Writers and authors have always inspired me, the more I read, the more I love to write. So when I had the chance to interview once such inspiring lady, Vanessa Matthews, I jumped at the chance to share her inspiring story and Vanessa’s great first novel The Doctor’s Daughter.
Q. Give us a little insight into your creative background.
I’ve always been a creative soul and have enjoyed and explored all sorts of artistic pursuits over the years. I was passionate about fashion design at school and was told I had quite a flair for it but I lacked the focus and technical skills required to turn my designs into wearable clothes! I worked as a make up artist for a while, but writing has always been my true love. I developed my writing skills during my professional career in PR and Marketing, creating all kinds of content and developing ideas for a range of brands and businesses. Some were exciting and easy, whilst others were dull and made it more challenging to find the creative angle. In many ways it was the ideal training ground and certainly gave me ample opportunity to develop my craft. I started writing poetry a few years ago, inspired by a growing number of performance poets who were creating some powerful, fresh work. My debut poetry collection was published by an indie press in 2013 and my debut novel The Doctor’s Daughter followed in June this year. In addition to my writing I am a keen amateur photographer and have even been known to sing a bit sometimes.
Q. What inspired you to start writing?
Whilst I love to talk (a lot!) I have always found it easier to articulate my thoughts, feelings and ideas on a page. I started writing in my early teens and found it a really useful way to make sense of the world, particularly during difficult times in my life.
Q. What have been your key inspirations for your novel, The Doctor’s Daughter?
Whilst it is a complete work of fiction, this particular novel grew from some research I did about Anna Freud – an inspirational woman who achieved so much, but who also had some interesting mental health issues and personality traits that intrigued me.
I am fascinated by the experiences that shape peoples lives and the contradiction between our internal and external personas. I like to lift the carpet and brush the dirt out from underneath, then write about it. My characters are flawed, imperfect people who make bad choices, they hurt and get hurt. They’re capable of doing great things and despicable things in equal measure. It’s a fine line and one they tread carefully as the story unfolds. The Doctor’s Daughter explores a range of issues such as identity, sexuality, mental health, family dynamics, oppression and more, against the backdrop of Vienna in the late 1920s. For me, the historical setting offers a chance to view modern issues through a historical lens.
Q. What has been your most memorable success to date?
As far as writing goes, there have been some wonderful successes in recent months. I have been shortlisted for a writing prize, I have received some amazing reviews from readers, bloggers and media, and the editor of Vogue UK is currently reading my novel. However, I think my biggest and most memorable success has to be that I finally feel comfortable calling myself a writer. Some people will love my book, and that’s great. Lots of people won’t enjoy it, and that’s okay too. Writing and releasing The Doctor’s Daughter has helped me overcome so many of the fears i had about sharing my work. For a long time I was so worried about failing that I didn’t write anything at all. I now have more confidence in my creativity and try to focus less on my insecurities. It’s not always easy and I still have doubt-filled days but writing is my passion and to limit myself for fear of judgement just doesn’t make sense to me anymore.
Q. How would you describe your personal style?
I have quite a dark style – I didn’t realise just how dark my writing was until I started sharing it and getting feedback from readers. In addition to writing novels, I am also a published poet and so i think that influences my work quite a lot. I love words, the more lyrical and atmospheric the better. Aside from writing, I’m a vintage girl at heart. I love vintage glamour, clothes, interiors, places, stories, in fact anything with a hint of nostalgia.
Q. What is your hope for the future?
Of course I would hope to top the New York Times bestseller list one day and maybe see my novel turned into a movie – all the usual things! But really, my aim is to continue to grow and evolve as a writer. The Doctor’s Daughter was the best novel I could write at that particular time in my life, but I will always strive to create something better each time I sit down to write another book. I have two more novels in the planning, if they can be as warmly received by readers as my first one was, then i’ll be a very happy girl. I’m also keen to share what I’ve learned with other writers and have recently launched a series of residential writing retreats and workshops in Cornwall which I hope will be a huge success.
Follow Vanessa on Twitter @vanessamatthews find her on facebook.com/vanessamatthewswriter
For details of forthcoming writing retreats (including grant funded places) see www.writingretreatscornwall.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a brochure.
The Doctor’s Daughter is available from Amazon, in selected Waterstones stores in the South West of England and to loan from 110 libraries across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.