Tamsin Winter grew up in a tiny Northamptonshire village where she spent her childhood reading books and writing stories. She studied English literature and creative writing at university, and has taught English at secondary level for over fifteen years. Her multi-award-winning debut novel aimed at young teens, Being Miss Nobody, is published by Usborne Publishing and tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl who can’t speak. Her second novel, Jemima Small Versus the Universe, is also aimed at young teens and has been described as “a triumph of body positivity” by the Bookseller. It deals with big themes of weight-related bullying, body confidence and learning to be happy with who you are. Tamsin is currently working on her third novel, forthcoming from Usborne.
1) When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little girl. I started taking it more seriously when I decided to study creative writing at university, but it wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I got my book deal. I’m glad I didn’t give up!
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My books are aimed at young teens and deal with contemporary themes such as body confidence, cyberbullying, social media, mental health and friendships. I like writing about girls who don’t see their true worth, but eventually get to that moment where they step up. They are funny, empowering, a little heartbreaking and you can find out more at http://www.tamsinwinter.com.
3) What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my third book which will be coming out in early 2021. It’s about a girl whose parents are mummy and daddy bloggers. It explores the boundary between a teen’s right to privacy and a parents’ decision to share. Let’s just say, there are some highly awkward moments.
4) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
My latest book, Jemima Small Versus the Universe, has just been shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize, and I’ve been nominated for the Carnegie Medal twice. It’s incredible that my books have been so well received, but for me the main thing is that young readers like them.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Rejection is part of any writer’s career, and it doesn’t stop just because you’ve been published. You have to accept that your work isn’t for everybody, and hope that it gets in front of the right person.
6) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
I don’t have a set schedule, other than the deadlines from my publisher. I tend to write in big bursts, so I’ll write like crazy for a couple of months, then give myself a break. I’m not a ‘write every day’ type. It takes me about 18 months to write a novel. I’m trying to speed up, but I teach part-time and I’m a lone parent, so I have quite a few plates spinning…
7) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
I don’t think age matters at all if it’s the right story. I’m a better writer now than I was ten years ago. I think it’s different for everybody; I’m a bit of a fatalist, I guess.
8) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work? Do you ever just sit down and curl up with your own book?
By the time a book is published, I’ve probably read it about 300 times. With Being Miss Nobody, I couldn’t bear to read it – I think I was too terrified I might have made a mistake. But with Jemima Small Versus the Universe, which I found much harder to write, I have occasionally curled up with it. I’m enormously proud of it, plus I end up forgetting stuff.
9) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
I’m the same – my main aim when I’m writing a character or scene is for it to feel authentic. Even the fictional world needs to be believable. I do a great deal of research into whatever situation or topic I’m writing about, and do a lot of character development. I usually write from the first person, so capturing the character’s unique ‘voice’ is really important. I think every writer who has honed their craft and writes from the heart has a unique element to their writing. That’s what I try to do, I suppose: write fiction so it feels like truth.