1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)
I’m on a journey to become as weird as David Lynch. I’d say I’m about 3% of the way there, so this may take a while. Most of what I write – my columns, my poems, by books – are about being yourself and accepting your weirdness. Some of us are more capable than others, because being yourself is an extremely brave act. Weirdness is feared intensely in the world, often by insecure people.
My first book The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is about being completely, unapologetically yourself and not worrying what people think. I try not to be cliched about mental health. In the book, the main character Elodie-Rose deals with a constant buzzing and whirring in her brain whenever she decides to give zero fucks for something the day has thrown her way; like bullying or sexual harassment or even being told she’s too loud in debating class. Eventually, when she decides to live life as she chooses, the whirring stops. And in my upcoming poetry book, House of Weeds, every character has been labelled an outcast by society. The poems are about rebelling against norms and embracing your strange. Making peace with it.
I’ve been influenced by the oddest, most magical content: Jim Henson, Roald Dahl, The Mighty Boosh, The Worst Witch, horoscopes, Ella Frears, Anne Carson and Michael Rosen. There will always be a dark humour in my work, because I believe even the saddest, most terrifying situations need laughter.
2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?
Every single waking second of every day I spend working, with my laptop open. It’s ruining my eyesight. And I live on Twitter, despite how angry it makes me. I write a lot of comment pieces on the themes of my books and have a regular column for a magazine called Shots, which is designed for the creative community. I’m known as outspoken, which is weird in and of itself, because I only talk about what I believe. In the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson talks about how we’re cultivating a society where only the bland will thrive. I try and remember that when I write.
3, What projects are you working on at present?
House of Weeds, published by Fly on the Wall Press, is coming out on 17th May. As soon as the world is back to normal and it’s appropriate to do so, me and the book’s illustrator Jack Wallington are staging an immersive exhibition in Peckham, so you can go straight to the scene of the book, and live like its characters. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m also writing an audio sitcom and am in the final stages of a novel about the dark, exploitative side of the volunteering industry, set in Kenya.
4, What does poetry mean to you?
I struggle with the inaccessibility of poetry, sometimes. So many regular people simply feel they “don’t get it.” What a tragedy! I don’t want poetry to be a secret club, for English grads from redbrick universities who use the same words and voices. It defeats the object of the world being gifted this unrivalled art form that allows people to rip out a piece of their ridiculous brains and throw it on a page to see what happens. When I started writing poetry I was stunned at how much I could get away with, how much I was able to speak my mind, but do it beautifully, with wit and surprise. Poetry is therapy, genuinely. It’s becoming more accessible over time, and when my friends say to me “I don’t get it” it makes me sad, because they don’t realise that all you have to do is try.