Interview with Ruth Torjussen, Author of Friends and Neighbours

11 May 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Friends and Neighbours?

‘Friends and Neighbours’ is my first novel although I came up with the idea and wrote it as a film script in 2007. It’s been a long road! I had to totally fail at film-making first before I would consider the possibility of being able to write a novel. The story is a humorous one about a middle-aged woman who after the death of her best friend, is left bereft of female companionship. However, her grief is making her more like her mother, a first-class snob. There are plenty of women around her but all she can see are their faults. This is the main storyline however there are many subplots and lots of local characters including the main character Jenny’s husband Lonny, who seems to be everyone’s favourite judging by the reviews. Although there is a lot of comedy in this book there is also a lot of grit and many serious issues, which weren’t really planned, I suppose they are part of my life and just came out in the writing. Certainly Lonny’s passion for the environment is mine and my work as a carer obviously informed all the scenes with Jenny in that role.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

My sister Mary is a published author who writes in the thriller genre, so I had an insider’s view of what it takes to write a novel. I had always considered myself a writer though because of my work writing film scripts, I think my first rejection letter (from the BBC) was in 1995! But writing scripts is frustrating because they are only the blueprint for the film, I guessed that writing novels would be more satisfying – especially now that we can self-publish – and that is absolutely the case, it’s fantastic! I suppose the real inspiration came from doing a ‘How to’ course online (sorry I’ve forgotten which one) and realising that in writing a novel, great use can be made of writing the thoughts inside a character’s head, their POV. I took to this like a duck to water, I really love it.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

This is tricky because if you asked me next week it might be a different answer! And in general I read a lot more non-fiction than fiction. I’ve just read Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell which I adored, otherwise maybe, ‘The Crow Road’ by Iain Banks, ‘The Book of Night Women’ by Marlon James, ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte and ‘To kill a mockingbird’ by Harper Lee.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I would invite Maggie O’Farrell and ask her about Agnes, what research she did and how she decided that she should have this witchy, herbalist side of her. I am extremely interested in women as healers, a role that was taken away from us when the witchhunts began. This theme overlaps with another book I have just completed ‘Return to Harlech’.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I find the first draft pretty agonising, the closest thing to being in labour that I’ve ever experienced! However, every draft after that gets increasingly more enjoyable. I would say it is being able to write someone’s POV, I love it.

What is a typical day like for you?

I try to write each morning and focus on my care work in the afternoon but it doesn’t always turn out like that. I care for and live with three people with learning disabilities and/or mental health challenges so there is always something going on. I also have gardening and cooking as big interests plus books and webinars about Climate Change and what we can do. I love to learn about how we can make a difference.

What scene from Friends and Neighbours was your favorite to write?

The dinner party with Jackie and Miranda, even though it’s excruciating sometimes, it made me laugh and laugh. I’m not sure readers feel the same though as it’s not normally mentioned in reviews. The characters are only in that one scene but I loved them so much that they are coming back for bigger roles in book 2.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

‘Walk a mile in my shoes

Just walk a mile in my shoes

Before you abuse, criticize, and accuse

Then walk a mile in my shoes’

(as sung by Elvis 🙂 )

Ruth Torjussen is the author of the new book Friends and Neighbours

Connect with Ruth Torjussen
Author Site

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