Author Confessions: Alison Gray
Alison Gray received a New Writers Award for Fiction in 2014. In her late twenties, she studied to be a TEFL teacher and moved to Japan in 1999. Not wanting to leave, she worked hard at being allowed to stay, becoming a housewife, a mother, a teacher, a freelance writer and a campaigner for peace and justice issues. By 2011 she could hang in there no longer, so she left with her son and the first draft of her novel. Her first short story was published in Mslexia magazine in December 2013.
Alison is currently working on her novel which is set in present day Japan.
We interrupted Alison's busy writing schedule and asked her some Author Confessions questions.
Is there a book by someone else that you wish you’d written?
How long is this allowed to be? The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami, Faithless by Joyce Carol Oates, Swept Away by T.C. Boyle, Unless by Carol Shields and anything by David Almond.
What are your thoughts on schemes like NaNoWriMo?
I think it's brilliant. I did it once years ago and finished a draft of a novel. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could write a novel length story. I haven't done it in the past few years because I have been working on something that I didn't want to take a break from, but what I have done is to make November a 'writing month' by clearing my calendar as much as I can so that I can focus on my writing. I have a friend who took two weeks off work last November to work on a NaNoWriMo short story. It's a great way to kickstart a writing habit.
What’s your writing snack of choice?
If I'm feeling all Japanesey, it is green tea and yokan, a jellied bean sweet. When there is no yokan in the cupboard, it is a cup of regular tea and an empire biscuit.
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve received?
That writing can't be taught; it is inspiration not craft.
How do you react to negative feedback?
Most feedback I have received has come from friends who also write. I find that they tend to be happier giving positive feedback, so when they say something negative, I know that they mean it and that I need to pay attention.
When friends say something negative, I know that they mean it and that I need to pay attention
What is your honest daily writing routine?
I get up as early as I can because I work better in the morning. I go to my desk, before my head has started talking to me, and hope that it won't notice what I am doing till I have something down and am going somewhere with it. It doesn't always happen. Email and Facebook kill this, so I try to avoid them till I am well into my day. Recently though I have been having political dreams – last night Alex Salmond and I had a frank and useful conversation – so I woke up with a head full of referendum pros and cons.
What is your common procrastination downfall?
I have two that almost always work. First, 'I work in the morning, that is who I am!' and second, 'I can't do anything in an hour! I might as well sort those dishes.'
Which writer(s) would you most like to invite to a dinner party?
I would invite Matsuo Basho and Seamus Heaney. I write prose but I love poetry.
What honest piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Take your bottom to the chair at your desk and write.