Thursday 29 November 2012

Writer - Carol Twinch

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Carol Twinch.  Enjoy.

Carol Twinch

Hello Carol.  Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Carol Twinch and I am based in Suffolk.  I was born in Eye and went to school in Harleston (Norfolk) and Lowestoft.
Ah Lowestoft.  I've heard that there's a lot of writing talent there!  How long have you been writing?
Since I was 15 – so a long time!       
What first got you interested in writing?
My father was an agricultural journalist and my brother went into newspaper journalism and is now a feature writer on The Australian: I don’t remember a time when I hadn’t thought of writing.  My daughter is now a journalist, my nephew writes poetry and I have a cousin who has written over 30 books, so perhaps it’s something in the genes!
Do you attend a writing group?
Not now but for many years I was a member of the Norwich Writer’s Circle which I found very enjoyable and valuable.  I would advise any new writer to join a writing group as it always helps to talk things over with others of similar ambition.

I am also a member of the Society of Authors, East Anglian Writers and the Guild of Agricultural Journalists which helps me to keep in touch and I attend their functions when possible. 
What genre(s) do you write?
Mostly social and local history but I have written short stories.  I suppose I followed the advice ‘write about what you know’ and as I knew something of rural life, and had an interest in local history, I tended to specialise in that area.  When I lived near Norwich I worked as a freelance for BBC East TV, Radio Norfolk and Anglia Television in various capacities which gave me an insight into that aspect of the media.

I once wrote a novel and sent it off to Mills and Boon.  They rejected it because it was too long and the storyline wasn’t strong enough but said that the dialogue ‘sparkled’ and they would look at it again if I shortened it.  At about the same time I sent a script off to the BBC Archers producers.  That too was rejected only this time the letter said that my dialogue was not ‘sparkly’ enough.  Strange that the same word should be used about my work by two completely separate editors who had differing opinions.  Just shows how important it is being in the right place at the right time and why making a break-through is sometimes just the luck of the draw. 
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
I have only ever written one poem!  Poetry eludes me, at least for the moment, though I have some affection for the familiar 19th century classics that we all had to learn by heart at school.  I don’t see myself ever writing poetry but then again, never say never!
You seem to have your finger in many pies with writing for various media outlets, plus your one poem.  What other types of things do you write?
As I said, I write mostly local and social history, topography and the arts.  I have been editor of various publications and have written numerous articles and pieces for magazines and newspapers and contributed to one or two anthologies.  I also review books and am currently a member of the theatre review team for the East Anglian Daily Times.  One of my short stories was shortlisted for the Ian St James awards and published in New Writer.  I think writing competitions can be a good way for new writers to get published.
Have you ever won any writing competitions?
I've only entered the Ian St James and I didn’t win, just shortlisted. 

One of my books The Little Book of Suffolk won an award in the 2008 East Anglian Book Awards 
What else have you had published?
As well as the aforementioned articles, reviews, etc., I have had 17 books published.  The new one is The Norwich Book of Days due to come out mid-October. 
What has been your experience with agents/publishers?
I once had an agent, many years ago, who negotiated a book for me with the Lutterworth Press (Women on the Land, Their Story during Two World Wars, 1990).  However, half way through the publishing process she decided to give up her literary agency and return to being a solicitor.  Unfortunately I was not able to stop her receiving a percentage of the advance, in spite of her no longer representing me, and as it turns out she got me a very mediocre contract.  Happily I persuaded the publisher not to send her an on-going royalty percentage.  I suppose that I should have tried to get another agent then but didn’t, having been put off the idea, and have never tried since.  I often think that if I had got another agent at that point of my writing career he or she might have been able to take me in a more successful or varied direction, but I shall never know!
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
Yes, I have self-published three books, chiefly because they were not main stream subjects and I preferred to have absolute control over their distribution.  Two of them are about St Walstan (the East Anglian Patron Saint of Agriculture and Farm Workers) and the other is Tithe War 1918-1939: The Countryside in Revolt.  I did offer Tithe War to a local publisher but having shown initial interest in the end decided it was too big a project for him to take on. 

