Interview with Blythe Beresford
One of our steering group members, Jade Hinchliffe, recently interviewed a friend and colleague Blythe Beresford to discuss all things literary! The steering group would like to thank Blythe for taking the time to answer our questions and give advice to budding creatives. We wish her the best of luck with her many exciting projects.
Blythe Beresford graduated from the University of Huddersfield in 2017 with her BA in English Literature with Creative Writing. Currently, she is studying towards her Masters by Research in Creative Writing, which will consist of a small collection of short stories examining human consciousness and alternative brains. Previously, she has finished a manuscript of her novel, Demeter Wept, and is currently on a fourth re-write of her first novel, Lines. It’ll get finished one day. When she’s not writing she enjoys rock climbing, cultivating exotic plants, and independent foreign cinema.
Which authors inspire you?
I’ve always loved Dianne Wynne Jones—I read quite a lot of her stuff when I was younger. It’s all very varied, some parts magic realism, other parts pure fantasy. The same goes for Chris Wooding and William Nicholson. I suppose these are the authors I most want to emulate and most inspire my actual work. I was fortunate enough when I was younger to have my mum working as a teaching assistant at my junior school, and part of her role there included sourcing books for our tiny school library. She’d always pick out the best stuff for me and “keep it to one side”. I suppose there wasn’t really any need because I was the most avid reader at the school at that time, but it’s the thought that counts.
Anyway, probably my favourite author of more recent years has to be Becky Chambers. Her characterisation is unlike anything I’ve ever read before relatable, realistic characters you could imagine being friends with. She’s not the first and certainly not the last, but it’s the style and subtle elegance of how she achieves this that I think I enjoy most. If you’re talking non-fiction, I enjoy Naomi Klein. She’s approaching non-fiction and harsh topics in an approachable way.
Are there any particular genres or styles of writing that interest you? I know you thoroughly enjoyed graphic novels, short stories and science fiction when we were undergraduates.
All of the above, and more! Throw some high fantasy and magic realism, new weird, all types of speculative fiction at me. Bring me your dystopias and your Young Adult fiction and your contemporary ought-to-be-classics. I do enjoy writing scripts for various mediums too, because it’s sort of freer than novels or short stories. You cut away all the extra and you focus in on the dialogue and that’s a really interesting way to write.
How would you describe your writing style?
Varied—mostly because I don’t like to stick to one type of style if I can help it, and like to push myself to try new viewpoints and styles and genres. I thought for a long time that I didn’t have a style, but I’ve had other writers describe my style as “economical”, which is something I definitely strive for. Don’t use ten words where one will do is some old adage by some famous writer, I’m sure (I’m terrible with names). Other ways my writing has been described is “visceral” and also that my way with words is like the way a painter uses paint sparingly to have the greatest effect.
What are you working on/up to at the moment?
I’ve got a lot of little irons in the fire—obviously for the past almost 18 months I’ve been trying to work solely on my short story collection, which is the portfolio portion of my Masters by Research. I’m not going to lie; I have both loved and hated working on this. But, overall, I think it’s taught me a lot of valuable lessons about myself as a writer and the process and loads of other things that I can take away from the experience. At the end of it I hope to have a pretty solid collection of work that I can use to get a foot in the door with an agent, with a view to getting the collection published somewhere.
Besides that I’ve got some ideas which have been brewing for follow-up issues to this comic script I wrote back in 2016/2017 for a science fiction comic called Greenhouse. I’ve also got a full overhaul of my second novel Demeter Wept to sort out, and then I’ve got this other project called Lines which is … probably one of my most loved and most hated things that I’ve been working on for about ten years and it’s evolved and evolved and it’s sort of getting somewhere and then I change my mind about it all over again. Anyway, I had some break-throughs with that in the last two years so that’s a good thing. And you know, this is very indicative of my process—it’ll brew and brew and brew for ages and ages and I’ll keep chipping away at it and then suddenly I’ll decide to sit down and hash it out and battle with it and then take a knife to it and hack away and paste bits on. It’s a very messy process and it’s different every time.
How did your degree/masters and the university environment help you to develop as a writer?
Oh, it helped immensely. I’ve sort of always had this romantic idea of myself as a “writer” but I think perhaps university sort of helped me to realise a lot of things about that. It’s not romantic and it’s a long, hard, lonely slog.
