Today Judy Darley has dropped in to talk about her writing
Judy Darley is a British fiction writer, writing tutor and journalist. She’s had short stories, flashes and poetry published by literary magazine and anthologies including Germ Magazine, Litro, Riptide Journal, and The View From Here. Judy’s debut short story collection ‘Remember Me To The Bees’ is out now. She blogs at www.skylightrain.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/JudyDarley
For anyone that hasn’t read you, can you tell us a bit about your work?
I have a bit of a fascination with people who are damaged in some way, partly because I think we all are, to some extent. I write short fiction exploring the behaviour of people who are slightly off-kilter, people doing their best but often getting things wrong. I like ambiguity, so in some of my work I wind together what’s really happening with the narrator’s perception of what’s happening, making it a challenge to separate the real and irreal, if you like. Alongside short fiction, I’m polishing up an adult novel called Ghosts In The Eaves, about a selective mute, and a novel for older children, titled Smoke in the Cemetery. I also write journalism to pay the bills, and increasing quantities of poetry.
Tell us a bit more about the last book you wrote
Remember Me To The Bees is a collection of 20 of my short stories, taking us through the moments in people’s lives that change them forever – a young teacher sits on the edge of a decision with far-reaching consequences, a child keeps a secret she perhaps shouldn’t have, a woman reunites with her mentally unstable father... Often the stories end before the verdict is reached, as in Flyleaf, when a man is drawn to stalk a woman he notices in a bookstore. Each story includes a reference to bees in some way, so you can play ‘spot the bee’ as you read. The book, published by Scopophillia, is available to buy from Tangent
Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?
I work from home most days. I wake early, grab my laptop and take it back to bed with me. The first hour of the day is often my most creative and productive, so I work as hard as I can in that time. Then I get up, make a coffee and retreat to my writing room where I’ll work on whatever’s most pressing – often journalistic deadlines have to be met first, but then I can pick and choose a bit, often doing a bit of research and blogging for my culture blog SkyLightRain.com to get my thoughts flowing. Some days I take a break mid-morning to go for a run or dabble with paint so I can mull over what I’ve been working on, then give it a tight edit before moving onto the next wordy task. The thing that often eats the most time is coming up with pitches and finding the right people to send them to – all essential in keeping a roof over my head!
Which bit of your writing are you most proud of?
I tend to be proudest of whichever of my pieces has most recently been chosen for publication. I recently had a poem published by streetcake magazine and that was a thrill, especially as poetry is a new area for me.
What are you working on now? (apart from this interview of course)
I’m working on a new collection of short stories, poetry and flashes on the theme of journeys, both physical (there are several train journeys in there for some reason!), and emotional. I’ve also begun making MP3s of some of my shorter works – I love doing readings and this is a fun way to get them out to a wider audience.
Why do you like to write Flash fiction?
I love the immediacy of it, and the work it demands of the reader, making ‘show not tell’ more crucial than ever. It’s exhilarating to sit down with a coffee and complete the first draft of something before the coffee goes cold. Notice I say first draft, for me a few drafts are usually needed to make sure it says exactly what I mean it to, though there are occasional dizzying moments when I read a piece back and find I wouldn’t change a word. Love it when that happens!
On your website, under inspiration, are several artists - who is inspiring you now and why? who is your greatest inspiration?
I’m a huge fan of all forms of the arts and love any artist who creates work that sows the seed of an idea for a work of fiction. Sculptor Carol Peace creates amazing pieces – her figures seem to be full of restrained emotion. I also love more abstract work, like the paintings of Adam Closs and the photography of Stephen Mason – their work contains so much energy I can use it to fuel my own work! I draw a lot of inspiration from travel too – being somewhere unfamiliar fires up my curiosity.
Another inspiration question - what (or who) inspired you to take up writing & why?
I began making up stories before I learnt to read, so I suppose it’s always been in me. My parents both love the arts, including literature, so it never felt like an unusual choice to me. It seemed to me to be a way of turning work into play, or vice versa. Not a bad way to make a living!
You're running a workshop entitled - "Writing from art" - tell us a bit about that and the literary evening that follows it
I’m really excited about this! It’s part of a literary/art fusion I’m putting together with Carol Peace. Carol is opening up her artist’s studio from 6-16th November, with a literary night on 7th November – seven writers will each read works on the topics travel, identity and home. It all takes place in the studio, surrounded by Carol’s sculptures, drawings and paintings. There are just 30 tickets available in all, so it will be a really intimate event. Tickets cost £4 and are available here
The writing workshop takes place on the following Wednesday (12th Nov, from 2-5pm), and will look at how art has influenced writers through history, before leading participants through exercises designed to help you get in tune with yourself and the work around you, with the aim of transforming what you see into poetry and prose pieces. I think it will be a lot of fun! Tickets cost £12 (including tea, coffee and biscuits), available here
In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?
Writing is a journey – every draft leads to another, so don’t worry if the first is imperfect.
Many thanks to Judy for these fascinating answers!