DR here, with two special guests visiting my blog. Today I have Author MJ Holman and Author Queen of Spades who have collaborated on a book entitled Waves to Light. Along with finding more about the project, I wanted to interview both collectively and individually about their writing lives.
Hi there! Here are a few questions I have for both of you.
(1) How did the two of you first get in contact with each other?
MJ: It was via a website called Koobug – an excellent place for writers to hang out and showcase their work. I posted several pieces of poetry and prose on the site and noticed the works of other poets including Queen of Spades. Her work stood out for me.
After finishing The Guinea Ghost and preparing for my next project, The Sea of Conscience, I decided I would like a collaboration and I invited Queen to take part. I sent her the draft for The Sea of Conscience and she submitted three fine contributions.
Queen: I first became acquainted with MJ Holman via this wonderful site called Koobug. The atmosphere there is quite nice and I just enjoyed being able to interact with others without being lost in the shuffle. I read a few poetry pieces by her and the tone of the more haunting works really caught my attention. In addition, I read The Guinea Ghost and appreciated her overall writing style.
The Sea of Conscience: Poetry, Prose and The Pursuit of Self by MJ Holman
(featuring poetry by Queen of Spades)
(2) Tell me about your previous project The Sea of Conscience and how Waves to Light compares to its predecessors.
MJ: The Sea of Conscience differs in that it is split into several sections while there are just the two, “All Shades of Black” and “Nuances of Color” in Waves to Light. The Sea of Conscience may also appear eclectic on first reading, it has several strands, seemingly different and not all directly about mental illness.
Waves to Light (coming soon)
Waves to Light is more uniform and explores coping mechanisms. In “All Shades of Black”, moving from black to light, I look at the illness and then at the treatment. I see “Waves to Light” as more of a steady progression through the darkness, than unravelling the different skeins of The Sea of Conscience.
Queen: The premise of The Sea of Conscience is one I was highly interested in and excited about. MJ Holman was writing a mixture of poetry and prose documenting the discovery of mental illness and it got me to thinking about my own path and how our trek was similar. Private Pain: Amidst These Ashes had only be out for a few months. When she approached me about including three pieces (one prose and two poems), I accepted.
I also thought how wonderful it would be to do a bit of a follow up to mirror one’s path while dealing with mental illness itself, since each person’s treatment can differ. This way of thinking set the foundation for Waves to Light.
For me, Waves to Light is a bit more personal and really takes the reader closer in terms of introspection and progress. It also has a more inspirational feel: a reminder that there is light at the end of the tunnel, even when things seem bleak.
(3) What are the biggest misconception others have about poetry?
MJ: This is a difficult one for me because I write poetry and prose and can see the limitations of both. Poetry can seem inaccessible to some people, even to other writers. There is a very modern trend for a nebulous style, where a stream of unconnected words are put together just to show off the writer’s lexicon, without actually making any sense. The writers I admire are more coherent, more deliberate in their word choice and therefore make poetry accessible to all.
Queen: There are plenty but for brevity I will mention one: that a person who writes poetry cannot transcend and write in other areas. Like in other arenas of writing, just because one can write doesn’t mean one should, nor does it mean that person can write well. Yet, there are plenty who have done it successfully without sacrificing excellence.
Now let’s get some to some one-on-one. *sly grin*
Note: Special thanks to All Authors Graphic Design for authorizing use of the authors’ logos.
(1) How long have you been writing poetry?
I think I started in my early teens, but cannot say for sure. None of it was decent enough for me to publish. All I can say is I was finding my style and learning as all young poets and writers do. Looking at my early work published in The Sea of Conscience, and comparing it to what I produce now, I can see I have changed for the better.
(2) Do you see poetry as cathartic and does it take the place of other methods of treating depression?
It is truly a cathartic experience and it allows me to use words to describe what is essentially an illness, that cannot be described in the same sense as say diabetes. Trying to communicate the very nature of depression or in my case bipolar disorder can be onerous for any sufferer, but somehow through poetry we find a way. When I have used terms such as ‘all shades of black’ and ‘whispering in my veins’ in therapy sessions, it has been easier for the therapist to understand my symptoms.
I see poetry as part of my treatment, not in place of cognitive behavioural therapy and drugs. I think it’s important that all treatments, where available, are used or at least tried to see if they work for the sufferer.
(3) What is your preferred drink when inspired to write?
Usually a coffee, hot or iced depending on the weather.
(4) What is next after Waves to Light? Tell the reading audience more about your future work.
There will be a further poetry book, when I am not so sure, I haven’t written the poems yet! I’m in the middle of my first novel. Yes, it’s a vampire book, I make no excuses for that. I am hoping it will seem slightly different to readers of the genre. It’s set in 18th century London and concerns singing vampires and the abduction of children.
(5) I heard that you actually paint your own covers for your books. How long does it take and what is the biggest challenge with the technique?
I’ve painted the covers for The Sea of Conscience and Waves to Light. The Sea of Conscience took quite awhile, I cannot remember how long exactly, but it was several months. Waves to Light was about a month.
The challenges are creating covers that will attract the reader, sometimes I have to make several attempts before I get it right; then there is the method of using a laptop, drawing tablet and pen. This is not easy for someone used to painting with pastels, but I have adapted.
(1) Does it feel strange for you to publish poetry again after you’ve spent over a year mainly doing short stories?
I’m not sure that “strange” is the correct word, simply because writing poetry has always felt quite natural to me. It is like a good friend you haven’t seen or talked to in a while but when you two finally connect, it is like old times.
There are some writers that do not go back to doing poetry once they’ve done other forms of writing, yet I have never closed that door or declared that my poetry writing will cease.
(2) Out of all of your collections of poetry, which one is your personal favorite, and is it in sync with the one a lot of people like?
Wow! I like each collection for different reasons, but if I had to pick a personal favorite, it would be Eclectic. There are so many different styles and the highs and lows of each different section were metered nicely. Yet, Reflections of Soul tends to get the most fan fare and responses.
(3) Name an environment where you always get inspired.
Being in nature is always inspirational to me. A few weeks back (when it wasn’t so hot and humid), I did venture out to one of my favorite parks, not just for some peace of mind but also to write. I do still tend to write with pen/pencil and paper prior to actually typing the work.
(4a) Do you believe your style of poetry and MJ Holman’s style of poetry mesh in your collaborations?
I believe we definitely mesh well in the realm of interpretative impact. Both of us have the ability to paint a scene that leaves the reader to come up with his/her conclusion.
(4b) Are there any other poets whose books you’d like to be a part of or who you would like to collaborate with?
There is this one lady who writes poetry but she has not published yet. Her name is Teianna. We first got acquainted with each other thorough a poetry site over a decade ago and we did a few freestyles together. Both of us like to wordplay and are very intense, so when she finally decides to do it, I would love to be a part.
I also enjoy the “tell it like it is” style of Angela “Lykebudda” White.
(5) What are your future endeavors in the realm of writing?
I was invited to be a part of two continuing short story anthologies. One is Concordant Vibrancy 2: Vitality and the other is Pleasure Prints: Divergent Ink 2.
Along with that, I am putting the finishing touches on Life-O-Suction: Spaded Truths II. This will be the first sole book of poetry I’ve put out since Private Pain: Amidst These Ashes.
There is also this WIP called Lacross Lane. It started in my brain as a short story but it has been blossoming into something bigger, quite possibly being a novel. We will just have to see what happens.
Appreciate the visit you two! Be on the lookout for Waves to Light, coming in mid September.