Author Interview: Peter Fullagar

Peter’s examination of a pivotal decade in Virginia Woolf’s life when she was living in Richmond, has brought new insights into her career, publishing business, domestic life and her mental health. Here’s links to the Peter’s Virginia Woolf in Richmond book, and our campaign for a Statue of Virginia Woolf.

In the meantime, enjoy this interview with Peter…

Tell us a bit about yourself? Where were you born? Grow up? What job do you do now? Before?

I was born and grew up in a small village outside Maidstone in Kent, but I’ve lived in many different places. My initial career was as an English teacher and this took me to diverse places such as Tokyo and Moscow where I lived and worked. I came back to the UK permanently in 2008 and worked in teaching and management until 2017 when a career change beckoned. Now I mainly work freelance as an editor and writer which gives me much more freedom.

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

My latest, and first book, is called Virginia Woolf in Richmond which was published in November 2018. I’ve been a fan of Virginia Woolf for many years having read the majority of her work and when I needed to complete my Master’s dissertation, I chose extracts from her diaries to analyse. This opened up a whole new side to her and I became fascinated by her personal work. I was also inspired by Aurora Metro’s campaign for a full-size brhonze statue of Virginia, which now has planning permission for Richmond riverside. Richmond is an integral part of Virginia’s life which is often overlooked and I hope by reading the book, readers will realise just how important the town was to Virginia.

Can you tell us three fabulous facts you uncovered as part of your research?

  1. I think the biggest surprise was that the quote that many people attribute to Virginia is completely untrue ­– ‘If it is a choice between Richmond and death, I choose death.’ was invented by the screenwriter and director of The Hours, starring Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf.
  2. Virginia Woolf is so much more than her novels, short stories and essays. Reading her diaries and letters will open up a whole new perspective on her life and work.
  3. Although Virginia is perceived as being miserable, she actually was rather jolly in her personal writing. One quote that sticks in my mind is when she is describing her life in Richmond – ‘… and through it all, I’ve been exquisitely happy.’

Who will this book appeal to?
I hope that those who are interested in the life and work of Virginia Woolf will find this book useful and interesting, and even those who feel that Virginia is somewhat of an enigma: by reading the book, we can find out more about her personality and get to know her more intimately.

What else have you written?

I’ve written poetry for many years, but haven’t published any and after finishing Virginia Woolf in Richmond, I was asked to contribute to an anthology on the theme of tempestuous times. My first short story, The Walking Stick, was accepted and will be published in Tempest: An Anthology in March 2019 by Patrician Press. I have also written an English language exam practice book, with more to come, published by Express Publishing.

How do you write? Do you have a special place or routine?

I have my own little office where I do the majority of writing, but since moving to the Berkshire countryside, my living room has a beautiful view of woods and so I often sit in a tub chair and work from there.

How do you organize your research? Do you use any programs like Scrivener or Evernote?

A lot of my research is done using pen and paper and lots of post-it notes! I prefer having physical books to work from, but occasionally I have to use online or digital resources. Online journals and Google Scholar are invaluable.

What were you like at school? Were you good at English?

I was very much a good student, always completing homework on time. I loved English lessons, probably because I had a very dynamic teacher in Miss Pearson who seemed to speak with her arms, but her passion for the subject was infectious. I also really enjoyed languages and music, but subjects such as maths, sports and technology seemed to pass me by.

What authors, or books have influenced you?

Apart from the obvious, I was very much inspired by Maya Angelou. Her story and her craft of story-telling was truly astonishing. I’m also heavily influenced by George Orwell and I’m looking forward to reading his diaries.

What are you working on now?

I’ve got a few projects on the go. I’m continuing to write exam practice books for publication as well as further short stories. However, I’m planning another non-fiction book, possibly focusing on the LGBT people surrounding Virginia Woolf.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading a few books; The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor, the letters between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West and I’m eager to start The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada.

What is your favourite book of all time?

Well, this is tough. I don’t think I can choose just one. When I was younger, I loved The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp. When even younger, it had to be The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In adulthood, it has to be The Waves by Virginia Woolf and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Never give up and get through the self-doubt. Virginia Woolf was extremely self-critical of herself and look what she achieved.

Do you have a website or social media platforms where readers can find more information about you and your books?

Yes, my website is www.peterjfullagar.co.uk and my twitter handle is @peterjfullagar.

Phone: 44(0)203 2610000