One of the Most Remarkable Women I’ve Never Met. An interview with the Enigmatic and Utterly Fascinating Poppet. Writer, Blogger, Force of Nature.
I first noticed Poppet during my early time on Authonomy. She both talked the talk and walked the walk, never backed down in the face of an opposing view, no matter whether reasonable or un- reasonable, and was very evidently not to be ignored.
I kept my distance, for a while. Until she fell victim to an uploading glitch, all too common on the site, and lost all her backings and comments. I pushed for her, supported her, along with John Booth, if memory serves, got her back in business.
I’d read her book, read several of them actually. Not for the faint-hearted. S and M, in a literary context. Not an easy genre in which to write. A writing style that took the reader by the throat – in my case, on occasion, by the gonads – and wouldn’t let go.
Erotica, but with sharp edges. Horror and Fantasy with elements of delicious insight.
Not always comfortable reading, but never less than compelling.
My conversations with her revealed a woman with a sensitive aspect to the tough exterior; there were aspects of her life that were far from ideal. She controls this by keeping her distance. It’s a method that works for her.
As she says herself, ‘trust no one. That's good advice.’
I must declare an interest here – I’m a massive fan. I can’t do what she does, can’t work with her intensity, haven’t even one per cent of her drive and dedication. Yet, she’s been there for me when my many inadequacies threaten disaster. Always helped out.
The final stages of my time on Authonomy, the last 6 days of the critical month my book spent on the Editors’ Desk, were traumatic. A family emergency took me away, leaving my book under severe threat. Along with a few other treasured friends, Poppet kept my book on the Desk.
Poppet had offered to read my book and I sent her the full manuscript with some trepidation. It came back to me, accompanied by masses of comments and observations, but she’d loved the book. That was obvious, and very pleasing.
I’d had advice before about the book, plenty of it. After a time, advice becomes counterproductive. Change this, change that, editors don’t like to see that – so much advice. Poppet’s advice was simple. With a few tiny exceptions, change nothing. Be yourself in your writing. Best advice I’ve ever had. I don’t lack confidence in my ability, but writing is such a subjective business, everybody has an opinion, it becomes confusing. Stick with what you’re doing, it’s working. That’s what any writer wants to hear.
An interview though. How to persuade this most private of women to reveal herself in public? Tricky.
Anyway, here it is. An interview with the inimitable Poppet. 100% writer, 100% of the time.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. A classical horror.
Q. Can you remember when you first knew you wanted to be a writer?
A. About the age of 13. But I was already well known for telling scary stories by then.
Q. Tell me about school / education / life before the emergence of ‘Poppet.’
A. There's nothing to tell, other than I'm a female jock driven to excel at everything she tries.
Q. When did ‘Poppet’ arrive on the scene, and why?
A. Poppet is my nickname, and I joined Authonomy under that name. I prefer the anonymity and chose to publish under my nickname too.
Q. Yep, I can relate to that. A nitty-gritty writer’s question now. Computer, laptop, or longhand? Which is it?
A. Computer only. I scribble poetry sometimes, and notes (pencil), but the writing happens at my Apple. If I had a pen I'd be tempted to stab people with it.
Q. Do you find writing the easiest and best form of expression or are you someone who can keep a conversation going all night?
A. I only speak when I have to. I don't have a lot to say, I prefer to listen to people making idiots of themselves. If I open my mouth, it's because what I have to say is important. I am able to converse easily (in any setting with anyone - social standing and education matter not.
I am not intimidated by people), am unafraid of crowds and public speaking, but I am most eloquent in the written word because then I can use the vocabulary I like, and use lots of delicious metaphors and similes. My pet peeve is the loud types who have to be heard across a room. I want to surgically remove their larynx with a chainsaw (and yes I own a chainsaw small enough for me to handle with ease).
I find people who speak for the sake of speaking utterly annoying and it inspires many a murderous scene in a horror novel. Oddly people can manage this feat online too. Shoot them on sight, I beg you.
Q. Er, okay, right. Who is your favourite author and is your writing style in any way similar to theirs?
A. My favourite author is Charles de Lint, and no, my writing style is nothing like his.
Q. Agree with that! What about your readership. Did you seek out a specific genre? If so, why did you gravitate towards that genre?
Q. I prefer horroresque. I'm not into bows and butterflies. Life is cruel, why can't fiction mirror life? I prefer writing supernatural thriller type books, but when pushed can pump out tense relationship novels based on relationships undergoing stress. Most of the men I've known haven't been very nice, the inspiration pool is deeper than the Bermuda triangle. If I could, I'd say my genre is tension. I like to give my readers an emotional roller-coaster and a lot of twists.
Q. Be honest, what do you consider to be the best thing you’ve ever written and what makes it special?
A. It's hard to pick one. They're all favourites in different ways. Always my latest book is my favourite, as each new book I write I outdo the last one. I'm in a competition with myself, I'm trying to best - me.
