Q & A with Bethan Roberts

Q: Where do you write?

A: I’m a mum so I have very limited time, so I do most of my splurging (i.e. handwritten first draft stuff, in a notebook) in cafes, because I don’t get out of the house much and when my little boy’s at nursery I like to get a breath of fresh air and see some other adult human beings, even if I don’t talk to them. So really I write at a lovely coffee shop, of which there are at least five to choose from in Brighton. But I’m also lucky enough to have a room in my house – in the photo below – which is where I type. Typing means re-drafting that first splurge, sometimes a hundred times over, or writing other, less terribly hard stuff (like this).

Photograph of Bethan Roberts' study

Q: Do you have some sort of writing schedule?

A: I have about twelve hours a week in which to write, so I try to make the most of them. Like everyone else, I’m distracted by the internet, biscuits, phone calls from my mum and the washing-up. I usually manage to resist the washing-up. Other people tell me I’m good at getting on with writing, but it doesn’t really feel that way to me. All I can say is that if I am in a lovely, trendy-but-not-too-trendy café with a good cappuccino and a bun then I can usually keep my head over my notebook and scribble for an hour or two, and then when I get home I like typing it up, and as I type it up some other ways of saying it, and other things I want to say, usually occur to me.

Q: Do you use a computer or a pen?

A: It never fails to amaze me when people never fail to be amazed by the fact that I use a pen. But this is what I do. I have a nice fountain pen which I like using because it makes me feel important, and a very cheap notebook, which I like using because it doesn’t feel important. And then redrafting is done on the computer, because crossings-out become very hard to read.

Q: Did you always want to be a writer?

A: Yes, but I was embarrassed to admit it, so when I was little I used to tell people I wanted to be an air-hostess.

Q: How did you get published?

A: I did a wonderful Creative Writing MA at the University of Chichester. And then I won a place on the Jerwood/Arvon Young Writer’s Apprenticeships scheme, which sadly doesn’t seem to exist any more. But basically I ‘won’ Andrew Cowan, who is a brilliant novelist, and once a month for six months he read the manuscript of my first novel and gave me feedback on it, which encouraged me to finish it. Then I did the usual thing: I sent my novel to some agents, and it was rejected by some, but not by the lovely David Riding at MBA. Then he did a wonderful thing: he got me a book deal.