QUEEN OF SPADES
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Queen: Asking me to tell a “little” about myself is asking a lot, simply because I am many things. Yet, if I were to sum myself up in a tiny intro, it would be this: One, whose creative blood stems from the rush of lines and stanzas, yet has the propensity to adapt in cadence with the passion of a storyteller.
MJ; I write, I paint. My creativity is driven by the lack of fulfillment in other areas of my life, which I won't divulge here. If I did not have the writing and the painting, I would not have survived this far and my time on earth would have been very short.
Do you have a favorite time or place to write?
Queen: Inspiration usually hits in the morning and my ideal place to write is outdoors or in my bedroom at home. However, since my poetry muse doesn’t operate on restraints, it is not surprising for me to write on a napkin after grabbing something hot to drink at Dunkin Donuts or have words wake me up at two in the morning and I have to rush to write it down.
Do you have a favorite food or drink while you write?
Queen: Hmm … I don’t necessary need a food or drink to write, per se. Yet I have found that when I have drunk a soothing glass of white wine that I can have more zest here and there for writing.
Who’s your favorite author?
MJ: Dacia Maraini. Divine Dacia. She has accomplished the rare feat of mastering different fiction genres with aplomb.
What do you do to relax?
Queen: Besides writing? I do like to read, draw and listen to music. From time to time, I watch movies but I usually tend not to look at a lot of television, since the amount of quality TV shows has declined significantly.
MJ: I paint, watch a movie, or go somewhere like the British Library in London. I went to the BL a couple of days ago for research and was recharged by the journey, by the ambiance of the building, and by being able to sit quietly and look at old documents.
As writers, we all have to deal with writer’s block, what do you do when that happens?
Queen: It depends on the type of writing I’m doing. If I am writing a poem, I tend not to write any poetry when I’m experiencing a block. The reason being—the rush of thought I had which led to start the poem may not be the same wavelength while in the midst of a block. As a result, I have trains of thoughts where the destinations are never reached, or poems that I’ve finished but the endings were not even close to what I initially imagined.
When I’m writing a story, it’s different. I come up with a draft of events I want to occur and then when I’m ready to go back to the story, I attempt to get the bulk of the action down, even if it isn’t pretty.
I’m more patient with myself in story writing than poetry writing while dealing with my writer's block because I know how different the presentation of my poetry can be when trying to write while blocked as opposed to when I’m not struggling. Also, the poems I write while blocked are the ones that do not meet the eyes of the public.
MJ: I turn off the computer and switch to pen and paper. It works every time.
Now that we’ve got the easy stuff out of the way, let’s talk about your book.
Could you tell us something about your latest project?
Queen: This latest project is the collaborative effort entitled Waves to Light. Waves to Light, although it can stand alone, is a follow up to a previous work entitled The Sea of Conscience, in which I contributed poetry and prose to MJ Holman’s collection.
In Waves to Light, the spotlight is on a more even keel, since both of us are outlining our travels to treatment upon discovery of our ailments. This journey is told through poems and prose.
MJ: It's a collaboration with Queen of Spades and it explores mental illness. From my point of view it charts the various states or shades of my condition and looks towards treatment, both traditional and personal.
Given the obvious personal nature of the poetry, what made you decided to publish them?
MJ; Our first aim was to be part of the movement to remove the stigma attached to talking about mental illness. We also wanted to bring a greater understanding of what it is like to be in the midst of an episode, that it is not just a case of 'pull yourself together' or that the sufferer is weak.
My personal ambition was to use language to describe the two states I often find myself in: depressed or hypomanic. I hope this language gives a voice to all those who find it hard to express the symptoms and behaviours they endure.
Many people find writing therapeutic, has this project allowed you either understand these particular challenges or help others?
