Welcome all. Today we’re very lucky to be interviewing Kirstin Maguire, author of ‘Twilight Scrawls’.
Hi Kirstin, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m a Londoner with an Irish family. I graduated with a Drama BA in 2006, and spent the first few years after facilitating Drama Workshops in Prisons, Youth Offending Institutes and Homeless Shelters. I then moved into project management; first in multi art form projects with community groups and then in mental health. I always wrote in my spare time and as a creative outlet, before pursuing it more formally over the past seven years or so.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I actually have another three manuscripts on the go at the moment. As they are evolving, they seem more about combining poetry with film. My next project in the pipeline is a Modern Epic Poem, (so my first book-length piece.) Using the conventions of Epic Poetry, it tells the very current story of what has become known as the Migrant Crisis. In terms of the future in general, tend to take things as they come, usually a project will take on a life of its own, so it’s nice to keep an open mind and go with it.
Why do you write?
Honestly? Because I have to. I’ve even tried not writing at times, but it always comes calling.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Fits and starts. There’s always an idea bubbling.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I think the tone of my work has got more honest. There was a temptation starting out, to appeal to a certain audience, or come across a particular way. That’s long gone now. That’s also meant I’m free to experiment and try new things with my poetry.
Which writers inspire you?
In terms of the classics, Yeats, Blake, Whitman are really the ones I’ll go back to time and time again.
For me, all roads always seem to lead to the Beat Poets. They really shifted everything a gear. That was a moment in time, it unleashed something new that there was no going back from.
Then of course there’s John Cooper Clarke, Linton Kwesi Johnson etc.
And in terms of current work, I’m a fan of Salena Godden, George The Poet, Adam Horovitz, Cecilia Knapp.
What inspired you to write Twilight Scrawls?
For me, it was really about finding meaning. In hindsight, there was a period in my twenties that I kinda struggled with that, which was when I first started writing the book. Twilight Scrawls became a kind of diary in the early days. As it evolved, and I grew more interested in eastern philosophy and rediscovered an interest in western philosophy, I’d find myself opening up its pages whenever I came across a new principle or theory that interested me. It became like calling an old friend and saying ‘You won’t believe what I’ve found out.’ For me, Twilight Scrawls both documents that process and has taken on a life of its own.
Can you describe it to our readers in one sentence?
Ooh, I can try. Here goes:
It’s a poetry collection influenced by different wisdoms, celebrating world views that connect us.
(Phew, I did it)
How much research did you do?
It was written over seven years, so there was a lot of time to research, reflect and revisit. There were times it felt like it would never come together, but I’m glad I held out and let it have the lifespan it needed now.
What was the hardest thing in writing this book?
You wouldn’t believe it. The references. Each poem references philosophies, scientific theories, or art & literature, which are all at the back of the book. I know most people (myself included) rarely read references, but I will from now on. They took months. Strangely, they’re actually the part I’m proudest of too, because they share some of the symbolism in the poems and the threads that tie the poems together.
Did you ever get Writer’s Block?
Definitely. The gaps in between writing were as important as the periods writing with this one.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded Writer’s Block?
Keep plugging away at it, don’t entirely shelve it. Equally, don’t force it.
I often think Writer’s Block isn’t so much Writer’s Block as ideas block. So, it’s important to keep doing the things you’re passionate about. Keep reading, keep finding new music, keep spending time with people you love, whatever it is, keep doing the things that inspire you. And most of all, keep aware of all of it. And as for the ideas, when they’re ready, they will come.
Did you proofread this book or did somebody else do it?
I proofread it more times than I could count. Then, the Editor and Publisher both proofread it a number of times too.
Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
I’m really glad you asked that, because she’s amazing. Lilith Design edited the book with me, before she typeset and designed it. We first met through our mutual collaborator and friend Jane Moore; an incredible Illustrator (and person) during the work on my debut collection, Sketch A Day Poetry. That book brought a selection of poems and artworks together from a year’s worth of daily pieces Jane and myself each created. Lilith just got it. I knew when it came to this one there was no one else for it. Lilith has a background in publishing and is also Director of Poetry Brothel (London & Barcelona) so her intuition for the work is matched only by her passion, meticulous and egoless approach.
Tell us about the cover and how it came about.
How the cover came about is a long and funny story, but I’ll keep it brief here. I met Liam Ward, (who illustrates under the name Two-Headed Boy) in the year I went on to start writing Twilight Scrawls. At the time, while we were all loving life and getting up to mischief in east London (to a T-Rex soundtrack), I never would have imagined that seven years later, we would be all grown up and collaborating in this way. Initially, I knew Liam as a very talented musician. Over the past few years, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to see his visual artwork too, and it blew my mind. Again, I knew he was the one to ask and again, I knew he’d just get it. I gave him no brief whatsoever. Just asked him to read the book and interpret it. Liam illustrated the cover pages and three title pages of the book. It surpassed even my high expectations. It’s just perfect. I could never have come up that concept. He’s a mighty talent.
Who designed your book cover?
Lilith Design and Two Headed Boy (Illustrator) joined forces on the cover. They’re incredible.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Absolutely crucial. It’s the first thing people see and it’s a window into the world of the book. For me, I was so embroiled in that world I knew I needed someone else’s interpretation of it. Ironically, given that the notion of relinquishing control, non-attachment (or grasping), and acceptance are big themes in the book, I became very attached to Twilight Scrawls, so knew it needed someone with incredible talent and insight, who I trusted implicitly. Interestingly enough, mine and Liam’s interpretations of the artwork are different as a result. And I love that. I’m hoping it will be a different interpretation for each and every reader.
