(jonicel.blogspot.co.uk/) to participate in a sort of relay race of blogging. Each blog goes up on a Monday, and Jo had been passed the baton by fellow writers to fellow writers, so that we could answer a few writerly questions. Well,
Jo didn’t drop the baton! I have it in my hand right now. And I’m really pleased to be part of this Blog Tour Monday, following in the footsteps of Jo Nicel (in fact, racing into her blog – thanks, Jo), Dr. Steve Hollyman, Louise Swinger, Sarah Jasmon, Graeme Shimmin and Emma Yates-Badley. Phew! Follow that. No pressure. OK…
What am I working on?
I am a big, big fan of short fiction, both reading it and writing it. I love the intensity of it and the way it makes readers react, the way it lingers with you, or creeps you out. I think you either love it or hate it, and I think that’s interesting. Unsurprisingly, then, I’ve been writing quite a lot of short stuff. A year or so back, I wrote Fifty-One Ways to Leave your Lover, which is an anthology of fifty-one short fictions, mainly about women’s lives. The proceeds for this anthology go to Platform 51 (a brilliant charity that helps girls and women in difficult circumstances), then last year I completed an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and wrote a novel (which may, or may not, end up being entitled Black Country) and, hopefully, if all goes according to plan, this will be published by spring next year.
For now, I’m working on another novel (which I’m currently calling Being Jesus) which will end up being a short(ish) novel set in my homeland, the Black Country in the West Midlands. I’m keen to set this novel in a ‘real’ place and I love the urban grime and peculiarity of my home area - I like the cultural climate of it - so it seems the perfect setting for the plot I have in mind. I like the weird characters who live here (I, for example, live opposite a wizard called Merlin whose day job is listed as ‘inventor’. True fact.)
Being Jesus, however, is not the kind of novel I’d encourage my mother to read. The main character has a pretty shady background and the plot contains some fairly nasty twists. Maybe all writers have an element of control-freakery about them, I certainly have a hang up about reader involvement, and I like to spring unexpected events on unsuspecting readers every now and then. I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything if I admit that are no happy endings in this next novel. Sorry!
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Genre….hmmmm…like Jo, I’m a bit hesitant to love it enough to place my novel in it. Genre’s a club that probably wouldn’t admit Black Country or Being Jesus anyway. Both of these novels are too badly behaved, I think, for any one genre to want them. It’s a good question, though. There’s certainly some crime, some dark psychological thrillerness going on, a bit of horror, maybe, but I think what I’m trying to do is to push the limits of fiction into places where readers might start to feel more than just a little bit uncomfortable. I think I try to make readers feel a bit responsible for the allegiances they form with characters, and I find I’m greatly influenced to do this by watching film and thinking about the effect of narrative perspective.
When I was studying for my MA, I was conscious that when I received feedback from my fellow students, they sometimes commented on the fact that they ‘didn’t like’ some of the characters in some of my writing. Great, I thought, at least you’ll remember them. And they did, I think.
Why do I write what I do?
My dad still has a notebook of mine, and on the front it says ‘Kerry Hadley. Age 7. Stories.’ Inside it is the first short story I ever wrote, and it’s called The Darkest Night. It was prompted by a car journey I took with my dad. It was almost winter and I got to sit in the front seat of his Vauxhall Viva and, for some reason I can’t remember, we were driving out into the Worcestershire countryside, just the two of us. My dad put the radio on and Knights in White Satin was playing. We never said a word the whole journey, and it felt to me that I watched darkness fall over the landscape. I have no idea why that journey, or that feeling had such an impact on me, but somehow something was triggered, and I had to write about it. And I had to continue writing. I don’t know…it’s that sense of mournful intensity that permeates through whatever I write. That feeling operates like the sound track on a loop underneath it all.
How does my writing process work?
Process? I don’t know if I have a particular process.
What has happened in the past is that I have an idea. It might be a beginning, or a middle, or an end. It might just be an event – something prompted by something I’ve seen or heard about, or a conversation I’ve overheard. I write it down. I’m a notebook freak. And pencils. I like pencils. I like to write freehand, in pencil, usually, but if I can’t find a pencil, or if I’m at my day job in a meeting, say, then I tap it into my phone. I write a lot and delete a lot. Sometimes it’s a bit haphazard, but I like that. I don’t tend to plan, I like things to work themselves out, I like the chaos of it. I’ve tried planning but it makes me mad. I prefer to write in longhand but I don’t have romantic ideas about having to follow a particular ritual and can just as easily whip out my laptop and tap in a pile of nonsense, and I’m just as happy to delete the lot of it. I don’t get precious about it – maybe, I think that’s important, maybe I think it’s important to be able to discard things. I edit as go and as I type it up. I like to read it aloud (with all the voices – all dramatically – I have absolutely no shame about that) and I edit it again. And again. And again. I fiddle around with structure a lot, just to see what that does. I give myself the creeps, and when I do, I feel like I’m onto a winner. I write like a lunatic once I’ve got the bit between my teeth: early in the morning, on trains, late into the night (I prefer this), at work, in coffee shops, when I’m talking on the phone, anywhere, really. I try not to keep ideas in my head, but to get them out onto paper or a screen. I love finding something I wrote and thinking I don’t even remember writing that (this happens a lot.). Maybe, thinking about it, the only real process I have is to keep writing. Maybe I think if I stop, that’ll be it…maybe.
So, my nomination for next week's blog post is my good friend, Anne Jensen. Anne was born in Denmark but moved to England in 1995. She recently completed an MA in Creative Writing and is currently working on her second novel, House of Scars. She lives and writes in Salisbury, and you can read her blog at http://annekirstinejensen.wordpress.com/
Signing off, but I'll be back!