It’s also a very fun vocation and it was such a lovely surprise to be suddenly surrounded by all these people with all these amazing, creative ideas, and they all had such a different approach and you’re there under the tutelage of people who have actually been published, you get to meet people in the industry and you realise that … it IS work and it IS hard. But honestly, it cultivated a work ethic in me with regards to writing and helped me to share more and more and REALLY honed my constructive critic, my inner editor, showed me that I’m a lot better than I thought I was. I could write a lot about this but in essence it gave me a bit more of a guided path and drove home the fact that yes I can do this if I want to and I’m capable and you can’t be afraid to reach out for support because it’s there and other writers are a great, great resource.
Have you any plans for future projects that you can share with us?
I’m a bit all over the place at the minute to be honest with you— this must be the same for other writers and creatives, but I find the more you write and the more you create the more the ideas bloom and it’s like they’re breeding inside you. So it’s been really hard to try not to talk with too many people about my projects and ideas because as much as I want to share things, it makes other things blossom and then I get carried away. I know about myself that I’m really bad for picking up projects for a little while and then getting distracted like a magpie by something else which takes my fancy for a while, and then coming back to the other project months later. So for now I’ve tried to get my head down and finish this postgrad degree, because after that I’ve got all the time to focus on other things.
With that said, though… I have picked up two clients that I’ve been working with on their manuscripts and guiding them through the creative process and helping them to edit. So I’ve sort of set myself up as a creative consultant and it’s working, it’s slow but its working and I really enjoy doing it.
I’m also possibly working with a group of local writers on getting a little zine together. I’ve had this long standing idea for about five years with intentions for the possibility of a small publication to promote new writing. I don’t know of anything else like this locally around Huddersfield, although perhaps that’s just because I haven’t done my research properly! If anyone wants to get in touch with me about this then feel free—my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or I can be reached on Facebook through my writer’s page.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be involved in writing and publishing?
Be patient and work hard at it. Anything worth doing isn’t easy. You are good and you probably are talented but talent is like 5% of most things.
For writers: share your work with everyone. Share it with your friends and your family and other writers. Don’t be afraid of other writers. We are too bothered about our own ideas to steal yours. Read a lot of stuff, and not just in genres you like. Read non-fiction. Watch films in different languages. Follow works from directors, read books that films are based off. Remember that inspiration comes from very unexpected places. Don’t wait for the mood to strike you. Any writing advice you see repeated over and over is probably solid advice (e.g. “write every day!”). If you don’t share your work you can’t know whether it’s good or not. It probably is good. And remember that a first draft is a first draft. Diamonds don’t come out of the rock looking like they’re ready to go straight into a jeweller’s shop window.
For publishing: try to network. I think that’s maybe the only way to get into this industry. It’s competitive. Find an alternative way in. Work in a book shop. Start a blog. Get a Youtube channel (I don’t know what the kids do these days). Start reviewing books and films and any kind of literature. Get a Twitter presence and follow a bunch of people. Above all perhaps just find something which works for you. Publishing is a really odd industry and it’s changing a lot all the time—and very quickly, too—and maybe just fire off a bunch of emails and tweets to relevant people in the industry. Sometimes it’s all about seeing what sticks when you throw stuff at the wall!
Do you have any dream jobs/companies that you would like to work with?
I used to—I used to dream about working with DC or Image comics or getting published by Orion books, but honestly at this point I’d take anyone and anything who might publish my work, as long as I can say “I did it!” just once in my life. Mostly my dream is to sign a book for someone and maybe have a book tour and some kind of book launch event, which would be sweet. I guess I got a bit disillusioned with the publishing industry a while ago, because you have no idea just how many people want to be writers and make it big until you start researching the industry and then it’s just this massive, massive thing. It really put me off for a few years until I realised that the traditional route and the big five houses weren’t the be all and end all of publishing and there were way, way more avenues I hadn’t even thought about, let alone imagined. So, life uh, finds a way?
My dream job isn’t really a job. I don’t know whether I’d want to be an author or a novelist as a job. Neil Gaiman is just a writer. He writes stuff. I guess I’d be happy with the same! I’d also love to edit other people’s work, but I think I prefer the small-scale things, you know? I’m never going to be in it for the money.
Is there anything else you want to discuss or ask that I haven’t already mentioned?
I don’t think so! Thanks for taking the time to interview me— if anyone wants to get in touch my website and email are both in here and you can also find me on Facebook (sometimes) and Twitter (rarely). I went through a period of time of putting myself out there and getting a large social media presence but honestly real life took over and I prefer to spend my time actually thinking up new ideas and getting some words down on the page now. Adios for now amigos, I have to go away and submit something to a competition…
If you enjoyed this interview and would like to learn more about Blythe’s creative projects and her other delights then head over to her author website: http://www.blytheberesford.com and you can also find her on twitter @fr00tsalad