The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
'the next big thing' blog-hop
I notice that I've dragged my heels on doing this, so am late. I'm interested in why: I think it's partly because it seems so shameless, promoting one's own work, and on the whole I prefer to gesture at the natural world and my observations of it, and the realm of ideas and living mindfully here on this blog. (And, let's face it, I'm bloody awful at promoting my own writing, though good at promoting eg courses and others' work or creativity. Maybe time to focus a little more at getting my writing better known – especially since it's supposedly how I earn a chunk of my income, or 'what I do' – though in practice, despite a number of books out there in print, the income is largely notional rather than actual.)
Anyway, the idea is to answer these questions, and to ‘tag’ five more writers to answer them too. I’ve been tagged by three writers, each very different; and to them big thanks: Em Strang, poet and eco-writer, who lives in Scotland (you can see her on facebook: em.strang.5); Suffolk author Rebecca Giltrow, (rebeccahgiltrow.blogspot.co.uk), and Alison Lock, fellow IDP poet: http://www.alisonlock.com/apps/blog/show/20473541-the-next-big-thing.
Well, I don’t think either myself or my book will be ‘the next big thing’, but I do like the connections inspired by this. This is something the internet (for all its downsides) can bring: a genuine sense of being a part of a whole web of connections.
I don’t know Rebecca’s work, but I do both Em’s and Alison’s, via the internet and also via friends/journals or anthologies which we have in common.
So to my responses to the set questions (and those of you whom I in turn tag, the idea is for you to answer these questions on your own blog, and then tag five more writers).
What is the working title of your next book?
The Burning Season.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
Oh that’s a hard one. All my writing – poetry, novels, non-fiction – arises in one way or another from my deep lifelong obsessive love affair with the natural world and my great concern with environmental issues and also animal welfare.
Then there’s relationships. Add in, I suppose, a psychospiritual approach to life – I trained in transpersonal psychology, and am a meditator – and my interest in spiritual and often esoteric wisdom teachings (more apparent perhaps in my other books than in this) and my own passionate belief that our growth happens in relationship and through taking responsibility to live as authentically as we can, and it’s almost inevitable that an underlying question in my work is ‘how might we live?’.
This is not necessarily a conscious choice; it’s just that if I look at my work I notice these recurring themes. In a way, I think, our work always demonstrates stuff that is true of and for us, whether we are aware of it or not (in other words it might be shadow material from the unconscious or it might be questions we know we are wrestling with ourselves).
These informing ideas are apparent I think in my timeslip novel that came out last year: Imago, in which I explored two things: the brutal suppression of the Cathars by the established Church of Rome in C13th in France (and therefore Establishment values versus truer simpler values rooted in compassion, and also the way we demonise those who don't share our particular version of 'the truth'), and the consequences of decisions to live in a way that is true to oneself – or not.
And if all that sounds a bit worthy or pretentious, then let me add that, like Imago, Burning Season is also a romance, and is grounded in the terrible foot and mouth crisis of 2001 on, and its effects on a small Dartmoor farming population (I have friends whose lives were affected by this disease and the Government’s – sorry, but 'balls-up' is the only phrase that fits).
My writing always seems to take place at the intersection of inner and outer landscapes – I mean both that that's what I'm interested in and that's where I also find my own inspiration. I notice too that much of my writing explores issues that run counter to established mores and values. The Burning Season is also about the heart’s ability to love more than one person at once, and the imagined consequences of either suppressing that, or trying to live it out in a monogamous culture. Karma? Authenticity? Adultery?
You’ll have gathered I’m interested in how we can live with another in supportive and loving relationship and still remain true to ourselves, as they say; and in the idea that our actions all have an impact on the collective.
Oh and in both this and Imago the action takes place in Devon and also in France, where I have spent a lot of time.
And in The Burning Season I had fun too with sending up the flakier side of New Age beliefs despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that I too am immersed in ‘the counter culture’ – I like to think discriminatingly!
In both books I also write sections from the guy’s perspective – I love trying to get into the head and heart of someone different from myself in my writing. (It’s a way perhaps of acknowledging my own ‘inner man’!)
