History of Present Complaint is your first book. Tell me about it in a few words.
HoPC is a creative non-fiction prosetry collection about my real-life badness. I completed the manuscript during London Lockdown 1 and the heatwave summer of 2020. Though it was difficult and, at times, painful to write, it was necessary for my recovery; I needed get the badness out of me and thought that if I turn my trauma into art, into something good, into something that might help someone else, then it won’t kill me. And here I am, still alive (just).
When did you start writing? What got you into it?
I started writing as a child, stories mainly. Had my first poem published in print when I was 10. It was a poem about a schoolgirl who died as a direct result of her addiction to sugary tea. Which unknowingly set the tone for my entire writing career: death, addiction, British gallows humour.
I’ve kept a private journal since age 11 so I have always written for myself, consciously building evidence of what was happening to me as mental illness took hold. I only wrote and sold poems when I was skint as a teen/student and needed the money. I took part in NaPoWriMo 2012 just for the fun of it, started a blog and posted my poems every day, and the response I got was incredible, so then I began sharing my real life on my blog: diary-style entries, short stories, essays, poems, unsent letters, micro memoir, everything and anything I wanted to, and have never looked back. My father was a poet/writer/artist too, so he was a great source of inspiration and encouragement to me and my writing.
Your style is a hybrid of prose and poetry, what/who are your inspirations for both genres?
I’m inspired by the honesty found in journals and letters (Plath, Kafka, Pavese) and the liberty of Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto (1924). Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet and Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector are also major influences on me.
There is a lot of British humour in your writing, any favourite comic personalities/shows?
Peep Show is my kind of humour to a T. I think the script (written by Armstrong, Bain, O’Connor, and Mitchell and Webb themselves) is genius. Mock the Week for satire. And Micky Flanagan did the best stand-up show I’ve seen live, he’s so relatable.
How do you write? Do you have a routine?
I’m traditional – always black ink on any paper I have to hand when the inspiration comes. I have notebooks and post-it notes and piles scrap paper and pens in every room of my flat, every handbag, every jacket. If I can’t physically write I make do with typing ideas into my phone notes.
I don’t have a set routine at all, my mental illnesses don’t allow for it. I write whatever I want whenever my brain lets me, but I tend to have my best ideas when I’m drunk, sitting on the kitchen floor having a cigarette break, or in the bath. I also go back through my old journals if I need inspiration. I do write every day though, a paragraph in my diary before bed each night as I’m waiting for my sedative to kick in.
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