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Julia Darling Interview

Writewords talks to novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenwriter and poet Julia Darling, whose recent novel The Taxi Driverís Daughter was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2003. She has a new collection of poetry out now, Sudden Collapses in Public Places.

I started off as a poet with the Poetry Virgins , a troupe of female performing poets (Sauce, Modern Goddess) which led to writing plays. Then I dived off to write short stories (Bloodlines) and an agent suggested I wrote a novel (Crocodile Soup). Since then I have written in all forms, publishing a new novel and a collection of poems this year (Taxi Driver's Daughter and Sudden Collapses In Public Places.) I am a happy recipient of The Northern Rock Award, which provides me with an income for three years, so that I can concentrate on my work.

As a child, I was always interested in words, and have written poetry since I was little. I had lovely English teachers too. I started with poetry in terms of trying to get published, and The Poetry Virgins were a great, immediate outlet for poems. It took me ages to describe myself as a writer in public though!

My favourite writers are people who push at the boundaries of fiction, drama and poetry ....writers like Jackie Kay, Lorrie Moore, Kathleen Jamie, Ali Smith. I like a good story too and Sarah Waters, Rose Tremain and Michael Faber are three of my favourite novelists. I love Anne Tyler and Carol Shields too. I read all the time, and I am constantly finding writers whose work I love.

I was scared, and broken hearted when I got rejected, but I laboured on. Having the Poetry Virgins was good as you could see immediately if poetry worked in front of an audience.

My breakthrough was winning a short story competition called the Tyne Tees Put It In Writing Award. I won a thousand pounds, which was heaps of money then (1992)

I handle rejection by feeling angry and hurt for about a day, then forgetting about it. I am not someone who dwells.

Short story writing is very different to novels. More like poetry. It is all about containing energy, whereas novels are big structural nightmares. I write stories in bursts, often working on draft after draft. Novels are more like regular exercise, a thing you laboriously do everyday.

What excites me about writing? Making connections between ideas. Also the sheer joy of playing with the music of language.

The worst thing is feeling bored, and guilty that you aren't working hard enough.

The best thing about writing? you can create your own world....it's an escape from reality. Also it's a way of commenting on things. I think it's a great privilege to earn one's living from writing, and all I have ever wanted to do.

Readers are often very supportive and point out things in my own work that I hadn't necessarily picked up on. Happily readers seem to enjoy my work, but those are only the ones I speak to! My editor, Mary Mount at Penguin is very astute and a wonderful ally.

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