Margaret Graham Interview
Posted on 14 December 2004. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Margaret Graham- novelist, writer-in-residence and co-ordinator of the Yeovil Literary Prize,
Tell us something about your background.
Iíve written 12 novels with several bestsellers amongst them, for publishers such as Random House and Heinemann. Numerous short stories and features for magazines and anthologies, a community play, and the acclaimed writerís handbook, Writing Awake the Dreamweaver. At the moment Iím working on another novel and the second in the Dreamweaver series, the Writerís Springboard.
I have taught creative writing for many years, in the UK and internationally.
Iím Writer in Residence in Yeovil, Somerset, and co-administrator of the exciting Yeovil Literary Prize 2005.
How did you start writing?
I was driven! By a crying baby, my fourth. I just needed a bit of peace, time to myself, and decided to write a book. Donít ask me why. It was to be a record of my motherís life, but of course we donít really know the ins and outs of anyone elseís life, so it soon became fiction. Amazingly it was taken by Heinemann. Be careful with titles. This one I called Only the Wind is Free, and some kind gent at a big library talk in the Midlands stood up and asked if it could be found on the indigestion category.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
Nikki Gemmell, for her spare intense prose and no bullshit attitude. Alan Paton, for his Cry, the Beloved Country, because it moved me, and his writing is superb. James Lee Burke, for the atmosphere he creates. And so it goes on. I have eclectic tastes as you can see.
How did you get your first agent/ commission/ publisher
I just bought The Writers and Artists Year Book and started at A. After 4 years I had reached H. I tried Hamish Hamilton who nearly took it, and suggested I get an agent. The MD suggested his own, and she placed it straight away at Heinemann. Itís a question of being in the right place at the right time.
Before that Iíd been one of the Best Entries in a writing comp for the m.s. which helped my CV.
What's the worst thing about writing?
The hours at a computer, and the isolation. The thought of the number of words one has still to write.
And the best?
The research, the travel and places one has to go. The touring to push the book when youíre let out of the room. The pleasure of seeing your little germ of an idea develop and become a living breathing world, with great characters, who end up making some sense of things, when actually, real life seems to stop us doing that with our own lives Ė too often.
Do you read your work to audiences? Tell us what kind of response you get
I do, sometimes, if Iím doing an after dinner talk or something like that. I do it more when teaching. More to show them the first draft, and then how I worked on it to Ďstay in the momentí and bring it to life in a scene. The first draft is too often TELL not SHOW. This is what is most difficult for students to grasp, as indeed it was for me. The need to create scenes, to stay in the moment, rather than tell the situation.
What was your breakthrough moment?
Being placed in the competition. It gave me confidence.
Comments by other Members