Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Time - An Interview With Shauna Gilligan


Shauna Gilligan's first novel is called Happiness Comes from Nowhere I'm delighted to chat to her about her writing time, it might spur me on a little as I've written nothing for days....oh the shame :)

Welcome to the blog Shauna, you're working on a phd as well as your own writing - so how many hours (or minutes!) do you get to dedicate to fiction in an average week, or is there an average week?!
Thanks for having me on your blog, Niamh.
Yes, I’m doing a PhD in Writing (University of South Wales) and I’ve got my Viva Voce on June 12th (that’s the oral exam where you defend your PhD thesis) so I’m nearly there with that one, thankfully!
I write every day, without exception. I try and dedicate late evening/early night to writing – that is, after my children are in bed, so usually from 9pm until whatever time I can manage. So on average it’s two to three hours a day, usually four days a week, sometimes seven. There are times when I lose track of time and it’s after midnight but other times, I’ll just do some editing and head to bed early. Bottom line is, though, if I don’t do some writing every day, I really miss it.

What is your favorite form at the moment? How do you prioritise one form over another time wise, do you have a set system allocating sections of that time for say research/poetry/stories/ your novel or does it vary?
Though I’m working on some stories right now, I have to say I tend to let the mood dictate what I do and tend not to prioritise unless there is a deadline involved.
I write long and short fiction and most of the time switch between the two, without a set system. However, when I am researching for my novels, I tend to write short fiction and often find that elements of the research creep into these pieces. I find that having a form other than that which you are trying to work on (especially when it’s tough going), frees you from that worry of stopping. Likewise, when I’m deep into a short story and find myself flailing, or needing a break, I’ll head back to the novel. When I’m engaged in academic research or writing, it’s the same process. That way I’m still engaged in the creative process. One of my writer friends who writes poetry and fiction says he can’t switch between the two like this, so I’m guessing that it is somewhat easier with mixing short and long fiction, despite the different forms. I also bake, which works wonders for finding solutions to tricky narratives or characters. I make a mean lemon cake. 

Do you find different forms almost have their season? (as I mentioned previously I like Sept for starting into a novel as the month has a ‘knuckle down’ kind of energy for me and summer can be difficult for sustained writing sessions as my children are at home so in an ideal world it would be my short story season. 
That’s an interesting question, Niamh. I have to say, so far I haven’t found a season for a form. I tend to reserve a week for pure writing (away from work, family, friends) twice a year – usually late summer/early autumn or early spring – so maybe there is something to do with a sense of finishing or starting, as you have pointed out. Carver wrote short stories sitting in his car while waiting to collect his children from school. But I think you can do those short bursts with novels as well, work on episodes or sections of the narrative but of course you also need that ‘knuckle down’ period.

 What would you say to your younger self about writing time and the different forms, what do you wish you had known years ago? 
I think I’d tell my younger self to stop worrying what it all means, and not to stop because life seems busy or somehow incompatible with the intense creativity that comes with writing. (I stopped writing regularly in my early twenties and didn’t return to it until my mid thirties).
With regards forms of writing, I’d say just write, worry about the form or what type of writer you are later. That all comes with time, but the craft takes a lot of working and reworking.
I wish I had known years ago that just because you stop writing the urge to write doesn’t go away, even if you ignore it! So you might as well just keep at it!
Thanks Shauna, that was inspiring. And best of luck with your Viva Voce!

Shauna blogs at A Girl's Writing Is Never Done . Born in Dublin, Ireland, she has worked and lived in Mexico, Spain, India and the UK. She lives in County Kildare, Ireland with her family. Her work has been published widely and she has given public readings of her fiction in Ireland and USA and has presented on writing at academic conferences in Ireland, UK, Germany and USA. Happiness Comes from Nowhere (London: Ward Wood, 2012) is her first novel.


Old Kitty said...

Lovely Niamh!! I hope amazing Shauna has inspired you to do get all creative!! Shauna writes every day - without exception!! Yikes!! I can only gawp at the pair of you in AWE!!! Take care

Group 8 said...

Nice one, Shauna. I admire that you write for so long after a day at the office. Wow.

Anthony Duce said...

Enjoyed... Thank you

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for introducing me to Shauna and her novel. I like her schedule and the way she utilizes that writing time.

shaunag said...

Thanks so much, Niamh, for the interview and to Kitty, Nuala, Anthony and Theresa for taking the time to comment. I do think writing is an impulse, so cannot be helped :)
I'm looking forward to reading The Herbalist, Niamh, very soon!

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