Writer Interviews is a series of interviews from writers aiming to inspire and inform young D/deaf and emerging writers. Writers can learn a lot from each other, by sharing their ideas and resources.
Emily is a professional actress, writer and presenter who plays both Deaf and hearing roles. She writes regularly for The Limping Chicken, and has recently survived a stint as acting-editor, whilst Charlie went on holiday.
Tell me about yourself.
I was born and bred in Derbyshire, although I’ve shifted about a lot over the years, I’ve now pretty much returned to my roots, except for work. ‘Work’ being the various acting, teaching, training, writing and other assorted roles that seem to come my way (a fact I am very happy about!). Sometimes, particularly (surprisingly) with writing, the work part can get a bit too much so I mess about with my horses and dogs until the moment has passed.
What kind of writing do you do?
I can write to order, which has been very useful from a financial point of view. I write journalistic reports and research summaries, or subjective articles. In my own time I write short stories, novels that never go anywhere and poetry. I also write plays and poetry for different companies or theatre groups whenever they ask.
How did you get started writing? What or who inspired you to start?
My uncle is a well-known author and from an early age that impressed me more than it should. I’ve always loved words and writing; I think the love I had for reading naturally turned into writing. I am also incredibly nosey at times, and the observation of people is a big point in a lot of my work.
What has been the biggest obstacle for you?
Really, I am my own worst enemy. When I am being paid to write, I can do it to the timescale perfectly, but I won’t apply the same rules to my own work (e.g. all these unfinished novels!). I also lose faith in my own ideas far too easily, or become distracted by a new thought. It is a discipline I should master, but then again I enjoy the freedom of not having constraints on my own ideas. But it means when I shuffle off this mortal coil someone is going to look at all my half-works and think… ‘What the…..’
Do you write full time or do you have a day job?
I don’t write full time, partly because I think my head would explode and also because I need a more comfy chair. Backache is not conductive to literary genius… I have lots of other jobs, such as teaching and acting work when it arises, and I am also starting a new business project.
How do you network?
Fortunately, a lot of my other work is within the arts and the open community there means networking in one area generally spreads across into others. I’m not very good at networking because I always get more drawn into what the other people are doing!
What inspires you? How do you find inspiration or ideas?
I don’t know if anyone can answer that definitively, but I know most of my ideas come just when I’m drifting off to sleep. I’m sure the novels that would make me a millionaire have popped in and been lost in snoozes.
How has your deaf identity helped your writing?
It has definitely given me a broader perspective; as I have been a large part of both the Deaf and hearing communities, I can look at both sides of culture arguments. This developed my skills at writing objectively about anything, although I much prefer to write my own viewpoint sometimes it pays to be able to switch sides for the sake of the piece. Also, I can write anywhere, even if there are children screeching (!). In terms of content, the open-minded and observant attitude you have to have as a Deaf person helps very much with making characters believable.
What does a typical writing day look like to you? Do you have habits or a routine?
When I have work that must be completed I always begin at the same time and generally keep going until it is completed. With my own work it varies although I try to do at least two hours a day. However, I don’t consider a ‘writing day’ to be only writing – those two hours might be reading, researching or staring into space trying to think of the perfect opening line…
Do you have a special memory connected to writing?
I have lots, but one that stands out is winning a prize for poetry at school, expecting to get beaten up for it and actually getting massive respect from the whole form. The huge bucket of sweets I won might have had something to do with it, but I prefer to think I enlightened them all…
If you could interview anyone, who would it be?
Ooh, there’s so many. I love interviewing anyone, because I find people ridiculously interesting. But I do have endless wishes; Ian McKellan, Robert Winston, David Attenborough, Stephen Hawking… fortunately other people have often interviewed them so I can at least pretend I know what they would say. Oh, and Hugh Jackman, but that’s probably not so much his personality…
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Making myself sit and get on with it when it isn’t flowing.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
Being able to give my slightly odd ideas free rein and seeing them turn into things that other people can enjoy, or be disturbed by at least.
What advice would you give to an emerging deaf writer or young writer?
Don’t expect your work to make you millions, but still dream that it will. Be prepared to take criticism where it is due, but don’t accept other people’s opinions as rote – writing is a very, very subjective thing and one person’s toilet roll is another person’s artwork.
What do you consider the most important piece of advice you’ve received?
“It doesn’t matter.” 99.9% of the things people worry about, in writing and in general life, just don’t matter. Not really. Let it go and focus on the things that do. Don’t waste energy on negativity, just learn and move on.
What is next for you? What are you looking forward to in the future?
I am still dreaming of making my millions, though not expecting to. In the meantime, I will be looking forward to spending the winter months at home in Derby, writing, teaching and messing about with horses before next year when everything will go a bit crazy again.
How can we contact you?
Email: e.howlett at ntlworld dot com