What inspired you to write?
I think inspiration is the wrong word, because it implies that the desire to write comes from outside the writer, when in fact, it comes from within. Writing needs to be not something which one does out of necessity, or out of some need for monetary gain, but because the artist has this fuel within him or her, this innate desire to communicate and through that create something that will not only have value but which will outlive the life of the artiste. When that is done, you know have produced a work of substance.
How did you tell your story? In other words, did you use an outline, or just write your story from start to finish?
Even though my books are poetry, they are historical poetry which serves to highlight great writers and persons of the past by telling their life story through verse. When I first began this process, I did not use outlines, but have found that the use of them is essential because it keeps me focused and allows me to shape the book in such a way that it holds together as one cohesive unit.
Did you receive any encouragement from family and friends, or did you work on your book alone?
During the writing of my first book, Blood, Bone and Stone and then Temple of Love, I had a team that helped me not only in the editing process, but also in terms of layout, listening to each piece, and giving feedback where warranted. Now, after many books under my belt, and with the passage of time, I have gained confidence not only as a writer but an editor as well. I realized I wanted complete creative control over my work, so that the process of going from having a team to help me to doing it on my own, evolved in a very organic way. In addition, I can see in reading over older works, where I was, in terms of ability, and outcome, to where I am now. This is not to diminish my older works, but to say that writing and becoming a better artist is about challenging oneself, being willing to take risks, and then honestly critiquing your work and seeing where you were versus where you are now.
What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
For me, because I write for really well known and prolific personages from the past, the most challenging part is the beginning. I usually feel this sense of intimidation, but once I get over that, then I am fine.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing your book?
Finding the connections with each person I write for. When I wrote my book Temple of Love: Poems for Marie Antoinette, I found out many things about her which I could identify with not just as woman, but as a human being. The feeling I had was so strong that to this day it has not dissipated.
What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity?
The biggest challenge I find are interruptions. The daily grind of life, and those well-intentioned family members who come in and cut through your thoughts, just as you are putting them down.
What strategies do you use to deal with criticism?
It depends on the criticism. Is it done out of a desire to help or a mean spiritedness? If the former, then I always listen and even if I don’t agree, it will sit with me till I can decide if it is merited, and how to remedy it. Criticism done out of sense of arrogance or spite is never helpful, so I try to ignore it. You have to remember that there will always be people who are jealous of what you have written, or are doing it just to get some kind of morbid thrill. In the end, though, I remind myself that the work is ultimately mine so if I want to change it, it is up to me. Once you realize this, it is a very freeing thing. If you are say unhappy with something, then change it. Who is stopping you? No one, it is your work. This is why being a writer and having creative control over the content is so liberating.
Who would you want to meet if you could? Dead or alive.
Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.
What’s something about you that would surprise us?
I love to sing. I think singing and poetry are very closely aligned and it is how I first started writing poetry.
Describe yourself in 3 words!
Kind, independent and strong.
What inspired you to write?