Tara West: I like anywhere with water and good food – so fill the paddling pool, grill some fish...

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, author Tara West

1. When did you think about a career in writing and what were your first steps into it?

I used to write novels on my way home from school on the bus, but it was another 15 years before I decided to get serious about it. I was 31 when my first novel was published; it was inspired by the characters I created on the bus.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Not a ‘gig’ but a reading and talk, from David Sedaris at the Ulster Hall in 2015. He was hilarious and loveable in equal measure, and he wore culottes, which I’ve never seen on a man before. And New York performing artist Taylor Mac at the Belfast International Arts Festival in 2016. He took the audience through the music and culture of the early 20th century, and made us feel every moment of tragedy and forced bonhomie. It was unique, moving, mesmerising and totally unforgettable.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

I’m such a curmudgeon. I don’t really enjoy big noisy celebrations and prefer small groups of friends. For that reason, I’d have The Velvet Underground. I love the music and they seem like a friendly, if adventurous bunch.?

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. Or maybe Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake. Or Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division. Or Blue by Joni Mitchell.

5. And the book you’d take?

I have so many old favourites, I couldn’t possibly choose between them, so I’m going to dodge the question and take an empty notebook and a pencil.?

6. Top three films?

My taste is determinedly light, fluffy and escapist. I love Mars Attacks for its creativity and comedic touch, Little Miss Sunshine for its loveable characters and stoic embrace of life and family and anything from Marvel Universe.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

I don’t like to criticise publicly, but I have to admit, The Lighthouse with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe was absolutely awful. Sitting in the QFT, I felt like the kid who noticed the emperor had no clothes on. It was utter s**t.

8. Favourite authors?

When I was a young writer, I had favourites who influenced the development of my own work and style, namely Charles Dickens, Charles Bukowski and YA author SE Hinton. A weird mix, probably, but I think it’s possible to spot traces of them in my work. More grown-up favourites include the memoirs of CS and David Auslander and the Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

I don’t like sport and I don’t follow teams, but I do stay fit. I go to the gym for resistance training, I love Zumba for cardio and I do a mean reggaeton pump.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

I’m not picky. Enniskillen, Portrush, Sicily, Costa del Sol – anywhere with water and good food. In fact, if you fill the paddling pool and grill some fish, I’ll come round to your house.

11. Pet hates?

Loads. I hate bullies and I can sniff out bullying a mile away. I abhor office politics and believe office culture brings out the worst in everyone. I hate tightwads, cruelty, passive aggression, snobs… I could go on.

12. What’s your favourite dinner, dessert or drink?

I love it all. I just love eating and drinking. Sometimes I wonder if I have some sort of unhealthy fixation. I get excited about new flavours and ingredients and I’m always thinking about what I’m going to eat next.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

I met my close friends through university, my work in advertising and through publishing. I have a husband too, but he’s not my best friend, he’s bigger and deeper than that. He’s my rock, protector, comfort, greatest love, and the father of my wonderful daughter.

14. Is there a God?

I just don’t know. I’m not convinced by the rhetoric, but I feel there might be something between and within us all.

:: Tara West’s most recent book The Upside of Down is an uplifting read for anyone struggling with their mental health. It’s a memoir of depression and recovery, published by Dalzell Press and available now. She will be doing a live reading at the Secret Bookshelf, Carrickfergus, post-lockdown.

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