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Meet Tamsin Winter

Local author Tamsin Winter discusses her new book, why it's not a good idea to run in 40 degree heat and how she's survives without a TV!

I love a good book but alas, I don’t often get time to sit down with one  – step forward Tamsin Winter’s latest novel, Jemima Small Versus the Universe. Okay so perhaps I’m a little old for it, but I recently whizzed right through it while on holiday with some gal pals and would definitely recommend it for any of your tweens. Muddy caught up with the author recently…

Tell us about your new book?

I first came up with the idea for Jemima Small Versus the Universe after reading an article about a girl who was sent a letter from her school telling her she was overweight. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About how the girl must have felt. I thought about how I’d have felt if I got a letter like that at her age – a time when I already felt awkward and self-conscious and my body was changing in so many ways. Jemima’s story came from that. It’s bold, funny, big-hearted and I hope it will encourage readers to love every atom of their body – just the way it is.

What’s your 10-second pitch to persuade people to read it?

This book is for anyone who has ever looked in the mirror and wished they were seeing someone different. I wrote this story because I’ve been that girl and I wish someone had told me this story.

You lived and worked in Singapore – one of my fave places - how was that?

Singapore was an amazing experience. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, the young people I was working with were extremely hard-working and they had an enormous capacity for fun. I smile whenever I think of my time there. The food was utterly divine. I think the biggest difference is that everyone is generally quite cheerful and nice! It was also socially acceptable to take a nap at your desk, so that took a bit of getting used to. And oh my goodness, the heat! The students in my form never used to take their group exercise very seriously, so I once challenged them to beat me in the three mile run. I felt pretty confident as I did a lot of running in those days, and anyway, most of my class barely broke into a jog. But I forgot to take into account the 40 degree heat. By the time I’d made it back, I was close to collapsing! My class had to carry me inside for “emergency air con”. It was kind of embarrassing. It’s a place that will stay in my heart for ever. Mainly because everyone I met was so kind and funny. And because I bought about twenty years’ supply of stationery while I was out there and I’m still working my way through it.

Is it true that you don’t have a TV?

It’s true! I haven’t had a TV for over ten years now. I don’t miss it at all, but I do watch the occasional programme online if there’s something that particularly interests me, like Fleabaand Derry Girls. It’s usually comedy. Plus, I have the entire collection of Columbo on DVD so I’m good.

So you’ve never seen Killing Eve and you’re not a Love Island addict?

No I’ve never watched Killing Eve but I do watch Love Island. I used to be majorly into reality TV. I can remember watching the first ever series of Big Brother and it absolutely fascinated me. I don’t watch a lot of it now, but I love people-watching; I’m enormously curious about people’s lives and relationships so I suppose Love Island is 100% my type on paper. I don’t watch it obsessively, but I am kind of loving this season.

So you just read a helluva lot then?

Yep. I read pretty much every night. I’ve loved books ever since I learnt to read sitting on my mum’s lap, and I still get excited about reading. I don’t think it’s possible to be an author without reading a lot, particularly if you write for young people. Books are an incredibly important part of my life and reading them is still one of my favourite things to do. It’s kind of strange when you think about how many advances in technology there have been, affecting all aspects of our lives, but books have remained pretty much unchanged. They sit there silently on the shelf, never revealing they have the power to change your world.

Fav author and why?

This is a really tough question, because I have many favourite authors. When I was growing up I loved Judy Blume. I recently re-read her books and they are just as funny and heartwarming as I remember. If I had to just read one author for the rest of my life, I think I would pick Jane Austen. I love books that make me laugh and make me cry, and I love a good love story. Austen is hard to beat on that score.

Most famous person you’ve met?

Hmm, I’m not sure. It’s probably a toss up between Noel Gallagher and Eddie the Eagle. Although not at the same time.

Aside from your books being published, do you have another career highlight? 

Being Miss Nobody has won five awards, so it’s been a pretty incredible couple of years since it was published. The people I’ve met at the various awards events have been absolutely amazing, particularly the ones who live with anxiety, and it’s kind of mind-blowing that so many young people have connected with my book. I’m going to be speaking at the Emirates Festival of Literature next year in Dubai so I am extremely excited about that. It was a highlight of my career just to be invited!

What do you mean by your books are vegetarian?

As a long-term veggie myself, It was really important to me that a vegetarian diet is completely normalized in my books. So, anytime a character eats anything – from dinners at home with their family to eating out in restaurants, to the school canteen, to snacks on the bus home – every food mentioned is vegetarian. I even managed to sneak a couple of vegan burgers into Jemima Small Versus the Universe. I don’t eat or cook with meat, so I realised about half-way through Being Miss Nobody that it felt kind of wrong to have my characters eating it, and I made a conscious decision to make my books vegetarian. It means I get to research lots of veggie and vegan recipes. I highly recommend the sweet potato brownies at Nature’s Pantry in Market Harborough.


What’s next?

I’m currently working on my third book, which is due to come out next year. I can’t say too much about it yet, only that it delves deeper into the world of social media and features a character who has grown up in the social media spotlight. It touches on contemporary themes of privacy and hacking and, as usual when I’m writing something, I’m equally excited and terrified about it.

Tamsin Winter

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