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In the Booth with Ruth – Josie-Anne Gray, Author, Poet, Singer & Songwriter

Josie-Anne Gray

What’s your writing background?

I have been most prolific as a poet I suppose and I still devote a lot of time to poetry and song writing. I co-write songs with my fellow band member Simon Naylor. We have a great understanding of each other’s thought processes and motivations. We’ve been seriously writing together for seven years for our band ‘Merlin’s Keep’ and are now working on our fifth album.

I published my novella, Just One Night, on Amazon Kindle in January 2012. It was an experiment really and it has sold steadily over the year. I have written a complete novel about a failed relationship (I can’t decide on a title), and I am starting serious work on a follow-up novel to Just One Night.

I come from a background in literature. My first degree is in English, History and Philosophy and my MA is in Contemporary Literature and Film. I have a desire to complete a PhD and my preferred study would be the leitmotifs and imagery in the films, music and painting of David Lynch. I have taught English for over twenty years and have just left formal teaching so that I can pursue other interests.

When did you begin writing and what inspired you?

I started to write in my teens – mainly poetry at first but short prose as well and some articles. When I got into Bob Dylan in my final year of school, I knew that I wanted to write. Initially, I wanted to write like him but over time I learnt to write like me. I was inspired by the canon when I went off to university and I am grateful that on my course we were given a very traditional diet of reading. I suppose looking back it was not that adventurous but by learning to read the classics and developing a hunger for literature, I found my way to the contemporary writers I value and love so much now. Today, I read a lot of strong women writers. I read and re-read Margaret Atwood’s novels and poetry, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Angela Carter and Margaret Drabble are women writers I greatly admire. I still listen to Dylan and I still adore him.

How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?

I don’t write enough because I get distracted. I try to write in half-day chunks now, twice a week and that is beginning to work for me and to give me a better and more regular habit. I have to schedule writing time in otherwise it goes and I’ve lost the opportunity. Many other things are draws on my time, but I am in the process of re-structuring my life to accommodate writing as one of my central commitments.

In which genre do you most enjoy writing?

I love writing songs and poems and I love performing them. In prose, I write about people and want to tell a good story. I don’t want to confine myself to a genre really. My prose work explores the relationships between people, and between people and places, and people and the past. I am drawn to looking at the impact of the past on the present and on how people integrate the past. I also like to explore myth and meta-narratives and to look back to ancient stories and see how they are still relevant.

What draws you to write in that genre?

I think something profound happens when you write and I can’t explain why I am drawn to particular ideas or themes. Some things strike me as really important and I feel compelled by them. It is not a conscious decision. With poetry, in particular, I am often emotionally compelled to write something and the process can be intense and painful. Sometimes I cannot bear to reread what I have written and I leave work for a long time before returning to it. The sequence of poems called The Poplars, taken from my collection of poems, The Poplars took me eighteen years to write. Even though I have published it, I am not sure it’s finished. I may still go back to it.

Can you tell me about your current project(s)?

At the moment, I am very busy with a web project, I do some work with The Culture House, an arts organisation in my hometown. Last year, we decided to build a website and launch it to coincide with the Literature Festival we put on. Initially the website was conceived as a local resource for the writing community, but as it has developed, it has grown and is attracting international attention. I run it on a voluntary basis at present and rely on the generosity of writers to make it work. I love working on it but it takes a lot of time.

I am working with a consultant on my next novel and have found having robust professional input at this stage to be invaluable. This year I will be collaborating with my song writing partner and fellow poet Simon Naylor on a collection of pastoral poetry about Lincolnshire as well as publishing a further collection of poems – when I get round to editing them.

I also have a children’s bedtime story I would love to publish and some children’s poems and stories that need a bit of attention.

What are your writing plans for the future?

I am serious about writing now. I have taken a year’s leave from my teaching job and I fully intend to progress my writing as much as possible over the coming months. I plan to have completed a first draft of the new novel by late spring and when I have a title for my completed manuscript, I will be approaching agents.

Where can people find out more about you?

People can find me easily on Facebook:

I have a website but I don’t have much time for it at the moment:

This is my author page on Amazon here.

My novella is available here.

The Poplars is available direct from me for £4.50 inc postage. If people are interested in the poetry book, they can contact me through Facebook and I will send them a copy.

Merlin’s Keep has a reverbnation site: here, on which you can hear some of our songs, find our gig dates and purchase albums.

Any writers interested in contributing to the dock can contact me via the website or on Facebook.

About Ruth Jacobs (296 Articles)
Author of Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, a novel exposing the dark world and harsh reality of life as a drug addicted call girl. The main storyline is based loosely on events from my own life. In addition to fiction writing, I am also involved in journalism and broadcasting, primarily for human rights campaigning in the areas of sex workers' rights, anti-sexual exploitation and anti-human trafficking.

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