What we learned from Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale has hit British screens and to celebrate the TV adaptation of this frankly terrifying dystopian novel, here are eight delicious nuggets of wisdom from the time literary legend Margaret Atwood talked to Mumsnet – from her advice on writing and love to fashion tips

On her childhood

On her childhood

“Being Canadian, having a tomboy mother who was an ace canoeist and a good shot with a bow, as well as a casual but effective fish-catcher, a speed skater, and later in her life an ice-dancer, and having grown up in the woods with a dad who encouraged small motor repair skills and the use of edged tools, etc., I did not feel very gender-oppressed, within the family, as a female person.”

On favourite childhood books

On favourite childhood books

“Grimms' Fairy Tales. In the 1940s before they got Princessed and Disneyfied – that meant red-hot shoes, gouged out eyeballs, and the whole nine yards. Did that put me off? Evidently not, since the good folks were generally rewarded.”

On how to start writing fiction

On how to start writing fiction

“Read, read, read, write, write, write. Especially the latter. It doesn't matter what at first, just keep the words flowing; because if you aren't actually writing, you aren't a writer. In the self-confidence department: no one will see what you write unless you show it to them.”

On being a feminist

On being a feminist

“I didn't really think about it much until the end of the 60s, when the women's movement broke out. But since that time I've thought quite a bit about what can happen to girls and women as a result of their gender. From silly to horrible. As for “feminist”, I always want people to define what they mean. Let's start with 'women are human beings.' I'll vote for that. It's a good beginning. From there we can delve into the details."

On Angela Carter

On Angela Carter

“She was a pal. Such a smart person with a wild sense of the bizarre. She would have got a big cackle out of The Heart Goes Last…she was into a few kinky automata herself.”

On love

On love

“There's more than one kind of love. I am still in love with my cat, Blackie, who's been dead for 20 years. I've been with Mr. Perfect now for 40 years. Graeme Gibson. Romantic love morphs into a different kind, if you're lucky and put in the work.”

On writing sci-fi

On writing sci-fi

“I did get yelled at a bit by sci-fi purists, who think you have to be a specialist or something, but that's their problem. I like to read good books and I don't pay much attention to genre barriers. Read what you like. Write what you like. It will all sort itself out eventually.”

On fashion

On fashion

“The best thing one can do is to find out what suits you – you, not somebody else – and stick with it. The young experiment, of course. I did some fairly hideous things in my youth that did not suit me at all. But now I've discovered Black With A Scarf, and I'm sticking to it.”