A deskside appointment with the novelist and editor-in-chief of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman really needs no introduction. Having edited British Vogue since 1992, she was awarded an OBE for services to the magazine industry in 2005 and has recently written two novels, Can We Still Be Friends and The Parrots.So we took a pew next to the journalist and novelist to talk writing rituals, moodboarding and multitasking…
- Outside of the world of fashion, journalism and social media, is there a very distinct type of pleasure you get from the more private process of writing a novel?
‘The wonderful and entirely unexpected thing about writing fiction is that it has a life of its own apart from the ideas you have. I found in The Parrots that people did things I didn't expect and the story grew in a way I hadn't intended at the outset. It is also a relief to only work with myself. As Editor of Vogue everything I do involves a huge number of people’.
- We know that you create moodboards in front of your writing desk. What did your moodboard contain when writing The Parrots?
‘I put together pictures of places and people that I imagined inhabited the world of The Parrots. Sometimes it was a cutting from a newspaper of a wealthy couple in a high profile divorce, sometimes from an interiors magazine such as House & Garden where there were furnishings or gardens that seemed appropriate. I also had photographs I took in Milan of the building where I imagined one of the characters lived’.
- Did you have any rituals that you stuck to whilst writing The Parrots?
‘I had absolutely no rituals and no routine because I have to write in the cracks of my life. So it might be that I worked at my desk at home but I also wrote in other people's houses if were staying with them, or on aeroplanes and trains, or in cafes. The only rule I had was not to work in the Vogue office. I wanted to keep the novel distant from my job there. I normally write in old clothes too - something that I would never wear at work like an old T-shirt and loose trousers, or maybe a dressing gown’.
- If you could give one piece of advice to someone embarking on a novel what would it be?
‘I think you need to be prepared for it to be much harder than you might imagine. But the most important thing is to get the words on the page. There is always a good reason not to sit down and do it - you have to be ruthless with yourself and your excuses’.ENTER TO WIN!Can’t wait to read The Parrots? Alexandra very kindly packed us off with some copies specially for you to win. Ready, steady, …ENTER YOUR DETAILS HERE.