ABP- Thank you for taking this interview Barbara. This past summer, ABP was lucky to publish not one, but two books from you. In June your poetry collection The Only Sounds Left; and then in July, Artifice, a flash fiction collection. What was it like writing those books? Did you write them at the same time, or one after the other, or did both come together over a long period of time?
BFJ- It was a bit of both. I wrote the first chunk of The Only Sounds Left all in one go at the end of last year when I first tried my hand at poetry. It was initially called Last Orders and was meant to be a short chapbook (25 poems) all set in a pub, with each poem focusing on a different person or situation. But then I started writing more poetry, and a lot of it was quite filled with dread, anxiety and everything one might go through when suffering insomnia and panic disorder so I added those to the chap and re-ordered the lot so that it would work as a “drinking/drunk/hungover” kind of narrative.
I worked differently with Artifice which also had a few versions, the first one being a receptacle for everything I ever wrote with not much of an order or narrative, so I did take time to figure what I wanted the overall theme to be and work out an arch to support that theme. I did remove quite a few stories – it’s hard to kill one’s darlings but necessary – so I could ensure that the predominant subject was, in a nutshell: “What are people really up to when they think no-one is looking?” The collection working title was Behind Closed Doors, and I’m glad I changed it to Artifice.
ABP- Now, later this fall we have Five Years to look forward to; a collection of poems in tribute to the late/great David Bowie. What can you tell us about this?
BFJ- I’m very excited about Five Years. It started completely accidentally when having a chat with a few writer friends and asking them if they’d be keen on writing mashups using David Bowie titles for a special section on Punk Noir Magazine. Then I went and wrote a few myself and realized there was probably enough for small chapbook. I am a huge Bowie fan and always wanted to write something about him or inspired by him and I really like that I am re-using those titles. There are 20 poems in the chapbook, and 5 of them are mashups written with: David Cranmer, John Bowie, Stephen J. Golds, James Lilley and J. Travis Grundon. I love writing mashups, it’s always so inspiring to bounce on someone else’s words or see how they will on yours, so I’m delighted that those amazing poets agreed to contribute with me.
ABP- Who is your favorite writer of all time? What is your favorite book?
BFJ- Oh just a one? That’s tough! Favourite writer, I’d have to say Daphne du Maurier. She ticks a lot of the things I really enjoy in literature: gothic, horror, speculative, avant-gardist, dark and twisted narratives. She also excels at all literary forms, whether it’s her short stories, novels, plays or non-fiction and her exploration of the human mind and of insanity is fascinating.
Favourite book is Belle du Seigneur by French author Albert Cohen. It’s an 800 page long twisted dark love story set during the rise of Nazism and it is an absolute masterpiece full of tragedy, comedy, satire, war, romance and drama in various styles (literary, farce, poetry, stream of consciousness) and the result is like nothing else I’ve ever read – it’s almost like reading 5 books in one! And the ending is perfect. I’ve read it many times, I still pick it up regularly and dip in and out. I also do that with Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, which is a close second favourite.
ABP- Do you have any big plans for 2022?
BFJ- I started writing a novel(la) last year and I’m about 8k in and I think it has legs and I’m aiming to finish it but I find it so much harder to write in the longer form and I’m so slow at it, it might easily go into 2023 at this rate.
ABP- What is the art/lit scene like in Surrey UK?
BFJ- I moved to my current town just before COVID hit so have missed out on the local art shows and book festivals but I’m hoping to attend the next ones. I’m also not very far from London and the art and lit scene there is great, I’m planning to go to the theatre in a couple of weeks (to see Sarah Kane’s 4.48 psychosis) which hasn’t happened in far too long!
ABP- Would you like to share a poem with us here?
BFJ- Id’ love to. Here is the latest one I’ve had published on Bristol Noir and that will also be part of the Five Years chapbook:
Never Get Old
You and I
In a pink stucco house
Licking strawberry cake
Off each other’s fingers
Waltzing to the sound of
Rain on spring windows
Under soft silk sheets
You and I
On a porch swing
Holding hands, knees touching
Warm sun-soaked skin
Around us the orange light
Of a quiet summer evening
Turning into a starry night
You and I
Twirling under constellations
Spinning fast enough
So that we forget
Our chaos-filled tomorrows
Our awaiting graves
You and I
Huddled together wrapped
In fear and that one blanket
Cold fingers entwined
As we watch the world slowly
Turning into a destroyed landfill
You and I
In the basement
Crouched, clutching, ears ringing
Tears down your face shimmering
Under the dark shadow
Of a dented staircase
As dust rises around us
And we kiss, one last time.
ABP- Thanks again for being a part of this, Barbara. If there is anything else at all that we did not mention that you would like to share with our wordpress followers, please do.
BFJ- Thanks so much for having me Red, and thank you for publishing my books alongside so many amazing authors, and for making the indie publishing scene so varied and accessible.