Lorraine Thomson was born in Glasgow, grew up in Cumbernauld, and now lives in Ullapool. She is the author of seven published novels. Her piece, “skinscape”, can be found in EPOCH Issue 02: Aftermath, available to purchase here.
What books did you grow up reading?
The first book I remember owning was Naughty Amelia Jane, Enid Blyton’s story about toys that came alive at night and got up to all sorts of mischief. I was five. From then on it was pretty much anything I could get my hands on. There was lots more Enid Blyton including the Famous Five books. I had a Tarzan annual that I read until it was falling apart, and I was a big fan of Alf Prøysen’s Little Old Mrs Pepperpot books. There was a great story in one of them about a big toe that went on holiday.
I was ten when I read my first adult book, Jaws. Not the best book ever written but I liked the sharky bits and it gave me the word vagina, which I pronounced in my head as vah-jeen-a. The Rats and The Fog by James Herbert helped to extend my body-parts vocabulary.
I spent the last couple of years of primary school trying to get into the adult library, but they said I was too young and kept chucking me out. When they finally let me in, I had no idea what to read so I’d pick up books at random and go home with weird pick ‘n’ mixes like a novel about the Weimar Republic, a biography of Malcolm X, and a book of poetry and sketches by John Lennon. If there was an epic series on TV like ‘Roots’ or ‘Rich Man Poor Man,’ I’d seek out the books they were based on.
My parents weren’t massive readers but there were usually a few paperbacks passing through the house. If I was lucky it would be something juicy like Peyton Place. I remember my dad being appalled when he caught me reading a Harold Robbins book, but he had no idea what I’d been reading before then. By the time I got to Robbins, it seemed like pretty tame stuff.
High school introduced me to George Orwell and John Wyndham, the author of my favourite book, The Day of the Triffids, and also to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. I think if I was reading it for the first time now, I might find Holden Caulfield quite annoying, but back then reading a book with that voice and attitude was amazing. It was like nothing I’d read before, so fresh and immediate. It just exploded off the page.
I enjoyed most of the authors we read at school, but it was like women writers didn’t exist. In fact, aside from the poem Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka, I don’t recall reading anything at all that wasn’t written by a white male.
I asked my English teacher, a really great guy called Len Hughes, for reading recommendations, and he came up with an eclectic list of books that I worked my way through. I remember being irritated by The Lord of the Rings, but The Women’s Room by Madeline French, was another eye-opener. It didn’t really matter if I liked the books he suggested or not, although I think I did enjoy most of them. It was being exposed to different ideas, styles and experiences that mattered. He really helped to broaden my horizons.
What is the most challenging aspect of your creative process?
Generally, it’s the tension between maintaining faith in my ability to write versus crippling self-doubt. It doesn’t help that I have an existential crisis at least once a week. At the moment, the challenge is simply sitting down and getting on with writing. I spend too much time fannying around. I know I’m doing it even as it’s happening which makes it all the more frustrating. I also know it’s lockdown-related and that it will pass once I’ve had a much-needed change in scenery and routine. I try to maintain the faith and not beat myself up about it too much, but I excel at giving myself a hard time.
What does your writing space look like?
After years of moving from kitchen table to sofa to whatever corner I could find, I finally have a room of my own to work in and it’s absolutely brilliant. My room faces east and so I get the sunrise in the morning and the moon rising over Ullapool Hill in the evening. There’s a hedge just outside that’s like a tenement block for little birds and the noise they make is phenomenal. The room itself is bright. My desk is at the window and the window is covered in post-it notes relating to my current wip. The walls are painted white and covered in art and more post-it notes and big sheets of paper I can scribble ideas on. I’ve recently got back into creating art and it’s amazing to have this space to work in. One of my daughters is an art student. She’s currently at home because of Covid and is working in the room next door so there’s a nice creative vibe in the house.
Where can we find your work?
@LGThomson1 and www.thrillerswithattitude.co.uk