We know the path to success doesn’t always go smoothly, so we asked our lecturers about the ups and downs on their path to the University of Brighton. Bea decribes herself as ‘a swot’ at school and did lots of jobs before becoming an author and lecturer, including a financial administrative and a video editor!
Hi Bea. So tell us, what were you like at school? Were you a diligent pupil?
“I was an absolute swot for the ages – as long as it was a literature-based subject. Bunsen burners left me cold and I still don’t know one end of a quadratic equation from the other.”
‘Bunsen burners left me cold and I still don’t know one end of a quadratic equation from the other.”
Why did you decide to go to university?
“I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, so it made sense to do further study so that I could learn from what other authors had done. My family were very supportive and there was no pressure to go straight into the workplace, so I was very lucky in that regard.”
How did you decide which subject to study?
“When I was 18, Creative Writing as a subject was still quite new. So I went with English Literature and French in order to continue studying books; if Creative Writing had existed properly then, I probably would have chosen that!”
What did you do after graduation and why did you choose that path?
“Like many writers, I did lots of jobs before finding my path; in my twenties I didn’t have the confidence to commit to a writing career. I’ve been a language teacher in Paris, a financial administrative assistant in the West Country, a temp in loads of different offices, and a video editor.
“It took me a while to own up to the fact that I really wanted to write novels, but once I did, I’ve never looked back.”
“It took me a while to own up to the fact that I really wanted to write novels, but once I did, I’ve never looked back. You can still ask me about pensions and ISA contributions or to edit your wedding video, though.”
Tell us about any career highs… and any lows too!
“A career high that’s hard to beat was the email from my agent letting me know my first novel was going to be published. It’s like the best birthday in the world, if you’ve known since you were a kid you wanted to write.
“A career low – there have been many! The writing life can be tough and you face a lot of rejection on the path. But the trick is to just persist and learn to take feedback onboard. Writing is a practice and that’s how we improve!”
“The writing life can be tough and you face a lot of rejection on the path. But the trick is to just persist and learn to take feedback onboard.”
At what point did you decide that you wanted to teach others?
“I fell in love with teaching when I was 23 and working in secondary schools in France, teaching English. There’s something really magical about learning to communicate in another language and it was such a privilege to be a small part of that knowledge transfer.”
Was there ever a point where you doubted yourself – where you felt that you weren’t going to achieve your goals?
“I think a measure of doubt can be useful, to help you reflect on what’s going well and not so well, so I like to say that I am full of useful doubt all the time! But there was a particular period of writers’ block when I was staring down the barrel of my second novel. Second novels are notoriously hard – you have to follow up on a success in a limited time span, and it wasn’t going well – I remember thinking I’d used up all my good ideas on Book 1!
“My second book has just been nominated for the Historical Writers’ Association Prize, so it goes to show that forging ahead even when you don’t think you can is key.”
“But there’s always more to say, and with a bit of support I managed to get unblocked. That book has just been nominated for the Historical Writers’ Association Prize, so it just goes to show that forging ahead even when you don’t think you can, is key.”