Write On! interviews writer Amber Hall.
Since graduating from Goldsmiths University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) English degree, Amber has worked as a copywriter and communications specialist. She’s been lucky enough to work with some really exciting global brands, including Samsung, Calvin Klein and Swarovski. Recently, Amber started working as a freelance writer and English tutor.
WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?
AH: Professionally, I write commercial copy for brands. This can be anything from long-form articles and features to social content or product copy. Ultimately, this type of writing has quite an explicit purpose. More often than not, it should raise brand awareness or encourage a sale, so the skill is in balancing creativity with the call to action, whatever that may be.
My personal writing, however, is quite different. I tend to write prose pieces exploring identity. At the moment, I’m writing a lot of personal essays. I’m really interested in the ways that individual experiences and memories interact with wider socio-political issues, and how these things shape us. Identity is such a slippery notion. It isn’t fixed, and we’re so often driven by adaptive behaviours we’re not even aware of. But then, when we look at the systems that exist on top of those, and how restrictive these can be, it gets even more complicated! Writing – or art, in general – is the only way we can really (try) to make sense of all this madness.
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest project?
AH: I’ve been doing a creative non-fiction course, so I’ve been writing standalone pieces for that. I just submitted an essay for it, Portrait Of A Superstar, about the life and times of Candy Darling, one of Andy Warhol’s superstars. I’ve also been writing about my great-grandma, lately. She died a long time ago, but frequently finds her way into my writing. I’d like to develop those pieces into a bigger project, so that will be a focus for me over the next few months.
WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?
AH: I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember. I suppose I’ve always found solace in writing. It’s a process that really grounds me. Writing is a way for me to connect with myself authentically; whenever I write, I feel as though I’m tuning into something quite fundamental about who I am. I’m most inspired by that sense of connection – not just with myself, but also with the world at large. Writing is connection, and that’s such a powerful thing. Stories can change the world, and we all have stories to tell!
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme ‘Worlds Apart’. With that in mind, do you find yourself drawn towards writing about the world you know intimately, or do you strive to discover a world unknown?
AH: I naturally lean towards writing about the world I know intimately (i.e. working-class communities in the north of England). They say you should write about what you know, right? That being said, unknowns can be extremely fruitful, so perhaps I should start exploring that a little more. But, for me, an unknown world would be a fantasy world – at least, in part. I really like dystopian fiction, so that could be an interesting way to explore lesser-known spaces, even if they’re emblematic. As a writer, I’m wary of just telling someone else’s story. I think it’s important we empower people to tell their own stories, especially if those stories come from under-represented voices.
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
AH: It sounds obvious, but you’ve just got to write! A little bit of self-awareness goes a long way, whether you’re a freelance writer, or working on something in your own time. If you’re struggling to get started, it’s worth thinking about why this might be. Are you afraid of failure? Is it a practical issue – are you short on time? Once you’ve got this sussed, you can work around it. Personally, I find I work better from ten o’clock onwards (I’m not a morning person!), so my working hours are ten till six. I also get really antsy being in the same space all day, so I usually spend at least a few hours writing from somewhere else, such as a café or library.
I find it useful to make notes on my phone whenever an idea comes to me, too. Sometimes, I have a knee-jerk reaction to something that’s going on around me, or an idea or phrase will just pop into my head. Whenever inspiration hits, you’ve got to get it down!
I’d also say it’s really important to share your work, if you feel able to do so. Workshopping is an invaluable thing for any writer and, even though it can be daunting, there’s a shared sense of vulnerability in these spaces that can lead to real connection. It can be a very affirming experience, too. It’s also useful to get an objective view of your work; it helps you go back to it with a fresh pair of eyes.
WO: Question from Twitter user: @lisalovebooksx How many unpublished and unfinished books/ideas do you have?
AH: I have so many ideas! Currently, I have three main ideas I’d like to develop: an anthology, a collection of personal essays and a script for a TV show. But I’m concentrating on the collection of essays for the time being.
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
AH: I could say something profound here but, to be completely honest, Paddington Bear would be my first choice. He’s a little brown bear in a duffle coat (cute) and you’d never go hungry, because there’d be surplus marmalade sandwiches. My mum used to love Paddington Bear and handed down her books to me when I was little. She used to say she always wished he was real, so perhaps that’s where I got it from (we can share him, Mum!).
You can find out more about Amber Hall and connect with her on Instagram: @amber.marie.123.
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Writing is connection, and that’s such a powerful thing. Stories can change the world, and we all have stories to tell!