It is hard to say when I began writing, only that it has been ‘that thing I do’ (and, sometimes, the only thing I know how to do) for as long as I can remember. I completed the University of Warwick MA in Writing in October 2021, during which I served as Head Editor of the Warwick Writers’ Anthology 2021. Prior to this I graduated from the University of Bristol, having won the Creative Writing Award for my dissertation on fantasy writing.
I am something of a genre-drifter, with a passion for poetry, science-fiction, adult and young adult fantasy. In 2016 I won the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, and am currently working on a poetry pamphlet alongside a comedy science-fiction novel. I co-founded Otherverse Magazine with James Geddis in 2021. When not writing, editing, or furiously spellchecking, I can usually be found trying – and failing – to perform a task without my mind wandering to fantasylands.
What inspired you to write ‘Shipspeaker’ (Issue 1)?
‘Inspired’ can be something of a misleading word, implying that there is a moment when, like lightning, an idea strikes you in full force. Sometimes, for some lucky sods, that may be the case. In my experience, inspiration is a far more fragmentary process. In the case of Shipspeaker, I began as I usually begin most writing tasks. I opened a blank Word document and stared at the screen. I hear that for many writers this is an intimidating moment, however I find this to be an exciting stage. Here is a page that I can flood with my thoughts. Out of that flood, amongst the weeds and the driftwood, were the preliminary ideas for Shipspeaker.
I was keen to write something that would push me outside of my comfort zone, and Shipspeaker did exactly that. I turned away from the usual witty narrative tone I rely on to guide me through science-fiction writing and instead chose to tell a story with dark, political undertones. However, as with all my writing, my focus is primarily on the reading experience. My ultimate goal is always to produce something that is enjoyable to read, on the level of language, character or dialogue. I hope Shipspeaker succeeds in this.
What inspired you to write ‘Spiro the Mute’ (Issue 2)?
Spiro’s world came to my mind before her character; I wanted to write about isolation, which is often a running theme in fantasy protagonists. I felt drawn to the smallness of Spiro’s location – her home, the little village – and the invisible boundaries around her. I wanted to focus closely on this contained world, and the singular relationship Spiro has with her father, as I find that short stories can be particularly effective when they bring a magnifying glass up to a character. This story concerns identity; what its foundations are, how it changes and reveals itself under pressured conditions. Ultimately, I was inspired by the strength of character I imagined Spiro to discover within herself, and felt excited to write a protagonist who experiences both loss and discovery in the course of a story.
Could you give us an insight into your writing process?
I have briefly alluded to my process of beginning with a blank page, but the act of writing itself involves far more than typing words. All those daydreams and half-asleep thoughts, overheard conversations and strange memories are in some way part of the process.
In terms of stimulating ideas, I find walking extremely productive in providing space and time for the subconscious to begin mumbling about some fantasy world or other. I am also a firm believer that showers are a secret key to unlocking ideas; I am the only writer I know of who keeps a waterproof notepad stuck on the shower wall.
I don’t have a specific writing schedule; my day-to-day life varies quite a bit, and so writing is often something that takes place in pauses between one event and the next. I will say that when I’m not writing I am never not thinking about writing, so in some ways it is a 24-hour affair. Though some of the thoughts conjured in that time period quite rightly never get to see paper.
What do you consider to be the most enjoyable or important aspect of science fiction or fantasy, and why?
Personally what SFF has always provided me with, and what I aim to transfer to others, is that elusive feeling of ‘enjoyment’. This is something of a broad term, encompassing escapism and pleasure in the act of reading itself. There is plenty to be said for the function of character, worldbuilding and plot in producing this effect. But style, also, plays a part. I am a great fan of Douglas Adams, who was a master of remarkable sentences. For me, it is the writer’s voice itself that lifts a story off the page and makes it something unputdownable.
Science-fiction and fantasy are unique genres in that they rely so heavily on the imagination of the author. This, in turn, makes them uniquely enjoyable. In any SFF book you are traversing the plains of a world that nobody else could have invented. With the author’s voice as your guide, it’s always a brilliant feeling to set sail for a new world.