Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Greetings! I’m Julie Travis and I’m 50 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
London. I spent 35 years there, first in the north-west of the city, then in the east, before moving to Cornwall in 2002.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
My education – such as it was! – was abysmal. Bullying was the order of the day, not only amongst the children but meted out by the teachers and even the dinner supervisors as well. Quite common in the late 1970s/early 80s. I passed a few exams but my main success was in surviving the experience.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Wapshott Press, based in Los Angeles, is publishing my second short story collection at some point this year. It’s called ‘We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth’ and will hopefully contain nine unpublished stories with an accidental theme – grief. I’ve also been asked to write a guest blog, something I’ve never done before, so I feel honoured. It’ll be about folklore and the landscape; two of my obsessions!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
In the early 1990s.I’d been bass player in a punk band for some years but suddenly stopped wanting to play music. I think it was a need to express myself in a different way and to do something far more solitary. My lifelong love of horrorwas not the most obvious direction for me to take – I knew something was missing – female protagonists, the Other. Reading Clive Barker’s ‘Books Of Blood’ inspired me and gave me delusions of being able to contribute something different to the genre.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when I first had a story accepted for a slipsteam magazine (R.E.M.). I’d had a couple of pieces published in fanzines but I didn’t know whether that was down to editor friends doing me a favour! The story in R.E.M. was a real piece of splatter, very naïve and very different to what I write now. It caused a real stir and nearly ruined my reputation before I’d really started, but I knew I’d never stop writing. It was just something I had to do by then.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
That’s a tricky one. Perhaps readers would have a more objective idea about my style than I do, but I certainly try to evoke a feeling of the fantastique that’s around us, despite how ordinary our lives appear to be. The horror genre – same as the rest of society – is still very male dominated/orientated and I think my main challenge is being heard. Ultimately I’d like to show people that humans are capable of far more than they realise – we’ve lost a lot of our abilities and knowledge over the last couple of thousand years.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Most of my stories are based on real events and real people. I’ve always suffered terrible nightmares and beautiful, superreal dreams. I count these as real events. My family has long since stopped reading my work as they find it too disturbing and upsetting! So I think they see the autobiographical side. But influences come from everywhere.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I don’t have to, but I have often worked while away from home. I suppose I make mental notes when I do travel, as these places usually turn up in stories at some point. Usually I sit in my little attic and play bizarre Avant-Garde or drone music on repeat to get myself into a changed headspace. As J G Ballard said – we have a Universe inside our skulls. Plenty of travelling available there, then!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My first collection – a single-author issue of the literary journal Storylandia (also published by Wapshott) – was a collaboration between myself and the editor, Ginger Mayerson. I gave her a number of photographs from my collection and she took one of them (of Highgate Cemetery) and turned it into the cover. I’ve submitted a few photographs for consideration for the new book, I won’t say any more at this point as nothing’s been finalised, but I hope one of them makes it onto the cover as they’re of a place that’s very special to me and is linked to most of the stories in one way or another.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I should read a lot more fiction than I do – I think I’m missing out on an awful lot of excellent contemporary horror/slipstream fiction – but one current writer I’m immensely impressed by is Priya Sharma. She tweaks the world and makes it extraordinary. Clive Barker was my favourite writer for many years for reasons previously mentioned, but I think Leonora Carrington or Janet Frame are up there now. They were both quite mad but managed to channel it in a creative way. Their art creates mirrors.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Several editors have been very supportive, but I have to name Ginger Mayerson here. She really gets what I’m doing and believes in me. To have that belief has made a huge difference. And she’s also incredibly professional and easy to work with.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No. A career implies some kind of structure. And payment! At the risk of sounding pretentious, it’s far more than that to me. Writing is my way of survival, I think. I get het up when people talk about fiction writing as a job. Some of us are tearing into our souls here…
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think so, although by the time it comes out, I might have different thoughts! But I worked in a much more disciplined way than usual – because I had something so solid to aim for – although of course I wish the theme wasn’t necessary.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
That I’m capable of a much higher workrate than I thought! And that I really do believe in everything I write about – the fantastic things, but also the monsters.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
If any of my stories were translated into a film, I’d want Tilda Swinton, probably – I saw her in Derek Jarman’s films many years ago and loved how ethereal she seemed. Or some of the actresses who regularly appear in Pedro Almodovar’s films. They’re all strong women.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Don’t be afraid to re-write, and possibly cut huge sections if necessary. I’ve hated deleting scenes or even sentences, but less really can be more. And leaving a story alone for a while, be it a week or longer, is essential, I think, before submitting it for publication. A semblance of objectivity seems to return once you’re not going over and over a manuscript.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I’m not quite as miserable as my stories would suggest!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished CoseyFanniTutti’s (COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle, Chris&Cosey) autobiography, ‘Art Sex Music’. She’s an amazing woman who’s survived some very tough times. Her attitude towards feminists was quite puzzling, though; she’s clearly a strong feminist. I wrote to her recently and she sent a very kind email back.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton was certainly the first book that made a big impression on me. To climb a tree and find a place of constantly changing worlds….and escaping from this one. I so wanted to find that tree.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
The news makes me cry but I’m determined to keep an eye on what’s going on in the world and try to make my little corner of it a bit better. Currently a video of two cats frantically messaging each other is making me laugh hysterically; I do have a stupid sense of humour.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Jhonn Balance – musician, magician, artist. He died in 2004 but I’ve been heavily influenced by his work (in the band Coil) since the early 1980s. He was a troubled, unhappy soul and a genuine genius. I would have loved to have interviewed him, but I was too shy to make contact.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I have obsessions – hanging around sacred sites (there are a lot of them here in the South West of the UK), bird watching – I feel a deep connection to birds, especially starlings.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Pan’s Labyrinth is my favourite film, but I’m also a big fan of Almodovar and some of Clive Barker’s films have been wonderful. As for tv, I love European and Scandinavian dramas. Spiral and The Killing are/were both amazing.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
You can’t beat a good coffee and homemade cake, in my opinion. I would have to say sky blue is my favourite colour; I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and I can feel my serotonin levels increase when I look at blue sky.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I can’t imagine not needing to write, although if I was living in a forest as a Wild Woman (always a possibility) then I might do less of it.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
An excerpt from a Spike Milligan poem: “There’s a lot to be said, for being Dead.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I’m easy to find: www.julietravis.wordpress.com.