Name Marie Marshall
Where are you from?
Close to Dundee, Scotland.
A little about your self, i.e. your education, family life etc.
I was born in England. I now live in Scotland where my family and ancestors are from. I had an unremarkable education, have an unremarkable university degree and an unremarkable job. I identify as gay but have a stable and long-term opposite gender partnership which is comfortable and supportive. Other than that I guess I like to keep my private life… well… private.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Nothing much is happening at present. I have a novel waiting to be published, but the publisher, which was essentially a husband-and-wife partnership, suffered a tragic and traumatic setback from which I don’t think the publishing house will recover.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I was in my late forties someone introduced me to a site on which people could share erotic fiction – basically home-made porn – and I thought I could do better. So I started to write the stuff myself, and lo and behold I could. When I had an idea for a story that included nothing sexy beyond a kiss, I realised I cared more about a story than the erotic element, so I just concentrated on mainstream fiction from then on.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
About that time, I guess. I think my first milestone was when somebody gave me an idea for a short story and I sat down to write it there and then. And within a couple of months it was one of the winners in a competition for macabre tales at a literary festival in Scotland. That’s when I knew that ‘being a writer’ wasn’t just in my own mind. Since then I have been a winner in the same competition several times.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Well, again it was an idea someone else gave me – this is a recurring theme with me. It was a couple of years or so after the movie Gladiator came out, and sword-and-sandal stuff started to become popular, and at roughly the same time a grave was found – in London, I believe – that may have been the burial site of a female gladiator. The wife of a friend said to me, “You should write a story about a female gladiator.” Well, Lupa ended up being half about a female gladiator. I didn’t want to make something that was a conventional sword-and-sandal book, full of clichés, full of Russell Crowe and Kirk Douglas and soldiers strutting round like Nazi stormtroopers.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Overall yes. Overall I think my poetry informs my prose style – I think my poetry output exceeds my fiction writing anyway. But back when I was writing Lupa, not so much.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Very simply. It’s a single word in Latin, a name. It means ‘she-wolf’, and it seemed to fit.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. People see only what they want to see.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Most of Lupa is based on one part historical research to one part imagination. Two things are pertinent to myself, though. Firstly gladiatorial training is based on my experience of martial arts training when I was a young woman. Secondly feeling the effect of a deep depression is there in the book – that’s real.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I don’t have a mentor as such and I try not to be directly influenced by any other writer. Some books made me think very deeply. Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath for instance, or Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, The Women’s Room by Marilyn French, Granny made me an Anarchist by Stuart Christie. But they’re not works I would try to emulate. I guess I might feel the gravitational pull of Isabel Allende and Angela Carter a little when it comes to writing.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest, and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
As regards new authors, or fairly new anyway, I have a lot of time for Samuel Snoek-Brown. His short stories are almost modernist in the way that they portray a slice of life, but they are visceral and full of twists. He has written a novel called Hagridden, which is a kind of reworking of the Japanese movie Onibaba, set in the Louisiana Bayous as the American Civil War drifts into chaos. I don’t currently have one favourite author, but I’m currently reading Patricia Highsmith, Anne Tyler, and Cormac McCarthy – yes he’s the odd one out, very sparse, very violent, and very male.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I’m not going to go all metaphysical on you here. There’s a woman I have known for some time mainly on line. She has always believed in me as a writer. If she reads this, she knows who she is and how I feel.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
As in careering uncontrollably down a steep slope, yep, you bet.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My latest book, the one I’m waiting to have published, no, I wouldn’t change anything about story arc, characters, setting, nada.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think I’ve already answered that one.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My current work? Well, I continue to write poetry of course. I have one novel on my shelf which I must come back to at some stage. It’s working title is The Deptford Bear. It’s set somewhere in the late nineteenth century in London. Its protagonist – its ‘voice’ – is a woman who apparently lost her memory after an assault when she was a girl, was found lying on a grave, and was brought up in a brothel. She is an amnesiac, apparently, and has had to learn how to relate to the world all over again. She becomes a mountebank spiritualist, a friend of the London underworld and its petty criminals, and soon comes to the attention of a Detective Inspector in the Police. Ostensibly she helps him in the solving of a series of gruesome crimes, but he suspects that she is behind them for reasons I won’t go into. Her mode of expression is very strange, and her dreams and waking visions populate London with strange folkloric characters, seem to have details from the whole of the nineteenth century, and are haunted in particular by one great character covered from head to foot in twigs – the eponymous ‘Deptford Bear’.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, doing it at all. I’m a mess!
