I read a lot.

Before I was a writer, I was a reader, and a hungry one. It’s still a huge part of my writing life. When I feel uninspired, I turn to stories other people have written. I listen and I learn. Loving books is a huge part of making books. You wouldn’t trust an apple farmer who didn’t like the taste of apples. Or I wouldn’t anyway. (eyes orchards suspiciously)

Deirdre Sullivan

Deirdre Sullivan

I love Guinea Pigs.

Some people are dog or cat people. I am a guinea pig person. I’m not super active, but I can be quite sensitive. I like snuggling and snacking and get very excited by surprise blueberries. I have had three guinea pigs, and each of them taught me something about how deep and different small soft things can be. They’re animals who enjoy the comfort of companions around them, and I’m like that too. I’m happiest when I’m writing or reading in a quiet room with my best friend. It is the human equivalent of eating hay.

I get obsessed

This is less dodgy than it sounds (OR IS IT?). With Needlework, I did a lot of research about tattooing. I had no tattoos when I started writing it, and now I have four and am planning another. With Tangleweed and Brine, the stories are divided into Earth and Water, so I got very into houseplants. I had none when I started writing it, and now I have sixteen. They keep having plant-babies, also, so a fair few of my friends have ended up with plants over the course of this obsession. I have a new one at the moment, but I’m not ready to share it yet because the project it’s for is only new…

I’m a teacher as well as a writer

A lot of writers also have day jobs and I’m one of them. I’m really lucky that I get to have two passions. I work with autistic people during the term and then get to be a writer on my holidays. One feeds the other. The students that I work with notice these small details about the world around them, and because I get to spend so much time with them, I notice them too, and it feeds the sense of place and appreciation for detail in my writing.

I knit a lot

It’s my adult colouring. I like to complete simple patterns, blankets and scarves. It keeps my hands busy while I watch television or listen to podcasts. When I was small, we did knitting in school, and I felt like I was the worst at it in the class. I took it up as an adult to prove to myself that I could do it, and in the process found something that I love.

I’m vegetarian

This doesn’t really impact my writing, but I am one. It is for the soft-hearted animal-loving reasons, as opposed to the sensible environmental or health ones. When I first stopped eating meat I used to have enthusiastic bacon and cabbage dreams. But they have fizzled out, because it’s been over a decade. I have never had an enthusiastic kale dream. But I live in hope.

I love fairy-tales

Old stories that get passed down and changed with each teller are so interesting to me, the way a person’s character and morals shape the meat on the old bones of a tale.

For me, the happiest part of writing is the initial, making stuff up stages.

When I’m alone with a story in my head and I get it down and it feels right, that’s a really special privilege. Editing is satisfying in a different way. A book coming out is a very vulnerable time, you have to be kind to yourself. Because you’re opening up a part of you to criticism. Good things too, but people should be free to respond freely and honestly. I try to have a new project on the go before a book goes out into the world, so I’ve distanced myself from it a little…

The Little Mermaid was the first fairy-tale that had me up at night worried about the character.

She had done all the right things and she still didn’t get the prince. It was the first time that had happened that I could remember and it felt so real it horrified me. I’ve retold that story many times, but for the most recent collection, I have to limit it to one Mermaid. Otherwise it would have been overkrill.

I love terrible puns.