Gaynor Arnold

Gaynor Arnold’s first novel, Girl in a Blue Dress, based on the marriage of Charles Dickens, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2008 and the Orange Prize for Fiction 2009. Her collection of short stories Lying Together was published to critical acclaim in February 2011. Her second novel, After Such Kindness, was published in July 2012.

Gaynor was born in Cardiff but now lives in Birmingham. Before becoming a writer she was a social worker.

How long have you been a writer?
As long as I can remember. As a child, I was always making up stories in my head, and as soon as I could write, I was writing them down. At junior school I wrote a lot of mini-plays which I used to perform with my friends. In adolescence I wrote romantic/pastoral poetry and started a huge multi-generational novel – mercifully lost! I came back to writing in later life and have been writing novels and short stories for about 25 years, now.

What inspires you to write?
No one particular thing. Sometimes it’s an image, sometimes a scrap of conversation, sometimes an incident that happened to me or someone I know.

Who is/are your favourite Writer(s)?
Having written a book based on the life of Charles Dickens, I have to confess he was my favourite writer for years. But as far as contemporary writers are concerned, I particularly admire Carol Shields and Alice Munro. And since reading The Gathering – Ann Enright.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am trying to get together a collection of short stories for publication soon, and have a couple more to write.

What are you reading at the moment?
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry. It’s a poignant story set in Ireland, shortlisted for the Man Booker. I’m only a few chapters in, but it’s very impressive.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Join a writers’ group if you can.

What book has made you laugh?
Most of Dickens’s novels have hilarious scenes, and in spite of having re-read them many times, I still laugh out loud. David Lodge’s campus novels are very witty too.

What book has made you cry?
Well, it’s Dickens again – David Copperfield and the end of a Tale of Two Cities in particular. In a totally different way, I was also very moved recently by Cormac McCarthy’s grim but redemptive novel, The Road.

What book would you recommend to a friend – and why?
Well, it depends on the friend, and what I think their tastes might be. Fiction is very subjective. So perhaps I would recommend a non-fiction work – Kilvert’s Diary. Francis Kilvert was a curate at Clyro on the Welsh borders for many years during the mid 19th century and his diary records his walks, his love of the countryside, his encounters with his parishioners rich and poor, and – most appealingly – his habit of falling in love at the drop of a hat. He records his feelings with a frankness that is unexpected, and sometimes quite revealing.