Two of my poems feature in a new poetry collection. I've just got the book and it's beautiful. Sorry I have not been keeping my poetry up to date here, hopefully I'll have some newbies this year.
Southernmost Point Guest House is a collection that brings together poetry by writers currently living in America, Britain, Ireland, Italy and New Zealand. They have little in common other than finding themselves here, in this book, and in the early part of the 21st century, with something to say. Contributors: Raewyn Alexander, Alex Barr, Lynn Blackadder, Sean Brijbasi, Susan Campbell, David Cooke, Tim Craven, Mikey Delgado, Vanessa Gebbie, Kim Göransson, James Browning Kepple, Charles Lambert, Laura Lee, Andrew Mayne, Geraldine Mills, Stephen Moran, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Richard Peabody, Lynsey Rose, Judi Sutherland, Lee Webber. The title is taken from a poem by Alex Barr.
Author Lynsey Rose is interviewed about her debut novel First Aid Kit Girl by journalist Katy Georgiou.
Your book deals with some heavy and taboo subjects: self
harm, depression, sociopaths… can you tell me a bit about your choice of
these topics? Haha, who is the sociopath? Is it Sam or Steph?! I suppose I should
say something like I’m this tortured artist with lots of experience of
self-harm and mental illness, but I’m not. The self harm aspect actually
came from something really mundane; I bite my nails really badly (in
fact, I pick them with pins! Hardcore) so I am often rummaging in the
First Aid Kit at work for plasters. I noticed there were some weird and
wonderful things in there and wondered what the point of them was, and
the idea stemmed (!) from there. I have personal and family experience
of mental illness and depression but nothing as extreme as this. Do you think these are important subjects to bring to the light? I do, but it isn’t a political book. I’m not making a specific
statement about self harm. It’s more of a metaphor for her mental state.
Which is what self harm is anyway. I did do some research on self harm
message boards. I spoke to a few people and was quite shocked that there
were galleries on these sites where girls (primarily) showed off their
scars and discussed methods. It was like being on a messageboard for a
band, but they were worshiping at the altar of their own suffering. That
sounds a bit wanky. It was horrible, anyway. Why do you think it’s important to push the boundaries in storytelling? I don’t think that at all. You must tell whatever story is in you.
Any boundaries are self-imposed so pushing them would be useless. Just
ignore them. You started working for Samaritans after you wrote this book,
and learnt there that there are media guidelines which encourage the
press not to report details self-harm because of research that shows
this can provoke copycat situations, particularly amongst young
audiences. How did this affect the way you see your book (if it did)? Do
you think there’s a place for conflict between fiction and reporting? What we do at Samaritans with regards to our media guidelines is
extremely important. Newspapers have a responsibility not to be
irresponsible, and in fact it’s one area where Samaritans do have some
control over the media. But we cannot influence art or we’ll end up
banning Romeo and Juliet. It made me wary that when people read my book
at work I might get into trouble. But I wasn’t going to go back and
censor my book. I would have had to delete the whole thing! I don’t
think Steph is a hero anyone would copy. It’s obvious that she’s
drowning. And hopefully, although you root for her, no one would aspire
to be her. Who do you feel this book is ‘for’? Eg when you were writing
it, did you have any one or any group of people in mind that you wanted
to leave an impact on? No writer should ever think about that when writing a book, in my
opinion. I always write for myself. The audience will find itself if the
work is strong enough. This is probably why I’m still broke. What’s the impact you want/hope the book to have on someone reading it? That they enjoy it and think it was worth reading. Do you see any of yourself in Steph? Of course there are elements of myself in Steph. She is a very
exaggerated version of me. I’m not Steph but I could have been –
especially if I’d stayed in a certain job a few years back. The book takes on an almost oppressive style of running
Monday to Friday, week after week, and we never get to see Steph ‘off
duty’ at the weekends. Was this deliberate? Very. I wanted the style to be oppressive. I wanted her home life and
past to remain very much a mystery. I didn’t want her to have some
Simon Cowell style ‘sob story’ – although there’s the tiniest hint at
one point. I deliberately wasn’t explicit about where she worked or what
her job was as I wanted the reader to feel it could be any place, any
job, relatable. For a long time I didn’t even give the main character a
name, but that proved quite impractical. Where did you/do you draw your inspiration from? Reality and misery, usually. I’d prefer to have a more fantastical imagination but my ideas seem rooted in the mundane. Although the book deals with serious issues, it’s also darkly humorous. Did you always want it to have that comedy side? I never intended that, but I didn’t intend for it to be some
misery-fest either. I think there’s always humour even in the grimmest
things I write otherwise it would just be a drag. I always read out
something really horrible at the writing group I go to and then laugh at
the end! Some people have read the book now and have come up to me and
told me it’s hilarious. I find that quite weird as I see it as tragic. In the blurb about your book, you say ‘for anyone who has
ever wanted to kill everyone they work with’. Would you recommend anyone
who is unhappy in their job to write a book? No, I’d recommend they get a new job. Not everyone can write a book. But most writers write to get pain out. Why doesn’t Steph get out of her job, do you think? I almost feel like it’s never occurred to her, although it does at
times in the book, but I think it just feels like too much for her to
cope with. I always wondered if readers would get behind her, or if
people would just get frustrated with her and think ‘why don’t you just
get a new job?’ I hope readers understand why it’s not that easy for
her. It’s like saying to someone, ‘why don’t you just run a marathon?’
