In January 2020, as I prepared to revamp my website, it occurred to me that it would be more interesting for visitors to find out from them what they would want to know about me and my writing. A huge thank you my Facebook Followers for your questions.
1.When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
As a kid, I went through all the professions I could. I wanted to be an Astronaut, Lawyer, Singer, Painter, Interior Designer, you name it and I probably thought about it. I was lucky enough to have a mother who entertained all of my aspirations and flights of fancy. What remained constant was that sat alone in my bedroom, I would fill black and white marble composition books with stories of worlds I could escape to. Through those stories, I could be all those things I wanted and more.
It was probably in high school that I decided I wanted to be a writer but I kept it to myself for the most part and that was my mistake. I should have shouted it from the rooftops. Perhaps I would have believed I could do it.
2.What is your favourite part of writing professionally? What is the worst part?
My favourite part is the freedom. I get to write what I love. What I find interesting. There are no limitations on what I can write. If I can find an outlet to publish it, that is great but I have the freedom to publish a piece independently if I choose.
Well, the average pay aside, the worst part is the constant fight to not let things get you down. Life has a way of getting in the way of creative projects. When you get sick, or something happens that requires you to reorganise your schedule it means your timetable slips, and you find that the plan you had has to be reworked or thrown out the window. This can demoralise you and you have to fight from letting it destroy your sense of worth, self and any motivation.
3.How do you work through Writer’s Block?
Writer’s Block is one of those controversial terms in the writing community. Some writers suffer from it whilst others don’t believe it even exists. I prefer to use the term “stuck.” When I am “stuck” I sit back and take stock. Am I tired? Am I afraid that what I am writing is not good enough? Am I hungry? Do I need a break? Can I write whatever and see what happens? I ask myself these questions and tick them off till I find the answer. What often works for me is a combination of taking a break whether that is to get some air, get on the treadmill, or watch a half hour of something funny before returning to the page.
It sounds strange, but ultimately I work through it by writing. I put whatever nonsense comes into my head on paper until the right words start to flow again. The great thing about this is that I know I will go back and edit so it doesn’t matter at draft stage what I am writing. Things can be expanded and things can be deleted. I remind myself of that when I am “stuck.”
4.At what point in a project do you finalise the main characters names and main traits?
For each character I create, I have a questionnaire of about 20-25 questions that I fill out for them. These can range from their first kiss to what books or films do they enjoy or dislike? Most of this information the reader will never know, it is for me so that I can build that character. At that stage, their names, traits and characteristics are in place but I always reserve the right to alter them during edits to suit the story. When you create a character, they don’t often behave the way you want them to because when you put them in a situation, it might make better sense for them to go against the grain. That could be part of the plot. When it comes to first drafts, the worst thing you could do is limit yourself. I would recommend though having those main traits in place by the third edit.
5.When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I started my first book titled, Fragments after my mother died in 1998, I was 21 and had returned to finish my last term at the University Oregon. I would continue to write that book travelling that summer through Europe, back in New York City and I would finish it during my first year in London. I was 23 when I finished it. I was so proud of it. It was fabulously rejected and I didn’t write anything solid after the last rejection (I was 25 by then) for about 8 years because of the blow to my ego and when I returned to writing, I promised myself I would never let a rejection prevent me from writing, even if I was the only person that ever read it.
6.How is writing your personal stories different than other fiction?
Going back to Fragments, the first 3 chapters of that book were based on actual events in my life before moving into fiction loosely inspired by events. Those first three chapters were hard to write and harder to read. My writing in general is recognisable but it is fiction with some inspiration from life but as it is fiction, I am able to have fun with it and distance myself from it. This makes editing easier and it makes putting them out there easier. My life has been a rollercoaster and I although I have written personal essays, I do find them harder to edit and harder to let go of because that is an exposure that I haven’t been entirely comfortable with. This doesn’t mean that I will never do it, just that I haven’t been ready to do it. The year is young though.
7.What is the most unexpected place you’ve ever found inspiration?
The Abbey, West Hollywood on Oscar’s night 2014. I got chatting to a lesbian couple and one of them had lived in London about the same time I did and as it turned out, we knew a few of the same people. This got me thinking on the flight home to Berlin the next day about how globalisation isn’t just about business but people too. The world is smaller than we think and it was then that I started to work on a putting together a collection of stories called Tangled that followed a group of characters who appear in one anothers stories over several years and cities. One of those stories was “Ruckspiel” was published in Jonathan: A Queer FictionJournal and another two stories would spawn Lu’s Outing.
8.What do you think makes a good story?
Stories are a bit like wine. You can read reviews, get recommendations but ultimately it has to be palatable to you. I love reading stories that have characters that stay with me long after I finished the story and settings that I can escape into. I love stories that awaken my senses and I can visualise. 9.What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to spend time with my husband and our 3 cats whether that is sitting in the garden, listening to music, watching a film/ TV series under blankets on the sofa. I spent what feels like a lifetime in clubs, pubs and parties. What I really love most is the company of close friends in a chilled out environment. If I can’t have a decent conversation with everyone in the room, it’s too big of a gathering.
10.Do you have any advice for someone starting their journey?
Don’t buy into the belief that there is one way to write or get published. A room of 100 writers has 100 different writing journeys. Embrace YOUR journey.
For too long, I was a prisoner of this self created prison and when I finally broke free, I was able to write without fear.
I a firm believer that there is enough space in this world for all of us and enough readers for all of us, so in the spirit of lending a hand, I created a tips/ resources post that you can read here.