Elly Nobbs (The Invisible Girl) asked me to take part in a tour of writers where we all answer the same questions and tag other writers who will do the same the following week. A nice way to keep in touch and learn about new people! Elly posted My Writing Process last week.
The three people I am tagging are as follows:
- Caroline Davies:
Caroline’s collection, Convoy, http://www.cinnamonpress.com/convoy/ was published in 2013 by Cinnamon Press. It was inspired by the experiences of her taid, Jim Honeybill who was a merchant seaman. She was born in Norfolk to Welsh parents and spent much of her childhood by the sea.
- Lucy Lepchani
Lucy is a published poet (Ladygardens, Burning Eye Books and The Beckoning Wild, Acumen Poetry pamphlet). With support from Arts Council England, she is currently working on her first novel which has involved researching records and cultural histories from her fathers Lepcha tribal heritage, in West Bengal and Sikkim, India.
- Jean Harrison http://jeanharrisonpoetnovelist.weebly.com/
She has two poetry collections published by Cinnamon Press and a novel called On a wandering planet is forthcoming in 2015.
But the info for this tour disappeared into Jean’s spam file and so she may or may not be able to take part in this blog by next week. But you can still look at her site.
Now my turn with the questions:
- What am I working on?
A hard question to answer when my big project, What the horses heard has just been sent to the printers. That book has occupied my thoughts for the best part of four years and although a lot of other things happened (see A Handful of Water) while simultaneously writing and re-writing Horses I now feel bereft … or do I actually feel free?
So what next? This very week I am going to Wiltshire to read poetry at Blue Gate Poets in the house where a nineteenth century nature writer called Richard Jefferies grew up. (He wrote an unpublished poignant story about an old horse left out one winter’s night and I think of this as the source for the Horses novel.) I shall be spending a couple of days there, thanks to the wonderful Hilda Sheehan who invited me to read. I am on the quest for some new poems to write but I have these ideas sometimes and nothing comes of them. Or not immediately. So the answer is I don’t know what I am working on, just trying out new things. (To be honest, if there were something I mightn’t want to say anything at this point but really, there isn’t a clear intention yet! )
But somewhere, I’d like to find whatever puts enough fire in my belly to let me write another novel. (I can see that promoting and publicising Horses will possibly take up quite a bit of my spare nerve and steel so there won’t be a lot left this summer.)
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
er, not sure about this question….probably not a lot, except that I will keep sounding, as someone said recently, as though I am on Gardeners’ Question Time (chance would be a fine thing though). Perhaps the other questions will answer it for me….
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write what I do because of some inner compulsion. It’s the same for all of us, I guess. If I don’t write for a few days I start to feel unwell, get grouchy and impatient (well, maybe just more so than usual!) I didn’t write for so many years while I was working full-time and bringing up childen, looking after horses etc that now feel I need every spare minute to write, much as I loved all those things (except for the working). There isn’t enough life left! Who knows what the future will bring? And I love writing historical fiction, imagining characters in the foreign country of the past.
4) How does your writing process work?
I write into the darkness, not knowing what will come next or what will turn up. I don’t know where a poem is going and when it has been ‘finished’ I usually re-write it. Sometimes several drafts. Sometimes I leave poems or scraps of poems for a long time and come back to them. Sometimes I don’t. I almost always write lots more than I need to and then have to cut back. Also with both my novels I wrote much more (30-40k words) than has been published as I pare them back to the bone. (Some of my writing is to help me find out about someone’s motivation or character and it requires hindsight to realise this.) This happens maybe if you don’t write to a plan though I suppose it might happen if you do have a plan and then change it.
When I wrote my first novel, Liar Dice, I felt as if the story existed somewhere in the ether: my subconscious had only to work it out while my hands’ job was to get it on the paper. My second novel was different as it had to be sculpted and moulded to look like something that could’ve happened. I had no evidence that it could not have. (An important professor of military history had said that to me, too.) The thing was that my main character, Cass, wanted to get to the Western Front during World War 1. She followed me round the house and out into the world and continuously said to me that without that happening she wasn’t going to be in any book. I said it wasn’t going to be possible because she was female unless she became a nurse and she said (slyly), but you don’t know anything about nurses, do you! So … for her alone and my own peace of mind, I had to undertake painstaking research in archives and books to make her story plausible and to find possible routes for her. A novel needs a lot of fire in its belly to keep going over a number of years, and ‘she’ provided it.
Several other themes intersected and became woven into the strange pattern of What the horses heard. Writing it down, inch by inch, made the events in the book happen. In some ways it was an experiment to see if I could write about the unbearable even though I hadn’t been there. I won’t know the answer to that till someone opens the book and reads it. Jan Fortune at Cinnamon liked it enough to publish it so she gives me hope.
Hope this hasn’t been too long!