Q. You helped me enormously after my book reached the top of the tree on Authonomy – not to mention quite a lot of help to get it there in the first place! Summing up the advice you gave me – ‘To thine own self be true - keep your own style, don’t allow anyone else to change your book so that it becomes ‘their book’ not ‘your book’. Advice you follow yourself?
A. Aye that I do. And there's nothing I won't do to retain that integrity.
Q. Any more wise advice for an aspiring writer?
A. Edit edit edit. Take away every surplus thing. Craft every sentence. There shouldn't be a single sentence in your book without a purpose to the plot. If there is, take it out. And for sanity's sake, please stop using so many *had*'s and *that*'s
Q. ‘Had’ and That’ – the ‘avoid wherever possible’ words, yes, I remember from an earlier lesson! How much of ‘you’ makes it into your books?
A. I think my sense of humour is what goes into my books. Although I write what other people consider thrillers, I am not freaked out by my books and have a ball writing each one. I do draw on the people around me and the people I've known for inspiration. I have an incredible memory and remember uncanny details from my entire life, this becomes a mash of traits sometimes used in my fiction, but my imagination is quite capable of conjuring people and scenes without needing to draw from my own life.
Q. What are the last three books you read? Any comments?
A. Gathering of Rain, by Elaina Davidson. A brilliant fantasy novel of epic proportions. I gave it 5 stars.
Hellogen by John Booth; well written but I didn't like the ending.
Switch by Scott Norton - a brilliant book which will inspire a new type of Adam's family cult following.
Q. Have you ever ‘run out of creativity?’ Stared at a blank page for hours?
A. No. I find if I force myself to write 200 words - it just starts to flow (I usually go back and delete those 200 words)
Q. I know you’re a prodigious worker. What's a typical working day? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
A. I pendulum between writing and editing. I do this every single day without fail. I don't take holidays or weekends off. It starts with morning coffee and continues until bed time. I only break for meals and my bath. I will steal an hour here and there to get chores done and the odd weekend morning to attack the garden. But I do this 24/7 365. Laziness is for wimps. I once couldn't use my body, I'll never waste another day of my life again.
As for goals. I set monthly goals and will forgo sleep in order to keep to my self-imposed regime. Life is short, don't waste it fannying about.
I write in my gym, and workout when taking 10 minute breaks (now that's time used effectively)
Q. Absolutely awesome reply. I’ve rarely felt so inadequate. I know you like your music. Not my taste at all, but I’m sure the fault lies with me! What else fuels your life away from the keyboard?
A. Dreams. A lot of my work comes from dreams I've had. (As in nightmares). Music energises me, so I use it to remain focused and working long past my endurance point (including exercising).
Q. Is there a particular question you’d have liked to be asked? If so, how would you answer that question?
A. The ultimate question would be, "Can I fly you over for Horrorcon?"
The answer would be, "Oh how thoughtful of you, that would be delightful."
Q. I’ll bear that in mind. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
A. Cracked, but the glue's holding.
Q. Hmm! I can see that one working. I’d buy it too. You’ve helped me, yet again, with my pathetic attempts to get to grips with formatting my books for publishing to Kindle. Patiently holding my hand through a process way beyond my scope. Without losing your temper at my stupidity. Not once. So, I can officially confirm you’re a saint. Possibly the first time that’s been said in public! But, there’s more we need to know.
(Interruption by Poppet ‘You know I can't say no to you’ :P)
Q. What are three things most people don’t know about you? Extra marks will be awarded for indiscreet revelations.
(Interrupting again, ‘Do I look like a person who tries to get extra marks? The only marks I like are the one's I'm giving. :-‘ P )
A. I'm softly spoken but have stage training so can project my voice across a room without raising it.
I like to punch things when I'm angry and swear like a sailor having his nipple pierced.
I don't react. I tend to engage everyone and everything with a poker face. I am very much a closed book, even though I write them.
Q. What would you like to be if you hadn’t become a writer?
A. An actress. That was my first dream and I spent a lot of time aiming for that goal but was thwarted by the tiny community I live in. I draw on my acting training for my writing, to put myself *in the scene* and the emotions of that scene. (So yes, I've acted many scripts and will probably write one some day).
Q. Finally, what’s next for Poppet? Next project? Any news about publishing or further developments?
A. More books will be released this year. As for contracts and publishers, I'll surprise you later in the year. You must surely know I do not rest, there is plenty going on behind the scene that I won't disclose until the ink is dry :)
Well, in all honesty, I didn’t expect a definitive answer to that last question. I know you well enough to be aware of how closely you guard news of your successes until all is done and dusted. Thank you so much. For this, and for everything.
Jake, you are a lovely host. Thank you for having me (why does that sound like I was ravaged somewhere along the way?) and keep up the good work :-) Don't let me catch you slacking ;-)
Slacking? Moi? Perish the thought!