in conversation with vivienne tuffnell
I am sat curled up in an arm chair with a nice cup of coffee by my side (I have just been corrected by Viv who claims it is an awesome cup of coffee) and I am surrounded by books as well as two cats who are looking at me as if I am an intruder…but except for the cats I have been welcomed as if I was part of the family.
Viv is sat across from me with an equally awesome cup of coffee, (at least according to her) while her husband is cooking roast duck, which, if the smell of it is anything to go by, I am in for a dinner worthy of a King. I have often had this image in my head of what a writer may look like based on their work and the real Viv is not far from how I imagined her.
Viv, first of all thank you for agreeing to do this, I get the feeling that you are not keen on the idea of praise?
It’s not so much praise as gush!
I also have an unfailing radar for bullshit when it comes to insincerity. I know I write well; that’s not false modesty. But I guess I prefer it if praise comes with a real sense of engaging with what someone is praising; I like to know what exactly they liked. On a purely personal level, yes, I do have a problem with praise because it makes me uncomfortable; it changes the relationship and if it gives me no opportunity to reciprocate that leaves me feeling unhappy. In the world of the Celts(who I claim some kindred with) a gift MUST be met with another gift. So to receive praise I need to be able to do more than gabble“Thank you!” and run away. It’s all about relationship I think.
I understand your point but from my perspective you write in way that keeps my attention and very few authors have achieved that. No need to reciprocate by the way!
Where did the inspiration for Strangers & Pilgrims come from?
Actually a lot of places. I did write at the start of the book that the Wellspring is a real place and indeed it is. But the characters have been around in my head for a while. Some of the events are from dreams. Some of the places are real famous places too, like Glastonbury and Bath. I think it was quite hard to write because it was such a different task, to write from the perspectives of six different people. And each of those characters is a facet in certain ways of my own…
I can imagine because they are very different and yet they seem to search for the same thing, a relief from the pain they are feeling. What really drew me into the story was the fact that I felt I was part of the journey. Sometimes it was as an observer but sometimes I felt I was actually part of the story. How much of the story is purely fiction and how much is based on your own experiences?
Hmmmm….that’s a hard one because in some ways it’s all fiction but it’s also all true. The incident that I can say did happen to me was the time when Ginny was taken to Avalon; I camped at the foot of the Tor many years ago now and woke in the night. Wandering through the campsite a heavy mist descended and I actually became lost in it, trying to find the bathroom block which was only about 30 yards away from my tent. It was very eerie and I felt very certain that if I just did something or said something I could part the mists and travel to the land of Avalon. Needless to say, I didn’t, but at times I still wonder what would have happened if I had.
You seem to have a very active imagination to which I can relate as my imagination often take over from reality. However, I often wonder, is there a price to pay for the creativity involved in writing a book?
Yes. Unequivocally yes. Sometimes it’s enough to make me want to stop it dead in its tracks . But it’s worth it when I have finished a piece of work. There is something mysterious about how it all happens to come together without me having to direct it; a story has a life of its own when you let it have its head.
Can you give us an example of when the price made you want to stop it dead in it’s tracks?
To answer this I think I need to backtrack a little. You know me quite well and you know about the depression I’ve suffered much of my life. It’s all connected with that, I think. Part of clinical depression is about brain chemicals but in my own case, some of it is to do with having too few skins to cope well with life. Much of my life I’ve been told I am “too sensitive” and to “toughen up”, which is really not a lot of use. I wonder if what makes me able to write is also what makes me so subject to depression. When I am writing a book, it flows generally with such ease as to be almost automatic writing; I don’t really concentrate. I just write. Things come out as if out of nowhere. Entire plots materialise, out of a few random thoughts, with such power I find myself unable to sleep for days at a time. But that has to come out of somewhere very deep, so deep as to be inaccessible to my conscious mind and those deep places are often the same ones that are involved with my depression, and the same memories and feelings. So in some ways, writing is a therapy; it takes away the pain. But at the same time, the depths that are creating the pain are what I use for the writing. Chicken and egg. I’m not sure I can explain it better than that. The downside, the things that make me want to shut it all off, result in spending days unable to leave the house, weeping uncontrollably at the silliest things and sometimes wishing I might die, well, I do ask myself if it’s worth it. When I have finished a book, or even a short story of poem and I feel I have been present at an act of magic, then I do think it’s worth it, especially when people tell me how much they enjoyed something and how it has helped them. Your comments regarding one novel in particular have touched me very deeply indeed. So that’s another reason why I wanted so much to have the novels out there and available for people to read.
I have often been told that I am too sensitive and that I think too much so I can easily relate to that. I don’t remember the exact nature of the comment but I do know the novel you are referring to and in my humble opinion it really has to be out there.
I remember telling people about the synopsis when I was on a training course and their jaws dropped, which was immediately followed by “where can we get it?”
It wasn’t so much a comment as a series of comments relating to a particular character.
I know the one!
When did you make the decision to go for the self publishing route and how do you feel about the book now being out in the public domain?
That was last April.
I feel good about it. I’d like to see wider sales and availability but that’s something we can work on.
What’s next in terms of further releases?
OK, well I am working on something very exciting which I hope to have released by the end of this year but it may be early next year. It all depends. You can’t hurry these things. I’ll keep you posted; you’ll probably be one of the first to know!
I’m usually working on a few things at once, but like almost all writers, I do have a day job too (well, actually three which sort of add up to almost one if you know what I mean) and a home and family and friends to take care of. I’m also a beekeeper so I have a good fifty thousand little ladies to take care of too. My life provides as much inspiration as it does distraction though. I don’t think I’d want to sequester myself to write, at least not for long; life around me is what gives the little nudges and clues about the stories I am thinking about. I love listening in to people around me; it gives snapshots of other lives that somehow are very enthralling. But life is like that I guess.
The most mouth-watering roast duck has just appeared from the kitchen and with that, this chat came to a natural end as we gathered around the table to enjoy the most wonderful feast cooked by Viv’s husband.
More importantly; if you haven’t already picked up a copy of Strangers & Pilgrims, please do yourself a favour and do so.
It will take you on the most wonderful journey, not just as an observer, but a journey that will be personal and unique to you.
For those of you who prefer the instant download version, go HERE
For those of you who prefer to curl up with a physical book, go HERE