After a career in schools and colleges armed with a Master's Degree in Education, Wendy Robertson, having had three children's novels published, turned down an invitation to do her PhD, and finally gave up teaching to write full time. Since then she has published more than 20 novels reflecting a wide range of social and cultural themes, a short story collection, and a few magazine and newspaper articles. She has now embarked on The Writing Game, her own community radio show on writing and books. Wendy blogs at A Life Twice Tasted. Her new novel, set in the Languedoc, is Starr Bright.
Why do you blog? > Because I enjoy writing these small pieces reflecting my views, my experiences about the place; about the writing process; occasionally a political view from the left of centre; extracts from work in progress; book launches; book festivals; history; unique people. Lots of fragments – a Gaudi Wall of a blog, perhaps. The response has been amazing.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Hitting 'Publish' - so much less long-winded than the publishing world outside the blogosphere.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > It has been all joy or I wouldn't do it.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Pitch in, write and enjoy it. Don't make it a chore. Leave plenty of white space on the page and add your own photos. They don't have to be good. Keep it unique and personal but don't be cheesy.
What are your favourite blogs? > My daughter Debora at Love and a Licked Spoon; Writing Junkie; the funny, insightful 60 going on 16; and writer and biographer Kathleen Jones, as it's such a writer's blog – her perceptions are precise and illuminating and her photographs integrate so well with the writing.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Antonio Gramsci, because he had some grasp of the connection between the cultural world and its political context. Big ideas, big ideals. Shakespeare, because he is an endless well of invention and insight.
What are you reading at the moment? > The novels of prizewinning crime-writer Ann Cleeves, as I am interviewing her tomorrow at the Hexham Book Festival for my new community radio programme.
Who are your cultural heroes? > James Joyce, Daphne du Maurier and Pablo Picasso - all artisans as well as artists.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Ulysses by James Joyce. Massively original and mould-breaking, using language like a combination of violin and banjo, making me smile, jolting me with insight.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Ode To A Nightingale' by John Keats. Awesome youthful genius. Unsurpassed. No Emperor's New Clothes there.
What is your favourite movie? > The French film I've Loved You So Long, written and directed by Philippe Claudel. It tells the story of a woman struggling to interact with her family and find her place in society after spending 15 years in prison. I went into the cinema 'blind', not realizing the nature of the film. But its themes were close to my heart, as I've worked a lot with women in prison. I loved the fact that it was delicate, sensitive and understated. But so powerful. It stayed with me for weeks. It's with me now.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I've grown into real consciousness of many of the issues of my day, including feminism, racism, justice. It's not a matter of changing minds but growing minds.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > The promotion of justice, hand in hand with equality, without the interference of privilege or prejudice.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The proto-Darwinian notion of self-interest as a driving force for a society's survival.
Who are your political heroes? > Jennie Lee, Aneurin Bevin and Nelson Mandela.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you - learned very early from Charles Kingsley's novel The Water Babies, where there is a character Mrs 'Do As You Would Be Done By'.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Cut down all school class sizes to 15 or less.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Greed and hubris.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > No! No! The best is yet to come. There was no golden age. We are flawed but we are improving.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Believe in yourself and keep a very open mind. Listen!
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? > Reader, I changed him...
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Open-mindedness and the gift of empathizing while thinking logically.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To save a life, to help someone, in a situation where I know an underlying truth will still be served.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd have given myself permission to be a full-time writer 15 years earlier.
What would you call your autobiography? > A Life Twice Tasted.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > It would never happen, but Janet McTeer would be good.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Agde in the Languedoc.
What is your most treasured possession? > My fountain pens.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > That the government would cut the female prison population down to those who are a genuine harm to themselves or others. That would reduce the number by three quarters. Proper drug rehabilitation instead of prison would save families, save lives and prevent new cycles of victimhood.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would set up an educational charity where children of all backgrounds and abilities would have generous funding and the right to opt into two years of high quality education in another country. They could take their mums or their dads with them, if they want to.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Carl Gustav Jung, 'The Boy Who Likes Chocolate' (see my blog), and my grandmother, Sarah Ellen, whom I never met. I once wrote a novel based on a single incident from her life. Her first language was Welsh, she cooked like an angel, and she wrote love letters for her sisters and sisters-in-law during the First World War. It would be interesting listening to these three argue the toss.
[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.]