She just doesn’t have it in her. When did you first start writing? Was it an outlet, something that just came naturally, something you fell into? I have written since I was three years old. I have boxes and boxes of
my old stories from that time, stapled together on post-it notes, and
with illustrations, too. Luckily I’ve given up the drawing. Then I went
onto the usual tormented poetry and all that. I had a very vivid
imagination as a child – I find it harder now. Most writers find it a
struggle, I think. That’s the joy of it! What do you like most about writing? Writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and it has kept me sane. Even
if something awful happens, I think ‘well, at least I can write about
it.’ I almost hope something awful will happen so I can write about it. Do you remember the first thing you wrote? No! But I remember I used to get my friend to give me a subject to
write a poem about at school and I’d write her a poem, pretty much on a
daily basis. Such a show off. When did you realise that being a ‘writer’ was something you wanted to aspire to? I’ve always just been a writer. My boyfriend disagrees with me, but I
say you either are a writer or you aren’t. It’s not something you pick
up. It’s not a hobby. It’s in you or it’s not. It’s more of an
affliction than a leisure pursuit. No sane person would take it up by
choice. Most writers feel guilty when they’re not writing – I definitely
do. As well as books, you’ve had poetry published, have your own
TV blog and you help run a writing group. Which style of writing do you
get the most satisfaction over? Where would you like it to all lead? I don’t mind. As long as I’m writing, I’m happy. I like writing in
all different styles. I also write for a living, so you think I’d
probably be sick of it, but I’m not. I really enjoy writing my blog
because it’s just opinions on a page and doesn’t need an edit. First Aid
Kit Girl required years of slog! But of course you get the most
satisfaction from that once it’s in your hand. Your book and poems have a very different feel to your blog.
Do you think that the different formats help you tap into different
emotions or that one style of format lends itself better to a particular
kind of thought process than another? I just think people just have different sides to their character. I
can be very silly and very opinionated but with my fiction writing I try
harder to write the best sentence possible. I go over it again and
again. Who are your favourite authors? Do you read a lot? Do you think you need to read a lot to become a good writer? I do think you need to read a lot to be a good writer, and I don’t
read nearly enough. I could blame modern technology but I think I’m just
lazy. I used to read constantly. My friend’s reading list puts me to
shame. My favourite writers are all sort of dystopian misery guts;
Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palahunik and Irvine Welsh. My favourite writer
has only ever written two books, though, and that’s Carol Topolski. I
think her debut novel Monster Love is the best book I’ve ever read;
truly chilling but almost a love story at the same time. She has a
really smart turn of phrase, too – I’m envious of her. I wonder why
she’s not very prolific and it gives me hope! I also read a lot of
Morrissey books. Every Morrissey book that comes out, even though I know
it all! If you’ve ever read Morrissey and Marr, you’ll know it’s like
doing an A Level in Morrissey. That’s my sort of thing. Tell me a bit about your course in Creative Writing at Middlesex. How helpful was it? Extremely. It was initially writing and publishing but I specialised
in creative writing. It beat all the clichés out of me. I learnt all the
obvious stuff like show and not tell, but it was brilliant. The image
and imagination section was so useful, reading stuff like The God of
Small Things by Arundhati Roy and seeing how a banana could be described
so exotically really surprised me. It’s not my style of writing but it
showed me what was possible. I wrote a novella about a girl with a
terminal illness where she can’t sleep, and having a deadline forced me
to finish it. The course was also really fun. As part of a group we
wrote a sitcom called Studmuffins which was about a bakery which was
next door to a sex shop, but the joke was that all the dirty stuff
happened in the bakery, not the sex shop. Unfortunately, that was our
only joke, but it was a good one. It’s really hard to write scripts, and
to write by committee, actually! I think I can only write comedy
unintentionally. I also wrote my dissertation on Eastenders, which I
