As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I really have always wanted to be a writer – which is why it means so much to be published now! From a young age – as soon as I could read and write – I loved writing stories. I still remember the thrill of seeing my first small article in print, which was in the parish magazine. Aged around 11, I wrote a poem and entered it in my school’s poetry prize. I loved horses at the time, and my poem was about a mare and her foal taking shelter in bad weather. The headmaster called me to his study and said I couldn’t possibly have written it. I imagine he thought it was beyond the power of an 11-year-old – which now seems very silly, as of course 11-year-olds are far more creative than adults. I remember telling him – quite indignantly – that I’d written the poem in a lesson at his school.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?
It does both. When writing is flowing well, it’s the most energizing feeling in the world. At other times, it can be more of a hard slog. Even when things are going well, there’s only so long you can keep going. When you write, you’re giving of yourself at a very deep level, which can naturally feel quite tiring.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
My book, The Truth Has Arms And Legs, is a collection of short stories. The book’s title is also the title of the last story in the book. It’s about a young Jewish girl in hiding in Berlin in 1942, whose life is saved because she plays the cello. The title refers to a motif running through the story of human limbs (the arms and legs of paper dolls, Auntie’s legs poking from the loft, the cellist’s arm rising and falling). More broadly, it reflects how major events in history are forged, often at great cost, from individual lives.
How do you use social media as an author?
Twitter has been very useful to me as an author. It’s enabled me to find out all sorts of things about the publishing industry and make connections with other writers too. The writing community on Twitter is strong and supportive and I’m really hoping that it can survive.
With my book recently out, I’m trying to use Instagram more, I’m discovering Threads, and of course I use Amazon and Goodreads.
If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be?
It would have to be the Irish writer Sebastian Barry, as I’m such a huge admirer of his writing. His sentences are so exquisitely crafted that I generally read in his books in a state of ecstasy. I loved his descriptions of the sea in his most recent book, Old God’s Time. I imagine if I met him, he’d say: ‘Go deeper, Alice. Go deeper still. Really look at that boiling sea’.
What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
The best advice I’d give is to keep going. Try not to be critical of yourself along the way, and let the words really flow. Also, know that what you write in this free-flowing way is a first draft. Once it’s finished, you can edit it and polish it into a more finished form.
I’d also say, join a writing class, both for the teaching and the support and friendship of other writers, which is invaluable along the way.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love walking with my dog and playing tennis. Many of my writing ideas come to me while out walking. For example, I can pinpoint the exact place on a certain path where I thought of the title, The Truth Has Arms And Legs.
I also find that playing tennis, which is both sociable and competitive, allows me to switch off from writing completely.
What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?
One small risk which really paid off was deciding to shape my stories into a collection and submit them to Fly On The Wall Press last summer. I did this on impulse, after spotting the press had a submissions window open for short stories. Fly On The Wall Press is a small, independent press based in Manchester, England, and I’ve really enjoyed working with the publisher Isabelle Kenyon to bring my collection to life.
What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?
Cups of tea and roasted almonds. I’m snacking on the almonds now.
What’s your writing software of choice?
I use plain, old-fashioned Word. Perhaps one day I’ll make the change to Scrivener. For now, I find there’s so much whirling in my head as I write that I like to keep my software simple.
Instagram & Threads: @alicefwrites