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Putting Authors in the Picture #25: Bridget Collins

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 9th November 2020

We take huge delight in introducing Bridget Collins as our Author in the Picture for November. Bridget trained as an actor after reading English at King’s College, Cambridge, while she no longer acts professionally, she is a keen amateur actor. She has had two plays produced, one at the Edinburgh Fringe, and was an author of books for young adults before her debut adult title and LoveReading Book of the Month, The Binding was published. Our LoveReading team and members adored The Binding. Joanne Owen, our editorial expert declared: "through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion”. Bridget's debut flew and The Binding went straight to number two in the Sunday Times bestseller list. 

This November sees the publication of Bridget's second novel for adults, The Betrayals which has again been chosen as one of our Books of the Month. Our LoveReading Review Panel members have absolutely loved it: “the writing is exquisite”, “richly imagined”, “brilliant”, and “stunning”.

Bridget’s pictures and captions are thoroughly entertaining and interesting. Her bookshelf photo is glorious, and the way she describes her books has really struck a chord with the LoveReading team. The photo that sums up her author journey is just FABULOUS, and come on, hands up, who else wants to read her first venture into book art?

We wish you a warm welcome Bridget, and over to you:

Favourite book cover to date: 

Firstly, I should say that I’m excluding my own books - Micaela Alcaino’s design for the UK hardback of The Binding is, of course, the best cover ever (although I’m willing to concede that I might be biased), but that’s rather a predictable answer! So I chose this Penguin Modern Classics cover for Watership Down. I love the branding of this series, with its elegant grey footer and simple format, but most of all I think this is a perfectly judged image. It resists being twee or childish – no rabbits in sight – and there’s just this quiet, evocative, beautiful photo that puts the reader perfectly at ground level, seeing the details of the world from the rabbits’ point of view… and then there’s that hint of drama and menace from the trap. The best covers are the ones that tell you something about the story, and this, I think, tells you more about what kind of book Watership Down is than anything lapine and fluffy ever could.  

Bookshelf that I return to again and again:

This is my bookshelf in the flat that we’ve just moved out of – and I miss it! When I moved in, a long time ago, my husband (or boyfriend, as he was then) asked me how he could make me feel more at home, and my answer was that I didn’t care about storage for clothes or shoes or toiletries, I just wanted my books close at hand. So he built this bookshelf for me – thinking, I suspect, that there would be lots of room for his books too! Ha ha. It’s a little bit chaotic and starting to bulge at the seams, but every one of those books is a friendly, familiar, supportive presence – it’s like having a few hundred very quiet friends. 

Favourite reading spot:

Bed. Within easy reach of the bookshelf – see above.  

A booky photo that makes me smile:

This is my eight-month-old daughter, looking at a book I’d ordered for her – I unwrapped it the moment it came through the door, I couldn’t wait till after teatime! It sums up both her genuine pleasure (well, it’s very brightly coloured) and my own excitement at seeing it. Getting to introduce her to books and poems and stories that I love is one of the best things about being a mother. 

A location that has inspired me:

This is Scotney Castle, in Kent – the location that inspired the ruined garden in The Binding. It is such a lovely, romantic place, with wisteria-clad crumbling walls, picturesque towers, overgrown staircases, and reflections trembling among the lilies in the moat… I couldn’t not borrow it! You might notice that it’s a wedding photo, and yes, I did get married there, and maybe using my wedding location is a bit corny – but the glorious, heady, in-love feeling of that day was exactly what I was trying to evoke in The Binding

The photo that sums up my author journey:

This is me, an author, on a tube journey – see what I did there? No, but seriously, for me this photo expresses an amazing, surreal moment just after The Binding was published, when we went up to London to look at the adverts on the London Underground. Any kind of advertising would have felt like a big deal, and these were HUGE. We’d squealed and snapped photos of the adverts from the station platform, and got back into the train – and then at the next stop, the carriage magically drew up just beside another one, so that my nose was literally inches away from it. I could hardly have got any closer… It was so extraordinary to think that a story that had been inside my head – that came from nothing, from a few hours of typing and some idle daydreams (well, that’s what it felt like in retrospect) – was in the real world, in other readers’ hands and heads, and now being advertised on the Tube, no less! It was crazy, in the best possible way. 

My most memorable book event:

When The Binding was published in paperback, Waterstone’s in Piccadilly actually built a bindery. This is me, incredulous at my luck, getting to pose for a photo in it. 

A photo that sums up my love for the written word:

I was an actor before I was a writer, and so I love words – of course! – and stories, narrative of all kinds, live, recorded, spoken, visual… but there is something magical about writing and reading. Words come from literally nowhere, get turned into something you can hold in your hands, and make something happen in your head. That is a kind of telepathy, right? But I also love the physical aspect of books, too – of course it works just as well to read off an e-reader or a phone, but there’s something special about a book you can hold, and especially about books that are beautiful objects as well as simply readable texts. I love the interaction of your other senses (smell and touch, even hearing, as well as sight) with the mental experience of taking in the words. That’s why I started bookbinding, and I’m also fascinated by book art, which takes that idea further. This little book – well, more of a pamphlet – was my first venture into book art, and although it’s very small and trifling I’m rather proud of it. It’s made from a paint chart, and I composed poetry which included the names of the colours. I felt it turned out well, both a sequence of poems and a narrative, and it was really satisfying because I had to make it with my head and with my hands.  

My most beloved and well-read book:

When you asked this, of course I racked my brains for my favourite novels, my comfort reads and childhood classics… but then I realised that my most well-read book – and probably one of my best-loved, too, in the sense that I’d hate to lose it – is actually this travel guide. I walked the Way of St James over ten years ago, and for weeks it was my only companion along the way, so I’ve probably spent more time poring over its pages than any other book in my possession! The copy I have is bedraggled, dog-eared, and stained, and definitely shows its age. It would be out of date now, but I could never get rid of it – it deserves a quiet retirement on a warm shelf, and to be flicked through nostalgically now and then. 

My favourite reading snacks:

Tea and toast and marmalade. If you think that sounds like breakfast… well, right now I dream of starting the day with breakfast in bed, alone with a good book. It may not happen for a few years!

Keep up to date with Bridget Collins

Twitter: @br1dgetcollins

If you enjoyed this, check out more titles by Bridget Collins. You can also visit the Author Talk section of our blog to find more Author Q&As and 'Putting Authors in the Picture' features.

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