Interview series #4: Zoe Venditozzi

Zoe Venditozzi Pic

Zoe Venditozzi is a novelist based in Fife. She’s also a qualified teacher and is currently working as a palliative care writer in residence. Her novel Anywhere’s Better Than Here was the public vote winner of Not The Booker and she is a former Scottish Book Trust Reader in Residence. We first met several years ago when I mentored her via the Scottish Book Trust’s mentoring scheme. You can follow Zoe on Facebook here and on twitter @zoevenditozzi.

(photo by Bob McDevitt)

This is the fourth interview in the series here on the blog, asking writers the questions that come up most often with the beginner writers I work with:

[Sophy]: When you first started writing creatively, what advice would have helped you?

[Zoe]: Hmmm… I think the best advice (which I still need to take, frankly) is to just write. I spent (spend?) far too long worrying about it and comparing my writing to other people’s. It sounds really obvious, but if you don’t actually write anything, you can’t improve it and become something close to the kind of writer you aspire to be.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If so, what helped?

I’m not sure that I fully believe in writer’s block. Or rather, I fully believe that you can be sitting for a long, long time waiting for inspiration to strike to no avail. It’s probably better to try and write something – anything – with the hope/desire/compulsion that at some point the right words will arrive.

Do you write every day?

No. Hilary Mantel wrote that people are always asking her if she writes every day. She said she feels like saying, “Of course I write every day, what do you think I am, some kind of hobbyist?” which made me feel slightly sheepish.

Unfortunately, I don’t write every day, because paid work and my children and having coffee and doing the washing and reading books and being on Facebook all keep getting in the way.

However, Mantel went on to say, “I understand the question is really about the central mystery – what is inspiration? Eternal vigilance, in my opinion. Being on the watch for your material, day or night, asleep or awake” and I definitely agree with that.

I’m always thinking and reading and talking and taking it all in, hoping that it plays into my writing store so that when I do have more time, that it’s there, in my mind, ready to get to work.

Do you have any rituals around your writing practice? Do you prefer to write in a particular place or at a particular time of day?

I prefer to write out of the house otherwise I find excuses not to write. I like to have a coffee (because it make me feel like a “real” writer). I listen to particular music that helps me to get in to the right mood or headspace. For example, I listened to Mogwai’s soundtrack for Les Revenants for my last novel and I’ll be listening to a lot of Chopin for the next thing I’m doing. I spend a fair bit of time daydreaming and procrastinating first and then I write quite quickly and in quite a determined manner.

Have you ever kept a journal?

I’ve tried to, but what’s the point? I can hear all that in my head all the time.

Are you a planner? Do you outline a book in advance, or do you just start writing and see what happens?

Not really, which is probably quite apparent from my lack of plotting. I’m much more interested in characters rather than actions, so I spend time thinking of who the characters are and what they would do next. I quite like a doodled flow chart and sometimes while I’m writing I’ll do a very poor timeline. However, I suspect that’s just a part of the panoply of distraction techniques that my brain is constantly throwing at me.


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Seaside Writing Workshop: Unlock Your Creativity

Come and spend a day writing by the sea in pretty North Berwick – more info here.


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