Young Adult author and comedian Penny Tangey will be appearing at next week’s Inkyfest at the State Library of Victoria. I’ll be there, too, and I’m looking forward to meeting the Tangmeister. The Penners. Anyway, she’s performed on TV and at fests everywhere. Here she gives insight into the writing of her novels Clara in Washington and Loving Richard Feynman and takes us inside her writing space.
Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I wish I could say I’d written it while bunkering down for the winter in Antarctica. Or sitting on a park bench next to a homeless person in Barcelona. Or in a prison. In fact, I wrote most of Clara in Washington in my study. Boring.
Occasionally I go away to write. While I was editing Clara in Washington I went to Cairns for a week where my partner was at a physics conference. I spent the days by myself writing (with small breaks at the ‘lagoon’) and at night I’d have dinner and drinks with the physicists. It probably sounds appalling but it was a great week.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you ‘get into character’ at all?
Can’t say I do. Unless by character you mean tracksuit pants, in which case, yes.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
I wrote my first book, Loving Richard Feynman while I was living in Washington DC in an apartment the size of a cupboard. So my writing space has evolved such that I can now turn around in it.
Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?
I work full time, which makes it tricky. The idea of coming home from work and then writing for a couple of hours is horrifying so I try to write on the weekend. I also occasionally take leave so I can write for a few days in a row.
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Sitting still is not one of the things I do best. So I go for a run in the morning to tucker myself out, and cut down the urge to leap up every five minutes. I also find a hot beverage can help anchor me to the desk. (Not that sitting down for a long time is actually good for you. In fact, I think they’re saying it gives you cancer.)
Meantime, here’s a fine dose of Writers’ Rooms at The Guardian.