Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and seventy-fifth, is of crime / mystery novelist Margaret Eleanor Leigh. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Margaret Eleanor Leigh is a writer without roots. Born and raised in apartheid South Africa, she’s lived in Wales, New Zealand, England, Greece and Scotland. Now she’s back in Wales, the land of her fathers. Her working past is just as colourful: she’s been a journalist, a bureaucrat, a university tutor, a bookseller, and a proof-reader.
This unsettled and chaotic life has its drawbacks. The only place she can honestly call home is the seat in front of her computer. But it also has its advantages: giving her a rich seam of experiences to mine—an invaluable resource for any writer.
And now from the author herself:
I was a child ahead of my time, one of the earliest self-publishers. When I wrote my first novel at the age of six, I bound the pages together with blue wool so it would look like a real book. At the very least it was a prophetic act.
Since then, I have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep writing. I became one of those perpetual students who never leaves university, because doing so gave me an excuse to write. My reward was a thoroughly useless doctorate in religious studies, with only one viable career path leading from it: teaching. The only problem with that was I hated teaching.
So I took up bookselling. That was perfect, at least at first. I sat behind the counter of my little bookshop and wrote all day. Unfortunately my establishment was off the beaten track, and I wasn’t troubled by too many customers. And so began one of those nightmare downward spirals into financial ruin. The less said about all that the better…
Forced kicking and screaming into the workforce, I became a bureaucrat in a government department. I was about as much at home there as a zebra running in the Grand National. It was doomed from the start, of course, because I couldn’t keep away from writing. Instead of doing the work I was paid to do, I sat at my desk writing. Not surprisingly the powers-that-be took a dim view of this and no-one was particularly sorry when I left.
I rarely tried to get any of the work from this period published, because I knew instinctively it was rubbish. It was turgid, navel-gazing, self-obsessed, thinly-disguised autobiography. I also knew instinctively it should never, ever be inflicted upon the world.
It’s taken many years of writing a whole lot of rubbish to find my voice; to discover that elusive marriage of form and content Jonathan Franzen called tone, the holy grail of writing. I haven’t perfected it yet, it’s still a work in progress, but I know I am on the right track at last.
It’s not a literary tone, by any means, or even a particularly sophisticated one, but it’s mine, and it’s honest. I’ll never win the Booker Prize (or any other prize for that matter), but I’m not interested in that. All I want to do is entertain people. I want to write lively books with splashes of humour that will lift readers from whatever difficult reality they find themselves in at the time. I want to take them places they’d not otherwise go.
I don’t want to leave them with a nasty taste in their mouths, more depressed than they were when they started. In other words, I want to write books that I would like to read myself. I believe this is a good principle for any writer to adopt.
I’ve now written three novels, but am perhaps most excited about a travelogue that I’ll be releasing in July. It’s the story of a journey I made across Europe on a bicycle, with no money and no idea how bicycle gears worked. It’s my favourite piece of writing to date, because of the opportunities it afforded to poke fun—at myself, mostly.
My website, where there are links to my various books, is www.books.wordwinnower.com.
Thank you, Margaret. It’s great to meet you.
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