We offer our first and exclusive Q&A Interview with Denise D’Souza, a writer whose literary works have been featured on our Spillwords pages as well as being Author of the Month of June 2020.
What does it mean to be selected as Author of The Month?
I am proud and honoured that Spillwords readers voted for me. To be selected as Author of the Month means that people enjoy and appreciate my writing. I will take this away with me as an encouragement for the times when I feel my writing is not as good as I would like it to be.
How have your friends and/or family influenced your writing?
I grew up in a creative family. I am the eldest of three sisters. My family enjoyed singing together and there was usually someone practicing a musical instrument somewhere. Our home was full of books. So it was no surprise when I grew up to be a bookworm.
I started writing, mainly poems, when I was a teenager. Most of these were my private thoughts and I rarely shared them with anyone. At my senior school I won the headmistress’s prize for poetry, for a poem my enterprising middle sister secretly entered on my behalf. I remember being torn between pride at having won and horror at having to go up on stage in assembly in front of the whole school to collect my prize. Family members or friends have sometimes asked me to write a poem for a special occasion, such as a birthday or wedding. My family and friends are a whole lot more appreciative of the worth of my writing than I am myself at times.
My husband is not a reader. He rarely reads my writing, but he knows that it is important to me. I write in between working part-time, running our home and caring for two family members. I am grateful that my husband gives me the time and space to write whenever I can. He is very forgiving on occasions when he has come home from work and I’ve forgotten to cook dinner or left the washing in the machine all day.
What inspires you to write?
Anything and everything. A snatch of overheard conversation, a mishap, a piece of music, a curious knickknack found in charity shop have all found their way into a story or poem. I am in the habit of carrying a notebook and pen everywhere with me. Although these days I am more likely to use the Notes app on my smartphone.
What was your writing catalyst?
I worked for the Salvation Army publishing department for many years, writing news reports and creating page layouts for their publications. One editor I worked for was also a poet. He helped with my writing and encouraged me to submit a poem to a Christian writers’ anthology that he was submitting a piece to as well. To my amazement my poem ‘Our Daily Bread’ was published alongside his. I was too busy writing for work to produce much of my own work, however.
When I gave up my job in publishing four years ago to become a carer, I missed writing and joined the Inner Circle Writers’ Group. When I discovered the group on Facebook there was a poetry anthology about to be published. I wrote a poem in two days to meet the deadline. I was so pleased and proud when it was accepted and printed in the Cadence anthology. I have carried on writing and submitting poems, flash fiction and short stories to ICWG anthologies and e-magazines such as Spillwords regularly since then.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process?
When writing fiction, I usually start with an idea or an image of something I have seen or heard that sparks off my imagination. I have a phone full of quick notes and impressions that I read through and think about often. One day they may find their way into a short story or poem.
My working hours are varied and I am also a carer. So it is not possible for me to write every day. I find it more helpful to plan two or three writing sessions over a week.
When I do have some free time, I am a terrible procrastinator. I quite often use the Pomodoro method of 30 minutes timed writing sessions. Having a timed session really gets me to focus and make good use of the time I have for writing. I generally work on something on my writing ‘to do’ list. Having an alarm at the end of a session takes away the worry that I might get caught up in writing and be late for work or forget to put the dinner on. I make my writing sessions part of my weekly schedule. This means I am less likely to view writing as something I do once everything else is done. ‘Everything else’ is never done.
What would you say is most fulfilling about writing?
When I worked in publishing there was always a buzz in the office when the first copies of the weekly Salvation Army publications arrived from the printers. Writing is hard. I learned the basics of grammar and what makes an interesting journalistic piece the hard way, at the mercy of the editor’s red pen. The craft of writing fiction is whole different ball game. I am enjoying learning and experimenting with it. The excitement that comes from creating a piece that resonates with readers at a deep level is what motivates me to open my laptop and write.
Does the addition of imagery help to tell your story?
Yes, very much so. I usually start with an image that strikes me and starts off a thought process that will eventually become a story or poem.
What is your favorite reading genre?
I am a prolific reader, as was my dad. I now have his collection of John Le Carré and John Grisham thrillers. I also like biographies, historical fiction and PG Wodehouse style humour. I enjoy being a member of a reading group. Someone else’s book choice has often introduced me to an author or genre I would not otherwise have read.
What human being has inspired you the most?
No one person but Grant Hudson and the members of the Inner Circle Writers’ Group are fantastically supportive. Following the writing journeys of others in the group and reading their work is inspiring. Having my stories and poems accepted and published in anthologies has encouraged me to continue to work on my writing skills.
What message would you have for the Spillwords Press community that voted for you?
Thank you so much for voting for me. Your support is much appreciated. The craft of writing is endlessly fascinating but also challenging. Write what is on your heart to write.
What would you like your legacy as a writer to be?
Seeing my work in print is most satisfying. The idea that my words could entertain or inspire readers long after I have closed my laptop for good is mind-blowing.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am close to finishing a project I have been working on for the past couple of months. It is a resource book for carers, who are facing additional challenges under Covid19 restrictions. With support services closed or moved online, many are caring for a loved one at home without much of the practical support and respite breaks they rely on. The book is a project close to my heart. One which I hope will be successful in benefitting carers.
Denise D'Souza lives with her husband in Surrey in the UK. After graduating with a BA in English, she worked in publishing. She was voted Spillwords Author of the Month in June 2020. Her short stories, articles and poems have been published in e-magazines and Clarendon House anthologies Cadence, Miracle, Blaze, Poetica, Gleam, Lantern and Poetica 2. Two of her poems appear in Alpha One, the inaugural anthology of Linden Books.