Introducing Anne Youngson
The author, Anne Youngson embarked on a creative writing course in her 50s, when she retired from her career in the motor industry. Now 70, 'Meet Me at the Museum' is her first novel and looks set to be one of the most talked about books this summer.
Joining us in Woodbridge after making several visits to shops and libraries throughout the north-west of England, visiting the BBC to record an interview syndicated to all the local radio stations, and before flying to America to promote the book there, Anne spoke to a packed bookshop audience.
She talked about her love of writing and her delight in promoting her first book. The 'Daily Mail' had sent a reporter, a photographer and... hair and make up artists to her home in Oxfordshire for their feature on her in the paper.
Anne said that she always felt that she was a writer even though she spent her working life as a project manager in the motor industry. She laughed at how her title was 'chief engineer' because that was the American terminology, even though she wasn't an engineer by training.
When she retired, Anne decided to attend a creative writing course so that she had a benchmark by which she could establish whether she was any good, and also to learn - "the better you are at something, the more you enjoy it", she said.
She enjoyed meeting people who were different from herself, she said, as she feared that retiring to the countryside could be quite insular. While working, she was used to being alongside people not like her - men and engineers.
She also relished being given challenging tasks - "write a story about cucumbers and bin bags", was her example.
To write a book, she said, you must know how to write, you must persevere, and you must understand the story you want to tell.
'Meet Me at the Museum' is a delicate and beautiful tale told as a correspondence between two strangers. Tina lives in Suffolk, Anders in Denmark and politely, apologetically and tentatively they undertake an exchange of letters which becomes increasingly revealing and confiding.
The Suffolk setting was important, Anne said, because it was a landscape in which you could feel lost if you were unfulfilled in life. And she liked the idea of her two characters being at the edge of the land of their respective countries, separated only by the sea.
Among the questions from the audience, we learned that Anne visited Denmark to research some elements of the book. She said this proved useful because she had first described a character chaining up their bike but, when she visited Copenhagen, she found that people there don't lock up their bikes. So she removed that from the story.
She was also asked how she writes, and revealed that her first draft is longhand, then she will type and edit. You continue writing in longhand, she says, whereas when you type, you keep stopping to delete and rewrite.
Anne says that she hopes her readers will leave the book with a sense of hope.
Her account of her desire to write and her approach to life - ‘it’s never too late’ - was hugely inspiring.
Anne read the first letter in the book to us before signing everyone's copies. She then took the train to London and the audience rushed home to start reading!
Take a look at my review of 'Meet Me at the Museum' here.