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My First Time...Vicky Newham

Vicky Newham, The Riff Raff

Vicky Newham grew up in a village outside Chichester in West Sussex. At 17, she swapped green fields and mud for the city, and studied French and German at university in London. After working in sales and fundraising, and running various businesses, she obtained a Psychology degree.

In 2002, she began teaching Psychology in East London and moved there shortly after that. Vicky left full-time teaching in 2012 and began an MA Creative Writing at Kingston University. She moved to Whitstable in 2013 and has made her home there. She still teaches locally, and spends her days writing and walking the dog. Turn a Blind Eye is her debut novel and was published in April of this year.

She will be joining us at The Riff Raff on Thursday 8th November to read and share her wisdom...

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book.

It was in 2014, and I had to decide what to write for my MA dissertation. The novel that had been clamouring inside my head since 2002 had many characters with cultural backgrounds which were very different from mine, and I wanted to portray these sensitively, accurately and empathically.

So, I decided to use my dissertation as an opportunity to read up on writing outside one’s background, to tap into my supervisor’s market knowledge and expert guidance, and to start writing the book.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?

Quite how hard it is to write a novel, and how much time, effort, resilience and persistence are required. None of this was news, but the extent is greater. That said, it wouldn’t have put me off!

What did you enjoy most about writing it?

For me, writing the novel was about exploring ideas (not necessarily my own) about cultural displacement, the psychology of violence and contemporary urban life. Some of these ideas came from experiences I’d had, working and living in East London, and some came from things I’d seen or heard about, and news items.

What was fabulous was that it helped me to broaden my understanding – and find more questions to ask. So, now I need to write another book!

And the worst part?

Hmm. I had to research some very depressing topics. For example: what it feels like to be strangled; the forensic pathology of strangulation; suicide by long-drop hanging; self-immolation; forced marriage.

It led to some extremely unpleasant dreams, I can tell you, and I’m sure my browsing history is now being monitored.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

Walking the dog. I get chatting, grab a coffee, play with other dogs, have a swim, chat a bit more, realise I’m hungry…fatal (nice though!).

Go-to writing snacks?

Argh. I’m on a strict diet at the moment so nothing exciting! Sob. It’s basically oatcakes with cottage cheese. BD (before the diet), I would have said coffee cake. The soft sponge. The yummy buttercream filling. Hence the diet.

The book that changed you?

Two. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson and Little Face by Sophie Hannah, because they made me realise that crime fiction is a huge genre, and that there is a market for psychological crime fiction.

Your pump-up song?

Ha ha! I don’t listen to music before I write or while I’m writing. It ruins my concentration. I get in the zone when I connect with some aspect of whatever story I’m writing.

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

Lee Child. He’s so cool. I reckon he’d be great company and very funny, have terrific stories, and he’s uber-cool. Did I say that already?

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

Find out as much as you can about the various publishing models so you can decide what will suit you best.

Why do you write?

To explore ideas and experiences: things in life that I don’t understand; things that keep me awake at night; things that make me mad and sad.

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