On Fiction 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.
Janet Dean Knight
Born and raised in a coalmining village, Janet draws on her experience and family history to tell compelling stories about the past that resonate with current issues, particularly in the lives of women and working class communities. Janet writes strong characters and engaging plots about the past which help her readers to think more deeply about what matters now. Her writing is challenging yet respectful, passionate and accessible.
Based in York, UK Janet is part of a vibrant literary network. She is a regular participant in the York Literature Festival and gives talks about her work to reading and writing groups.
- What inspired you to write fiction?
After a long time writing little else but poetry, I finally started writing fiction to capture the stories my mother told me about her family. This is what inspired me to start writing my first novel in my late 50s. I now write more prose – short stories and flash fiction – as well as plays, and I am inspired by whatever floats into my head, as well as a lot of current political issues.
- Who introduced you to fiction?
Where does fiction start? Prudence and Priscilla my first picture book about two cats who owned a hat shop, I guess my mother bought that. I liked books from a young age and was given abridged versions of classics and things like What Katy Did. But my Dad was a reader and when I went to secondary school he started passing on books to me. From about twelve I was finding things for myself.
- How aware were you of the dominating presence of older writers?
I never defined myself as a writer until I was myself ‘older’ and now the world seems full of younger writers. When I was young, all writers seemed over 40 at least, though I’m not sure if they were. I think one of the reasons we all loved Sylvia Plath was because she never got to grow old.
- What is your daily writing routine?
I’ve only just retired from working in the public sector to write full time, so I’ve never had a daily routine, I’ve written in the spaces – on trains, on holiday, early in the morning if I couldn’t get back to sleep because my head was full of ideas. February 2019 is the first month I have not had a diary full of appointments since I was last on maternity leave in 1994, so I’m learning about daily writing routines. At the moment, I write something every day, even if it’s only the answers to a questionnaire.
- What motivates you to write?
Deadlines work, so a publishing deadline was good. I like competitions and magazine deadlines because I think even if I don’t win or get published I will have written something new. I’m also motivated if I have a good idea or something becomes clear where I was stuck – but I have to get it down quickly or it might get pushed out by more mundane thoughts.
- What is your work ethic?
Do things that matter – it applies to everything.
- How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I hear Robert Frost and Denise Levertov when I write poetry – two very different voices, and JD Salinger with a Yorkshire accent is what I’m aiming for in prose, but failing, I’m sure!
- Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Margaret Atwood is a brilliant storyteller and poet and can write in all genres, and she is so generous with her advice and wisdom, she doesn’t hide away. Sarah Waters is the writer I would like to be, so a long way to go. I love her historical research, her subversion of plots, her evocation of place and her quirky characters.
- Why do you write?
I think for me writing is almost like spiritual practice, meditation. I feel better writing than not, it’s about my well being as much as anything, but also I like to communicate.
- What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Write. Send out your work, take the rejection and send it again. Put it out there yourself. Network and share with other writers. Don’t expect everybody to love what you do. Read as much as you can and reflect on it.
- Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
My debut novel The Peacemaker is published by Top Hat Books on 29th March 2019. I am launching it at York Literature Festival on 28th March at the Quaker Meeting House at 5.30pm. It’s a free event, with books on sale. The Peacemaker is a moving story of a young woman’s struggle to make peace with her father on the eve of the Second World War. It is set between a fictionalised Barnsley and Rosedale in the North York Moors. I hope to be promoting the book in Yorkshire and beyond all year.
Then, I’ve just started a sequel, provisionally called How Can I Dance? which is set in 1963 in a South Yorkshire pit village and it explores a woman who has a chance to recapture her youth as the world is changing around her.
I’m also preparing a short play for the next round of Script Factor in York on the 11th March. This is a showcase for five short plays on which the audience votes for their favourite. I entered for the first time last year and made it to the final, so now I’m hooked!
With Clara Challoner Walker I run writing courses called Awakening The Writer Within which are aimed at helping people who have an idea for some writing to get it down and make something of it. We have a spring retreat in France at the end of April, which is our seventh of this type, and three new half day workshops in the North York Moors in June, July and September.