Maggie Humm is an Emeritus Professor at the University of East London, UK, and a Woolf scholar, with a debut novel titled Talland House (She Writes Press, 2020). Talland House was shortlisted for the Impress and Fresher Fiction prizes (as Who Killed Mrs. Ramsay?), as well as the Retreat West and Eyelands prizes, and was longlisted for the Lucy Cavendish and the Historical Writers Association prizes.
Maggie is also the author/editor of fourteen academic books, the last three about Woolf and the arts. To transition to creative writing, she gained a Diploma in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia/the Guardian, followed by a mentorship with The Literary Consultancy. She lives in London and is currently writing Rodin’s Mistress, about the tumultuous love affair of the artists Gwen John and Rodin. She regularly speaks at literary events.
Active in feminist politics, she founded the first full-time undergraduate Women’s Studies degree in the UK. A chapter about the history of this degree is forthcoming in UEL: A Radical University (Lawrence and Wishart, 2020).
An only child from a working-class Northern background, the first in her family to go to university, she never gave up – the characteristic of Lily Briscoe, the heroine of Talland House.
Q: If you could travel back in time, which of the great writers would you like to meet and why?
A: It has to be Virginia Woolf so I could sit at her feet and ask her advice (and, if brave enough, show her my writing).
Q: Do you have a lucky writing talisman? If so, what is it?
A: It was the Chinese Year of the Rooster when I was trying to finish Talland House. I am a Rooster so to bring me good luck I bought a rooster charm which is still attached to my computer.
Q: Is there a book that you keep going back to, and if so, how many times have you read it?
A: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I must have read it over two hundred times. I first read it as an adolescent after the death of my mother and fell in love with the mother figure, Mrs Ramsay. Later I discovered that Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen, was forty-nine when she died and Virginia thirteen – the exact ages of my mother and me when my mother died. There’s something so extraordinarily moving about mothering in To the Lighthouse, but Mrs. Ramsay dies suddenly and in parentheses and I knew I had to write a novel (Talland House) discovering how Mrs. Ramsay dies.
Q: If you could teleport yourself anywhere, real or fictional, where would it be and why?
A: To one of Lady Ottoline Morrell’s garden parties. A generous hostess, Ottoline sheltered pacifists, and entertained writers such as D. H. Lawrence, W. B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot and Bertrand Russell, and artists like Augustus John, Duncan Grant, Dora Carrington and Mark Gertler. Imagine listening to their conversations!
Patrick focuses his whole attention on the cat. He watches it roll over and scratch along its back with one leg as if the fur is an old coat to be discarded for the summer. He isn’t allowed to stroke Molly. He didn’t earn enough points in lessons this morning. Mummy was quite explicit. ‘You’re …