Being an author of a self-help series, is there any advice you give that you struggle to keep to yourself?
Exercise! I think regular exercise is really important but it’s the one piece of advice I struggle with and I think this comes from not being very good at putting myself first, as looking after our physical health should always be a priority. Sitting in front of a computer all day should be counteracted with regular, adequate exercise to avoid stress and strain on the body and I try to do at least 10 minutes yoga every day and a regular class but I fail, badly, to take my own advice on this!
Who is your favourite author? And, what do you love about them?
That changes, partly depending on what I’ve just read. In this case, Sebastian Barry’s wonderful new novel Days Without End, and I love Mark Doty’s prose (he’s also a poet, but it’s his prose that really gets me). I’ve just read Still Life with Oysters and Lemon which was wonderful, too. Doing my MA has influenced my reading, especially with the modernist writers – reading Ulysses by James Joyce was a revelation!
Can you describe a time when you have felt empowered?
Giving birth is probably the most empowering thing I’ve ever done!
‘Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy? If you invest in being right all the time – which is impossible – it can give rise to a lot of disagreements, so sometimes it’s best just to keep quiet… even when you know you’re right!’
Do you have a go to outfit that always makes you feel confident?
Not really! I don’t often wear heels and so I often find, that when I do, they make me feel less confident. Wearing clothes appropriate for the occasion really helps and making sure (as I say in my book I Want to Be Confident) that everything is clean and pressed, it goes a long way to making you look confident, organised and well put together.
Do you have a role model? If so, who is it and why do they inspire you?
There are a lot of people who have done a lot of great things but I can’t really think of one single role model who covers everything… I admire and am inspired by intelligence, tenacity and kindness. Kindness is very underrated.
Credit: I Want to be Calm by Harriet Griffey, (Hardie Grant)
What drew you to nursing and what were the challenges you faced?
I was supposed to go to university when I left school and I had a place to do drama, but wanted to do something that gave me more independence and training straight away, and also got me to London (I grew up in rural Suffolk)! I trained as a state registered nurse in the days when you started on the wards immediately. You started your training and, although we were very well supported, we were expected to take a lot of responsibility from the start. I did really enjoy it, but it was hard work and doing 12-hour night duty shifts ruined my sleep forever! I worked as a staff nurse on a paediatric unit when I qualified and that also meant supporting the parents along with looking after their babies and children, but I loved that. There’s inevitably a lot of sadness in nursing but also the scope to make a huge positive difference to people’s lives when they are at their most vulnerable.
What are your top tips for any budding writers or women looking to change their career dramatically?
At the risk of sounding like a Nike advertisement: just do it. I went from nursing to publishing, and worked as an editorial director for a book publishing company, before my job was made redundant and then, with a child and a mortgage to cover, I started writing. Pragmatically, necessity played a part – you can’t afford writer’s block when you’ve got bills to pay. But it’s been good not to be dependent on anyone else, and writing is very much something you have to get on and do. Luckily I really enjoy it and it’s been a passport to all sorts of interesting ideas, people and places, especially with the journalism. I’m now also halfway through a part-time MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck College, which I’m loving – so, who knows what I will do next.
Harriet has just finished her sixth book in the I Want to… series, which will be published in February 2018.