Anne Youngson: realising novel ideas

Anne Youngson ’10 retired from her career in the motor industry and studied MA Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. Her 2018 debut novel, Meet Me at the Museum was shortlisted for a Costa First Novel Award and won the Society of Authors’ Paul Torday Memorial Prize.

What were the highlights of your course?

“All of it! There was such a good range of writing fellows, Philip Pullman, Bernardine Evaristo, James Meek and more who were very generous with their ideas.

“I also got a lot out of working with academics on realising ideas, drawing on their knowledge of literature. And my tutor, James Hawes was very supportive and introduced me to my agent.”

How long did it take to write Meet Me at the Museum?

“It took me 18 months to write the words. But it took a lifetime of observations, experiences and ideas for me to be able to write it.”

Did you choose the title?

“No. I originally called it Dear Professor Glob, the opening line of the book. The story is told through letters and starts with one addressed to the archaeologist who discovered the Tollund Man bog body.

“My agent suggested Winter Seeds, which I loved and still love, it’s a phrase from Seamus Heaney’s poem, Tollund Man. Then the publisher came up with Meet Me at the Museum. It sounds a bit too much like a romance to me but I got over it!”

How much of ‘you’ is in it?

“It’s about two people, a farmer’s wife and a male Danish museum curator, who are nothing like me. But it contains a lot of my ideas. People who know me well say they can hear my voice in it.”

How important are awards?

“For a first-time novelist it’s hard to know if sales are due to the publisher’s promotion or because the book really is that good. So to win and be shortlisted for prizes, judged by writers I admire, has made a big difference to me.”

Are you writing another novel?

“I’m always writing. I’ve nearly completed a PhD, here at Brookes, on how stories start. It includes a collection of short stories I wrote specifically for it. And yes, I’m working on ideas for another novel.”

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