Friday, 2 May 2014

Reasons She Writes: an interview with Deborah Kay Davies

Photo: Jeff Moreau

Deborah Kay Davies is an award-winning author from Cardiff. I've just finished reading her latest book Reasons She Goes to the Woods, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Bailey's Women's Prize. Thanks to Digital Dementia, my attention span is shot, so I've been trying to spend more time offline. I loved the structure of Reasons She Goes to the Woods, its succinct, page-long vignettes of elegant prose. 'I'm going to sound like a complete twat,' she tells me,' But I wanted it to be like illuminated letters. I wanted the pieces to stand out and be vivid about nature. When you're a child you're little and down there with the dandelions, it's incredible fun.' Was it easy to adapt to a new writing structure? 'It was a bit of a struggle to start with but after a while I was automatically writing and not thinking about the word count.' Not that I'm comparing myself to an award-winning author but this feels similar to my experience of blogging. 'Your mind gets used to something and cuts out the superfluous stuff. I was able to leap over the stuff I found boring. Now I'm a bit worried I won't be able to write anything longer.' Sound familiar?

Lionel Shriver named Davies' debut work of fiction her book of the year - and there's a hint of We Need To Talk About Kevin around the story of Pearl, a young girl, growing up with a mentally unstable mother. Her cruel behaviour over the years towards family and friends unfolds very subtly, Reasons She Goes to the Woods is not a comfortable read but it is beautifully written.

Photo via Dinefwr Literature Festival

After a stint as an amateur teenage poet, 'I was wandering around the fields where I lived in a maxi dress at 15, writing really drippy poetry, but when I started going out with boys it stopped,' Davies  went on to marry and have two kids. Then at the age of 35, registered for a Creative Writing degree - followed by an MA and a PhD - at Cardiff University. 'I started writing poetry, and it was there, huge amounts of material. I started getting published right away. It was a whole new world opening up before me,' she says, sounding surprised. 'It seems like a complete fluke, that I started writing. I could easily not have discovered it. If I hadn't I probably would've ended up in a loony bin. or something. I'm quite a depressive. Now I can step outside myself, I feel quite lucky.' By 2009, Davies' much-lauded debut book of short stories Grace, Tamar and Laszlo the Beautiful had been awarded Welsh book of the year. And her harrowing debut novel True Things About Me was Mr That's Not My Age's Book of the Year 2010.

About to start writing again after a six-month hiatus, Davies describes her routine, 'I don't get up early, ever. If I'm into something I'll spend four hours solid writing at the computer in my pyjamas. I don't even clean my teeth. I feel like a complete troll, like I've got bits of old Quavers stuck in my hair.' that could've been a quote from yours truly. 'But it's not necessary for me to look like someone out of The Devil Wears Prada.' As I've met this award-winning author several times, the conversation turns invariably towards fashion and age, 'Mother says I've always been vain. But fashion is such fun, clothes have always been important - but never as important as now. I feel more and more confident, willing to try more stuff. I know some people feel invisible  - and I'm not fighting that  - but right now, is a great time. Everyone can do what they like - I love it when I see a woman who looks interesting and has put an outfit together with thought and elan. Now that's something worth celebrating.'


Young at Heart said...

This sounds fabulously interesting.....have Beautiful Ruins by the bed and am itching to read it but have promised myself must finish biog of D H Lawrence I've started..... but not finished....first!!

Patti said...

She's on my list. I just finished We Need To Talk About Kevin and can't shake it from my thoughts.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

I am going to add her to my summer reading list. You have peaked my interest!

materfamilias said...

Just what I need -- another book on my TBR list! But you've made such a convincing recommendation, I know I can't resist. Thanks. Really.

Josephine Chicatanyage said...

Sounds like a good read. I might give it a try.

Val S said...

Must remember that name, or come back here when I forget it. I could do with some serious women's writing. I've read Ann Patchett talking about her compulsion to write, so it's interesting to hear about someone getting started fairly late, sort of by accident.