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Meet our Writer in Residence 2016, Sophie Duffy

Here at the Hysteria Writing Competition we like to try and promote all the lovely ladies who help us out. One of the ways we do this is with a special interview. In previous years, the interview questions we used focused more on writing, however this year I realised that really, they needed to have as much a focus on reading. First up, for our interviews is this year’s Writer in Residence, Sophie Duffy.

  1. Which writers or poets inspire you and why?

I studied English at Lancaster University back in the day and loved reading the epic Victorian novels of George Elliot and Thomas Hardy et al. The Victorians certainly knew how to do drama and created worlds I wanted to inhabit. (As a reader, that is. I’m jolly glad I wasn’t actually a Victorian.) These days I tend to read contemporary fiction. My favourite authors are those who write with humour so that even the darkest stories have a glimmer of the human capacity for joy. Kate Atkinson, Kate Long, Laurie Graham, Fay Weldon, Sue Townsend, David Lodge all combine wit with poignancy and this is what I hope to bring to my own writing.

  1. If you are a writer or poet, how did you get started?

I started writing about fifteen years ago when we moved from London down to Worthing with our three young children. I didn’t know anyone or have a job so I joined a creative writing evening class and was hooked. I went on to get an MA in Creative Writing, also from Lancaster, but studied by distance learning. I paid my fees by selling Avon and working in a pre-school. When we moved to Devon in 2005, I joined Exeter Writers and really focused on my writing, entering competitions and writing a (third) novel. Finally, ten years after that first evening class, The Generation Game was published.

  1. Do you have a ‘must read’ list?


Behind the Scenes of the Museum by Kate Atkinson

The Diaries of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Nice Work by David Lodge

Last Orders by Graham Swift

Short stories:

Carol Shields, Raymond Carver


John Keats. (He stayed in Teignmouth, my home town, so I have a soft spot for him. The climate was supposed to be good for his TB but it rained the whole time so his friends clubbed together to send him to Rome, where he tragically died aged 25.)

  1. Where and when do you do most of your reading?

I read a lot, every night for about an hour before I go to sleep and any other moments I can grab throughout the day. I tell myself it’s research but really I shouldn’t have to make that excuse; every writer needs to read. In fact, everyone needs to read. I also read on my phone using the Kindle app, when I’m waiting in the car to pick up a teenager (one of mine, I don’t need any extra ones).

  1. What are you reading currently?

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans – a dark comedy set in the Second World War.

  1. Do you have a favourite writing or reading resource to recommend?

I think everyone should belong to a book group. At one time I was a member of three, all quite different, all inspiring. It makes you read outside your comfort zone and can be surprising. I also think if you are a writer it is helpful to be in a good writing group, even if it’s just a small one of three or four members. You need to be able to read out your work-in-progress knowing you will receive constructive feedback. And it helps you grow a thick skin – essential if you want to persevere as a writer.

You can meet Sophie in the following online locations:

Author of The Generation Game and This Holey Life. Her most recent publication is Bright Stars, a novel focused on Cameron Spark, a man with too many ghosts in his past!

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