To celebrate the release of her new book Nobody's Perfect, we asked author Stephanie Butland to let us and her readers in on some interesting facts all about her! Here's what she had to reveal...
1. I believe readers are much more important than writers. If no-one ever published another book… we’d have plenty to read. But if no-one read, the world would lose so much. Empathy, curiosity, understanding. And writing a book is a process of creating something that is, in the best sense, easy to read. I sometimes have to remind myself of this, when an editor says ‘this is unclear’ and I say ‘but it is BEAUTIFUL’. It’s not about me, it’s about readers. And if readers get lost, it’s not beautiful writing.
2. I am a maker through and through. I bake (I once had a small business making wedding and birthday cakes). I can crochet, and have dabbled with weaving and spinning. Felting I consider to be the devil’s craft. My favourite, though, is knitting. I’m never not knitting, and I love to teach others to knit. Right now I have a jumper and a pair of socks on the go. A knitted sock is a miracle of engineering: a single strand of yarn, shaped it fit a foot. They thrill me every time.
3. I had breast cancer when I was 37, in 2008. It doesn’t define me, but it is an important part of who I am. I had surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and drug therapies, one of which I had a bad reaction to. It all feels a long way away now. But I like to talk about it so that you know - if you need to - that many people do survive cancer. I don’t worry about it at all, now, except on the day when I have my annual mammogram, when I become convinced that it’s back. The drive to the hospital is me mentally cancelling everything in my diary, and drafting emails in my head: ‘Guess what? It’s back… I’ll be fine, I promise, but I’m going to need to lay low for 6 months…’
4. I did very little travelling until I hit my 40s. (Non-writing) work then took me all over the globe. I feel privileged to have spent time in China, Hong Kong, Australia, Denmark, France, Kurdistan, Australia, and America. Kurdistan (in northern Iraq) was my absolute favourite. I made friends for life, I travelled from the capital to the mountains, I was welcomed into families. I’m weaving the story of a Kurdish family into the novel I’m working on now, and every time I come to them I remember eating dolma and laughing in a house in Erbil.
5. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 40, and we moved to Northumberland. Passing my test (eventually) is still the single most grown-up thing I feel I’ve ever done, even though I’ve made 2 humans and written 8 books. I don’t exactly love driving, but I love what it gives me: freedom, adult vibes, the illusion of control. I’ve even been on a Speed Awareness course, after the time I lost my mind and was doing 34 mph when leaving a 30mph zone.
6. Writing Nobody’s Perfect meant re-reading my first novel, Letters To My Husband, because I’m picking up the story of an earlier character, six years on. I was glad to find that I liked it still, as I try not to reread my novels. I’m proud of them all, but I find rereading a bit squirmy - like running into an ex or having to read your essay aloud in front of the class.
7. When I was a teenager I bought two goldfish and I named them Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Of course I did. When I adopted my beautiful greyhound Harris recently, my family vetoed the following names: Moth, Ink, Quill, Fleet, Finch. All of which I still like, but he is a Harris now, for sure. And if you’re not going to finish that apple/biscuit/cup of tea, he will be very happy to help you out. (He also eats books if you’re not careful - but only cookery books.)
Stephanie Butland is the author of two memoirs and six novels, the most recent being Nobody's Perfect. Her novels include beloved bookshop tale Lost For Words. As well as writing, she runs writing retreats, mentors writers, and provides a manuscript assessment service. For fun, she knits, bakes, and walks her dog. You’ll find her on Twitter @under_blue_sky and Instagram @stephaniebutlandauthor.
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