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My First Time with...Abi Andrews

Abi Andrews is a south-east London based writer. Abi studied English and Creative Writing at Goldsmith's University and has been published Tender, The Dark Mountain Project, The Happy Reader and The Bohemyth. The Word for Woman is Wilderness is Abi's debut novel... is joining our fab line-up of all-female authors in honour of International Women's Day, which is taking place on March 15th. Grab your tickets here>>>

Here's the blurb for 'The Word for Woman is Wilderness'...

Erin is 19. She's never really left England, but she has watched Bear Grylls and wonders why it's always men who get to go on all the cool wilderness adventures. So Erin sets off on a journey into the Alaskan wilderness, a one-woman challenge to the archetype of the rugged male explorer. Erin's voyage takes her from her West Midlands home, through the frozen wilderness of the Arctic Circle by foot, husky sled and commercial fishing boats, on across the entire breadth of the American continent and finally to a lonely cabin in the wilds of Denali. On her journey, Erin explores subjects as diverse as the moon landings, The Order of The Dolphin, The Doomsday Clock, shamanism, Ted Kaczynski, the Gaia hypothesis, Henry David Thoreau, the appropriation of native land and culture, Darwin, nuclear war, and the pill - amongst many others. Funny, frank and tender, filled with a sense of wonder for the natural world and a fierce love for preserving it, The Word for Woman is Wilderness marks the debut of a bold new voice in British fiction.

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book? Like my protagonist Erin I watched Into the Wild, the film about American runaway Chris McCandless, who went to Alaska to shrug off society and live alone in the wilderness and find himself, but tragically ate some poisonous potatoes and died. I thought it was really amazing that he went and lived his truth like that, and I decided I wanted to do it too. It started to sink in for me that it would be a totally different story if it was a girl doing it. I decided that I’d go, and I’d make a documentary about it, about being a woman alone in the wilderness. Then I realised that beforehand I would have to graduate from Uni, save the money etc etc, so instead I started to write it.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write your first book?

How useful it is to already have a couple of things published before you start your big project. Not on blogs but somewhere where you get a little peer review, in respected online journals and through story writing competitions and things.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

I like to think I don’t procrastinate but I definitely spend an unconscious amount of time staring at walls and biting my nails.

What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing it?

Well up until very very close to the end the book actually had a second main character, Erin’s best friend Freya who had done the entire trip with her. Then one day I just had this realisation that Freya never existed and sent my editor an email with the subject line FREYA IS DEAD and proceeded to have a meltdown because I thought it was too late in the day to take her out. As it was it took me about two days to remove Freya from the text, so unimportant was she.

Best thing about writing your book?

Just the simple fact of it justifying the act of writing. I really like writing. I like the thought places it takes me and the fact it lets me do all this research and reading and feeling like I’m in a sort of conversation with all these people who are really far away or dead. So once I had the book as I project, I felt excused for spending all my spare time writing.

And the worst?

I’m quite a shy person, and the whole public performance aspect of things really scares me. I’m also okay with the idea of a distant and abstract reader, but the idea of people I know reading the book makes me feel strange.

Go-to writing snacks?

Dry cereal. Especially crunchy nut clusters.

Who or what inspires you to write?

All the great writers I get to read and attempt to pay small homage to.

The book that changed you?

Many many books, but in terms of my novel, reading Silent Spring by Rachel Carson sent my book down a really specific route, and it was also the catalyst for a movement that birthed other books that in turn inspired my own.

Your pump up song?

I can’t listen to music while writing, but if I’m having a break and trying to wake up my dead legs then Pat Benatar, Love is a Battlefield is a pretty good song to do that to.

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer dead or alive, who would it be?

Donna Haraway, I love her so much!

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?

Just read lots. We aren’t very individually original creatures I don’t think, we find ways to take what others have said and add to them in new ways; a conversation. And if you feed yourself lots of good books that resonate with you and that you care about, then you end up making your own writing much more nuanced and rich.

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