Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Amanda Huggins

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.

Amanda Huggins

is the author of the short story collection, Separated From the Sea (Retreat West Books), which received a Special Mention at the 2019 Saboteur Awards.

She has also published a flash fiction collection, Brightly Coloured Horses (Chapeltown Books), and a poetry collection, The Collective Nouns for Birds (Maytree Press). Her short fiction, poetry and travel writing have also appeared in numerous anthologies, literary journals, newspapers and magazines.

In 2018 she was awarded third prize in the Costa Short Story Award, and she has been placed and listed in numerous other competitions, including Fish, Bridport, Bath, InkTears, the Alpine Fellowship Writing Award and the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award. Her travel writing has won several awards, notably the BGTW New Travel Writer of the Year in 2014, and she has twice been a finalist in the Bradt Guides Travel Writer of the Year Award.

Her new short story collection, Scratched Enamel Heart will be published by Retreat West Books in May.

Amanda grew up on the North Yorkshire coast, moved to London in the 1990s, and now lives in West Yorkshire and works full-time in engineering.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1913508005?pf_rd_p=f20e70b1-67f9-48d1-8c78-ba616030b420&pf_rd_r=JAK1D24RE377KP69RZA6 (Link to my poetry book on Amazon)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Separated-Sea-Amanda-Huggins/dp/1999747267/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=separated+from+the+sea&qid=1583092828&s=books&sr=1-1 (Link to my short story collection on Amazon)

https://maytreepress.co.uk/shop-poetry-book/ (Link to my poetry book on Maytree Press)

https://troutiemcfishtales.blogspot.com/ (Link to my blog)

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I wrote a lot of poetry when I was younger, including for my ‘A’ level creative writing paper. However, when I started writing again around ten years ago I concentrated exclusively on short stories and travel writing. Then a couple of years ago I started to take a serious interest in poetry again, and I had ideas for a handful of new poems. I had no real intention of writing a collection at that stage, but gradually it began to take shape.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I learned to read long before I started school, and my parents encouraged me to read poetry as well as prose. The first book of poetry I was given was Now We Are Six by A A Milne. My real love for poetry started at sixth form college, and I started buying all kinds of poetry books – particularly things I hadn’t read before, such as post-war Japanese poetry. I gradually amassed quite a large poetry library and I’m still adding to it.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I was aware of their domination as a teenager, but when performance poets such as John Cooper Clarke started to appear at music festivals things began to change.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have a full time job in engineering, so I write for an hour or two most evenings and regularly at weekends. I also go away a couple of times a year to a holiday cottage in Northumberland where I spend at least half my time writing.

5. What motivates you to write?

I have always tried to work to deadlines as that keeps me focussed and motivated. When I started writing again I sent a travel article to a national newspaper every week until I got published! I find competition deadlines a good motivator, and my own personal goals usually have a self-imposed deadline.

6. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I’m not sure that the writers I read when I was very young still influence me today – as I used to read a lot of crime fiction and horror as a young teenager, and I don’t read or write either of those genres today. However I am still influenced by the poets I read as a teenager, and by writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Hemingway, Patti Smith, Steinbeck.

7. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I read a lot of short stories, and the contemporary collections on my shelves include books by William Trevor, Tessa Hadley, Helen Simpson, Helen Dunmore, A L Kennedy, Wells Tower, Stuart Evers, Miranda July, Yoko Ogawa, K J Orr, Taeko Kono, Haruki Murakami, Richard Ford, Annie Proulx, Angela Readman, and A M Homes.

I’m also a huge admirer of Japanese novellas and short stories. Japanese literature is often poetic, quiet, unhurried, and that way of writing suits the short story form. Sparing and effective use of language, subtlety and nuance, a certain elusiveness, all demand that the stories are read slowly, and that they are re-read and savoured. These are the qualities that draw me back again and again, and the tales of yearning and loss, of not quite belonging, all resonate with the themes I explore in my own fiction. I really like Murakami’s short stories, and particularly enjoyed his recent collection, Men Without Women. Murakami is renowned for his surreal writing, yet I prefer his stories when he writes of single men and smoky bars, lonely hearts and enigmatic women. I also love the short stories and novels of Yoko Ogawa. Like Murakami, her writing is often surreal, and can be unsettling and even grotesque. She is adept at self-observation and dissecting women’s roles in Japanese society.

For fresh contemporary writing, I recommend Miranda July. Her stories are unsettling, quirky, alternately grounded and surreal, oddball, off-beat, skewed. Yet they betray vulnerability, and are both raw and poignant.

8. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Read, read, and read some more. Practice your craft, hone your skills, then submit, submit, submit. You’ll be rejected over and over again, but persistence pays. Take constructive criticism on board – it will sting at first, but 95% of it is usually right.

9. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I‘m very busy with a number of projects right now, but most of them are at the editing stage. My second short story collection, Scratched Enamel Heart, comes out this May with Retreat West Books, so I’ll have the final edits for that any day. In the meanwhile I’m editing my first novella, and I’ll have some exciting news about that soon! My second novella is currently looking for a home, but I do have some irons in the fire – and I have an exciting idea for a new book! I am continuing to write poetry for competitions and to submit to journals and anthologies, but it will be a while before I think about a second collection. My poem, Songs of Leaving, will appear in the next Maytree Press anthology, Green Fields: Sorted for Poems, which is out this April.

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