I have a special guest today as fellow writer, Colin Ward, joins me to discuss his debut poetry collection, Ripples, A collection of Poetry, along with other writings. First of all let’s find out a little about him.
Colin is an author and self-publisher with lots of experience writing in many different forms, including novels, short stories, poetry, theatre, and even composing musicals. He originally read Theatre at Warwick University and then trained to be a Secondary Drama teacher. Unlike most of his colleagues, he had neither the taste nor the budget to stage large school productions of well-known shows, so he just wrote his own – scripts, lyrics, music and all. After doing this for years, he left secondary teaching, dabbled in Primary for a bit, and finally closed that book. That’s when he first got the chance to pen his debut crime fiction novel and begin a new wordsmithing journey.
Hi Colin, thank you for joining me today. Ripples is your first poetry collection can you tell our readers what inspired you?
Hello Tricia and readers!
Ripples is definitely a dipping-the-toe collection for me. A small debut. It’s all about the part we play in the world around us, how we affect it, and how we make it what it is. The poems all dance around the theme, interaction, be it with the world, nature, and each other. A lot of the poems are very dark, but that’s because they are driven by emotion, and often it is emotion that drives me to write in the first place. I loosely organised them into four sections, but overall, inspirations come from nature, justice, crime, lies, love, death…and even some with just a humorous treatment of language and situations.
How did you derive at the collection name?
It was inspired by the poem of the same title that I wrote many years ago. That came from seeing some photography at a local exhibition which had been put together as part of a community project exploring mental health. Many of the photos really looked at how individuals composed their image, how they looked at the world. I wrote the poem very quickly, in fact – in a reaction to the idea of layering, rippling perspectives. As with all art – poetry, photography, painting, and so on – there is a fascinating interplay between how the artist encodes meaning, and how the “reader” decodes. My A-level Media teacher (ahem…twenty years ago) would be pleased to hear her influence there!
How long have you been writing? And do you write anything else besides poetry?
I would say I have been writing as a “craft” for over twenty years now. And I make that distinction from the mere ability to write. My earliest work was definitely plays and drama, and it was certainly through theatre that I learnt to really understand the art of “story” – what an arc was, how it carried and affected an audience, and so on. My interest in poetry also formed then, in the latter years at school when the leap from GCSE to A-Level was huge and suddenly we were taught so many more hours a week that we could discover the richness of Wilfred Owen, Gillian Anderson, William Blake, Benjamin Zephania – to name but a few.
The more theatre I wrote, and the more music I played increased the more songs I wrote – and I think for many years my poetry grew as I wrote musicals.
And of course there is the story writer. My debut novel, To Die For came out of a new-found love for Crime Fiction, and a fascination with police procedure, investigations, and plot twists. It takes no genius to link this all back to theatre: focusing on the impact the writing has on the reader, hoping they gasp at the twist in the tale as much as an audience member shed’s a tear for character in the play.
I’m now working on Innocent Lies – the second book in my DI Stone trilogy, but I’m not giving away any clues about that yet!
I also do lots of boring “pay the rent/ put food on the table” copy writing, and all that, too.
Do you have a special routine for your writing?
That depends entirely on what I am writing. Oh, what an irritating reply!
Poetry is very spontaneous thing at fist. It might be just an image, a piece of music, a news story, or something like that, which sparks an idea. A few lines – sometimes carrying a rhyme, or a rhythm – usually comes very quickly. I write a lot of poetry in tiny notebooks on bus journeys. You can try as many clever apps as you like, but I don’t go anywhere without pen and paper. After this initial stage I usually leave them for a while to rest and stew in my mind, and then come back to them, a bit more methodically to edit, structure, make better choices of language, and so on. So as for a routine…I try to instil routines like “an hour a day” – but it rarely works, especially for poetry.
Novel writing is a very different approach. I plan. I plan in detail. And I research. But I don’t consider the planning phase as “leading up to” writing: for me it simply IS writing. Building the story. I feel like the architect, designer and project manager. When I am ready, I’ll hire in the trades. My characters are my bricklayers and carpenters. Most importantly, at some point, I have to get the decorators and cleaners in: editors and proofreaders.
Why did you opt to self-publish rather than traditional?
Impatience. It’s true – I have grown so impatient over the years, especially in writing theatre. I have no problem with the writing taking a very long time, and indeed my biggest play to date, and To Die For both took a total of two-and-a-half years to write. but the concept of having worked so hard for so long on something I have invested so much in and then being made to sit and twiddle my thumbs waiting for someone else to give me the nod drove me mad. Plays would be held up with finding anyone willing to produce it. Novels or poetry sitting on agent’s and publisher’s shelves for months on end….wasn’t for me.
What advice would you give to writers contemplating self-publishing?
Don’t confuse publishing something yourself with it making writing any “easier”. The skill, craft, and the commitment should still be there. It is quite common to hear people say that “everyone has a book in them.” I don’t believe that any more than saying “everyone could be an orchestral violinist.” Writing to fulfil a basic task, or undertake your work, or everyday life, is simply not the same as the hard work it takes to craft a finely tuned poem, or a skilfully written novel. Being prepared to listen is essential. Always being open to learning – and expect to need other people along the way.
Self-Publishing is not about cutting corners: great books need great editors, proofreaders, designers and so on, all in addition to them being written well by a good writer in the first place. But as a self-publisher you take control of the timeline you work to. You are the project manager. I think there is also an exciting paradox that self-publishing requires you to interact more with fellow authors and share experiences. One self-publisher might be an expert proofreader, another might be a dab hand at design work. Lots of mutual backscratching is all part of the game. But again – it’s on your own terms, and that is what makes it exciting.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love music. I used to play and compose a lot more than I do these days – and I really should get back to that. Occasionally I go to the cinema or theatre, when something good is on. But by “good” I mean well-written. I enjoy cooking. I really enjoy eating the cooking, too.
Can you give our readers a taster of Ripples?
“Where do all the hours
What happened to life’s to-and-fro?
Ups and downs,
the joyous adventure
of a symphony of sounds,
comfort in silence
when none was around,
and now this.”
That’s an extract from a very personal poem. I share no context or background for any of the poems with the reader. If I told you where it came from it would become a mere moment of autobiography, but I believe the poetry, and sharing language and meaning is more fascinating than me. (Why stare at a single ripple when you could swim in the sea?)
Where can our readers buy a copy of Ripples and To Die For?
Ripples and To Die For are both available from Amazon. You can also order special copies from my website which can be signed and shipped with the UK.
To Die For: ebook and paperback
Ripples: ebook and paperback
I think you’ll agree that Colin’s offered some excellent answers and plenty of advice for budding writers or those contemplating self-publishing. Thank you for joining me, Colin. It’s been a delight to have you here.
Where can you find Colin?