Queen: In the realm of mental illness, there are so many that do not speak out because of the culture in which they are raised or the stigma that still surrounds this plight. I believe that speaking out on this issue not only serves to be therapeutic but also educational. For those who have significant others who suffer from mental illness, particularly depression, it is easy to be at a loss on what to do, or even blame yourself. This can help shine a light not only to those suffering from this, but to loved ones, and even outsiders who can’t fully get the gist of why those who are depressed can’t “simply snap out of it”, “think happy thoughts”, and all of the other clichés that can (and sometimes do) make the sufferer even more depressed.
MJ; I wrote many of my poems while undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy, writing was part of the therapy. Like the Sun was a poem my therapist used in a session and she used it to challenge my idea that despite thirty plus years of suffering from bipolar disorder, things can change. In this way writing was therapeutic and I think it can do the same for others, it can challenge belief systems.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Queen: In life, in writing or with this particular project? Don’t mind me … I tend to operate a lot in specifics. I’m unsure whether I should blame my Zodiac sign or my overall blueprint. In any case, having clinical depression along with another ailment that impacts my immune system, has been challenging. There are moments when I have the desire but due to moments when my body is weak, the execution may not surface. This is in direct opposition to my “get things done/workaholic” tendencies, so I am doing my best to achieve balance to where my health and my gusto are satisfied. However, it is still a work in progress, so all I can do is be thankful for whatever gets achieved from day to day.
MJ: I wouldn't be the first or the last to say this, my biggest challenge is overcoming crippling self-doubt. Authors expose their vulnerabilities through their work if they put it in the public realm and have to be prepared to take any criticism that may come. For someone with low self-esteem this can be agony. The challenge is to accept we can't please all the people all the time.
What has been your greatest reward?
Queen: My greatest reward is when others say they really like my work—particularly when a person can say they can connect to a poem, or that he feels like I told his story in one stanza. That is a better gift that achieving Amazon Best Seller status, to reach the audience in such an intimate way.
MJ: I once wrote about depression, 'It's like watching a blunt stone fall from the sky, waiting for it to hit you on the head. The problem is, you are both the victim and the stone.' A reader told me these lines had an impact on their thoughts and how they felt about the condition. I find this kind of feedback rewarding because I have managed to make someone reflect on how depression feels to them.
If you had one professional wish, what would it be?
Queen: To be able to retire off my earnings from writing—no, scratch that, I think that is the most used answer, and really it isn’t my one professional wish (although it would be nice).
I think of the slogan of one of my favorite sites Koobug: “Write to be read”. I not only want to "write to be read" but I want the type of writing I do (whether in poetry or in storytelling) to transcend preference and current trends in literature.
Even when all of the trends in genres and presentation have faded, I would like to be that author whose book a reader can pick up and consider a classic—a work that touches even those who would not have even though to pick up a poetry book or contemporary fiction in the first place.
MJ: To be read. It does not matter if I am indie or traditionally published, I would like to be noticed.
Do you have any final thoughts or advice for my readers?
Queen; Be willing to go outside of your reading preference—you never know what you can learn and what gems you may discover.
MJ: Keep reading. We're better readers and better writers if we continue with the habit.
That wasn’t so bad was it? I was wondering if before you go, could you share a little from your book?
Queen: This particular excerpt is from the poem “Imprisoned by Stigma”. I think these lines clearly depict the struggle of a person who wants to get help.
Imprisoned by Stigma
TV flashing images of the instability of old.
Unkempt individuals saying illegible jargon,
Getting shocked with electric nodes.
Walls painted in the gruesome alabaster white
With matching strait jackets and
Patients secured nice and tight.
Sitting on my blanket accessing the conundrum of now.
I keep looking for the hope, but I can’t see the how.
I can’t dare to cry for the help I desperately need:
Fear of being liked to those stereotypes on the screen.
MJ: Yes I'll end with a verse of hope. We all have the potential to achieve great things and the resolution to overcome our hurdles:
In my aching dreams
I see a coil of me
That like some ancient scroll
Needs to be unravelled.
It exists in the potential
Of all things blue
Wherein I reside
Stupefied by my own resilience.
Both of these authors can be found here and I'm sure they would love to hear from their readers.
Queen of Spades: