Following on from her article on water voles, I am privileged to be interviewing Kate Long.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I was always very keen on English at school, and then, as a grown-up teacher, found myself on a training course where we had to make up stories and share them. The positive feedback swelled my head and I came back home determined to get something published. Once you get bitten by the creative bug, it's hard to stop!
What advice would you give to anyone who would like to become a writer?
Read plenty of good fiction, try to guard your creative time jealously, and don't be upset if family and friends aren't over-encouraging. Writing's a journey you take for the most part on your own – and is all the more exciting for that, I think. There'll be lots of nay-sayers: laugh in their faces, and carry on enjoying yourself.
What are you working on right now?
I've just finished a novel about a family where one of the daughters is anorexic. I had to do a lot of research about the illness, and about the treatment of young people with mental health conditions, which was upsetting. But I was lucky to have advice from Channel 4's Emma Woolf (who wrote the excellent 'An Apple A Day' about her own struggle with the disease).
As a lover of the great outdoors, can you name your favourite destination to see nature at its best?
The field near my house is a great place to see water voles and I spend a lot of time there, just sitting quietly and watching what scampers past - I've spotted weasels, polecats, bank voles, foxes and wood mice there. You don't have to go far to experience stimulating wildlife encounters. Even in big cities, pockets of nature can be found.
Very Alert Weasel! Photographed by Kate Long
Are you a morning or an afternoon/evening person?
I'm forever on the go, so more of an all-day person! But I never lie in and I don't like late nights, so I suppose that makes me a lark.
What was the last tv documentary that moved you?
The series 'Out There', where Stephen Fry looked at homophobia in other countries, I found extremely powerful. He encountered such bigotry and ignorance that it took my breath away and had me shouting at the television. But he managed to meet it with poise and ultimately a kind of steely optimism that couldn't fail to impress.
Do you enjoy relaxing at home cooking a meal and chatting with friends and family, or do you prefer to go out to a restaurant?
Though I enjoy baking cakes, I'm not generally a confident cook, so it would always be a restaurant for preference. My nightmare would be one of those open-plan kitchen-diners where everyone can see what you're up to and chat to you whilst you're doing it. I'd be dropping pans
and scalding myself and setting light to the tea towel. Sometimes it's best to know your own limits.
Finally can you tell us why you value conservation?
It's a win-win situation. For all manner of humans, nature can provide such profound and simple joy: the more we give to it, the more we take away.
Thank you very much Kate for answering my questions. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year, hopefully spent outside much of the time with wildlife!