Myers Briggs, Jane Eyre and orange peel: Anne Goodwin on her other identities.
Despite the consistent message that consistency is fundamental to successful author branding, I’ve written a fresh bio for each of the books I’ve published so far. I don’t mean merely updating, but a complete makeover each time. Why? Because each book comes from a different part of me and, although reserved by nature, it feels right to share that part with the readers who’ve chosen that particular book.
The bio for my latest book, Becoming Someone, an anthology of short stories on the theme of identity, lists some of the non-writer identities I’ll admit to: sociable introvert; recovering psychologist; voracious reader; slug slayer; struggling soprano; and tramper of moors. Here I’ll elaborate a little each.
I love catching up with friends – but not too often, and preferably in the context of some other activity. (See struggling soprano and tramper of moors.) I love listening to others’ conversations – as long as they don’t drown out my own thoughts. Since leaving salaried employment (see recovering psychologist) and focusing on my writing, I’ve become more introverted than ever, almost off the Myers Briggs scale. But I’m also far less shy than in my youth. If you met me, you might find me quite ebullient, but don’t mistake that for extraversion! There’ll be a burst of manic energy before I switch myself off to recover.
I worked for twenty-five years as a clinical psychologist, a career that has undoubtedly impacted on my writing, with a depth of characterisation and themes of identity, marginalisation, attachment and mental health. Twenty-five years helping others find their neglected stories; now I focus on my own.
To me, it’s obvious that a writer would also be a reader, although I know not everyone agrees. I read and review around 150 novels a year and learn something from each one, even if it’s the pitfalls I want to avoid. But my past profession has given me an intolerance for unconvincing fictional therapists which, unfortunately, are all too common.
While I’d generally advocate kindness to animals, I resent the gastropods that invade my vegetable plot, especially when they gobble up freshly sprouted seedlings or consume more than their fair share of lettuces and courgettes. As an organic gardener, I eschew slug pellets, so I’m obliged to trap the blighters and murder them myself. If the weather’s not too wet or dry, I find the peel from half an orange gathers them together, and an old knife my weapon of choice. If only I were drawn to crime writing, I’m sure this practice would generate some juicy ideas.
Until about fifteen years ago, I’d sing only in the shower or in the car on my own. But, around the time I began to create a space for my writing, I also took some singing lessons for a while. Although I still clam up at the prospect of anyone hearing me sing unaccompanied, I’ve joined a marvellous mixed voice choir that performs with an orchestra two or three times a year. I love the classical repertoire and still can’t quite believe they let someone like me, who struggles with technique, be part of it.
Tramper of moors
Walking is my main form of exercise, as well as my go-to strategy for reaching that state of reverie where the ideas flow. I take a short walk most days (unless it’s peak slug-slaying season in the garden) and, every other Sunday, I’m out on the moors as a volunteer ranger for the Peak District National Park. In late spring/early summer, I lead a walk inJane Eyrecountry with readings from Charlotte Brontë’s well-loved novel. Maybe you’ll join me one day?