Elizabeth Baines was born in South Wales and lives in Manchester. She is the prize-winning author of stage plays, numerous dramas for radio and short stories, as well as two novels, The Birth Machine and Body Cuts. Recently she has also become an occasional actor. A collection of her short stories, Balancing on the Edge of the World, will appear from Salt Publishing in October. Elizabeth blogs at Fictionbitch and Elizabeth Baines.
Why do you blog? > I started the Fictionbitch blog because I wanted to address issues about writing and publishing which concerned me as a writer and which I felt weren't being sufficiently aired. My Elizabeth Baines blog is a more personal diary of my writing and performing life, and a chance to exchange writing experiences on a more personal level and, of course, to promote my projects.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Discovering that other people shared my concerns, finding like-minded friends and, excitingly, engaging in thoughtful debate.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Being misunderstood and taken as slandering someone. The problem arose because I was unaware of what another blogger had written on the subject and that my remarks would thus be taken in a context I hadn't intended. Part of the problem, too, was the brevity I try to achieve because I think blogging demands it.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Remember that a blog is a public platform, and that anonymous bloggers can get outed - as I did!
Who are your intellectual heroes? > I'm not too keen on the notion of 'heroes', but of prime importance to my thinking are John Stuart Mill, George Orwell, Richard Hoggart (for The Uses of Literacy), and Kate Millett (for Sexual Politics).
What are you reading at the moment? > Alain-Fournier's novel Le Grand Meaulnes (for my reading group).
Who are your cultural heroes? > Kafka, the Brontës, George Eliot, Margaret Atwood, Stéphane Grappelli.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I can only answer with a question: Best in what way? What's so great about novels is that, as the word implies, there are so many different kinds, and examples of each can seem the best while I’m reading them. But then I re-read books I read years ago and change my mind.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I'm less clear about abortion since having children. Also, I used to believe strongly that you could and should put the past behind you, whereas now I feel that - both personally and politically - that's the way to build up trouble.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > The notion that we don't and can't know everything.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The idea that there are things we can know a priori, without recourse to reason or experience. (As a writer I do value intuition, but I think in reality it's based on experience.)
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > I should probably say Mill's On Liberty, but I'm saying Kate Millett's Sexual Politics because that wasn't simply the original explication of a concept with which I had already been brought up, but stripped my eyes and made me see everything differently. The book which truly showed me how contingent or insidiously covert value systems can be.
Who are your political heroes? > Engels (for The Condition of the Working Classes in England), the Suffragists.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I'd kick government and big business out of the cosy bed they got into together.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The continuing concept of 'the other' - so crazy when genetics is proving how closely related we all are.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > If I thought I knew the answer to this one I wouldn't need to go on writing.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Everything that happens to you, however bad, can be turned somehow to good.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > No way.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > The ability to see others' points of view.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Conversely, the inability to do so, which leads to arrogance, cruelty, and on the less personal level, despotism (the personal is political, and vice versa).
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > If telling the truth would cause more harm than good. (It's a hard call though, and I've misjudged it badly in the past.)
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I dislike opera but I've never been to one.
What is your favourite proverb? > Do as you would be done by.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Pollution, wars, global warming, the future for my children and any grandchildren I may have.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd be a lot pushier while I was young - but then I'd have to be reborn a different person and from a different background, I guess.
What would you call your autobiography? > Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down - subtitled And Remember They're Only Human.
What is your most treasured possession? > Probably my Silver Cross fountain pen with which I write my notes and first drafts and my writing journal.
What talent would you most like to have? > I wish I could play a musical instrument, but I've had one or two goes, and I'm not very good, you know.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > Getting my latest novel published.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > It wouldn't really change my life, which nowadays I love: I could repay the man who has supported me for much of the time that I've been a writer earning buttons, and I could give my kids the financial security which my income so far hasn't allowed.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]