogging, quite enjoy my phone and my ipad. Although I write in a notebook first then transcribe, there is no way I could write novels without technology.
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is that something bad happens to my children.
If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of a cranberry hummingbird - glistening red as it juicily buzzes among the flowers
As mangoes are the only fruit I would have to go for - a mangocat curled up in the sun under a bodie tree.
Avril Joy’s novel Sometimes A River Song is published by Linen Press
It is also available on Kindle
She blogs about writing and books at www.avriljoy.com
You can sign up for her weekly newsletter here http://www.avriljoy.com/newsletter/
Thank you so much Avril for taking part in Wordy Wednesday - as always readers are encouraged to join in chat on my twitter (hashtag #wordywednesday ) or on Facebook