Very excited to be publishing Claire Askew's poem '8 ways to lie in a hotel bed alone' in our Sending Nudes anthology. It's an intimate collection of fiction, nonfiction and poetry that uncovers the various reasons people send nudes. Release date is 15 January 2021. Pre-orders are available here: gutspublishing.com/sending-nudes
Many thanks to Claire for this interview. Enjoy. xx
How did you find out about Guts Publishing and how do you feel about your poem being in an anthology called Sending Nudes? I send out a monthly writing opportunities newsletter and found the submission call on my travels around the internet. I actually immediately sent it to my friend Dean Rhetoric, who's a brilliant poet and whose work I thought would really fit in the anthology (unfortunately, I don't think he got round to submitting). However, the more I looked at it, the more I realised that some of my own work would fit with the theme. I write a lot about sex, masculinity and power (my forthcoming collection, How to burn a woman, explores all three themes, among others) and so the title's provocation was very much up my street!
‘8 ways to lie in a hotel bed alone’ is structured in stanzas, but parts of it are written as prose. Is this something you explore often in your work?
No, this is actually a bit of a departure for me. This piece was an experiment in letting each section of the sequence determine its own shape. I normally write in quite structured stanzas and can even be rather pernickety about making sure poems are tidy and symmetrical. This little series took a lot of conscious effort but I'm glad it seems to have paid off!
Do you consider yourself more of a poet or a prose writer? Do you think there is a significant difference?
I wrote poetry for ten years before I ever wrote a word of fiction, and poetry will forever be my first love. I think there's a huge difference: poetry seems to emerge out of a completely different part of my brain. I can happily sit in a cafe with other people's noise all around me and bash out one or two thousand words of novel draft... but for poetry I need to have quiet, and a lot of time to think and percolate. Poetry requires a careful ear to the ground.
You’ve published four books — in 2016 an award-winning book of poetry, This changes things, then it looks like you dove into fiction. Your debut novel, All The Hidden Truths won the 2019 Bloody Scotland Crime Debut Award. These genres seem worlds apart, can you tell us more about this shift from poetry to fiction?
People ask me about this a lot — and it's true, there aren't many crime writing poets. But I think the two genres are just two different ways I have to explore my strange interests. Everything I write has a bit of a dark bent — This changes things contains a lot of ghosts, a lot of poems about death, a lot of burning things. Crime fiction gives me a greater opportunity to delve into the dark things humans do and the reasons we do them. I'm just a bit of an ageing goth, really.
What influenced your decision to do a crime story?
I didn't realise my debut novel was a crime story until it was finished, really. Primarily it's a story about grief. I was a bit naive, because the book has a massive and terrible crime (a college shooting) at its centre, but it wasn't until agents started to read it that I realised what it was I'd written.
What are you working on now?
I'm at the copy-edit stage with the fourth novel in my crime series -- it'll be called A Matter Of Time and it takes place over 24 hours, which is something I've always wanted to try with a novel. My second poetry collection is also coming in 2021: it's titled How to burn a woman, and features poems about real, historical women accused of witchcraft during the 200-year European witchcraze.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Weird, wordy and witchy.
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Claire Askew is the author of This changes things, published by Bloodaxe in 2016. The collection was shortlisted for an Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and for the 2017 Saltire First Book Award, among others. Claire is also the author of three novels, all published by Hodder & Stoughton. Her debut, All The Hidden Truths (2018, Hodder) won the 2019 Bloody Scotland Crime Debut Award, and she has been twice shortlisted for a CWA Gold Dagger Award. She was the 2017 Jessie Kesson Fellow and Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh from 2017-2019.
Claire on Twitter: twitter.com/onenightstanzas