Wednesday, 22 September 2021

An Interview with Virginia Watts.

 Virginia Watts' story, 'Emily', will open Dark Lane Anthology Vol.11.  Her stories and poetry can be found in Illuminations, The Florida Review, CRAFT, Sunspot Literary Journal, and others.  Her poetry chapbook, The Werewolves of Elk Creek, is published by Moonstone Press.

Q: What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to work?

A: I have no specific schedule or location for writing and I don’t think about writing in terms of process or method. I am a bit superstitious that way. I try not to think about writing at all if you want the whole truth. Writing is something that happens to me more than anything else. What I do is when an idea arrives for a story or a poem, I sit down somewhere quiet and start in with immense gratitude and hope. I love every minute of the process from rough draft to critique editing to letting go of something knowing I have done the best I could for the idea that came to me. I have taken plenty of writing classes, workshops, and getaways but there is something about learning too much about the “craft” of writing that I battle against. It’s important for me to stay close to my gut and my heart as a writer.

 Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).

A: This answer will surely elicit some groans from memories of dreaded middle school summer reading assignments, but I have to chose Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” I read this story when I was young too and the thing is I have never forgotten it. I am sure it was required school reading but there’s a reason the greats are the greats. Hemingway is so direct and crystal clear in his characters and story that you can’t look away from the courage of it all even when you long to. In Francis Macomber we face our own human weakness and cowardice. What reader hasn’t wondered. Maybe I would have run away from the lion too! And Margot his wife so cruel and greedy and domineering. And of course, Wilson. The ultimate user. We may not be any of these characters overall, but we have all been these people at times and we have the capacity to be like them again. This story is upsetting and troubling and true. It is you and me and everyone whether we like it or not. If the characters in a story never leave you, then it was very simply a damn good story.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (written by you).

A: It is difficult to choose a favourite, but I am proud of a short story entitled “The Bitterest Winter” which will appear in a collection of short stories of mine that will be published by The Devil’s Party Press in the spring of 2023. In this story, the narrator is a young woman with a new baby girl. She lives in a high-rise apartment in the city of Chicago. She comes from a rural background and living in a big city is akin to living on the surface of the moon. And all these strange balconies. Little spaces floating in the air all around her that begin to haunt her as she becomes more and more isolated, alone most of the time with the baby while her husband pursues a high-profile legal career and one of his attractive and smartly dressed assistants. In the final scene of the story the young mother is outside walking on her balcony with the baby in her arms getting closer and closer to the railing. My critique group all had different ideas about what happened next and that became the success of that story to me. The ending depends on the reader and just how much they are willing to imagine and feel.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?

My ideas come from all sorts of things and sometimes I am not sure where they came from. I never brainstorm or use any technique to drum up ideas to write about because that seems like it wouldn’t be a “real idea” to me. Ideas that inspire my writing have come from past experiences, news articles, tv shows, songs, things I see walking, things people say that I overhear, thoughts I have in silent rooms. The story I mention above was written after I visited my daughter in Chicago. She was attending the University of Chicago as a graduate student at the time and while there was no husband or baby, there was a balcony and a city all around us so big it felt like it might swallow us up.

 Q: Are you a full-time writer? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time writer if you could?

A: I do consider myself a full-time writer of almost ten years and I feel very lucky to be able to say that. I am a lawyer by education. I have learned a lot in ten years mostly from the company of other writers who have read my work for me and given me theirs to read. You cannot be your best if you don’t have a critique group of some kind. At least, that is what I believe.

 Q: What is the most difficult part of your creative process?

A: The tensest part for me is the rough draft because I am always hoping, just hoping, that I can take an idea all the way to the end. I never have an outline or a destination. I never know where I am going so, I just hope I find my way somewhere that matters. The other challenge is endings. I don’t want someone to read one of my stories or poems and get to the end and be let down or frustrated. That’s your last chance as a writer so you have to try very hard to get the ending as right as it can be.

Q: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming a writer?

A: I have been asked this before and the answer always makes me sad. I always loved to write. From the sixth grade. I wrote here and there throughout my life but not like I have recently where I have finally let myself become dedicated to this. So I would tell her to not wait for the future. Write whenever you can now no matter what else you have going on in your life.

Thank you for inviting me to be interviewed here. I am honoured and thrilled to have my story appear with those of the other authors in Dark Lane Anthology Volume 11!


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