Interview by Press Literary Editor Jo Ely:
Tell us about your writing process. For example, do you outline? Revise extensively?
I don’t like to make the process too academic and prescriptive. I’ve not set up stringent conditions just in case I’m ever called upon to write in radically different situations and find myself stranded without a favorite chair, book, pen.
Have you ever taken writing workshops? If so, how did you find that experience?
Never done one. I like to work in solitude on my books. I would actually love to run one though for younger writers…Nothing beats seeing a young mind flooded with passion, inspiration and enthusiasm. Nothing depresses me more than a future filled with investment bankers only. Plant the seed early in young minds – it’s vital.
I’m very sure that can be arranged, if it hasn’t already been by the time we go to press. Most schools are looking for enrichment for their students, and you’d clearly be fantastic at inspiring young people. Can you tell us a bit about why you are drawn to poetry? Is there another form you like to write in?
At the moment, the medium suits the way I think…but I’ve got several prose projects lined up that I hope I’m not going to struggle too much with.
Where do you write?
I wrote To The Lions at my kitchen table. In absolute silence. With wine.
Do you have writing rituals or habits, and how do you make space in your life for writing?
Probably silence. And waiting until I’m absolutely ready. Or else my work comes out as forced and inauthentic.
Do you ever write longhand?
When I first started work on my first collection in 2004. I actually came across a whole box of loose A4 sheets recently that showed my style developing. It was a moment that was as poignant as it was cringeworthy. What leapt out at me was the determination of someone who, no matter how unformed she was at the time in terms of style, never gave up trying to become the best poet she could be. Now I write on my iPad.
Who or what are your biggest influences, be it books, films, mentors, etc.?
They change all the time. I’m currently rather involved in the work of Italian filmmaker Pier Paulo Pasolini, whose visceral (sometimes unwatchable in the case of his film Salo) imagery and social commentary through art is fueling the mental space I need to be in to work on new work for my collected volume Blood Season.
What brought you to writing? Was there one pivotal event or time in your life which catapulted you into being a writer? Or have you always written, since childhood?
It’s always been my sanctuary. Ever since I was very, very young I’ve retreated into the written word. I was a pretty wild child from the age of 15 to 19, and poetry was really the only way I could relate to events going on around me. That was the only way I could reach me, to get back to me, in a world of chaos and dysfunction.
Are there recurring themes or ideas in your work?
I’ve always referred to my writing as being my own peculiar form of therapy…I incubate themes, feelings and experiences until they’re ready to come out…I do this for years until the mood/feeling/emotion is right.
Common themes are love, loss, need, want, betrayal and the conflict between dreams and reality.
What part, if any, does research play in your writing and how do you go about researching your work?
Not so much research, but I’m sometimes seeking out images of real places connected to my inner landscapes to remind me of a particular detail. Sometimes that can inspire a whole new piece that I hadn’t thought of. Music works in the same way.
You have published your work traditionally, but have you ever tried self-publishing or crowd-funding and if so, what has been your experience? Would you have any advice for first time authors?
My first two volumes Gold After and Brittle Fires through my own publishing house Tempest Press. I think it depends very much on what you’re setting out to achieve – some people have had amazing commercial success through self-publishing. But to me it’s a lonely business … I much prefer working with an established publishing house like Urbane.
Advice for first time authors? Stick to the path, don’t deviate from your vision, and work, work, work to become the best writer you can be. Don’t work to be as good as someone else – nothing will make you more disheartened, dispossessed and dispirited. Work to be the best writer you can be. That’s an important distinction.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you go about finding your readers, or enabling them to find you?
Readers can find me tweeting literary and political thoughts at @clairewroteit. I’m a member of the Labour party, and also an Ambassador for the male suicide prevention charity CALM, so I don’t shy away from using my voice for a cause. Looking forward to meeting a wider audience once my third collection comes out in January.
Thank you so much Claire. I’m very much looking forward to your January collection.
You can learn more about Claire Meadows at http://www.writerclairemeadows.co.uk
To The Lions is to be published in January 2016. Her work can be found in The Woven Tale Press Vol. III #11