For this, my first internet based interview, I have polled all of the questions from those most important to my work – my Twitter friends, fellow bloggers and readers.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all, without you guys none of this would be possible.
Are the photos that you take only a part of a hobby or do they fit part of a story?
The photos found in my first book, Me, My World and I were provided by the company DecorArt. By discussing the artistic value of each chapter, they were able to source images that matched the story being told. Often photo shoots had to be arranged for specific poems and one image would be selected from a number of resulting shots.
The images I tweet are indeed taken by me and are usually based on a will to share the world I touch and provide a window to those things I see. When I tweet photos combined with poetic musings, those images are indeed a part of a story.
What inspired you to pursue such a beautiful and unique style of writing?
I guess when an artist first picks up their brushes they don’t really have a style, they simply paint as their heart would see. It was really the same for me – my work is constantly evolving, in the beginning I was really just putting words to paper has my heart would convey the subject. Over time I found a rhythm and means of expression I liked and that was the birth of my style.
You use Twitter a lot to chat and promote. Do you schedule regular slots? Is it an effective medium?
I try to spend a couple of hours each morning, tweeting at a regular time and with a similar set of tweets (song of the day, poem of the day, fact of the day and thought for the day). Beyond that, any time I spend on twitter is really squeezed into my day as and when there is a moment.
It would be hard to measure the effective nature of the medium as it really depends what you hope to achieve. I guess if I were motivated by sales, you might argue it has been a failure, but then that is not how I choose to use the tool. For me, sharing my work and understanding my audience is my main motivation and Twitter allows me to do that in a comfortable, informal manner. I love knowing my readers and having a view of my work through their eyes. Being friends with those who enjoy my prose has become one of the more rewarding elements of being a writer.
Social networking gives audiences unprecedented access to authors. Does this enhance or take away from your writing? Do you ever feel you have to give too much of yourself away?
Before my book was published, AuthorHouse (my publishing company) repeatedly underlined a need for a solid social media platform. They would regularly send me text on what I should do and how I should do it. The trouble is, social networking today involves an enormous number of sites. We have Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest at the front but then any number of others sitting just behind (such as Good Reads for example). It is possible to link these in some small way – but to keep them all running to their optimum is simply impossible.
I have never been very good with Facebook and but for my collaboration on Lion Hearts with Maree Ward Russell I probably would have very little by way of exposure from that medium. Pinterest is something I am trying to use in a certain way, but it tends to get neglected through a lack of time. Twitter on the other hand, fell into favour with me simply because identification with “readers” and their opinions is instant.
This background is important in the asking of whether my social media platform enhances or takes away from my work. The truth is – it does both. While I gain much from having strong links with my audience, it takes an enormous amount of my time that might otherwise be used writing. This also means giving a lot of myself as time I perhaps used to use perusing hobbies is now dedicated to things such as Twitter – but this is more down to me still finding a balance – after all, this is still very new to me.
Who or what are the main inspirations for your poetry/writing?
I guess if it hadn’t been for my co author on Black & White, Kelvin Fowler, I might never have written a poem. From childhood I was always fascinated by the idea of creating fictional worlds and driving characters around their boundaries. Poetry never really held an interest and due to the way classical literature was taught to me at school, I was always pretty cold to those things I now hold so dear.
Kelvin is a “Free Verse” poet and for years he would read me his work or tell me of his latest success or publication. Eventually I decided to see if I could write a poem – Britannia Rise was the result and 18 months later Me, My World and I hit the shelves.
But I am also greatly inspired by music, strong imagery and a romanticised ideal. I love the medieval period and the crusades. In reality they were dirty, smelly and brutal but the ideals of chivalry and noble life still strike a chord. I guess this played some part in the way my style has adapted.
Maree Ward Russell has also proven to be a great mentor, she has taught me everything I know about back story (which has played an enormous part in the Lion Hearts Essays and stories such as the Fell). This in its own way is a great inspiration because I am excited by the world we have created and like many others, am looking forward to what will come next.
If u were stranded on desert island, what 3 items would u take with you?
Supposing practical things such as a satellite phone and sturdy yacht are out of the question …
Well I have a great love of fishing and fishing tackle would not only provide hours of endless pleasure, but also 3 square meals a day.
The means to write! I couldn’t really imagine a world without writing – and if I am to be stranded alone, my greatest means of expression would become ever more important.
A cabin – OK, this might be cheating but I am a creature of comfort and while sleeping beneath the stars may be wonderful, tropical storms, snakes and poisonous spiders are less so.
If money was no object, where would you spend your ideal 24 hours (time travel & jet permitted!)
This is such a hard question to answer and there are so many candidates. I have never been to the lands to the south of our planet and have heard so much about them (as both my co authors are from New Zealand). When you watch films like Lord of the rings it would be hard to imagine anything more beautiful – and to wander that beauty would be a dream come true.
I have always been fascinated by Yellow Stone National Park and would love to take a guide and ramble one of its longer, more isolated trails. I can’t think of too many places more primeval and closer to nature than this.
I have always wanted to go to Hawaii, again, mostly for its beauty – this is after all, the island paradise of all island paradises (isn’t it)?
But then, given the time machine, I could also go back to the crusades or walk with dinosaurs, watch first hand as the pyramids are built or watch the birth of mankind. I am not sure which I would choose from these, perhaps you can decide?
What is your one, peculiar writing habit? Something you repeatedly do that makes others raise their eyebrows?
This is a hard one – I guess the fact that I can be quite stressful when writing an essay raises the most eyebrows but from what I am told by other authors, this is not that peculiar.
I prefer to be alone when I write, distraction is a real problem for me, it is very hard to keep focus when things are going on around you. Again though, I am guessing not that peculiar.
