Patricia Ferguson’s gripping and life-affirming new novel Aren’t We Sisters?, the sequel to The Midwife’s Daughter, examines the transformative power of buried secrets, unlikely friendships and unexpected connections among three women in the fictional Cornish town of Silkhampton, where a killer is on the prowl… She shares her literary trinkets.
Where are you now?
At home, sitting at the kitchen table.
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
Same table. If I lean back I can see the bird feeder.
If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual?
I’ve always done a lot of staring out of the window.
Full-time or part-time?
Pen or keyboard?
Pen for anything personal. I wrote my first two books by hand, then spent about a year each typing them out. Using carbon paper and Tipp-Ex to hide typos. You had to try and make at least the first page mistake-free. So glad that’s all over.
How do you relax when you’re writing?
I take the dog out and sometimes am able to work out what’s gone wrong, or where to go next, whilst walking.
How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?
Murder mystery with added old-style contraception and secret babies.
Who do you write for?
Women like me, I suppose, who like good reads of all sorts of different kinds
Who do you share your work in progress with?
No one. I’m in a friendly writing group but the book has to be practically finished before I can let anyone read any of it, or what I’ve done so far goes flat like opening the oven door while the cake’s still on the rise.
Which literary character do you wish you created?
I don’t read like that. If the people in the book feel real, I can’t think of them as created anyway so I can’t envy their creators.
Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose.
Here’s a bit from Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym that still makes me laugh: “‘In many ways’, said Miss Doggett, ‘Mr Driver is a very charming man. They say, though, that men only want one thing – that’s the truth of the matter.’ Miss Doggett again looked puzzled; it was as if she had heard that men only wanted one thing, but had forgotten for the moment what it was.”
Which book/s have you most recently read and enjoyed?
Most recently Line of Sight, by A.C. Koning, and I love Barbara Kingsolver’s latest, Flight Behaviour.
What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?
The first volume of Game of Thrones gave me nightmares. So I shouldn’t really have bought the next one.
Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?
Have tried Tristram Shandy several times over the years. About due another bash.
Which book/s do you treasure the most?
The illustrated copy of The Wind in the Willows I was given as a child. Its pages had and still have the most wonderful smell.
What is the last work you read in translation?
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.
Which story collections would you particularly recommend?
I’m very fond of Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner, disconcerting fairy stories.
What will you read next?
I may be forced to find out what happens to Daenerys Stormborn and her nasty dragons.
What are you working on next?
I don’t know yet. I haven’t written enough of it to be sure.
Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?
I suspect a whole tableful of great writers would make for a rather difficult evening. I wouldn’t have to do the catering, would I? Made-up people feel more like friends. Captain Wentworth, then. Misses Mapp and Lucia all the way from Tilling, and dear Georgie too. Odysseus would get on well with the captain, though they might snub Georgie and his collection of bibelots. I’d sit next to Adrian Mole, make sure he was enjoying himself, with Jane Eyre on his other side; but she’d have to leave Mr Rochester at home.
If you weren’t writing you’d be…
Buying that camper van.
Patricia Ferguson’s first novel Family Myths and Legends won the Betty Trask, David Higham and Somerset Maugham awards, and It So Happens and Peripheral Vision were both longlisted for the Orange Prize. The Midwife’s Daughter and Aren’t We Sisters? are published by Penguin. Read more.
Author portrait © Vicki Brown, Looking Glass Photography