Next chapter for editor

Vanessa Raphaely. Picture: Catherine Mac
Karen Watkins had a sit down with former editor Vanessa Raphaely to talk about her new book.

How did you find the transition of changing hats from editor and reporting on stories, events, etc to writing a novel? Please elaborate on the challenges this faced (if any)?

I was ready to leave my job and the industry long before I started writing the novel and am certain that I never want to run a big company or manage lots of people again, so it was much easier to make the break than many people imagine.

Of all the things I’ve done since leaving publishing, writing has been by far the most pleasurable.

Very tough, solitary, not financially rewarding… but still a wonderful way to spend more hours than anyone imagines.

I believe you wrote 15 drafts, read by colleagues, family and friends including Mandy Wiener. That takes perseverance and an ability to sift through their feedback and come up with what I consider a winner. What drove you to do this? And the timeframe please? Describe that road of writing, re-writing, re-working, polishing and finally letting go.

Thank you so much for saying that! I feel like a complete rookie in the book writing game, so was nothing but – grateful for any feedback.

Constructive but tough, was the best – my ex-editor, who said an early draft read “like a dashed off column written by a coke-addled hack, for brain-dead imbeciles” (or similar) was less useful.

I did lie on my bed like a dead starfish for a while after that.

I think the book probably took 12 months of solid work but the process was very disjointed as I picked the story up and put it down many, many times.

Is the story based on personal experience? And if so, what and how? What was your inspiration? For me it took me back to Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, 1966, into a world of drugs, decadence, sex and obsession.

Well that’s flattering. Thank you again. Kate Atkinson, another much finer writer than I could ever be, says you bake imaginary fruit cakes using real plums, so yes.

The backdrop was my life. (Although no one died on any yacht I ever found myself on.) But all that is a million years ago.

Now I wear elastic-waisted pants and fret about the bank balance and my kids’ maths marks.

What made you write in the present tense? For me it was the only jarring part of the story.

I don’t have an answer to that one. I did have the most wonderful editor, and I took her guidance… but I’ve never had one writing lesson (I’m not even a trained journalist – my degree is in economics and politics) so what comes out as I type is always a bit conversational for purists I suppose.

I don’t consider myself in any way a great writer – just a person with a story to tell.

Are you working on another book?

I wish. It’s very hard and took me 53 years to write the first one.

I have a couple on life-support, if I could just focus on one of them perhaps I could get going.

We have a copy of Plus One to give away.

To enter our competition, send an email to before midnight on Sunday February 3.

Type “Plus One competition” in the subject line and include a telephone number, the name of the newspaper you saw the competition in and the area where you live in the email.