I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Veronica Zundel. Enjoy.
Hello Veronica, can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Veronica Zundel, and I'm based in North London.
How long have you been writing?
Poetry since around 1970, and published prose since 1978.
What first got you interested in writing?
I've always been interested in writing, from around the age of eight. My degree was in English literature and after a failed attempt at teaching, I got an 'office junior' job with a Christian magazine publisher and they very soon gave me reviews and other short pieces to do. Having had a couple of articles published in the Baptist Times prior to this, helped me to get the job.
Do you attend a writing group? Why/why not?
I don't currently attend a general writing group, although I belong to the Association of Christian Writers, as I find it quite hard to find others doing the same kind of writing as myself for the Christian market. However I have just joined a Poetry Society Stanza group and expect to find a lot of help with my poetry from this.
What genre(s) do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I write anything to help Christians think about their faith and to help them feel they are not alone on their spiritual journey. Bible readings notes (for BRF New Daylight) are my staple, but I have also written a monthly column for Woman Alive magazine (formerly Christian Woman) for 30 years, and have had seven books published with an eighth coming out in January 2013. I feel the need to express my faith through my writing but in particular to help Christians ask searching questions, as well as encouraging those who are finding life difficult and wonder if their faith has anything to say to their circumstances.
I also write poetry for my own pleasure, and have had around 45 poems published, mainly in Christian magazines and anthologies.
Are there any genres that you don’t enjoy writing? Why?
I don't really enjoy news journalism as I am always worried about getting my facts right – I would rather write opinion and personal pieces than factual reports.
Have you ever had anything published?
I have had three anthologies published, of prayers, Christian classics and women's poetry, along with two collections of my Bible notes and columns, and two other books – one on dating, and one on depression. My new book is a reflection on the experience of parenting, especially of parenting a child with special needs, and what it tells us about God's parenting of us. It's called 'Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent.'
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers? Have you received any rejections?
Most of my writing has been commissioned through personal contact with the Christian media in the UK. I don't currently have an agent, and while I have had shorter pieces eg poems rejected, most ideas I have submitted to publishers have developed into books – but these are all publishers I already knew through, for instance, writing Bible notes for them.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing? Why/why not? Are you interested in eBooks, or do you prefer the old fashioned paper-made books?
I am thinking at the moment about re-issuing some of my older, out of print books as e-books. I'm a keen Kindle reader myself!
Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I think I get my inspiration from God! I'm not sure what other writers influence my prose writing, though I often find the style and content of Catholic or Orthodox spiritual literature more inspiring than the bulk of evangelical writing, which too often just reproduces what others have already said!
For poetry, my influences are Emily Dickinson, Stevie Smith and Sylvia Plath. Although I'm not as good as any of them.
We all have to start off somewhere, and we are always getting better. What is your writing routine? Do you write daily or just when you feel like it? Is there a certain time of day where you are at your most creative?
I generally write three to four mornings a week and leave the afternoon for other things. My creativity does tend to dip in the afternoon! A lot depends, however, on how close my deadline is!
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I don't write stories, but with my Bible notes and columns, I start with an idea from life or an idea of what the Bible passage is about, and then start writing without a structured outline. It's different for books, where I have to submit an outline to the publishers before the book is accepted.
Do you have an editing process? Do you have someone else read over your work? Do you read your work aloud to yourself in front of the mirror?
I edit my work very carefully, often because I have very strict word count limits. I am a compulsive proof reader!
Me too. But mistakes still manage to slip through! What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I enjoy communicating ideas clearly, asking the questions no one else seems to be asking, and hopefully making people laugh (or even cry) along the way. I love getting letters from readers saying how my work has touched them. What I enjoy least is getting letters accusing me of being a heretic!
Have you ever attended an open mic night for spoken word performers as either an observer or performer?
Yes, many times, and I always enjoy it – it is a chance to showcase my poetry and get an audience response.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions? Have you ever won?
I have entered many poetry competitions, won a few third prizes and 'highly commended's, and in 2005 won first prize in the Barnet Open Poetry Competition. In 1983, Christian Woman magazine entered me for the Magazine Publishing 'Best specialist columnist' category and I won first prize, pushing columnists from the Mail on Sunday into second and third places. My finest hour!
Congratulations. How important is it for you to share your writing?
Pretty important. I find it hard to write and not have anyone read it. A deadline and an advance are great motivators!
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given with regards to writing?
For poetry: 'kill your darlings'. For prose – I can't actually recall any, except once hearing someone say she wanted to write 'healing stories', which has stayed with as an aspiration.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Read the best literature you can get hold of. Keep sentences short, language accessible, but don't patronise your readers. Never say 'God gave me this poem' – if the poem is bad, it's an insult to God!
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Reading, singing, TV, film.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
The poetry of Emily Dickinson, the novels of Catherine Fox, and the early books of Adrian Plass!
My parents love Adrian Plass. What types of things do you read? Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
I read a mix of 'literary' and 'lighter' fiction, but avoid chick lit and genre novels (except good crime novels eg Ruth Rendell, Kate Atkinson). I mostly read novels by women as I find they are more involved with their characters. I wish my writing reflected more of what I read!
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotes?
How long do you have? I could quote hundreds. A favourite line from a play by the Second World War writer Jura Soyfer is 'Humankind cannot have everything at once'. My favourite Bible quote is Hebrews 1:1: In former days God spoke to our ancestors in many and varied ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through a Son'. It exactly expresses my understanding of how the Bible works.
Do you have a website/blog/twitter/facebook dedicated to your writing?
Our family website is www.makewrite.demon.co.uk, with a page about my work, but I am in the process of getting a new website just for my own work, and possibly another for a particular book.
What are you working on at the moment?
A booklet on 'embodied spirituality' for the Grove Books Spirituality series.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
'If you haven't got anything to say that hasn't been said before, don't write'!
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is the poem that won the Barnet Open:
the first room is all the odd socks,dropped earrings, special Lego pieces,the hook to the eye, the dressthat goes with the button you kept to rememberthe second is what became of your schoolfriendsand the green eyed boy you loved at fourteenthe third is your dead mother, father, brothersmiling as if they’d never stoppedthe fourth is that meeting in a woodbut this time your kiss worksthe fifth is all the people(laughing painting quiet dancing)you wanted to bethe sixth is who you chooseout of all those peoplein the seventh they give you backall you never had
then there’s the last
© Veronica Zundel
Thank you very much, Veronica.