Today I’m chatting with multi-talented Carly Holmes.:-
Please tell us about your writing background and history
My path to becoming a writer is so common as to be a stereotype: I was an introverted child, painfully shy and insecure. My favourite pastime from about age 5 was curling up with my cat in my bedroom and reading books. I lived mainly inside my own head, creating rich and fantastical worlds; I still do, which may be why I’m at my most content when I’m at home. Unlike the rest of my family, who gad about the globe, eager to explore the world, I get anxious if I’m away from home for any length of time. My deepest fulfilment comes from having the time and space to be, either in my garden or at my writing desk. With or without a gin and tonic.
I started writing excruciating poems and implausibly plotted short stories when I was in primary school, copying my idols (fairy tales and Enid Blyton through to Georgette Heyer and then the Brontes), and I continued to write creatively through my teens. After completing my first degree (in English Lit) I went straight on to a Masters in Creative Writing. I focused on writing short stories and was thrilled to start getting them published. I then, for reasons I’m still struggling to understand, stopped writing creatively for over a decade. There was no impulse to. I didn’t even miss it.
Now I fear that happening again. I have a very conflicted relationship to writing. It’s an unhealthy mix of dread and need. If I’m not writing then I’m thinking about it, fearing it, missing it, worrying about not being able to do it. In writing I experience a concentrated peace and contentment that I’m unable to reproduce in any other area of my life. You’d think that alone would mean I make it a daily occupation, but as strong as the desire is the desire to resist it.
Having my début novel, The Scrapbook, published last year was, in my view, the biggest achievement of my life so far. Actually, writing it was the biggest achievement but having it signed by Parthian was incredible. It gave me, my very existence, a validation I think I’d always been looking for.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a collection of ghost stories. I was lucky enough to receive a bursary from Literature Wales last year to work on these, which range from traditional chillers to inversions of the standard ‘ghost story’ trope. It’s great fun. Hauntings are as much a construction of human loss and longing as of actual apparitions so there’s a lot of room within the genre for the imagination to rove.
I’ve also started writing poetry over the last few months, for the first time in nearly 30 years. After my novel was published I found myself unable to write anything lengthy for a long time, I think because I wasn’t ready to let the book go. I tend to self-edit as I write so the manuscript was largely in a finished state by the time it reached Parthian and I didn’t have months of tearful wrestling with it. I suspect the re-writing process eases the writer away from their creation and allows them to turn from it, towards something new. Or maybe I just need to learn to overcome my separation anxieties!
In the last month I’ve started writing a new novel. It’s very early days and I’m still looking at it out of the corner of my eye rather than straight on, in case it takes fear and runs away, but I’m excited and hopeful.
What do you do when you don’t write?
It seems that all of my non-writing life revolves around writing to some degree. I pay the bills by editing and case-managing other writers’ books from manuscript through to publication, which is incredibly creatively fulfilling. I’m also on the editorial board for the Lampeter Review which is (for the acting editor of an issue) a huge amount of work but rewarding with it. I’m currently in the hot seat for issue 12 so I don’t expect to get out in the garden a great deal this summer.
My novel is due out in paperback in May so I’ll be promoting it as much as I can via readings etc over the next few months. Marketing and self promotion are necessary evils for any writer who isn’t a bestseller. If you don’t push your book then it won’t get noticed.
I host and manage The Cellar Bards, a group of writers who meet monthly in Cardigan, usually with a guest reader, for an evening of spoken word. We’re a thriving group and the evenings are very popular.
When I’m not doing any of the above I’m likely to be reading, sleeping, walking the hound or eating. I discovered the gruelling joys of rowing a Celtic longboat last year and loved it. The season should be starting again this month so I’ll be back to doing that a couple of times a week in the evenings.
What would you like to take to a lonely island?
I would take a king size bed with a good mattress, because I can handle most adversity if I’ve had a comfortable night’s sleep. Something to write with and on. An unlimited supply of good coffee (and a kettle/coffee machine). Insect repellent. Books. The ridiculously out-sized sun hat I bought once and have never had the courage to wear.
Find Carly’s website here: