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?
My name is Steven Fortune, I’m 40 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m from New Waterford, Nova Scotia, a small town on Cape Breton Island. I currently live up the road in Sydney.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I went to Acadia University where I got a BA in Literature and History. I also had stints as Editor-in-chief of the school’s creative arts journal, and News Editor of the school paper there. My parents were almost exclusively blue collar, which is in keeping with the Cape Breton lifestyle. My mother had some artistic tendencies; she read a lot and did needlepoint and things like that, but I was definitely the first in the family to take the artistic route in earnest.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’m currently promoting my fourth collection of poems, and first chapbook, titled The Gravity Of Ghosts, but I’ll be having a formal launch for my last full-length collection, Sentimental Drift, in April at the Sydney library to coincide with Poetry Month. I haven’t been given a firm date for it yet, but I’ll be sure to let everyone know when it happens.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
From the time I could write out a legible alphabet on paper, I was writing things down. Through elementary school, I was always writing down little diary entries and stuff, though I never actually kept them as it was just something to pass the time back then. By the time I got to high school I was keeping formal journals, which eventually evolved to poetry. I was always an introverted kid, and the lack of playmates left me with a lot of time to read. After several years of reading, I was hit with the notion that I would like to write my own material. The further I progressed in school, the more rigid the social structure became, and I was beginning to get a grasp of what loneliness was. That’s when a sense of creativity began to bloom.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote my first poem in 1997, titled A Coming-out Party. I still have the paper on which I wrote it. From that poem on, I considered myself a writer, though for many years it was only for myself. It would be quite a while before I was courageous enough to even tell anyone else I was writing, let alone circulate the writing.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I can’t remember exactly when I began putting a manuscript together. It was something I wanted to do for ages, but I never imagined anything would come of it. It was probably around 2009 or 2010 that I actually started to compile a group of poems that I thought were my best, though I’d still had a long way to go with my voice at that time. In 2012, I appeared for the first time in a literary journal, and that was when I began to feel my confidence in terms of getting my own book out.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My first book was titled A Waltz Around The Swirls. Ironically it came from a poem that has not been published to this day. It came from an appeal to a lady for a dance.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
With every poem I write, I try to incorporate one word that I’ve never used in a poem before. Of course, the more I write, the less manageable that practice becomes. In the last two or three years I’ve simplified things. I’m not as obsessed with less-fashionable words than I used to be. But a lot of my word choice has always come down to rhythm. I’m sure that’s a by-product of my influences: Shakespeare, the Romantics, and so on. Music is a big part of my life as well. I don’t actually play anything but I’ve written lyrics for songwriter friends in the past. I often find myself having to reach a compromise between the most appropriate word and the word that works best within the overall flow.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There’s always an element of autobiography in my writing. Lately I’ve been relying more on dreams for ideas. In addition to poetry I occasionally write little stories, postcard stories you could call them, and dreams offer great fodder for those. I haven’t been a prolific traveller in my life; I’ve never been outside of Canada, but I’ve seen much of own country. Because we’re a big country, there’s a great deal of diversity when it comes to cultures, landscapes, and so on, so I’ve been able to draw inspiration from the various places I’ve been and worked.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Not necessarily. In fact, most of my stuff comes to me after hours, either laying down before I fall asleep or after I’ve awoken from a dream. Wherever I’ve lived over the years, the vast majority of material I’ve written has come to me in my bedroom, though I also write in malls, coffee shops and places like that. I always have paper with me, wherever I go, just in case.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Three of my books were designed by my publisher, Melinda Cochrane, with photos taken by me. The artwork for Sentimental Drift was designed by Tommy Jonq.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Once I’ve settled on the group of poems that will comprise a collection, I always try to order them in a conceptual form. Most of my poetry is written in the first person, so I feel the need to tell a story beyond the stories that each individual poem tells. I’m predominantly an introspective writer, which is a delicate matter as I run the risk of having everything come off as autobiographical, which is not my desired outcome. Naturally there will be a bit of me in everything I write. After all, I was first driven to write creatively by the sense of social isolation I felt growing up. But there has to be a sense of mystery as well to make it universal and accessible to readers. If I can build a narrative framework from the various vignettes presented in the poems, it just adds a fresh and different dynamic.
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?
It’s so hard to pick just one. I suppose Shakespeare has had the biggest influence on me. Ever since I was first introduced to him in high school, I was fascinated. Drama and poetry were never connected fields in my mind until I read The Bard, and I was blown away by the fact that someone could merge the two so seamlessly. It probably had a big effect on the introspective tendencies that emerged from my own stuff. As for new authors, I haven’t really read anyone new lately as I’ve just been kind of leafing through my bookshelf and picking things out at random. But I have rediscovered some authors that I love but haven’t read in a while. Robertson Davies is a fine Canadian novelist; I never get tired of reading his books. Most of the ‘new’ writers I’m interested in are my friends from Facebook. I’ve gotten to meet many great unheralded poets on social media. This is where publishers should be looking for the next big thing.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Again, my online friends have been profoundly inspirational to me. Confidence has never been my strong suit, and I regularly find questioning my creative staying power, but they are always there to prop me up with their compliments. In turn, their writings inspire me and I learn new things and ways to write from them.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I always tell people that my dream is to be like Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s lyricist through all these years. I’d love to get into the music business, but I don’t possess the natural talent to play an instrument. I know because I’ve attempted to play many. I would love to find a songwriter or a band that is looking to collaborate with a lyricist. It’s something I feel that I could do. But even if writing never becomes the day job for me, I’ve already accomplished my dream of producing books with my name on the cover that are seriously read by many people. I’ll die content knowing that.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think. I devote a lot of time to choosing the poems that will go into each book, not to mention revising to the point where I’m comfortable with each one. And the best poems don’t necessarily make it into a book right away. That goes back to the endeavour to tell a story, and allow some kind of collective unconscious to grow from the collection of poems presented.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned that I didn’t have to lace the poems with exotic words to get a message across. The new chapbook represents a move to simplicity, and it seems to be going okay as I’ve gotten lots of great reviews for it. Now the next collection I write could see me going back to the exotic approach, you never know. Every book represents a snapshot of my mental state at the time that the majority of its poems were written. Who knows how I’ll feel as the year progresses and I begin to fill another notebook. I have to leave the exotic approach open because I don’t want to get hooked on one style, just because it brought me commercial success.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Liam Neeson. An online quiz told me I would look like him when I’m older.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
In times of writer’s block, practice your signature. If you move the pen long enough, an idea will come. Even if you consider it gibberish, it’s something to build on. I started doing this as a kid because I wanted to develop an autograph in the event that my burgeoning dream of becoming a writer ever came true. I still do it to this day, only now I’ll do it until something other than my name comes from the pen. I find that even if I’m writing nonsense, the feel of the pen in my hand keeps me going.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Poetry is often considered to be a heady form of literature, something you have to invest a lot of brainpower into in order to enjoy its full effect. I’ve never considered it to be like that. Poetry is an escape to me; it provides alternate ways of looking at things we consider automatic. For those of you who read my work, I simply invite you to enjoy the flow of the words rather than get caught up in the words as individual puzzle pieces. I do hope there is enough mystery of course to be accessible to everyone on different levels, but not at the expense of interpretive wrangling over why this word or that word was included. I would rather be enjoyed than studied.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Sometime in the next day or two I’ll begin The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. I enjoy the Beat writers very much, and have been compared to them many times, not so much in writing style but in atmospheric effect.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
My parents got me the Charlie Brown encyclopedia set around the time I was first able to read on my own. When company came over they would get me to read from it for them. Even back then I was aware of a discrepancy between a speaker and a talker, and the former was the one I was destined to be closer to.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
As a holder of depression and social anxiety, what makes me laugh on one day may make me cry the next. I say ‘holder’ because I hate saying I ‘suffer’ from them, even though I do sometimes.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
William Blake. He’s a fascinating guy.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Video games, walking, live music at a pub.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch a lot of TV. When I do, it’s documentaries or history shows predominantly. I also enjoy old cartoons though, Looney Toons and so on, and British comedy. That’s my comic relief.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Blue is my favourite colour. I’m a pretty fussy eater but Italian I enjoy for the most part. I’m all over the board musically, though I’m a rocker at heart, particularly the prog-rock of the 60s and 70s. That music was a big influence on my writing.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Go insane. Seriously, I would go insane if I couldn’t or didn’t write. I’m sure I’m not the only holder of that sentiment.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I’ll refer to the opening line of a poem of mine, titled Vanilla Boy: Defining me would be like spelling out a hundred-letter word.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
The easiest place to find me, and the best place to get all my updates is on Facebook. My personal page is https://www.facebook.com/steven.fortune.9822 and my author page is https://www.facebook.com/stevenfortunepoet . You can purchase all but one of my books on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Steven-Fortune/e/B00Q5LXMC6 . My second book, Hollow Weight, is available on https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=1409506 . You can also look me up on my publisher’s website: http://www.melindacochraneinternationalbooks.com/ , where I have a page and contribute blogs from time to time.