7.3.2015 - Interview with WordMothers!
I was interviewed recently for WordMothers – a wonderful blog run by Australian writer Nicole Melanson. WordMothers is dedicated to showcasing women's work in the literary arts around the world. It features female author interviews and women in the book industry discussing what they're really passionate about.
Here's the link! Or you can read it in full below.
Click to read the interview on the WordMothers blog
WordMothers – Rosie Garland interviewed by Nicole Melanson
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I was a reader. Even more fabulously, I was read to. Early on, I discovered the joy of being transported to other worlds via the magic of words. It wasn't long before I started telling my own tales. I have a cough-sweet tin filled with books I created for my dolls, and wrote my first novel aged nine - a thrilling adventure involving super-heroines, spaceships and sharks. With pictures.
In fact, on the (mercifully rare) occasions I meet someone who professes to be a writer and yet not have time to read, my chin taps the floor. As Stephen King said: "This is like a guy starting up Mount Everest saying that he didn't have time to buy any rope or pitons."
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
I'm not happy unless I'm busy on a number of projects and am still learning the art of getting that number right...
My second novel 'Vixen' is out in paperback on February 12th and there's a busy book tour coming up. It's set in 1349, the year the Black Death arrived in England. This springs from my fascination with eras when the world was on the cusp of massive change.
I'm writing new poetry. In particular, a sequence of narrative poems inspired by the 2 years I worked as a teacher in Darfur, Sudan. Truly a stranger in a strange land. In addition, I'm getting on with my next novel for HarperCollins. It's at that stage where I hate it, and it is little more than a tangled heap of words.
I'm also treading the boards as Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen. If that wasn't enough, my band The March Violets are touring Europe and the USA in autumn 2015 with our new album, Made Glorious.
Yes- busy. I love the interesting projects that come into my life! One I am particularly excited about is being invited to co-curate the John Rylands Library Literary Gothic exhibition in summer 2015.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I count myself as very, very lucky. I have a room of my own, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf. It's lined with bookcases and every square inch is stacked with bits and pieces picked up over the years (from Californian sand dollars to statues of Kali and all points in between).
I'm a writer who likes peace to scribble – which is the word I use to describe first-stage work. I love the physicality of handwriting at this stage. When I've got to the editing stage I move to the computer. I know a number of creatives who find music conducive to work – I guess I'm one of those who prefers quiet. I think it's to do with the fact that I love music – if I listen to music while I'm writing I end up singing along and writing goes up the spout.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I couldn't begin to say what a typical day is because I don't have them. What follows is a swift gallop around a 'writing day'.
I'm one of those 'morning people'. Morning, afternoon, middle of the night, I don't think it matters one iota as long as you find what works for you. However, I like to get started early. Part of it is because the world is not yet fully awake and that sense of possibility fires me up. Another reason is that I have a vicious internal critic who persists in telling me that everything I do is complete crap. She's a late riser, so I get up before she does and get started before the headtalk kicks in.
One of the things I wrestle with is the balance between writing and admin / social networking. A certain amount of the latter is unavoidable – it comes with the territory of writing being my job – but the knack is to refuse to let Twitter take over my life. I do admin in the afternoon. When I'm on a roll, I'll write into the evenings. It varies.
Also important is for me to take breaks. Not just to move the muscles, but to stay fresh. I take a leaf out of Julia Cameron's 'The Artists' Way' and go on an Artists' Date at least once a week: visit a museum, a gallery, or hang out with a creative friend.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK PROCESS?
I use creative rituals to get me started in the morning.
I'm not alone in being terrified of the blank page and a routine with small steps helps get the creative juices flowing. My day begins with three pages of journaling. This is not so much creative writing as a place to dump 'what I did yesterday' and clear the mind.
My rituals change (damn right too), but right now I like the exercise of writing six images (eg - something I can see / hear / smell, or that struck me yesterday). Coming out of the six images I write a haiku. Then the classic morning pages: three pages of free writing (the magic of 'threes'!). With those warm-ups under my belt, I get cracking on a heftier task like editing a chapter. An athlete wouldn't run a marathon from cold. My take is that a novelist functions in much the same way.
I want to grow, so seek out feedback and input. That might be going on a writing course, a writing retreat, getting feedback from creative colleagues, agent or editor. I am hungry to learn. For me, writing is a life process and is never done. At the age of 90, Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice the cello. 'Because I think I'm making progress,' was his reply.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
There are times when I feel writing chose me. I write because I am made of stories. I write to work out and express how I think and feel. Writing as breathing out. Roald Dahl said - "A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it."
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The odd, the unusual, the folk who don't fit. I've always written about outsiders; whoever they might be. My fiction is about people who won't (or can't) squeeze into the one-size-fits-all templates on offer and the friction that occurs when they try.
I know this comes from having always been an outsider myself. My mother used to ask, 'why can't you write nice stories?' However, I don't explore dark themes as some kind of pose, or to be challenging for the sake of it. I write what I write because that's what comes knocking.
Sure, I can produce something that doesn't fire me up (I've tried), but my heart's not in it. There's the rub: I write where my passions reside. I've chased myself in circles trying to second-guess what a publisher 'might' want and it was a disaster. There's no point twisting yourself into shapes trying to please. That way lies madness, and not the interesting, creative sort. Maybe it's one of the reasons it took me so long for my novels to get published. But that's a different blog: http://booksbywomen.org/rosie-garland/
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
As I mentioned above, I struggle with an internal critic who never says anything nice and never, ever stops. Simply put, this inner censor wants me to stop writing. It's been there since I was in my early teens, and shows no sign of going away. Sure, it's had to change its script a little over the past few years what with the launch of debut novel 'The Palace of Curiosities' and follow-up 'Vixen', but it has simply developed nasty new mantras. One example: when people say they like 'The Palace of Curiosities', they're only being nice.
I used to listen to and believe every word I heard. Result? I stopped writing. Call it writers' block if you will. An important part of my writing life has been improving how I deal with internalised put-downs.
The first step was to call the voice 'Mavis'. If you'd like to read my blog on Dealing with the Internal Critic – here it is.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION AS A WORD ARTIST OR BOOK INDUSTRY PROFESSIONAL?
To communicate. To share. To get my stories out there and enable other word artists to do the same. To encourage - myself as well as others - to tell our stories. Especially when the mainstream world tells us those stories are uninteresting, dangerous, weird, off-kilter and just plain wrong. Especially when the mainstream world tells us that.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Oh goodness, how long have you got? I've been asked this question a gazillion times and I've yet to find a snappy answer. It's impossible! Which is good. I've read work by so many inspiring women that there simply isn't room to list them.