Wales Literature Exchange interviewed our Bookcase author Angharad Price, about her writing and her influences.
1. What first inspired you to be an author and where do your ideas come from?
I wanted to be an author even as a child. My father wrote history books. Seeing sheets of paper covered in handwriting and scattered across his desk was something I was used to. But history seemed a dull subject for me at the time, while the idea of writing imagined stories, like my favourite authors did, held untold romance and excitement.
As long as you're observant, daily life contains many striking and often unbelievable things. People and places provide endless inspiration. I'm also interested in how historical processes impact lives. I grew up in a community where everyone speaks Welsh all the time, using it universally and unthinkingly. The disparity between this and the later revelation that you are speaking a "minority" (not to say "endangered") language is both painful and fascinating. It means you can never take identity for granted - a blessing and a burden for any author! The Welsh language itself and its literature, and their miraculous persistence, is also an inspiration, and as a writer I want to feel that I'm giving something back, as a tribute and an act of gratitude for the richness they've endowed my life with.
2. How would you describe your writing?
I really wouldn't want to describe my own writing! But I would say that the act of writing for me involves exploring by means of the intellect, the senses and more. Different forms enable different explorations. The novel is a long-lived journey through others' experience. The essay is more of a cubist enterprise, a bringing together of disparate encounters. And as for the short story, let alone the myriad poetic forms... well, I'll leave that to others.
3. Which authors have influenced you the most?
Almost everything I read affects the consciousness, from the Mabinogion to Han Kang. Every book is enriching, an adventure into new territory. There are also authors I return to time and time again for sustenance and comfort, from R. T. Jenkins in Welsh to George Eliot, Robert Musil or Yukio Mishima. I think I'd go crazy without books. But how that reading affects the writing is complex. It can be tempting to imitate authors you admire, and it is a long learning process - learning to confide in your own voice.
4. In your opinion what are the biggest challenges that writers face today – and do you think these challenges have changed since you started writing?
I find that market forces these days are directing people's reading habits to an unprecedented extent. It's a calamity for writers, especially emerging ones, those who seek to break new ground or who write in smaller languages, and of course it is a huge impoverishment for readers. This is less true in the Welsh-language context where people buy (and read) books as an act of cultural investment, and where the ravages of anglophone capitalism are less keenly felt. On the positive side, I can appreciate the fact that the digital revolution provides exciting opportunities for writers and publishers to break down old boundaries and gain access to new readers globally. There are numerous examples in Welsh of small, enterprising groups of people making exciting headway, as artists and publishers, in the digitial world and that's something to be welcomed. Embraced properly, it can lead to immense creativity.
5. Which writer from Wales would you recommend to readers and why?
There are so many talented writers from Wales, past and present, it's impossible to select individual names for recommendation. We have an ancient and distinguished literary tradition that spans a millennium and a half and contains some of the classics of European literature. But the amazing story doesn't end there. Despite the enduring struggle for its very existence, Welsh-language writing is currently growing and flourishing in a way that it hasn't done for centuries, attracting new and diverse voices. Women writers, for example, are making up for lost time and racing ahead in many genres, whilst Welsh-language writers from minority and BAME communities are contributing their own distinct voices to the symphony. It is a wonderful thing indeed, and is one of the things that give me a ray of hope in these dark days of Covid, the climate crisis and Brexit.
'Ymbapuroli' is selected to the Wales Literature Exchange 2021–22 Bookcase, our annual selection of recent Welsh literary works which we recommend for translation.