Joanna Walsh

How did you become a writer? 

I tried not to write for a long time: I didn't want to take a position of 'authority' in any way. I was talking to Claire-Louise Bennett recently, and she said she'd treasured her period writing as an 'amateur' before the publication of her first book. I've been thinking about that a lot, and wondering whether it's possible to re-gain that amateurism... or whether it's as hopeless as trying to regain your virginity.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). 

I did an undergrad degree in English Literature, but it wasn't until I started reading books in translation (and in French, which I started off by teaching myself) that I saw work that made me want to write. I love the work of, amongst many others, Marguerite Duras, Georges Perec, Clarice Lispector, Leonora Carrington, Elfriede Jelinek...

I love prose written by poets: Anne Carson, Anne Boyer, Vahni Capildeo, Eley Williams.... I also like reading theory/philosophy etc. There are writers I come back to again and again as triggers for my work: Freud, Heidegger, Breton, Wittgenstein...

When and where do you write? 

I have a deliberately tiny desk — a shelf set into an old chimney nook. It only just fits my laptop so I have no option but to keep it clear. It faces onto a wall that's painted black. I work there when I want to concentrate on a set task. A lot of my work is done by stealth tho, so it's necessary that I work in places that are not my desk, so I can fool myself about what I'm doing. I sometimes work at my kitchen table, and sometimes in bed. 

What are you working on now? 

I'm editing a book of essays I've commissioned for gorse editions: writers writing on their influences. I'm correcting the proof of my next book, Break.upI'm working on a PhD about wordplay in Cyberfeminism, I'm occasionally writing a short story, or a piece of journalism. 

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

No, possibly because I don't ever really set out to write anything in particular: I play around with words and ideas and it's only when they build up and take some shape that I decide what form they might take. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received? 

I honestly can't remember any. If I see work I like, I get a lot of fun out of trying to strip it down like a car engine, to see if I can find out how it works. The 'advice' I've got from writers is what I can elicit from their writing.

What’s your advice to new writers? 

I'd love to see more people ignoring the conventions of plot, character and genre. These are not the only ways to do things. I guess my advice is: define carefully what makes you uncomfortable, and dwell in that difficulty. Find ways to enjoy it. Note that this is writing advice, not advice on how to get published.

Joanna Walsh's latest book is Worlds From The Word's End, published by And Other Stories. In 2018 Break.up will be published by Semiotext(e) and Tuskar Rock. Her writing has appeared in many journals and anthologies including Granta Magazine, and The Dalkey Archive's Best European Fiction. She was awarded the UK Arts Foundation 2017 Fellowship for Literature. She edits at online literary journals 3:AM Magazine and, writes literary and cultural criticism for an number of publications including The Times Literary Supplement and The Guardian, and runs @read_women.