Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
is author of The Dowry Blade, a lesbian epic fantasy, and 2 collections of short stories, Mosaic of Air and Tales Told Before Cockcrow. She has had many stories (and one poem!) published in anthologies, magazines and on line, and her work has been performed (sometimes by actors) in London, Leeds, Leicester, Oxford, Cumbria, Bath and Hong Kong.
Cherry edits short story/poetry anthologies including Award Winning Weird Lies for Arachne Press, which she owns. She runs the literature & music festival Solstice Shorts and is visiting lecturer in Creative Writing at City, University of London.
- What inspired you to write poetry/flash fiction?
I was a horribly precocious child, telling stories before I could write, then ‘writing’ them in pictograms on the giant blackboard that took up a wall in our house. Not having a written language was hugely frustrating and I took to reading like a drink in a desert. I wrote my first novel at 12, and churned out poetry that was perfectly correct in its meter and rhyming structures but about absolutely nothing. It kept me amused when I ran out of library books to read. I write almost no poetry now, and have only ever had one poem published, but I know the real thing when I see it, and I publish lots of poets. Flash fiction wise, notwithstanding a mammoth epic fantasy novel, my first love is short form fiction
- Who introduced you to poetry/ flash fiction?
My parents. My mum is a writer, so it was almost expected that I read, and write something. My dad introduced me to folk music and blues which taught me a huge amount about both the patterns you can make (with or without music) and the tiny amount of words needed to tell a story powerfully. I didn’t know it was flash at the time of course. I think I realised that some of what I was writing had a name when I came across it on twitter.
- How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Hardly at all. Maybe because I’m opinionated? Maybe because it wasn’t how I was taught? Maybe because I don’t know them? I’ve found things I like but never feel dominated by them, just delighted that I enjoyed it. I’m a bit of a sucker for metaphysics. I love John Donne and Shakespeare and I enjoy William Blake in small doses. I think it’s contrarianism in poetry that gets me interested, and it was reading Sylvia Plath as a teenager that woke me up to what could really happen in poetry – I started reading women almost exclusively, so my canon is very female! I don’t have much time for 19th Century poets apart from Emily Dickinson (or music either actually), it’s all either really old or fairly modern. For example I have discovered the Trobiaritz poets (another music link) of 12th-13th Century Languedoc on one hand, and I am publishing poets writing right now.
- What is your daily writing routine?
I wish I had one. I have just embarked on a fortnightly routine. A friend and I get together on Wednesday mornings and write really hard – sometimes in silence, sometimes trying things out on each other. And we both go to the same monthly writers group which is mostly talk and feedback. If I manage anything else in between it’s a proper cause for celebration. I like to write in bed – the desk is for admin. Although if an idea has got its teeth in me I’ll write anywhere anytime – I once wrote almost nonstop for 24 hours – on the train, in a work meeting, park bench… Editing other people is very good for me – I think so much more before I commit to a sentence or a line.
- What motivates you to write?
Ideas. An idea will slap me on the forehead and keep shouting at me till I get it on paper/screen, and then the real pleasure is in deciding how to shape it.
- What is your work ethic?
I am constitutionally unsuited to work, so it’s lucky I don’t think of writing as work. It’s a total pleasure.
- How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I am wary of influence. Occasionally I discover I’ve been too influenced, I’m a bit of a style sponge. What did I take most from what I read? The joy of words. The power of structure. The urge to always tell a story no matter how obliquely. The right to be angry and say so.
- Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Temptation to just list some of the writers I publish- (Jennifer A McGowan, Sarah James, Elinor Brooks, Jeremy Dixon, Cathy Bryant, Math Jones, Ness Owen, Jane Aldous, Emma Lee, Lisa Kelly, Michelle Penn, Laila Sumpton…) All mainly for wit, compassion and panache, but there are others!
Kate Foley: she has such a wicked wit, and can turn from laugh to anger to sorrow on a comma. (I set up Arachne in the hope I could convince her to let me publish some work. Yes! I did! Yes, I have: The Don’t Touch Garden and A Gift of Rivers)
Jay Bernard: spectacularly vivid poetry, and brilliant live too, had me on the edge of my seat at the Keats festival once. Jay, if you read this, I still want to publish you!
I loved Julia Bird’s Now You Can Look. It’s a mistress-piece of storytelling and style.
- Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
I do lots of somethings else, but all connected to writing, (publishing, editing, typesetting, teaching, singing…) which keeps my brain alert for material and honed for the job at hand. After I was made redundant for the second time in 5 years I thought ‘come on Cherry, what do you really want to do, because this isn’t working’. So I set up Arachne Press, which rather eats my time, but I enjoy it!
- What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Read everything you can get your hands on in order to learn what captivates you and how to achieve it. Keep your ears and eyes open and engage with the world so that you find something you want to write about. Words are lovely in their own right, but they are there for a reason, to communicate. As soon as something excites you enough that you find it hard to think about anything else, start. Try. Try harder. Scream in frustration and throw things away. Start again. Share. Start again. Share. Start again. Continue.
- Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
My most recent publication was The Real McCoy in We/She Arachne’s Liars’ League women’s anthology last August. It’s about a real mermaid in a fairground side show. There’s a bit of a theme going there at the moment as I’m writing a novel(la) called The Bog Mermaid. The indecisive brackets are because it is very short, and might work shorter still. The first draft is almost finished. It might even be a novel(la) in flash – each section is well under 2000 words, and many are much shorter, and it’s deliberately quite disjointed, but makes up a whole story (two actually) by the time it’s threaded together. It’s about two families living in the same house fifty years apart 1926/76 and how the lives and decisions of the first family keep touching the later one.
And I’ve just had a Selkie themed story, Fish-fish, chosen to be read at Liars’ League London on February 12th. I may stop writing about sea creatures and using them as metaphors sometime.