A Lover of Books

Interview with Vivienne Tuffnell + Competition


Vivienne Tuffnell kindly agreed to an interview for my blog.  Vivienne has written several books.


When did you first start writing?

I began creating stories before I could read or write. My father had a typewriter that I was sometimes allowed to use and I used to bash out strings of letters on that. I somehow believed that the story in my head would appear on the paper. I was about three or four years of age, and one of life’s optimists.

I wrote my first novel when I was ten. I burned it about three years later because my brother gave me such a hard time over it, telling me it was rubbish. I’d begun another one by then which I do still have somewhere, buried deep in a packing crate in the loft.


Where do you get your ideas from?

That’s the question most writers dread because there’s no simple easy answer. Story ideas can pop up from almost anywhere, from a conversation overheard in a station to a musical phrase without words that sets off a feeling. Many of mine come through a process of letting impressions and thoughts sink in, and then I incubate them using active dreaming. I write down vivid scenes from dreams, and some of those start to grow into new concepts, characters and even plots for novels. I also draw a lot of inspiration from poetry.


Can we expect more books from you soon?

I’m in the final stages of getting a new book ready to publish. It’s called Square Peg, and I’m waiting on final edits before the proofreader gets her hands on it. I’m also waiting on news about a cover. The hope is to have it on the market for Easter but as I have a major operation between now and then, I’m not convinced I’ll manage it all. Here’s the blurb so far:

“Chloe is a square peg in an increasingly uncomfortable round hole. Brought up by her wildly unconventional grandmother, she’s a true free spirit and has never learned to pull her punches. She’s just married trainee Church of England clergyman Clifford, and is living at the theological college and trying to figure out what’s going on around her. She’s had very little connection with formal religion, and has a talent for stepping on all sorts of emotional land-mines with the wives of the other ordinands. That would probably be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that her grandmother has inconsiderately died, and left her a house full of exotic souvenirs of her days as a travelling doctor, instructions to track down her father and sister, and what everyone else regards as a really bad attitude. She’s also lost her job, her temper, but not the will to live.

Chloe’s life begins to unravel in ways she could never have imagined as she tries to understand her own background by setting out to find out what became of her sister and father. But trying to integrate her uncompromising approach to life brings her into escalating conflict with the other women of the college, leaving her isolated and friendless. In Clifford’s final year of training, Chloe meets the arty, anarchic Isobel and together they concoct a plan whereby the irrepressible Isobel becomes the mole amid the college wives and they start to undermine and sabotage the status quo with a series of practical jokes and psychological warfare that has terrible consequences for Chloe when things go horribly wrong.”


Have you got any advice for people wishing to write their first novel?

Yes, start about twenty years ago! Seriously, most strong story-lines have been brewing in the unconscious for many years.

I’d also say to read more than you write, in every genre, including ones you don’t like. When you come to write, though, just write. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Get a draft down on paper, shove it in a drawer and forget about it for a good six months, preferably longer. Then you can take a long cold look at it and begin to work with it. Don’t slam it up onto Amazon three days after writing The End. Let it settle first, and then work with what you have. The more expertise you develop, the more likely it is you’ll be able to produce a decent enough first draft that doesn’t need a total rewrite. The figure often quoted is a million words and I suspect that’s not far off. The more you’ve absorbed unconsciously from reading books by respected authors, the more readily your own unconscious learns to shape your work. If a million words sounds daunting, remember a reasonable length of novel is perhaps one hundred thousand words. That means around ten novels is a fair apprenticeship. The ones you write before then will often be reworked much later; it’s probably only your execution of the ideas that’s been at fault, not the ideas themselves. Don’t expect perfection of yourself; that way lies madness. Also, don’t model yourself on a favourite author. Fan fiction is all very well but it’s self-defeating if you want to achieve something truly your own.


Describe a day in your life

I lead a very dull life at present. Most of the excitement and interest goes on in my head.


Who are your favourite authors and have any of them influenced your work?

I did a degree in English and Latin so I have a lot of authors I’ve loved. I’m not sure if any one in particular has influenced me that much; it’s more a general thing. When I graduated, I’d told the careers’ advisor that I wanted to be a writer and she laughed at me. It was several years after I graduated that I read again for pleasure and it was the same for writing. I couldn’t write because my soul was still in such awe of the superb authors I’d spent three years studying. It seemed the height of hubris to start writing after that.


What do you like doing in your spare time?

Watching the fish in my pond. I’ve had some serious health issues so what I like doing and what I’m able to do are rather different things. I used to love long walks in the countryside away from the hurly-burly. I love museums and art galleries and I do enjoy drawing and painting too.


