Rosy Barnes Interview
Posted on 24 February 2009. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to WW member Snowbell, aka Rosy Barnes, whose first novel is out this month
Tell us all about your writing background- what you’ve written, what you’re currently writing
I have written plays, a radio play, reviews, theatre criticism and other arts journalism. My creative writing (for want of a better word) is comedic. My other stuff can be very po-faced and serious. So I’m a bit of a split personality.
My comedy novel, Sadomasochism for Accountants is being published by Marion Boyars Publishers and going on sale in bookshops in February (although I think it is in some Waterstones branches now, much to my general “eekness” and “arghness”.)
It's about an overlooked woman working in an accountancy firm who joins a fetish club to learn to be more exciting, a bunch of colourful club goers and a load of dastardly accountants...it all makes sense when you read it. Promise.
I've been a longstanding member of the site, so I feel that WW has been with me (so to speak) all the way.
Other work besides writing; ie. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring, and how it works/worked for/against your own writing
I have done report writing and critiquing – mainly in drama. I don’t find it interferes with my own writing, only in as much as it takes time. Neither does reading interfere with my writing, as some writers find it does. I like to think this is because I have such an original inimitable style. But could just be I’m just bloody minded. When I was 3, I went to the US and everyone thought I’d change accent overnight, but I stayed stubbornly the same. In fact, some of my kindergarten pals started talking like me.
How did you start writing?
My first novel was written aged 8: 11 action-packed chapters (one A4 side each) about Campion the pony. I don’t remember much except a pair of twins, one of whom was “spoilt” and given a diamond necklace and an Arab mare for her birthday. The nice “unspoilt” one was given a crayon and a crust of bread. No shades of grey for the young authoress!
Who are your favourite writers and why?
Mervyn Peake, Peter Hoeg, Douglas Adams, Joseph Conrad and Graham Oakley (the Church Mice Books).
In prose, I love bigness and boldness in writing coupled with telling detail. My favourite book is Gormenghast – which is hugely funny in a dark and miserable sort of way - and whilst I can’t claim it has a direct influence on SM4A, there is a certain love of long, labyrinthine sentences that are knowingly over the top, qualification-upon-embroidery, along with an unapologetic use of a strong authorial voice – it is as though Peake gave me permission to play with all those things in my own work - even though it's a completely different sort of thing.
A lot of my comedy influences are in performance or are written scripts. I particularly love spiky female performers like Julia Davis and the writing of writer/director Annie Griffin and other contemporary comedy like Peep Show and Flight of the Conchords. I also like reading comedians’ writing like Woody Allen or Bill Hicks.
I aspire to get an element of “delivery” into my written work – although, it’s very much to be read on the page. The challenge of how to phrase something to carry a sense of timing and delivery is something that fascinates and frustrates me in equal measure.
How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication?
My name was pulled out of a hat to do a reading at something called The Unpublished Writers’ Jam at the Debut Authors’ Festival in Edinburgh.
It was a kind of Pop Idol for books and one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. I had to read a section of my book out in front of a live audience and a panel of judges. The prize was a bottle of whiskey. I couldn’t even read the pages, my hands were shaking so badly, but – to my surprise and relief - it went down uproariously well. I was then approached by an agent who had been sitting in the audience. I was very lucky.
What's the worst thing about writing?
The old cliché: people asking whether you're going to be the next JK Rowling of course! (They DO do this, even to me - I mean does Sadomasochism for Accountants sound like a kid’s book to you?)
And people asking “what it’s about?” which normally provokes the response, “Err, umm, it’s about this bunch of accountants, right? And this bunch of sadomasochists and…” I HATE people asking what my book’s about. (It does make sense when you read it. It does! It does!)
And the best?
Oh heck. This is the point where I’m supposed to enthuse about the amazing feeling of writing. How I live to write. How the fingers glide over the computer keys in a surge of creativity connecting me with my inner being, my deepest self, my very soul!
To be honest, I find most of the writing process quite painful and often wonder why I do it. But I do get an immense sense of satisfaction when I feel I finally nail an idea, a line, a paragraph. Then it’s all worth it for the odd elated moment or two.
Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.
My book was out on the 14th Feb – officially - so I haven’t heard from any readers yet beyond family and friends. (My mother, of course, is a huge fan despite not actually knowing what sadomasochism actually IS.)
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