Welcome to my interview with writer, Caroline Hossack. Enjoy.
Hello Caroline. Can you introduce yourself?
My name's Caroline Hossack, and I live in Newbury, Berkshire.
How long have you been writing?
As long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories was of my Aunt finding a feminist rant I wrote about my cousin. She was so proud of me. These days my friends call me the anti-feminist, but I do still write.
What first got you interested in writing?
I grew up in a family of readers; my Aunt is the head of an English department and fed me books like candy, my parents had cupboards that spilled books onto the floor when you opened them, my grandparents did a sort of book tombola every time we visited. One of my school reports stated: "Caroline continues to devour books with obvious enjoyment". When you read that much, you're bound to want to pencil down your own ideas sooner or later.
I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only child to drown in books! Do you attend a writing group?
Yes I do: West Berkshire Writers. We meet every Wednesday at 7.45pm and the group has self-published two collections. I attend for social reasons, but also because I need the discipline and inspiration I get from the group.
What genre(s) do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I mainly write abstract poetry (freeverse and rhyming). Occasionally I write horror stories. In addition, I contributed several articles to the features section of my University's newspaper, The Rabbit (archives available online). I occasionally script short video blogs (vlogs), available on my Facebook profile. I have scripted some short plays for classwork.
My University's newspaper was also called The Rabbit; what a coincidence?! Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
Romance. Because romance is dead. Seriously, because I can't write it honestly or with a straight face. It just isn't me.
Also news articles It's a very structured and dull way of writing that drains all the colour from your research. At least, in my limited experience (work experience at the Evening Telegraph, Herald and Post, and Independent on Sunday).
Have you ever had anything published?
Yes, "A Storm in a Wood" (a metered rhyming poem in a local anthology when I was at school in Northamptonshire), and three pieces in "Diamond Facets" (an anthology of writing from my writing group, published to coincide with the Queen's Golden Jubilee), some research for articles in The Independent on Sunday, Vox Pops (business and comment) in The Independent on Sunday, the Messageboard feature in The Independent on Sunday, several NIBS in the Evening Telegraph, several articles, poems and an interview in The Rabbit.
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?
No. Mainly because I either haven't written enough or the writing isn't good enough. I have entered a poetry competition, but unfortunately never heard back from the organising committee.
I have entered several poetry competitions on All Poetry and have won many trophies, but I no longer count that as the measure of success.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
Yes as we have done so at writing group and the result looks professional. If I wished to have a career as a writer I would look for an agent or support from a publishing house as I believe this is still the route to success and credibility in the industry.
E-books don't interest me as I like to own paper copies of the books that matter to me.
Me too. Well, I just like to own books! Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
Yes, several. I've hosted a fair few too.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Very. Editing is very much a collaborative process for me. I'm also an entertainer and creative source amongst my friends.
Some things can't be shared though.
I couldn't agree more with your last comment! Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Real life, dude. And reading. You really need to read before you even think about writing.
What is your writing routine?
Just when I feel like it. I get an absolute urge to spill or a line shouts at me from my brain. I buy very much into the premise of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
Start writing and the story/poem will write itself. With criticism/articles you have to do a little more than that. I plan very much for those, as well as for plays and vlogs.
Do you have an editing process?
I read over my work and hack it to pieces. Then I get someone else to do the same. Then we repeat the process until we beat it into something credible between ourselves.
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
Names are hard because I have to pluck them out of thin air, personalities are easy because they're stolen from people I know or fantasise about. However, once you have the character's personality, the name is generally quite easy.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
Most: The sense of being somewhere else.
Least: Writer's block.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you've been given with regards to writing?
Two pieces:1. To be more honest in what I write. A beautifully structured, technically perfect poem falls flat if it has no heart behind it.
2. To write about somebody other than myself. It is too easy and too boring to use oneself as one's best means of expression.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Read! Take constructive criticism, it will make you into a better writer! And believe in yourself.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Acting, debating, stand-up comedy, politics, comedy writing (not mine, other people's), fringe theatre, musical theatre and cinema (particularly independent cinema).
What types of things do you read? Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
Fantasy, post-modern American literature, dystopian fiction, pop culture comedy columns/books, popular science, mystery, thrillers, dark classics, John Green (a genre all of his own), poetry.My writing is influenced by, but not restricted to, my book tastes.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
1984 by George Orwell. And Kiss Me Creep by Marion Woodruff. Possibly Here's To You Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume. Oh, and Elidor by Alan Garner.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
All of Billy Joel's lyrics.
"Love is a dog from hell." - Charles Bukowski.
"There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out." - Charles Bukowski.
"Here's to you Rachel Robinson...and here's to my whole ******* family." - Judy Blume.
"Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me." - 1984.
What are you working on at the moment?
The mess inside my head.
Good luck with that! I know that can take some time. Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
Yes, http://allpoetry.com/Barbie. This page is biography, but also links to writing and critiques.
Would you provide a short piece of your work?
and your voice, your big scornful voice,
it says: “I told you, I said you couldn’t make it.”
an itch in your consciousness;
I was a liability
death in the headphones
dress was a fanfare
the restaurant: white noise
it was once true you touched me
these days I touch myself;
rarely and better
even than him
[oh, but your voice is a parade
it screams and thrashes at my senses
shakes me awake to the light
that sneaks into this room,
this room that we once slept in
I promise: a mistake]
acid, acid in the blood
and you, the face of
[you are not mine,
it is just that I see your smile
as a penance, your smirk
a joke at humanity’s expense,
no, no, you are not]
I see Mandy in disguiseshe promises me freedom:“Why is it that we never love a manas much as we love a woman?”and Jesus hangs His headin shame.
© Caroline Hossack 2007
Thank you very much, Caroline.