What first inspired you to write?
The minutiae of life. I used to keep notebooks about little scenarios Iíve noticed, observations on life and sideways glances at the people around me. Sometimes these little vignettes wandered off into something new. This is still true now.
What inspires you now?
I think it helps to argue with myself. There are things I feel very strongly about in more than one way and sometimes the conflict is interesting to explore. Exploration is vital. If I have too firm a plan then the writing is not interesting to do. It helps to not know too much about my subject.
Sometimes I have the feeling that no-one quite gets what Iím on about, or the rest of the world seems to be doing something very different from me: this can get me going. I donít want that alternative reality to get lost, or at least the possibility of alternative realities.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Do it and keep doing it until you know what youíre doing. Do it everybody elseís way but finish with doing it your own way. Learn to run. I mean real physical running as in jogging. I ran before I wrote seriously. What I learnt about running taught me a lot about how to write. Writing anything good, especially long stuff like novels, requires massive stamina, awareness of your environment and awareness of yourself.
What are you writing?
Iíve just finished another edit of a novel about homelessness, complicated grief, domestic violence and lots of little beasties. The opening few paragraphs can be found on my website: www.suereidsexton.com. Iíve also finished a play version of my novel, Mavisís Shoe, which is about the Clydebank Blitz as seen through the eyes of a young girl, and Iím planning a screenplay. My research for a sequel is well underway and the writing will start soon. I have another novel simmering on the back burner which I thought Iíd finished but recently realised has a whole new massive chunk still to be written. Iím also working with Kusay Hussain, an Iraqi writer, putting his work into English including co-writing a Scottish/Iraqi joint novel.
What are you reading now?
Iíve been carrying Jazz by Toni Morrison everywhere with me for about 6 months. I hope one day to read it. It looks like itís been read several times over already and itís my most beloved book (pun). Perhaps it will be. Iíve also been reading lots of plays and books about how to write plays. Iíve just finished Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson which was worth it just for the chapter ĎA Night Among the Pinesí which made me gasp with delight. In a similar vein Iím dipping into Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky which is more of an art object or a meditation. One of my poems made it into The Flight of the Turtle, this yearís anthology from New Writing Scotland, so Iím reading some of the great stuff in there too. Iíve just received a copy of West Coast Line, a beautiful and strange Canadian journal and Ingrid Betancourtís memoir, Even Silence Has An End, is an extraordinary true story of being held captive in the Colombian jungle for over six years. Oh and lastly, The Cruel Sea, by Nicholas Monsarrat about ships in the Atlantic during WW2.
Who is your favourite literary character?
I donít believe in heroes in real life, so they donít interest me in fiction. One of my favourite sayings is ĎNo gods, no mastersí because I think making people into heroes distorts the truth. I love most of Cormac McCarthyís characters because they arenít heroes, just beautifully portrayed, real, ordinary people. Iím very fond of my own main character, Lenny Gillespie from Mavisís Shoe, because she was such fun to write.
What future projects do you have planned?
Screen and radio plays for Mavisís Shoe. Various ideas for novels, some of which may be better suited to being short stories. Itís often hard to tell what form a thing will take until you get going on writing it.
What interests do you have outside of writing?
I like being in the middle of nowhere and donít get there often enough in my tiny little campervan which goes very slowly. My friends are many and varied. I also have two adult daughters who I find very interesting indeed, but thatís mothers for you.
I frequently fight the urge to return to visual art, especially as I share a workspace (Ironbbratz Studios) with lots of artists of all different kinds. I fear if I give in Iíd lose the plot with the writing (another pun).
Iíve lived a few previous existences as a social worker with the homeless, a counsellor working with trauma, a boat-builder, market gardener and so on, all of which Iíd be willing to do again if I had enough time.
Any last words of wisdom?
The universe is made of stories, not atoms. Thus spake Muriel Rukeyser, the American poet. Look for them everywhere and youíll be amazed by what you find.
Novel: Mavisís Shoe, Waverley Books, March 2011
Article, Transmogrification; and short story: The Love Bus; West Coast Line Canada, autumn 2011
Poem, The Ghosts of All Saints, New Writing Scotland 29, July 2011
Short Story, The Love Bus, International Literature Quarterly, March 2010
Selected poetry, in Read Raw Ltd, January 2010
Short story, Gannets at Muckle Flugga 1854, Long Story Short, March 2010
Flash Fiction, Weeds in Short Story Library October 2009
Flash Fiction, Kirkland Street, 1981 in Six Sentences online magazine, October 2009
Book review for The Book That Changed My Life, Scottish Book Trust, September 2009
Book review in Gutter magazine Aug 2009 (pseudonym The White Rabbit)
Prose poem in Triangle, multi media project May 2009
Short story, Truth be Told in Letís Pretend (In)fidelity anthology, 2008
Prose poem in Words Between Friends, chapbook 2008
I am registered with the Live Literature scheme run by the Scottish Book Trust to enable literature across Scotland. This means schools, for instance, can hire me for events at only half the normal cost.
A little flash Fiction:
Xing Pi was a film director. He lived in Chiwanrea and made films about the stories his parents and his grandparents told him as a boy, stories about the village in which he lived and the artisans and monks and holy women who lived there too.
Then one day the police came and took away his notebook. The next day they came for his computer and the day after that they broke down the door, threw him to the floor and dragged him out to their wagon by his feet. Xing Piís wife was lucky she was not there too and, hearing the news, went into hiding in the mountains.
Xing Pi did not know where she was. He did not know where he was either and soon he did not know what time meant. He knew space and could judge how close he was to the walls he could not see by the sounds they echoed from his clicking fingers. He knew from first taste whether his food was safe to eat each day. He knew where his skin was because it hummed with bruises and sores, sometimes so clearly he could almost hear it.
A year passed in darkness but in that darkness he played all the films heíd ever seen, all the films heíd ever made and all the films heíd make as soon as he was out, because he was sure one day he would be. Flick, flick, flick went the stills on the wall and the pictures shone out with the stories of his life before and his life in that place. Tales began to grow out of the sounds beyond the walls, someone wailing for peace, the guards joking about women, the uneven tread of one of them outside the door, the same man on his journey home through the cotton fields, past the grazing oxen and through the noisy town. Until he comes to his home and finds the police there waiting.
Ling Joo was a poet. He lived in Ö.