with Jane Dougherty:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Jane: I’ve always written since I learned to write. We were encouraged at school and I never doubted that I could. Influences at that age—the world, the moon, family, just about everything.
Q2: Who are some of your biggest influences today?
Jane: In poetry my tastes don’t change—W.B. Yeats for the words, Walter de la Mare for the rhythms. For prose, if I could write like Natalia Ginzburg, I’d be thrilled.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art?
Jane: I grew up in Yorkshire in a tight knit Irish community, surrounded by family, books, music and art. My mother was an artist who taught for a living, her father had been a coal miner who wrote poetry and a memoire, and my father was a poet and a factory worker. Everything about my childhood has influenced the way I look at things, my attitude towards family, roots, and culture. I was a child and grandchild of immigrants, and the feeling of being unwelcome in somebody else’s country is something else I grew up with.
Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe?
Jane: We used to travel a lot. My parents thought it was important. We did an awful lot of art galleries and museums across Europe, but going back to Ireland was important, and staying with friends of my mother’s in Rome. Italy felt like a second home, and I dreamed of going to live there. Visiting different countries gave me a love of language and it taught me that the small corner where I lived was not the hub of the universe. Perhaps the immigrant background helped too, but I never felt intimidated at the idea of living in a ‘foreign’ country, and as soon as I left university, I left England and came to live in France. It was France or Italy and France won.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Jane: I don’t think any of it is meaningful. Each novel I finish I feel pretty proud of until I write another and realise it isn’t so great after all. I’m probably prouder of my poems than my novels which are never as good as I’d like them to be. Some of the poems, like the ones I wrote about my maternal grandmother, mean a lot to me.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Jane: Maybe when I was taken to one side by the area manager of my first job in the wine trade and asked what it was I really want to do. I said I wanted to write. Being Irish himself he thought that was a perfectly reasonable reply.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Jane: I read a lot, and I walk. I love gardens but I’m not up to the physical work so I have more of a supervisory role. Learning about the nature that surrounds me is a full-time activity and I’m getting pretty good at identifying animal turds and bird songs.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Jane: I have a couple of poetry pamphlets available, self-published. I’ve never approached a publisher since I’m quite capable of getting the layout right and producing a cover that suits me. I’m not very good about promotion. This is about as aggressive as I get.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
That’s a difficult one, to pick out one line. This is the end of a poem called Waking to an ending. Is it a favourite? Hard to say. I like it, anyway.
“Our time together unravels, a frayed dream,
and I follow its drifting wisps, hoping at least
to find they line some blackbird’s nest.”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Jane: A couple of good and very patient writer friends have read my novels and made criticisms and suggestions that have made them so much better. Friends like that are invaluable. One day, I hope to get something published. Nobody ‘helps’ me with my poetry. I just write it to my own satisfaction. Poetry is personal. Prose is for other people. A novel is like a canal; it has to be constrained between banks of various conventions otherwise nobody will read it. Poetry is a river; it comes from the gut, the heart and the bones. It is what it is.