How are you publishing this book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)
I’m going traditional. The incredible Alba Publishing headed up by Kim Richardson published my debut collection. They are also releasing this one. For me, the relationship between myself as Writer and Alba as Publisher has become crucial to how I develop in my work. Alba are unique in that they offer the security, marketplace, wealth of knowledge, resource, high quality design and print, and several more aspects of the Publishing realm, but to work with Kim is more a creative partnership than anything else. He offers me a rare and truly wonderful autonomy and creative freedom to explore, whilst being hugely supportive and offering guidance. I feel really lucky to be working with Kim and Alba again.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
I think it’s really about figuring out what works best for each individual project. Being published and self-publishing each have their advantages and disadvantages. In both cases, overcoming the fear of rejection is a big part. In terms of self publishing, there’s more of an aspect of self-marketing and distribution. However, with poetry, that comes into the being published route too. I tend to judge each case on its own merit. e.g. for full collections, I’ve been lucky enough to have been published by Alba Publishing. Equally, at the end of last year, I self-published a current-affairs chapbook Poetry Press: This Was 2016 and am hoping to do the same again. In that case, self-publishing felt authentic to the history of the chapbook as a DIY, homemade or locally made art movement. Being open to different options and trying different things out adds to the adventure.
How do you market your work?
Press Release, Social Media, Interviews, Reviews are the main ways
Why did you choose this route?
A lot of it is learning as you go, and going with your gut instinct. Talking to people is always good, you never know the opportunities it will create.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their works?
Being open to new ideas, doing the tried and tested, but also not being scared to branch out. The marketing can become as inventive as the work itself.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
It fluctuates. In the few months before a Launch or new release, I pretty much clear the decks and dedicate a lot of time to marketing. For the rest of the time, the major focus is the work itself.
What do you do to get book reviews?
Again, talking to people is always a winner. I’ve found Twitter really helpful for making contacts in that area.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Time will tell, but it’s going well at the moment. I had a gorgeous review at this great site Ria’s Book Look over the weekend so I’m still beaming over that. There’s a few more in the pipeline, as well as a wonderful one by Betty Anne at Spillwords Press 😉
What are your views on social media for marketing?
A bit mixed if I’m totally honest. It’s an invaluable tool for getting the word out there amongst your networks, but I have to admit, I often find myself feeling self-conscious afterwards, as I’m not a big fan of selling myself and I don’t want to become a digital sales-pitch. I find that dichotomy a lot with social media in general. I think again, it’s being really clear in your own mind, what the function of it is.
Which social network is working best for you?
I only use Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has proved great for making new connections and Facebook more for sharing your personality a bit more and developing relationships.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
I think being yourself, sharing your work, testing ideas, sharing wider events and articles in the poetry community can be effective. I like to reply to people’s comments as much as possible. Not oversharing I guess could be a good one. Ultimately, I think not allowing it to take too much headspace is pretty important too. The work itself is more important than the image. Being too concerned about image detracts from the job itself. As long as you love what you’re doing, the rest follows naturally.
Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch, Spillwords Press 🙂 or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
I did do a Press Release. Mmmm Goodreads book launch, I should probably do that shouldn’t I? I’ve been delighted to collaborate with Spillwords Press again. From having a poem published in Spillwords several months ago, it’s now become a really supportive and fruitful partnership as each project I’ve worked on has come to fruition. I really appreciate that relationship with the literary community.
Do you plan to get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
I better get onto that as well, hadn’t I? I’ve been lucky enough to be on Local Press a couple of weeks back for Twilight Scrawls.
When you’re not writing how do you relax?
I’m a big fan of meditation, I find it vital. I enjoy film, theatre and books. Oh watching the snooker and trying to learn French (neither are particularly relaxing though.)
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
It changes, probably at the moment it would be: Relax. Nothing is under control.
What is your favorite book and why?
The Grapes of Wrath was the ultimate book in our house growing up. It still is, such a special read.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
Do you know what – I’ve never done that. Take each day and every chance as it comes.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Not to worry too much about approval, and not to wait until you feel ready to do something, that could be anything – from moving house to releasing a book, you never feel fully ready. I think when I was younger, I always thought there would be a certain point in time I’d feel, well… like a grownup. That I’d feel like it was all more sussed. Now I realise, I feel pretty much the same, only the more you chance it, the easier it becomes.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Ooh that’s tough. That would be a long list. Although I did recently read that The Boss (Bruce Springsteen), Oprah, the Obamas and Tom Hanks were holidaying together, and I thought ‘Now, that would be a great break.’
It’s interesting times isn’t it? I think in many ways, the nature of poetry and publishing is likely to become a microcosm of the wider world of publishing. I think the modes of funding are likely to change – e.g. an increase in crowdfunded projects; changing the dynamic between reader and writer, production of eBooks etc. I think we could also see more of a crossover in art forms. It could prove a great opportunity. Equally, I am a big fan of the old school, which is why I’ve gone for printed books in all projects so far. I hope it can be preserved, books are such a rich part of our history and so beautiful.
Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven’t included?
Only to say, big thanks for the work you do, and for the interview today.
Where can we buy or see Twilight Scrawls?
The book will be released mid-June. It will be available to buy on Alba Publishing’s site.
Thank you once again for your amazing collaborative partnership!
Thank you so much!
For poetry of Kirstin Maguire on Spillwords follow this link
Kirstin Maguire is a London based Poet. Published in numerous literary magazines, her debut collection 'Sketch A Day Poetry' was published by Alba and released in February 2016. Her follow-up current affairs chapbook 'Poetry Press: This Was 2016' will be released in December 2016.