Write On! interviews writer Zara Relphman
Zara is a third-year student at Canterbury Christ Church University, currently studying Creative and Professional writing. She likes to write short stories and a variety of non-fiction pieces, and is currently working on her first novel. Zara posts blog-style articles on Medium.com, often sharing stories of her mental health journey and using her voice to openly talk about her sexuality.
WO: What drew you towards choosing a creative writing course?
ZR: It was actually quite an impulsive decision. I wanted to go to University but had no idea what course I would be good at. So, I flicked through the hundreds of courses available, and creative writing took my eye. I used to write a lot of poetry when I was younger and always had a passion for English in school, but never knew I could do anything with it. I took the leap and I’m so glad I did! I’ve absolutely fallen back in love with writing.
WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?
ZR: My writing is very personal to me. In everything I write, I pull bits and pieces from my life and try and turn them into something bigger than I am. It’s very therapeutic to have parts of my life, and the experiences I’ve had, out there within my work. Good or bad, it might help someone who reads it.
For the professional side of my writing, I like to write fiction. At the moment I’m writing and experimenting with short stories. A lot of them are romantic in nature but I try to explore a variety of different genres. I have more fun with my writing that way instead of putting myself in one specific box. One day, I hope to write my own novels.
For the personal side of my writing, I enjoy writing blog posts. It’s freeing to talk to an audience openly about any topic. It allows me to build a community: communicating with my audience and receiving instant feedback and support. My pieces vary depending on what I feel like writing! Some days it can be light-hearted posts talking about my dog, on others, I will go more in-depth and personal; sharing trials and tribulations of my life.
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest writing project?
ZR: My latest project is actually something I’m working on for my dissertation, but I hope to publish it as a stand-alone piece afterwards. It’s a reverse chronological short story revolving around a couple, together since they were 14 years old until their death. The story shows their life in the milestones they shared with one another, taking the reader from the moment they took their last breaths, all the way back to the first time they met.
WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?
ZR: I was around eight years old at the time so, unfortunately, cannot remember his name, but a man came into my primary school to talk to us about poetry. He told us how he wrote it and what he liked to write about, then told us to give it a go, throwing out prompts along the way. I absolutely loved it. I was producing short poems one after the other: about cats, my teachers, food, the rainbow, my nan, flowers – absolutely anything and everything! None very good, mind you, but it ignited that passion within me. Every day from then, I would go home from school and write a new poem.
Now, I would say I’m pretty much inspired by the same thing – life! I love looking at the world around me and picking things out from it to write about. Whether that be a random conversation I overheard in a coffee shop, or travelling to a new place and wanting to turn it into a fantasy world. I’m also massively inspired by a lot of books I read, consuming romance, crime and fantasy novels. I particularly enjoy LGBTQIA+ romance and aspire to write my own queer fiction.
WO: The last issue of Write On! explored the theme of ‘Home’. With that in mind, how important is a sense of belonging to your writing process? Do you find your ideal of home working its way into your creativity? Is there a feeling or place you continually find yourself coming back to?
ZR: My sense of belonging is very important to the way I write. When I was younger, I really struggled with what it felt like to belong somewhere, always longing for that feeling of home and not understanding why I didn’t have it. Now, I have my ideal sense of home: a family, a fiancée, a dog, a passion. I feel as though I belong in the world and that definitely shows up within the stories I create. I find myself always coming back to the idea that home is a person, not a place, and I have my fiancée to thank for that.
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
ZR: The more you put into your writing, the more you will get out of it.
WO: Question from Twitter user: @grasshopper2407 What’s your favourite underappreciated novel?
ZR: I’m currently reading The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune and I can already tell it’s going to be one of my favourites! It’s the perfect blend of found family, fantasy, comedy and love all in one.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
ZR: I’m currently working with Alice Riley, Emma Robdale and a small bunch of writers to create an ‘Atypical Love’ short story anthology! It’s still in its early stages but the stories we’ve created will hopefully combat the stereotype that neurodivergent people are undateable’.
I’ve also got plans to write a short story (based on a true story) revolving around two disabled teens who form an unlikely friendship. Stay tuned!
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
ZR: Definitely Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon! He’s absolutely adorable, can fly me around and would always have my back!
You can find out more about Zara Relphman here hatchman4.wixsite.com/zararelphman or connect with them on Instagram and Twitter: @zlrelphman
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It’s very therapeutic to have parts of my life, and the experiences I've had, out there within my work. Good or bad, it might help someone who reads it.