Writer of the Week as we approach Christmas is popular “Friend” author and poet, Kenneth Steven.
Kenneth – welcome! Your story, “The Christmas Present” is set on a Scottish island. Does where you live inspire your short story writing?
Where I live has always inspired my writing. I grew up in Highland Perthshire (with a Highland mother and a Lowland father). I had the privilege of an outdoor education: I learned to love wild places and staying in such places. My father wrote articles on the outdoors and he taught me a vast amount about birds and animals, and the wild places where they lived. It was a hugely exciting childhood. I think much of that has come out in my poetry and in my collection of short stories, ‘Winter Tales’.
What’s your own favourite Christmas reading?
My favourite Christmas reading – that’s a difficult question! I think the Christmas story itself, as we find it in the Bible, is hugely beautiful: I never tire of hearing that read each Christmas season. There is a lovely children’s tale too called ‘The Story of the Fourth Wise Man’ which I have found special since childhood days. And then of course there’s all that Dickens gives us…
Congratulations on reaching a milestone birthday recently. Can you tell us how you got to where you are now writing-wise – have you always written? Have you had other careers too?
I have got to where I am now as a writer through dogged hard labour! I have written since I was ten years old: there was never any choice about what I wanted to do in life. I loved using my imagination: I was an only child and I spent a lot of time in attics and big gardens doing nothing but drifting to faraway places with my imagination. That was where I was happiest.
You’re also a published poet. Can you tell us about the differences in writing fiction v poetry? Which flows most easily? Do you have a preference?
It’s always difficult to explain how poems and stories come to me at different times. What matters most is hiding away to be ready for words. For years now I’ve had cabin spaces where I keep absolute quiet and can pour myself into writing. The answer is that writing flows when it wants to, poetry or prose. The important thing is being quiet and waiting for writing to be ready to flow. I have to go into what I describe as a deep place to write, somewhere deep within myself as well as a quiet space. That is more and more important to me.
As a writer, how do you feel about technology?
I have always written by hand and I always will! I only ever use a computer after long weeks of editing of a story or poems. I use technology (I now have a page called Imagining Things on Facebook, and a website), but I really find technology little more than a necessary evil.
What’s your writing style – notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table, or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I simply love the joy of picking up a pen and the finding the hidden words on the paper. As mentioned, I have a studio where I write. It’s really a very simple space, and it’s right in the middle of nature. The only disturbance I want is the sound of geese flying overhead.
And a PS – What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Find a space to hide away in and begin by using memory for your stories and poems. What are your first memories? What was the most special place you knew? Where do you dream of?
Kenneth’s festive short story, The Christmas Present, is in the latest issue of “The People’s Friend” – on sale Wednesday.