LIVES IN BOOKS #2: Tracey Scott-Townsend

Tracey Scott-Townsend is an artist, poet and novelist. Her publications include The Vagabond Mother, Sea Babies, The Eliza Doll, Another Rebecca, The Last Time We Saw Marion and Of His Bones. She is also the co-founder and editor of Wild Pressed Books – those of you in Hull will recognise some of the authors’ names including Holly Bidgood (Hopper), Nick Conroy, Joe Hakim and Russ Litten. Publications are available from the website – as well as from excellent bookshops 😍

Tracey is the mother of four adult children and ordinarily spends as much time as possible travelling the UK and Europe in a camper van with her husband and two dogs, writing and editing while on the road. At home she is busy on her allotment or in her garden and loves riding her new bicycle.

1.What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading a novel called Everything Under by Daisy Johnson. Before that I read The Foundling by Stacey Halls and The Binding by Bridget Collins. All of these books take us into a tangled underworld of one kind or another, and get right into the hearts and minds of the protagonists. They also have a strong sense of place, which is something I look for in my work as a commissioning editor.

2. Did you enjoy reading while growing up – if so, which comics/books and writers were your favourites and why?

Oh my goodness, I certainly did enjoy reading as a child! I recently met up with an old school friend and she remarked that I always had my head in a book even as we walked to school. I spent most Saturday afternoons at our local branch library and I also went to ‘Bookworms’ at the main library in town (Lincoln, where I grew up). We never had comics, which was hard when everyone at school was talking about the latest ones. My favourite books were A Dream in the House by Josephine Poole, which I would SO love to read again but it’s now out of print. The story was of a family in which every generation had a set of twins, Ann and Jane. In each generation the Ann was somehow taken by water, and the Janes spent their lives mourning their lost sister. Finally a Jane goes on some kind of metaphysical quest, and retrieves her Jane, and after that all the historical Anns and Janes are reunited. A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley was another of my favourite books. A girl visits her aunt and uncle in an ancient farmhouse. There she slips through a time portal to the 16th century, where she becomes friends with a tudor-era boy called Francis. These and stories like them were formative influences for me. Several of my novels have a theme of yearning to reclaim something that was lost.

3. Which books do you recommend to others and why?

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. Such a detailed, cumulative, intricate and entangled tale of a nameless child pulled from the river, who seems to ‘belong’ to everyone. I could have carried on reading that book forever.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, in which a father takes his daughter to a cabin high in the German (I think) mountains and tells her the world has come to an end and that they are the only survivors.

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is another favourite. I was privileged to do a two-day writing course with her in 2013, which helped me get my first novel published. The Time Traveller’s Wife is also a time-slip novel with complicated quantum elements which are another feature of books I love. Claire and Henry first meet when Claire is 6 and Henry is 42. They also first meet when Henry and Claire are in their 20s…

4. If any, which writers have influenced your writing?

Julie Myerson, Alice Hoffman, Ian McEwan, Audrey Niffenegger, and Diane Setterfield. These all explore the human condition, the complications of relationships, and delve into the minute detail of life – many of them with a touch of magic realism. Julie Myerson and Alice Hoffman are particular influences on my writing.

5. Desert Island question – which book would you take with you?

How could you ask me that question? Help! Only one? Hmm, I’m going to jump in and say Once Upon a River because it’s long and detailed, and has many characters. And a beautiful cover