Three of my books are currently available as eBooks but, if the truth be told, I prefer real books to eBooks.  I understand the need and modernity of eBooks but think that the two are very different in nature and appeal.  I have not written a book specifically as an eBook and would probably not contemplate it, even if asked.  But, as I said, never say never! 
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
This is a question perhaps more properly addressed to a novelist.  I am not sure that anyone particularly influences me but when writing about, say, Suffolk or Norfolk it is impossible to ignore writers down the ages who have commentated or written on the subject.  I particularly like diaries and the immediacy they evoke.  My favourite author is Evelyn Waugh.
Do you have a writing routine?
If I have a book on the go I write most of the time, that is the computer goes on about 8am and is turned off sometimes around 10pm.  Of course I’m not working all the time as I often have to go on research trips or to a library.  If deadline is approaching it gets pretty intense.  Between books I tend to try and escape the computer but that isn’t very practical and I do something, even if it’s only making notes, most days. 
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
It’s always satisfying if you’re doing a piece and it comes out just right and what appears on the page is approximately what was in your head.  Doesn’t always happen, naturally!

The least enjoyable is sitting in front of the computer screen for long stretches.  
What is the most valuable piece of advice you've been given with regards to writing?
Some years ago my journalist brother told me that when writing an article, book or whatever, it is important to keep a single thought or theme in mind and relate everything to it.  Don’t try and capture the world, or be too smart, or pack in all you know about a particular subject into one article.  Good books and films usually have a single idea and each chapter or sequence brings out an aspect of that idea for either good, evil or both.
I'd never thought about it like that.  I may have to go back and do quite a bit of editing now!  What advice could you give to a new writer?
Don’t write to be famous, write to express yourself.  Of course everyone has an equal chance of coming up with just the right piece at just the right time and making it big, but until that happens just keep plying your trade and building a reputation.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotes?
Yes, it is from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ which advises ‘… If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two imposters just the same’.  Writers always have to guard against either imposter getting the upper hand. 
Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
No.  I am advised that I ought to have a website but so far I haven’t got around to it. 
What are you working on at the moment?
As mentioned previously, I have a new book coming out this month so I will be promoting that between now and Christmas.  I don’t have anything specific in the pipeline but lots of possibilities.  I’m thinking it’s time for a change of direction.  I want to write something different and original and have taken this summer off to think about it.  Watch this space!
I certainly will!  Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you for asking me to take part in your project and I wish you all success with your writing and other artistic pursuits. 
And thank you, Carol, for taking part.  It has been very interesting.  Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
Extract from WALKS THROUGH HISTORY: IPSWICH (DB Publishing, 2011) 
The Great White Horse is the only surviving inn that can be traced in Corporation records to before 1571.  Evidence exists for an inn or hostelry to have stood here since 1518 but undoubtedly its origins are much older.  The White Horse Inn (the Great did not appear until the early 19th century) has always been the largest and most prestigious in the town: George II stayed here in 1736 and Lord Nelson in 1800 (Walk 7).
Its chief claim to fame is an association with Charles Dickens (1812-70) for it was here that the famous novelist and commentator stayed on his several visits to the town in the 1830s.  He came here first in 1835 the year of the Municipal Reform Act to record the disreputable goings-on that then passed for electioneering and which later featured in The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1836-7).
Dickens was very critical of the Great White Horse and in particular the stone statue of ‘some rampacious (sic) animal with flowing mane and tail, distinctly resembling an insane cart-horse’ which stood above the main entrance. 
He used the inn’s idiosyncratic layout to good effect declaring that it was famous in the neighbourhood ‘in the same degree as a prize ox ... or turnip ... or unwieldy pig’.  The rambling nature of the building, with its labyrinths of uncarpeted passages and mouldy, ill-lit rooms, resulted in the famous scene when Mr Pickwick’s nocturnal wanderings led him mistakenly into a room where stood ‘a middle-aged lady, in yellow curlpapers, busily engaged in brushing what ladies call their backhair’.
So uncomplimentary was Dickens about the Great White Horse that the landlord, William Brooks, threatened him with a libel action. 
© Carol Twinch 
Thank you very much Carol.

1 comment:

  1. I read one of Carol's books some years ago on the Tithe War in East Anglia and found it very interesting, as I was in the grain trade and animal feed business. I have some material on agricultural policy which she might find interesting and also found some references to the Tithe War in an unexpected place. Could you please ask her to contact me or send me her email?

    My email is