We catch up with Bristol-based poet and author Shaun Clarke for an exclusive interview. The prolific writer shares his inspirations, book-writing secrets and what he’s planning to do next!
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve described myself as an accidental Poet, but it was circumstantial, and arguably my destiny, as I have a background in rap and music which are poetry relatives. At some point in my late teens, I felt compelled to write my thoughts and encouraged by the Hip Hop environment back in the 80s.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends on the book and how many people you’re working with. It can take 3-6 months, or much longer, me personally, given my circumstances, kids and all, a good year. You put the time in because you want to give at least a chance to succeed.
What is the inspiration behind Lyrically Justified?
Two dear friends of mine, Harry and Saiqa, from back in the ’90s ran an open mic night, which was pure vibes and featured diverse wordsmith performers and musicians.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Personally, not sure I have one. I’m moved by experiences in the world. I’m about justice and resolve,
How do books get published?
What a big question! If you google it, you’ll get too many options, from paying publishers to being paid by publishers, which way to go, who knows, but I can say, we moved from an independent publisher to self-publishing which, if you have time and a budget to promote your work, can also be a viable option these days.
Does your life experiences inspire your creative process?
Indeed, life and bemuse and boggle. So my instinct is to try and find the reason or at least understand.
When did you write your first book, and how old were you?
I started writing a book 27 years ago and was hooked (due to it being a means of authentic expression, even a rebel discipline) for a while back then.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a Dad, which can be good fun, and we have to pay bills and house always needs finishing, so don’t really get much time to do much else. Ideally, I would do more exercise while having fun like a while back.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The nature of the barriers we faced.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I’ve written 3 of my own and Kid Solar (a novel), has to be the best due to the effort involved, and then, of course, Lyrically Justified anthologies are a superb collection, to be most proud of, with a more of a collaborative spirit. Books can be too different to compare at times.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Get writing, however, and whenever, especially when inspired. Try to convince people around you, you need a space to develop your creativity, which ironically can be random and interfering, yet help you achieve your goal, to improve and produce.
What is the best bit of feedback you’ve received from one of your readers?
That it resonates, enlightens and/or moves them in some way, shape or form.
What do you think makes a good story?
Most learning experiences make good stories in my view, if you have good, experienced writers involved, or consult them.
What can we expect from you over the next year?
I was hoping a selection of contributors to the Lyrically Justified platform came on Tour to share in promoting our cause and books, to boost our presence, as we uncover emerging talent and stimulate apt conversation. We (Urban Word Collective) remain busy editing content also due to premiere on YouTube next year.
Otherwise, apart from family commitments, I’m hoping to collaborate with WordsofColour, 8th Sense Media and others, to create a body of my own work, using poetry, prose and digital media, stuff I’ve been considering for a while, about my contemporary experiences of being Human, Black British, Fatherhood and Relationships, which I hope might make a valuable resource to many.
Where can we find you online?
See some of my personal writing here