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Grace Coleman Walking Barefoot - 2017 Ms. Coleman, Thank you for taking your time for me.
Who are your influences?
Walking Barefoot is heavily influenced
by 1984 and Brave New World. I’m not saying that it’s as bleak as either; but
I’m interested in what Orwell and Huxley would think are our barriers to
happiness in 2017 – would they think we’re being suppressed by an all-powerful
elite or do we build cages of our own making in the lives we choose to live?
There’s a hint of Stephen King’s Gunslinger about the protagonist, Will
Balston: he’s not half as hardcore, but imagine if Roland had spent an eternity
paper-pushing instead of gun-slinging and maybe you’re there.
When did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can
remember. A cheesy answer but true! I remember a family reunion in Durban, I
must’ve been about 7, my second and third cousins were tearing round the house
and garden; but I had crawled under the dining room table, pen and paper in
hand, emerging hours later to proudly read my poem to my mum. My early teens
saw a productive, Douglas Adams’ inspired period which I shared with pen pals
over the internet (back in the days when it was acceptable to meet strangers in
Yahoo! Chatrooms) and post-University I felt compelled to write down a
‘fictional’ take on a first year at Durham, pre-In Betweeners, it took a frank
look at early sexual experiences and friendship. Writing has never been a
problem – finishing and editing, now there’s the rub!
How do you come up with your stories,
characters, character names, POV, etc.?
William Balston arrived fully formed on
my doorstep. I was in a basement in Byron Bay au pairing, having spent time in
Thailand, and he came jostling in, demanding attention. The thing about Will is
he’s got some really great qualities, but he’s just so damn unhappy! Could I
save him? At first I thought he was a Freudian mix of my ex-boyfriend and my
father, but once I was immersed in the story I realised he was me all along. I
think at this stage of my career all my protagonists, although very different,
are exploring traits within myself. When I write Character definitely comes
first, the world and the story just sort of fall into place after.
If you could actually meet one of your
characters, who would it be? Why?
A blast from the unpublished past! When
I was fifteen I started writing a book called Norman. Norman was duller than
dull, he lived in the back end of nowhere and had a meagre middle-aged
existence until one day he bought a computer, before he knows it (and remember
kids this is pre you-tube sensation days) he is plunged into internet super
stardom. Poor Norman never got finished though. I’d like to meet him to say
sorry that I got distracted by drinking and boys and University, and also to
see if his voice is as I imagined. Maybe he can let me know how he got on.
Do you work from an outline?
Not yet. I really really need to start
plotting my books before I start. My first draft of Walking Barefoot (which,
completed over three years ago, looked significantly different to the published
version) was over double the length at 120,000 – so much of it was drivel! The
problem with not plotting is you don’t know where it’s going so you just write
and write. I’d be sitting with Will having a morning coffee, thinking, ‘OK
mate, I don’t need to see you put on your tie for the hundredth time – what are
you actually doing today?’
Tell me about your favorite scene in
My favourite scene came out of a writing
exercise. I did the online Curtis Brown novel writing course a few years ago
(which helped me summon the courage to slash the 70,000 words mentioned above),
and the tutor asked us to write a scene imagining our character had discovered
a dead body. I think a lot of people went down the crime/detective route. I
thought about Will – where he’d find a dead body and what he’d do. Well, he
just walked straight out of the scene! Was having none of it. Barely flinched!
I liked the scene so much (the dark and dingy bar, the man turned body, Will's
stubbornness even when confronted with the most dramatic of scenes) I put it in
Can you tell us a little about your
Writing isn't something I've chosen to
do, it's something I have to do to not be miserable. It reminds me of the scene
in Sister Act 2 when she quotes Rainer Maria Rilke – if when you wake up in
the morning you can think of nothing but writing, then you're a writer.
Don't get me wrong, days, weeks, months, go by when I don't put pen to paper or
fingers to keys (life has a nasty habit of getting in the way); but there's
always that niggle in the back of my mind, a story or character itching to get
out, that makes me know, however unrewarding or hopeless, I will spend my life
Have you ever tried writing in any
Walking Barefoot is actually my first
foray into Dystopian fiction. I've written chick-lit, fairy stories and coming
of age Young adult fiction in the past. My novel-in-progress is an adult Alice
in Wonderland-esque exploration into identity and abuse (which I'm really
dreading summarising in a book catalogue). I write lots of genres, but the
things that bind them are themes and the focus on character. I'd like to write
a detective novel next, something that forces me to put plot first and takes me
out of my comfort zone.
Do you have any interesting
writing-related anecdotes to share?
Writing is a solitary,
procrastination-filled process for me so is never a barrel of laughs to any
unfortunate onlooker. I guess I find it strange how many mediums it now takes
on; a scribbled line on the back of a receipt, a story idea typed into my
phone, a stolen ten-minutes on my One Drive at work (*looks over shoulder
nervously*). So one anecdote doesn't really stand out - it's just a slow plod,
word by word, that runs alongside the everyday.
Do you listen to music as you write?
I've tried experimenting with Classical
music but generally I prefer silence when writing. I feel like Master Shifu in
Kung fu Panda when I try to write – struggling for inner peace, whilst my ears
are twitching, straining for the quietest, most distant dog bark to get annoyed
at. Music can invoke emotion, which can be a good thing for initial
inspiration, but I'd be worried that it would seep into the writing and affect
As a parting line I just want to say
thank you for reading! For so long I've been writing but too scared to share it
with the world. And a Writer without a Reader is like.... well, lots of things
are more fun with two people. I'm really excited to finally be letting Walking
Barefoot loose into the world – and hopefully you'll come along for a little of
Grace, on the behalf of my reader's I thank you for your time
Set in a futuristic London in a world ravaged by war, Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will, past and present. The cocksure eighteen year old who goes travelling in a bid to find himself. The city-living adult who struggles to be happy despite his well paid job, upper quadrant apartment and sexy girlfriend. When nightmares begin to haunt his sleeping and waking life, Will is unsure whether he is suffering from the illness that killed his father or being led by unseen forces to uncover a city-wide conspiracy. As his paranoia heightens he must ask himself - is he willing to lose himself to find the truth?