Bookcase Focus: An Interview with Elinor Wyn Reynolds

Bookcase Focus: An Interview with Elinor Wyn Reynolds

Wales Literature Exchange interviewed our Bookcase author Elinor Wyn Reynolds, about her writing and her influences.


1. What first inspired you to be an author and where do your ideas come from?

I think I’ve always loved books, reading first, then writing. Nothing gives me a bigger thrill than an empty page and knowing that it could take me anywhere – mind you, I’m invariably disappointed by what I write. Sometimes though, but only occasionally, I think that I’ve done okay. I love telling stories, I love hearing stories.

My ideas come from everyday things, I listen to what people say, how they speak, how language is used every day. I am fascinated by the ordinary, it is extraordinary. I am thrilled by people, how they interact, by humanity. We are all material. I am also drawn to the surreal, to the comedic, absurd. And be in no doubt that life is absurd.


2. How would you describe your writing?

I want people to feel that I’m talking to them and only to them when they read my work. I want people to feel the intimacy of the storytelling – there are only two people in this, me and you. The book Gwirionedd is a conversation between the two of us, there is nobody else. 

With Gwirionedd, I felt an urgency, it gripped me and did not let go. I just needed to tell my story, now. In fact, I wrote the book in ‘real time’, in the moment of things happening, almost. I would sift over what happened that day. I had lost my job and my father had died, during the same weekend, I was cut adrift, the writing held me down, kept me focused and made sense of the crazy time of loss that surely comes to us all.

This story is not a great tragedy but it is a sad one, and I felt that I had to write it or drown. So I wrote about my father dying, about the funeral but because during that time immediately after someone you love dies, you become hyper aware of the living and dead, I wrote about my father coming back, about still being here, in the town where we lived. He was there, on street corners, sitting on benches when I went for my nightly walk (I had taken to walking at night to try to get my thoughts in order), and we talked. I sewed the scraps of countless conversations we’d had together and they made something bigger. Indeed for the six months that I wrote, he was alive and still here, with me. I will always cherish that time – if I could have kept him alive I would have, this was my pathetic attempt at doing that.

I wanted to write something beautiful about loss, about love, I am also a poet and there is poetry (I hope) in this story too. I wanted to write about my hometown as well, to make this ordinary market town where I live sound like somewhere beautiful and a little magic, goodness knows we all need some magic.

Some of the book is true, other bits are not. I shan’t tell you which bits are which...


3. Which authors have influenced you the most?

In English: Jeanette Winterson, Virginia Woolf, Angela Carter, Max Porter, Penelope Mortimer, Daphne du Maurier, Joan Didion, Will Self, Penelope Fitzgerald.
In Welsh: Caradog Prichard, Kate Bosse-Griffiths, Robin Llywelyn, Mihangel Morgan, Tony Bianchi.


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’m not sure. I seem to live in a bubble. The challenges are the same as they ever were, I think. How do you make a living? What compromises do you have to make? How to share your life with writing ... How to be normal when you’re wringing the life out of words and your heart almost stops beating because life is so beautiful and painful in equal measure.


5. What are the hardest and easiest parts of being a writer?

I think the hardest part of writing is actually sitting down and doing the damned thing in the first place! I can prevaricate, postpone and give a million excuses with the best of them, better than most even. But, just ... bloody ... well ... sit ... down ... and ... do ... it ... You can always change whatever you’ve written, so, just write it. I can tell myself this a thousand times, it doesn’t stop me from putting obstacles in my own path. (Why would I do that to myself?)

The easiest part? I’m not sure there is one, but once do I get going, I find I get into a groove that takes me on the journey for a little while and that feels good.


6. Which writer from Wales would you recommend to readers and why?

At the moment I think; Cynan Jones and Mike Parker in English, Angharad Price and Manon Steffan Ros in Welsh. They all have total control over how they write, it is muscular in places, soft and vulnerable at other times. I am in awe of the way they create. They make it seem crazy easy.


Gwirionedd was selected to the Wales Literature Exchange 2020 Bookcase, our annual selection of recent Welsh literary works which we recommend for translation.

Watch Elinor read from Gwirionedd here!

Watch Katherine read from We Could Be Anywhere By Now here!

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