Episode 186: Your Journey into Writing — Interview with Stef Penney

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

Today I am so excited to have author Stef Penney on the show!

Stef is a screenwriter and author. Her debut novel, The Tenderness of Wolves,was the winner of the Costa Prize for Book of the Year and the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year, and was translated into thirty languages.

Stef followed up this success with her next highly acclaimed novel The Invisible Ones, and her latest work Under a Pole Star which was the recipient of the 2017 Wilbur and Niso Smith Adventure Writing Prize.

An epic tale  of arctic exploration between two rival teams in the 1800’s, writing Under a Pole Star became a journey of its own for Stef, as she mapped out her characters’ lives and took readers across three continents in this amazing work.

Listen in as we chat about the creation of Under a Pole Star, and how to best prepare yourself for your own writing exploration.

In this episode Stef and I discuss:

  • Using visual aids to add reality to a fictional setting.
  • When to show your character’s back story and how to do it right.
  • Preparing yourself to navigate through your writing and what “tools” to take.
  • Systems to keep track of and order your research into a novel.
  • Dealing with gender roles in a novel without being political.

Plus, Stef’s #1 tip for writers.

About the Stef Penney

Stef Penney grew up in Edinburgh, and is a screenwriter and author of three acclaimed novels: The Tenderness of Wolves, The Invisible Ones, and Under a Pole Star. Her first novel,The Tenderness of Wolves, won the Costa Prize for Book of the Year, Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year, and was translated into thirty languages. Her latest novel, Under a Pole Star, was the winner of the 2017 Wilbur and Niso Smith Adventure Writing Prize and is available now.

To connect with Stef check out her website at stefpenney.com

Under a Pole Star

In an epic adventure story that explores themes of ambition, perseverance, and love against all odds, the sensual Under a Pole Star returns to the wild Arctic setting Stef Penney brought so vividly to life in her breakout debut, The Tenderness of Wolves.

A whaler’s daughter, Flora Mackie first crossed the Arctic Circle at the age of twelve, falling in love with the cold and unforgiving terrain and forging lifelong bonds with the Inuit people who have carved out an existence on its icy plains. She sets out to become a scientist and polar explorer, despite naysayers who believe a woman has no place in this harsh world. In 1892, her determination leads her back to northern Greenland at the head of a British expedition.

Yearning for wider horizons, American geologist Jakob de Beyn joins a rival expedition led by the driven Lester Armitage. When Flora’s path crosses theirs, three lives become intertwined. All are obsessed with the north, a place of violent extremes: perpetual night and endless day; frozen seas and coastal meadows; heroism and selfishness. Armitage’s ruthless desire to be the undisputed leader of polar discovery sets in motion a chain of events whose tragic outcomes—both for his team of scientists and the indigenous people of Greenland—will reverberate for years to come.

Set against the stark, timeless beauty of northern Greenland and fin-de-siècle New York and London, Under a Pole Star is a compelling look at the dark side of the golden age of exploration, a study of the corrosive power of ambition, and an epic, incendiary love story. It shows that sometimes you have to travel to the furthest edge of the world in order to find your true place in it.

If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!


Link to Episode 186

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