This month, it’s my pleasure to invite Anne Goodwin to my blog – my first non-Vine Leaves author. Over the past year or so, Anne has been hugely supportive of my novels, and I was recently a guest on her blog. As my mum always told me, when someone invites you to their place, it’s polite to return the favour.
Anne grew up in the non-touristy part of Cumbria, where this novel is set. When she went to university ninety miles away, no-one could understand her accent. After nine years of studying, her first post on qualifying as a clinical psychologist was in a long-stay psychiatric hospital in the process of closing. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, was published in 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, was published in November 2018. Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of prize-winning short stories.
Hi Anne, welcome to the Fountain Pen. What else should my readers know about you?
I’m Anne Goodwin, and I write entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. I’m the author of three novels and a short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. My new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, which has been featured on BBC Radio Cumbria, is inspired by my previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.
I live in a small town in near enough smack in the centre of England, not far from the birthplace of DH Lawrence and the supposed setting for Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
I’m a forty-minute drive from the Peak District National Park, and drew on one of my favourite walks for a scene of parent-child tension in my debut novel, Sugar and Snails. When the pandemic regulations allow, I guide book-loving walkers through the Derbyshire landscape that inspired Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
Nottingham is my nearest city and the main setting for second novel, Underneath. The region’s history of coal mining, and the legacy of the pit closures of the 1980s, inspired the final story in my collection, Becoming Someone.
My fourth book, and third novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, about a brother and sister separated for fifty years is set in Cumbria where I grew up.
How did your writing career begin?
I’ve always loved reading and wrote stories more or less from when I could hold a pencil, but didn’t have the time, emotional energy or confidence to take writing seriously until around fifteen years ago. Having a successful career that required a fair bit of (non-fiction) writing, I didn’t realise how much I had to learn to make a success of fiction.
My goal was always to be a novelist, but I also enjoyed writing short stories and being placed in competitions encouraged me to keep going despite the rejections. My first novel, Sugar and Snails, was published in 2015.
Why literary fiction? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?
The simple answer is that I aspire to write the novels I’d like to read, and I read primarily literary and book group fiction. But the humour in my most recent took me completely by surprise. I thought I was writing a serious story about a girl who is orphaned at thirteen, pregnant by the end of her teens, and forced to give up her baby for adoption. Then she’s stuck in the asylum for fifty years.
I certainly didn’t choose the humour but, once I accepted it wasn’t going to go away, I embraced it. I’m so relieved readers don’t find the humour dilutes the tragedy, but makes it easier to confront it.
Having read Matilda recently, I can absolutely say that the humour and tragedy are perfectly balanced – it’s very well done.
What do you hope your readers take away from your work? What are you trying to achieve?
At book fairs, I try to engage browsers by asking them what they like to read. Often it’s crime or romance – genres I know little about – but I’ll never forget the man who told me bluntly he doesn’t like to read but does so to keep informed about the sorry state of our world. It made me realise that, although social justice is one of my themes, my primary purpose is to entertain.
On the other hand, asked at a recent interview whether I might go for something fluffy with my next book, I cringed. I’d rather scrub the toilet with a toothbrush than produce something as insubstantial as aerosol whipped cream.
So I hope that readers will get more than entertainment from my fiction. Perhaps they’ll learn about a closed culture, such as the weird world of the long-stay psychiatric hospital. Perhaps they’ll develop a deeper understanding of, and empathy for, people who have been marginalised, through their gender identity or psychiatric diagnosis. Perhaps one or two will become more motivated to fight for a fairer world.
Tell us about your most recent publication.
Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home
In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.
Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.
As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.
Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?
In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.
Does social media help or hinder?
Both. I’ve made connections with readers, writers and bloggers, and learnt so much from other authors’ posts. I’ve also wasted a lot of time.
Oh gosh, haven’t we all? 😏
What’s next for you?
A follow-up! From someone who dislikes sequels. Let me explain.
Working on edits during the first lockdown in 2020, I assumed my character, Matty, would be dead. After all, a lifetime of drugs and incarceration isn’t a recipe for longevity. But what if Matty was living on in a care home, approaching her hundredth birthday, expecting a big party?
I began working on a follow-up to keep me sane during lockdown, but the story took off. It won’t happen soon, but I’m looking forward to sharing 100 Candles, 100 Days (provisional title) with readers old and new.
That sounds fantastic, and I’ll look forward to reading that! Thank you so much for sharing your work with me today.