Maybe I don’t have one?
I would like to know how long you have been a writer?
I have been writing in one form or another since childhood. As a teen I would write science fiction and paranormal fiction in long hand. They were simply awful, and as my spelling is terrible, they were also riddled with errors.
In my later teens I wrote sports essays with an aim to become a journalist – I was turned down a number of times and told I had no talent.
I wrote my first ever poem in the summer of 2011 and Me, My World and I was published in the autumn of 2012 – so I guess this really marks the boundaries of when I actually became a writer.
What is the most difficult piece you have had to write and why?
I have a chapter in my new book, Postcards that most certainly qualifies. This is a travel book that shows you the sites and cities of Europe through the eyes of a poet. Lake Plateliai in Lithuania is a place of great natural beauty and enormous historical importance. It also is the site of a tragic accident that cost a number of lives at the worst possible time (a wedding). I wanted to capture the essence of the place depicting its glory while illustrating its shadow. Two months later and the chapter remains unfinished.
My essays are always a challenge and take hours to complete because they not only have to make sense and tell a story, but also have the correct rhythm. When I read my work back, if a word stands out I have to replace it, I need each line to flow or it just doesn’t work for me.
The Fell became a challenge because it was a piece I had always wanted to write and because it required me pushing my bounds as a writer and testing new waters.
How many years passed between you realising you wanted to write and actually making a start on writing?
Well I guess I have sort of answered this with Adele’s question but suffice to say – I always wanted to be a writer. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t dream of seeing my name on the cover of a book.
So in terms of how many years, I guess if taking Me, My World and I as the bench mark, the answer would have to be my whole life up until the summer of 2011.
What inspired you to start writing?
Well if we pretend that my earliest efforts were actually me attempting to become a writer, it would have to be the fascination for creating a fictional world and being able to control that which happens within it.
I also love the idea of telling a story – so much so that it became a driving force behind Chronicles a series of poems first seen in Me, My World and I (Prophesy, Portent and Serpent) with more to follow. Chronicles tells the story of a post apocalyptic world entirely through poetry and uses its metaphor to make comparison to the modern world, today.
Do you like writing Sci-fi?
I really do, but the last time I tried, I really wasn’t very good at it! I have always had a fascination for science fiction, both reading and watching. I own an awful lot of it on DVD and spend an awful lot of time immersed in its worlds.
I believe that science fiction often gives us a window to the future, for example the original Star Trek series was filmed in the sixties and yet viewers were treated to their favourite characters making use of flat screen TVs, sliding doors and something that looked an awful lot like a flip mobile phone.
I also enjoy the escapism that comes from worlds where science as we know it doesn’t have to be applied. I guess that is also one of the great attractions when it comes to writing!
If there was a time machine and you had the choice in which time you wanted to live – which time would you chose?
I guess I would like to take a look at the time around the third crusade (12th century). Life was very hard back then so I am not sure I would want to live there. That said, I do feel a strong attraction to this era and would love to see it up close and personal.
I loved growing up in the 70s and 80s, things seemed somehow more innocent back then while kids really could be kids. So just for the chance to again play on my grandparents farm, to fish for tadpoles with my friends and wander fields for hours without reason – I would choose this era (but as a child).
Do your magical words come from deep in the heart or from the mind?
A bit of both if truth be known! When the lines first go down on the page, they come entirely from the heart, usually in flood and very raw. I then edit the prose, repeatedly reading them back, adding a word here, losing a word there, until the rhythm feels right.
So the original words and the rhythm come from the heart, but the process of editing also involves a deal of thought and an awful lot of patience.
What inspires you to write such beautiful words?
I have become a collector of words – it sounds silly but it is entirely true. I have always had an interest in old and forgotten language and love words that sound poetic or have a resonance that fits.
I can spend hours flicking through the pages of various thesauruses in quest of an increased vocabulary and once a word is added, it is used.
Often I can take two words, pair them together and be inspired through their rhythm to the rest of the line – so in some ways I guess the inspiration for the line comes from the words and not the other way round.
What inspired u to write Me, My World and I? And how old u are?
Well the format of the book really just fell into place. I started with eighteen poems which I sent out to be reviewed. I had determined that if they weren’t liked I wouldn’t continue to write, as I didn’t want to waist anybodies time. They came back with good reviews so I then decided it would be nice to add a little text about each poem, which would appear at the back of the book.
The accompanying prose took on a life of their own and became as important as the poetry so were shifted to the pages immediately following each poem. The final stroke was to add the photos which tied each chapter neatly to 4 pages and added an additional artistic and metaphorical element.
If there was an inspiration, and it wasn’t simply a collection of happy accidents, it was probably my turning 40, something that took me some time to come to terms with. In fact, in the first edit of the book I talk of how I am struggling with the concept of middle age and by its final edit, I am talking of how I have come to terms with it. It could be that this book was my means of getting passed being 40.
As for my age, I was born on August 16th 1969 making me 43.
What would you like 2013 to bring you?
From the perspective of my writing career, 2013 is an important year. In the autumn I publish two new books, Postcards and Memento. Postcards is a travel book (Europe through the eyes of a poet) while Memento marks the formal publication of my blogged essays along with a number more, previously unpublished.
August will see the official start of Lion Hearts with Maree Ward Russell and Kelvin Fowler and I will also be busy bringing Black & White to fruition. Both of these projects are due for publication in 2014.
I would like 2013 to be kind enough for all of these things to run smoothly and without a hitch!
I would like to thank all those who sent questions and apologise for those questions that didn’t appear – the interview was reaching such a length that I worried people might become bored! I will keep the questions not used for next time. Thank you all!