And I have two more books on the backburner: a book of essays, and a book of blogs (by request!).
What genre does your book fall under?
Hmmm. Well, I’d like to say ‘literary fiction’, but some would disagree as I’m talking more about general psychological principles through micro-situations than say a ‘big topic’ like war, or poverty, or racism; although of course there is the foot and mouth situation which mirrors the much bigger issue of the fact that one way or another we are killing off so many of the species with which we are interdependent. But I’m interested in character driving the story, and in psychological development, both supposedly defining features of 'lit fic'.
I’m uncomfortable with genre titles. And if I say romance – which it also is – then I mean it in the mediaeval way of ‘story focused on the lives of characters in relationship to each other’ more than in the way it tends to be used, to mean Mills and Boon feel-good emotionally-saccharine plots.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I don’t think I can answer that one.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?
This is a novel about choice, and responsibility, and love, and death. It’s also about the way an unforeseeable disaster, such as the foot and mouth crisis of 2001, when coupled with secrets, can unravel a family and five lives in less than a year.
Do you have a publisher yet for your book, or will it be represented by an agency, or self-published?
Yes, the publishers of my novel Imago (http://www.indigodreamsbookshop.com/roselle-angwin/4548104337), and my poetry collection from earlier this year, All the Missing Names of Love (http://www.indigodreamsbookshop.com/roselle-angwin-love/4562168334), IDP’s Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling, will bring it out in 2013 – if I can get the finished ms to them in time; I’m editing the final version now.
Ronnie was the editor for my first collection Looking For Icarus (bluechrome 2005).
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your masterpiece?
I wrote it ten years ago. The first draft was really easy and quick to write; a matter of months. I wanted to write a book that was more plot-based than Imago, but found that as always, it seems to me, character and story are so intertwined it doesn’t make sense to focus on one or the other.
My then-agent, Wendy Suffield from the Merric Davidson Literary Agency, gave me a lot of fine editing suggestions.
I left it on one side after that until recently. I notice now, redrafting, that things that we take for granted, such as the internet and mobile phones, didn’t figure at all in that first draft.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m not sure I could, really. Plus it would be arrogant.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I've spoken above of some of what inspires me. Here I’m going to talk about some whos who inspire me in general: it's a whole raft of poets and ‘nature’ writers, however, so I can’t really even start, but I might try to list some of them: John Burnside, W S Merwin, Charles Wright, James Wright, Robert MacFarlane, Robert Hass, Gary Snyder, Carolyn Forché, Jane Hirshfield, Chase Twichell, Bill Plotkin (so much more than a ‘nature writer’); loads of non-fiction, from Robert Graves’ The White Goddess to Ken Wilber's writings on consciousness on.
I’m interested in people at the ‘cutting edge’ of writing and ideas, people who aren’t afraid to move themselves and us out of our ‘comfort zones’. I'm interested in the whole realm of metaphysics, and eg mythology, shamanism and archetypal psychology, too.
Then there are many first class novelists exploring some of the things I'm interested in and whose work I admire: Salley Vickers (especially The Other Side of You), Tracy Chevalier, Helen Dunmore, Barbara Kingsolver (with Prodigal Summer), Louise Erdrich, Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Jem Poster etc. Many of these are poets, too.
Visionaries, I suppose.
And now, in the interests of trying to be more proactive at promoting my writing, I'm offering two books in total from the two recent poetry collections and/or Imago for £12, with free p&p in the UK, for this month. Christmas presents?
And finally the friends I’m tagging here (there are several more I would like to list, too!):
Mandy Pannet, poet http://www.mandypannett.co.uk
Sharon Black, poet and director of Abri Creative Writing in France: http://www.sharonblack.co.uk/publications.html
Sue Johnson, poet https://www.facebook.com/sue.johnson.7758235?ref=ts&fref=ts
Fiona Owen, poet http://fionaowen.wordpress.com/blog/
Vicky Field: http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/victoriafieldbiog.shtml
And friend Lynn Baxter, writing as Lynn Collins, has just brought out an e-book on amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Earthsingers-ebook/dp/B009QZK2PS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354615479&sr=1-1
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