Interview with Marketing Systems Officer, Mark Whittle, following the launch of her first published book, Homelands
What was the inspiration for the book?I'm not actually sure what started it off – the protagonist, Luke, is a character I've been working on in my head for years, and I suppose the incentive to write his story came to me once I'd fleshed out the details of his life and past. I'd attempted a few first lines and pages from time to time, but it never seemed to take shape, so I left it until I was ready, then once I started I couldn't stop – it only took me about a month to write the book.
What drew you to Iowa as a setting?America's always fascinated me, though I'd never actually been there. As a general rule, I like rural settings – there's scope for so much beautiful description and flowery prose. To me, cities can be ugly and cold; there's something warm and, somehow, peaceful about an empty field or a strip of road in the middle of nowhere. I think where Homelands is concerned it's a nice contrast to the tumult of Luke's past and the thoughts that never quiet in his head.
This is your first published novel, how did you find writing it?Homelands wasn't my first book – in total I've written about six or seven – but it was my first published book, yes. It's definitely the piece I'm proudest of, and the one I put more effort into. It only took a short time to write but it took about a year to fully edit. As I mentioned before, I'd already fleshed out most of the characters, their personalities and their lives, so when it came down to the actual writing process it didn't take long at all to put it together. I wrote the book whilst in my final year of university and, as other university students will know, I had a lot of free time to spend on my writing.
How does it feel to be published?A dream come true. I feel very blessed because it's just so tough to get a foot in the door when it comes to any of the arts. And even if you can get a foot in the door, there's no saying you're going to be able to keep it there. Most people who enjoy writing don't even get published, waiting years and years even into their 50s and 60s to make a name for themselves so, even though the book certainly hasn't reached great success, I still feel grateful to have had the chance to put my work out there. It's a great stepping stone.
What's next on your agenda?Work, for the most part…I have a full-time job, so that takes up most of my time. Other than that, I'm slowly getting through the first draft of a new novel, a romance – I'm hoping to have it finished within the next few months, then I can start the editing process. At some point I also want to publish a collection of my poetry.
Poetry as well. What do you enjoy and find challenging about writing in each of these styles?
Poetry's a whole other kettle of fish to writing a novel – in a way it's more enjoyable because it's more flexible. A poem can be one line or twelve books long, it can either rhyme or be written in free verse, and it doesn't even have to make sense. With a novel, there's a lot more to consider; characters, setting, grammar, inconsistencies that spoil the piece as a whole, plot, dialogue, it goes on and on. I love writing both novels and poems, but for different reasons. Poetry is more personal, but enjoyable and loose, and a book can keep me focused and sustained for months at a time, which is good for my brain! If I don't stay busy I go a bit mad.
Visit Stourwell books to buy Homelands by Shaunna HarperFollow Shaunna Harper's Poetry Facebook page