If you had to stay on a desert island and were only allowed to take one book, which would it be?

It’d be a nice big plain journal so I could write down my account of life on the island. Preferably a leather-bound one; I have a thing about lovely leather covered journals.

If I had to say an actual book, it’d be the S.A.S Survival Guide. I have the pocket version of it. I don’t think I’d need anything fictional; I’d stay sane by telling myself stories.


For more information about Vivienne, visit her blog – http://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com

Vivienne’s Amazon pages:-

UK –  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vivienne-Tuffnell/e/B00766135C/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

USA – http://www.amazon.com/Vivienne-Tuffnell/e/B00766135C/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Facebook fan page – https://www.facebook.com/VivienneTuffnellAuthor

Twitter – @guineapig66


3 lucky people have the chance to win a paperback copy of Vivienne Tuffnell’s latest book ‘The Moth’s Kiss’, which is a collection of ten short spooky and creepy stories.

To enter just leave a comment telling me why you love reading.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open to UK residents only.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 13th April 2014.

Winners will be notified within 7 days and their details will be passed on to Vivienne Tuffnell who will send out the prizes.


Good luck! 🙂


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8 thoughts on “Interview with Vivienne Tuffnell + Competition

  1. For me reading satisfies several different needs, and I read different things to accommodate those demands. For example, for entertainment I might turn to Sci-Fi or possibly Fantasy novels. If I want something educational I read history or philosophy. Reading is not always about escapism.

    I read to learn and I read to relax. I read for entertainment and I read for work. Reading is something that you can do anytime, anyplace, if only for a few minutes at a time. I never travel without a bunch of books or a kindle.

    A perfect day is one where I read, where I write and where I spend time with my family. Reading is a fundamental part of who I am and I would be loathe to give it up for anything.

    I know there are those that say they never have time to read. I don’t understand those people.

    For me, reading is not a guilty pleasure. It is as fundamental as breathing.


    • Patrizia Lovell on said:

      I vividly remember when I learnt to read, the moment in which I suddenly understood that A L B E R O (tree in Italian my mother tongue) was the very thing growing outside my school window!!
      I went to the school library and borrowed a book by the end of my first year in primary school I was hooked for life.
      Reading has expanded my horizon, it has comforted me in times of sadness and offered me spiritual guidance when I was more than slightly lost, it has taken me by the hand and got me to places and times I never experienced in everyday life.
      My books are treasured possessions and yes, I am one of those old fashioned people that likes to hold a book that has pages to it, I love their smell of paper and ink, I like the artwork on the cover and the excitement of starting a new story.
      Reading has helped me to realize that we are the same, Europe or America, Africa or Asia, the human heart bleeds tears of pain and frustration and joy, in a Babilon of languages with every shade of skin we have been given we all look up at the same stars.
      My heartfelt thanks to everyone that has the courage to fill pages with words and to the printers that have made all written words affordable to everyone. Who would I be without the gift of reading …?


  2. Pingback: Interview and give-away | Zen and the art of tightrope walking

  3. We all wish Vivienne well today!


  4. I love reading because it is an escape from this world if it is bad or an alternative view of where I live idealised in someone else’s mind (sometimes very, very wrongly). I can be anywhere, with anyone and doing anything – like Vivienne I have health problems that stop me doing what I would like to physically.
    I also adore other people’s sense of humour. I love making people laugh so when I find an author who can make me do the same I treasure them.
    The only drawback to being an author who reads is that I immediatlely have my editor’s hat on and spot every damn, tiny imperfection. Wish I could do the same with my own manuscripts and first drafts!
    Good luck with the forthcoming surgery, Vivienne. BB


  5. Julia on said:

    If I couldn’t read, I would go mad! Went on a month-long Buddhist retreat once and at the end of the second week we weren’t permitted to read anything, not even Buddhist texts. That was it for me. Reading takes me to place I will never go and introduces lines of thought that I would never otherwise consider. Not to read limits one’s horizons and confines a person’s soul. Doubtless fans of the ‘be here now’ school would say that is a good thing, but everyone needs an escape route. I enjoy Vivienne’s writing very much and admire her courage in facing each day. I hope the surgery goes well and gives a good result. J


  6. I read because I enjoy a good story, and because I love words. Sometimes I can enjoy reading a really rubbishy book just because the story is good. Other times I can get wrapped up in a book with a thin plot, because the words flow so well and make such lovely patterns in my mind. But of course it’s best of all when the two aspects come together.


  7. Thanks to everyone who entered this competition. I have now picked the winners and contacted them so do check your inboxes.

    Happy Easter! 🙂

    Sonya x


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