Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her latest novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital. Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e- book of prize-winning short stories.
Anne can be found at:
Books, Newsletter and Social Media: https://linktr.ee/annecdotist
Short Story E-Book Free for Newsletter Subscribers: https://bit.ly/daughtershorts
Tell me what inspired you to write your novel?
My debut novel, Sugar and Snails, emerged via my musings on adolescence, discovering an administrative error in a passport I’d used for years and a newspaper report of an eminent professional who had died from anorexia nervosa without any of her friends or colleagues knowing she was ill. I began writing my latest novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, because, although I’d read several excellent novels set in long-stay psychiatric hospitals, none accurately portrayed the closures of the late 1980s and 1990s.
What came first the characters or the world?
To me, setting is secondary to character, but inviting my characters into places familiar to me helped them come alive.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
It was tough: firstly getting it to publication standard and then finding a publisher to take it on.
How long did it take to write?
My first two novels took seven years from inception to publication, although those years did overlap. The third took six years, so I must be getting faster!
How many publishers turned you down?
I haven’t kept count but, if they hadn’t turned me down, I wouldn’t have found such a lovely home for my fiction with Inspired Quill.
What kind of reactions have you had to your books?
Even though my publisher loved my debut novel, I expected a lukewarm reaction from readers given that other publishers had turned it down. So I was surprised by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. My second novel, Underneath, is more of a Goldilocks book with some readers finding it too gruesome, others too tame, while for some it’s just right. With my third novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, I was worried the humour might detract from the poignancy of the story but fortunately that hasn’t been the case.
Do you take notice of online reviews?
I do, both to learn how I can do better and to bask in the praise when I’m feeling down. For example, this from a recent review of Sugar and Snails: “This is one of those books that everyone should read at some point throughout their life. Beautifully written, emotive, powerful & will stay with you long after reading.” Stacey Hammond
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
With both Sugar and Snails and Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, I’ve been especially moved by endorsements from people with direct personal experience of the issues portrayed. Matilda Windsor is potentially a painful read for people who have seen family members institutionalised or been admitted themselves, yet they have given it their approval. In the words of a former patient:
“All who work in mental health and people who were inpatients in the Asylum should read this.”
What can you tell us about your next book?
I wrote Matilda Windsor as a stand-alone novel, but have been unable to let my character go. I’ll be self-publishing a prequel novella, The Cloffocks, in the next few months and I’ve also written a sequel about a care home resident with delusions of grandeur who discovers she is responsible for the transatlantic slave trade.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
My genre – literary/book group fiction – is broad enough to keep me going for a couple more decades, but never say never.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I was a clinical psychologist in NHS mental health services for twenty-five years and am now retired.
Which author(s) inspire you?
My favourite authors include Alison Moore, Ann Patchett, Christine Dwyer Hickey, Colson Whitehead, Deborah Levy, Georgina Harding, Hilary Mantel, Jane Harper, John Boyne, Kate Atkinson, Lissa Evans, Maggie O’Farrell, Margaret Atwood, Nick Hornby, Patrick Gale, Richard Flanagan, Sarah Moss, and Tim Winton. (Not many then!)
I return to these authors because they know how to craft a story and have a wonderful way with words. Another draw is their honest portrayal of the dark side of the human condition without being overly bleak.
What is your biggest motivator?
The noise in my head of characters clamouring to be heard.
What will always distract you?
Noises outside, jobs to do in the garden and TikTok.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
Five Leaves in Nottingham.