Anne Youngson worked for many years in senior management in the car industry before embarking on a creative career as a writer. Her debut novel, Meet Me at the Museum, is about self-discovery and second chances. We expect it will really appeal to and interest our readers as it is based in Bury St Edmunds, so get your reservation in quickly!
1. Who were your literary influences as you were growing up?
I used to read all the time, anything I could find in the library I walked past on my way home from school, so it is hard to pick out any one author.
I loved (and still love) a good story and I went through all of the classic crime writers – Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie – at an early age, as well as historical fiction like Rosemary Sutcliffe and Georgette Heyer.
I remember reading everything by two authors whose writing attracted me even if I didn’t altogether understand their books as I have learnt to do later – Iris Murdoch and Earnest Hemingway. I wish I had kept a diary of the books I read at the time, as I do now, and could remind myself of the other great authors I must have met in Reading Library!
2. How did you get started on your literary career?
I started late. I began to write seriously in my fifties, when I enrolled on an undergraduate diploma in Creative Writing at Oxford University.
I know that the teaching of Creative Writing has come in for some criticism, but I found that this course, and the MA I took subsequently, were a marvellous way of sharpening up my writing skills and allowing me to meet other people who were writers, often very good writers, and to benefit from their ideas and opinions. I also enjoyed it, and although I wanted to be as good as I could be, I wasn’t completely committed to being published.
It has been a delight, though, to find a publisher for Meet Me at The Museum, and what I enjoy most is finding out what readers think about the book, which is often surprising and delightful.
3. Meet Me at the Museum is set in Bury St Edmunds. What attracted you to Suffolk and particularly Bury St Edmunds as a location?
The book was inspired by a letter of dedication in P. V. Glob’s book, The Bog People, which was addressed to schoolgirls in Bury St Edmunds. I could have moved my farmer’s wife to another part of the country, but it felt right to me to leave her in the place where she went to school.
My husband used to run a retail plant nursery and Suffolk is home to one of the best wholesale nurseries, so I have spent time in the county, stocking up on plants in winter when our business was closed. I could picture Tina looking out across the flat, rural landscape towards the North East and the vast expanse of sea between her and Denmark; it is a place that invites contemplation.
4. At what point did you feel you found the ‘voices’ of Anders and Tina?
Tina came to me at once. As I started writing, I felt I knew her already, and because she is writing, as she says, to make sense of herself, I could let her voice be informal and personal and this helped.
Anders was at first only clear in my mind as a precise, fact-driven person, but he came alive through the story of his wife, and at that point I understood him and was able to develop the way he thought and wrote.
5. What is your writing routine?
I try to write in the mornings, which doesn’t always work. I am easily distracted, in my office, by other chores and by finding things I must read right this minute. So I often find I am more productive outside of a routine.
I love to write on trains or in cafes or just sitting waiting. I once wrote an entire short story when the car park I was in was closed for a couple of hours due to a gas leak, and I couldn’t get out. I also have a friend’s shepherd’s hut in a field next to my house, and I sometimes use that as a writing refuge.
6. Do you have a message for your readers in Suffolk Libraries?
My message to readers in libraries everywhere is ‘good for you!’ Readers need libraries and libraries need readers, and as long as the one exists, there is hope the other will continue to thrive.
As far as the book is concerned, I can only hope that, as readers from Suffolk walk round the streets, they believe it is possible to recognise Tina in the women passing by; that she is a woman they might meet round the next corner.