What is your genre? Why did you choose it?
I’m a travel writer – and it chose me. The first decision was to go travelling, in my mid-50s, with nothing but a rucksack and notebook. I came back with thirteen books (I’d posted them home) and a friend asked why I didn’t use them as the basis of a book. That became Over the Hill and Far Away.
I’ve not stopped travelling, nor writing: I’ve written two ebooks about subsequent trips.
Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
When I return from a trip I concentrate on finding stories in the chaos of my notebooks, and shaping that into a coherent narrative.
But when that is done I turn to short stories and the occasional poem. I don’t feel real if I don’t have a piece of writing in progress
Do you work with a writing/critique group?
I think I’d drown in my own self-doubt without my writing group. We laugh together, critique each others’ work, celebrate our successes. And sometime we eat cake.
Ah, cake. Always helps.
Can you remember your first reading book?
No – it was probably Janet and John. But I do remember reading Black Beauty over and over, probably hoping Ginger wouldn’t die this time.
Yeah, Janet and John. Loved those books.
Do you nibble on snacks while writing? If so, what is your chosen treat?
No – I’m not a snacker. But I’m an ogre without coffee.
Tidy desk or a bombsite? Describe your writing area with us.
My desk is a mirror of my headspace. When my notes are a mess there is paper all over the place. As I begin to make sense of my thinking I tidy my desk. Sometimes, when I’m in that ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ state, I tidy it deliberately – and somehow that allows stories to be heard.
I’m self-published. When I was writing Over the Hill I won a place on a mentoring scheme at Exeter University. My mentor encouraged me to rewrite, and rewrite, and finally told me that my efforts would have found a conventional publisher – ten years ago. These days, he said, they are only interested in celebrities or young people who have crossed the Sahara on a skateboard. But it’s good, he told me – publish it yourself.
So I did! I began knowing nothing, researched the alternatives, avoided the scams and decided to go with Print on Demand. And I taught myself HTML to write my own website – I can’t tell you how much coffee I went through doing that!
Gosh, I only know basic HTML, you have my admiration!
Who would you say have been the three most influential authors in your reading/writing life?
That’s really hard. Only three? Travel writers I love include Paul Theroux and William Dalrymple. Then there are the novelists – I read everything by Rose Tremain, Anne Tyler, Colm Toibin, Peter Carey, Hilary Mantel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie … (I’m rubbish at counting …)
There is no limit to the number of drafts you need to go through before the book is ready. Don’t rush it. And, when you think it’s done, hide it away for a month or more and then read it again, get that pen out – until every page is perfect.
Then use a copy editor. However meticulous you are, you’ll not spot all the mistakes. Whether you are going down the traditional publishing route, or doing it yourself, make this the best book it can possibly be.
If the movie rights to your novels are purchased, who would you like to play your main characters?
Who would be me? Felicity Kendal, but before she had botox!
I was on my way to the supermarket, when … Do you have a tale to tell relating to an everyday, boring event?
I don’t have a car – if I can get all over India on buses, I can do it in Wiltshire. I was on my way home one afternoon when two lads with large musical instruments got on; they struggled up the aisle to sit on the back seat.
“Have you heard,” said one, his voice booming to make sure we could all hear him, ‘Verdi’s f*cking Requiem? F*cking marvellous!”
You can find more of her writing, photographs from her journeys, and links to her ebooks on her website: http://www.jocarroll.co.uk
And you can join her on Facebook here, and on Twitter as @jomcarroll