Lucy Atkins is an award-winning British author and journalist. Her acclaimed novels The Night Visitor, The Other Child, and The Missing One are all published by Quercus. Lucy Atkins has also written seven non-fiction books, two of which have won national awards. Many of her books are published internationally. Lucy Atkins has a background in literary and feature journalism. After working at the Times Literary Supplement, she became a books critic for The Sunday Times and has written reviews and features for UK newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, Psychologies, Red, and Woman & Home. She chairs events at literary festivals including The Cheltenham Literature Festival and The Oxford Literary Festival, regularly talks about books on BBC Radio Oxford and teaches creative writing. Lucy Atkins is currently judging the Costa Novel Award. Please enjoy my interview with Lucy Atkins.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
‘I’m a writer’.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently judging the Costa Novel Award so am reading a huge number of contemporary novels (more than 60 in total).
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
I remember reading a brilliant book called Giant John by Arnold Lobel when I was five – the first book I ever read alone. It’s a really vivid memory.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
I’d encourage them to read ANYTHING that catches their imagination, even if it’s a comic or the back of a cereal packet. I think the worst thing adults can do is prescribe the ‘right kind of book’ to a child, that’s the quickest way to put them off reading.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I was 8 and it was ‘a novel’ about a horse. I illustrated it and my Mum laminated it.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
I stapled envelopes 8 hours a day in a factory.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
1. Read 2. Take a really good creative writing course or read about writing to learn actual skills.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
At the moment, I read almost more than I’d like…
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path?
Whatever books interest you – same as with children. I do think reading things because you feel you ‘ought to’ is joyless. Life is too short. I am quite lazy though, so sometimes I do make myself try novels I might shy away from, though I’m generally happy to abandon a book after about 100 pages if it bores me.
I’ve read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte more times than I’d like to admit. I just love it.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Probably American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s a great read.
Who would you say are the three writers that continue to inspire you?
Curtis Sittenfeld, Elena Ferrante, and Shirley Jackson.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
I tend to gravitate towards fiction that’s both accessible and a bit literary. I get excited if there’s a new book by writers such as Kate Atkinson or Ann Patchett. I do love a good story and vivid characters but I also like the writing to be crafted and intelligent.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
I believe it would be undereducated & with a very short attention span.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
No, people like to hold something beautiful in their hands.
What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?
Anything that will persuade us to vote Trump out and rejoin the EU.
Rebel Pony by Patricia Leitch which I read so many times as a child – it made me a voracious reader and I suspect turned me into a writer too
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
Definitely too many to write here; I’d go on and on. Having said that, there are some books I do love to give to friends, such as Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, We Have Always Lived in The Castle by Shirley Jackson or Maggie O’Farrell’s recent autobiographical work I am, I am, I am. And right now, top of my ’to read’ list is the literary biography Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I tend to just read whatever captures my eye – on the shelves, or by word of mouth so I have no idea really, I don’t tend to plan my reading.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Ah, no, I’d never write an autobiography!
Image Credit: Charlie Hopkinson