Virginia Macgregor's new book Wishbones is released today, so to celebrate, she tells us a bit more baout the author behind the books.
I celebrate my characters’ birthdays
I believe that the more real my characters are to me, the more they’ll come alive for my readers. I have a thing for birthdays: to me, they’re not about getting older but about celebrating the existence of those we love – and I certainly celebrate the existence of the wonderful characters who have kept me company over the years. Their birthdays are even written into my birthday diary!
English is my third language
I was born in Germany, lived in France and moved to Oxford, England, when I was five – and learnt the respective languages of those countries as I went. At first I was hugely resistant to learning English: there are recordings of me bashing the kitchen table and refusing to speak ‘this silly language.’ But very soon, I fell in love with English, its magical words, its quirkiness and its amazing stories. And now, of course, writing in English is my life’s work and my greatest joy.
I’ve just moved to America
I’m now having to learn another language: American English! My husband is the Director of Theatre in a wonderful boarding school called St. Paul’s in New Hampshire. We’ve always loved New England and coming here was a dream come true – not that it hasn’t been without its challenges. I still feel very English but exploring a whole new continent and its people is hugely stimulating to me as a writer.
I love the cold and the rain
This is probably sharing too much information, but here goes: I don’t really sweat. Which you might think is a good thing (I save money on deodorant and I don’t smell). But sweating is the body’s way of cooling us down when we get too hot. So, in hot weather, I more or less internally combust. So I love, love, love the cold, the rain, thunderstorms, the winter. Nothing feels as good to me as breathing in cool, fresh air. Which is why I got married in December, why I love New England winters and why I miss the rain in England too.
I don’t have rhythm
This is a source of endless amusement to my husband (and will no doubt be a source of great embarrassment to my daughters). I love music and I love the idea of dancing but my body just has a way of stepping out of sync whenever it’s asked to follow a beat.
I believe that animals are magical
Most of my novels, both for adults and Young Adults, have at least one animal character. I’m a great animal lover and a vegetarian. As George Bernard Shaw said: ‘Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.’ I have a funny notion that I might have been an elephant in a past life. I believe that animals sense more of the world than we do as human beings – that they have access to whole other planes of existence too. I love that.
I light a candle when I write
My dear writing buddy, Joanna Seldon, once gave me a small, white candle -holder with the etching of a cat on the front. Ever since then I’ve lit a tea light in this holder every time I sit down to write. It’s a ritual, a comfort and an offering to the gods of the imagination. Joanna recently died of cancer so doing this has acquired an even greater resonance: when I light the candle now, I feel that she’s with me, willing me on to write.
I wear my husband’s socks.
I don’t know when I stopped buying my own socks but when I worked out that my husband had more socks than he’d ever be able to wear (or certainly wear-out), I thought it would be economical – and kind of fun – to share. The hopeless romantic in me also likes to know that I carry a bit of him with me everywhere I go. And it annoys him when his favourite socks go missing, which kind of amuses me.
Every night, before I go to sleep, I make a note of three things: how long I wrote that day, what I read and how long I walked.
Writing, reading and walking are essential parts to each of my days and holding myself accountable in this way helps me focus on what’s important. All three elements feed into each other and help me to be a better writer. If I haven’t done all three, I feel like my day’s incomplete.
I’m an unashamed optimist
Although my novels tackle challenging and sometimes very sad contemporary issues, I’m a great believer in the human spirit. I believe that part of a writer’s job is to offer hope.