Do you actually enjoy writing, or do you write because you like the finished product?
I love writing – I love the solitude, the silence and the zone you go into as you create other worlds, discover things about yourself, tell stories that are roaming around in you and need an out. I couldn’t live without writing.
What are you reading right now? And are you enjoying it?
I’m reading The Journals of John Fowles, Vol 1. I am enjoying – although reading journals means you plunge directly into someone’s world and psyche and it can be dark there at times – you need to come up for breathe from time to time. But I love reading about John Fowles’s tempestuous and confusing love life and can relate to his need to write, yet earn a living and not having enough time to do that precious writing. Waiting in the wings is a book of travel essays on Antarctica – I’m somehow drawn to that cold, clean, austere place.
Have you ever killed off a character and regretted it?
No I haven’t, they were meant to go, if they got killed. But I did regret saying goodbye to Alexia in my novella Triangle – we’d been together three years in the writing, and it was a wrench saying goodbye.
If you could have any of your characters over for dinner, which would it be and why?
In one of my short stories, ‘Desire, with Borders’, I actually had me as the writer going to a coffee shop where some of my characters were having meals. But none of them recognised me! They weren't even interested in meeting me – so no I don’t think it would be a good idea to have any of them to dinner. Besides I don’t know their addresses ....
Which one of your characters would you never invite into your home and why?
Perhaps Tyra, she murdered her lover out of jealousy and then took on her personality, or Rivka the 18th century midwife who caused damage to a baby – oy, can’t believe I created them or that they come from me!
Ernest Hemingway said: write drunk, edit sober. For or against?
Sober! I hardly ever drink, I’m quite allergic to wine, sadly.
If against, are you for any other mind-altering drug?
No not really. When you’re writing well you’re high enough, you don’t need anything extra IMHO
Our adult competition theme is Feast, Famine and Potluck. Have you ever put food in your fiction? If so, what part did it play in the story?
Yes there’s food in my stories, my poems, my everything. I wrote a story, ‘At the table of the short story’ in which I examined women’s attitudes to food, weight, diet and so on. Lots of characters talking about that.
What’s the most annoying question anyone’s ever asked you in an interview?
What are your themes?
If you could be any author other than yourself, who would you be?
Anyone rich and/or making a living from writing – I could get up at 10 every morning and amble off to my study when I am finally awake and dream the day into existence.
If you could go back in time and erase one thing you had written from your writing history, what would it be and why?
I think it all exists for a reason – although there are poems that are weaker than others, or stories, they all mean and meant something. So I’d keep everything, good, bad and indifferent.
What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told?
I don’t like lying, really, but now and again you tell a white lie to protect others and yourself, I think they are necessary.
If someone reviews you badly, do you write them into your next book/story and kill them?
Nah, I stew and simmer and think they’re oh so stupid for not getting it, then I put on my adult hat and attempt to be philosophical. Notice the word: attempt.
What’s your favourite bad reviewer revenge fantasy?
They write a book and it in turns gets reviewed badly!
What’s the most frustrating thing about being a writer in Africa?
Not having the luxury of many grants to apply to and fellowships – so that most of us have to toil at jobs when we should be home writing. Lack of time.
Have you ever written naked?
Does writing sex scenes make you blush?
At times yes – but they’re so often necessary.
Who would play you in the film of your life?
Meryl Streep for sure!
If you won the Caine Prize for African Fiction, what would you do with the money?
Take a few months off work, hole up n my study and just write, that would be the perfect way to spend the time and money.
What do you consider your best piece of work to date?
The novellas I finished for my MA – as they’re the most recent of my fiction.
What are you doing on 21 June 2013, to celebrate Short Story Day Africa?
I’m on leave so I’ll be home, writing – after getting up at 10am!
So enjoyed reading your answers, Arja.
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