Time for another Wednesday interviews with one of my fellow Honno authors. And today I’m pleased to be chatting with Manon Steffan Ros
Tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer and as a person.
I started writing when I was pregnant with my first child, who’s almost ten now. I had to give up my job as an actress because I was quite unwell, and needed something to fill my time and take my mind off the daunting prospect of impending parenthood! I had some success in the National Eisteddfod, which gave me the confidence to go for it.
I’m now fortunate enough to be working full-time as a writer, and the jobs I take on are varied- novels, plays, scriptwriting, game story-lining. I can’t quite believe how lucky I am to be doing this. When people ask me what I do, I’m always faintly embarrassed when I answer – saying “I’m a writer” sounds a bit like “I’m an astronaut” or “I’m a rock star”!
Tell us about the concept behind your book.
The Seasoning is a novel with recipes. I love food, and have always found cooking to be very therapeutic. In the novel, we are told the life story of Peggy, and the recipes which form parts of her memory. Taste is so evocative- who forgets the flavours of long-ago school dinners? Also, I wanted to explore the complex relationship people have with food, especially the generation which have gone from rationing and undernourishment to being faced with endless amounts of cheap, mass-produced food.
The Seasoning is a Welsh novel at its heart-I wanted to portray what it’s really like to live in a small rural village, with its comforts and claustrophobia. It is set in the small (and very real) village of Llanegryn, which is a few miles from Tywyn on the Meirionnydd coast.
How much research went into sculpting the manuscript?
I am a bit of a history buff, and so I knew a lot of the historical context of that area anyway. For me, the story comes before historical accuracy. However, I did have to test the recipes over and over again. They are mostly my own, though a few have been passed down by my grandmother, and another is based on a Staffordshire oatcake recipe (a nod to my grandparents in Stoke-on-Trent!)
How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?
I think one process feeds the other. Writing is, of course, lonely work, which suits me fine- but I do sometimes think that more social interaction would be good for the development of the characters which I’m writing. So when I go and talk to various groups of societies about what I do, it gives me that opportunity to meet new people and observe them. I know that makes me sound a bit odd, but the truth is that I’m not very gregarious- when I’m observing people and the way they behave, I admire, respect and love them, but I do feel like an outsider looking in.
Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s a typical writing day for you?
I have two young sons (5 and 9) and so my working day starts when they’re at school. I try to write from 9-3 every day, with an hour off at lunchtime to go for a walk. I visit the library every other day, as I don’t have an internet connection in my home and so rely on the library to send work and do any research. I work again when the boys are in bed, from eight to around ten. I have my lazy days, but I find that I feel flat and a bit down if I go a few days without writing. It has become my way of processing the world.
Which novelists do you admire?
I am a voracious reader, and I love all kinds of books- I tend to read 2 or 3 books a week. I adore Kate Atkinson, Sue Monk Kidd and Fannie Flagg. I collect and chain-read books by Judy Blume, Paula Danziger and Ruth Thomas- the young adults’ genre appeals to me.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I ADORE Lego. Honestly. I play with it until my fingers get stiff. My children and I have pyjama days where we play with Lego all day. It’s fantastic stuff.
What would you like to take to a lonely island?
A radio. It’s my constant companion- I flit between different stations depending on the time of day, but generally find that the sound of radio is very comforting.
Hope you don’t mind Manon – I thought I’d add a little extra here. This is the write up for your book which is published 21st May 2015 – Oh!!! That’s tomorrow!
“Peggy is eighty and the family are having a birthday party. Her son’s gift of a beautifully crafted notebook comes with a request…
Peggy’s not so keen on telling her own story, but each of her family and neighbours has a story to tell, revealing not just Peggy’s life but that of her village, tucked beneath Cader Idris on the southern fringes of Snowdownia. Bookended by Peggy’s own shocking testimony, each chapter has a different voice and a different take on events, from the jolly fat woman who is feeding not just Peggy but her own sense of emptiness, to the generous shopkeeper and his young son, who has had his eye on Peggy for a long time, and Peggy’s best friend, who’s not sure she’s cut out for marriage to the church and its curator. As the village voices fill out the picture of life in Llanegryn, slowly the reader realises that all is not well, and that Peggy’s eccentricities have a terrible dark secret hidden behind them – and not just that she was a neglected child.”
Buy a copy here: