I recently found a copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary, which I have been wanting to read since my first year of university (2013). They had a copy in the library but, overcome with work, I barely made a dent in it. After finding my copy, I started reading it straight away and raced through it. I sometimes struggle with Woolf’s writing, but reading extracts from her diary, and having an insight into her life has changed the way I feel about her.
This month’s author has written a book that would interest anyone wanting to know a bit more about Woolf’s life. But before that, let’s find out about his life and writing. Readers, meet Peter Fullagar!
About the author
Peter Fullagar is a published writer and editor, formerly an English teacher, who became fascinated by the works of Virginia Woolf while studying for his Masters in English Literature and Language and has written a new book titled Virginia Woolf in Richmond, published November 2018 by Aurora Metro Books. His short stories and articles have been published in anthologies and magazines including English Teaching Professional as well as The Huffington Post.
Describe your ideal writing atmosphere.
My ideal writing space is in my little office in my flat in Berkshire. We live on the outskirts of a village, so it’s very peaceful and hearing the wind through the trees is very calming. This is my first book so I imagine that the atmosphere might change as I continue writing.
How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?
I haven’t been writing long at all. In fact, I was an English teacher for 17 years, and then circumstances forced me to re-evaluate what I was doing. I decided to retrain as an editor and found volunteering work with Aurora Metro, an independent publisher who is running a campaign for a Virginia Woolf statue in Richmond, and this attracted me to the company. After a little time, I was asked to write the book on Woolf’s life in Richmond and it all started from there.
Describe your writing style.
I think I’m fairly easy to read, so it’s a little conversational. Having done a Master’s dissertation on Woolf, I’m used to academic writing, but I felt that this book deserved to have a more informal tone; partly because the research comes from Woolf’s diaries and letters.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
What kind of story that hasn’t been written yet do you want to read?
Oh goodness. I like all kinds of stories, and especially love dystopian novels and classics, but if I had to choose a story to read that hasn’t been written yet, then it would be a true story of one of my family members, expanded into a short novel – some of my older family members had fascinating lives.
Name any authors or books that have had an impact on your writing.
Apart from the obvious author, I have to say George Orwell and Maya Angelou. Angelou because she spoke of such brutal truth and Orwell because he’s so much more than 1984 and Animal Farm.
Describe the moment you truly felt like an author.
This has to be when I held the book in my hands for the first time. It had taken over a year to research and write the book and sometimes I thought it was never going to end, but holding something tangible in your hands that you have created is truly astonishing and something that nobody can ever take away from you.
What book by another author do you wish you’d written?
I think this is going to have to be The Waves by Virginia Woolf. It’s my favourite novel of hers and the way she introduces the narrative is genius, intertwining the different protagonist’s views and thoughts into prose. I don’t think the book is as popular as others, but for me, The Waves is Woolf’s masterpiece.
What is the best thing about writing/being a writer?
In writing this non-fiction book, the best thing was doing the research. As a book lover, I thoroughly enjoyed reading her diaries and letters and getting to know Virginia, almost like she was an old friend of mine. I have written some fiction as well, and with that, the imagination can just run and run and it’s something that cannot be constrained.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
This has to be to never give up. Although it may seem like the writing is going nowhere, it will, so persist. Once it is written and finished, edit, edit, edit. Keep pushing to get the manuscript as perfect as you can get it. And remember to take ownership of it. It’s yours.
Tell the story behind your latest book, why did you write it?
(see above – 2nd question)
Most inspiring quote?
It’s been used by so many people before, but it is “Books are the mirrors of the soul.” From Virginia Woolf.
Which author (living or dead) would you like to have dinner with?
Most people would expect me to choose Woolf. Although I think she’d be fascinating, I think I would choose Sylvia Plath and we would discuss The Bell Jar over a glass of wine.
If you could bring any fictional character to life, who would you choose?
I think I’d like to see Fagin from Oliver Twist, not because I think he’s a good character, but because I’d like to see how he would cope in today’s society.
How do you beat writers block?
Coffee is always a good choice, but so is taking a break. For me, it’s best not to force it and let it come naturally. If it doesn’t come naturally, then do something else that does. Writing needs to flow for it to be readable.
Give yourself some writing advice.
Try not to give the editor a headache by repeating the same phrases in manuscripts. I have a couple that I seem to fall back on, and it’s a pain (for the editor) to point them out and change. Also, remember how to make dashes on the laptop to save yourself from looking it up on the web and then copy and pasting it into place.
What are your plans for the future? What writing projects are you currently working on?
I’ve got a short story coming out in an anthology called Tempest, which is an exciting collection of essays, stories and poems focused on the theme of tempestuous times. Mine is a short, dystopian story. I’ve also submitted another, very personal, short story which I hope will be accepted. For Aurora Metro, I think there’s going to be another non-fiction book on the way, probably based around the Bloomsbury Group, and I’m also currently working on writing tests for an English Language publisher based in Greece. Busy times!
Virginia Woolf in Richmond
“I ought to be grateful to Richmond & Hogarth, and indeed, whether it’s my invincible optimism or not, I am grateful.” − Virginia Woolf
Although more commonly associated with Bloomsbury, Virginia and her husband Leonard Woolf lived in Richmond-upon-Thames for ten years from the time of the First World War (1914-1924). Refuting the common misconception that she disliked the town, this book explores her daily habits as well as her intimate thoughts while living at the pretty house she came to love – Hogarth House. Drawing on information from her many letters and diaries, the editor reveals how Richmond’s relaxed way of life came to influence the writer, from her experimentation as a novelist to her work with her husband and the Hogarth Press, from her relationships with her servants to her many famous visitors.