Guerney’s Island Ink magazine edited by Gabi Nodes is a source of great encouragment for new writers on the island. Here is a short interview they did with me in the December edition.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you started writing?
I live in Brighton, but still think of Guernsey as home. My late grandfather David Marquis was a Guernseyman and the true father figure in my life. Homesickness started me writing when I was 14 and living in London. I finally noticed the family’s mould green typewriter, and transformed my scrappy mawkish poetry about a misunderstood teenager brooding on the cliffs into neat lines. There must have been a spell cast on that typewriter as I have been a writer ever since.
My first poetry publications were at 22, so clearly I was a genius. As a genius it took me ten years doing casual labour in warehouses and factories, writing and performing by night before it occurred to me that I was stone broke and was spending far more time worrying about money than writing.
So what did you do?
I became a copywriter. I have written everything from TV adverts for dog and cat charities, to health advice for men on Viagra. Making a living from writing taught me not to be precious about waiting for the perfect moment. To be a writer you have to write, and if you show up regularly at your desk ideas will eventually show up too.
What have you had published?
It slowly adds up: over 100 poetry publications, plus short stories, journalism, essays, reviews and blogs. A Guernsey Double, my collection with my friend Richard Fleming, is strongly about a shared love of the island. For me it was like coming full circle and I am incredibly proud of that little book, and the work Richard and I did in it.
I write plays. The Testament of the Man who could see through walls, first staged at the Water Rats Theatre in Kings Cross, was about a religious fanatic. Wrong is about a young couple who discover a corpse under their kitchen table, and it may be staged again soon in Brighton using young actors.* I played the corpse in its first performance. I’m not sure, but I have a feeling I was brilliant.
Lately I have been taking my children’s novel Skelton Yawngrave in the Second Kind of Darkness into two Brighton schools and discussing it with nine and ten year olds. The first morning was possibly the most terrifying time I’ve had with my clothes on, but it got easier. Based on their (alarmingly frank) feedback and book reviews I am doing a final fine-tuning. The children absolutely loved it – but trying to get a publisher in these risk-averse times is hard, but to me making children laugh seems the noblest ambition.
What are you working on right now?
A collaboration with classical composer Matthew Pollard. Our first piece This concert will fall in love with you ran for three nights during the Brighton festival. Now we are working on a mini opera. Matt has opened my ears to startling music like Schoenberg and Bartok, and I’ve loved working with frowny-faced classical musicians.
Anything else readers would be interested to know?
Writing about Guernsey goes back at least as far as The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, written 1121-51. I want to publish an anthology of writing about Guernsey from Geoffrey (if not before) to the present day. As readers of Island Ink we are part of an amazing tradition, one which I am hoping to honour. You’ll find more info at http://www.anthologyofguernsey.com.
* Since this went to print the staging of Wrong has been firmed up, and will almost certainly be staged at the Marlborough pub theatre in Brighton on 1st and 3rd of March. More details on this site later.