Jane Wilson-Howarth

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Author interview

Sunday, 17 February 2019
Stephanie Green and I met some years ago when she joined the travel writers section of Cambridge Writers. Four or five of us met roughly monthly to share our writing over a few glasses of wine. We encouraged each other and made suggestions to keep the writing process going as it can be hard to maintain confidence in one’s ability. Such writers’ groups are an absolutely invaluable resource. Our anthology 50 Camels and She's Yours: tales from five women across five continents grew out of this, and I have already posted interviews with two other contributors Sally Haiselden and Seeta Siriwardena. In addition to the anthology, Stephanie has published A Wide Woman on a Narrow Boat and the sequel is out soon. She kindly agreed to answer some questions about herself and her writing.
 
Where were you born and raised?
Hull, East Yorkshire
 
Have you always had itchy feet?
Well I knew I wanted to get out of Hull.
 
What was your first big trip?
My first thought was my trip to Australia about eighteen years ago. Then looking back, I remembered a four month trip in a Dormobile around France, Spain and Portugal when I was in my twenties. My honeymoon was a three-month trip around Ireland, camping in a small, wet tent, so maybe that counts as intrepid travelling as well.
 
When and how did you start writing about your travels?
I’ve always enjoyed writing and have always written letters and newsletters when I’ve been away but I think the first time I wrote at length about my travels was went I went to live in The Philippines. That was the first time I really thought I had something to write about.
 
Am I right in thinking that you joined Cambridge Writers soon after returning from living and working in the Philippines? It must have been a courageous step to commit to living abroad for two years. How scary a leap was it?
It was a bit of a leap into the unknown, so courageous didn’t come into it. If I had known more about what I was letting myself in for I may have been a bit more scared.
 
What made you to join Cambridge Writers?
To encourage me to keep on writing.
 
Could you give us an outline of the Philippines trip you were writing about at the time?
I was trying to write about living and working in the country and some of my views on the aspects of volunteering and the Aid industry. I was hoping to get a book finished but haven't yet.
 
Do you keep notes when travelling?
Not as many as I should.
 
Do you think it is important to keep a diary when travelling or are there other ways to hold the memories fresh?
I think different people work in different ways. I have tried keeping a diary but then forget to fill it in. Notes of impressions and photographs that trigger memory work better for me.
 
I absolutely love the dry humour you inject into your traveller’s tales. Does this come naturally as you write or do you go back and add in amusing scenes?
I never thought of going back and adding in amusing scenes. Now you’ve mentioned it I might give it a try!
 
Often the humour is at your expense. Do you ever hesitate before admitting to follies?
No, the only hesitation is mentioning the follies of others.
 
You have already published Wide Woman on a Narrow Boat. Tell us something about that.
It is the story of my first eighteen months of a single-handed very novice boater. In a similar vein to going to live in The Philippines if I’d known the reality and the pitfalls I may never have done it.
 
Very few writers manage to make a living writing. What have been / are your day job(s)? How would you describe yourself professionally? Do they interfere with your ambitions to write?
Day jobs are time-consuming so yes. they do get in the way of writing and many other pleasurable things as well. I’ve had a very varied, undulating career path from restaurant owner to running a catering business, from working with troubled teenagers to working with accountants. For the last fifteen years I’ve been a self-employed consultant working with computerised accountancy systems.
 
You have written some brilliant tales that are published in “50 Camels and She’s Yours.” Would you tell us about the spread of the material you have contributed?
The longest piece was about the attitudes to and rituals surrounding death in The Philippines. The others were about travelling in South America, regular visits to Italy and a weekend in Budapest.
 
What global issues are you most passionate about? Do injustices get to you often?
Mostly I feel overwhelmed by the problems of global warming and social injustice. I do feel that wherever people live, whatever their culture or social background that we all have more in common than we have differences. It should be remembered when we are speaking of asylum seekers, refuges, the displaced or those living in poverty that we are speaking of children, wives, sons, fathers and mothers.
 
What do think were our biggest challenges in compiling our anthology?
Knowing when to stop adding to it, fiddling with it and amending and just getting down to publishing it.
 
Have you any works in progress?
I’ve just finished a sequel to A Wide Woman on a Narrow Boat, entitled A Wiser Woman on a Narrow Boat.
 
What future writing plans do you have?
I would like to look again at my writing about the Philippines. At the moment I’m trying to work it as a novel, particularly focussing on the older western man / younger female Filipino woman relationships.
 
Do you have a blog or website?
It’s a work in progress. Mind you its been in progress for a good few years.
 
Stephanie Green's first book is available for kindle and as a paperback; it is packed full of her humour and is sharply observed