Does writing energise or exhaust you?
I am never more energised than when I’m in the middle of a writing project. It’s like a battery charge that keeps me going for hours after I finish. I even forget to eat, which is very unusual for me.
Has publishing your recent book changed your process of writing?
Only in the sense that I now have an expectation that something else that I write may be good enough to publish in time, and that keeps me on my toes editing, I’m less complacent about the finished product that I used to be and pay far more attention to editing.
How many unpublished or half-finished books are in your desk drawer?
Four, one finished novel, rewritten many times but definitely finished now. There are two others that are partly written and one unfinished collection of poetry which I add to regularly. I’m feeling like a bit of a slacker now after writing that but it will spur me on to finish those projects ☺
Do you Google yourself?
Definitely not! That’s a terrifying thought. Head down, stay writing and don’t look on Google.
What does your family think of your writing?
They’re very proud of me. They tell me they don’t always understand my poems but they read them. My daughter reads my stories and novel chapters for me. She’s an avid reader and not afraid to be critical in a good way. They’re a supportive bunch, particularly my husband, he’s my biggest fan and he feeds me ☺
What period of your life do you draw most of your inspiration from, or write about most often?
So far, this has been from my childhood but that’s possibly a common thing when people begin to write seriously. It may even be a form of therapy or a necessary rite of passage. In the second collection of poetry, which I’m currently working on, I find myself writing more from my adult experiences than I did in the first collection.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
As a child I think but I also didn’t feel it was achievable so I didn’t pursue it. It’s taken me a long time to get back to me.
Who is your favourite under appreciated poet?
I don’t know if he could be described as under appreciated by anyone but me, but a few years ago I was given a book of Dermot Healy’s poems called A Fool’s Errand and I fell completely in love with his work. I would like to have met him.
What works best for you, typewriter, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
I either write longhand or I type. I find that poetry often comes to me in little waves while I’m out and about and I write it down and later type it up to edit it, if I can read my writing! For novel writing I type but if I’m having a problem with a chapter or character then I write it longhand to try to free up some ideas.
Do you carry a notebook and if so how do you use it?
I always carry a notebook. The only time it happened that a story idea came to me that I didn’t have a notebook was in a pub in Bray on a weekend away, so I pulled the back off beermats and wrote the ideas on them; went home with a handbag full of beermats! I’ve never travelled without one since. I’ve discovered that if I think I’ll remember the idea in the morning, I definitely won’t. If I was stuck I’d send myself a text message with a few notes in it to remind me but it isn’t as good as a notebook. I usually just write down the bones of an idea or a few phrases of a ‘would be’ poem as they come to me.
How critical are you in your evaluation when you are reviewing your own work?
Much more so than I used to be. I’ve discovered that if I write a poem or chapter or story, then I need to leave it aside for about a month and go back to it with fresh eyes. It’s usually very obvious when I read it again where a bit of pruning would help. Maybe that’s just me but I seem to need to chop some off the beginning and the end, if not more. I’m getting better at it but reading out loud helps a lot. You can’t hear rhythm when you read in your head and it’s difficult to spot repetition when reading silently.
Did the thought to give up writing ever occur to you?
No, now that I’ve rediscovered it. I love writing so even if I’m dodging finishing a project or not doing the editing I should be working on, I’ll still be writing something else. I find writing enjoyable and writing poetry emotional.
Writers are often believed to have a muse, your thoughts on that.
I’m not sure that I ever considered this before and I don’t know that everyone has a muse but if I was to say I had then it would be nature. If I find myself getting stale or unable to continue a piece of writing, then a walk in the woods or by the sea usually sorts it out. A full poem could form in my head while out walking on a quiet beach.
Are you a member of any writing groups? If yes, define their importance to you.
I took a UCC short course about eight years ago facilitated by Kathy D’Arcy, and five of us from various seasons of this course write together. If possible we meet once a month in the South County pub in Douglas, Cork for a couple of hours and try to be disciplined, which we’re not at all, but we keep up a good pretence. It’s a very encouraging and fun group of writers to share work with and Kathy still joins us when time allows. I find I am energised after meeting the group and more inclined to be disciplined in my writing the week after. It’s also important for me to have writers to bounce ideas off who will be honest with me regarding my work.
Do you have any suggestions to help me to become a better writer? If so, what are they?
I would suggest taking a course or finding a group to write with regularly, to get you in the habit of sharing your work. Find a group where you are both encouraged and kept on your toes; we’re all lazy sods at the back of it. Good writers emerge and need to have the space and time to do so, there’s no rush. Try to share your work with others, they will see things in there that you didn’t see when you were writing it; they’ll see that spark you have. Don’t be afraid of open mic nights, they’re a great place to gain confidence. Read all the time, a variety of writers and genres. Carry a notebook and pen everywhere, you will forget that beautiful phrase or story idea if you don’t write it down. Be brave and write whatever you want, it’s your poem or your story and if people tell you it isn’t in vogue at the moment, take no notice and write it anyway, but write it well. Enjoy it, when you’re having fun amazing things can happen.
Do you see the writing gene in your family members?
I see story tellers in my family. Both my children and grandchildren are artistic and creative, so it’s possible that writing will happen organically at some stage, in one form or another, for some of them. If they take after me then they’ve lots of time yet ☺
Do you set a schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when inspired?
Most days I’ll happily write for a couple of hours in the morning but there are times when I’ll do anything to avoid it, especially when I’m grappling with a difficult character, or a poem that just won’t behave. A little walk or a nice cuppa usually sorts it out. I find I write the best material when the mood takes me though.