Five Minute Interview with Sally St Clair
Sally St Clair’s stories have been published in Stand and Panurge. Her poems have been published in various anthologies including Beautiful Dragons, and The Raving Beauties Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe). She has had a prize winning poem in the Arvon International Poetry Competition. She has been shortlisted for short stories (amongst others the BBC Short Stories competition and the Bridport Prize) and poems (Mslexia) and appeared on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour discussing her contribution to The Death of a Mother in 1994. She is currently working on a collection of poems, as well as a novel about the nature of ambition.
In 2012 she won the Wasafiri New Writing Prize for Poetry.
What are you reading right now?
I want to get to know the soul of my new country – I have just moved to Spain, to the Alpujarras. So I’m reading For Whom the Bell Tolls I read this when I was at school but it was too early. I was too young. And I just finished The Girls by Emma Cline. I don’t remember the last time an author confronted me with my own adolescent feelings so embarrassingly. Those all consuming longings to be desired, and to desire, and to fit in to a future of my own choosing.
Where do you write?
Anywhere, but first, in my head.
Does travelling inspire your writing?
Yes. When I look back at my writing I see I’ve travelled a lot in my imagination. Now, here in Spain I hope to travel more in reality so we shall see how this inspires me.
Paper and pen or laptop?
Paper & pen. Though as I get older and my fingers and hands more achy I am beginning to prefer a computer. But I wonder what I’m losing as I edit and make changes. Which on paper, I can see.
What was the first book you read that made a difference?
Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders at age 15. It was in the school library, thank god. I was brought up in a very strict religious cult (Exclusive Brethren) and this was a validation of what I already felt, that my mind, that precious part of me that I valued so highly, could be manipulated. And then, who would I be? Would I still be me? And now, the books which make a difference are those that allow me to see more of me.
What one book would you take to a desert island?
Remembrance of Times Past because after nearly sixty years of being a reader I am ashamed to say, I still haven’t read it.
Surely, there on my desert island I would have to do so. I would want something so long that by the time I’ve got to the end I could start again at the beginning. One of the advantages of ageing and not remembering recently read books in detail is that there is the pleasure of reading them anew. But I would miss reading poetry . . . so can I have two books? Crow by Ted Hughes (it’s not very big)
Which new author should the world be reading?
Anyone who can tell us how to deal with Trump.
What book or books are you most looking forward to reading next?
I’m looking forward to rereading The God of Small Things and I can’t wait to get my hands on Sebastian Barry’s new book, Days Without End. I really must get to grips with my birthday Kindle. Oh, and I read a review of The Widow by Fiona Barton which stuck in my mind, so that’s another ‘can’t wait’.
What role does Wasafiri play in international contemporary literature?
I feel Wasafiri opens doors. And these days, opening doors is a moral imperative. I want to be introduced to new voices from the whole world, not just my familial culture.