5 Questions for Federay Holmes

Federay Holmes is a writer, actor and New Writing Associate for the Factory Theatre Company (London). She writes plays, fiction & literary non-fiction. She is currently working on a memoir-of-sorts which required a trip to Australia where she grew up. She keeps a blog called Missing Cat which is a personal portfolio where she collect things she would rather did not go unsaid. She does not have a cat.

What was the last book you read?
Dermot Healy’s The Bend for Home. Brilliant. Heartbreaking. Simple, simple prose – huge story.

Which book would you recommend to a younger version of you that hadn’t yet read it?
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton. Read it soon, I would say to myself if I were about sixteen, and read it repeatedly. Don’t worry about Ulysses, I would add, you’ll get around to it when you get around to it. And then I would casually say: there’s no need to be afraid of Beckett. He’s quite funny. Trust me.

What was the first book you remember having a big impact on you as a child?
I was about eleven when I read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I remember not moving from the sofa ’til it was finished, and it was a fat book. No pictures. I was on holiday. I think it was the first time I really noticed the full physical effect of a good book: that change in body temperature, that total exhaustion and wonderful despair when it was finished. I was a bit melodramatic.

Sitting in a shop window and being watched whilst writing is not the most orthodox working environment. Do you usually have a writing routine or can you work on the fly?
Routine? I have three small children, of course I have no routine. I seem to do some of my best work on public transport. It might be a bit like that. Or there may not be enough distractions. I might be freaked out by the lack of interruptions. If people pull at my elbow whining about biscuits I’ll feel right at home.

When writing do you find your surroundings have an effect on what you write or do you focus solely on the page in front of you?
When I write I am often simultaneously cooking dinner and building a train track. I can make an industry-standard viaduct out of dominoes and cereal boxes and it is a miracle I do not more often burn the rice. My writing is deeply affected by what is going on around, it is my job to be affected. Isn’t it? I usually have no choice.

Have you ever seen an actor on stage ignore a kerfuffle in the audience? A phone rings, someone walks out – something. If the actor ignores the kerfuffle and doggedly carries on as though nothing is happening, they look all fakey and we are suddenly terribly aware we are “watching a play”. If the actor responds to the kerfuffle, we are part of something that is actually happening. It becomes unrepeatable and special. It’s alive. That aliveness is what we should be after whether we’re writing, acting, dancing or cooking. I think. I want to notice, not ignore.

I also think, at least I’ve heard it said and I like to hear it, you don’t have to be banging words out of a keyboard or scritching a biro across paper to be “writing” – there is life as well. There has to be life as well – otherwise a writer ends up writing about writing which is a dull plughole. So many great writers write and wrote through a life filled with interruptions. That makes enormous sense to me. But then, I do not need to be dragged to my desk, I am attached to it by elastic. Ask my family.

The only thing I am worried about is that I tend to talk to myself when I write. It looks really weird.

Federay will be appearing in the Waterstone’s County Mall window for WORDfest on Saturday April 2nd.

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