This week I interviewed poet Melissa Jennings:
Melissa Jennings is a Scottish, non-binary poet and is rather fond of poetry and books. Melissa studies English Literature at the University of Glasgow, they are currently in their second year. They published their debut poetry collection in May 2017, 'Afterlife'. Melissa is currently working on their next full-length poetry collection, 'Underworld', and new chapbook series, 'dear judas'. Melissa spends their time chilling with their cat Dora, watercolour-painting, and trying to lessen their overwhelming TBR list on their bookshelves.
Isabelle: I loved reading Afterlife. How do you imagine that the two books you are currently working on, Underworld and Dear Judas, will differ?
Melissa: Underworld is a companion to Afterlife. The collection expands on the same themes in Afterlife, but delves much deeper. I wouldn't call it a sequel as such, but they are interconnected.
However, Underworld is much more pessimistic and darker for that matter. I also feel that my writing style has evolved massively since composing Afterlife earlier this year. I really think I have found my voice. Afterlife was very much a scream into the void. Dear Judas, in the same way, is connected to Afterlife and Underworld, but it differs in format and theme variation. Dear Judas is a precise poetry collection, questioning, in fact, interrogating the process of human nature.
Isabelle: How long have you been writing for?
Melissa: I have been writing for as long as I can remember. However, poetry was not the first genre I started with. I wrote short stories, even performed some of them. I have so many unfinished stories, but hopefully one day, I will get round to them again.
Isabelle: How do you get the idea for a new poetry book and is there a creative process you go through?
Melissa: Sadly there is not really a process. It's more of a Eureka moment at 2 in the morning. Beyond that, I always try to keep the purpose of the book in mind. When writing, I let the words come to me. I never force them.
To help my writer's block, I look at images that I find particularly interesting. Pinterest and Tumblr is pretty good for that. I sometimes create playlists on Spotify to help me with the mood. I'm very much a mood writer.
Isabelle: How would you describe your style as a writer?
Melissa: Honest. Interrogative. Dark.
Isabelle: What would you say to writers about to go down the self-publishing route with their work?
Melissa: Be authentic. Be patient. If you feel your work is ready for publishing, leave it for a week or two, and return to it. Be thorough. Check that you want this out in the world. Ultimately, write from the heart. Also, you will be told by people what is and isn't poetry, don't listen to that elitist nonsense. Your words might save a life.
Isabelle: When you're not writing, what would we find you doing?
Melissa: Probably reading 10 books at once. Reviewing books. Catching up on my favourite TV shows. And probably buying more poetry books that I definitely can't afford.
Thank you to the lovely Melissa, read more about their work here: https://melissaljennings.com/
PSSTT I'm out now and if you click on me you can buy me!