Suzanne Joinson’s inspirations to inspire everyone
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
In her book ‘A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar,’ Joinson was inspired by maps, missionary letters and travel books from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as her own contemporary travel in China and the Middle East.The author of “A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar” Suzanne Joinson is coming to Istanbul as part of the Istanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival. The British Council supports the English writers’ attendance to the program while Joinson will also be the guest writer at Damian Barr’s Literary Salon event tomorrow.
Joinson, who wrote diaries from the age of seven, started writing stories and poetry at fifteen, or sixteen. “I didn’t attempt any sort of publication until 2007 when I won a ‘New Writing Ventures’ award for a piece of non-fiction called ‘Leila Ahmed,” she said speaking to Hürriyet Daily News.
In her book ‘A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar,’ she was inspired by maps, missionary letters and travel books from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as her own contemporary travel in China and the Middle East.
“With the book I am writing now, I am obsessed with architecture, photography and sculpture. I like exploring the link between stories and geography. What I mean by that is the personal narratives and stories that leave echoes in photographs or buildings. I am particularly drawn to hotels – the strangeness and loneliness of hotel life – and the way landscape informs our lives.”
Joinson lives in Sussex. She describes the area as a very run-down, seedy small seaside town called Worthing. “I like it’s ‘off the map’ feel. It is a chalky scrap of pebbly land at the bottom of the U.K. It faces out to Europe and is dominated by London but feels like nowhere. I like the tension between living here and then moving in and out of vast metropolises. I love the contradictions of the architecture, the light and the way we travel and walk around and think in different places,” she said as she explains how her environment inspires her during writing.
Joinson said she has always been a writer. “Words and stories are my medium, they are everything to me. Of course, I love art, sculpture, photography and music but, ultimately, I understand and thoroughly engage with the world (with history, geography and my own identity and reality) through writing.”
“I have only ever worked in jobs related to writing in some way or another, either as a book seller or organizing writer events. I have been working towards full-time writing for many years and have only just achieved it. I’m sure it’ll be short-lived and I’ll be waitressing again soon.”
Hardships and joys of writing
Joinson thinks in some ways she was lucky that she won the New Writing Ventures award.
“Following that, I was approached by literary agents. It meant that when I was writing my novel I knew that at the end of writing it there would be someone waiting to read it. I didn’t know if it would be good enough, or if it would be sold to a publisher, or any of those things, but
I did know someone in the universe would read it and that helped a lot.”
When asked are there really two ways such as success or sink, Joinson said in terms of success or sink, those concepts are terrifying and at the same time meaningless. One day a certain success – being translated into a new language, or reviewed in a big publication – will feel extremely important and then the next day it seems like nothing compared to the stark reality of book sales.
“At first I worried about it all a lot (and I am sure I will do again when my next book is published), but at the moment I am deep in the heart of writing a novel so the only success that is meaningful to me is writing what I really want to, in the best way I possibly can. Or pushing my own skills as a writer forward and unearthing the story as I need to.”
Joinson is an inspiration on her won when it comes to giving advice to young writers. She said: “Write and edit, write and edit. Never stop and keep going. That’s the main thing. Write what you need to write and make it as artistically and technically good as you are able. Don’t worry how commercial what you’re writing is (which is not to say you won’t think about the reader at the later editing stages) unless you are writing with the aim of making money. If that is your plan then you’re better off doing something else, because you’ll almost definitely make more money elsewhere.
According to Joinson, it depends on the sort of person you are. “If you feel the need to hibernate in order to create your book, then find a way to do it: six months, a year, whatever you can afford. Don’t watch TV or see friends, just write. On the other hand, if you are a person who needs a lot of encouragement and you struggle with wavering confidence, then find a form of framework that works for you which involve getting feedback from somewhere. One mistake that many writers make is sending their novel out to agents or for publication at too early a stage. They are, understandably, sending it out for validation.”
Advice to young writers
“It’s such an insane undertaking to write a book that will probably take you some years and so psychologically you need someone to tell you that it is okay. You don’t need to hear it’s wonderful, perfect or finished, but you need to know there is potential, which is another word for hope. So find a way of getting someone, somewhere to pat you on the head and say ‘well done’ or ‘keep going’, enough to give you sustenance to get you through the next long leg.”
The British Council brings Damian Barr’s celebrated Literary Salon to Istanbul for the first time as part of the Istanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival. On Nov. 1, Damian Barr will conduct a revealing interview with contemporary British author Suzanne Joinson and will talk to one of Turkey’s leading figures in world music, Mercan Dede, for a special slot called the Story of My Life. It will be an evening of reading, thinking and talking freely. The event will take place at Borusan Music House, Beyoğlu.
From London to Istanbul
Times journalist, Radio 4 playwright and author of the bestselling memoir Maggie & Me, Damian Barr tempts the world’s best writers to London to read exclusively from new work and be interviewed like never before at his Literary Salon. Held monthly since 2008, the Salon is credited with revitalizing the UK’s live literary scene, reaching new audiences and challenging existing ones. Selected guests include: Naomi Alderman, Tracy Chevalier, Elif Batuman, Geoff Dyer and Louis de Bernieres.
In addition, the British Council is delighted to bring award-winning writers David Peace and Martin Rowson to take part in Istanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival. David Peace was named in 2003 as one of as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists and several of his books have been adapted to TV and film. Martin Rowson is a multi-award winning cartoonist, political cartoonist and writer. His books include a novel, a memoir and comic book adaptations of works such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.