Penny Alexander

Why do you write?

I have always found writing things down helps me untangle my thoughts, it is therapeutic. I also love the creativity of playing with words. From to do lists to diary writing, to running my family travel blog parentshaped.co.uk, to writing fiction and non-fiction I’m always calmer and happier when I am writing.

Is writing your first love or do you have another passion?

I used to write stories and plays at primary school and as a grown up I started a blog as a means to make myself write regularly, that soon paved the path to travelling the world, photography and film making. I originally trained as a drama and media teacher and so theatre and film are also big passions. Gardening, running and nature are my favourite ways to switch off.

What was the first book that made you cry?

I think it was probably Charlotte’s Web, but my mum would probably know of one I have forgotten!

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

It’s quite solitary, which is why writing Create Your Own happy with my blogging friend Becky was so much fun. I also have lots of blogging friends who are great fun to share ideas with. I decided to work with a writing coach, Joanne Burn, on the novel I am writing, to keep me focussed and stop the inner critic taking over.

Name a fictional character you consider a friend.

Laura in Little House in the Prairie was a big part of my childhood and I think she and I will always be entwined a little, forever looking for the next adventure, loving travel, caravans and the little things. Although, when I saw the picture of the real Laura on the back of the final book, a stern, bespectacled, Victorian lady, I remember feeling deeply disappointed she didn’t match the Laura of my imagination one bit.

Did getting published change your perception of writing?

As non-fiction writers our proposal didn’t need to be the entire book, so we still had writing to do once Harper Collins agreed to publish it. So yes! It was a wonderful thing to write the remaining chapters having had our ideas about the importance of learning about happiness validated and to work with an editor, a teacher reader and illustrator to fully bring them to life on the page. Hearing feedback from our readers at workshops, and on social media makes the writing process feel so much more alive.

Who inspires you and why?

Kate Atkinson has always been my favourite author, I admire the way she has always blown up structure, used humour and dived deep into history to tease out incredible stories from ordinary seeming characters.

Which book deserves more readers? 

Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan really inspired Becky and I to look more deeply into the science of happiness. It is fascinating!

Do you have any friends that are writers? If so, do you show each other early drafts?

The joy of being a duo and friends already, is that Becky and I can do this throughout the writing process. We make a great team, Becky always has great sparks of ideas that get us started and in no time we’re both flinging down zillions of ideas on big pieces of paper.  When we have done that, I’m the one who loves to tidy, organise and structure things. Once we have a clear plan, we divide the book up so we can write some ideas each. Whenever I emerge from some very serious editing of our work, she often adds little lines which make really make me smile – the cherry on the cake.

Who or what are you most excited to see at Newark Book Festival in July?

Lots of people, the line-up looks fab, but it’s always good to see Becky, my co-writer of Create Your Own Happy. I moved away just after we finished the proposal so book events are always a lovely way to keep up!

Penny Alexander events