What is the first thing you wrote?
I honestly can’t remember. Outside of English assignments, I would start writing novels but never finish them from about age eleven onwards, and then there was the usual teen phase of writing bad poetry.
Who do you write for?
Mainly myself. It’s almost impossible to target an audience when your readers could be Barbadian or Finnish, children or adults, literary aficionados or genre enthusiasts.
What was the first Caribbean book you read?
Probably Hurricane by Andrew Salkey, but maybe The Cloud with the Silver Lining by C. Everard Palmer? I would have read them in the same year, I think.
How many Caribbean writers from the 1940s and 50s could you name?
De Lisser, Lamming, Selvon, Naipaul, Rhys, Mittelholzer, maybe Salkey though he was more post 50s. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone!
How many women?
From the same era, only Rhys. Going overseas was so crucial to getting published. In general, too many to list now – short story writers, poets, novelists, playwrights, essayists – there are many!
Which writer do you wish you knew more about?
When I have time, I want to read more about Wilson Harris.
What is the earliest piece of Caribbean writing you have read?
Probably The White Witch of Rosehall by Herbert G. de Lisser.
Does the Caribbean’s literary past matter to you?
Definitely. Too many people don’t know it existed, far less how magnificent it was!
Who are our most important writers today?
My very personal and experience-limited list: Erna Brodber, Edwidge Danticat, and Shivanee Ramlochan are three writers who have inspired me to push boundaries and do more with the artform, not only in their works but also in how they speak about our language, literature and culture from the individual to the regional. There are many writers I have yet to discover, so that’s more of an ‘important to me’ answer, but the principle is sound – I am selecting writers who take risks, who do unexpected things, who break your heart open in unanticipated ways.
What are you reading now?
I’m deep in my own writing now, so no reading, but my most recent published read was Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis (several awards attached to that title and that author). Excellent book. I’ve also read several fascinating unpublished manuscripts as one of the judges for this year’s Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult literature. Looking forward to hearing what readers think of our picks!