Write On! interviews author Cailean Steed
Cailean is a writer, teacher and aspiring dog owner and lives near Glasgow with their husband and son. They have also resided in Aberdeen and Dublin and hope one day to live somewhere with less rain. Their debut novel Home is out now from Raven Bloomsbury.
Cailean’s short stories have been published in anthologies such as New Writing Scotland 36: With Their Best Clothes On, and Boudicca Press’s Disturbing The Beast. Their audiodrama RealBoy was the winner of the 2020 Pen to Print Audioplay Award.
WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?
CS: This is a tough question for me to answer! I often say that what ties together all my different stories in a variety of media (short stories, audio dramas and novels) is that they are adventure stories. Someone is suddenly thrown out of their normal life and has to go on a kind of journey (literal or metaphorical) through which they will be tested. I suppose, ultimately, that does describe a lot of fiction!
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book Home?
CS: Home is about Zoe, a young woman living in hiding in Ireland from the cult she ran away from as a child. However, when a figure from her past turns up unexpectedly, she becomes convinced of the need to return to the cult in an attempt to rescue her sister.
WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?
CS: I was really interested in the idea of what people would give up for an idea or a cause. Often, what people wonder about cults is what possesses devotees to join them in the first place, especially when it can involve giving up so many things that are part of normal life. It was interesting to explore what Zoe was willing to give up or risk losing in order to try to rescue her sister.
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘Contradictions’. With that in mind, do you ever actively look for, or specifically avoid contradictions, in your writing? Is there a part of your writing process that contradicts itself, yet somehow works for you?
CS: I’ve never thought of it like that before. Writing is often quite instinctive for me, and I only really conceptualise what has been driving/inspiring me afterwards. That being said, I don’t think I’ve ever specifically considered contradictions as part of my writing. As for my writing process, I suppose something a bit contradictory is that I loosely plan, but often veer away from the plan while writing. But even knowing that I’ll likely do this, I still need the plan!
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
CS: Read a lot and write a lot! Try to read widely, inside and outside of your chosen genre or area of interest. Write to a schedule that makes sense to you, but aim to finish things. It’s very easy to become seduced by the new shiny idea and never actually get the experience of ploughing through the difficult bits, completing a first draft, then going back and polishing or overhauling sections.
WO: Question from Twitter user: @madeleinefwhite What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
CS: Probably just finding the time to write! I work as a secondary teacher four days a week, and also have a young child, so there is a limited amount of time I can dedicate to writing. I’m trying to get better at writing in small snatches of time as and when they appear.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
CS: I’m currently writing the last third of my second novel. It’s a separate story to Home, though it also has a dual narrative structure. There are two characters, Toby and Ash, who are both dealing with recent grief and are drawn together through it.
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
CS: OMG I love this question! I’m tempted to say a unicorn, because it’s Scotland’s national animal for some reason, but I’d probably go for something small and fluffy that likes to nap, because I’m also very fond of naps. Maybe the Dormouse from Alice In Wonderland?
You can find out more about Cailean Steed here: www.caileansteed.com and connect with them on Twitter at @caileansteed, or Instagram at @caileansteedauthor. Home is available to buy from:
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Write to a schedule that makes sense to you, but aim to finish things. It’s very easy to get seduced by the new shiny idea and never actually get the experience of ploughing through the difficult bits.