Roy Marshall has kindly tagged me in an ongoing project called 'The Next Big Thing'. This involves writers answering a set of questions about a book which has been or is about to be published. They then tag other writers who keep the chain going. My choice of tag-ee (?) is Deborah Harvey, who has a book launch very soon...
It was kind of Roy to invite me, but I feel a slight embarrassment to be talking about writing a book. Of which more below...
1. Where did the idea for this book come from?
I recently had a pamphlet published with Flarestack Poets, as anyone who reads this blog will by now be tired of hearing. Almost the first question I heard from other poets when the pamphlet came out was, 'So, are you working towards a collection?' Since it took me four years to have enough decent stuff to fill a pamphlet, this was a bit like having jogged around the block only to be asked when I would be running the marathon.
At the moment, I would say I am writing poems. And I tend to do that one poem at a time. Between writing poems I always have the feeling that it's something I will never do again, but then somehow I do. How this process would organise itself into the single-minded writing of a book, I don't know. The ideas for individual poems often come from reading or from staring out of the window, or a combination of both. I recently read an anecdote in a history book about Lenin enjoying the music hall while he was in exile in England. I immediately had to write a poem about that, which is the one I'm most pleased with at the moment.
2.What genre does your book fall under?
As you might guess from the above, if there ever is a book, it will be poetry.
3. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
An unlikely scenario, this. But I quite enjoy it when musicians turn up in films and are surprisingly good: for example, Tom Waits in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, or Lyle Lovett in The Opposite of Sex. Actors doing music seems to work less well. So, maybe my poems could be intoned by Elvis Costello over some Derek-Jarmanish video backdrop - which would also be a good way to get to meet Mr Costello, at least.
4. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
A book of poems that some people may like.
5. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I'm still working on it. I have a good feeling about 2015, though, so perhaps it will be ready by then.
6. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
See Answer 1 above on that. On another level, it's the medium of poetry itself. There's nothing as exciting, and English has such a rich tradition that a writer can be part of, even if in a modest way. Also my encounters with other poets, who I find unfailingly generous and enthusiastic about other people's work. That makes me want to carry on doing it. I'm obviously meeting the right kind of people.
7. What else might pique the reader’s interest?
I'm always intrigued by the reactions of different readers and audiences to my work. People tend to like different things about it, things I often find surprising or hadn't thought about myself. Quite a few people don't like it at all, which I always enjoy, rather perversely I guess it isn't for everyone - and that's as good a reason to read something as any I can think of.
8. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don't think I would self-publish. There are certainly excellent poets who use their own imprints to publish their work (I'm thinking of Philip Rush and Jee Leong Koh, in particular). For established poets who do this, the issue is obviously control of the material, not the fact that another publisher would not take their work. As a rule, though, I think poetry does have to go through the rigours of the 'system'. If a poet has submitted poems to magazines, to competitions and so on, it tells me that they are writers who are willing to listen to the judgements of others, to accept that not everything they tap into the word processor is solid gold. They are writers who want to find an audience, not just get a book out with their name on the cover.
I suppose what I'm saying is, I'll wait until I can persuade someone whose judgement I trust to publish a book of my poems, however long that might take. I'm open to offers, though...