I’m excited to be welcoming the wonderful Sarah-Jane Stratford to the blog today. Her novel, Radio Girls was released on 14th June by Allison and Busby. Hi Sarah-Jane. Thank you so much for joining me. Can you tell me a little about your typical writing day and do you have any writing rituals (coffee before you begin, writing in silence etc.)
Hi, I’m so pleased to be here! I’m a member of Paragraph Workspace for Writers in New York. For a monthly fee, we get 24/7 access to a quiet writing space – about 60 carrels, so you just pick an empty desk you like, plug in, and get to work. I have to settle in first – get my tumbler of hot green tea, no matter the weather; read a bit of the newspaper; deal with emails – before my brain can be considered more or less functional. Then it’s on to the second tumbler and work. On a good day, I like to get about 1500 words written before lunch. The members of Paragraph are all pretty terrific and I usually have lunch with one or two friends, where we either talk about writing or the real world for a little while – either way, I’m raring to get back to it. Then I try to get another 1500 words in by evening. Then I collapse. Usually I make it home before that happens, though there is a sofa at Paragraph if need be.
How do you approach the writing process? Do you do much planning and do you edit as you go etc?
First comes research, always. I just love that process of settling down in a library to read and study and wander into a time and place. Then I start to think about the characters in that time and place, and from there, an outline develops. I like to draw up detailed, meticulous plans, knowing full well that about half of them are going to be abandoned once I’m actually in the thick of it. The characters tend to develop their own ideas about what’s going to happen as the story goes on.
It’s never a good idea to edit as you write, but of course I do it all the time. And then I tell myself not to and keep doing it anyway. In the end, it more or less works out, but I know the best route for me is to just write, get that rotten first draft, and then tear the whole thing apart and start over.
Your book is called Radio Girls. Can you tell me about it and how the idea originated?
Radio Girls mixes real people and fictional characters to tell the story of the women behind the scenes in the early years of the BBC.
It all started with Hilda Matheson, the real-life first Director of Talks at the BBC. I came across her name when researching and the more I read about her, the more enthralled I was. I knew I had to bring her story and this world to life. The 1920s and the beginnings of the BBC are such an exciting time – it’s really the invention of a whole new media, and building something from the ground up. I was so thrilled every day, trying to capture that, get inside that world. I realized early on that the book would work better if Hilda wasn’t the protagonist – mostly because I adored her too much to allow her many flaws – but instead created a character, Maisie, who enters the BBC as a young secretary and gradually discovers her potential as she learns the ropes. Essentially, she learns to use her voice, helped by having Hilda as a mentor.by