enjoyed, although I’ve given up watching it now – terrible writing. You’re book has been described as a ‘darker Bridget Jones’ –
how do you react to that? Is it good/bad? Would you liken it to anything
else you’ve read? I’ve not read Bridget Jones, and I wouldn’t touch it, but I take it
as a compliment because I think it’s a comment on the internal
monologue, not the rubbishy romances. The same person said Catcher in
the Rye but I wouldn’t be so bold. It’s just one voice, one perspective,
so if you like that sort of thing, you’ll probably like it. I like
books and TV all set in one place or one room. It makes me feel safe. Where do you want to go next?In a fantasy world,
I would love to be a novelist and a TV columnist. But to be honest, my
life’s work is done. I’ve got my book out. I’m happy.
I have some very exciting news; my first novel First Aid Kit Girl is out now! You can buy it here, and it will be on Amazon soon. If you do buy it and like it, please leave me a review!
So, what's it about? Well, thanks to friend and fellow writer SJ Griffin for inviting me to take part in The Next Big Thing author interview so I can tell you. The second part of her Vanguard Trilogy is out very soon, and you can check out the first part here (that’s a cool front cover). Find out more on her blog if you like your sci-fi...
Now, back to me...
What is the title of your book?
First Aid Kit Girl
Where did the idea for the book come from?
Extreme nail biting and rooting round in the First Aid Kit at work a lot. That makes it sounds a bit more dull than it is.
What genre does your book fall under?
Black comedy or modern fiction.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I honestly can’t answer that, the characters are too personal to me. I'm open to suggestion!
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Girl meets razorblade meets boy.
Will your book be self published or published by an agency?
My book has just come out and is published by The Green Press, an independent publishing house based North West London which has won an award for a previous collection of short stories.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Um.. about three years and another three or so faffing about to get it out.
What other books would you compare [your book here] to within the genre?
I wouldn’t like to compare it to anything, but I like writers like Douglas Coupland and Chuck Palahniuk. (Isn’t it annoying the way you always have to look up how to spell his name?) My favourite book ever is Monster Love by Carol Topolski. I would like to write something as dark as that.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Abject misery and boredom working for a housing association when I first left university.
What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?
If you’ve ever worked in an office and wanted to kill everyone one by one, this book is for you.
There are also four other books out now by writers I know, so it’s a really exciting time. Check out my fellow Willesden Green writers, Mary Bracht, who’s book The Tarot Killer is out now. Find more about it on her website. Lane Ashfeldt also has a book out now, Saltwater, which is a collection of short stories. And my friend Antony Wooten has also done a next big thing interview about his children’s book which has been out a little while and has been getting great reviews. These are all great writers depending on what you’re into. Cheers!
I am transported there My heart and head Is where my home is Nothing has changed, everything has changed. The shops shrunken and shabby and stuck I have moved on but they remained forever The kids on the street meaner, nastier, stupider Or am I just getting older? And those words That spelt the name of the street That I lived in for eighteen years Once as important as my own name Now unfamiliar. I walk walk walked Past the dead end alley And the berries crushed into the ground like brains As a child I tried to avoid them But now The street is a photograph And I am a giant So I step and step and step. Finally I reach you My heart, my mother, my father, My brothers and lost best friends. Home. It could have been then The cat skitters by Crying, left behind. It feels like you were my lover. Behind my doors and windows A new family lived The plaque, ‘Roseland’, prised from the wall I see me within you Ghosts My dad throwing my mum out of the door My brother punching a hole in the wall I lost my first tooth My glasses, my braces My virginity And my mother between these walls. Inside We were still inside The five of us inside The golden lion knocker on the door I remember a time When I wasn’t allowed to cross this road Was I ever that small?