Thirteen Questions with Louisa Vidal

Louisa Vidal is the author of Scouting For Reluctant Beginners, which was originally published in Space Fruit Press’ debut anthology, Shackin’ Up: Short Stories of Queer Love and Forced Proximity. We sat down with her to chat about her process and her approach, and what sorts of things she’s reading, right now.

Space Fruit Press: What’s the last book you read and loved?

Louisa Vidal: Sultana’s Dream by Begum Rokeya – it’s a feminist utopia science fiction story from 1905, and no that is not a typo, written by a pioneering Bengali author (also known as Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain), and it’s just a delight. Her imagination is so vividly realised, and there are all these great little details. That it’s over a hundred years old but feels so fresh is incredibly inspiring. 

And even though I am about as sporty as a granite block, I had a great time reading Hat Trick: A Triple Play of Queer Sports Romances. It was totally accessible to someone not fluent in sports – but I’m a sucker for cuties in love. 

SFP: Do you have any writing rituals?

LV: Tea, tea, screaming into the void, and more tea. 

SFP: Is there a genre you’ve never written in but would like to try out?

LV: Gothic. So many of my literary lodestars draw on the gothic tradition, from my beloved, batshit Brontës, to Northanger Abbey, to Shirley Jackson, to Elspeth Barker – and I guess the occasional token male, like Edgar Allan Poe. But it’s intimidating to try and take on that epic legacy. I guess I need to invest in a crinoline and keep my absinthe glass topped up.

SFP: Do you have a trope that you can’t resist?

LV: Forced proximity – that’s why writing Scouting for Reluctant Beginners for the Shackin’ Up anthology was such a dream.

SFP: What is the first book that made you cry?

LV: A book I read on the Vietnamese “boat people”, refugees crossing the ocean by sea, which I somehow found and read when I was eight. Now as an adult I volunteer with refugee organisations, and I think one of the most powerful forces for change in the world is telling – and listening  – to their stories. 

 SFP: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

LV: I hugely admire Rena Butler’s snappy humour and whipsmart storytelling, Augusta Connor’s imaginative breadth and how she conjures up characters I would die for, and Catherine Fletcher’s empathy, worldbuilding, and the sizzling chemistry in her stories. You couldn’t ask for better companions in the Space Fruit Press slack when you have third act paralysis.

 SFP: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot?

LV: A panda, because neither of us are breaking any speed records and we turn lolling about into a fine art. Plus we’re adorable.

SFP: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of a different gender/sexuality/ethnicity/background than you?

LV: Confronting my own unconscious biases and avoiding laziness – no shortcuts, cliches, or cheap lines. Which is a challenge every writer should be excited to take on, and I am. 

SFP: What is your favourite childhood book?

LV: Howl’s Moving Castle by the brilliant Diana Wynne Jones. I made my parents read it right after me, and they both loved it, which is why I am still talking to them. 

SFP: What do you hope readers take away from your writing?

LV: A sense of satisfaction, like sipping a well-made cup of tea, which as a British person is the highest artistic goal one can imagine. 

SFP: How do you select the names of your characters?

LV: Walking in cemeteries and reading gravestones, folk songs, and game show contestants. 

SFP: What is your favourite part of the writing process?

LV: Whatever draft I get to – second, third, eight hundredth – that I get to where I feel like I can share it with my editor without keeling over from shame.

SFP: What books do you pick up to inspire you?

LV: Poetry collections like the LGBTQ+ magazine fourteen poems, or classics like W.H. Auden.