Editor’s Note: I had a chance to chat with one of our Featured Writers from 2020, Abigail George, about why she began writing and her writing life right now. She’s recently published a book about Emily Dickinson, available on Amazon.
The Fictional Café: What made you choose to be an author?
Abigail George: I didn’t grow up wanting to be an author. Life happened, took me down the road less travelled and kind of anchored me in a dysfunctional family life. Now I write all the time. I am inspired by many, many things. Mostly poets. Other writers. Nature, competition, psychology, science, the facts of life fascinate me endlessly so how I can ever run out of things to say, become bored or suffer from writer’s block? These days I have turned back the hands of time to the days of when I was a film student at Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and I want to ardently pursue writing for film and television again. So, on my desk— along with my notebooks, pens, pencils and laptop—lie Rilke’s The Hours and Salinger’s Nine Stories. I also have synopses, log lines and titles I am working on.
TFC: What is writing like for you?
AG: The writing life is a difficult life. I think it chooses you rather than the other way round. It is lonely. It is therapeutic. It is hellish territory when it comes to revising drafts. It is heaven. I just received the news that my next book will be published in May. I will receive the contract in April. It is a novella. Whenever I think of this one book, I am reminded of Animal Farm by George Orwell. Also, for now and for the future, I want not only to inspire others to write in their mother tongue in South Africa but also to pursue my many ideas about starting an Arts Fellowship or a Book Fund. I feel writing has blessed me with so many opportunities and I have had the good fortune to meet wonderful editors over the years who have become friends. I want to take care and do the same for others simply for the sake and reason that people never really believed in me as an author.
TFC: You write in many different forms. Previously, we published a collection of your poetry. Tell us a little bit about your writing.
AG: I am a poet first—I think—and always will be, but writing fiction for me has always been the exit out. A kind of romantic exit out from the desperation of a sister outsider to having an all-powerful, all-knowledgeable status about all things worldly, material, subjective, submissive and it has given me both joy and happiness as well as hours of despair and hardship. It has taught me about survival too. Writing is my life. Writing is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Writing is what inspires me all the time. I live to be inspired by my own work and the work of other writers but mostly my own. I have written essays, travel writing, op-ed, novellas and short stories for my blogs. Whether the writing is perfect and effortless at the end of the day matters to me and by perfect I mean will it, can it be published as is and by effortless I mean would I have to revise it. Would there be second or third or fourth drafts. I haven’t had much happiness in my life, I have had much trauma but not much happiness and writing is work but it has given me all the happiness I feel that I deserve in the world. I have a lot of energy when it comes to writing. My daily routine is usually to write all day and sometimes into the early hours of the morning and that is on a good day. To write in many different forms requires more than intellect; it requires you to have a lot of energy and to write with variety.
TFC: It’s obvious that writing is not just a creative outlet, but an emotional one for you. What message or messages do you try to convey in your writing?
AG: Having a spiritual outlet is just as important as having a creative one. The messages in my writing especially my literary work are ones of reaching self-awareness through the relationship between the process of creativity and the progress and originality of the work. Writing is emotional for me on some levels, spiritual on others, then fundamentally creative. It is up to me as a writer/author to always remain authentic in the present moment. Past is past. Past work is past work. Past plot twist is past plot twist, but I keep coming back to the most significant issues in my life which usually involves me staring my emotional pain in the face. However emotional, healing, creative or authentic the work is, those are not the only messages I wish to convey. The psychological framework of humanity is what is at stake here, the question—or rather the fact—being, does gender equality exist; is feminism outdated and the history of the trials of living in a pandemic. These messages are also always going to be just as important as how much work I put into the characters, plot twists, research, the narrative, the context of the storyline/s and literary effort I put in at the end of the day. I hope that answers your question, Mike. Brilliant questions by the way.
Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee Abigail George is a blogger, essayist, poet, short story, novella, grant writer and novelist. She briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg. Her book The Scholarship Girl was published by Mwanaka Media and Publishing and edited by Tendai Rinos Mwanaka. She had two chapbooks published in 2020, Of Smoke Flesh and Bone: Poetry Against Depression and The Anatomy of Melancholy as well as a short story collection Parks and Restoration. She is the recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, the Centre for the Book in Cape Town and ECPACC in East London. Her essays have been published in Ovi Magazine: Finland’s English Online Magazine, the Kalahari Review, Synchronized Chaos, Fanzine, Entropy Magazine and a Special Report in Modern Diplomacy and many more. She writes about issues and topics across a broad spectrum such as mental health awareness, God, spirituality, nature and women. This is her second feature on The Fictional Café. You can see her first here.