LitFest in Lockdown:           We talk to Liz Fenwick

LitFest in Lockdown: We talk to Liz Fenwick

In the fourth of our interviews with local literary figures, novelist Liz Fenwick gives Rachel Viney the lowdown on meeting a lockdown deadline, daily ‘plot walks’ and the importance of kindness.

You’ve been working on a new novel. Did you make any changes to the story as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?

I think I obtained a greater insight into my story because the historical thread of the books touches on the influenza epidemic in 1918.

And has your writing routine changed at all?

I see fewer people on my daily plot walk. Plot walks are essential for two main reasons. One is letting my mind go blank with the rhythm of my steps. Ideas move about and fit in new ways during the journey when I’m not trying to force them. The second – it fights writer’s bottom (spending too much time sitting on a chair looking at a screen!).

Initially I found it difficult to work with others around. In the time before the pandemic I would have the house to myself all week. The pandemic has brought husband and adult children home. It took time to learn to block them out (the requests for things, help in locating things, what’s for lunch/dinner). I had a deadline of 30 April for book eight and it helped me to focus. It was also good to escape to a world where I had control!

Which aspect of lockdown are you most enjoying?

Having family around. I know I complained just now, but it is a joy having the gift of time with my adult kids.

And which is proving most irksome?

To be honest, nothing. I can walk out of my door and see some of the most breath-taking scenery. Local farms and fishermen have meant that we haven’t been without. My world – bar extra people in the house – hasn’t really altered. I work from home and generally while on deadline don’t socialise in any way!

“Daily plot walks are essential for letting my mind go blank – and fighting writer’s bottom!”

Which item of food or drink would you most hate to run out of?

Honestly…eggs swiftly followed by gin.

Which books have you found most helpful in tough times?

I have found that I have gone back to old favourites. I need to know the outcome because, in the situation we are in, we don’t.

Which books by new writers (or writers new to you) have most impressed you recently?

Though not a new writer to me, I read an advance copy of The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson and loved it.

Is there a book or author you re-read regularly and, if so, what is it that keeps you coming back?

Georgette Heyer – pure joy. The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness – I love the world she creates. Poetry in general.

What is the biggest ‘plus’ of the lockdown for you as a novelist?

Communicating with my readers more. I never would have done Facebook Live if it hadn’t been for the lockdown and my worry about people’s loneliness. It forced me to forget myself and be available for others.

And what is the biggest ‘minus’?

I’ve missed two weddings. And the constant worry about my mother who lives in assisted living in the States.

Do you have a top tip for staying sane?

Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.

Have you discovered any great new online resources to help while away the time?

There are some fantastic writing workshops that are free – or low cost, such as Arvon at Home.

Have you learned anything new or unexpected about yourself from this experience?

I don’t mind being alone and I can’t watch too much news.

What good things do you hope will come out of this pandemic?

I hope that the kindness, the generosity of spirit and giving continues. Our world will be hurting, and I hope those that can help will continue to do so. It is in everyone’s power to be kind.

Liz Fenwick is an award-winning writer. Her seventh novel, The Path to the Sea, is now out in paperback and her next book is due out later this year. You can find out more about Liz on her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.