Life As An Author

Life As An Author

Russell Celyn Jones (Published writer. Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the MA Programme at Birkbeck College (University of London).) gives expert video advice on: What drives you to write?; When did you first know you were a writer?; What do you love most about writing? and more...

What drives you to write?

Now what drives me to write, I think, is other books that I read consistently throughout my writing career and also the knowledge that the last book I wrote was not a perfect one so I want to rectify that with each book that I write, and knowing at the same time that every book will fail to some extent to achieve its goal. It's a quest to write, it's a quest to understand life I suppose, as we live it. And that's a mystery that connects writers with scientists, with all sorts of researchers.

When did you first know you were a writer?

I think I discovered I was a writer around about the age of twenty-five. After reading quite extensively for five, ten years, there comes a point as a reader when you think, 'I could do this.' Or, 'I want to do this.' And you're also driven, as I was, by a love of sentences, a love of language, because language is the brushstrokes in the canvas, it's the sound that fiction makes, really. And I just had a, maybe a bit of a poet in me.

What do you love most about writing?

What I love most about writing is the solitude. It is the one thing that most people avoid in life. And writing is not a natural act. But it becomes the strongest part of the day. When you are on your own. When you start thinking about what you wrote yesterday, and how you are going to extend and improve it. And you are alone with this, usually a computer screen, building a world that you have complete control over, which is the opposite to life.

What is the hardest part of being a writer?

What I least like about writing is the moment of publication, because your private work goes public. It happens very quickly, in the space of one month. And that can make or break your book. But crucially, writers do spend their time in isolation, reading, and writing, as, in fact, readers do as well. It's a personal letter, really, from the writer to the reader. That's the relationship. And the publication turns you into an actor, a performer. No writers I know really are performers.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration really from the sea in a word. Inspiration is a very small part of the process of writing a book. In my case I grew up on the coast. Its like blood for me. And also the fiction that I've loved such as Herman Melville also used the sea as a landscape for their characters. And a combination of my reading of certain novels, like, lets say Moby Dick and my own experience as a coastal child has really been a driving forces behind my fiction. So there's really a watery theme behind everything that I write.

What writers have most inspired you?

Well, the writers who have inspired me are North American twentieth-century authors, with the exception of Herman Melville, who was nineteenth century. I found, as a Welsh writer, a greater source of inspiration in American authors who were not hampered by issues of social class, in the same way that nineteenth century English writers were. They were more concerned with creating myths and of carving a nation out of their prose. They were very interested in landscape, as I am, and characters who are challenged by the landscape, rather than by climbing up the social scale.