We offer our first and exclusive Q&A Interview with Jan Sargeant, a writer whose literary works have been featured on our Spillwords pages as well as being Author of the Month of September 2022.
What does it mean to be selected as Author of The Month?
To be selected as Author of the Month fills me with gratitude to all those who voted for me, and I feel honoured to have been recognised in this way by a community of talented and skilled writers. It’s a real accolade and one I treasure.
How have your friends and/or family influenced your writing?
Friends have been very encouraging over the years. Some are writers too, and their feedback has been instrumental in helping me develop as a writer. My husband offers very honest responses and often makes very helpful suggestions, even though he claims not to know much about how language works.
What inspires you to write?
Anything and everything. Life, people in supermarkets, snippets of conversation I overhear, a sunrise …… sometimes one of my own paintings will inspire some writing; sometimes the other way round. In a nutshell, I’m inspired to write by the desire to communicate. The idea for my Lesswilling Chronicles came from someone moving house and telling me about his new neighbour.
What was your writing catalyst?
I can’t remember a time when I’ve not written so that’s hard to answer. As soon as I could write, it seems I was always scribbling my own stories. Writing poetry came when I was in my twenties. It offered a way to explore some fairly intense feelings about family and relationships. At the same time though, I was writing non-fiction – academic work on education. That’s a different discipline altogether although I enjoyed the challenge.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process?
I get ideas down fairly quickly, perhaps from a line I think of and want to use. That gives me an outline that I can then flesh out. The challenge comes in then crafting the writing, deciding which word or phrase is best, cutting out bits, changing word order, getting the pace and rhythm right. This is what I call scalpel time. I read my work out loud and listen to it read aloud before deciding if it’s finished. Timing and pace are just as important in prose as in poetry.
What would you say is most fulfilling about writing?
The process, the journey I make and the writing makes between conception and being a piece I’m happy to share with others. The sense of personal challenge and achievement from writing is so empowering. When others read it and like it, that’s the icing on the cake.
Does the addition of imagery help to tell your story?
To me, you can’t tell a story or write a poem without imagery. Imagery takes the reader into the world you’re creating, to see characters, places, events. It’s not about adding imagery; for me; it’s woven into the very fabric of a piece of writing.
What is your favorite reading genre?
It depends on my mood. I don’t really have a favourite genre as such. I enjoy crime fiction for sheer escapism but I read a lot of other writing too. I especially enjoy poetry.
What human being has inspired you the most?
It has to be Mohammad Ali. His attitude to having Parkinson’s was so inspiring. He faced the challenges it brought, he never felt sorry for himself and he showed dignity as well as strength. He stood up for what he believed and he told it straight. Plus he had a wicked sense of humour.
What message would you have for the Spillwords Press community that voted for you?
Thank you for voting for me. And if you’re a writer too, never give up learning, writing and reading the work of others. Learn your craft, develop your own voice and most importantly, write for yourself and enjoy the journey.
What would you like your legacy as a writer to be?
I think I’d like my legacy as a writer to mirror my legacy as a person – that I had the courage to take hold of life and risk failing in order to leave something behind which gave pleasure to others.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Publication of my work is a wonderful honour but not why I write. I write because I need to write, because I have things I want to say, because quite simply, writing is the pulse in my life.
SEPTEMBER 2022 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Jan Sargeant has written for many years but only since retirement in 2016 has she had the time and opportunity to write poetry and novels rather than academic papers. “Still dancing,” an anthology of her poetry, was published three months ago with all profits going to Parkinson’s research. Her first novel, “Alan’s Lesswilling Chronicles” is a comedy, published in August 2023. She is working on the next part of this series but says she is sidetracked by the poetry she feels compelled to write. She lives in a conservation village with a lake near the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with her husband, three cats and Banksy, their small dog.