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, I’m pretty much agoraphobic, so I don’t get out much at all.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Well the design for Lupa was done by someone at Aludar8.com, which is basically a South African site catering for computer gaming. The covers for The Everywhen Angels and From My Cold Undead Hand were done by a brilliant Canadian artist by the name of Millie Ho. The artwork for my first collection of poetry, Naked in the Sea, was done by an Italian artist called Marcello Minnia. The graphic for my second collection of poems, I am not a fish, was just something I picked up on line and the publishers added lettering and mocked up the cover from it. But basically my cover artists have been quite an international bunch.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Look, I’m carrying all kinds of demons around with me, and they throw spokes and ball-bearings wherever I’m about to tread, so if I hit a difficulty when I’m writing it’s hard to know whether that’s a writing difficulty or just a common-or-garden demon.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your first book and what was it?
Yes. That I could do it!
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
Difficult to say. Most of my protagonists are young, so if I picked someone now, then by the time the movie was made they would have grown up!
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes. Ignore all the advice you’ve heard so far! Including this piece.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I think if you’re talking about non-writing readers, then I would remind them never to forget their special place in the creation of a written work. Once I have written something I step away from it. My writing it becomes merely an event in history. They are now the co-creators of the work’s meaning, and their creativity will go on and on and eventually make mine minuscule.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Not a thing!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first book I remember reading was called The Blue Case, but I can’t remember who wrote it.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Jonathan Pie makes me howl with laughter. Mind you, his language is blistering. Basically his comic persona is that of a roving TV reporter, but what we see in his short clips are off-camera rants, directed at his supposed producer, in which he expresses anger, despair, and contempt about people and trends in political life. Also the Marx Brothers’ mirror scene from Duck Soup. Bach’s St Matthew Passion moves me to tears. The state of the world and the rise of the Right makes me fighting mad.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
There are so many – from Jesus to Durruti – but I guess if only I could have met Emily Dickinson, taken her hand, and led her out for a walk in the countryside around Amherst. Maybe we could have helped each other with our agoraphobia.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“The other way round, you idiots!”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Going for a run in the nearby woods when there’s no one else around.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I chill out to well-acted, hard-hitting drama, whether from the UK, the US or elsewhere. I loved the Swedish/Danish drama Broen (The Bridge), fell in love with Sofia Helin’s character Saga Norén. I like Line of Duty, Broadchurch, No Offence, and Homeland. I like weird stuff like The Preacher, and I’ve been watching Dr. Who since I was a kid. I like anything by the Coen brothers. I’ll watch anything with Olivia Coleman or Anna Maxwell Martin in it, for purely base reasons.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Pasta, vanilla ice-cream, raspberries. Blue, black. Just about anything.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have liked to have been a painter.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have several irons in the virtual fire, such as:
My main web site https://mairibheag.com/
My regular poetry blog https://kvennarad.wordpress.com/
My occasional poems written for New Orleans Mardi Gras ‘parade throws’ spacewalk101.wordpress. com
My 2010 and onward experiment with ‘Lithopoesis’ https://lithopoesis.wordpress.com/
My occasional blog on humour/satire/politics https://ladywotwrites.wordpress.com/
My Amazon page https://www.amazon.com/Marie-Marshall/e/B0042G7D4Y
My Twitter ID @MairibheagM
My Facebook page Marie Marshall – writer and poet