Today on Meet the Author we’re talking to the lovely Alison Ripley Cubitt. You can hear all about her books, why she’d like to talk to Michelle Obama and The Big Breakfast….
I have two author names – my own – Alison Ripley Cubitt for non-fiction and memoir and a pen name – Lambert Nagle for fiction thrillers and crime, which I co-write with my other half.
I like mixing it up! I write thrillers and crime, non-fiction and memoir as well as screenplays.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Whenever anyone asks me where I’m from I can’t answer them. I was a third-culture kid, and that has shaped my life ever since. I was born in Malaysia and I’ve moved from country to country ever since. I’m fortunate to have met someone who loves travel as much as I do.
What inspired you to start writing?
I wrote stories from a young age, I think as a way of trying to adjust to a new life in a new country. My stories were always set in the place I’d just left. Perhaps it was my way of saying goodbye.
How many books have you written and published?
Four so far, as well as the three short stories I have had published in various anthologies. I’m hoping that Nighthawks, the new novel, which is currently being edited, will be released by the end of 2019.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
My favourite so far, which happens to be the hardest book I’ve ever written, is Castles in the Air: A Family Memoir of Love and Loss. It helped me answer some difficult questions about the family I grew up in.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
I enjoy thinking through the influences that age, nationality and social background have on names. And sometimes I go online to find the most popular names in different countries and go from there.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
I’d love to be stranded on an island with my mother Molly and time travel if I may, back to when I was a child. Mum, who had been a Girl Guide, was both fearless and very resourceful.
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
This is such a difficult one! If I had to choose only one, it would be Jane Smiley. I don’t know any other writer who writes the way she does, in a completely different voice in every new novel. My favourite book is A Thousand Acres, a retelling of King Lear, set in Iowa amongst a farming family. I was lucky enough to meet Jane Smiley in person at an author talk. I came away marvelling at the way she combined writing and her passion for breeding and riding horses.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
My book Horses All the Way when I was a precocious nine-year-old.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
For 15 years I worked in film and TV, including a mad stint on Channel 4’s alternative breakfast show, The Big Breakfast, at Walt Disney and then the BBC. When we moved back to New Zealand and then Australia, I reinvented myself as a corporate relocation consultant, which was a bit like being a film location manager, only a bit less stressful!. While at university I worked in hospitality. There’s nowhere better to observe people up close than when they’re on a night out. You’ll find many episodes from my working life have ended up in my fiction.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
As a big fan of Dr Who, I think it would have to be a hundred years into the future to see what sort of legacy our generation will have left.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’d love to sit down with Michelle Obama. I bet she’d be great company – warm, genuine and compassionate. I’d ask her how she coped in the spotlight as a consort, despite being as intelligent and capable of running the country as her other half.
What are your favourite things to do?
It’s a privilege to be a writer, but when I’m not writing, I love to get outside on a bike, a horse or on foot. For the past seven years, I’ve been lucky enough to live in the Hampshire countryside, where I can indulge my passion for the great outdoors.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
Something completely left-field happened to me recently where I was on a flight to Berlin heading for a concert. We were mid-air when our plane was diverted due to bad weather. There were about twenty of us stranded from all over the world, and we decided that there was strength in numbers. The airline gave us food vouchers and put us on a train. Instead of doing our own thing, we pooled our resources for a food and wine picnic and we ended up having a great time. We got in to Berlin at 1.00am the next morning and I’d missed Fleetwood Mac and the Pretenders, but despite this disappointment, still managed to have a great weekend away.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice, what would it be?
I would have told myself not to stop writing, which I did as a teenager and into my twenties. And not to leave it so long before getting back into it.
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
The Diary of Anne Frank
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
Not my most recent, but the one I’m most proud of is Castles in the Air: A Family Memoir of Love and Loss. It’s about mothers and daughters and family secrets.
Thanks so much for this great interview Alison! I agree that everyone should read The Diary of Anne Frank!
If you’ve got any questions for Alison, you know what to do!
Have a wonderful day my loves.