Write on in Hastings – MARCIA WOOLF
Pete Donohue catches up with hastings author Marcia Woolf ahead of the imminent publication of her second novel
Woolf confesses to being a late starter. Although she’s ‘always written’, it was the long train commute between the South coast and her job in London that provided the time to think and write.
“I’d started work on what eventually became my first novel, Roadkill, by scribbling longhand in notebooks on the journey. Then, as is the way with many a would-be novelist, the early manuscript got put in a drawer for a couple of years.”
In 2012 Woolf relocated along the coast from Bexhill to Hastings Old Town, which coincided with being able to cut her working week down to three days, but the catalyst to finishing the novel was joining the ‘very lively and supportive’ Hastings Writers Group.
After some success in various national writing competitions and publication in a couple of anthologies, “I blithely sent the first three chapters off to a publisher I’d seen mentioned in Writing Magazine, in the hope of getting nothing more than some (ideally constructive!) advice about what to do with it. I was astonished when Crooked Cat Books came back to me within a couple of weeks to say they’d like to see the rest. Roadkill (so much snappier than the original working title of Paid to Night) came out as an e-book in June 2016, and then as a paperback.”
Does she regret not starting her writing career sooner? “With hindsight, probably yes. But then I’ve been lucky to find a publisher so quickly – it would have been very dispiriting to stick at it for years and not get anywhere. I’m not sure I could have gone through the endless rounds of submissions and rejections.”
Her editor was the one who suggested that there could be a sequel – which Woolf says she hadn’t considered up to that point – and Cut Out will be appearing on 6 June 2018, again in e-book and paperback format.
“I love the cover, which I think really captures the ‘mad, bad and dangerous’ relationship between two of the main characters, but hints at the fact that, like Roadkill, it’s intended as a fun read and not a novel for fans of forensic accuracy and police procedure.
Sometimes people ask if Cookie, the central character, is really me – which is a bit alarming, because she’s a textbook sociopath – and a man at a bookfair asked quite seriously if Roadkill was an autobiography even after I’d told him it was about murder! It’s always fun meeting readers though and, like most writers, I’m happy to talk about my work.”
There is a new novel in progress: based on a true story about the disappearance of three middle-aged men, which the author spotted in a local newspaper during a visit to Dorset.
“Local newspapers are a fantastic source of ideas for stories, and I usually pick one up when we’re on holiday in the hope of finding something weird and wonderful as inspiration.”
It might be some time before the new book appears on the shelves, due to a new project: helping to set up the first Hastings Literary Festival. With Sir David Hare as Festival Patron, there are author talks, writing workshops, a book fair and a range of other literary events from 31 August to 2 September this year.
“We thought Hastings needed another festival!’ she laughs, ‘and there’s a lot of local writing talent, so I hope everyone who loves literature and writing will come out and support it.”
• Both Roadkill and Cut Out are available from Amazon and local bookshops, including Bookbuster, The Bookkeeper (Kings Road St Leonards) and Printed Matter (Queens Road Hastings).
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