J.S. Watts writes fiction and poetry. 2012 brought the publication of a novel and a poetry sequence.
When did you first recognize yourself as a poet?
I’m not sure I really know the answer to this question. I started writing poetry at an early age (I can remember doing well in a poetry competition in junior school), but at the time I didn’t think of myself as a poet. Even when I was writing poetry as an adult, I don’t remember thinking of myself as a poet. Somewhere along the line, my poems started to get published in magazines and I suppose the word “poet” raised its head then, but I was more likely to describe myself as someone who wrote poetry, than a poet. Now, with two poetry books to my name, I guess I’d use the word “poet”, but I still tend to deflect it a little and refer to myself as a writer and poet. Why’s that? I think of poets as people like Keats, Plath, Hughes or Anne Sexton – people who are defined by their poetry and who devoted their lives to it. I don’t fall into that category, so labeling myself as a poet feels a trifle posy, but it’s what I am, I guess.
What draws you to speculative fiction?
I like to think that the fantasies we create mirror elements of ourselves back at us. It’s as if the act of creating original fantasy, producing something out of nothing, beginning with a totally blank page, and putting absolutely whatever we want on it, allows us to project ourselves, our humanity if you like, onto our brand new creation. I find that fascinating and enticing and the world of speculative fiction gives me plenty of scope to explore possibilities. It’s writing without boundaries: writing where anything is possible.
Is there a piece of writing advice you’ve never followed?
“Give up on trying to publish a novel if you’ve had more than thirty rejections”. I had a lot more than that, but the novel was published.
In the March 2011 issue of Niteblade contained your poem, “Lycanthropist”. Is there a backstory on how it came about?
As with many of my poems, there’s no one story. Rather it’s a case of lots of different things coming together to make a single thing. In the case of “Lycanthropist” there was my own fascination with the beauty of the full moon, a sleepless night or several, a less than happy love-life at the time and a passing observation that nine out of ten werewolves in films and books seemed to be men. I decided to even the balance of things. I also liked the idea of juxtaposing the wild passion of werewolf stories with the more mundane and domestic passions of a daily relationship.
What have you been working on lately?
Poetrywise, I have had a second publication out this year. My first poetry collection was “Cats and Other Myths” which explored fantasy and legend with modern eyes and looked at the modern world through the lens of fantasy. “Lycanthropist” came from that collection, which was published by Lapwing Publications. The second publication is “Songs of Steelyard Sue”, which is also published by Lapwing. It’s a pamphlet-length poetry sequence exploring the life and times of an eponymous, everyman character, “Steelyard Sue”. Sue just happens to be a robot living on a world turned junk-heap, so there is a strong SF feel to these poems. There have been some nice reviews of “Songs of Steelyard Sue”, so I’m feeling quite chuffed with it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with Niteblade’s readers?
2012 has been a busy year for me. I’ve had two new books published. The first was the SF poetry sequence, “Songs of Steelyard Sue”. The second was my first novel, “A Darker Moon” which has been published by Vagabondage Press. “A Darker Moon” weaves echoes of myth and legend with literary fiction and psychological mystery to create “a dark, psychological fantasy”.
The main story focuses on anti-hero Abe Finchley, who is struggling to come to terms with his own existential darkness, a strangely ragged memory and a revealed dark and violent family history that spans generations into humanity’s deepest past. Sometimes the blackness lies in what we remember, sometimes in what we cannot help but forget. The old myths and legends that “A Darker Moon” draws on, as well as its elements of original fantasy, illuminate Abe’s story, and maybe reflect a little bit of light back on ourselves. Or perhaps it’s the dark that is reflected back. I probably ought to point out that the promotional tag line to the book is: “A mythical tale of light and shadow and the unlit places where it is best not to shine even the dimmest light.”
Finally, I should probably do the time honoured thing and mention that I have both a Facebook page www.facebook.com/J.S.Watts.page and a website www.jswatts.co.uk , should anyone want to know more about anything.