with Courtenay S. Gray
Author bio: Courtenay S. Gray is a writer from the North of England. She has been featured in publications such as Maudlin House, Daily Drunk Mag and Red Fez. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize (2020). Courtenay was a runner up for the 2021 Literary Lancashire Award in Poetry. She also has a poetry collection (Strawberry) out with Alien Buddha Press and is working on publishing another collection called Archie.
Social Media: Twitter – @courtenaywrites
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences and biggest influences currently?
Courtenay: I started writing when I was four years old. My main priority was short stories that would be classed as flash fiction, but I wasn’t aware of it then. I can’t define my first influences because books, in general, helped propel me into the literary scene. However, I can talk about my current favourites. I am a big believer in individuality, so I don’t tend to have role models. I am particularly fond of Nabokov’s style of prose. He is a master of lyrical writing, which is something I enjoy. I’m not a writer who is critical of the contents of books. I’d much rather be supportive and let people do their own thing. There isn’t one way to write. I love philosophical writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Courtenay: I usually tell people that writing is innate for me. I was indeed born with this gift, and I cannot imagine doing anything else. I come from a family of logical businessmen and women, so I didn’t have a familial influence concerning literature. All I know is that my childhood goal was to see a book that I wrote on the shelves in all major bookshops. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s still a dream of mine. I feel almost like a character from the Sims. I was given the desire to write when they were creating me.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?
Courtenay: I am incredibly independent, so I ultimately helped myself. My father once described reading books as training. I am inclined to agree with him. By constantly reading, I had my eyes opened to different styles of writing and a vast vocabulary. I pride myself on doing things alone. I won’t ask for help unless it is necessary. If you have myriads of people moonlighting as teachers, you lose your sense of individuality.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Courtenay: I grew up in a small town in the North of England. I have not written a single word about where I live because not a lot goes on there. If anything, I wrote about the things I experienced whilst residing there, rather than about the place itself.
I have been fortunate enough to travel to places such as; Malta, France, Italy, Spain, the USA, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, and Canada. I can attest to the fact those places have inspired my writing. On the last day of a trip to New York, we were sat in a restaurant. My cousin had spent the entire holiday rewriting a novel, so I was inspired to write one. We walked through the packed streets of NYC looking for a Barnes and Noble. I bought a novel-writing book, and the waiter at this restaurant saw it. “I hope you have a lovely day, and good luck with the novel.“
I’ve only been to Paris once, and I was three years old at the time, so I don’t remember it. The literary scene of Paris enamours me, and I hope to check it out at some point. I vow to visit the Parisian cafe’s where the existentialists hung out. I have an unusual knack for writing about places I haven’t been but heard and read lots about. There is so much to be said for immersing yourself in other cultures. It not only broadens your perspective, but it reignites that magic spark you have as a child. I would implore every writer to visit other countries.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Courtenay: I would say that all of my work is meaningful in one way or another, but I lost someone to cancer in December, and I find myself dedicating every poem to him. His death has been a catalyst for me creatively. Everything I write has a sprinkle of him contained with the ink on the page.
The peculiar thing about meaning is that it’s personal. I can write a poem with great emotion and power, but that doesn’t mean someone who reads it will feel that. However, most people can relate to the experience. They may not know who you are writing about, but they feel your plight.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Courtenay: To relax, I usually watch television. It’s a form of media often dubbed a mindless activity, but it is far from it. I am constantly perplexed by writers who refuse to watch TV because it holds so much inspiration that I feel you’re missing out. If I am in the right mood, I read. Listening to audiobooks helps me relax, and it decreases my list of books to read. However, I would say that television is the thing that helps me relax the most. If I feel like something interesting, I usually find an arthouse film, but I turn to Friends if I want to be comforted.
Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a writing of yours or others?
Courtenay: A line from a poem I am currently trying to place is:
“Your face would radiate through the Hemingway smoke and the Camus coffee.”
As for a poem by another, I love this line from “An Almost Made Up Poem” by Charles Bukowski:
“she’s mad but she’s magic. there’s no lie in her fire.”
Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire?
Courtenay: My favourite band is Pink Floyd. I’ve been listening to their music since I was a small child. I am also a superfan of Lana Del Rey. Her music inspires my writing enormously. Her entire aesthetic and persona mirror my own. My favourite album of hers is “Born To Die (Paradise Edition)”. Last year, I was introduced to the Canadian band Alvvays, and I have completely fallen in love with their stuff. One of their songs inspired the title for my current work in progress.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Courtenay: I have a blog where I post a lot of my work. All you have to do is type www.courtenayscorner.com into the search bar, and you’re golden. I have poetry and flash faction forthcoming in Sledgehammer Lit and Gutslut Press. You can follow me on Twitter (@courtenaywrites) for all updates
Bonus Question: Are there any funny memories that you can recall during your writing or creative journey?
Courtenay: I am not a prude by any means, but I find writing sex scenes to be slightly embarrassing. I will gladly watch and read sex scenes, but I get silly about it when it comes to writing them myself. I secretly read the entire Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy when I was fourteen, but I still can’t write a sex scene without bursting into hysterics.