This week I have the pleasure of catching up with award-winning short writer Rebecca Lloyd, who has recently had two collections – The View From Endless Street and Mercy and Other Stories – published in quick succession.
Kettle’s on. What do you fancy?
Coffee, please, black and powerful!
When writers are interviewed they often say they’ve always wanted to write from when they were young children. Is that the same for you?
No, not at all. I didn’t consider the idea until I was 49… and since then, I’ve never stopped considering it, or doing it. I’m sure that as a child I just hung about listening to people and keeping out of the way and indulging in my real passion which was insects and other creatures. I was bought up in a suburb of Sydney in Australia, so there was a lot of really interesting wild life to get involved with.
Do you have a muse?
I think the idea of a writer having a muse is really a male writer having a wife to make his lunch while he works at his writing, isn’t it? But if a muse really means something that inspires a writer, then my muse would be all I see and am curious about around me.
There are a lot of rogue publishers about, aren’t there? How would you recognise and avoid them?
Actually that is getting harder and harder. Since the onslaught of self-publishing some of the old vanity publishers have remodelled themselves into businesses that still lie in wait to get a writer’s money, but they’re much more subtle these days. And then there are new hybrid publishers who also try to make writers pay for what they should not pay for, but they can make it seem almost reasonable, for example by making them first pay to have their manuscript edited by their own editing team.
A writer should not have to pay for this, but I can see how tempting it might be. The most notorious of the rogue publishers are often talked about and if a writer researches properly and knows what to look out for, they shouldn’t find themselves in conversation with rogue publishers. The only good thing I can see about self-publishing is that it has lessened the impact of the vanity publishing industry.
Have you ever had writer’s block or do you really believe that’s just another one of the myths about writing?
At some level, I do still consider it to be mythical, but I have also experienced something of the sort. I think it was probably just depression and mental exhaustion but it was the strangest sensation of having ‘nothing going on’ in my thinking. It was frightening because it seemed to wipe away my identity as a writer. I couldn’t write a thing for ages. I did get better, but I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
You sometimes hear writers say that writing is agony for them. Is that the same for you?
Writing is beautiful for me, it’s nearly always hard work, but utterly lovely. I wouldn’t do it otherwise, and I’m tempted to say ‘Man up!’ to writers who talk about the agony.
I have had to accept that I write in the ‘New Black’ or the Weird Fiction or the Literary Horror genre, those are just different terms for a particular type of writing and an interest in particular subject matter. But for a long time, I resisted affiliating myself with a genre. However, since Tartarus Press published my dark short story collection Mercy this year, I’ve joined the clan of weird writers so to speak.
Apparently WiDo Publishing who published my other collection The View From Endless Street at the same time, are reminded of Roald Dahl when they read my work. They certainly think it strange, so I should just accept the fact, eh?
What kind of things help to fire up your imagination?
I was inspired to start writing during my short time working in Africa, I was inspired by the people I met and my relationships with them.
I guess it would just be various interesting aspects of the human condition that cause me to write, only after all this time I think the inspiration, is almost unconscious. My writing world is in my head, my other worlds are tangible and real, but they are separate and apart from writing.
I do have some artwork I like and relate to strongly. This is The Nature of My Soul by Katie Timoshenko who I met at the Peterborough Festival last summer.
Katie’s paintings are like my own thoughts on writing. Her paintings are done on glass from behind, just fabulous.
What’s your opinion about writing classes?
Writing classes are fine except for people go persistently to them and can’t seem to move on. No writing tutor, whether they are famous or unknown, can teach a novice writer how to find the self-belief, self-discipline and resilience needed to be a writer – nor can imagination be taught. But what can be taught are the tricks of the writerly trade, and the sooner a new writer knows those, the sooner he or she will become good writers with a chance of publication.